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rocketfic | the beat of a heart

Title: The Beat of a Heart by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Immediately post-Grace (continues with spoilers for Fallout, Chimera, Death Knell, and Heroes - an alternate take on how these episodes should have played out). Written for the Janet Ficathon Challenge. My assignment comes from Debbie, who requested a Sam/Janet pairing with: 1) Sara Evans lyrics, and 2) dancing in the moonlight. This story assumes that Sam was not yet totally with it at the end of "Grace," that the little closing scene with O'Neill was in fact subconscious, since Grace was still hanging around and singing.

You may find all your dreams have already come true
Look inside and find the part that's leading you
'Cause that's the beat of a heart
That's The Beat of a Heart, by Sara Evans

When she really woke up, Janet was there.

Of course.

"Hey," the doctor murmured, as she ran gentle fingertips along the pulse point in Sam's wrist. "How are you feeling?"

Sam blinked at her, suddenly realizing the doctor hadn't made a subconscious appearance in her little half-delirious nebula adventure. She wondered why.

"Sam?" Janet said, this time leaning closer to peer into dazed blue eyes. "Don't make me threaten you with my penlight."

"Anything but that," the blonde croaked.

"Ah, there you are." Janet smiled in relief. "You and head wounds... I'm thinking about ordering you to wear a helmet at all times."

Why weren't you there? Sam's brain screamed. She offered up a faint grin in return. "But that would wreak havoc on my 'do."

Russet eyebrows climbed, taking in the rather unkempt hairstyle in question. "Then maybe I should have ordered it months ago."

All of Sam's inner pondering and confusion came to a screeching halt. She looked up at the doctor with a vague mixture of hurt and disbelief. "What do you mean?"

Janet reached to pluck a bit at her friend's too-long, too-willowy hair, and shrugged. "Nothing. It just looks better shorter."


A definitive nod. "Much."

"Well, how come you can do pretty much anything you want with your hair?" Sam complained. The conversation struck her as slightly inane, and briefly she wondered if she wasn't still talking to a manifestation of her own psyche.

At least the warmth and humor dancing Janet's eyes were comfortingly genuine. "Ancient doctor tricks," she revealed with a smirk.

"Good morning, it's time for a healthy breakfast!" boomed Jack O'Neill from the doorway of the infirmary. Daniel and Teal'c trailed behind him as he sauntered into the room. "Carter, welcome back. How the hell are you?"

"Getting better, sir," she answered, wincing a bit at the ebullient volume of his voice.

"I am pleased you have made it back safely, Major Carter," Teal'c offered with a smile and a bow of his head.

"Me too," Daniel added.

"Thanks, guys."

"We should have a party to celebrate," O'Neill declared, eerily reminiscent of the faux conversation Sam had had with him earlier. "Some food, some beer..." A glare from the doctor drew him up short. "Okay, no beer for people with head injuries."

"Cake," Sam murmured. Janet and the three other members of SG-1 peered at her curiously.

"Well, now I know you're sick. You don't eat cake. Or pie. Or chocolate. Or anything worse than the occasional jell-o," the colonel rambled. "We should probably take advantage of this," he concluded, sharing a speculative nod with Daniel.

"I'm keeping Major Carter under observation a couple more days," Janet said sternly, wanting very much to discourage the colonel from even thinking about throwing a party in her infirmary.

"Okay, okay, after that," he relented. He cast a beneficent smile down on his 2IC. "But then you're gonna goof off with us, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good! C'mon boys, there's beer to be bought," O'Neill exclaimed. "And, apparently, cake to be baked. Teal'c, that one's all you." He spun on his heel and walked with purpose back out the door of the infirmary.

The two women shared an amused look, then with a final pat on the arm, Janet left Sam to rest.

A few days later the team lounged comfortably around Sam's house, sprawled in a sated stupor induced by decent beer, dozens of buffalo wings and a surprisingly good chocolate cake. As the evening wore on O'Neill and Daniel traded drunken punchlines and giggled manfully, all in celebration of Sam's triumphant return. She'd saved... well, if not the universe, than certainly a few unlucky travelers within it. It was worth a toast or six, even if Sam didn't really seem up to participating.

"To Doctor Carter," Daniel crowed, holding his bottle aloft.

"Hear hear!" O'Neill agreed, sloppily directing his bottle to clink with the archeologist's.

Sam just smiled and poked at her dessert, moving the crumbs around on the plate more than actually eating it. Janet sat on the floor of the living room, set somewhat apart from the rest of the team -- as usual -- as she surreptitiously watched her friend. Teal'c hovered in his customary way, observing them all with a mildly pleased expression.

"Teal'c, are you sure you'll be able to get these guys home?" Janet asked, eyeing the colonel and Daniel as they spontaneously started arm wrestling.

"My skills at maneuvering human motor vehicles have improved greatly, DoctorFraiser," the Jaffa assured her with a small bow.

She grinned up at him and ignored Daniel's sudden yelps of pain from across the room. "That wasn't really what I meant."

"Of that I am aware," he responded quietly, with a definite twinkle.

Janet smirked, finished off her beer and silently pondered what it was about tretonin that so vastly improved a Jaffa's sense of humor. She cast a look over toward Sam. Her friend looked like she wasn't even in the room with them, instead appearing forlornly preoccupied and utterly removed from the celebration. The doctor frowned and pushed herself upright.

"All right, boys, let's leave Major Carter to her recuperation, shall we?" she announced.

"Aw, Janet," Daniel whined as he rose unsteadily. "It's early."

"Yeah, Doc, there's still beer left," the colonel agreed. He reached over to punch Daniel in the arm, overbalanced, and nearly took a header into the coffee table.

"Out," she ordered, pointing toward the door. She escorted the three men out of the house, gamely put up with a couple affectionately smothering hugs from her inebriated coworkers, and shut the door behind them.

Once they were gone she returned to the living room and caught sight of Sam rubbing the bridge of her nose in evident exhaustion. Janet gave the blonde's back a friendly scratch. "Stay put, I'll get this stuff cleaned up."

Sam smiled and slumped back against the sofa, listening to the puttering sounds from her kitchen. Several minutes later Janet emerged with a couple cups of coffee.

"Those boys sure can put away their beer," the doctor said as she handed over one of the mugs. "And I'm still trying to figure out if this party was for you or for them."

"Mm," Sam grunted in acknowledgment.

Janet perched on the sofa next to her friend and sipped at her drink. "So. You wanna talk about it?"

"Not particularly."

"Okay," the doctor said agreeably. A few minutes passed in silence.

"Do you ever wonder what the subconscious really knows that the conscious doesn't?" Sam babbled out of nowhere, apparently forgetting her own stated disinclination to talk about it.

Janet frowned. "Sure, I guess. But I don't think the subconscious keeps secrets."

"You don't?"

"Well, no... But it protects us from certain things, and can reveal things we're not otherwise aware of. Ever have a dream about something, dismiss it as subconscious flotsam, then realize it was the truth all along?"

Sam realized her hands were shaking suddenly, and she had to put the coffee cup down with a clatter. "What if it's the opposite?"

"What you thought was the truth isn't?"

"I don't know."

Janet frowned, and put down her own coffee cup. She reached out to rest a hand on Sam's bare arm, hoping to provide an anchor for the lost look in her friend's eyes. "Hey, Sam, it's okay."

"No, it's not," the blonde declared, recoiling from the touch and nearly launching herself from the sofa. She began to pace.

Her time spent in the nebula was a blur, a jumble of half-remembered images; her friends, her team, her loved ones, all chiming in to help her sort out the dilemma and get her home. Along the way they offered a little cosmic love advice and even let her indulge in a fantasy or two. While recovering under Janet's care the past few days, it disturbed her more and more heavily that her subconscious hadn't bothered to produce a Janet facsimile in her delirium. Why was that detail nagging at her, and what did it mean?

She didn't know how long she'd paced, or even when she'd stopped. Suddenly she was just standing there in the center of her living room with a splitting headache. She swayed dizzily in place and a strong hand steadied her.

"Easy. Let's get you in bed," Janet's voice drifted toward her through a fog, and Sam let herself be led down the hall. Before she knew it she was on her back under her blankets, safe and snug for the night. Somewhere under layers of muddled preoccupation, Sam pondered just how adept Janet had become at the mom thing.

The blonde dragged her eyes open to watch her friend fussing with the covers, and finally perching on the edge of the bed. Janet smiled down at her and smoothed a few stray strands of hair off her brow. "You okay?"

"Perfect," Sam drawled. "Thanks."

"I'll be in the spare bedroom if you need anything."

Sam nodded, sleep-drunk, and was out before Janet could leave the room.

Her dreams that night were of ribbons of color and odd angles, almost like walking through a comic book. It was the nebula, but not quite. She realized suddenly she'd come back here to seek some answers.

"It's just subconscious gobbledygook, Carter," came the voice of her CO. She turned and saw him walking toward her. "I wouldn't put too much credence in it." Jack ducked a passing streamer of bright green gas and gave her a grin. "But since you're here, you might as well use the opportunity."

"I think I was trying to tell myself something before," she said, falling into step beside him.

"Possibly. Sort of a roundabout way of doing it, don't you think?"

"Where is Doctor Fraiser?"

He frowned. "Your dreams are awfully formal. Where do you think she is?"

"I don't know," she sighed.

"The subconscious doesn't keep secrets, Carter. You're hiding her yourself."

She paled, and drew to a halt. "Why would I do that?"

"You're asking me? All I know is, you're wound so tight I get a headache just visiting you in here. Seriously, that's gotta get old after a while. You need to learn to relax a bit, let your hair down." He eyed her hair for a moment and winced. "Okay, bad choice of words. Haven't you ever cut loose and just enjoyed yourself?" He snapped his fingers. "Like back in college? Ever go to one of those wild parties, get plastered, and dance like an idiot?"

"I can't dance," she replied, ignoring the rest of the question.

"No?" He paused and looked her over speculatively. "Somehow I doubt that."

"All limbs. My dad used to say I had the grace of a sack of drunken monkeys."

For a second he was her father. He winced, then he was Jack O'Neill once more. "Grace isn't about how your arms and legs move. It's about how other people see you."

A voice called from behind them. "You're the most graceful person I know."

Sam whirled, facing the image of Janet with some relief. "I'd say the same about you." The doctor smiled back, and tucked her hands into the pockets of her ubiquitous lab coat. "Why weren't you ever here before?"

"Wasn't I? Maybe you were pretending not to see me."

"If you sleep, You Will Die," Teal'c announced imperiously from her right. Sam turned and blinked at him.

"Seize the moment," Daniel declared from her other side.

"Are you happy, Sam?" Her father appeared with a concerned look behind her.

"You gonna save yourself or what?" O'Neill said wryly.

"Everything is not as it seems," Teal'c concluded with a nod, then winked back out of existence along with Daniel, her father, and Colonel O'Neill.

"See, I was in there. I always have been," Janet murmured. "Those guys aren't the only people who care about you."

"I thought maybe you were Grace," the blonde replied, feeling more confused than ever.

Suddenly Janet was much closer, mere inches in front of her, imaginary body heat mingling in the dreamscape. The doctor raised one hand and rested it squarely on Sam's chest. She looked up with a mysterious smile. "I've always been here, Sam. Even when you didn't think you could see me."

Quite out of her own control, and quite unlike the kiss she'd shared with an imaginary O'Neill, Sam dipped her head, meeting the beckoning look in those impossibly dark eyes. Their lips met in a rush of breath and heat, pressing together hungrily. She felt the fingers of Janet's other hand tangling in her hair, and found her own hands dragging roughly up the doctor's back, struggling to bring her closer, though they were already close enough to be sharing the same space. The kiss was pure consumption, burning through Sam and leaving only unquenchable desire in its wake. She tore her lips away to regain her breath. "God, Janet."

Hot breath poured into her ear. "All I am is the secret you're keeping," the doctor breathed.

Sam woke with a start. Her heart thumped alarmingly in her chest and her lips still burned from the kiss. She sat up in bed and stared into the shadows of her room, eyes wide with revelation. "Whoa."

"I want you to rest for another week or so before returning to duty," Janet said sternly, after a quick checkup the next morning.

Sam watched her every move, a mysterious smile bending her lips. "Okay."

A scowl. "And I'd prefer it if you didn't sneak too much work out of the base to do here."


Janet took a step away and folded her arms, pinning Sam with her most disbelieving glare -- the one she reserved for airmen who came into her infirmary and claimed to have "no idea whatsoever" how they'd managed to get a flaming alien rash on their crotch.

Sam's smile only grew wider, and she chuckled. "Really, Janet. I'll be good."

Dark eyes narrowed, gauging her sincerity. "You'll call me if you need anything, or if you get dizzy, or notice any vision problems."

"Yes, ma'am." Before Janet could turn to go, the blonde reached out and snagged her wrist. "You're not on duty today, are you?"

"No, I'm off until tomorrow."

"Then stay. Just hang out for a while." She tilted her head and gave the doctor her best, most irresistibly pleading look. "Please?"

"Sam, are you sure you feel okay? You're acting very odd."

A few lascivious thoughts spun through Carter's brain, considering the ways she'd like to be acting that morning, after having spent the better part of the night contemplating that dreamed kiss, and what it might actually mean.

Was she attracted to Janet? Certainly, and from the very start. They'd gravitated toward each other out of geeky camaraderie, stayed close because of Cassie, and ultimately forged a deep and genuine friendship. It had felt natural, painless, unlike pretty much every other relationship Sam had ever had.

But was there really more than that? Enough to inspire vivid, fevered dreams and apparently lie to herself for years on end?

That was more complicated, and she didn't have a ready answer. But as the night wore on she'd grown more willing to concede that she'd suddenly just grown tired of hiding the truth from herself. That left the unenviable question of what came next, and wondering how Janet might feel about all of this.

She felt truly awake for the very first time today, noticing every tiny and amazing thing about this woman she'd stood beside for so long. It was mind-boggling, and her stomach lurched just thinking about it.

She certainly didn't want it to end too soon.

"Since Cassie went away for school, we don't hang out as much," Sam murmured. She was still holding onto Janet's wrist, and she let her thumb run back and forth against the soft skin on the underside of her arm. "I miss you."

Janet's guard dropped almost palpably. "I've missed you too," she responded. "I thought, without Cassie here..." She trailed off with a shrug.

"Without her we'd have no reason to spend time together?" Sam nodded. "I'm sorry about that." She dropped her chin, peering at Janet through long lashes in gentle entreaty. "Please stay."

Something about the intensity in Sam's voice actually drew Janet a step closer, as if falling into her gaze. She nodded just a little, then shook herself. "Okay."

Blue eyes sparkled in triumph. "Great. One day of goofing off, coming up."

The woman took nearly orgasmic joy in a hot cup of coffee.

Sam peered at Janet over the cover of her magazine, observing the mocha-induced rapture going on across the table. They were seated in a dark corner of their favorite bookstore's coffee shop, killing a couple hours poring over books they'd never actually have time to read. Sam was starting to make a list of all the mildly remarkable things she'd discovered about her friend just because she was suddenly paying attention that morning. So far, the profound java gratification was definitely her favorite. They'd had countless cups of coffee together over the years, so how had she managed to miss that?

"Do I have foam on my nose?" the doctor inquired as she flipped open an architectural magazine.

"What? No."

"Okay," Janet answered lightly, in the tone of a woman who knew full well she was being watched.

Sam blushed and buried her face in her own magazine, but mentally added the quiet humor in the doctor's voice to her growing list. "I've never seen you get so... enthusiastic about coffee before," she ventured before she could think better of it.

"Not much to get enthusiastic about in the commissary. What those airmen do to the coffee pots should be illegal. Good coffee, on the other hand, should be celebrated." Janet lifted her foam cup in a little salute, then sipped at it with a grin.

"I'll remember that," Sam promised. The answering playful, easy smile on her companion's face shot straight to the top of the list.

The day passed effortlessly. Both women found themselves loathe to see it end. At sunset Sam pulled up in front of Janet's house to drop her off, and hopped out of the car to walk the doctor to her door.

Janet looked at her a little sideways. "I've got to be in early tomorrow. Pre-jump physicals for SG-6 at 0700," she said as she paused on her porch. Sam stood on the step below her, at the brunette's eye level.

"Yeah, okay," Sam said quietly. "I had fun today."

The doctor tilted her head and regarded Sam with a wry look. "I did too. But you need to get out more, Major Carter."

"Yup. How about tomorrow when you're off duty? Dinner and a movie. Something like that."

Janet just watched her for a moment. Her eyebrows drew together in the faintest of frowns, as if she wasn't quite sure what to make of her friend's behavior. Sam's hands were buried in the pockets of her jeans, and she was looking down at the porch bashfully, kicking one foot into the dust motes that trickled through the last rays of the sun. One of Janet's hands was raised and halfway toward the downcast ruffled blonde head before she caught herself.

"Dinner and a movie. Sounds great," the doctor heard her own voice saying. She cleared her throat nervously.

Sam's head shot up immediately, with a positively blinding smile. "Great!"

"I want you to get some rest, Sam," Janet said mildly. "You still have some recovering to do." She blinked, and could swear the crystal blue of Sam's eyes was drawing closer. Was Sam leaning towards her? Why was she leaning? Maybe her balance was still off from that knock on her head? Suddenly all Janet could hear was the roar of blood in her ears, and she realized Sam wasn't moving at all, but yet they were mere inches apart, sharing the same air. How the hell had that happened? She jerked backward just a bit in surprise.

Sam's smile gentled. "Good night, Janet," she murmured, then turned and headed back to her car.

Thoroughly rattled, all the doctor could do was watch her leave, then stumble into her house for a restless and ponderous night.

Another dream, another surreal landscape of color.

Just a flash, this time, of Grace hopscotching past. Then Colonel O'Neill wandered by, apparently passing the time in her subconscious by whistling horrifically out of tune. "Hey, Carter."

"Sir," she greeted automatically. "Do you know do why I keep coming back here?"

"Good question. Know what's an even better question? Why the heck do you keep asking me? In the years we've known each other, how many times have I been able to help you solve a problem like this?" He watched the faint frown crease her forehead as she considered that. "Who do you normally ask for help when you need to figure stuff out?"

Behind him, an image of Daniel popped up and waved wildly at her, demanding attention.

"Janet," she answered carefully. The image of Daniel slumped in dejection and disappeared.

"Yeah. How 'bout that?" the colonel concluded with a smirk.

The planned date had to wait, as Jonas Quinn arrived early the next day requesting the help of his old friends. Sam allowed herself to be swept up in the mission on Langara, counting on the fact that sometimes she was best able to solve problems when she wasn't actively thinking about them. What she'd now labeled The Janet Issue was happily tucked away behind the more comfortable questions of naquadria and planetary stability.

Unfortunately the "stability" part was pretty tenuous, and in an almost cosmically mocking way, there Janet was again, now supervising the emergency relief effort in the wake of the Langaran earthquakes.

Sam met the doctor and the medical team at the gate, wholly unable to restrain a smile upon seeing her friend.

"Did I ever tell you about the year I spent in Los Angeles?" Janet asked as she hauled a crate of first aid supplies to a Langaran transport.


"Well, I developed a fabulous tan," the brunette continued. "And a striking dislike of seismic activity."

"Ah. Well, we'll try to keep the shaking to a minimum," Sam promised.

"See that you do, Major." Janet looked up with twinkling grin that literally stopped the blonde in her tracks.

Carter watched the rest of the medical team file off to their appointed tasks and blew out a breath that ruffled her bangs. She'd swear if the doctor's look were directed anywhere else it would be unquestionably flirtatious. Had the doctor smiled at her like that all along? She added yet another item to her mental list, and headed back to the gate to report to her superiors.

The rest of the mission went more or less by the numbers. A Goa'uld ruse here, a little lovelorn naivety there, a little brute force finessed with a little technology, and the Langarans were back to their safely bickering routine.

Sam sat in the observation bay perched above the examination room while Janet looked over Kyanna a final time. She'd flipped through the doctor's analysis of the chemical Kyanna had used to camouflage her symbiote and found little of actual use. The host was not able to provide any information as to the use of naquada suppression by other Goa'uld. In fact, Kyanna was not able to provide much information at all now that her symbiote was dead.

"Hey, Sam," came Janet's quiet voice as she stepped into the observation bay. "You okay?"

Sam frowned. "She was a lot more interesting when she was a Goa'uld."

Janet wasn't sure how to respond to that, so she folded her arms and adopted her patented pragmatic doctor pose. "She retains no memory of the symbiote. I think that drug inhibited true neural blending."

The blonde bobbed her head in a nod. "She's lucky."

"You think so?" The doctor took a cautious step forward, trying to feel out her friend's mood.

"Sometimes I think I'd do anything to forget about Jolinar."

Janet thought furiously. "Maybe the naquada suppression treatment could be modified..."

"No." Sam shook her head. "Jolinar's memories have proven invaluable. I just think... I think it changed me, and I sometimes I wish I could be the person I was before."

The doctor sank into the seat next to Sam's, glad of the relative privacy of the booth. "You're not that different, Sam. You're still brilliant and honorable and generous. If anything, Jolinar enhanced the best parts of you."

Sam blew out a shaky breath. She hadn't meant to talk about this at all, but Janet's reassurance helped to set that lingering insecurity a little more at rest.

"Listen, I know you're going to tell me you feel fine," Janet continued. "But I'd still like you to take some time off. This has been a rough stretch and you need some rest."

"Dinner and a movie," the blonde blurted suddenly, as if just remembering. In fact, she'd been quite unable to forget the promised date despite the danger she'd lived through the past week or so. "If it's medically supervised, it could count as rest." She flashed her most ingenuous smile.

Janet chuckled. "I didn't think you'd..." She shook her head. "Anyway. I think I could arrange proper medical supervision."

"You didn't think I'd remember? Tch. Why do you think I was in such a hurry to save somebody else's planet and get home?"

The doctor dipped her head and flashed Sam an alluring look. "Okay. Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," Sam confirmed. She watched the doctor get up and stroll away, then tried to convince herself she wasn't imagining the new lightness in Janet's steps.

Not actively thinking hadn't exactly had its desired effect, though she'd now learned a few things about introducing unstable elements to complex systems. In her case, she'd finally realized that the Janet Issue was well on its way to causing its own chain reaction, quite inexorable and explosive. She shivered and bounced upright to follow the doctor out of the bay.

The next morning she sat down and twitched a plastic gown around herself in a small, apprehensive motion. Her favorite hairstylist Pammy busied herself around the chair, then finally came to a stop over Sam's shoulder, regarding the blonde in the mirror. "And what are we doing today?"

"Remember when I had that sort of... short spiky thing?" Sam asked with a vague wave at her head.

"Yeah?" Pammy snapped her gum pensively.

"Can we do that again?"

"Damn straight, honey. And it's about time!" Pammy did a little dance of hairstyling joy and tipped Sam's head back into the sink.

"How come no one told me it looked bad this way?" Sam whined.

"I am of the firm belief that that customer is always right," Pammy said philosophically as she squirted some shampoo into her hand. "But between you, me, and the curling iron? Honey, you were wrong." With a little grin, the stylist got to work.

Having her ears exposed to the world again took a little getting used to.

After her haircut Sam had done as Janet had asked, taking it easy during the day and avoiding anything that felt the slightest bit like work. The task had been easier than she'd anticipated, as her brain seemed content to occupy itself with matters of dreams and diminutive doctors.

It was just after seven when she knocked on Janet's door. She heard the bustling noises of her friend's approach, then stepped back on the porch to regard the descending twilight. The door opened and closed behind her, and the evening breeze carried over her friend's scent even as Janet moved closer.

"You cut your hair?" the brunette murmured. The amused smile evident in her voice made Sam grin.

"Better now?"

"Yeah, but you didn't..."

"Dinner and a movie," Sam said definitively, cutting her off. She crooked an arm to the smaller woman, and smiled down at her with a look akin to a challenge. "And if you're not careful, you might just have fun with me."

Janet smiled back in a way that indicated she thought Sam was just slightly nuts, but took the proffered arm anyway. "Guess I'll take my chances."

"So why were you in LA for a year?" Sam asked later over a plate of spicy Thai noodles.

Janet grinned. "I hitchhiked out to California one day, and the car ran out of gas on the beach. So I stayed."

Sam's eyebrows shot up. "Seriously?"

"Pretty much, yeah. I was seventeen, just out of high school, with absolutely no intention of going to college. The fact that running away from home caused my father to turn shades of red previously unrecorded in nature was just a bonus."

"No plans for college?" The concept seemed utterly foreign to the chronically over-achieving astrophysicist.

"Well, not all of us are freakishly brilliant," Janet said pointedly then shrugged. "I did okay in school, but I didn't really see the point."

Sam frowned and waited, knowing there was more to the story.

"I slept on the floor of this beach house I shared with about eleven other people, caught a few odd jobs here and there, and taught myself how to surf." She smiled and fiddled with her napkin. "Then one day I got a letter from my mother, saying my father had had a heart attack, and would I please come home?" She shrugged. "So I hopped on the next bus. I signed up for ROTC to put myself through school, eventually decided I wanted to be a doctor, and here I am."

"That must have made your father proud," Sam murmured, remembering the doctor had mentioned her father was retired from the Army.

"It did," Janet acknowledged. "But it turns out I wasn't quite done rebelling... When I told him I'd joined the Air Force he nearly choked." She let loose a dazzling, mischievous grin that made Sam laugh out loud.

"So I guess that puts having an adopted alien for a daughter in perspective, huh?"

"Sam, all teenagers are aliens. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We're just lucky the Goa'uld haven't figured out a way to harness them for evil."

The blonde chuckled a bit more. "Well, Cassandra has been lucky to have you."

"I guess." Janet's expression fell just a bit, and she set down her wineglass. "I miss her," she murmured. "I wasn't really expecting to."

Sam leaned forward, struck by the sadness in the doctor's voice. "You're her mom, Janet. Of course you miss her. And I know she misses you too."

"I never thought of myself as a 'mom,' though. I was just the most convenient adult with security clearance."

The blonde was shaking her head before Janet even stopped talking. "No way. You're an excellent mother. Cassie adores you."

"She tolerates me," Janet countered. "She adores you."

"Janet," Sam said seriously. She dipped her head to catch her friend's downcast eyes. "The second I knew Cassie was going to be staying on Earth, I knew you were the best possible person to take care of her." She paused, making sure she had the doctor's full attention. "Ask me why."

"Why?" Janet breathed.

"Because you smiled at her just like my mother smiled at me." Sam reached across the table to tuck her fingers around Janet's hand. "So it turns out I was right."

Janet gave her a watery smile. "You usually are."

"See? You should listen to me."

The waiter set their check down discreetly next to their joined hands. Sam gave the inoffensive piece of paper a little glare. She'd learned more about Janet in a short dinner than she had over the course of years, to the point that it was damn near impossible to maintain the mental list of new discoveries about her friend.

"Sam Carter!" called a jolly voice. Sam looked up as a tall man bounded up to their table, but was more occupied by the chill on her fingers as Janet retracted her hand.

"Yes?" Sam replied.

"I'm Pete. Pete Shanahan." He stuck out his hand, which she shook cautiously. "Mark's friend?"

The blonde searched her memory. "Oh, right. Hi." She gestured politely to her dinner companion. "This is a colleague of mine, Doctor Janet Fraiser."

"Nice to meet you," he said perfunctorily. He had eyes only for the blonde. "We were supposed to meet up while I'm in town," he reminded her.

"Right, sorry about that," Sam returned. "I've been busy."

"Well, maybe some time later this week?"

Sam cocked her head and squinted up at him. "How did you know I'd be here?"

Pete blanched a little. "Uh... Well, that's your Volvo out front, right? Not too many of those around."

"Right." She drew the syllable out a bit. It wasn't the most convincing lie she'd heard that day.

"Major Carter will likely be departing for an extended mission later this week," Janet offered sweetly.

Sam picked up her cue perfectly. "That's right. Impossible to say how long I'll be gone."

"Could be months," the doctor concluded with a frank nod.

"Months?" Pete whined. "Well, maybe before you leave...?"

"Afraid not, Pete," Sam said with an acid smile. "I tend to get called away on a moment's notice. A lot." Right then the beeper tucked away in her bag went off. "Look at that. Duty calls," she said with a shrug. She tossed a few bills on the table and stood, waiting for Janet to join her. Pete could do little but stumble out of their way as they left the restaurant.

"Do I want to know how you did that?" Sam muttered to her friend as they hit the fresh air outside. The doctor held up her hand, where she'd palmed her small cell phone. Sam smirked and shook her head. "I'm going to kill Mark. He needs to stop sending his sleazy friends my way."

Janet winced in sympathy. "That was a little creepy."

Sam took a deep breath and shook off the lingering ick of Pete's arrival. She stepped up to her car and opened the passenger door, grinning at her companion. "So. How 'bout that movie?"

"You're humming."

Sam inhaled sharply, and looked over at her CO, who was leaning against the far wall of the elevator. "Sorry, sir?"

"You were humming. Just now. Sounded like actual music and everything."

She blinked. "Uh, yeah. I guess I was."

O'Neill latched onto her obvious discomfiture with a great deal of amusement. "Eating cake and now humming? That's it, I want names."


"Whoever's put you in such a good mood lately. I want to send a thank you note."

She tried to fight off a blush. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"History is being made right now, right this second. The mighty Major Carter is in love," he teased, leaning closer to press his point.

"It's not like that..."

He grasped her shoulder lightly. "Sam. Keep humming. It looks good on you."

The elevator doors parted and he strolled out.

That night, Grace was turning cartwheels.

"Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
She could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so..."

Sam sighed and watched the little girl tumble around her. "Could you at least learn another song?!"

The little girl came to a stop in front of her and sat down. She stared up at Sam with a dire expression. "You are running out of time."

"Time to do what?" She leaned forward anxiously. "To find the Lost City?"

Grace scowled. "Why would you want to do that?"

"To save the world? To save humanity?" Sam sighed. "To save myself?"

The girl stood and straightened her skirt with dramatic flourish. "You are running out of time."

Sam yawned as she dragged herself into the commissary the next day, then plunked down next to Daniel, who sat across from Teal'c.

"You look beat," Daniel offered bluntly.

She shook her head. "I've been having the weirdest dreams. Leftover bits from being stuck in that nebula, lots of quasi-philosophical warnings."

"Perhaps you are attempting to reveal something to yourself," Teal'c speculated.

"Like what?" Sam asked. She poured herself a cup of coffee and gulped its contents with a wince.

"Like DanielJackson's dreamed visions of Bra'tac and my son."

"You think I know something that I don't actually know and I'm trying to tell myself about it?"

Daniel regarded her thoughtfully. "We've seen weirder things, Sam."

"Perhaps you should speak to someone about your concerns," Teal'c said.

"There you go. Maybe Janet could help," the archeologist concluded.

Sam sighed. "Doubt it. Thanks, guys." She pushed herself away from the table and turned to leave, and paused only long enough to retrieve her coffee cup.

"Heard you're headed out to the Alpha Site today," came a voice at the door of her lab.

Sam leaned back from her portable naquada reactor and saw Janet leaning against the doorframe. "Yeah, my dad wants to talk about modifications to the new weapons."

"Fun," the doctor said dryly. She watched Sam pack up the last bits of equipment she needed.

Finally the blonde stood with a groan and stretched out her exhausted, sore muscles. Even as she dug her fingers into the tightness coiled at the back of her neck Sam could feel the doctor's clinical eye upon her. "What?" Sam said impatiently.

"You seem really tired lately," the smaller woman responded.

"You think?! I'm one of approximately four people in the galaxy who has a shot at making something that can defeat Anubis and save us all. I've been a little busy."

Janet folded her arms. "You're not going to save anyone if you collapse from exhaustion," she said pointedly.

Instead of exploding, Sam's defensiveness abruptly fizzled. She sat back down and slumped against her desk with a sigh, then dropped her head to let it rest on the blessedly cool surface. "He's coming, Janet. And we're not moving fast enough."

The doctor moved a bit closer. "I know. And I know you're doing all you can," she murmured. "What can I do to help?"

The blonde head tilted just enough to reveal a single bloodshot blue eye. "Could I beg a neckrub?"

Janet nodded and stepped behind her friend, then reached up to press gentle circles into Sam's shoulders and neck, increasing the pressure as she ran into cabled muscles and almost impenetrable stiffness. Sam released a heartfelt groan and slowly went limp under the doctor's careful attention. When Sam seemed relaxed enough, the doctor spoke again, pitching her voice low. "Daniel said you haven't been sleeping well."

"Gonna kick his ass," Sam slurred. "I knew he'd rat me out."

Janet smiled, and focused her thumbs on one particular knot near her friend's spine. "He said something about dreams leftover from the incident on the Prometheus..."

"Ow." Sam pushed herself upright and turned on the stool to face her friend. "Janet, whatever you do, please don't say 'Do you want to talk about it?'"

"At this rate, I'm going to have to order you to talk about it," the doctor grumbled.

"I don't have time right now..."

"When I have you relieved of duty, you can damn well make time."

Sam's eyes sparked in anger as she stood again, glaring down at the shorter woman. "You can't do that. You have no idea the magnitude of..."

"Don't give me that," Janet snapped. She stepped right into Sam's space, returning the glare at full intensity. "I am fully aware just how deep we're in it right now, Sam. And I resent the intimidation tactic."

Had they been closer in height they would have been nose to nose, but the blonde's advantage gave her leeway to stare her friend down, to press her point with size. The second she realized she was doing that, Sam stepped back and consciously relaxed her posture. "Sorry," she whispered, and meant it. Exhaustion, frustration and fear conspired against her; she suddenly felt tears well in her eyes. "I can't tell you about the dreams."

"Are you sure? Maybe I can help you figure them out." Janet took a cautious step closer. She sensed Sam was ready to bolt, so she reached out to steady the blonde with her customary physician's touch.

"No," Sam blurted. "I can't tell you about the dreams."

That drew the doctor up short, with one comforting hand poised in midair between them. After a moment's hesitation she followed through anyway. Her fingers slid in a warm trail down Sam's bare forearm and left goosebumps in its wake. "Sam..."

"I don't understand them, but I have to... There's something I'm missing, something I'm supposed to do..."

"Sam," the brunette repeated. "You can tell me. I'll try to help."

"You can't help," Sam insisted in a whisper. She noticed Janet was drawing closer and she responded naturally, wanting little more than to tell her friend everything, leave her problems at Janet's feet and simply surrender to the bone-deep desire for comfort and reassurance. Lately it seemed there was just too much at stake, too much weight on her shoulders, too many complications in falling for her best friend after so many years, and entirely too much understanding in those dark, deep eyes. "I have to go," Sam rasped. She could feel the heat from Janet's body seeping into her own uniform, they were so close together.

"I know," Janet whispered in return. She offered her friend a lopsided smile meant to diffuse the intimacy of their current position. "Tell your dad I said hello."

"I will," Sam promised. She reluctantly stepped away to gather her field pack and the supplies she'd prepared, then turned to leave. At the door to her lap she paused, and looked back at Janet. "We'll talk when I get back, okay?"

The doctor nodded, and Sam disappeared out the door.

Hours after Anubis' apparent attack on the Alpha Site, Janet waited in the conference room, well ahead of her next scheduled briefing. She stood looking out the windows at the dormant Stargate below. General Hammond nearly strode past her on his way to his office, but paused when he saw the distant expression on his CMO's face.


She visibly snapped back into the present. "Sir. Request permission to join SG-3 at the Alpha Site."

"You know I don't like to send medical personnel into combat situations."

"Yes sir, but the survivors may not be able to wait until the gate is righted."

The general sighed. This was such a common argument between them, by now he knew their respective lines by heart. "Given the remaining instability out there, I don't believe it would be wise..."

"I understand, sir." Her tightly clenched jaw belied the statement, but he chose to ignore it. "Has there been any word about Major Carter?"

Hammond shook his head sadly. "Not yet."

Janet nodded and returned to her vigil, willing the Stargate to open and bring their people home.

By the time Sam made it back pretty much everything had fallen apart, including Sam herself. O'Neill personally hauled his 2IC to the infirmary and handed her over to a very tired Doctor Fraiser, who had stayed on base long hours after her shift was over just on the hope that Sam would make it back okay.

Then even after surgery to repair the damage to Sam's leg, Janet stayed. Sam woke up, Jacob said goodbye, and still Janet stayed. It wasn't all that unusual for the infirmary staff to see their boss work extreme overtime in the care of a critically-ill patient, but Sam was stable and well on her way to recovery. Typically that was the point when the doctor hung up her stethoscope and went home.

Still, she stayed.

Sam hadn't quite been herself before leaving, and now after the battle, the injury, and the news of the dissolving Tok'ra and Jaffa alliances, she seemed even further disconnected. The doctor knew her friend, and knew that eventually she'd need someone to latch onto who could pull her back to reality. So she waited, fought off her fatigue with liberal doses of caffeine, and watched.

It was on Janet's fifth casual stroll past Sam's bed that the blonde finally spoke up. "Janet?"

The doctor spun on her heel and stepped to to her friend's side. "Hey, Sam. How are you feeling?"

Sam's teeth were clenched, and she looked paler than usual. "Leg hurts."

A flicker of her hand, and Janet had released more medication into Sam's IV. She tugged the privacy curtain around the bed, then stroked Sam's arm softly as the painkiller took effect. Sam's entire body eventually relaxed, and she looked up at the doctor in weary relief. "Thank you."

"No problem. Anything else I can do?"

"Could you hang out for a bit?"

"Sure." Janet pulled up a chair and sat. "I'm sorry about your dad leaving."

Sam looked down and pulled at the crisp sheet over her abdomen. "Yeah, thanks."

The brunette blinked hard to force herself to stay alert. Something was bothering Sam, and Janet wouldn't feel all right leaving the base until she knew what it was. "I'm sure once the Tok'ra council has settled down, he'll be back in touch."

"I guess." Sam sighed. "It's just... People keep going away, you know? Not just my dad, but the Tok'ra I remember from Jolinar, and Cassie..."

"You have me," Janet pointed out, hoping to forestall the litany of loss. "You'll always have me."

A sudden, paralyzing fear gripped Sam. She stared at the doctor in blank horror. It was entirely too easy to apply the recent pattern of her life to the burgeoning romantic relationship with her best friend.

As if she'd read the blonde's thoughts, Janet leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Sam's brow. "Always," the doctor promised solemnly. She indulged in a gentle ruffle of the blonde's hair and ached for the anxiety obvious in Sam's eyes. "Would you like me to stay with you tonight?" Sam gave her a jerky nod, and Janet smiled. "Okay. You know, I think I owe you dinner. When you're released, how about you come over to my place? I make a mean stir fry."

"I'd like that," Sam whispered.

"Great." Janet kicked off her heels and settled herself more comfortably on her chair. "So tell me how you saved the known universe this time around."

Sam's pensive mood had not quite lifted a few days later when she was released from the infirmary, despite news from a Tok'ra operative that her efforts at the Alpha Site had apparently slowed Anubis' forces to a halt. It seemed the Goa'uld lord was reevaluating the threat of the Taur'i, which meant the galaxy got a breather while the clock stopped on his annihilation of the known universe.

Command was feeling optimistic, so much so that they'd invited a journalist to document the every day life of the SGC.

Janet shared that last bit of news with Sam over the promised stir fry and cheap beer, as the two women sat knee to knee on the floor of the doctor's living room and watched a profoundly awful science fiction movie on cable.

"A reporter? A civilian?!" Sam asked.

"Yup, with full access to the base and personnel."

"And Hammond didn't explode?"

Janet shrugged one shoulder. "He was actually pretty calm about the whole thing. I think he's counting on our collective reluctance to talk about the project to outsiders."

Sam just shook her head and swallowed another mouthful of her dinner. "That'll be weird."

"Well, think about it this way. Considering you're the brains - and beauty - of the entire operation, you'll likely be the star of the show. If the footage is ever released you'll have your very own nerd fan clubs popping up around the world."

The nerd in question was taking a sip of her beer and just barely managed not to choke at that comment. "I don't suppose I can arrange to be on medical leave while this guy's on base, huh?"

"Nope." The doctor smiled sweetly, in the way that said "If I have to suffer through this, so do you."

Sam did the dishes and returned to the living room just as a man in a giant bug outfit on the TV screen attacked some helpless trailer park residents. She dropped back down to the floor next to Janet and cheerfully settled in to watch the remainder of the movie. The conversation and companionship of the evening had done wonders, and she felt lighter than she had in weeks. When Janet snuggled against her side and rested her head against Sam's shoulder, it was all she could do to keep from snuggling back.

This was it, she realized. Her little relationship experiment had paid off, and now they had to figure out what happened next. "Hey, want to go for a walk?" Sam murmured. Janet shifted against the blonde's shoulder, the mild heat and friction nearly setting Sam's entire nervous system aflame.

"You don't want to see how this ends?"

"Killer robots from space come and wipe them all out," Sam guessed. She moved to look down at the doctor, and offered her a grin. "Please. Walk with me?"

The doctor grumbled a bit but let her friend lead her out of the house and on a brief, moonlit tour of Janet's quiet neighborhood. They didn't say much; Sam was quite busy rehearsing her potential lines. She nearly tripped when she felt Janet's hand fold around her own.

The two women stopped in a park next to a small creek. The moonlight bounced off the moving water in a graceful and shimmery way that reminded Sam of the Stargate's event horizon. Next to her she felt Janet shiver a bit, and she shrugged out of her leather jacket to lift it across her friend's shoulders.

"Sorry, didn't realize how chilly it had gotten," Sam murmured, tugging the collar of the jacket closed at Janet's throat. Her hands lingered there, brushing the underside of the smaller woman's jaw with her knuckles.

Luminous dark eyes peered up at her. "Sam, what are we doing?"

The blonde tried to ignore her thundering heartbeat, and considered the question carefully. "I don't know. I like it, though."

"We can't," came the rough reply.

"Why not?"

Janet blew out an exasperated breath. "I know you know the reasons."

"Maybe the reasons to try outweigh those." For a long moment their gazes fenced in an intense and silent battle. "Well, what if I quit the Air Force? Would that change anything or is it just an excuse?" She dimly realized she'd asked this question of another, but not with half the intensity she felt right now.

Janet backed away and stepped to one side. Sam immediately followed, keeping the doctor within arm's reach. Here, with only the moonlight as witness, Sam felt like they were locked in an evading little dance. Thankfully, for once she knew the steps.

"I would never ask you to give up your career," Janet said finally.

"Because you don't feel anything for me?"

"Sam," the doctor said, a warning tone lancing through the word. They were actually circling each other now, warily maintaining a proprietary distance, as if staying apart meant they weren't actually talking about what they were talking about.

"I'd let you go right now if I knew there was no chance," the blonde declared brashly.

Janet scoffed. "That easy?"

"I didn't say it would be easy."

"Then what's stopping you if you really want to know?"

There it was, the challenge Sam had been waiting for. "Nothing," she breathed, taking a step closer to her friend and tipping the smaller woman's chin upward with a gentle hand. The kiss was far less carnal than the one she remembered in her dream, but when Janet began to respond it still left her breathless. One of Sam's hands slipped inside the leather jacket draped around Janet's shoulders, trailing insistent fingers across the fabric of her shirt beneath. Then they parted, breathing loudly into each other's ears.

"God, Sam," Janet muttered, dazed.

"I want more -- I want everything. And I want it with you."

The doctor licked kiss-bruised lips and looked up into clear eyes gone violet in the moonlight, radiating desire. How could any woman resist a seductive plea like that? "Why now?"

"I finally figured it out. You make me happy. More than anyone ever has."

"This is so sudden..." Janet protested.

"Seven years. Nothing sudden about it," the blonde countered. "We make each other better, Janet. Together we've changed the course of the entire world." She latched onto the doctor's hand, twining their fingers together, reveling in the pull between them. She could admit now that it had always been there, even though she had always so carefully rationalized and denied it. "Tell me you feel that."

Dark eyes slid shut. "Sam... This is too dangerous."

"Jumping into wormholes and flying across the galaxy to take on gods is 'dangerous.' This is easy." Her pulse skittered faster. "You have to feel that," she pleaded.

"I do," the doctor answered. She shuddered with the power of the admission.

"Then we're exactly where we're supposed to be," Sam replied. She took another step forward, cutting the space between them. Slowly, giving the other woman every chance to back away, she lowered her head to seek another kiss. This time Janet met her halfway, crushing their lips together in near desperation.

The list Sam had been carefully maintaining of heretofore unnoticed and wonderful things about her best friend exploded under the pressure of her hands and tongue and scent as they pressed closer together under the moonlight. It was frenzied and rough, and just as quickly as it started it was over.

Janet reeled backward, her eyes wild and unfocused. She panted heavily into the night air, large billowing clouds of vapor that stretched out between them. Her eyes slid shut as she tried to steady herself.

"Janet, I lo..."

"Don't," the other woman interrupted. "Don't say it. Not yet." She opened her eyes again an forced herself to meet the blonde's wide-open, hurt expression. "I knew we were getting closer, that this was building..." She was on the verge of babbling, so she took another slow breath to calm down. "This is a lot to take in right now. Can we just slow down a bit?"

Grace's voice popped into Sam's head, a solemn repeat of her previous warning: You are running out of time. Outwardly, she forced a smile. "Of course we can. I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Janet said immediately. She gravitated toward the taller woman with a smile, eventually drawing close enough to wrap her arms around Sam's waist and press her face into the crook of Sam's neck. "I can't believe this is actually happening."

Sam returned the embrace with a sigh, pushed the dire warnings of subconscious images out of her head, and concentrated solely on the feel of her best friend in her arms.

Sam tossed and turned that night. During rare moments of actual sleep, she managed to catch fragments of yet another dream.

Grace sat in front of a chess board. Many of the pieces were missing, and the little girl studied the remainder with great seriousness. She moved her knight. then looked up at Sam expectantly.

"That's not a valid move," Sam heard herself saying.

"It's the move you must make," Grace countered.

By the time morning rolled around, Sam was more exhausted than she had been before.

As Janet had predicted, Sam was quite popular with the film crew. She was smart, enthusiastic, and photogenic as hell. Emmett Bregman was convinced he'd hit a journalistic goldmine.

That was, at least, until he stepped into the infirmary.

Janet's staff had never seen the CMO quite so chipper. She sailed through the infirmary with the film crew in her wake, smiling and cracking jokes for the entire morning, even teasing a smile out of the chronically clumsy Sergeant Siler. By the time she sat down in front of the camera to review Colonel O'Neill's records, Bregman was thoroughly charmed. He talked her into sharing lunch with him, and sat across from her with a ridiculously dazzled smile on his face.

She decided she enjoyed the whole interview process, and definitely enjoyed turning the tables on Bregman. She looked pointedly at his wedding ring, and at the flustered beads of sweat that had broken out across his brow. He was a nice enough guy, once you got past the journalistic bravado, and he was clearly still mourning but confused and unsure how to really step back onto the relationship trail. The doctor couldn't help but sympathize.

"So how do any of you have a personal life?" he asked.

The doctor munched a piece of fruit from her salad with a mysterious grin. A personal life was a definite luxury in her particular line of work. Tall, gorgeous astrophysicists didn't come by and declare their undying love every day.

An airman bustled into the commissary. "Excuse me, ma'am. You're required in the ready room immediately."

Janet jumped up. "Sorry, I have to go," she said to Bregman, and hurried out.

Janet waited at the base of the ramp in the gateroom, holding for her turn to jump to P3X-666, dwarfed by the heavily armed soldiers surrounding her. She restrained her urge to look up at Hammond in the Control Room, knowing he was fully aware of the irony of his orders on the heels of his decision the week before to keep her out of potential combat.

Sam shifted her grip on her weapon and followed her CO up the ramp. She knew Janet was behind her, somewhere. She took a deep breath and leapt into the event horizon's puddle...

... and landed squarely in the middle of a warzone. The situation had deteriorated far more radically than SG-13 had anticipated. She dropped to one knee just off the Stargate's pedestal, opening up with cover fire to clear the way for the rest of the team. Small clusters of soldiers continued to arrive through the gate, three and four at a time, until Janet was there and barking orders at her medics. The group split up, with the big guns hanging back to hold the gate, while the rest fanned out to clear a path to and from the downed airman.

The ground rumbled underfoot, shaken by the sheer volume of firepower unleashed above it. Sam's ears rang as she ducked and rolled behind better cover, following Colonel O'Neill's lead. Hot wind from a bomb dropped a hundred yards away burned in her lungs, then suddenly it all went eerily quiet.

Like a diamond in the sky...

Sam hesitated, then whipped her head around. Grace stood peacefully off to one side, right in the middle of the battlefield. The girl pointed in the general direction Janet had gone, then walked away and disappeared.

Sound came roaring back into her brain as Sam launched herself from behind her cover and took off running the way Grace had indicated.

She could hear Janet over the comm, saying something about how Wells couldn't be moved just yet. She could hear Colonel O'Neill's surprised bellow, and subsequent order for the major to return to her position. She could hear herself, yelling Janet's name. Mostly she heard her own heartbeat, thundering in her ears to the counterpoint of Grace's quiet words of a few nights previous:

"You are running out of time."

Carter crested the rise at a full run, saw the stray Jaffa across the clearing, and screamed Janet's name as loud as she possibly could.

The doctor leaned back from the injured airman to turn and respond to the summons.

Suddenly Sam felt the plasma burn in the air as the Jaffa's staff discharged, an almost accidental shot that was by sheer chance headed straight for Janet, who was by sheer chance turning away just a fraction too slowly.

Janet made an alarmed grunt and spun as the blast glanced past her abdomen. She turned twice in the air and landed face first in the leaf litter.

Sam didn't even break stride as she emptied her entire clip into the Jaffa, then finally pelted to a stop at Janet's side. Airman Wells and Daniel regarded both women with equal shock as she gingerly patted Janet down, searching for injuries. Sam was practically whimpering Janet's name as she probed gently along her friend's abdomen in the dirt. She could feel the scorching, feel the wide swath of uniform simply torn away by the energy of the blast...

Janet groaned, and flexed a little. She lifted her head up from the ground and squinted at a dead leaf stuck in her bangs. "Ow."

"Janet?" Sam breathed. Impatiently, she pulled her weapon over her head and tossed it away, then helped ease the doctor into a sitting position.

The brunette coughed weakly, and pressed a hand to her belly, feeling skin exposed where fabric and armor had simply disintegrated. "Guess that armor works," she said wryly. She quickly took stock of her condition, the familiar routine helping to ward off unconsciousness. She had a few minor burns across her skin where the armor hadn't covered. Breathing was difficult - likely because of the cracked ribs she could feel throbbing faintly under brewing layers of shock.

"Stay still," Sam ordered, holding the smaller woman's body desperately close. Her own hands followed Janet's, probing the mercifully unbroken skin, stilling at the gasp of pain as she encountered a sensitive spot.

"Sam, I'm okay," Janet murmured, almost inaudibly. "I'm okay." Behind her, around her, she could feel shaking, and she wasn't sure if it was from Sam or herself. She found one of the blonde's hands and twined their fingers together. "I'm okay," she said again. Sam's only response was to bury her face into the brunette's shoulder and hold on for dear life.

Daniel just sat on his haunches, blinking at them both. He abruptly realized his video camera was still on and capturing the entire scene. He snapped it shut. Turning his attention back to Wells' injuries, he did his best to secure the bandages Fraiser had applied even as field medics swarmed around them.

Once Wells was safely loaded onto a stretcher, he peered up at Daniel, thoroughly dazed. "Is the Doc all right?"

"Yeah," Jackson confirmed. He smiled and patted the soldier's bloodied arm. "And you're going to be, too."

"Carter!" O'Neill growled once he broke the event horizon in the gateroom. "What the hell was that?!" The iris closed behind him, and he ripped his worn ballcap off his head. "You DO NOT abandon your post in the middle of a firefight to go running off to... Hey, Carter!"

She tore her eyes from the medics who were hurrying Fraiser and Wells to the infirmary, and looked up at her CO. "Sorry, sir," she said simply.

He glared at her, and decided that the lecture could wait. Besides, the burn on his arm was really starting to smart. He saw her eyes widen as she noticed his injury for the first time.

"Sir, you're hurt?"

"Just winged me," he replied. "I'd left cover to haul your ass back to the 'gate. Probably would have been a lot worse otherwise."

She blinked at him, having absolutely no idea how to properly respond to that. "Sir."

O'Neill just sighed. "Go check on Fraiser."

Sam nodded and practically bolted from the gateroom. In the hall, Bregman intercepted her, blocking her passage with his camera crew. "Get out of my way," she ordered sternly. The airmen shrank from her glare and let her get to the elevator, leaving the hapless journalist spouting questions in her wake.

"He needs to be on antibiotics, that burn is going to infect," Janet called over the busy medical staff clustered around Airman Wells. "Check for nervous response..."

"Sit down, Doctor!" Warner demanded over his shoulder. "You've done your job, now let us do ours." He ordered the airman be transported to surgery. The frenetic buzz in the infirmary dissipated in their wake, leaving Janet sagging in sore exhaustion.

Doctor Oliveras, one of her junior staff, approached her with a faint smile. "Doctor Fraiser, we need to do some x-rays."

"Why? Nothing's broken," she muttered. The young man gave her a mild look that informed her she couldn't get away with that, and she grumpily submitted to his ministrations.

Janet found herself more than a little shaken, now that she'd done her duty and made it home and safe. Close calls were common in the SGC, but this was her first personal experience with such a literal brush with death. Had she not been turning to look back at Sam, she would have taken the blast squarely in the gut. Given the new armor's reaction to just the glancing blow, she had little doubt that she'd have been killed on direct impact.

She wanted to be in surgery, looking after Airman Wells. She wanted to be puttering around her infirmary, doing paperwork, or God help her, even talking to Bregman. She wanted to be doing anything to distract from the alarming feeling that she was now on borrowed time, a living ghost roaming the earth after accidentally surviving her designated death.

In a vague and clinical way, Janet could feel she was on the verge of a panic attack. She was propped up in a bed behind privacy curtains, listening to the normal medical bustle without, removed from it. Maybe she was actually dead. Maybe...

The curtains parted just a bit to allow Sam's tousled blonde head to peek in. "Would you mind some company?" Carter asked. She was still in her tactical gear, and looked like she'd taken a jog through Hell before finding the infirmary.

Janet was so relieved she felt her eyes well with tears. "Please," she answered.

Sam grinned and stepped within the curtains, then closed them carefully behind her. "They're saying Wells should be okay. He'll probably keep both his legs."

"Good," Janet replied. She liked the young father-to-be, and wanted him to be able to return to his family.

Sam couldn't seem to decide what to do with her hands. They were in her pockets, then out, then tangled in the bunched sheets at the side of the bed, then folded behind her back. "Close one, this time," she murmured.

Janet took a deep breath. "It was." She reached out to grab one of the blonde's wandering hands and give it a comforting squeeze. "But you were there... Somehow you knew. You saved my life."

The blonde looked like she could burst into tears at the slightest provocation. She sat heavily on the bed next to Janet and screwed her eyes shut. For a long moment she focused only on the warm hand in her own, on the warm pulse she could feel beat reassuringly under Janet's skin. A hand was stroking her hair, and she realized Janet was speaking again, almost inaudibly in deference to the rest of the infirmary beyond the curtains.

"It's okay, Sam. We're home. We're safe."

Any tenuous emotional control Sam had at that point dissolved. She choked back a sob, then without even opening her eyes she scooted closer to Janet and drew the smaller woman into her arms. They clung to each other, heedless of the grimy tactical vest and the odd cracked rib.

"I love you," Sam breathed into Janet's ear.

The doctor couldn't muster a response, but she tightened her hold on Sam as tears slipped down her cheeks.

A few days later Daniel stepped tentatively into General Hammond's office. Colonel O'Neill was already there, and gave the younger man a little nod of greeting. "You wanted to see me, General?" Daniel asked.

"Yes, Doctor Jackson. I understand you have a tape..."

"I'm not turning it over," Daniel responded instantly.

"I'm afraid we don't have much choice in the matter," Hammond pointed out. "Mister Bregman went over my head. I've been ordered to give him the tape."

"That could..." The archeologist sighed. "That might not be the best idea."

Hammond and O'Neill shared a curious look. "Daniel?" the colonel ventured.

"Someone who saw it... might make... inferences."

"Inferences? What the hell are you talking about?" O'Neill growled.

"Something You Guys aren't allowed to talk about!" Daniel cried, waving his hands between the two officers.

O'Neill shrugged helplessly at Hammond, who only sighed. "Doctor Jackson, do you have the tape now?"


"Put it in, let's take a look."

The younger man frowned and set up the video player, then sat down next to Jack. The first shots were whirling bits of dirt and tree branches, then the camera swung up to Airman Wells' pale, strained face. He babbled a bit to his wife, then cried out and asked Daniel to turn the camera off, saying he didn't want his wife to see him die.

Daniel pushed himself out of his chair and looked away from the monitor. This part he had burned into his retinas; he could see it every time he closed his eyes. He certainly didn't need the video reminder of the horror he'd felt watching his friend be nearly killed.

"I want you to hang on, Airman," Janet was saying. She was leaning close over the young injured man, effectively ordering him to maintain focus and stay conscious. A racket sounded from somewhere off-camera, followed by Major Carter screaming the doctor's name. Janet shifted backwards, just a little, turning out of the frame of the camera.

Just then a flash bisected the screen. Hammond and O'Neill both flinched, watching their colleague tossed into the air by the intensity of the blast.

"Jesus, that was close," O'Neill muttered.

The speakers crackled with input overload as Sam expended uncountable rounds into the Jaffa who'd fired the blast, then the major dropped to her knees beside the doctor on the ground.

The archeologist's camera work grew more erratic then, as if he'd halfway risen to assist Sam, but was reluctant to step away from Wells. Still, both women were in frame when Janet coughed and sat up, safely ensconced in the firm hold of her friend.

The embrace and soft words that followed made the general and colonel both blink in surprise, finally having realized what had the archeologist so concerned. Then the tape fizzled to an end as Daniel shut the camera off.

Hammond sat back in his seat, mulling what he'd just witnessed. While not terribly damning, he could see why Jackson had been so reluctant for the tape to fall into outside hands, especially sensational journalists who had less than pure motives in regard to storytelling. Daniel stood by the windows of the office, looking back at the general anxiously. Colonel O'Neill's jaw sagged just a bit as he stared at the now-blank television monitor. "Oh," he said, finally putting many things together in his head.

"Doctor Jackson, thank you for bringing this to my attention. You're dismissed," the general pronounced.

"Wait a minute, if someone sees that and gets the wrong idea... We can't let this be used this against them," the archeologist protested.

"Dismissed, Doctor," Hammond repeated firmly. Daniel sighed and left the office. Hammond turned his attention to O'Neill. "Colonel," the general began. "Has Major Carter ever exhibited any inappropriate..."

"Never, sir," O'Neill said firmly.

"And you're not aware of any..." Hammond waggled his fingers in a vague gesture.

"No sir. I'm not aware of anything at all."

Hammond smiled a bit at that. "All right. I've been ordered to hand over this tape to Mister Bregman upon his return to base at 0930." His pronounced drawl on the the journalist's name only amplified his obvious lack of respect for the man. "However, if something were to happen to the tape in the meantime that rendered it unviewable, that would be... unfortunate."

O'Neill grinned. "Understood, sir." He stood, plucked the tape from the viewer, and bounded out of the office.

At 0937 O'Neill sauntered back into his CO's office, ignoring the smug look on Bregman's face as he fished the tape out of his pocket. He handed it to the eager journalist with just a hint of disgust. "Here. Doubt you'll get much use out of it, though."

Bregman snatched the tape. "And why do you say that, Colonel?"

"I have a thing for... magnets."


"Yeah. They're fun," the colonel said. "Carter keeps a bunch of electromagnets in her lab. I like to play with them every once in a while. There is a... faint... possibility that that tape may have been exposed to a massive magnetic field a few minutes ago." He held up a hand, two fingers held apart describing a minute distance. "Yup. Teeny chance there."

Bregman's jaw clenched, and he glared at Hammond. Without further comment he whirled and stalked out of the office.

O'Neill gave Hammond a wry look, then wandered out the way he came.

It took all Sam's willpower not to point it out, but Janet was still moving a bit slowly even two weeks after coming back from P3X-666. The doctor hesitated just fractionally at each step, as if preparing herself for the impending stress on her sore ribs. Sam's hands itched to help her but she kept her distance, knowing Janet would ask for help when she truly desired it.

When they were both on the porch, Sam knocked on the door. After a shuffling noise within the door opened and revealed Simon Wells. He leaned heavily on a cane and bore the trademark exhaustion of a new father.

Sam held up the floppy teddy bear she'd brought for the baby. "Hi."

Wells grinned. "Major, Doctor. It's good to see you. Please come in." He escorted them to his living room, where his wife nursed their very new, very pink little daughter. "Honey?" he called. "They're here."

"Oh, she's gorgeous," Janet murmured. A smile lit her face as she took in the newborn.

Sam looked to Wells. "She?"

"Yeah," the airman said sheepishly. He'd paraded that ultrasound picture of his "son" all over base. "Doesn't matter a bit."

"No, of course not," Janet agreed. Sam looked at her, fascinated by the new, low melody of her voice.

"Would you like to hold her?" Marcy Wells asked, hefting the bundled child to the doctor.

"I'd love to," Janet replied. She tucked her arms under the tiny body and perched on the ottoman across from the child's mother. "Hi there," she said into the tiny face. Baby Wells blinked sleepily in response. All signs of lingering pain from the doctor's injury were gone as she rocked baby gently. Sam just watched them both and grinned like an idiot.

After a few minutes, Marcy Wells looked seriously at the woman holding her child. "Doctor Fraiser..."

"Janet," the doctor corrected with a smile. "Please."

"Janet. You do this kind of thing a lot, don't you?"

"Hold babies? Not nearly as often as I'd like." She lifted a finger to stroke the infant's soft, perfect cheek.

"No... You save soldiers. Put yourself at risk so they can go home to their families."

Janet sighed, and spared the younger woman a thoughtful look. "Sometimes. But they do the same for me." She looked up at Sam as she said that, and smiled. "It comes with the territory."

"You're a hero," Marcy said reverently. "Thank you."

Janet's eyes abruptly welled with tears, and a nod was the only response she could manage.

Sam rested a gentle hand on the doctor's shoulder, offering the comfort she instinctively knew her friend needed. "So what's her name?"

Husband and wife looked at each other with a sheepish shrug. "We were thinking maybe 'Janet.'" On the doctor's alarmed look, Marcy chuckled. "But Doctor Jackson warned us you might not be comfortable with that. Her name is Grace."

Sam's knees nearly buckled. She paled and sank down onto the ottoman behind Janet.

"It's beautiful," Janet declared. She bent and cooed into the little girl's face.

"Perfect," Sam agreed, on the barest of breaths.

A while later the little girl dozed in Janet's arms, soothed to sleep by the doctor's gentle voice as she sang a lullaby.

... How I wonder what you are.

Sam shut her eyes and rested her forehead against Janet's shoulder.

"You're being quiet again," Janet murmured.

Sam snapped out of her reverie and regarded the doctor, who was leaning against the doorframe of Sam's living room. The blonde had been sitting on the edge of her couch, staring into space. She reached out and beckoned Janet closer.

"I was just thinking," Sam said.

"About Grace?"

Sam shook her head. "About you." She latched onto Janet's hand and pulled the smaller woman even closer, tugging until Janet was straddling her knees. From this proximity it was impossible for Sam not to reach up and stroke the doctor's soft cheek, or tangle her fingers in dark, thick hair. She smiled when she realized Janet was leaning into her touch and humming in contentment. "I've been making a list," Sam whispered.

"And checking it twice?" the doctor returned, quirking an eyebrow.

The blonde rolled her eyes. "I've been making a list of all the things I love about you. Trying to figure out if the preponderance of evidence indicated I was in love with you. Seeing you with Grace today, that was it - the end of the list."

Janet felt her heart start to hammer out of control, but she kept up the front of vague, mild interest. "How charmingly anal of you. Just what kinds of things were on this list?"

"Your eyes. Your smile," Sam started to recite. "Your voice. Your..." She was cut off by the sudden press of lips against hers, as Janet kissed her deeply. The doctor's weight tilted against her, warm and pliable as they shifted together, seeking the pleasure of friction.

This was the kiss Sam remembered from her dreamscape, but about ten times as powerful as the heady sensations burned through her. She wound her hands under the hem of Janet's shirt, then froze as the brunette broke away with a surprised hiss of pain. "Sorry," Sam whispered.

"'Sokay," Janet breathed. She took a few moments to calm her thoroughly overloaded nerves. Soon her hands were roaming again, exploring the contrasting sensations of soft cotton against Sam's collarbone, and the muscles bunched temptingly in Sam's back and shoulders. Janet chanced another brief kiss, then pressed her forehead against the blonde's.

"Are we really doing this?" Sam asked. The hope and love radiating from her eyes were almost too much for the doctor to bear. By way of answering, Janet pulled herself off the blonde's lap and held out a hand. Sam took it and let herself be led down the hall to her bedroom.

After jockeying for positions that did not put undue stress on Janet's lingering injury, they began to learn each other, transforming years of intense friendship and camaraderie into intimate caress and taste. At long last it culminated in a thrumming rhythm that beat between them both, punctuated only by Janet whispering "I love you," over and over again as they came together.

Sometime later Janet lay propped on her elbow, trailing her fingertips in an artful pattern across Sam's bare sternum. "So what really happened to you back in that nebula, anyway?"

Sam chuckled, not even a little surprised the doctor had made that particular connection. "I don't know how to explain it... It was like parts of me just knew things, and needed to get the rest of me to figure it out." She frowned and squinted into the darkness, considering her own explanation.

"You're so beautiful when you think," Janet murmured.

The blonde flushed immediately, feeling ridiculous as she tried to stammer her way through repaying the compliment. "Not as... I mean, you're..." A single finger came to rest across her lips, silencing her.

"The world is so big and so amazing in your eyes," Janet continued with a reverent look. "And you wear your fascination with the purity of a child. It's beautiful."

A flash of a little girl in pigtails warbling off-key lullabies crossed Sam's mind, along with the words of a subconscious iteration of her lover: "You're the most graceful person I know." With that, the dreams, confusion, and odd knowledge left by the experience in the nebula finally sorted themselves to order in her brain. The little girl was a representation of herself, the person who wouldn't have been unless she paid attention to the clues she'd somehow already picked up. Now that little girl had a mother and a father and a future, and Sam was free to be exactly where she was. She broke into a grin, then laughed a little, and reached up to grasp Janet's hand at her lips and press a kiss to her lover's palm. "Janet, you've just made my entire life make sense."

The doctor gave her a charmed, though mildly confused smile. "I did?"

Sam nodded, and held her new lover's hand with something akin to worship. "The past few months, anyway." She sighed happily. "I love you, you know?"

"I know," she answered, then grinned slowly. "I had a list, too."


"Yeah. But I had my preponderance of evidence a long time ago. You were just slow."

Sam huffed out a surprised breath. "Well, not all of us are freakishly brilliant," she tossed back. "Especially about emotional stuff."

Janet's eyes twinkled. "'Emotional stuff.'" She stared deeply into her lover's eyes and got lost there for a long moment. "Whatever it was you were trying to tell yourself, I'm glad you listened." She chuckled a bit. "I'm glad you got me to listen, too."

"Seven years, and we're just at the beginning," Sam breathed, returning the deep, soulful look. "It's going to be amazing."

"Definitely," the brunette agreed. "I love you." She fought off a yawn, then with one last deeply content look at Sam she burrowed into her pillow and promptly fell asleep. Sam watched her for a moment longer, then relaxed and joined her in slumber. For the first time in a long time she didn't dream.

And when she woke up the next morning to face the rest of her life, Janet was there.

Of course.

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