* * * * * *
"Sir, none of this has to leave this room." Sam's voice was pitched low and directed at O'Neill, but Janet could hear each word clearly from her position in the doorway. Glancing over, she saw by the expressions on their faces that both Teal'c and Anise had heard as well. It dawned on her that it made sense to aim the statement, however surreptitiously, at everyone involved, be that involvement direct or as witness. Sam was seeking their compliance in keeping this information contained.
"We're okay with that?" O'Neill asked. Janet could almost see the wheels spinning, watched him wonder, watched the "what ifs" float through his brain now that the truth was out.
Emphasizing her words with a small nod, Sam's voice was firm. "Yes, Sir."
It didn't change anything, but it was the only solution, Janet knew. It wasn't a particularly good one, and she suspected it wasn't even a lasting one. But for the moment it was all they had.
* * * * * *
Janet stood at the bottom of the ramp in the Gate Room. Martouf’s body, shrouded in white, rested beside her on a gurney and she deliberately kept her eyes averted from it. The activating Stargate proved to be a good distraction, and she stared at it idly, watching the chevrons lock into place one by one. The Tok’ra delegation had departed some time ago leaving only Anise and her guards behind to escort Martouf's body through the wormhole.
To say that it had been a long, eventful day would be an understatement, she thought tiredly. To make matters worse, the day showed little sign of ending.
The wormhole engaged, the energy from the forming event horizon blossoming momentarily in front of her. "Thank you for your assistance, Doctor Fraiser," a voice said quietly from just behind her.
Janet turned and regarded the other woman coldly as Anise placed a hand, almost protectively, on Martouf’s chest. She didn’t like Anise. Or Freya for that matter. The two of them had been nothing but trouble the minute they’d appeared on the SGC's doorstep. If she could just have five minutes alone with the Tok’ra scientist away from the prying eyes of commanding officers and surveillance cameras…
She clamped down heavily on those thoughts, tempting as they were. Now was neither the time nor the place for a confrontation.
"Just doing my job," Janet said simply.
Not that there had been much for her to do, she added to herself. The violence in the Gate Room had been over long before she’d even been allowed through, and Anise had declared both Martouf and Lantesh dead the second she’d walked into the room. Teal’c had nodded mutely, confirming the worst. A dozen bullets followed by two blasts from a zat gun would do that to a person, she reflected grimly, remembering the sight of Martouf’s battered body as he lay cradled in Sam’s arms.
That sight, along with the sight of everyone standing around regarding the pair with shock and horror had nearly convinced her to try something, anything, if for no other reason than to erase the shattered, lost look in Sam’s eyes.
In the end, however, she’d done nothing except gently coax Sam away from Martouf and lead her quietly from the room. Sam hadn’t resisted, as if she was looking to escape, however briefly, from the awful reality of what she’d been forced to do. At the moment, she was resting quietly in the infirmary. Janet wondered if she should call down there, ask if Sam wanted to see Martouf off one last time. Sam deserved that at the very least, she thought.
As if on cue Sam stepped into the Gate Room just as Anise and her escort began to move the gurney. Sam had been crying, Janet noted, but stood now thin-lipped and dry-eyed. O’Neill hovered in the doorway, concerned about Sam but obviously not wanting to intrude on the moment.
With a slight wave of her hand, Anise signaled the guard to step away. Then, she turned toward Sam and bowed before stepping back herself.
Janet really thought her heart was going to break as she watched Sam pull the sheet away from Martouf’s face. We shouldn’t be standing here watching this, she thought to herself. This was a private moment and she felt like an intruder. Anise was no help; she stood off to one side staring steadily as Sam brushed the back of her hand against Martouf’s pale cheek. Glancing behind her, Janet saw that O'Neill was still standing, slouched, in the doorway, staring miserably at the floor.
General Hammond broke the moment, his voice sounding over the loudspeaker. "Major?"
Sam straightened, then slowly lifted the corner of the sheet to cover Martouf’s face. Turning from the body Sam paused to look up at General Hammond, then with a nod toward Anise, she silently left the room. Janet’s eyes followed Sam’s retreating figure, noting that O’Neill followed her. Then she turned her attention back to Anise. There would time to deal with Sam and what all the unhappy revelations of the day meant later.
Once the wormhole disengaged, Janet made her way to General Hammond’s office to make her report. What she was going to say in that report, Janet had no idea. The problem was, Janet decided, that Hammond was not a stupid man. He was going to want a plausible explanation for why Anise’s machine had been so right about Lieutenant Astor and so completely wrong about Sam and O’Neill.
Frankly, if it were up to her, she’d tell the General the whole story. But Sam’s quiet ‘…none of this has to leave this room,’ bound her to keep the secret as if Sam had exacted a heartfelt promise directly from her. She, Anise and Freya, Teal’c, Sam and O’Neill knew the truth, and no one else. And that’s just the way it would have to be.
She was certainly no stranger to keeping secrets, but at the moment she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. She'd had a tense moment or two during Sam's second zatarc session, afraid of what Sam might be forced to reveal after Sam figured out what the machine was detecting. When her fears were not borne out, Janet had breathed a sigh of relief, only to realize that what had been revealed was probably worse. Not as bad as finding out your lover had been programmed by the enemy as an assassin, she decided. Still, finding out that your lover had developed feelings for someone else who reciprocated them did rank right up there. It hurt.
Dwelling on her own feelings right now was too dangerous, especially when she had to go in and brief her CO, she told herself. It was better to focus on the briefing, on what she was going to say to Hammond, and how she was going to cover for Sam and O'Neill. Maybe if she was lucky, General Hammond would be so relieved that neither Sam nor O’Neill had been compromised and that the treaty ceremony between the President and the Tok’ra had gone off well that he wouldn’t question her too closely.
"Fat chance," she muttered to herself. At the very least Janet figured she could cast some doubt on Anise’s technology. That shouldn’t be hard, she decided. The debacle that had nearly resulted from the armbands had set the entire base on edge, and Hammond had been leery about Anise and Freya ever since. It wouldn’t be too hard to convince him that the machine had simply been imprecise or had malfunctioned. And it had, she realized. It had uncovered subconscious thoughts and feelings that had nothing whatsoever to do with Goa’uld terrorist programming. With the proper questioning, Janet had no doubt she could trick the machine into thinking everyone here on the base had been brainwashed by the Goa’uld.
Anything that caused Hammond to be reluctant when it came to participating in Anise and Freya’s "experiments" was a good thing in the long run, she decided. After all, her job was to look out for the health and welfare of the people under her care. This more than qualified.
General Hammond was shuffling through a pile of papers on his desk, obviously looking for something, when she entered. His face was calm and he looked about as happy as Major General George Hammond was capable of looking at any given time, Janet decided. She'd learned early in her days at the SGC to read the signs on Hammond's face. If he looked pinched, choose your words carefully; if his face was neutral, avoid him like the plague. And if he was in a good mood, milk it for all it was worth because that didn't happen very often.
Feeling more than a little relieved, Janet took her usual seat across the desk and began her report.
* * * * * *
An hour and a half later Janet closed the door to General Hammond's office carefully behind her. He may have been in a good mood, but that didn't necessarily change the fact that he wanted all the details. He hadn't quite gotten all the details, though; whether or not he eventually got them was up to Sam and Colonel O'Neill.
A sharp, uncomfortable bolt of jealousy shot through her at the thought, the first she'd allowed herself to feel since Sam's second session in the zatarc detector had ended.
She'd been right, she reminded herself. She'd been right about Sam's feelings for O'Neill when he'd been lost those three months. She'd been right, and she'd allowed herself to be talked out of it.
Janet realized she should have listened to her instincts more, though she knew it probably wouldn't have prevented this mess.
Wearily, she made her way to the infirmary. For better or worse, what was done was done. "The truth shall set you free," she muttered to herself as she walked, thinking what a crock of shit that really was.
Her shift replacement, Don Flynn, was waiting for her when she entered the infirmary. He was a fastidious man, even by military standards. She imagined he got dressed with the aid of a ruler, checking the crease in his pants, the line of his tie, the alignment of his captain's bars. Janet often had to fight the urge to grab his head and tangle his perfectly combed, perfectly regulation-length hair with her fingers.
He was also an idiot, she reminded herself, as he began filling her in on the infirmary status, starting with Sam. "Major Carter requested to be discharged. I noted on her chart that she'd been given a significant dose of sedative earlier today, but the effects appear to have worn off." Janet closed her eyes, hoping he wasn't going to say what she was afraid he was going to say. "She felt she'd be able to rest better at home. I saw no reason for her to remain in the facility, but I did take the added precaution of getting a driver to take her to her apartment. He checked in over an hour ago, reporting that he delivered her home safely."
"You sent Major Carter home?" she asked, voice pitched low but filled with angry disbelief. Of all the stupid things to do. "Doctor Flynn, with all due respect, I wrote explicit instructions on her chart." She snatched the clipboard from his hands. "See," she said, tapping the chart with her index finger several times. "It's right there. And I even wrote it neatly so people would be able to read it. 'Patient should remain in infirmary 24 hours for observation' What part of that says 'Send patient home with driver'?"
Flynn didn't even have the decency to look chagrined. This wasn't the first time he'd disregarded her chart notes in favor of his own treatment plans. "Doctor Fraiser, I examined the patient myself. She was drowsy but otherwise fine."
"And her psychological condition, Doctor Flynn?" she asked, though it was more of an accusation. By now, the entire base had heard what Sam had done to Martouf.
Everyone except Flynn, apparently.
He shrugged. "Somewhat blunted, but I assumed that was due to the effects of the sedative."
Sighing deeply, deciding that this was far from over but too tired and too worried about Sam to deal with him now, Janet turned away. "We'll talk about this later, Captain," she promised. "You said the driver took her to her apartment?"
Biting her lip, Janet went into her office and shrugged out of her lab coat. Slipping on her day uniform jacket, she picked up the phone and dialed home. Cassie answered almost immediately.
"Cassie, I hope you haven't spent all afternoon on the phone."
"Only a little while," Cassie said. "I did my homework," she added brightly.
"Good," Janet said, nodding. "Listen, is Sam there?"
"Did she call?"
"Damn," she breathed softly. She'd half-hoped to find Sam with Cassie.
"Did something happen?"
For a moment Janet considered filling Cassie in on some of the details, aware that she'd already tipped Cassie off that something was wrong. Just so the girl would have some idea what was happening if Sam did show up. But she decided to hold off, at least until she had a chance to talk to Sam. "I can't talk about it," she said after a moment, voice laced with regret. "Page me if you hear from her, okay? I don't know how late I'm going to be. Do you want me to call Mrs. Cahill?"
"Nope," Cassie said, and Janet could hear the smile in her voice. "I already called her. She's coming over to help me with my art project. Hey, can I cook dinner tonight?"
"Sure." Cassie was actually a better cook than either Sam or herself. "Just make sure to clean up after yourself."
"I will," Cassie promised. "I'll leave some leftovers in the fridge for you guys, in case you get back after I go to bed. Tell Sam I love her, okay?"
"Okay," Janet said softly. "Have fun."
Putting the phone back into its cradle, Janet bent to retrieve her briefcase, then signed out of the infirmary for the evening, sharply telling Flynn to page her if anything happened.
The trip out of the mountain, past the multiple security check points, was a pain under the best of circumstances. Now, because she was tired, angry at Flynn, and worried about Sam, it was even worse. More than once she snapped impatiently at security guards who lingered over her ID or handscan readouts before clearing her. They were just doing their jobs, she reminded herself. It was just that as far as she was concerned, tonight they could all do their jobs a lot more efficiently.
Sam lived fairly close to base, so it didn't take Janet long to drive to her apartment complex. But once she got there, had parked half a block down the street, Janet suddenly had a few reservations about barging in on Sam. Instead, she sat, hands resting lightly on the steering wheel, debating with herself.
They'd actually had several long discussions about Sam giving up her apartment and moving into Janet's house. Given their co-parenting responsibilities toward Cassie no one would have found the move particularly suspicious. But Janet has sensed that Sam needed her own place, her own space to retreat to when she wanted time alone. Sam hadn't said anything, not in so many words, probably thinking she didn't want to hurt any feelings. But Janet had understood the need; she was well aware that she tended to guard her own space perhaps a little too closely. However much Sam felt at home at her house, it was still, regrettably, her house.
And having a lab at the base didn't help, either. Janet was well aware that you could sit in your office or lab with the door closed and still never feel alone. There was always the sense of people close by, of being watched. Keeping the apartment had been the perfect solution, they'd decided; it was especially useful when they had fights, which, like any couple, they did from time to time. It also kept up appearances, and hid something that would, if discovered, cost them both their careers.
Was it really fair of her to intrude on Sam now, given everything that had happened today? And just what in the hell were they supposed to talk about, anyway, she wondered. There was the O'Neill Situation, which seemed to be growing more complicated by leaps and bounds. And then there was what had happened to Martouf.
Sam had asked to come here instead of to the house. The message that she wanted to be alone was loud and clear, and Janet had once promised herself, after Sam made the decision to keep the apartment, that she would never intrude on that.
But there were times when someone should be alone, and there were times when someone shouldn't. And Janet didn't need to be a doctor, or a shrink, to know that this was a case of the latter. She wanted to help; she just wasn't sure she was the right person for Sam to talk to, wasn't sure what her place in this whole mess was or what her role should be. Unfortunately, at the moment she'd have to do.
Locking her car, Janet slowly made her way toward Sam's front door. The night was chilly; Janet shivered as she saw her breath hang in the air. It wouldn't be too much longer before they got snow in the upper elevations.
There was no answer when Janet rang the bell twice. She could see the faint glow of the television through the front window, so she was fairly certain that Sam was home. Finally, Janet reached into her pocket and fished out the housekey Sam had given her several months ago. For emergencies, she'd said. Well, if this didn't constitute an emergency, then Janet didn't know what would.
Stepping into the darkened room, Janet noted that the television was on, but muted. At first, the room appeared empty and Janet wondered if Sam had forgotten to turn the television off when she went to bed. Then she spotted the bottle of whiskey on the coffee table. The cap was lying beside it, and about a quarter of the contents were missing. Looking past that, Janet saw a pair of long, fatigue-clad legs stretched out on the floor.
Her heart leapt into her throat. Sedatives and alcohol, she thought. Oh god, had the combination caused Sam to go into respiratory arrest? She was moving across the room before she even realized what she was doing.
"Get out." The bitterness in Sam's voice stopped her in her tracks, though she did breathe a quiet sigh of relief at the realization that Sam was still conscious. That relief, however, quickly turned to anger and she strode forward, snatching the bottle and the cap up off the table.
"Given the amount of drugs still in your system," she said waving the bottle in Sam's direction, "This is a very, very bad idea!" Then she lifted the bottle, tilted her head back, and took a healthy swallow herself, before screwing the cap back into place. It burned unpleasantly in her stomach for a few seconds. She didn't understand Sam's preference for rotgut whiskey; any teasing comments she might have made she'd kept to herself after Sam once mentioned that Jonas used to drink the same stuff.
"Give me that!" Sam snarled when Janet moved away, intending to put the bottle out of the way in a kitchen cupboard. The vehemence in Sam's voice startled her, and for a moment Janet's steps faltered as she stared at the woman glaring at her from across the room. She'd never seen Sam like this and it bothered her than a little.
"No!" Janet insisted, recovering quickly. Before she could do or say anything else, Sam was on her feet. In two long strides, she bounded over to Janet and snatched the bottle away, cradling it to her chest for a moment before turning away.
"I told you to get out." The words were spoken softly , but laced with anger.
Janet watched helplessly as Sam, still carefully cradling the bottle, resumed her position on the floor. After a moment, she opened the bottle and tossed the cap across the room, then took a healthy swallow of the whiskey.
"You could kill yourself with that stuff." Janet waved her hand at the bottle to emphasize her words. Sam defiantly took another sip. "I'm supposed to just leave you alone to do it?" she added, sarcastically.
"That sounds about right."
Janet moved another step closer, shaking her head. "I can't do that, Sam. You know that. As your doctor, I can't do that."
Sam looked up at her, face twisted in a sneer. She sat up, crossing her legs in front of her. "As my doctor?"
It was the wrong thing to say, Janet realized. She'd thought that if she could maintain some veneer of professionalism, approach this as a physician, she might be able to snap Sam out of this, whatever this was. It was the wrong approach.
"Okay, then," Janet began, closing the last few feet between then and sitting down next to Sam, careful not to touch her, careful to leave a few inches of space between them. "As your lover. As your friend."
Very slowly, Sam lifted her eyes to look at her, and for just a moment, Janet saw the depths of pain and misery with which Sam was trying unsuccessfully to cope. Only for a second, then it was gone, replaced by an angry glint that appraised her ruthlessly. In that quicksilver shift, Janet braced herself, realizing that she was more than a little out of her element and had no idea what Sam might do. Sam was already behaving unpredictably and explosively.
Sam tucked the whiskey bottle under one arm and reached out to stroke her cheek, the touch deceptively gentle but not at all loving. Janet fought the urge to pull away and waited, the muscles in her shoulders uncomfortably tense.
"I made love to him a thousand times," Sam whispered, shifting closer, her hand trailed down Janet's cheek and Sam wrapped her fingers lightly around the back of her neck. The pad of Sam's thumb continued to stroke the side of her face. The pressure of those long fingers was light, but it made Janet feel trapped all the same.
"Made love to who?" Janet whispered, suddenly finding it difficult to form words. Had Sam been having an affair with O'Neill that she'd known nothing about? Was she prepared to sit here and let Sam torture her with this information?
"Martouf," Sam whispered.
Martouf? Janet mouthed the name, but didn't say it out loud. It wasn't the answer she'd been expecting to hear, and it took her a few seconds to catch up, her mind stumbling over this new and unexpected bit of information. They'd never really talked about Martouf, she realized. Now she was thinking maybe they should have; obviously now was not the time to be having this conversation. Still, she was almost relieved that this had nothing to do with O'Neill, because that had been her first thought.
"Jolinar made love to Martouf, Sam. Not you." Maybe if she could reason with Sam, debunk whatever myths she'd created to punish herself, they might be able to work this out. "You're not Jolinar."
Sam laughed, a bitter, harsh laugh. "It's all the same. We're the same. 'We feel as one. We love as one.' That's what he said."
Licking her lips, Janet reached out and placed her hand lightly on Sam's arm, thankful that the other woman didn't pull away. "Sam, you are not Jolinar." She spoke the words clearly, hoping to get through to Sam with her tone of voice. "Whatever you're feeling about this, it's okay to feel it. It's okay to be angry, it's okay to grieve for him. But they're your feelings, not Jolinar's."
As the words passed Janet's lips, Sam dropped her eyes in denial, shaking her head emphatically.
"I don't want to feel," she said bitterly. "I just want to forget. You have to help me forget."
Those fingers at the back of her neck tightened, pulled her forward. The bottle slipped from Sam's grip, clattered to the floor and rolled away, spilling its contents as it went. Sam didn't seem to notice or care as Janet felt Sam's other arm snake around her waist.
"She's punishing me for killing him," Sam whispered, pressing her forehead to Janet's.
Janet resisted even as Sam's grip tightened around her, hating the fact that at this moment she was fast becoming afraid of Sam, hating Sam for making her feel afraid.
Where was this coming from, she wondered frantically. Sam had some pretty formidable defense mechanisms in place, but clearly the emotional trauma coupled with the drugs and alcohol had crumbled them to dust. In its place whatever suppressed anger Sam normally kept bottled up inside had been given free reign and Sam was using any means necessary in an attempt to run like hell from it. For a moment, Janet wondered if the zatarc device had done something to Sam, had produced some kind of chemical imbalance that might explain this behavior.
"She's so angry. She's screaming inside me." The words, the desperation with which Sam said them sent a chill through her.
Placing her hand firmly against Sam's chest, Janet applied pressure in the vain hope of putting some distance between them. But Sam wasn't having it; instead, Sam began nuzzling her neck insistently. "Jolinar's dead, Sam," Janet pointed out as Sam pressed against her. Before she could add that the symbiote couldn't do anything to anybody, Sam kissed her, mouth moving insistently against hers, demanding entry.
Janet placed both hands on Sam's shoulders, digging fingers into flesh, finally managing to push her away. She tried to rise to her feet, tried to slip away, but Sam merely tightened her grip, dropping one hand to toy with the buttons on the front of Janet's blouse.
"Help me forget," Sam said urgently, freeing the top button, then slipping her fingers beneath the fabric to lightly stroke the top of Janet's breast.
Janet didn't answer, but reached up and grabbed Sam's hand, pulling her fingers away. She ducked her head, forcing Sam to look at her, shaking her head. "Not like this." She didn't even bother trying to hide the tremor in her voice.
A muscle pulsed in Sam's jaw. Her grip didn't change, but Janet was acutely aware of the differences in strength between them, and felt her heart flutter nervously in her chest. Sam wasn't hurting her, but the angry glint that suddenly appeared in the other woman's eyes held that promise.
An image of Sam, lying pale and withdrawn, completely unresponsive to any words of comfort in the aftermath of Jolinar, flashed before Janet. They all thought they'd understood just how bad that had been for Sam; now Janet was finding out the hard way just how little they understood how deeply Sam had been affected by Jolinar.
"Then why are you here?" Sam demanded, giving Janet a small shake. "You want to help me?"
Mutely, Janet nodded. The trouble was, she didn't know how to anymore.
Abruptly, Janet found herself on her back, with Sam leaning over her, pressing down on her. Sam's hands and mouth roamed with an intensity and a frenzy that made her want to scream. "Then help me," Sam whispered roughly in her ear. "Help me get the taste of him out of my mouth. Help me forget the feel of him inside me. I close my eyes, and I can see him, smell him, feel him. I don't want that. I want to forget."
"No," Janet breathed, trying to grasp Sam's wrists only to have Sam shake her grip off. In desperation, she grabbed a handful of blond hair and tugged sharply. "Stop!"
Sam's only response was to pause long enough to grasp both of Janet's wrists in one of her hands, using her superior strength to stretch them above Janet's head. Janet was effectively pinned, and she felt her mouth grow dry at the realization. She didn't have any hope of wrestling Sam off of her, not now. A madness seemed to have taken possession of the other woman, and Janet was afraid that nothing would get through to her.
Still, she struggled anyway, kicking her legs and trying to shake her hands free of Sam's tight grip. Dimly, she realized she was growling deep in her throat, teeth clenched with the effort. They'd already crossed a dangerous line; she had to stop this before it got any worse.
In desperation, she lifted her head and slammed her forehead against Sam's face with all her might. Instantly Sam's movements stilled, leaving them both panting and dazed, staring at each other in shock.
Then, as if burned, Sam abruptly released her and sat up, wiping her lips with the back of her hand. With a sigh of relief, Janet rolled over onto her side and swallowed thickly.
She was about to sit up herself when there was a knock at the door. Both women stared at it for several long moments, and Janet realized she was holding her breath. The knock sounded again, followed by a voice.
It was O'Neill, Janet realized, closing her eyes in exasperation. "Perfect, just perfect," she muttered. Behind her, Sam began to laugh bitterly.
"Carter, I know you're in there. Open up or I'll bust it down."
"Damn," Janet breathed, struggling to her feet knowing O'Neill would do it. "Just a minute, Colonel," she called out, pausing to straighten her uniform.
"Doc?" Under any other circumstances, the shock in his voice would have been laughable.
Sam was still chuckling softly. She reached up and grabbed the hem of Janet's skirt, tugging sharply. "Invite him in," she said. "I know! Lets tell him about us," she added. "We could have a threesome."
Janet whirled on Sam, yanking her clothing free from the other woman's grip. "That's enough!" she hissed angrily, punctuating her words with sharp jabs of her finger in the air between them. God, how she wanted to slap that bitter smile off of Sam's face. "You only want to tell him because you're hurting and you can't deal with it so you want everyone else around you to hurt," she accused, allowing the words tumble out of her mouth. She wasn't particularly worried about hurting Sam's feelings at the moment, considering what had just happened. Hot tears began to sting her eyes. "That's what…that…was, just now," she choked. Satisfied, she watched the manic grin fade from Sam's lips.
Still seething, Janet finished straightening her clothes and prepared to face O'Neill. There were red marks on her wrists, and she undoubtedly had the beginnings of a bruise on her forehead but hopefully that was the extent of it. "Now, I'm going to get rid of him," she informed Sam. "And you're going to go and sleep this off."
O'Neill banged insistently on the door again, and with a sigh, Janet walked over to it, pulling it open. But she stood purposely in the way, hoping to block him from entering.
Instead, O'Neill walked through her like she wasn't even there. Once in the room, he paused, surveying the slight disarray of the room, particularly the spilled bottle of whiskey and Sam sitting rigidly on the floor at the opposite end of the room. "Jesus, Carter," he muttered.
"Sir," Janet whispered softly. When he turned to look at her, a haggard expression in his eyes, Janet paused and licked her lips. "Sir, I think maybe you should go," she urged softly. It occurred to her that under the circumstances, she should want him to stay, to act as a buffer between herself and Sam. That he was so completely the wrong person for that almost didn't matter.
When he continued to stare at her silently, she shrugged. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to be here." Hopefully he'd catch her meaning.
Sam looked back and forth between them, but remained silent. Janet wasn't sure what to think of the silence; she hoped Sam had snapped out of…whatever that was. Her mind stumbled over the scene that had taken place a few minutes ago, unable to give it its proper name, as if that would somehow make it less real, less hurtful. To give it a name would give it power over her, she told herself, recognizing how utterly irrational that thought was.
But she couldn't be sure, she told herself. She had to get rid of O'Neill. There was no telling what Sam, in her present state, would do, what kind of horribly awkward scene she might decide to create.
"I just…" O'Neill sighed. "I want to help."
Behind them, Sam snorted. "Everyone wants to help," she said. Janet stepped forward to stand next to O'Neill and the two of them surveyed Sam. "My doctor wants to help," she said, looking directly at Janet. "My commanding officer wants to help," she added, her gaze swinging ruthlessly to O'Neill. Janet noted that he looked away quickly, visibly shaken by the anger in Sam's voice. "But you can't help," she said, looking back and forth between them. "Neither of you can. Martouf is dead. I killed him."
"No," O'Neill said sharply. "No, Sam. You didn't kill him. The Goa'uld killed him."
"I killed him," she countered. "I--" She broke off, and Janet could see the muscles in her throat working. "I loved him," she choked. "I didn't want to but Jolinar made me. She left it inside me. And I killed him."
Sam crumpled then, dissolving into wracking sobs as she hid her face between her clasped arms. But it was like watching the scene unfold from a great distance; Janet's body was standing there, her senses registering Sam's actions and responses, O'Neill's discomfort, but her own thoughts were spinning helplessly out of control as she realized they weren't talking about Jolinar anymore.
Sam had loved Martouf?
Sam had loved Martouf.
How could she not have known? How could she not have been aware of this profound an affect of the symbiote? How in the hell had that fact, that huge, inescapable fact that had been unceremoniously flung at her escaped her attention?
In that instant, Janet dearly wished she was standing against a wall instead of next to O'Neill in the middle of the room. Because she desperately needed a wall to slide down as her knees threatened to buckle beneath her. Some tiny part of her wondered morbidly how O'Neill would cope if suddenly faced with two hysterical women.
Numbly she watched as O'Neill hesitantly reached out with one hand, intent on comforting Sam.
"Don't!" Sam snarled, pulling away from them and curling into a tight ball in the corner, sobbing hysterically.
O'Neill stood there helplessly, shocked no doubt by the sight of his second-in-command having a complete emotional breakdown. Janet thought he looked torn between wanting to bolt and wanting to gather Sam into his arms and comfort her. She knew exactly how he felt.
They stood there, watching helplessly as grief and rage poured out of Sam in a seemingly endless wave. The irony of it being the three of them here, she and O'Neill trying their best to cope with the drama centered around Sam wasn't lost on her. What a lovely lopsided triangle they made, she reflected. O'Neill didn't have a clue, and it even if he did, he was the last person she could imagine confiding in. But Janet had to admit that right now she wouldn't have minded a strong shoulder to lean on.
Janet wasn't really sure that leaving Sam alone right thing to do. But she'd made so many bad decisions this evening that she didn't trust herself anymore. She couldn't predict Sam's responses and she didn't trust her own at the moment. If Sam insisted on not being touched, then maybe she and O'Neill would do well to listen. After all, she reminded herself bitterly, she could have avoided so much if she'd just listened to Sam when Sam told her to get out.
O'Neill was shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, and Janet had no idea how much time had actually passed. Sam seemed to be quieting, the wracking sobs giving way to intermittent shudders. Finally, the tears were spent, and Sam allowed one of her arms to drop, blue eyes gazing out at them red-rimmed and blank.
O'Neill was the first to move, walking cautiously forward and placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Sam flinched slightly, but allowed the touch, sitting stiffly as O'Neill crouched down and embraced her. It was meant to be a comforting gesture, Janet knew, but it looked awkward and forced on O'Neill's part and merely tolerated on Sam's.
The sight disturbed her for some reason, and Janet looked away quickly, not sure why. She'd seen Sam accept comfort from O'Neill before, most notably after she realized that SG1 had been brainwashed into leaving Daniel behind for dead. He'd been a firm, soothing presence then, one friend and colleague helping another cope with a devastating event. Now, because of the Goa'uld, and because of the insidious nature of Anise's machine, they were too aware of each other.
Finally, O'Neill shifted, sliding one arm beneath Sam's legs and lifted her carefully in his arms. This time Sam clung to him, content to rest her head against his shoulder as he gestured toward the bedroom with his head. With a nod, Janet slipped into the bedroom in front of then, pulling the covers back from the bed. She stepped away, allowing O'Neill to maneuver Sam into the bed. He didn't even bother taking her boots off, just lifted the covers and tucked them gently around Sam. She drifted off immediately.
Janet watched as he straightened, the tension in his back and neck noticeable. With an outstretched hand, he reached down, almost as if he were afraid, and gently brushed the hair back from Sam's forehead with his fingertips. Then he allowed his hand to drift, fingers trailing down her cheek to trace the line of her jaw, her lips.
The jealousy boiled out of her almost before she realized it, swallowing whole any sympathy she'd managed to feel for him. There was just an overpowering desire to slap his hand away, to stand protectively in front of Sam. At the very least, she wanted to make some snide comment about commanding officers who developed "feelings" for the second-in-command.
But she did none of these things; instead, she stood rigidly, one fist clenched and took a moment to indulge in her resentment, not bothering to consider that after all that had happened this evening she shouldn't really be feeling these things, not now.
She probably could have gotten away with a similar gesture under the circumstances. But even the thought of doing so, especially with O'Neill watching, made her feel exposed to scrutiny and disapproval as if there was something to be ashamed of in a simple gesture of affection and comfort. O'Neill had no such reservations, deciding to take the chance when it opened up for him.
Or probably not even being that calculating about it, simply feeling instead of thinking for a change, she realized.
And in that realization, she couldn't hang on to her resentment and jealousy. It wasn't really directed at O'Neill anyway.
With a small sigh, he turned and searched Janet's face for a moment, as if trying to gauge her reaction to his small indulgence. Either satisfied with what he saw in her expression, or simply too caught up in his own turmoil to care at the moment, he turned and walked out into the living room.
Numbly, Janet followed. "I'll stay." Their voices, mere whispers, clashed in the semi-darkness. This was followed by mutual sighs, then with a grim smile, O'Neill pointed to the overstuffed chair, before sinking down onto the couch.
They sat there, in the dark, the television on but muted. Occasionally their eyes would meet across the small distance of the room, but for the most part, Janet knew both their thoughts were focused on the woman in the other room.
* * * * * *
The barest traces of dawn were just beginning to filter into the room when O'Neill shifted. Her struggle with Sam a few hours ago had been brief, but she could feel a stiffness in her arms and shoulders reminding her that it had really happened. And her right leg was asleep but she held off moving it, avoiding the pins and needles sensation of restoring the blood flow for a little while yet.
She'd spent the better part of the night reliving the entire, awful evening replete with a full course of self-recrimination. She'd done it again, she realized. When O'Neill had gotten trapped on Edora and Sam had nearly killed herself trying to find a way to bring him home, Janet had made all kinds of assumptions about Sam's motivations. Now she'd been blindsided tonight because she'd made the same mistake. She'd come here certain that the only thing she had to worry about was Sam's attraction to O'Neill; instead she'd gotten smacked in the face with this complicated, unexpected and painful legacy left behind by Jolinar. Anise wasn't the only Tok'ra who was nothing but trouble, she decided.
"I shouldn't be here," O'Neill said, interrupting her thoughts. It was the first words he'd spoken in hours and his voice was rusty and thick. "I don't know what I was thinking," he added, passing a hand over his eyes and rubbing his forehead tiredly.
Two could play the self-recrimination game, she realized. "I know why you're here," she said, the reassurance bubbling up in her instinctively. "You're here for the same reason I am." Had the moment not been so serious, she might have laughed. O'Neill didn't know the half of it.
"This is…" O'Neill's voice trailed off in frustration. "What a mess." He stared glumly at the TV where a beefy young man was silently hawking something called Oxy-Clean.
Janet sighed deeply. "Yeah," she agreed. "What a mess." Maybe they should order some Oxy-Clean to clean it up, she thought giddily. The thought nearly made her laugh out loud. If only it could be that easy.
"Neither of us wanted this, you know," O'Neill informed her, shifting slightly on the couch to face her. His voice held an accusing note, as if she was somehow responsible for this situation. "But, Doc, I tell ya, I'd be lying if I said a part of me isn't thinking 'screw the regs' to myself, isn't thinking that it might be nice to find out what could be between us."
Janet waited with bated breath. Great, she thought. O'Neill was in the mood to spill his guts. Lucky her. She just wanted to shut down now, get into her car and have a good cry, crawl into bed and have a good cry, take a shower and have a good cry. She did not want to listen to O'Neill's awkward confession. She tried not to listen, tried, instead, to catalog the things on Sam's coffee table. Laptop, back scratcher, candles, lots of candles…
"But doing that means breaking up the team," he continued, waving his arms to emphasize his point and distracting her from her inventory. "It means reassignment, splitting SG1 up. I don't want that, and I'm pretty damn sure she doesn't want that either."
Before she could think better of it, Janet heard herself asking, "Would that really be so bad?" The words were whispered, as if she hadn't intended to speak them out loud. But once spoken, she couldn't take them back.
Janet didn't know the answer, didn't know if she even wanted to know the answer. From the expression on his face, O'Neill clearly didn't know it either. And she doubted Sam knew.
As if on cue there was a slight shuffling noise from the bedroom, and Sam stumbled out, rubbing her face sleepily. Janet stood, wincing as her leg protested the sudden movement, and wondered just how much of O'Neill's confession, if any, she'd heard. She noted that O'Neill was also on his feet. They both stared at her expectantly.
She looked like hell, Janet observed. Not surprising; a few scant hours of restless sleep on top of an emotionally traumatic day, a huge dose of sedative, a third of a bottle of whiskey and a crying jag would do that to a person.
Sam froze, one hand still in her hair where she'd attempted to rake it back from her face. "Sir." From the corner of her eye, Janet saw O'Neill straighten ever so slightly at the formality of Sam's greeting.
"Carter," he replied neutrally.
An awkward pause, and Janet thought of saying something, anything to break the awful tension in the room.
"Um…" she began, sweeping the hair back and rubbing her face. "Thank you."
It was a simple statement, spoken sincerely. Sam didn't add anything about O'Neill leaving, but it was clear in her tone that now that she'd managed to recover some of her equilibrium she was uncomfortable with his presence.
Something passed through O'Neill's eyes, something fleeting in its tenderness as he gave Sam a small smile. There was that jealousy again, Janet thought, feeling warmth suffuse her cheeks and neck. "You going to be all right?" he asked softly.
"I'll be fine, Sir," she said. "I didn't mean…what happened last night, I didn't mean to…" Janet thought Sam sounded like she was trying to apologize for everything that had happened over the last twenty-four hours.
"It's okay, Carter," O'Neill assured her. They stared intently at each other for several moments, and Janet glanced from one to the other wondering just how they were all going to cope with this situation. "I'll…uh…" he gestured toward the door with one hand, then turned away from Sam. "Doc," he added, nodding to Janet as he walked past her. Janet watched him as he opened the door and quietly left, never once looking back. She didn't need to look over to know that Sam was watching him leave as well.
Time to pay the piper, some voice inside her intoned. Now that they were alone again, she couldn't quite bring herself to look over at Sam, and instead contented herself with staring at the faded blue carpet. She could hear Sam breathing.
"I don't know what to say." Sam's voice in the tense silence of the room almost startled her. "'I'm sorry' doesn't even begin to cover it."
Janet wanted to say that everything would be all right, felt that instinctive reassurance rise up in her. But she held her tongue. The truth was, it wasn't all right and might not be ever again. Empty reassurances weren't going to fix this, and in light of what had nearly happened last night, Janet wasn't willing to just let things go. That the circumstances were extraordinary was no excuse, she lectured herself. She would have counseled anyone not to tolerate or accept the kind of things Sam had done last night, and she knew she couldn't do it either, as desperately as she might want to.
So she remained silent. There was no cure for this.
Janet finally found the courage to look up at Sam, gaze into her eyes, and was completely unnerved by the depth of pain and shame she saw reflected there. Slowly, Janet swallowed. "I don't know what to say either," she said, exhaling loudly. "I shouldn't have come here last night."
"You were only trying to help," Sam countered quickly. "And I--" She couldn't finish the sentence. Sam's shoulders sagged and she closed her eyes tightly, fighting back tears.
It occurred to Janet that she could do something, say something to help ease Sam's self-recrimination, having played that game herself for the better part of the night. But for some reason she couldn't do it, and she wasn't quite sure why. It would be so easy to blame Jolinar, blame the Goa'uld or the Tok'ra, deem them responsible for this horrible situation and move on from there.
"What do we do?" Janet asked, hearing the tightness in her own voice. "I don't know what to do."
Sam looked warily at her for several long moments. "I think you should go," she finally whispered.
Go. You should go. The words settled on Janet's shoulders like dead weights. It was Sam's old trick of shutting everyone out, shutting herself off. This would grow and fester between them the longer they left it unresolved. Janet knew that. But at the moment, Janet was too weary, too hurt; she had a lot on her own plate to deal with. Not, perhaps, as much as Sam but enough.
She retreated, slipping out the door and closing it softly behind her without another word. Breathing in the early morning chill, she stood for a moment, wondering if Sam had moved from the spot she'd been standing in since emerging from the bedroom. Janet suspected not.
Wearily, she turned away and followed the narrow walkway that lead to the parking lot.
Jacob Carter was walking toward her. It took her a moment or two to process the information, along with the huge wave of relief that was washing through her. Janet didn't know why Jacob hadn't been at the treaty signing, nor did she care; he was here now and his presence suddenly made such perfect sense that for a moment Janet couldn't breathe. Sam's father, and a member of the Tok'ra… She only wished he'd shown up last night before all hell had broken loose.
His steps slowed when he spotted her, and he waited patiently at the end of the walk.
"How is she?" he inquired.
"She had a rough night." Such an understatement, she thought.
General Carter's eyes, full of parental concern, wandered from her face to the door of Sam's apartment. Janet wondered how much he knew about yesterday's events, wondered if he knew about the confessions both O'Neill and Sam had been forced to make. If General Hammond or General Carter knew about it, the situation became more complicated than it already was. Not as complicated as it could be if everything were revealed, but complicated enough.
Finally, the General's eyes slipped back to meet hers. "You were here all night?" he asked.
Mutely, Janet nodded.
"My daughter's very lucky to have such a good friend," he said.
She wanted to cry at that. She had to swallow past the sudden tightness in her throat and bite her lip to keep the tears at bay, thinking if she could just get to her car she could have that good cry in private.
Without warning, General Carter stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly for a moment. It was an impulsive gesture, not entirely appropriate even under these peculiar circumstances. Janet was sure the embrace came from Selmac more than Jacob Carter. But she wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders anyway and clung to him for several seconds, suddenly missing her own father with such intensity that it hurt.
This was what Sam needed, she told herself. Sam needed her father. He couldn't change anything that had happened, but he didn't need to. He could start to make things better just by being there.
As she watched Sam's father continue along the path and knock on Sam's door, Janet couldn't help but think about the fact that she was completely focusing on Sam. On Sam's pain and anger, on the fact that saving her father's life was probably the one good thing to come out of being Jolinar's host for Sam, about how Sam was going to interact with O'Neill now.
It was almost like she, Janet Fraiser, didn't exist, like she was somebody's secret mistress. A part of her knew that analogy wasn't quite fair, even though it was rather apt. Focusing on Sam was her own instinctive way of protecting herself, of distancing herself from her own pain, at least for the time being. Always the doctor, the caretaker. Always worrying about everyone else, she thought bitterly.
Sam's door swung open, and she watched Sam embrace her father tightly, burying her face in his neck. They stood like that for a long time, and for some reason Janet couldn't tear her eyes away from the scene. When they parted, Sam ushered General Carter into the apartment, then hesitated in the open doorway. Sam's eyes met hers, and they stared at each other from across the courtyard. For a moment, just a moment, Janet thought she saw the other woman shift slightly in her direction as if she intended to bridge the distance between them.
Instead, she watched as Sam slipped back into the shadows of the apartment and slowly closed the door, leaving her alone.