Sam Carter paused in the entrance to the SGC's infirmary, standing silently, muscles taut as if she was poised to flee at any moment. As she stood there, her eyes slid over the high tech environs, while carefully avoiding her own reflection in dully polished equipment.
"General Hammond called down to let me know you got back early," Janet Fraiser broke into whatever distant thoughts were running through Carter's head, her soft voice drawing the major's attention. Blue eyes fell on the slight figure of the doctor where she stood a short distance away. In an instant, the lanky blond relaxed perceptibly, her stride loose and comfortably graceful as she stepped fully into the infirmary, carrying her left hand protectively in front of her. Dark eyes dropped to touch on Sam's gauze-wrapped palm, arched brows drawing together in a worried frown. "He said you were hurt?"
Carter nodded and held up her hand. "Cut myself," she explained briefly. "Everything was under control, so the colonel told me to come on back and get it looked at."
Janet raised an eyebrow, her expression ironic. "Great, that means Colonel O'Neill is overseeing packing the sample containers." She sighed softly. "Which means I'd better schedule twice as much time for the unpacking as I'd planned on...." There was a note of resignation in her voice. She really preferred it when Sam handled these things. The major's specialty might be the far flung universe of astrophysics, but she was surprisingly good at the more down to earth practicalities of bio-research.
Sam offered a small shrug. "Sorry."
Taking Carter's tone for one of guilt, Fraiser waved her apology off. "It happens. It's not like you hurt yourself on purpose." The doctor hooked a thumb over her shoulder, then instructed, "Go ahead and take the last examining room. If you'll just hop up on the table, I'll grab a couple of things and we'll get you checked over and cleaned up."
"Thanks, Janet," Sam replied without moving, simply watching as the doctor began gathering the supplies she needed.
After a beat, Fraiser noted the other woman's silent perusal. "Go on," she said, shooing Sam gently toward the examining room. "I'll be there in just a moment." After a beat, Carter seemed to shake off the brief paralysis and disappeared down the corridor, seemingly unaware of the dark eyes that followed her. Fraiser shook her head slowly, wondering why she let herself worry about the members of SG-1. God knew, they could get hurt in the middle of a church social, so she really shouldn't let herself get so emotionally involved. It was a sure-fire recipe for increasing her stress load ... which was already quite high enough, thank you very much.
Except she genuinely liked all of them, and Carter was one of the few people on the base that she considered a friend rather than simply a colleague. Sam was a part of her life and incredibly important to her adopted daughter, Cassandra, which meant she was involved any way she looked at it. Suddenly realizing she wouldn't get anything done just standing there, Janet finished loading a tray with the supplies she needed, playing the ever-efficient doctor with her normal aplomb.
By the time Fraiser reached the rear examining room, Sam had stripped off her cammie jacket, revealing a form fitting black undershirt, and was sitting on the examining table, waiting quietly.
"Well, let's take a look," Janet said as tugged a stand over, setting her supplies on top of it. She did a quick post-mission check, making certain there was no chance that a Goa'uld had invaded the major, though she knew the medic on duty in the gateroom had already done so before releasing her. Finished, she retrieved a pair of blunt ended scissors, well aware of the way Carter was watching her. She glanced up, meeting the other woman's gaze, struck by her unusual silence and stillness. Generally, the major tended to be a running stream of consciousness conversation coupled with enough barely contained energy to fuel a couple of nuclear reactors. Now, she just looked tired and maybe a little depressed. It made Fraiser want to slide a protective arm around her shoulders and find out what was bothering her.
It suddenly occurred to the doctor that she was the one staring now and she straightened her shoulders, consciously throwing off the brief paralysis as she refocused on Carter's injury. She began cutting the gauze across the back of Sam's hand. "What happened?" she questioned as she worked.
Sam shrugged. "Just a stupid accident," she muttered. "I got careless..." her answer trailed off into a tiny gasp as Janet started to remove the gauze and found it glued to the skin across her palm with dried blood.
"Let's soak that off," Janet decided, afraid she'd do more damage if she tried to just pull the gauze free. After clipping the excess bandage, she poured a liberal dose of peroxide into a low pan and settled Sam's hand into the cool liquid, watching as it boiled around the injury. Dark eyes lifted and Janet found herself facing the other woman's intently watching eyes. "And remind me to send a note to General Hammond requesting time to give another seminar on field dressings. This wouldn't have bled so much if it had been applied correctly," she muttered unhappily. She hated seeing anyone in pain, particularly when it was unnecessary.
"At least I know I'm in good hands now," Sam murmured, still holding Janet's gaze as she trusted her injured hand into the doctor's care.
Janet summoned a wry grin to reassure Sam that things were okay. "What, you don't want Jack O'Neill as your regular physician in the future?" she teased gently.
Almost against her will, Sam chuckled softly. "Let's just say I feel better now that you're looking after things."
Janet's eyes dropped back to Sam's hand as she began gently working the outermost layer of stuck gauze free. "Looks like it's starting to come loose," she murmured, resisting the temptation to look back up as she worked. At least the worst of Carter's odd mood seemed to be letting up.
"Yeah ... I ... uh ... I guess you're on duty for the rest of the night," Sam said after a long pause.
Janet did look up then, shaking her head. "Actually, I was supposed to be off-duty ten minutes ago, but Warner's running some tests in the lab and it was just as easy for me to just stay a few minutes extra." She didn't mention that once she knew Sam was hurt, she couldn't have left if her life depended on it until she knew it was nothing serious. "Besides," she teased to distract the other woman from what she was doing, "the last time Warner looked after one of your injuries, I had to listen to how ham-handed he was for a week--"
"I wasn't that bad, was I?" Sam questioned uncertainly.
Janet's gaze lifted again, a smile touching her lips as she was faced with the blond's best puppy-dog look. She wondered if Carter had any idea that half the men on the base were her willing slaves when she flashed that look--half the women too, if she was honest about it. "Nah." A relieved smile spread across Sam's face and Janet couldn't resist the urge to add, "Actually, you were kinda cute."
Sam's expression fell. "Cute?" she repeated, then adopted a bantering tone. "You aren't supposed to call people with guns cute ... dangerous ... devilish ... intimidating ... even sexy ... but not cute."
"Sorry, I calls 'em as I sees 'em...and you were definitely," Janet paused for additional effect, glad to hear Carter sounding more like herself, "cute."
Sam grumbled something under her breath, though her eyes lit with humor as she watched her friend. "Careful, Doctor, or I might just mention the word most commonly used to describe you."
Fraiser's gaze sharpened, though a smile played about her lips. "Don't say it," she warned, but Carter's grin only broadened. "I mean it, Sam," she added through laughter as Carter's eyes danced with mirth and she opened her mouth to speak.
"It's just that you have to admit, you are kind of--"
"Diminutive," Sam said after a beat, grinning as Fraiser winced.
"Just because we can't all be Amazons--" the doctor muttered under her breath.
"Oh, you could be an Amazon," Carter disagreed, teasing knowingly as she held out a hand indicating a height considerably below her own, "just a really short one."
"Very funny," the doctor drawled, leaning closer as she peeled away the last of the loosened gauze. She hooked gloved fingers under Sam's hand, gently lifting it out of the peroxide bath to carefully study the deep gash angled across her palm. "It looks clean," she murmured, probing carefully.
A startled expression crossed Sam's face as she looked down. She'd gotten so involved in the banter that she hadn't even noticed Janet was still working on her hand. "A-plus for distraction skills, Doctor. I'd almost forgot what you were doing."
Fraiser smiled and shrugged, her attention still focused on the injury. "All part of my plot to take over the SGC."
"Ah hah, I knew there was something suspicious about you."
The doctor ignored the comment, instead discussing the injury. "Must have been a hell of a sharp edge."
Sam flushed and looked away, apparently embarrassed. "Yeah ... my own knife ... toldya it was a stupid accident."
Dark brows lifted. "I'm not sure we should let you play with sharp things anymore, Major." She set the pan of still foaming peroxide aside. "However, the good news is that I think we can get away with just tape sutures. It's deep, but straight, and they'll heal cleaner than stitches would. You're going to wind up with one hell of a lifeline though."
The major let out a tiny snort. "Then I guess I should be glad for the accident."
Janet raised one eyebrow. "I wouldn't go that far." She began carefully patting Sam's hand dry. "However, you're off duty for the next couple of days." She started placing the butterfly tapes so that they would hold the gashed flesh together. "I'll let General Hammond know that you need the downtime."
"Aw, darn, I guess this means no cooking," Sam murmured with mock-regret. Carter's cooking skills, and lack thereof, were mildly legendary around the SGC.
"You wouldn't be angling for a dinner invitation by any chance?" the doctor questioned dryly. She was quite certain she knew perfectly well what Carter was up to.
Sam shrugged. "Now that you mention it...." She trailed off, her expression hopeful.
"All right," the doctor chuckled. "We can't have you starving after all...and I know Cass would love to see you."
"Cass..." Sam exhaled on a startled gasp.
Janet looked up. "Sorry, did that hurt?"
"A little," Carter whispered tightly, her voice suddenly ragged.
Janet frowned. More than a little, judging by the look on Carter's face and the way she'd gone bone white. Hoping to distract the major from her obvious discomfort, she continued as she worked. "Actually, it's good timing. She could use another math tutoring session ... but no calculus this time. She's only in the seventh grade after all."
Sam's frown began to recede. Clearly the pain was letting up. "Right...seventh grade. I guess calculus would be bit much at that age." She paused for a brief moment, appearing to consider the problem. "That would be...what...fractions?"
"Decimals actually," Janet corrected with an ironic smile as she began tightly wrapping Sam's wounded hand in soft gauze. "And my dear, darling daughter is struggling with the whole concept. I figure her favorite Air Force major and astrophysics genius might like an opportunity to lend a hand."
A genuine smile curved Sam's lips. "I think I could handle that."
"Then it's a deal; tutoring services in trade for a homemade dinner." She finished with gauze and moved to tape the dressing into place. "However, you probably shouldn't be driving with this hand."
Sam's face fell, clearly thinking that Janet was canceling things. "It's not that bad and I really don't want to stay on base."
Janet shook her head. "I just meant why don't you plan on riding in with me. Bring an overnight bag and you can use the guest bedroom. Tomorrow I can either drop you off at your place or you can catch a ride back to the base with me."
"Right...tomorrow," Sam whispered, then nodded, smiling ever so slightly. "Sounds like a plan."
"Then why don't you go ahead and grab what you need while I clean up here," Janet suggested as she pressed the last tag of tape into place.
Sam hopped off the table, long lean body strikingly graceful as she moved.
Janet frowned, head canting to one side as she watched the other woman's narrow back. "Sam."
Carter came back around.
"Have you been dieting lately? You look like you've lost some weight."
Carter shook her head. "No...but I did add another workout routine to my normal one," she said a trifle haltingly, apparently surprised by the question. "Guess I'm burning off more calories than usual."
Fraiser nodded in understanding, though the frown remained. "Well, I realize it's supposedly impossible to be too rich or too thin, but keep an eye on it, okay? And you might want to increase your calorie intake. You really don't need to drop any additional weight."
Sam's lips quirked in a grin. "I guess you'll have to stuff me tonight."
"In which case you'd better get moving," Janet shooed gently, smiling wryly as she watched Sam disappear out the door. After a moment, she shook herself and began quickly cleaning up the mess.
* * * * * *
"Beer, wine, water, or fruit juice?" Janet questioned as she peered over the door of her refrigerator door, though she was already reaching for one of the tall cans she usually kept on hand since adding Cassandra, and thus the various members of SG-1, to her life.
"Make it wine," Sam responded as she hefted herself up to sit on an out of the way corner of the kitchen counter.
Janet pulled up short, a startled expression on her face. "All right, who are you and what have you done with Sam Carter?" she demanded briskly.
The doctor's tone visibly caught Carter by surprise and she frowned. "I...wha...huh?"
"Come on, out with it. You're clearly a pod person, since the last time Sam Carter chose wine over beer ... I ... uh..." Janet paused as she hunted for some kind of a punchline. "Actually, I don't think I've ever seen you choose wine over beer," she admitted after a beat.
Sam shrugged a little defensively. "Well...then...maybe it's time you did," she said at last, then offered a cheeky grin. "After all it's classier, right?"
Janet raised an eyebrow. "Well, it is a good Merlot," she allowed as she plucked the bottle out of the fridge and studied the label.
"Merlot," Sam joked, "see, it even sounds classier than beer."
Janet grabbed a glass from a cupboard. "Are you sure you're not a pod person?" she questioned, her tone arch.
Sam peered down at herself, then back up. "Absolutely ... I'm just me ... Samantha Carter .... no pod involved." She offered her most charming smile.
"Yeah, well, if I see any suspicious plants around here, you're in deep trouble," Janet threatened as she poured a scant glass. She was just passing Sam her drink when a small figure appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Sam!" Cassandra shouted happily, a broad smile lighting her face as she launched herself forward.
Momentarily startled by the girl's entrance, Sam froze for a second, then dropped to the floor as she realized she was hurtling forward in expectation of a hug.
"Cass," Janet warned even as her adopted daughter wrapped her arms tightly around Sam's waist. "Careful. Sam's hand is hurt."
The child backed off enough to peer down at the tightly wrapped hand, her expression worried. "Is it bad?"
Carter glanced down at the injury, then back up at the child. "Nah, nothing that could get in the way of a hug," she exhaled as she wrapped an arm around narrow shoulders. "Or tutoring you in math. Your mom says you're having some problems--"
"With decimals," the girl inserted nervously. Their last tutoring session had made an impression. "Not like, trig or calculus or anything."
Sam ruffled the girl's hair affectionately, an embarrassed half-smile playing about her lips as she met Janet's eyes over top of Cassie's head. "I promise, we'll keep it to decimals." Pale blue eyes dropped to the wine glass still being offered. "Ahm, maybe we should make it fruit juice for now and save the wine for dinner."
"That's doable," Fraiser said agreeably as she turned back to the fridge, enjoying the pleasantly normal nature of the evening. "Apple or orange?"
"Make it apple...I haven't had that in ages."
Janet's head poked up over the edge of the refrigerator door. "If you discovered the wonders of grocery shopping, that wouldn't be a problem."
Sam was silent for a long moment, her expression shuttered in a way that left Janet wondering what she was thinking. Finally, she just shrugged and offered a smile that never quite rang true. "Yeah, well, if I did that, I couldn't scam meals off of you." Something hidden in her tone left Janet with the strangest sense that Sam had raised a wall between them and she couldn't figure out why.
Janet suddenly realized she was staring as Cassie's gaze swung her way.
Shaking off a sense of something she couldn't quite put her finger on, Janet quickly poured Sam a glass of juice. "Sorry, just phased out for a second," she muttered as she handed her friend the glass. "I think I must be more tired than I realized." She glanced at her watch. "You two go on and get that study session. Dinner in forty-five."
"Come on, Sam," Cassie said cheerfully, dragging the tall woman after her.
Her lips lifted in a hint of a smile, Janet stared after them for a long moment, then finally shook off her momentary paralysis and turned back to the problem at hand.
* * * * * *
Janet was lying on the couch, one hand loosely steadying the wine glass resting on her her stomach, an arm folded behind her head, her eyes closed, the cotton summer dress she'd changed into while dinner was simmering leaving her arms and a fair length of leg bare. She slitted her eyes at the soft sound of footsteps, watching through thick lashes as Sam reentered the livingroom, momentarily standing poised on the balls of her feet when she reached the end of the couch. A hint of frown crossed the doctor's features as she silently watched. She wasn't crazy. Sam really was on edge. "Hey there," she said at last, opening her eyes fully and stretching as though she'd been napping. "You get Cass asleep?"
Sam nodded, retrieving her glass from the coffee table and refilling it before sinking down to sit on the floor, her back against the couch, knees upthrust. "Yes," she exhaled, her gaze distant, then she blinked coming back to the present as she smiled. She twisted to peer at Janet. "She's a great kid, you know."
"I think I'll keep her," Janet murmured, pride leaking out of every syllable.
"I mean it," Carter said seriously, turning until she was sitting alongside the couch, bracing her arm on the thick cushions as she studied the woman lying languorously only a few inches away. "You've done a wonderful job with her." She took a swallow from her glass. "I mean I haven't known that many kids...but Cass...she's great...." She trailed off, staring into her glass, slowly swirling the wine around, watching it move.
Janet pushed up on one elbow, studying Carter's downbent head, sensing something going on, but not understanding what. "Sam," she began at last, "is something wrong?"
Blue eyes lifted, sliding over Janet's face, taking in soft rises and hollows. "Why would you ask that?" she questioned, her tone unconvincingly cheerful.
A gentle smile touched the doctor's mouth, while dark eyes watched the other woman sympathetically. "Because I've the strangest feeling all evening that..." she trailed off momentarily, hunting for the right words before continuing, "that something's bothering you...and you're trying to hide it." She frowned, a hint of a line forming between sculpted brows. "Even in the infirmary ... it was like you were having to struggle to act like yourself ... What is it?"
Carter risked a glance up, then stared back down at her wine. "I'd almost..." she trailed off, not finishing what she'd started to say. Finally, she whispered, "Sometimes I forget how sensitive you are to people's moods."
Janet shrugged, still watching her friend closely. "It comes with the territory when you're a doctor. You have to be part psychologist in the bargain." She reached out, tucking a finger under Sam's chin to draw her head up, flinching at what she saw in deep blue eyes before it was hidden behind a tightly contained emotionless mask. "Talk to me," she pleaded after a beat, wanting nothing more than to help.
Pale eyes slid closed and Sam swallowed hard. "Actually, that's why I..." she paused for a moment before continuing, "why I wanted to come here tonight ... I wanted to talk to you."
Janet nodded, keeping her finger under Sam's chin and gently stroking her cheek with the pad of her thumb, sensing that the other woman might bolt without that tiny bit of contact. "I guessed as much."
Sam let out a tiny, nervous laugh, her mouth quirking in an embarrassed smile. "Ever consider taking that mind-reading act pro?"
"Only on amateur night at the Comedy Club," Janet deadpanned, nodding encouragingly when Sam opened her eyes again and a watery smile touched her lips.
The major let out a soft sigh. "God, this isn't easy ... I thought I knew what to say ... but now...." She shook her head slowly.
Janet considered what she knew about the other woman, hunting for clues about what might have her so on edge. She'd been out with the rest of SG-1 earlier, which meant.... Janet sighed softly, worried she might at least have some idea of the source of her upset. "Does it have something to do with Colonel O'Neill?"
Sam blinked, clearly surprised by the question. "No," she said instantly, then added in a lower voice, "he has nothing to do with this...."
It was Janet's turn to be surprised. She'd noticed Jack O'Neill's interest in his 2IC, and gotten the feeling on more than one occasion that Sam wasn't entirely unreceptive, so she'd just assumed.... Apparently wrongly, she realized as she struggled to switch mental gears. "I'm sorry. I just thought ... or maybe I didn't think," she decided out loud. She twitched in surprise a moment later when Sam reached up and caught the hand resting against her own cheek, twining her fingers with Janet's and rubbing her thumb lightly against the knuckles. Her eyes dropped to their mingled hands, a hint of frown creasing her brow. "Whatever it is though, you can talk to me."
Sam rested her free hand on the edge of the couch, the white bandage a stark contrast to tanned skin. "There's so much I want to say ... so many things I want to tell you...." She looked away and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to calm jangled nerves. "So damn much," she exhaled heavily. "I wish I knew how to do this...wish I could...." She fell silent for a long moment, then suddenly moved, lifting her hand from the couch cushion. "Maybe it's better if I just stop trying to tell you ... and just...."
Janet felt the brush of gauze and warm, faintly callused fingers against her cheek and barely had time to gasp, "Sam," before she experienced the hot press of the blond's mouth against her own. A beat later, her head swimming with a combination of sensations and emotions she couldn't even begin to give a name to, Janet found herself pressed more deeply into the cushions as Sam joined her on the couch, lean curves dovetailing neatly with her own slighter frame. Her wine-glass momentarily got in the way and was tossed aside, instantly forgotten by both of them.
It was one of those moments in life when reality implodes, coalesces, and explodes outward again into a completely new form. Only moments before, Janet would have said she wasn't a woman prone to sudden overwhelming passion and, while she might have flirted with a few women over the years, it had never been anything serious and never in any situation where there might have been an opportunity to follow through. She didn't have time to wonder at her own reasons for playing it safe as Sam's hand found the curve of her hip, stroking gently, making her achingly aware of her own body and the hot rush of desire that followed that light touch, leaving the surface of her skin incredibly sensitive to even the slightest contact. She felt the roughness of Sam's tongue against her lips, the soft caresses half a demand and half a plea for entrance.
That gentle attempt to increase the intimacy brought reality back with a thud. God, what the hell was she thinking? They couldn't do this. Janet twisted her mouth away from the tantalizing kiss, dragging air into her lungs as she braced her hands against Sam's shoulders. "What are you..." she groaned in halting half-sentences. "We can't ... why?" She was still struggling for words as a gentle hand curved along her jawline, stroking soothingly, while blue eyes met Janet's darker gaze, the expression that glittered there somehow comforting the doctor when, by all rights, it should have upset her.
"Have you ever wanted something so much you were ready to sacrifice everything to have it?" Sam kept stroking Janet's jawline softly.
Janet frowned, her ability to think coherently completely shattered. "I-I don't know," she admitted breathlessly.
"I do," Sam groaned, and ducked her head, tasting soft lips again, while the hand cupping Janet's cheek slid downward, trailing fire the length of her torso. "I want you," she whispered through the heady kiss while she pressed her knee between warm thighs. She pushed up on one elbow, staring down into flushed features with a quiet seriousness that had both nothing and everything to do with the scent of arousal thickening the air. "I'm in love with you, Janet ... I have been for a long time," she admitted, dropping the bombshell to beat all bombshells in a low, intense voice.
Fraiser could only stare up at the woman arching over her, her brain refusing to process the words for a brief moment. "Sam ... I...." She didn't know what to say; didn't have even the faintest idea. There was no denying the other woman's personal charisma. She'd been drawn to her from the beginning; fascinated by a mind so agile it could divine the secrets of the universe coupled with a complex personality that contained equal parts sweetness, innocence, toughness, and cynicism. She was a living paradox in some ways and there had been days when Janet had wondered if the other woman had any idea how fascinating she was, only to quickly conclude she didn't. But she'd never thought about her sexually. Only suddenly she didn't know if that was because she'd never been attracted, or just never willing to risk letting herself think that way about her friend.
Sam kissed her again, her mouth demanding and tender at the same time. "Please," she whispered raggedly. "All I'm asking for is tonight." She slowly rubbed her thigh against Janet, the gentle stroking drawing tiny sounds from the woman beneath her. "Just this once, I need something ... something for myself ... I need you."
Janet closed her eyes tightly, wondering distantly if Sam had calculated the plea most likely to break down any resistance because God knew it was working, triggering a thousand different protective emotions that fed into an instinctive need to be needed. "Sam," she whispered, her voice rough with the effort required not to give way to temptation, "you know why we can't do this."
"No, I don't," Carter disagreed, trailing her lips along the curve of Janet's jaw.
Sam pushed up on her hands again, staring down at Janet, eyes sliding over her face as if committing every curve to memory. "I don't give a damn about anything but you tonight."
It was a seductive proclamation that left Janet breathless and trembling as Sam's lips claimed hers again, while her hands began moving, trailing erotic fire everywhere they touched. A hard thigh rubbed against the center of her desire, drawing tiny shudders of arousal. And then agile fingers gathered her skirt out of the way to stroke her inner thigh, drawing tiny concentric circles on soft skin and ambling higher with every passing second. "Tell me to stop," she whispered, "And I will...tell me you don't love me--"
"I do love you," Janet insisted instantly, struggling to separate the reality of the desire she was feeling from the profound friendship she felt for this woman. "I don't think I've ever had a better friend--"
"This isn't just friendship," Sam breathed and kissed her way down Janet's throat. She dipped her tongue into the hollow at the base of the smaller woman's throat. "And you know it."
Janet closed her eyes, not knowing what to do as her own body betrayed her common sense. She wanted this, wanted to surrender to the heat moving in her veins, wanted the body moving so sensually against her own. "No," she gasped, unable to deny that her arousal went deeper than the mere physical, "it's not, but--"
"Do you want me?"
Janet's breath caught at the straightforward question, the denial she knew she should give dying unspoken. "Yes." The single word was so lowly spoken it barely qualified as a whisper, but it was obvious that Sam had heard by triumph that glittered in her pale eyes as she stroked dark hair back from Janet's brow.
"Do you love me?"
Janet didn't even try to resist this time, and didn't try to analyze her response either, simply surrendered to the reality without questioning the exact nature of what she felt. "Yes."
No triumph in Sam's eyes this time, only relief.
And then Janet lost track of everything as she tasted the heat of Sam's mouth, her hips instinctively lifting to meet lithe fingers, hands digging in to taut back muscles. She was completely lost until Sam began freeing the half a dozen buttons that ran down the front of her dress, her lips following an ambling path in the wake of parting fabric. Janet slipped her fingers into thick blond hair, tugging just hard enough to pull Sam's head up. "We can't," she gasped breathlessly.
Sam frowned, frustration and hurt echoed in her expression.
Janet shook her head, realizing how that had sounded. "No...I mean...not here...." She rocked her head back on her shoulders, still clinging to the lean form stretched over her. "Cass," she groaned, and felt Sam relax fractionally, her expression turning questioning as though she was struggling to process what Janet was telling her. "She usually gets a drink sometime after she's gone to bed," Janet added after a beat.
Blue eyes slid closed and Sam laughed softly, letting her head fall forward until her forehead was resting on Janet's chest. "Cass...right..." she groaned as tiny tremors slid through her muscles.
"My bedroom," Janet panted, stroking silky blond hair back from her temples.
Sam's chin lifted, eyes meeting Janet's brown velvet gaze as a smile lit her features. "Your bedroom?"
"Mmm ... has a bed ... works well for this sort of thing."
"Very well," Sam agreed. She pushed to her feet in one smooth move, reaching down to pull Janet to her feet and into her arms. She trailed her lips down the arch of her throat. "Very, very well."
Moments later, they stood together in the master bedroom, trembling hands sliding over luscious curves, peeling aside fabric barriers in the quest for more contact. When Sam fumbled with the bedside lamp, Janet started to stop her, only to find her hand caught and kissed tenderly as the light was flipped on.
"I want to see you," the blond whispered and kissed her hungrily. "Every inch of you." Her eyes slid over the doctor's slight frame, the need she was feeling glowing brightly in her gaze. She reached out, just barely stroking a rounded breast, sensitive fingers playing over pale flesh with knowing skill.
It was only the beginning....
In the hours that followed hands and mouths would touch, bodies meet, and souls twine with an insatiable desperation that would drive them to reach for each other again and again, never quite satisfied, as though they could never quite salve the need that burned between them.
* * * * * *
George Hammond groaned softly, rolling over to reach for the phone ringing at his bedside. "Hammond," he barked into the receiver, barely resisting the urge to curse. He rarely slept well when he spent nights at the base, both because he normally only stayed over when there was some kind of problem, and because the narrow regulation military bed did things to his back that should be against the Geneva Convention if they weren't already. But for once, he'd actually managed to drop off into something approaching restful slumber. Apparently, that wasn't meant to be.
"Lieutenant Hale here, Sir. SG-1 just returned from PRX-1138. You'd better get down to the gateroom."
Hammond was already climbing out of bed and reaching for his clothes. He'd learned that when his lead SG team was involved, things were seldom simple. "What is it? Was one of them hurt?"
"No, sir. The four of them just came through fine."
"Four?" Hammond repeated, sounding surprised.
"Yes, sir. Major Carter was with them." Which made no sense since Carter had returned hours before.
"I'm on my way...."
* * * * * *
Janet Fraiser returned to consciousness to the unfamiliar feel of a body snuggled up against her back and arms wrapped tightly around her torso. Disorientation left her paralyzed for a moment, and then it all came rushing back; the low declaration and soft words, the heated caresses, the pure pleasure of lovemaking that flowed from moment to moment, never quite ending, just slowing before building again. "Oh Lord," she exhaled almost inaudibly, still in shock over what had happened. She found one of the hands wrapped around her waist, stroking the knuckles with a gentle touch.
She'd made love with Sam, felt that very hand stroke every inch of her body. The thought sent a shiver of sensory memory through her, while images of everything they'd done together flashed in her head.
For a moment, as she'd stood there with her friend, intensely aware of the cool air caressing her bare skin, she'd felt like an eighteen year old virgin again, self-consciously aware of the cold-blooded details, but with absolutely no practical experience to guide her. And then Sam had touched her and any fear had fled. For the first time in her life, she'd felt totally at home in another person's arms.
Janet sighed softly, not knowing whether to be thrilled or terrified. There were so many practical matters that she should consider, but at the same time, she couldn't regret what had happened, not when it felt so much like coming home for the first time in her life.
And where do you go from here?A distant part of her brain questioned, but she didn't have any answers to offer, only a vague mental shrug. We'll figure it out.
She tensed as she felt Sam shift against her back, wondering if the other woman was waking, but she only settled more deeply into the blankets. After a long moment, Janet carefully slid out from under Sam's loose hold, half expecting her lover -- her lover ... she turned the words over in her head, liking them more than she had ever imagined possible -- to waken, but the blond continued to sleep deeply. She turned enough to peer at the sleeping woman, wishing she could see her better, but the room was dark now. Sam had flipped off the lights at some point during their lovemaking, laughingly brailing Janet's body.
"I want to compare what I've seen with what I can feel,"she'd whispered, then proceeded to do just that, stroking and touching every inch and encouraging Janet to do likewise.
And she had. Oh, how she had; stroking and tasting every subtle curve as she learned the best ways to please her lover, fascinated by each new experience.
Her skin flush with awareness and suddenly hit with a burst of energy that left her unable to just lie there, Janet slid out of bed, careful not to wake the sleeping woman. She found her robe where it hung on the back of her door, quickly shrugging into the soft velour before slipping out of the room on light feet.
She paused in the bathroom, running cold water over her face and wrists before leaning forward to stare at her own image in the mirror, instinctively hunting for some kind of change. The woman she saw staring back at her was pink cheeked, her eyes boiling with emotion, lips still full and swollen. She let her eyes slide lower, watching the way her own chest rose and fell, then reached up to lift the lapel on her robe back just enough to see the faint red mark Sam had left on the upper curve of her breast with her lips. She rubbed her thumb lightly over the tiny bruise, shivering with remembered pleasure, startled by the primitive emotions it elicited. As she stood there staring at her own reflection, she could almost hear Sam's voice, rough with passion, swirling around her.
"...Now, you'll always know you're mine...."
She'd flirted, teasing her new lover. "Getting a little possessive are we?"
She wondered if there would be another hint of a mark at her waist as she remembered how Sam's hand had tightened there, her voice a husky drawl as she whispered, "Damn right." She'd somehow managed to sound like she was joking and wholly serious at the same time.
Janet dropped her head forward, splashing more cold water over her face before straightening and fastening a firm gaze on the passion-blown woman in the mirror. "Oh, you are such a goner," she lectured wryly, but the woman in the mirror only smiled back at her, her dark eyes glinting with newly gained sensual knowledge.
Realizing she was on the verge of giving herself a full bore lecture and responding defiantly to it at the same time, she shook her head and slipped out.
The livingroom still showed the effects of their passionate grappling; the couch cushions disarrayed, Sam's wine glass toppled on the coffee table, her own tossed onto the floor, the former contents splayed across the carpet.
She noted the stain with a raised brow. "Well, Fraiser," the doctor muttered to herself as she headed toward the kitchen, "might as well use some of this energy to clean up the mess you made."
She was still digging a bottle of stain remover out from under the sink when the phone rang, and she banged her knee on the counter while rushing to grab for the handset. There was an extension in her bedroom, and she had some distant thought of somehow getting it before it woke Sam. Her voice still pained from the impact, she spoke into the receiver. "Hello?"
"Doctor Fraiser?"General Hammond's distinctive Texas drawl came back to her.
"Yes, sir," she muttered distantly, her attention still focused on her violently throbbing knee.
"Are you all right, Doctor?"
Focused on her pain, she didn't hear the worry in his voice. "Banged my knee on the counter," she responded without thinking. "And it hurts like hell..." and that's when his worried tone struck her, "And that's not what you're asking me about, is it?" she questioned with sudden insight.
"No, Doctor,"Hammond confirmed. "Is Major Carter there?"
Janet frowned, detecting an unusual hesitance in her superior's tone. "She was asleep in the bedroom the last time I checked, sir," she answered, carefully not mentioning which bedroom.
"Where are you?"
"I'm in the kitchen. Why?"
"You're alone then?"
"I'm going to put someone on now, and I need you to do exactly as you're told. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," she responded automatically, heart suddenly throbbing in her chest as she found herself wondering if he'd somehow found out about her tryst with Sam. Was she about to listen to the end of her career? No, that didn't make sense. Even if Hammond were of a mind to throw her out for something like that, there were procedures to be followed. It wasn't an instant event.
A brief moment of silence followed and she could hear the phone being handed off, the sounds of traffic in the distance. By the sound of it, Hammond was in a vehicle somewhere. And then she heard her own name, the voice speaking to her painfully familiar.
"Janet ... it's Sam."
Fraiser's knees almost buckled, and she had to brace her free hand against the wall next to the phone to remain upright. "Sam?" her voice came out as little more than a low croak.
"I know this must be a shock,"Carter continued sympathetically, "But General Hammond thought that it might be best if I talked to you ... I think he was afraid you wouldn't believe him."
Janet's eyes lifted, turning in the direction of her bedroom, though several walls lay between her and the woman who ... was lying there ... or was she on the other end of the phone? "What the hell?" she finally got out.
"Look, I don't know who's there at your house, but it's not me--"
Janet swallowed hard, feeling nauseous as the meaning of her words sank in. Not Sam. The hands that had touched her, drawn her into begging and pleading; the lips that had slid over her skin until she was mindless, the body that-- "Oh god," she groaned weakly, her brain resisting the idea violently. But, dear lord, it made sense. No wonder Sam had seemed so different. She wasn't Sam. Sam had never shown even the slightest inclination to want more than friendship, but this woman had proclaimed her love and been all over her. She felt like an idiot for not questioning the abrupt change in their relationship, but she'd been so overwhelmed by her own response that she hadn't been thinking clearly.
"I didn't come back early,"Sam continued, ignoring the soft curse. "I was with SG-1 the whole time."
Janet heard a tiny whimper from a distance and realized she'd made the sound as the world spun dizzily around her. She should have seen something, noticed something. "Who...who is she...it?"
"We don't know,"Sam said carefully, her tone clearly meant to reassure and calm, though it had exactly the opposite effect. "But there's a team on the way to your place. We'll be there in a few minutes. In the meantime, you need to get yourself and Cass out of the house."
Janet tightened one hand into a fist, nails digging into her palm in hopes the slight pain would help clear her head. "Understood," she exhaled heavily, then whispered almost inaudibly, "I-is she dangerous?"
Carter was silent for a brief moment. "I honestly don't know...so just get out, okay? Don't take any chances." Carter's worry was obvious from her tone.
Janet tensed, instincts suddenly in high gear as she heard a soft creak in the hallway just outside the kitchen. "Yeah, Mom, thanks."
She heard the soft scrape of the kitchen door opening behind her. "No, Mom, we're two hours behind you. Not two hours ahead. It's only four a.m. here."
"You're not alone."
The soft pad of footsteps and a hand slid caressingly up her center back while Janet struggled not to jump out of her skin. "No...no it's okay. I was up anyway...getting a drink."
"Are you okay?"
Hands were sliding around her waist, stroking gently as she was drawn into a warm hold. "Yeah...but I really need to go now."
"Be careful. We'll get there as fast as we can."
"I know," Janet whispered, amazed she managed to keep her voice steady. "I'll tell Cass you called. Love you, Mom," she whispered the last as she hung up the phone. Tension rippled through her muscles a brief moment later as she soft lips followed a sensitive cord down her neck to the curve of her shoulder. "Sam," she croaked, forcing the panic down. "I thought you were still asleep." She glanced over her shoulder, noting that the other woman had pulled on her clothes, though her shirt was only half buttoned and the cuffs hung loose around her wrists.
"Mmm, the phone woke me up and I realized you weren't in bed," Sam -- no, not Sam, Janet reminded herself -- whispered as she peeled the collar of Janet's robe back to reveal more soft flesh to her eager caresses.
"I...uh...I got thirsty," Janet whispered, hoping the roughness in her voice sounded like sleep deprivation instead of terror as she carefully disengaged from her lover's hold. Well, that much was true, even if it wasn't Sam; whoever the person at her back was, she'd surrendered completely to her. Janet had to force down a shudder and she covered by grabbing the orange juice out of the fridge and taking a slug straight out of the bottle.
"You really were thirsty," Not-Sam, as Janet mentally dubbed her, noted with a raised brow.
She might not be Samantha Carter, but she did one hell of an imitation. "Yeah." Janet took another swallow of acid-sweet juice, hoping as she did so that her stomach would stay right where it was. "I woke up with a dry mouth."
"You okay?" Not-Sam questioned, eyes sliding over Janet, taking in the tension she couldn't quite hide.
Janet blinked, realizing she was telegraphing her turmoil, and forced a smile. "Yeah." She gestured toward the phone, hoping that would make a decent cover. "The call from my mom just caught me by surprise." Another forced laugh. "She never has quite gotten the time difference right. She's convinced she's two hours behind me, not ahead." which the real Sam would know was patently untrue. She'd been there plenty of times when Janet's mother had called, even spoken to her a few times.
Not-Sam only looked sympathetic. "And maybe you're a little shaken by having your lover walk in during a call from your mother," she suggested gently.
Janet seized on the excuse for her obvious distress with both hands. "Probably," she muttered, hoping the other woman believed that was what was bothering her.
"It's okay, y'know," Not-Sam said softly, drawing closer and reaching out to cup slender shoulders in strong hands. Something flickered in pale blue eyes, and for just a moment, Janet thought she saw the Sam-mask slip a little before it was back in place. She lifted a hand, absently toying with the babyfine hair at Janet's temple. "If it's got you a little shaken. It's a big change."
"Oh yeah," Janet breathed and took another draft from the juice bottle. She shoved it back in the refrigerator, neatly sidestepping when the other woman would have reached for her. "I ... uh ... I need to check on Cass. She's always waking up and reading late at night...then sleeping through school the next day."
"Okay," the blond murmured cautiously, watching Janet with a piercingly sharp gaze and for a moment, the doctor was terrified she'd guessed.
Janet had to step past her to exit the kitchen, and as she moved, she suddenly found herself enveloped in a tight hug from behind, her body held by hands that had made her shiver with pleasure only hours before. "I do love you, you know," Sam -- no, Not-Sam, Janet reminded herself as she struggled to resist the sweet temptation of soft kisses and that smooth voice -- whispered as she nuzzled her ear. She laced her fingers with Janet's, snuggling her tenderly.
"I really should check on Cass," Janet whispered again and tried to subtly pull free, but the woman holding her was having none of it.
"I wish I'd known you then."
"Th-then?" Janet repeated in confusion.
A possessive hand spread over Janet's stomach, caressing gently. "When you were pregnant with Cass." The lover who wasn't Sam nuzzled her neck. "I'll bet you were beautiful."
Dark eyes slid closed and Janet had to bite back on a sob as a cold shiver slid down her spine. Right up until that very moment a part of her had hoped it was all just a mixup -- some kind of Stargate weirdness -- but that the woman she was with really was Samantha Carter and they would eventually straighten everything out. But for Sam not to know that Cass was adopted when she was the one who'd rescued her.... She gritted her teeth, forcing every shattered emotion behind a cold wall of professional calm. She had to think. No letting her own problems take her out of the game. Not when her life and, more importantly, Cass's, might be on the line. She consciously relaxed her muscles, leaning back against the woman holding her, intentionally playing along. "Actually, I was mostly green ... I had awful morning sickness," she lied, amazed by the layer of ice that suddenly coated her emotions in the wake of the need for survival.
A hand lifted to dark auburn hair, stroking lightly. "You'd be beautiful in any color," Not-Sam breathed, and Janet could feel her relax palpably. She wondered if the other woman had been worried she'd been discovered there for a moment.
Well, youhave been found out, Janet snarled mentally, though she didn't let on what she was thinking or the anger suddenly flowing through her veins. And believe me, you are going to regret it. Despite the deep well of fury, her voice was honey smooth as she drawled, "Well, I appreciate the compliment, even if it's not true." She turned inside the other woman's loose hold, sliding her hands up Not-Sam's chest, her touch light and teasing. She saw heat flare in bright blue eyes with some satisfaction. Two could play the seduction game. "However, I really do need to check on my daughter." She arched up on her toes, pressing a soft kiss to pink lips. "But if you'll go back to bed, I'll be with you in a few minutes." She winked, her look promising every form of sensual pleasure imaginable, and she was rewarded by the look of hungry desperation that flickered across the other woman's face. If she was faking that part of the equation, she was one hell of an actress, Janet realized in an instant as she felt a hand tighten on her waist. For a moment, she was lost as Sam's--no, goddammit, she was not Sam--mouth came down on hers with ragged fervor. Janet twisted away after a beat, pressing her hands flat on the other woman's chest, well aware of their mismatched strength. "Cass," she gasped, and was relieved when the blond straightened, breathing heavily as she released her hold.
"Right ... Cass." She nodded her head toward the kitchen door. "Go on ... I'll ... uh ... I'll see you in a couple of minutes."
Without stopping to think about it, Janet fled, hoping the other woman didn't see her panic for what it was.
* * * * * *
Cassandra was deep asleep when Janet entered her bedroom; a small compact lump hidden under thick covers. "Cass, honey," she whispered, unable to control her urgency now that she was away from the alien Sam. She shook Cass' shoulder, then pressed a finger to her lips when the girl sat up sleepily, her expression questioning.
"Janet?" Cassie frowned, clearly confused.
Janet heard the sound of footsteps in the hallway--thank God for creaky floorboards-- and tensed, but they only continued in the direction of her bedroom. "Cass, we have to leave now," she said quickly, turning away to flip the lock on the window before pushing it open.
"What? I don't understand."
Janet glanced back, her expression cluing her adopted daughter in that something was very wrong. "The woman here tonight...it...it wasn't Sam," she whispered hoarsely. "The general called...Sam's back at the SGC ... and we need to get out of here as quickly as possible."
Cassie's expression darkened into a frightened frown. "B-but I'd know if she was a Goa'uld."
Janet yanked the screen free and tossed it out the window into the garden, not caring where it landed. "They don't know who or what she is, and right now, my first priority is getting you safe, all right?"
Cassie had pushed upright, and was watching with wide eyes, then both woman and child froze as the creak in the hallway suddenly returned, and shadows were cast through the crack under the door. Janet made a quieting motion when it seemed as if her adopted daughter was about to speak and hurried back to the bed, urging Cass to lie back down. She leaned over the girl, straightening her blankets even as she heard the door slide open.
"Hey there," the Sam who was not Sam spoke softly. "I just wanted to check in on and see how Cass is doing." She smiled at the girl. "I heard voices so I figured she was awake."
Janet flashed a glance toward the window, noting that the curtain had fallen across the missing screen. Swallowing her panic she reached out and gently ruffled her adopted daughter's hair. "She's fine. Just getting in a little late night reading." She could see the terror in Cassie's eyes, and tried to reassure her. "No more of that, okay, kiddo?" she whispered and leaned over the girl, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. "Go out the window when we're gone," she exhaled low enough that only Cass could hear her.
"Mom?" Cass croaked as Janet straightened and rose to her feet.
Fraiser felt her heart catch. Cassie always used her name and had only called her that twice in the time she'd had her -- both times in the middle of panicked nightmares -- and she'd never pushed to change that. After all, the child had had parents that she'd dearly loved. She could never hope to replace them, but in that moment, she wished she could hold onto the softly spoken word. Unfortunately, for Cass' sake, she had to play the game. "You know the rules, hon'... so you do exactly as I told you. Understood?"
The girl nodded stiffly. Janet knew her well enough to see just how scared she was, even in the darkened room, but she had to hope that the woman behind her didn't. She tensed fractionally as a hand landed on her waist and she felt the heat of a body against her back, followed by warm breath lifting her hair as the blond murmured, "You heard your mom. You do what she tells you, okay?"
"Yeah...I always try to," Cassie murmured, her voice tight with stress.
Janet was terrified that if she didn't get the alien Sam out of their quickly she would notice the girl's tension and the open window. She couldn't let that happen. "Okay, hon," she said softly, and dropped a hand to the one at her waist, caressing lightly as she leaned back against warm curves, hoping to distract Sam's doppleganger from Cassie's obvious fear. "G'night."
"G'night, Mom. I love you."
"Love you too." Janet hoped she was the only who'd heard the slight tremor in the girl's voice as she turned, purposely sliding her hands up Not-Sam's chest and urging her out of the room.
"G'night, Cass," the blond murmured, though she made no effort to resist Janet's gentle pressure guiding her out of the room. As the door was pulled closed, she slipped a hand around the smaller woman's narrow waist, pulling her close. "Hope I didn't interrupt any mother-daughter bonding, but I started missing you the moment you left." She pressed Janet against the wall, plundering her mouth hungrily while she tugged at the soft robe with eager hands.
Janet twisted her mouth away from the luscious kiss, pressing firmly on hard shoulders. "Not here...Cass," she panted, making it sound like she was worried about the girl overhearing, though her fear was actually the reverse. She was terrified the other woman would hear her adopted daughter going out the window.
"Right...Cass." She laughed softly, leaning her forehead against Janet's shoulder. "I keep forgetting...you're a mother."
Janet could feel the other woman's arousal like a living thing. Whatever game she was playing, she was apparently enjoying it. That realization fired her anger, driving her to use the only weapon she had at her disposal. She reached out, stroking velvety lips with the tip of a finger, the gesture intentionally seductive. It shook her to feel a bolt of unwanted desire as sharp teeth nipped the tip of her finger, then soft lips closed around the single digit for a brief moment. She was not Sam, Janet reminded herself, and she could not afford to think of her as anything but a possible threat, because anything else was just too dangerous. "Why don't you go back to bed and wait for me," she whispered raggedly. "I just want to stop by the bathroom and then I'm all yours." She suddenly realized that the duplicate Sam had tensed and her eyes were closed.
"All right," the blond croaked, her face suddenly devoid of all color.
Janet had to tamp down an automatic urge to ask if something was wrong as she reminded herself that this woman wasn't her patient. She was the enemy. If she wanted to drop dead on the spot, that was just fine.
Now if she could just make herself believe it.
A gentle hand stroked the doctor's cheek. "Go on, I'll meet you in the bedroom."
Janet was startled by the protective impulse she couldn't quell. Despite herself, she heard herself ask the question before she could call it back. "Sam, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," the other woman said raggedly as she pulled away.
The doctor watched the other woman move away toward her bedroom, her footsteps far less sure than they had been only moments before. She almost followed her before sanity reasserted itself. The angular blond paused at the bedroom door, glancing over her shoulder, the brief look breaking Janet's paralysis and prompting her to step into the bathroom as she'd said she intended.
Her eyes went to the small window at least five feet above the bathroom counter. It was just wide enough to get through, but she'd never tried to open it; wasn't even sure it did open. She glanced at the door over her shoulder. Unfortunately, it was also her only way out. She climbed onto the counter, realizing the window was more than five feet above the counter when she found herself reaching over her head for the latch.
* * * * * *
Jack O'Neill glanced over at his second-in-command, noting her tension and pallor. She was sitting next to the general, the cell phone that had been used to call Fraiser's place still clutched tightly in her hand. "Carter," he said just loud enough to gain her attention. "Whatever happens, it's not your fault."
Carter looked up, not even trying to conceal her worry. "I just keep thinking about that bitch wearing my face," she growled. A muscle flexed in her jaw. "If she hurts Cassie or Janet..." she trailed off into silence.
"Janet'll do what she has to to keep Cass safe," he pointed out quietly. "And she's pretty good at taking care of herself too."
"Indeed," Teal'c added quietly from the side. Like the others, he was dressed in a flak jacket, but he carried his staff. "Doctor Fraiser would not allow Cassandra to be harmed, and she will not be careless with her own life."
"They'll be all right," Hammond said quietly, guilt a subtle influence on his tone. He couldn't help but remember that he'd been struck by Carter's oddness when she returned through the gate, but he'd convinced himself that it was just exhaustion and her injury. If he had just done something about that gut instinct he might not have an officer and a child in possible danger.
A security officer in special forces gear leaned back through the curtain that divided the truck cab from the rear troop section. "We're almost there," he informed the waiting officers. Should be about another five to ten minutes."
They all fell silent then, lost in their own thoughts, and preparing for what lay ahead in their own ways.
* * * * * *
Janet cursed softly, muscles screaming painfully as she fought to open the high bathroom window. It was clearly meant to slide, but had been painted into place, making it almost impossible to move, and while she was gaining ground, it wasn't moving nearly fast enough. She'd been hoping it would suddenly give way and slide smoothly, but so far, no such luck. Janet paused for a moment, taking a deep breath and letting her muscles have a momentary respite before beginning again. Her eyes touched on the towel bar next to the counter, and she considered simply using a towel to protect her hand and breaking the window out, because she had a bad feeling that might be the only way she got through it in time. Janet growled another curse, throwing all of her strength into the effort. Crawling out through broken glass in nothing more than a robe was not something she'd just as soon avoid if possible. Besides, the sound of glass breaking was likely to attract attention from the invader in her home.
Then one foot slipped and she half fell, her already bruised knee slamming hard into the mirror. The glass shattered, flowering outward from the contact point, a few shards cutting soft flesh and leaving a dull red smear. "Oh, damn," Janet hissed through clenched teeth, wondering what God had against that knee. Had it committed some heretofore unknown evil in a previous life? She was still trying to regain her balance while standing on one foot when there was a knock on the bathroom door.
Oh, joy. The doppleganger had heard her not-so-little crash.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Janet called back, struggling to keep the pain out of her voice. "Just knocked a soap dish off the counter. I'll be out in a minute."
"You sure? You sound a little..." she paused before continuing, "odd."
Janet threw her strength into opening the window with no luck. "Just kinda liked that soap dish," she called out, trying unsuccessfully to sound normal. Her head swung around as the doorknob rattled ever so slightly, and she knew instantly that the doppleganger had tried it and found it locked. No more time for subtlety. She grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her hand, muscles pulling taut as she slammed it hard into the window. The first punch only cracked the textured glass, but it didn't shatter it. Unfortunately, it did make a great deal of noise.
"Janet!" The whole door was rattling now.
"I'm definitely clumsy tonight," Janet shouted, though she was certain it wouldn't slow her pursuer. She hammered her protected fist into the window again, this time shattering glass outward.
"What's going on in there? Are you all right?!" Something crashed into the door and it bowed inward, but held.
Janet didn't even bother to try lying at that point, just knocked as much glass as possible out of the way, then flung the towel over the frame, hoping it would protect her from the small shards she hadn't been able to remove. She leapt up, hooking an arm over the window frame even as something smashed into the door a third, this time blowing it open so hard it crashed around into the shower, then hung open, waving ever so slightly on its hinges. The doppleganger Sam stood in the open doorway, feet solidly braced, chest rising and falling in the aftermath of the effort required to kick open the door.
One arm looped over the windowframe, her toes still braced on the counter, Janet froze as blue eyes touched on her then slid past her to the window. Blond brows lifted.
"Interesting soapdish." Not-Sam murmured, a tinge of anger flickering through her soft voice. She sighed softly, understanding entering her eyes. "The phone call," she said simply.
And then Janet was moving, kicking off as she fought to pull herself up, hoping to get through the narrow window before her pursuer could get to her.
She never had a chance.
A hard arm latched around Janet's waist, wrenching her backwards. For a moment, she hung suspended in mid-air, and then she was lifted against the doppleganger's body for a brief moment before she dropped to the floor, her bare feet hitting cold tile.
"Easy," Not-Sam murmured as she struggled to keep an arm around Janet's waist. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Janet twisted sharply, kicking off and bringing her arm around to slam her elbow hard into the underside of her captor's jaw. She was rewarded by a sharp grunt of pain as the blond's head snapped back with the force of the blow. Janet followed through with a hard shove to her chest and suddenly she was free. She backpedaled and pivoted in one move, lunging out through the door and into the hallway. She only made it a few feet before she was tackled from behind, her body toppled to the floor by a hard muscled frame. The hard-scrabble fight that followed was a confusing tangle of arms and legs with both combatants desperate to win.
"Stop it," the doppleganger Sam hissed as she got an arm looped under Janet's right arm at the shoulder joint, then hooked her hand over her neck, effectively disabling that arm. The blond leaned heavily into the smaller woman, their twined pose a perverse mockery of their earlier lovemaking. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"Go to hell." Janet twisted wildly, slamming the back of her head into her attacker's jaw, leaving both of them dazed for a brief second. She was still regaining her equilibrium when her free wrist was grabbed and twisted, then pinned at the small of her back by her attacker's full weight.
They were both breathing hard, bodies heaving as they surged against each other in the course of the struggle. "Sorry," the Not-Sam grunted, "Been there, done that...not looking to go back."
Janet arched desperately, muscles straining as she fought to free her pinned arms, but she was too effectively contained. Tears of frustration rimmed her eyes and she could feel every curve of the body pressed against her back, the flex of every muscle, and the heaving shudder of every breath. "Dammit," she groaned, struggling against the memories of that same body making hers sing with pleasure. She didn't want that memory or the pain of betrayal that accompanied it.
"Easy...just take it easy," her captor whispered near Janet's ear, keeping her voice low and soothing as though she was trying to calm a frightened animal. "You're going to be all right." The hands holding her didn't relax, but some of the pressure eased, only to tighten again as the gentle proclamation set off a fresh round of struggles that didn't end until Janet had exhausted herself with her efforts.
Gasping hard, Fraiser sagged in her captor's hold, forehead resting against rough carpet. Her muscles ached with fatigue as the adrenaline driven surge of energy deserted her, and she couldn't summon the strength to fight anymore. "Who are you?" she demanded on a sobbing breath, her tone thick with hurt. "What are you?"
Positioned the way they were, she didn't see the pain that flashed in blue eyes. The blond pressed her face into dark auburn hair. "I'm Samantha Carter," she exhaled.
Janet let out a half-hysterical burst of laughter. "Except that Sam Carter returned to the SGC hours after you left ... long after we'd already had our fun." Another dark laugh. "God, did the Goa'uld send you? Was seducing me part of some sick plan of theirs--" Had she surrendered her body and soul to some thing sent to destroy them all?
"God, no," the woman holding her rasped, her own voice ragged. "Listen to me, Janet--"
"What the hell did I let touch me?" Janet demanded raggedly, tears making her voice unsteady. "Why did you do this to me? What did you want?"
She heard the doppleganger inhale sharply, felt the heat of her body, the warmth of her breath disturbing dark hair. "Just you, Janet ... I swear to god, just you." Her own body throbbing and limp with exhaustion, she sank against the woman underneath her. "I-I tried to tell you," she exhaled. Her voice was thick with tears as she continued, "I didn't mean ... didn't mean to lie--" She tightened her hold when that low declaration set off another, albeit weaker round of struggles, waiting until the latest storm passed. "I'm sorry," she breathed when Janet hung limp in her arms again. "But I am Sam Carter ... just ... just not your Sam Carter...not the one from this universe." She nuzzled silky hair tenderly. "My world ... was caught in the middle of the crossfire between the Goa'uld and the Asgard ... a new Goa'uld weapon backfired on them ... and everything else for at least three galaxies...." She felt Janet's breathing shift and knew she was at least listening now. "A few of us escaped through a quantum mirror ... but you were -- she -- was wounded." She sniffed back on tears, barely able to get the words out. "I held you ... held her ... when she died." She paused, swallowing hard. "The others were killed a few jumps later ... and I've been moving ... trying to find some sign of life ... leaping to other universes. We'd mapped at least a dozen mirrors ... but they've all been destroyed." She paused for a moment, struggling to regain her shattered composure. "And then I saw myself ... your Carter ... and the team on PRX-1138. I wasn't going to say or do anything ... I-I didn't want to contact them ... but at the same time, it had been so long since I'd even heard a human voice. They were talking about you -- something about some research you and she were working on -- and then the next thing I sliced my hand to have an excuse to see you ... and went back to the gate."
Janet had quieted, her body preternaturally still, but it was impossible to tell if she believed the story or was simply saving her strength for another escape attempt.
The blond sighed heavily, then continued, her voice shaky, "Please believe me, I didn't plan what happened tonight--"
"Bullshit," Janet accused and felt her captor tense. She wasn't so blind that she didn't recognize seduction when caught in the middle of it.
A long moment of silence followed. "You're right," she admitted at last. "When I arrived on the base ... I just wanted to -- to go home again ... and when I saw you ... it was like none of it was real." She laughed softly, a profoundly sad sound. "I could pretend ... and for a little while, I had a second chance ... and I took it." Her lips barely touched Janet's temple. "And I'm not even sorry ... I've loved you so long ... and never...." She couldn't finish and her voice trailed off into silence. "I never meant to hurt you," she began again after a long moment. "I just ... for a little while I pretended that I belonged here ... that everything that happened before was just a bad nightmare."
Her breathing slowed but still ragged, Janet lay silently where she was pinned in place.
"Say something," the alternate Sam begged at last.
Janet took a deep breath and let it out on a shuddery sigh, so emotionally shaken she had no idea what she thought or felt. "What should I say?" she questioned mockingly.
"That you believe me ... God, please say you believe me," the woman holding her pleaded.
"I have no idea what I believe," Janet admitted, hysteria creeping back into her voice. She yanked against the grip pinning her wrist to the small of her back and this time the alternate Sam let go, giving her some measure of freedom, though she maintained her hold on Janet's other arm and didn't relax the hard pressure on her body.
"Then believe this, I love you ... anything I've done, I've done because of that."
Janet couldn't force down the swell of bitterness the softly spoken declaration caused. "And I should believe you because?" She felt her captor flinch. And just how should she think of her now? Sam, Not-Sam, Alternate-Sam, Sam-I-Am-Who-Is-Not-Sam? She let out a tiny, distraught giggle and was surprised by the gentle hand that went to her hair, petting rhythmically.
"Shhh, it's okay," the doppleganger breathed near Janet's ear, "You'll be all right."
Janet braced her free hand against the floor, experimentally testing whether she might be able to use her position to come kind of leverage, but her adversary shifted her weight enough to counter any bid for freedom. "So, what happens now?" Janet rasped, frustration and a hint of fear leaking through her low voice.
Silence followed the question, until Janet tried to twist to get a look at the woman holding her so securely in place. Then she felt the body above her twitch violently and heard a sharp gasp.
"Ah God, not now." A low, pained whimper as more hard shudders rippled through the slender frame braced over Janet.
"Sam?" Janet didn't even notice that she'd simply used her name in her fear.
"Oh, God," the Alternate-Sam groaned, agony leaking out of every syllable. She shoved backwards, tumbling away from her prisoner.
Janet heard the crash as the other woman fell into the hallway wall and twisted, scrambling free, her eyes going wide as they fell on the slender blond figure a short distance away. She was braced with her back against the wall, expression twisted into a mask of torment, and as she moved, she seemed to blur against the solid backdrop of the hallway, features becoming indistinct and overlaid, like a double exposure. As Janet watched in mute horror, Sam twisted, wrapping her arms around her midsection as she collapsed into a fetal curl, her body spasming wildly while small pained sounds were torn from her throat.
Her anger forgotten, she lunged forward, automatically reaching out to offer whatever comfort she could, but pain seared through her fingertips the moment she made contact. Groaning softly, Janet yanked her hand back, staring in confusion at reddened fingertips. For a brief second, it had been like touching a hot skillet. "Sam?" she cried out, not daring to touch the other woman, terrified she might worsen whatever was happening.
"...entropic cascade..." Sam's double groaned through gritted teeth.
Janet lost all color, remembering the last time she'd heard that term; the first time someone had passed through the quantum mirror into their universe. It had been another Sam Carter, a civilian scientist who'd been married to Jack O'Neill. After a little more than a day, she'd begun showing signs of physical failure, but there'd been nothing medicine could do to help. The cause of the problem had turned out to be endemic to traveling between universes, though in Samantha's case, it had been worsened by being in the same reality with her alternate. Staying would have been fatal and eventually, they'd managed to send her back with some hope of freeing her earth from Goa'uld rule.
Her hands braced over Sam, but not quite touching, Janet whispered urgently. "Is there anything I can do."
"No...." The worst of the spell seemed to pass and the duplicate rolled onto her back, gradually stretching out of the fetal position, muscles tremoring with the effort required. "I knew this would happen sooner or later..." she gasped weakly. "It started while you were sleeping ... just a few little twitches." Blue eyes slid closed and she lay limp. "If you want to escape I can't stop you right now," she pointed out dryly.
"Don't be an idiot," Janet muttered, falling into professional mode to deal with the situation. She reached out cautiously, ready to yank her hand back as she made contact with a narrow wrist, only to meet nothing but normal feeling flesh. "Your heart rate's fast and unsteady," she diagnosed after only a second or two of taking her pulse. "Not too surprising," she added under her breath.
Fraiser ignored the softly spoken request for attention, refusing to lift her gaze as she focused on the wrist held lightly between her fingers. "Skin color's bad ... and you're still shaking--"
"Janet." Again that gently insistent tone, this time accompanied by a tender caress as she reached up and stroked Janet's cheek very lightly. "Look at me."
Dark eyes hesitantly lifted. Janet tried to hold onto her medical detachment, but it didn't work as she stared into worn blue eyes.
"There's nothing you can do ... and nothing that's your fault." Tapered fingers brushed dark hair back from the smaller woman's face, stroking the silky strands soothingly. Sam offered a weak smile. "Besides, it's passing for the moment." She pushed upright with a pained grunt, then looked up, her smile more honest as she added, "And at least you believe me now."
Janet shook her head, struggling with her own emotions, more in love with this woman than she wanted to be and still feeling lied to and betrayed, but at the same time terrified by what she knew about her situation. Add another thousand equally complex feelings, stir well, and the only possible outcome was bewildered confusion. "I don't know ... I don't know what I believe," she breathed.
"You know," the alternate Sam disagreed, slipping her fingers into thick hair as she hooked her hand behind Janet's head, gently tugging her forward. "You believe me." The kiss that followed was achingly tender, a heartstopping promise. When it finally broke, they stayed like that for a long moment, and then the alternate Carter straightened. "However, my guess is you've got a team of rescuers on their way," she whispered unsteadily. "And we should probably plan on meeting them...since I'd just as soon not have them blow my head off before I get a chance to surrender peacefully."
"There's a security team coming," Janet confirmed.
Sam's mouth twisted in an ironic smile. "And I'm guessing Cass went out the window while you kept me distracted in the hallway."
Janet nodded, surprised when the other woman only broadened her smile a notch. "Good girl," she praised quietly. Using the wall at her back as a brace she pushed to her feet, wavering slightly as she straightened. "I really do think she's a great kid, you know," she added earnestly. "Just like her mom." She would have stroked Janet's cheek again, but Fraiser ducked the caress, instead rising to her feet. After an uncomfortable moment, the blond let her hand fall to her side. "Right," she breathed, hurt understanding threading through her soft voice.
"I just...I don't know what ... what I feel right now..." Janet explained in halting syllables.
Pain flickered in blue eyes, but she didn't argue.
Janet's neighborhood was a quiet one, and neither woman could miss the sound of heavy trucks rumbling onto the narrow streets.
A dark blond brow lifted. "I hope they weren't counting on the element of surprise."
Janet's robe had come partially loose during their struggle and she wrapped it more securely around her body, then yanked the belt tight. "Just stay here," she said, holding out a hand in a halting gesture. "I'll go talk to them--"
"Like hell," the duplicate Sam growled, catching slender shoulders in strong hands. "One person panics and you could be killed."
Janet rested her hands on Sam's chest. "They're professionals. There's a lot less chance of trouble if I go out and talk to them first," she pointed out firmly.
Even knowing the doctor was right, the alternate's teeth gritted against the desire to stop her.
They could both hear movement out front. "There's no time to discuss this. Now, stay here," Janet instructed, stepping around the lean figure that would have blocked her way.
"Dammit," the duplicate Sam hissed, pivoting neatly to follow close on Janet's heels.
"Stay back!" Janet ordered sharply as they reached the front door. She could just make out dark clothed figures moving in her front yard through the narrow windows on either side of the door. She noted the other woman's tension and correctly read her desire to take charge. She held out her hand. "Let me handle this. I know them. Just stay here until I call you."
A muscle pulsed in her jaw, but she nodded stiffly and stayed where she was.
Janet took a deep breath, then unlocked the door and opened it a crack. Instantly, she heard the sound of men and arms snapping into position. "It's Fraiser!" she called, holding her hands up so no one could possibly make the mistake of thinking she was armed. "I'm coming out! Don't shoot!" She knew the security team wasn't likely to trust her a whole lot more than they would the alternate Sam. Not with the things they'd seen through the Stargate. If she made any kind of aggressive motion, they were likely to assume she was an enemy and go from there.
"Come out, Doctor! Hands in the air!" Hammond's voice came back to her.
Hands up, palms spread, Janet edged out through the crack in the door, blinking against the powerful spotlight that was immediately pinned on her. Oh, her neighbors were just gonna love her after this little adventure. She was doomed to be the topic of gossip for weeks. "Carter -- the other Carter -- is still inside! She's not armed and she hasn't harmed anyone! She wants to surrender herself!" She stepped to the edge of the porch, blind in the face of the bright lights.
Suddenly she was grabbed from the side and yanked out of the line of fire against the thick padded weight of a flack jacket, her body shielded by whoever had dragged her off the porch.
"Clear!" Sam Carter shouted to the rest of the team, then glanced down at the slender figure she held pinned against her chest. "You okay?" She twisted, putting herself between Fraiser and the porch, keeping one hand firmly on the doctor's back, while she targeted her sidearm on the door with the other.
"Janet!" A blond figure bounded through the door, hands slightly raised, but not in the air, her eyes scared. So much for agreeing to stay put. She'd panicked when she saw Janet grabbed and pulled off the porch.
"Don't shoot!" Janet shouted, breaking away from the woman holding her. "She's not armed!" She turned a desperate look toward the woman she'd spent the night with. "For God's sake, get your hands up!"
The alternate Sam suddenly seemed to remember her situation, because her arms snapped into the air even as Janet was grabbed from behind and yanked back against Sam's body.
"Hands locked together behind your head!" Hammond's voice echoed across the night.
The other Sam instantly complied.
Janet twisted to peer around the edge of Sam's heavy flack jacket. "Don't hurt her!" she shouted as she saw four figures -- O'Neill, Teal'c, and two security officers -- appear out of the shadows and converge on the other Carter. She tried to pull away, but Sam maintained a hard grip, keeping her out of the situation.
"Let them handle it," her colleague instructed, then ducked her head, peering worriedly down at Fraiser. "Are you okay?"
"I told you," Janet insisted, "she didn't hurt me. She's you, Sam ... just from another universe. She got here through a quantum mirror on PRX-1138."
"Okay," Carter said softly, though Janet could see uncertainty in her eyes.
Fraiser heard a noisy grunt and scuffling sounds and pulled away from Sam enough to get a look as the other Carter, the one she'd spent the night making love to, was tackled to the grass, her arms wrenched behind her and cuffed together. "Don't ... don't hurt her," she called again, her loyalties torn between her teammates and the woman on the ground.
"Stay out of it, Janet," Sam commanded, though her tone was gentle. She kept a firm grip on the doctor, not letting her go. "They're pros. As long as she doesn't resist, they won't hurt her ... but you know it's safest if they have her physically controlled quickly."
A moment later, the men lifted their prisoner to her feet, holding her by the upper arms. For just a moment, blue eyes swung her way, locking with Janet's chocolate brown gaze. "It's okay," she mouthed, her look reassuring. Then she disappeared in a sea of black garbed security officers.
"Get her into the truck and back to the base." Hammond's voice rose above murmurs of the men handling the alternate Carter.
Janet caught a last glimpse of a bright cap of blond hair. She heard the slam of a truck door as she realized that her universe's Carter was rubbing her shoulder lightly, the gesture clearly intended to offer comfort.
"Cass is okay," Carter told her. "She met us just a little way down the street ... went out the window just like you told her."
"Thank you," Janet sighed, suddenly exhausted as it occurred to her that almost every muscle in her body ached, while her knee was swollen and throbbing. Her shoulders sagged and she was suddenly light-headed.
Carter noticed the way Fraiser wavered on her feet and tightened the supportive hold she had on the smaller woman. She holstered her weapon, using both hands to gently guide Janet back to the porch. "Easy. You're okay and so's Cass," she soothed and urged her to sit.
Janet wrapped her arms tightly around herself as she suddenly realized she was trembling violently. "Cass?" she questioned, eyes shifting to the crowd of now milling security officers. "Where is she?"
"Two men went ahead and took her to the hospital at the academy. She was okay though. It was just a precaution."
"Thank you," Janet said again as the trembling worsened and her teeth started chattering as though she was freezing cold.
"It's just a delayed reaction to all the stress and the adrenaline in your system," Sam offered by way of comfort as she crouched down in front of Janet, watching her with an expression of concern.
Janet nodded her understanding, but couldn't stop the tremors. "I know."
Sam's eyes dropped and she noted the doctor's bloody and swollen knee as well as what looked like darkening bruises on her left wrist. "Are you sure you're all right?" she questioned worriedly. "Because you look a little banged up to me."
Janet glanced down, noting the injuries Sam was seeing. "I tried to go out through a window ... it wasn't the most successful plan I've ever had." She flinched when Sam reached out and caught her hand, turning it over as she studied the steadily darkening shadows on her wrist.
"Those look like fingermarks," Carter pointed out gently.
"I-it was nothing," Janet said defensively. "She panicked for a moment when she realized I knew she wasn't you ... grabbed me. She wasn't trying to hurt me," she added quickly as she saw her friend's expression darken.
"Okay," Sam said, her tone noncommittal. She patted Janet's uninjured knee lightly. "I need to go speak to General Hammond. I want you to stay right here, okay?"
Janet nodded. She knew Sam was probably worried about whether or not she'd been compromised in some way, but she was having a hard time caring with shock playing havoc with her responses. "Don't worry," she assured the other woman, "I won't move."
"I'll just be a moment," Sam assured her, then rose and moved away, finding Hammond amid the crowd of men and women still milling and gathering evidence.
Janet canted her head to one side as she watched the lanky blond closely, silently comparing her to the other Samantha Carter, picking out gestures that were identical and hunting for the subtle differences. The other Carter was leaner, her features slightly harder edged, while the Carter native to her universe was more hesitant, less confident of herself, her body language lighter and less directed. At the same time, they both had the same intensity, the same sense of total commitment to whatever they were doing. Janet dropped her head forward into her hands, wondering what the hell she was supposed to do now. She had feelings for Sam Carter -- deep, complex, get your ass kicked out of the military type feelings -- but were they for the Major Samantha Carter she'd known for several years or the woman who'd come through the Stargate? Did she care for the Carter speaking to Hammond because she'd spent the night with the other one, or had she spent the night with the other one because she'd long had buried feelings for this one? Or was the answer simply, yes? Janet shook her head slowly, barely forcing down the urge to giggle hysterically at the emotional chicken and egg question.
"You're losing it," she lectured herself as another hard shiver rattled her slender frame. She was definitely giddy. Which wasn't exactly a desired trait in a decorated Air Force officer and CMO of one of the most top secret projects in the military. She tried to force the mild hysteria down through sheer force of will and almost broke into giggles as a result.
Ironically, it was Sam's voice that snapped her out of it.
Brown eyes tipped up, a frown marring Janet's brow as she noted Sam standing in front of her, flanked on either side by a pair of burly security officers. She glanced at each man and then back to Sam, her expression questioning.
"You need to get some clothes on and I'd like to come with you and do a quick health check," Sam said softly.
Janet's frown deepened as she processed the quiet words, accepting them for the command they were, though they were couched as a polite request. Sam had enough experience and training to do at least a surface check for a Goa'uld as well as any number of other threats. Doe brown eyes swung back to the waiting security officers. Obviously, they were intended to be Sam's backup in case there was a problem. Hammond and Carter were both clearly trying to allow for her sensibilities while still making sure there wasn't a problem. "All right," she exhaled at last.
Sam offered a relieved smile and reached down to draw Janet to her feet. "I'll make it as painless as possible," she promised.
As Sam urged her into the house, Janet was very much aware of the two men that followed close behind them, their bulky frames dominating her narrow hallway.
"Stay here," Sam instructed the two men as they reached Janet's bedroom door.
"Ma'am?" one of them questioned uncertainly.
"I'll call you if I need you," Sam assured him, then followed Janet into her bedroom and pushed the door shut in her wake. When she looked back, Janet was quietly digging through her closet. She pulled out a set of camos and tossed them across the foot of her bed, then pivoted to face Sam, her expression pensive.
"Sorry about this," Carter apologized as noted the other woman's obvious tension. She drew closer, watching her friend carefully.
"S'okay," Janet dismissed. "God knows I've checked you enough times."
Sam nodded. "It's just that you seem a little off your mark tonight...and I know it's probably just stress ... but ... General Hammond and I both agreed we should be certain...." Pale eyes searched Janet's face. "...that you're okay."
"I'm fine," Janet insisted none-too-believably. "Look, can we just get this done? I want to check on Cass and I'll be needed at the SGC when they're checking ... your alternate's medical stats."
Sam frowned ever so slightly, noting the little glitch in Fraiser's speech pattern, but didn't argue. "Okay," she murmured and retrieved a pair of lightweight latex gloves from a uniform pocket, yanking them on. She paced behind Janet, her touch light as she lifted dark auburn hair off the back of the doctor's neck. She ran her other hand over the smaller woman's upper spine, hunting for any sign of injury or fresh scar tissue. "Looks clean ... but I need to pull your robe back to finish." Sam noted the way Janet tensed with a hint of a frown, but she tamped down some of her concern. After all, her friend had had one hell of a scare. A possible threat had made its way into her home and could have killed her and Cass. She tensed as it occurred to her that the threat in question had worn her face. She paused, her tone uncertain. "Is it me?" she questioned worriedly.
Janet twisted, staring up at her friend through wide eyes. "What?" she exhaled heavily, not knowing what to think of the question.
Sam swallowed hard. "I just meant ... because she looks like me and she scared you ... is that why you're so tense?"
Janet blinked, processing Sam's response. "No," she said after a beat, "I just--"
"What the hell?" Sam interrupted before she could finish. Janet's robe had come partially open in the front, just enough to reveal the upper curve of a pale breast ... and the dull bruise marring soft flesh. Before Janet could stop her, Sam lifted her hand, peeling the soft velour away from a narrow shoulder, revealing several crimson marks that would unquestionably darken into colorful bruises. Her gaze lifted, meeting Janet's. "How did you get these?" she demanded sharply.
Fraiser opened her mouth to speak, but no words came.
"Are there more?" Sam whispered, hunting her friend's face for some clue as to what was going on. "Dammit, Janet, how the hell did you get these?"
After several moments of total shutdown, Janet's mind suddenly kicked into overdrive. "I told you ... she panicked for a moment.... There was a brief struggle...." She tried to stick to the truth as much as possible and, except for the one mark on her breast, the rest were from the altercation in the hallway. "But she wasn't trying to hurt me--"
"But she did hurt you," Sam growled, clearly outraged.
"It's not that bad and it was an accident. Please, Sam, there's no need for this to go any farther."
Sam made a small, frustrated sound in the back of her throat. "For God's sake, she pretended to be me, tricked her way into your home.... Now I find out she left you with bruises." Dangerous rage glittered in pale blue eyes. "Why the hell are you protecting her?"
Janet was silent for a moment, not knowing what to say or how to explain in a way that didn't include revealing what had happened between her and Sam's double.
She was still struggling to formulate a response when Sam spoke. "My God, it's me."
Janet's chin snapped up, and she swallowed hard, eyes going wide with shock. Had Sam guessed something?
"Our friendship," Sam added as she stared at Janet. "You're protecting her because of our friendship ... but Janet, she's not me. You don't owe her anything."
Janet waved Sam's remark off. "It's not just that," she said haltingly. She held up a hand to silence Sam when the major would have argued. "Yes, that's a factor. I don't deny it ... but it's more than that, Sam. She's hurt." Just stick to the truth as much as possible, she reminded herself. "The Goa'uld destroyed her world. She's been moving between universes for months ... using some kind of network of quantum mirrors. When she saw your team on PRX-1138 and came back here, I don't think she was trying to hurt anyone." She paused and ran a hand through her hair, watching Sam carefully to assess whether or not she was making any headway. "We just had a quiet evening ... had a bite of dinner and she tutored Cass in math. I think she was just trying to pretend for a few hours ... that ... that she hadn't lost everything." Sam was still standing close and Janet unthinkingly rested her palm lightly on her colleague's chest. "I just ... I don't see any reason to make things harder on her than they already are."
"That's all assuming she was telling you the truth," Carter snapped suspiciously.
"I believe she was," Janet whispered. "It's your choice whether or not you trust my judgment."
"You know I do." A muscle pulsed in Carter's jaw and the look in her eyes was still angry, but there was a hint of sympathy in her voice as she spoke. "Do you have any other injuries?" she questioned after a beat.
"A few bruises," Janet allowed, "but nothing serious ... nothing worth worrying about. Please," she whispered, hoping she didn't sound as desperate as she felt, "there's no need for anyone else to know about this."
"I really shouldn't agree to this," Sam grumbled unhappily, signaling that she was considering Janet's request.
"Sam, I don't want to any part in making things any more difficult for her than they already are," Janet whispered, making it a personal plea for the first time.
Carter looked away, sighing heavily as she debated the situation. "All right," she said at last. She pinned a hard gaze on Fraiser. "But understand that if I have any reason to doubt her story, I will take this straight to General Hammond ... understood?"
Janet nodded, knowing she couldn't ask for more than that. "Thank you," she said softly.
Sam sighed again, an ironic smile touching her lips. "I guess I should be flattered, since in a way it's me you're trying to protect."
With no ready response for that, Janet could only shrug and offer a weak smile.
After a beat, Sam settled gentle hands on the smaller woman's shoulders. "But I want you to know I meant what I said," she warned Janet, "if I have any reason to doubt her story, I'm not protecting her." She searched her friend's face, distantly wondering why it felt like she was missing something important. "You're my friend, Janet, and I don't take it lightly when someone hurts you, even -- especially -- if they're wearing my face."
"I understand," Janet murmured.
"Do you?" Sam said softly as she watched her friend worriedly. She looked away for a moment, uncomfortable with expressing herself. "I've never made friends very easily." She looked up then, meeting Janet's shuttered gaze. "And you're one of the best I've ever had. Normally, if anyone wanted to hurt you, they'd have to go through me first. It doesn't feel right not doing anything."
"I know, but I need you to trust me on this," Janet said after a beat.
"If it were anyone else," Carter said after a long moment, "I wouldn't even consider it."
"I know ... and I appreciate that."
They were both silent for a long moment, until finally, Carter sighed softly. "Turn around," she instructed quietly. "I need finish your health check." Goa'uld check in reality, though the euphemism worked nicely enough.
Janet closed her eyes, simply following directions as Sam finished going over her neck and upper back, then paced around in front and flashed her mini-maglite on her throat and in her eyes. Finally, she stepped back a pace and nodded. "Go on and get dressed."
Janet stepped back to the foot of her bed, eyes touching momentarily on the rumpled blankets. She flushed as she remembered how they'd gotten that way. "Oh boy," she exhaled without thinking.
"Janet?" Sam's voice, pointed and worried.
Janet glanced over her shoulder. "Nothing," she assured the other woman. "Just thinking." She picked up the shirt and bra she'd laid out, then glanced back at Sam, noting her friend was still silently watching. They'd seen each other in the showers dozens of times, and God knew, she'd seen every inch of Sam's body -- this Sam's body -- in her duties as CMO, but she was suddenly uncomfortable changing with the other woman watching. Not just because of what she'd shared with her alternate, but also because, judging by how stiff she was feeling, there were undoubtedly more bruises that would probably upset her friend all over again. She stared at Sam, silently hinting for some privacy.
Carter got the message, but she wordlessly shook her head, folding her arms across her chest and leaning back against the wall.
Finally, it became apparent she wasn't going to get a choice in the matter and Janet turned away again, slowly slipping her robe off slender shoulders, hoping Sam didn't think to question why she wasn't wearing some kind of nightgown underneath as she moved to pull on her clothes. She was still concentrating on dressing when she felt an incredibly light touch on her lower back, just barely making contact.
"You weren't going to tell me about these, were you?" Sam croaked roughly as her eyes touched on the mottled bruises darkening in patches across Fraiser's back and upper arms.
"I bruise easily," Janet said defensively. Hands landed lightly on her shoulders, urging Janet around until they were face to face while the doctor held her t-shirt in her hands in front of herself, far more aware of her nudity than she ever had been in this woman's presence before.
Sam rubbed her thumb against a red mark that marred Janet's shoulder, expression darkening when she felt her friend flinch despite her efforts to cover the response.
Janet correctly read Carter's anger. "Sam," she repeated her earlier plea, "Please trust me."
Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly, her eyes still stormy. Finally, she nodded. "All right ... but, dammit, if there is anything...." She didn't finish the sentence; didn't have to. Janet knew exactly what she meant.
"I know," Janet exhaled.
Another moment passed before Sam nodded, though it was clear she was unhappy with her choice. Finally, she removed her hands from Janet's shoulders and stepped back a pace, folding her arms across her chest and looking away when Fraiser began to pull on her clothes
The doctor was almost dressed when one of the security officers knocked lightly on the door. "Everything okay in there, Major?" a muffled voice questioned.
"We're fine," Sam called back, oddly grateful for the outside distraction. "We'll be out in a couple of minutes."
As Janet finished pulling on a pair of black track shoes, Sam moved to crouch in front of her, her eyes worried. "You'd tell me, wouldn't you," she questioned, "if she'd really hurt you?"
Janet nodded. "I swear I would," she assured her friend, hoping Sam wouldn't consider her answer a lie if she knew the truth.
"Okay," Sam said softly, rising and resting a hand on Janet's shoulder as she guided her out of the room and toward a waiting transport.