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rocketfic | my only light

Title: My Only Light by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Part 5 of 9 of the Ancient Air Series. Sequel to Catch Me in a Dreamr.

The dream was loud, chaotic. She found herself in the middle of a swirl of light, surrounded by contentious voices, all crying out at her in alien syllables. Eventually the words resolved themselves into coherent sounds, and Janet realized they were calling for help.

She stared hard into the light. "Where are you?"

A face broke through the energies before her, alien and yet familiar. "To find Us you must lose Her."

Janet recoiled, then jerked awake.

She sat up in bed and looked over at the empty spot in the bed next to her, regaining her breath with deep gulps. It was the same dream, over and over, for the past three nights since Sam had returned to P7X-943 with SG-1 to supervise the transplantation of the last of Alain's people.

Sam was fine, she told herself again. She'd know in a heartbeat if she wasn't. It was just a dream, nothing to worry about.

Dark eyes stared solemnly into the shadows of the bedroom. She wasn't getting any more sleep that night.

"So Carter, how's our progress?"

"Sir?" His 2IC blinked at him in confusion.

"The plants?" O'Neill clarified with a vague gesture at the surrounding foliage. "You were supervising the plant thing."

"Oh, right," Sam said quickly, refocusing her attention on the task at hand. "It's going well. The exobiologists are having a field day... They think the new location will support the samples perfectly."

The colonel nodded, studying her for a moment, noticing the rather distracted look still lingering in her eyes. "You need to stop getting hurt, Carter. All that downtime messes with your head."

She smiled, and sketched a mock salute. "Yes, sir."

O'Neill grunted a bit and wandered off, resting his forearms on the P90 clipped to his flak jacket as he watched the frenetic activity around the village. A few dozen natives remained, packing away the last bits of their lives in preparation for transplant to the new site SG-12 had located. It had been two weeks since they'd first arrived here, gotten captured by a minor Goa'uld lord, and discovered that the indigenous people held a possible key to stopping the Goa'uld once and for all in their natural resistance to symbiote implantation.

Every day since had been a frantic attempt to stay one step ahead of the Goa'uld. SG teams deployed all over the galaxy to find a suitable transplant site that was not contained on the Abydos cartouche, thereby minimizing the chances the Goa'uld would find these people again and eliminate them as a potential threat to galactic dominion. At the SGC, Doctor Fraiser and a team of scientists worked on the samples they'd collected from the planet to discover what interaction between human biochemistry and the local flora could possibly have created their unique resistance.

The village was nearly deserted now, and the vast majority of the villagers had been successfully moved to their new home via the Stargate. Colonel O'Neill allowed himself a moment to relax, already foreseeing the mission successfully completed.

His comm chirped. "Colonel O'Neill, we have an incoming wormhole. SGC is sending more personnel," reported one of the airmen stationed at the gate.

"Copy that," he responded. "Escort them to the village."

O'Neill looked around with some satisfaction. For once, things were going smoothly.

Sam wandered the periphery of the village, her brow creased in preoccupation. Unfortunately, her CO's little joke rang a bit too true for comfort. Since returning to duty she'd found it remarkably difficult to get her head back into the mission. Things were still feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges; the people around her were less distinct, her reactions were less sharp, and her brain generally felt like it was mired in quicksand.

Not to mention she'd been introduced to the lead exobiologist for the SGC four times now, and still couldn't remember his name.

"Sam?" came a voice behind her. She turned and saw Janet approaching, laden with heavy equipment.

"Hey," Sam greeted with a smile, as she helped Janet shed her gear. "What are you doing here?"

"I remembered that I wanted to collect some atmospheric samples," the doctor answered. They worked in concert to unpack the required sensors. "You know, just in case what we're looking for isn't actually in the plants."

Sam thumbed a switch and the machine started to thunk as it took measurements of chemical levels in the air around them. "You could have sent anybody out to do this," she said in a mildly scolding tone.

Janet gave her an unconvincing smile. "Yeah, well."

At that, faint alarms chimed in the blonde's head, and she studied her lover for a long moment. "You look tired."

"Haven't been sleeping well," Janet answered with a shrug.

"Bad dreams," they both said at the same time.

The brunette looked up in surprise. "You too?"

Sam nodded a bit, and sighed. Given their recent history, coinciding nightmares could not be safely ignored. "We'll talk about it later, okay?" she murmured. A moment later her brain pinged in realization. "You wanted to check up on me," she said with a grin. "Aw."

Janet returned the smile with a touch of sheepishness, completely unable to deny her true intention for convincing General Hammond to let her come back to this world. The blonde laughed, and set about helping Janet collect the rest of her samples.

Alain and the remainder of his people threw yet another feast in SG-1's honor that evening. They set an impressive bonfire outside the communal building in the center of the village, feeding it with furniture and the stray scraps of their lives that they could not take with them through the Stargate. They called it a fire of purification, of sanctification, a ritual that would allow them to start anew on another world.

Janet sat next to Sam, set slightly apart from the group of native revelers, talking quietly. Colonel O'Neill and Daniel watched the rather impressive spectacle from the other side of the fire, and Teal'c circled curiously as the evening wore on.

"So tell me about the dreams," Sam said, watching the firelight dance across her lover's features. Janet took a steadying breath and described the nightmare that had been plaguing her for the past three nights.

"What about you?" Janet asked when she was done. She blinked rapidly as a billow of pungent smoke wafted over from the roaring fire, and the tears already pooled in her eyes broke and spilled across her cheeks.

The blonde raised a gentle hand to wipe them away. "I don't remember them, actually. I just keep waking up in a cold sweat."

It occurred to Janet in a hazy sort of way that there could be some unintended narcotic effect to the organic materials being consumed in the bonfire. Things were oddly magnified, like the crystal blue of Sam's eyes, and the roar of her own heartbeat in her ears as they drew inexorably closer together. Then again, she'd never needed a buzz to feel that shiver of desire around Sam.

Sam blinked at her, recognizing the now feral burn evident in Janet's eyes. She grabbed Janet's hand and stood, hauling her upright. "We need to get out of here." She led the doctor to a small empty house upwind from the fire, where she'd been bunking for the past few days. She turned to ask Janet if she was feeling any better and found herself pushed roughly against the stone wall, caught in a fierce kiss as deft fingers started undoing her uniform. Sam tore her lips away from her lover's and groaned. "Janet, we can't do this here."

That drew the smaller woman up short, and her fingers stilled guiltily. "You're right. I'm sorry," she murmured, dropping her head to rest on Sam's collarbone. She took a couple deep breaths of the thankfully clear air. "I think there might be something in that smoke. We should probably warn the others."

She took a couple steps away before Sam reached out to snag her arm. "If Colonel O'Neill ends up jumping Daniel, I think they'll figure it out." She sat, propping her back against the nearby wall, and tugged on Janet's sleeve. "C'mere, talk to me."

Janet settled herself between Sam's long legs, half-turned so she could rest her head on Sam's shoulder. Here, in the blonde's protective embrace, her nagging worries seemed rather ridiculous. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I think I'm just tired."

"You think that dream means you're going to lose me," Sam countered in a quiet voice.

The doctor forced an unconvincing smile. "It's just a dream."

The taller woman clucked a bit. "We both know better than that." Of its own accord, her hand wandered and tangled in Janet's dark hair, and they snuggled a bit closer together. "I'm not going anywhere."

"If you do, you can be damn sure I'll follow," Janet affirmed with a sigh.

"So have you seen him yet?" Sam asked quietly.

The doctor knew instantly who she was referring to, the guide who tended to show up and point them in the right direction when odd occurrences like these started piling up on each other. So far, the Seer of the Eloyim had been quite absent. She shook her head a bit. "But I'd like to know why the universe can't pick on someone else for a while."

"Well, when you're good, you're good," Sam answered with a grin, which Janet could barely return. "Hey. We'll manage," the blonde vowed, sealing the promise with a gentle kiss, which melted into another, and another, then finally they abandoned all pretense of exercising self-control and began mutually pulling off clothing.

Well, it was supposed to be a celebration of renewal, Sam considered as Janet pulled her upright. At first they weren't sure if the small palette in the corner could hold their combined weight, but it held up admirably as they moved together in the waning firelight.

Whether it was because of the smoke, or exhaustion, or the basic comfort of being together, when they finally did get to sleep, neither dreamed.

Even Teal'c looked almost hung-over the next morning. Janet raised a hand in front of her face to block the harsh glare of the sun, eyeing the Stargate with queasy trepidation.

"Hey Doc, you going through or coming back with us?" Colonel O'Neill asked as they watched the last of the indigenous people file calmly into the open gate, followed by the science team and the assorted SFs they'd brought along. "We're taking that Goa'uld ship and meeting the Tok'ra on P59-4782 before gating home. You're welcome to tag along."

Janet looked at him in mild surprise. She hadn't expected to be given the option, but since he'd asked... "I think I'd like to go with you, if that's all right, sir." Cassie wasn't expecting her back, and despite the reassurances of the previous night she was still worried about Sam, and hardly relished the idea of bidding her farewell again today.

"Sure, no problem. Figured you might like a look at deep space sometime," he answered with a grin, which turned into a wince as the muscles in his head protested the movement, and he wandered away. She watched him curiously for a moment, trying to decide if she should take his explanation at face value, or if he somehow suspected she wanted to stick by Sam a little more than usual. Either way it was pretty thoughtful for him to even offer. She wondered if he was even aware of his occasional penchant for being a really nice guy.

After the last of the SGC personnel were through and the wormhole disengaged, Teal'c secured a few loops of cable around the ring of the gate. With the help of a MALP stuck in low gear, the gate dislodged from its pedestal and crashed to the ground.

Sam and Janet paired up to take apart the DHD, yanking the naquada power source out from its housing and arbitrarily severing the circuits within, while Teal'c and Daniel poured a mixture of concrete over the fallen Stargate. It wasn't perfectly secure, but anyone wanting to use the Stargate to travel to or from this world would certainly find it inconvenient.

A few hours later, they'd all packed themselves aboard the Goa'uld ship. Colonel O'Neill held out his hands, looking around at his team. "We sure we got everything?"

Daniel ducked under a small tree, one of several they'd uprooted and brought aboard as a sample to pass along to the Tok'ra. "We'd better, it's like Noah's ark in here."

With Teal'c at the controls, the ship lifted off and hovered gingerly a few hundred feet from the surface. Janet found herself a bit disoriented by the lack of inertia within the craft, automatically bracing herself against a console as the ship's nose dipped. The Jaffa input a pre-set command and the ship launched its new payload, several canisters of naquada-enhanced napalm that promptly ignited the entire village and the surrounding forest.

For some reason the sight made Janet faintly nauseous, and she turned away from the cockpit window with a deliberate swallow. Teal'c maneuvered the Goa'uld craft in a low arc over the village, surveying the destruction.

"Does anyone else have a dull sense of foreboding?" Daniel murmured.

O'Neill backhanded him across the shoulder. "Don't be so melodramatic," he said crankily, then fell silent as the communal hall just visible below the craft buckled in the intense heat. Even he had to admit it was a little eerie.

A long moment later, he took a deep breath. "Okay, we're done here. Let's go."

The ship obligingly zipped up and out of the atmosphere.

Janet wandered out of the storage room they'd converted into temporary quarters. The air was chilly on the ship, and she shivered a bit as she padded out to the cockpit area. Colonel O'Neill sat at the ship's controls, with his booted feet propped up on the console as the ship sped cleanly through hyperspace.

"Hey, Doc," he said, tipping his head backwards over the headrest of the chair to look at her. "Can't sleep?" He saw her shake her head, then offered an understanding smile. "Carter calls it hyperspace sickness. Sometimes it takes some getting used to."

She nodded, and folded her arms as she watched the play of light outside the craft, knowing that Sam could explain what she was seeing if she asked. "Colonel, why am I here?"

O'Neill exhaled loudly, and pulled his feet off the console, letting them drop to the deck. "Whaddya mean?"

"You should have sent me back to the SGC with the rest of our personnel."

He looked up at her with a frown, and pointed to the chair next to his. Janet immediately took the indicated seat, now feeling a shiver of disquiet. "I wanted to talk to you," he explained. "I'm worried about Carter. She hasn't been herself lately."

"I'm not sure what you're referring to," Janet said carefully.

"Save it, Doc. I know you're worried too, that's why you strong-armed General Hammond into letting you gate back out to check on her."

The doctor bit her lip. "What sort of symptoms have you observed?"

"No symptoms, really. She's just not... all there, you know?" He looked a little embarrassed for bringing it up at all. "Anyone else, you wouldn't even notice. But Carter's different."

"Yeah," Janet breathed in agreement.

"It's nothing specific. Yet," he added pointedly. "But we all depend on her, and I need to know she's at one hundred percent."

She sat up straight. "I can order a full workup when we get back to Earth, sir."

O'Neill winced a bit at her formality, and held up a placating hand. "That's a bit premature. Look, Doc... Janet," her name sounded odd coming from his mouth, but he forged ahead anyway. "I care about her, and I know you do too. I just wanna know she's okay."

Janet relaxed a bit. "Me too," she agreed. "I'll talk to her."

He nodded, satisfied that his message had been appropriately conveyed.

They were quiet for a moment, both staring out the cockpit window before Janet turned back to him and asked, "Colonel, did you notice any odd effects from the smoke at the bonfire last night?"

The tips of his ears actually turned pink, but he maintained a perfectly bland expression. "No, why do you ask?"

She smirked. "No reason."

O'Neill cleared his throat and decided an abrupt change of topic was in order. "So, do Air Force doctors get any flight training?" he asked, indicating the rather obscure Goa'uld controls for the ship.

"I got to ride backseat in an F-14 once, but there was nothing this... exotic."

O'Neill grunted in agreement. "These damn Goa'uld ships handle like pigs in the atmosphere, but once you're out in space, it's a whole new ballgame. Pretty cool, actually."

"I'd have thought that the inertial effects would make both environments pretty much the same," Janet countered.

"Nah, in atmosphere, the inertia-less drive just really screws with your flying. See, in a regular airplane, you've got lift and drag, and it's all about finesse on the air currents," he said, leaning forward as he warmed to his topic. "You have to totally change your flying style when you get in one of these things."

Janet sat and absorbed his impromptu lecture about the intricacies of air and space flight with a bemused smile, knowing he was just talking to keep her company, and silently appreciating the effort.

They set down on the barren surface of P59-4782 next to a Tok'ra ship about eight hours later. Jacob Carter and Ruslan, a Tok'ra operative they'd met some months before, greeted the team as they exited the ship.

"You stole another ship, Jack?" The elder Carter said jovially, as he looked over the purloined vessel.

"Those Goa'uld just don't know how to clean up after themselves," Colonel O'Neill corrected with a grin. "And we brought some samples for your people to study."

Jacob nodded, his expression becoming more serious. "We'll get started on them right away." He cocked his head. "You know, the Tok'ra are a bit ambivalent about the potential to inoculate humans against symbiote implantation."

"Well, at least we could give people a choice, instead of letting the Goa'uld have the deciding vote," the colonel growled as his temper flared. "I bet the people on Chulak would like an alternative to seeing their children grow up to be enslaved."

Jacob held out his hands, forestalling the brewing shouting match. "Let's just have our people look at it first." He turned to Janet, and his eyes flashed as Selmak came to the forefront. "Doctor, has your research produced any potential leads?"

Janet shook her head. "Right now we're just trying to isolate all the contributing variables. We have diet, environment, genetic predisposition, and the chemical makeup of the local plantlife all to consider."

"Where have you moved these people?"

O'Neill stepped in. "Sorry, Jacob... Selmak. Whatever. We're keeping that one under wraps."

The former general nodded, and Jacob regained control. "Understood. We did a bit of research into Isten," he said, referring to the Goa'uld who had been examining Alain's people. "Took us a while, since no Tok'ra currently on the council had even heard of him. Turns out he was a mercenary. Did a lot of dirty jobs for anybody who'd pay. Chances are he was working for someone a lot higher up on the food chain, and we need to know who that was."

"We've already downloaded the navigational logs from the ship's main computer," Sam interjected. "We'll see if we can follow his trail."

"Great. We'll get to work on what you brought us and share what we find out." Jacob looked pensively up at the ship. "Just... being around the plants doesn't do anything, does it?"

"The Goa'uld and Jaffa we encountered there didn't have any problems," Sam assured him.

He gave her a nervous smile. "Just the same, I'm glad it's going to be a quick trip." He pointed toward the east. "The Stargate's just over that ridge. Sorry we can't stay longer, but Ruslan and I both have other missions to attend to." Jacob gave his daughter a quick parting hug, then boarded the Goa'uld vessel.

"Well, c'mon, SG-1-Plus-One," O'Neill drawled, with a quick look at the doctor. "Let's go home."

Daniel met Sam in her lab just as she was preparing to decode the navigational data they'd copied from the Goa'uld ship. She'd used a data crystal of Tok'ra design for the initial copy, and now had to rig a means of communication between it and her standard computer.

"Something tells me you're not going to find an adapter for that at Radio Shack," the archeologist pointed out dryly.

Sam grinned. "No, but I had this one specially made." She showed him the crystal, which had been imprinted on one end with the standard pins used in regular computer boards. "The crystal works almost the same way as a compact disc. A beam of concentrated light hits the surface, reforming or 'burning' the crystalline structure to a binary designation, the equivalent of a one or a zero. Then another beam can scan the surface, translating the different designations into data."

"Cool," Daniel responded, having absolutely no idea what else to say. She ducked under the desk to retrieve the required cables. "So, when you get the data off that thing, how are we going to use that to track the Goa'uld?"

"I'll start with trying to match the Goa'uld navigational coordinates with what we've got in our dialing computer," her voice emerged from under the table as she fiddled with a shredded ribbon cable.

"Right, I can help you with that," Daniel volunteered.

"Then we're going to try to correlate the navigational data with the star chart we got from the Eloyim."

"The Eloyim?" Daniel asked in surprise. "Haven't heard about them in a while." He folded his arms and watched her curiously as she emerged from under the desk. "Why with their star chart?"

Sam made one final adjustment, then plugged a cable into the back of her computer. The Tok'ra crystal glowed a brilliant green color, and the monitor scrolled page after page of raw data as the transfer began.

"Call it a hunch," she said.

After the sleepless night spent on the Goa'uld ship, Janet was happy to turn in early that evening, figuring that since she knew Sam was home and safe, the dreams would give her a break.

But instead of a nightmare pulling her harshly out of sleep, it was the tossing and turning of her bedmate. She woke up blearily as Sam thrashed around beside her, and reached out to wrap a hand around Sam's arm. "Hey," she murmured. The blonde stilled for a moment, then mumbled incoherently. "Sam?"

Sam twitched, then lurched awake, nearly managing to launch herself off the bed.

The brunette pushed herself up to a sitting position. "What was that about?"

"Dunno," Sam responded as she rubbed her eyes with a shaky hand.

Janet's hand was still curled around Sam's bicep, and she gave a little tug. "C'mere. Go back to sleep, sweetheart."

The blonde reclined, but shook her head. "Don't wanna go back to that dream."

Janet checked the clock and saw it was just past two in the morning. She smiled and cuddled up to her lover's side, running delicate fingers through Sam's mussed hair. "Do you know what today is?" she said, pitching her voice intimately low to hopefully tempt her lover back to sleep.

"No, what?" Sam asked, forcing her eyes to remain open to meet Janet's gaze.

"The day we met. Five years ago today."

At that, Sam's eyes slid shut. "I remember," she breathed, her voice trembling.

So did Janet. She had a very vivid mental image of the brilliant young astrophysicist with a dazzling smile, who shook Janet's hand heartily, and volunteered to show her around the base. It was all new enough that Sam's wonder at the entire Stargate concept nearly radiated off her, infecting anyone nearby with her passion for the adventure and discovery.

"The first time I saw you, I knew we were going to be friends," Janet murmured. Her words were shaped by an unimaginably tender smile.

"Best friends," the blonde agreed. Her breathing started to lengthen as she relaxed into slumber once more.

The doctor thought about those early days at the SGC, and the mental gymnastics she'd had to do just to adjust to the fact that there were humans running around on other planets and suddenly it was her job to keep them healthy, despite all the unimaginably bizarre things they managed to bring home with them. Without Sam around, she probably would have quit within a week.

Another memory flitted through Janet's mind, that of the first time she saw SG-1 come safely back home from a mission. The doctor had been in the control room being briefed on the base's security measures in the case of a Foothold scenario when the wormhole whooshed open (she still wasn't used to that) and the IDC came through identifying the base's lead team. The four of them emerged shoulder to shoulder, triumphant as they strode down the ramp in the gateroom. It could have been a staged scene from a movie, were it not ruined by Doctor Jackson's ill-timed sneezing fit. Sam had laughed, then looked up at the control room, caught sight of the doctor, and waved.

It took a while, but something about that moment changed Janet's life completely.

"The second time I saw you, I knew you were going to be the love of my life," the doctor declared in a whisper, before placing a gentle kiss on Sam's brow.

By then Sam was asleep, but she smiled anyway.

The next day Daniel Jackson stood at the base of the ramp in the gate room, waiting for General Hammond to encode the final chevrons so the wormhole could engage and take him to the planet Alain's people were now calling home.

In the interest of security, the coordinates of the new world were deleted entirely from the SGC's dialing computer. Only Sam, Daniel, and the General had memorized the dialing combination, and were the only people authorized to key it manually into the SGC's system. Even the planet's official designation -- PB9-282 -- was forgotten, in favor of Daniel's suggested name of Dodona, after the ancient Greek sanctuary built to worship a holy tree. Alain's people, who thought of themselves simply as "Chosen," subsequently came to be referred to by the SGC personnel as Dodonans. When asked about their new appellation they characteristically shrugged, and joked among themselves that these humans from Earth seemed to spend a lot of time worrying about entirely trivial things.

Daniel stepped through the wormhole's aperture, and materialized on the formerly uninhabited Dodona in late afternoon. He paused and took in the villagers' progress as they rebuilt their lives, also spotting the scattered SGC members who were assisting with replanting and construction. The sunlight was redder here than typical on Earth, and it lent the entire scene an even more rustic quality.

On the northern tip of the village stood a small hill beyond which lay an amazing view of a fertile valley. It was there Daniel found Alain, their first real friend among these unusual people.

"Hey, Alain," Daniel greeted the spindly man with a smile as he scaled the hill. "How's it going?"

"It goes well, Daniel. Greetings to you," the apothecary answered. He was digging a hole for a transplanted tree with a rough shovel, and he paused in his toil to look around at the bustling new village as it rose slowly from the unworked land. "Though our elders are still bickering about how to improve upon our previous building design."

"Well, if that's the worst you folks have to complain about, I think we can call this move a success," Daniel observed with a smile. Alain stared at him, thinking about that silently for a moment, then shrugged and went back to work. "I came to see if there was anything more we could do to assist your transition," the archeologist added.

Alain stopped working again, and propped the crude tool in the dirt. "I do not understand."

"You and your people are doing us a great favor," Daniel explained. "And in return we've managed to completely disrupt your lives. We'd like to make up for that if at all possible."

The other man shook his head a bit. "We are merely fulfilling our purpose," he responded with a touch of confusion. "There is no need for exchange of favor."

Daniel nodded, having gotten a similar response from several other villagers. "Okay, just checking. We'll stick around to help you rebuild, though."

"As you wish," the healer said amicably. He picked up his shovel and got back to work, and Daniel took that as his cue to leave. As he was walking back down the hill, Alain called out to get his attention. "My people have a saying, Doctor Jackson." Daniel turned around to look up at him. "'The angels came from the light to save us, our brothers came from the light so we may save them, and the light saves us all in turn.'"

"What does it mean?" the archeologist inquired.

Alain gave him an utterly inscrutable grin. "No one yet knows. I suppose we might discover it together."

Upon his return to Earth, Daniel immediately headed to Sam's lab to check on her progress tracking the Goa'uld navigational records. He found her and Doctor Fraiser, apparently engaged in a rather intense discussion. He paused in the open doorway to the room and tried to decide if he should interrupt or not.

"But do you have to take the motorcycle? I really don't like that thing," Janet insisted.

"I know you don't," Sam answered with an easy smile. "But I really need to put some miles on it to test the tweaks I made to the transmission."

The doctor leaned against the counter with her arms folded, while Sam sat in front of her, her long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. Daniel couldn't count the number of times he'd walked into the lab to exactly this tableau, the two women flexing their considerable intellects against each other to solve some new exotic problem. This looked more like a contest of wills than brains, so he hesitated to bother them. Sam caught sight of his shadow looming in the doorway, and waved him into the room.

"I don't mean to interrupt," he murmured as he stepped forward.

"You're not," Sam said. "It's an old debate. Doctor Fraiser's just being her normal overprotective self."

"Because Doctor Carter is so fond of taking unnecessary risks," Janet huffed in response. The blonde grinned up at her, utterly disarming her lover's frustration with that one charming look.

For a moment Daniel felt an odd pang of jealousy. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at him like that. Sha're had had a wonderful and wholly unexpected bull-headed streak that drove him to distraction, but she could make him forget all about it a heartbeat with that smile of hers. He closed his eyes for a moment, holding that memory close before tucking it away to think about later. "I was wondering how you were doing with the Goa'uld navigational logs," he said.

Sam pushed herself upright to move in front of her computer, then rattled the keys to call up the results. "Three hits. One from the Abydos cartouche, two from the Eloyan star chart."

He peered at the screen for a bit before turning back to her. "Okay, I gotta know. How did you figure there was a connection between the Dodonans and the Eloyim?"

Sam sat down again. "For starters, they refer to themselves as the Chosen. That's what 'Eloyim' translates to, right?"

The archeologist canted his head off to one side. "Well, yeah. But that's... really not that remarkable. Lots of cultures believe they are the select few representatives of whatever divinity they happen to worship." He watched as she examined the logic of that statement and nodded. "But if that's for starters..." he trailed off with his eyebrows raised in question.

"Isten asked me how we'd discovered that planet at all," Sam continued, wincing internally at the memory of her short but brutal interrogation under the ribbon device. "I remembered that it happened to be one of the systems we'd pulled off the Eloyan star chart. Seemed logical there might be a correlation."

Daniel nodded, but wasn't totally convinced. "But there's something more than you're telling me."

Janet and Sam shared a long look, laden with unspoken communication. He looked between them, fascinated. "What?" he asked after a few moments.

The doctor shrugged, not breaking eye contact with Sam. "Might as well tell him. Could help for someone else to know anyway."

By now innate curiosity was making his brain hurt. "Tell me what?" he insisted.

The blonde sighed and folded her hands between her knees. "A lot more stuff happened with the whole Eloy situation than what we put in the reports."

He made a vague gesture between the two of them. "Right. For obvious reasons. I know about that."

They blushed identically, and Sam scratched her nose to cover the dull flush across her cheeks. "Besides that."

His eyebrows shot up, and he grabbed a chair, spinning it to straddle the seat. "I'm all ears."

For nearly an hour he sat in rapt attention as their tale unfolded. They began with the initial discovery of the periodic wormhole on the original Eloy, then described their interactions with the ancient prophet Valosh Med, who guided them through the remarkable series of events that had concluded with just the two of them almost independently managing to save the known universe. From the outside the entire situation had seemed remarkably coincidental and lucky, but now he understood the machinations going on behind the scenes, the odd series of dreams, visions, and spontaneous insights that drove them to solve the nearly unsolvable.

The whole story was incredible, in the most basic sense of the word, but he knew it was true by the utter seriousness with which they told it. He realized that they really needed an ally, someone else who understood the underlying apparently supernatural forces that were playing with their lives and could help them explain their motives to the more skeptical military minds that ran the Stargate project.

They concluded with the recent revelation of shared dreams, combined with the general sense that Something was wrong out there, and that they were being summoned to fix it. When they were done Daniel just sat and looked at them, absorbing the implications of the story. Then he took a deep breath and tipped his head up to regard Janet, who was still leaning against the counter behind Sam. "So you're... what? A Seer in Training?" he asked bluntly, cutting right to the heart of all the obscure mysticism and odd portents.

Her dark eyes widened in surprise, and she opened her mouth to object. "Yeah, she is," Sam interjected suddenly. She twisted around in her seat to look at her lover. "That makes perfect sense. Valosh Med said so himself -- you're the one this is all about, Janet."

The doctor looked utterly flummoxed, as her gaze bounced between the two scientists. "I don't think... I mean..." she stammered, then took a steadying breath. "I don't think that's exactly true." The concept actually alarmed her; she was far too accustomed to playing just a supporting role to the team who wandered the universe and regularly changed the course of human history.

"Sorry, Doc," Daniel countered with a small smile. "Think I'm with Sam on that one."

Janet could think of no coherent response to that, so she stayed quiet and blinked a lot. The archeologist's smile grew a touch wider, and he pushed himself out of his chair. "When are you planning to tell General Hammond about those coordinates?"

"Tomorrow morning, 0900," Sam answered.

"I'll be there," he promised. He turned to leave the lab, then paused at the doorway. "Listen... I'm honored that you trust me with all that stuff. I'll do whatever I can to help out."

"Thank you, Daniel," Janet murmured. He nodded once and left the room. The doctor massaged the bridge of her nose with a sigh. "I still don't think..." she trailed off, unable to really articulate her confusion.

Sam swiveled her chair around to face her. "Why not?" she asked gently. "It's not so hard to believe."

"That I'm important enough for the universe to direct that much attention my way? Please."

The blonde stood and stepped deliberately into Janet's personal space, cutting the distance between them to mere inches. "Tell that to the version of me in that other reality who lost you," she murmured. "Don't think I haven't had nightmares about living like her. Don't think I don't know just how important you are, to me, and to everyone else around here." She dropped her eyes. "You know, it occurs to me... You keep telling me that you believe in me, but I don't think I've ever returned the favor." Her gaze lifted again to meet Janet's.

For a moment they lost themselves in each other's eyes, letting the intensity between them build for long moments. When Janet spoke again, she relied on her typical dry humor to diffuse the intimacy a little. "Don't think you're distracting me from our little talk about your motorcycle."

The blonde laughed a bit. "Never."

Janet sighed, feeling a nervous kind of ache in the pit of her stomach. She tried just for a moment not to think about the implications of this conversation, wishing very much that she could just go back to being a caregiver for people far more remarkable than herself. "I need you to promise that if I start wearing goofy robes and speaking only in annoying metaphor, you'll smack me."

"Deal," Sam promised with a grin.

After her shift ended Sam headed home to get on her bike, then rode it around town for about an hour, listening carefully to the growl of the engine as she accelerated on the highway. Once she was satisfied that everything was in good working order, she headed over to Janet's house, finding the doctor hard at work cooking something that smelled amazing and her daughter in a panic over an impending trig midterm.

"Hey," Sam greeted with a smile, as she peeked into the kitchen.

"Hey yourself," Janet answered pertly as she stirred something boiling away on the stove. "How was the ride?"

"Perfect. I swear someday I'll get you to come with me."

"Not a chance." She put down her spoon and stepped over to give the blonde a quick kiss, then paused, hovering directly in front of her.

"What?" Sam asked in confusion.

Janet's eyes slid shut, and she inhaled the subtle scent that was a combination of fresh air lingering against skin, sweat, soap, and the leather of Sam's jacket. After a moment of indulgence she pried her eyes open and looked up at her lover with a dreamy sigh. "Mmm, nothing. Go check on Cassie before she decides to drop out of high school altogether." Sam obligingly headed upstairs, leaving the doctor in a bemused state of half arousal that had her strongly reconsidering her strict anti-motorcycle policy. She snorted a bit, and the word "libidinous" drifted around mockingly in her head. She forced herself back to her cooking.

Dinner in the Fraiser household was seldom a quiet affair. The three intelligent women tended to feed off each other's wit and spark raucous laughter that lasted most of the night. It was, Janet decided, a testament to the success of the unconventional family bond they'd forged, and it made her look back at her quiet, orderly life before she'd ever heard of the Stargate and laugh with a tinge of pity at the lonely woman she'd once been.

Several hours later, Cassie decided she was finally fully prepped for her exam and went off to sleep, leaving her parents sprawled on the living room sofa. Sam's legs were draped over Janet's lap, as she stared exhaustedly at a point just past the flickering TV screen. All at once she remembered the experiment she'd left running unattended in her lab, and she groaned, pulling herself off the couch.

"Dammit, I'm sorry. I gotta go back to base," she murmured, giving Janet a gentle kiss.

The doctor's hand twined in blonde hair and held her close. "I don't think so, Major. You have pressing engagements right here," she countered with a tired leer.

Sam sighed. "I left that naquada experiment running. I gotta shut it down before it spikes and sets off the radiation monitors. Hammond'll have my ass."

Janet's eyebrows climbed as she looked up at the blonde. "You just... left it?" Faint ripples of alarm bounced around in her head, pulling her reluctantly out of the somnolent warmth she'd been enjoying. Sam didn't just forget about things, especially potentially dangerous things running under her supervision in her lab.

The blonde shook her head in disgust. "Yeah. Can't believe I did that." She disengaged from Janet's grasp and planted a quick kiss on her brow. "Don't wait up."

The doctor sighed and stood as well, trailing her lover out of the house. "No way am I letting you ride that two-wheeled deathtrap at this hour," she muttered. "I'll drive you."

Janet stood in the doorway of the lab, folding her arms across her chest as she watched Sam disengage the power source from the small reaction chamber she'd rigged. "Sam, have you been feeling okay lately?"

Blue eyes peered at her. "Yeah, sure. Why do you ask?" she responded with not-quite-genuine surprise.

The brunette just shrugged it off, stifling the gut reaction that told her she'd just been lied to. She recalled her earlier conversation with Colonel O'Neill, and his rather vague but apt description of his 2IC's behavior of late. "'She's just not... all there, you know?'" Janet chewed her lip pensively, now getting a definite idea of what he'd been talking about.

After Sam finished tidying her lab, the two women waited together for the elevator that would take them back to the surface so they could return home. Janet unsuccessfully stifled a yawn as the thick metal doors slid open. Teal'c waited inside the elevator, standing at his typical parade rest. "Hello Teal'c," the doctor said almost incomprehensibly through another yawn as she stepped in next to him.

The large Jaffa looked down at her with a raised eyebrow. "Doctor Fraiser." He turned his attention back out the elevator door, where Sam stood rooted in the corridor. "Major Carter," he greeted solemnly. When she didn't move, he cocked his head. "Are you not intending to use the elevator at this time?"

Sam stared at him for a long moment. One of her hands rubbed idly at her stomach, as if she suddenly felt ill. Then she swallowed and stepped into the elevator with abrupt movements, and punched the button to allow the doors to close.

Teal'c merely blinked, his face creased in the customary frown he wore when faced with idiosyncratic human behavior.

Beside him, Janet stared at Sam's back with frustration that mounted with every floor the elevator travelled.

Sam spent the drive home utterly preoccupied, and more than a little freaked out.

When they got back to Janet's house, the blonde swept her lover up in a torrent of sudden sensual heat fueled more by anxiety than passion. Sam spent a long time tiring them both, making love with almost desperate intensity to try to quell the rising fear deep within her. After Janet had fallen asleep, Sam pulled on a robe and snuck back downstairs. She went to the living room and studied the titles of the dozens of medical textbooks the doctor kept around, then selected a few and sat down to read.

After a couple hours she grew tired enough that the words started running together into meaningless nonsense on the pages. Naturally she was no closer to figuring out what could be wrong with her, just a bit more worried. She put the books away and went back upstairs, then stole back into the bedroom, shedding her robe and climbing into bed beside Janet with a sigh.

Next to her, dark eyes opened to watch her profile as she lay rigid and anxious. "Whenever you want to tell me what's going on with you, I'll listen."

Sam's eyes slid shut in a grimace.

"Or I can call base security and have you confined in the infirmary until I figure it out on my own," Janet continued conversationally. "It's up to you, Sam. I can be the person who loves you, or the person who has medical authority over you." She could see the tension in Sam's body, could see the muscle jumping in her temple as she grit her teeth together.

"I'm think I'm losing my mind," the blonde said finally, in a strangled whisper.

The statement made Janet's entire body clench. She propped herself up on one elbow to look down at her lover, and ran a comforting hand across a bare shoulder to encourage her to continue. "Tell me," she murmured urgently.

Sam's strict reticence finally dissolved. "I keep... losing track of things, like that experiment." She saw Janet nod, could almost hear the tick as she started mentally jotting down symptoms. "And earlier tonight, I was helping Cassie with her math homework, and I started thinking about when I took trig back in high school, and I couldn't remember anything about it."

"You moved around a lot as a kid," the brunette murmured. "Didn't you tell me you went to five different high schools?"

"But I've never not been able to remember them before," Sam growled in frustration. "I couldn't feel Teal'c, either." The doctor remained silent, waiting for Sam to explain. Just as it had on base earlier that night, Sam's hand moved to rest over her stomach, rubbing the skin unconsciously as she talked. "Ever since Jolinar, you know, I can sense the Goa'uld... and I could always tell when Teal'c was nearby. But tonight... nothing." Her fingers splayed and pressed into her belly with emphasis as the words poured out. When she was done she pried open her eyes to meet Janet's gaze. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything before, I just didn't know what to say."

The doctor's brain was already spinning with potential diagnoses and treatments. "When did this start?"

"A few weeks ago."

Janet sighed. "Okay, after the briefing tomorrow we'll do some tests," she said quietly.

The blonde winced. "You're mad. I'm sorry."

Janet chewed on her lip for a moment as she paused to consider that. "No. I wish you hadn't kept this to yourself for so long, but I guess I can understand why you wouldn't want to tell me. Maybe I should reassign your care to Doctor Warner..."

"No," Sam interjected in alarm, her head shaking back and forth jerkily. "Just you." She flipped over on her side to face Janet. "Please."

The doctor reached out to brush blonde hair away from Sam's forehead. "Okay."

"I'm sorry for lying to you earlier, and I'm sorry for not telling you about this sooner," the blonde whispered desperately. "I'm scared." That final admission tore itself from her throat.

"I know," Janet answered bleakly. The implicit "Me too," went unspoken, but Sam heard it anyway.

After the briefing the next morning Sam sat in the infirmary, a study in patience as nurses poked, prodded, and sampled various parts of her anatomy. She kept looking around the infirmary expectantly, but Janet was nowhere to be found. By the time they stuck her in a tube for an MRI Sam was distinctly grumpy with her lover, and by the time lunch rolled around she took off for the commissary without waiting around to meet the doctor like she'd initially promised.

She gathered some food haphazardly and plunked her tray down on a table in the corner, fully intending to sulk through lunch. Her planned solitude was interrupted by a politely cleared throat, and she looked up from her meal to see Janet looking at her with an apologetic smile. Sam found her bad mood evaporating entirely against her will, and she offered a faint smile back as the doctor sat across from her.

"Hey," Janet said softly.

"I really hate MRIs," Sam muttered.

"I know. I'm sorry," the brunette replied. It was a common reaction, and Sam had to endure the procedure more often than most people.

"Where were you?" the blonde asked.

"I had to brief General Hammond," Janet said. "He said to tell you he hopes you're okay. He's taken SG-1 off the duty roster for now, and assigned some other teams to investigate those planets you located."

Sam nodded distractedly. "So what did you find?"

Janet sighed and folded her hands on the table. "I don't think here is the best place to discuss this."

Blue eyes studied her in worried silence, then Sam pushed her tray away and stood. "Okay, let's go."

In the SGC's control room, Sergeant Davis watched over the dialing computer as it went through its standard procedure to open a wormhole to the third and last of the locations Major Carter had given him. The dialing program's progress bar traveled across his monitor, and he went through his normal routine of announcing the different chevrons as they locked and encoded. Sometimes he tried calculating just how much of his work day was spent watching the gate spin around, and just what would happen if one day he started totally making stuff up during his operational announcements.

"Chevron nine hundred and twelve locked."

General Hammond appeared at his shoulder. "Sergeant? What the hell was that?"

"Er, sorry sir." He winced and went back to his work. His extraordinarily tedious and monotonous work. Really, he was just a damn receptionist, dialing the gate for more important people, waiting around for someone else to dial in. Boring stuff.

The dialing sequence completed and the wormhole engaged. He keyed in the commands for the final MALP to head up the ramp and on through to the other side, just like he'd done a hundred times before. He watched the MALP in transit, announced its arrival at the target location, then drove it off the gate's pedestal and swept the remote camera in a quick pan of the surrounding area.

Then he swept it back, a bit higher, and froze. This he'd only seen once before, and it had precipitated Doctor Jackson's claim that the Goa'uld had destroyed an alternate Earth.

"Here there be dragons," he murmured, zooming the camera in on the Goa'uld symbol planted in the dirt.

"An old med school friend of mine is stationed at the Academy hospital. He's a neurologist, and I've arranged for you to see him this afternoon," Janet said when they got back to her office.

The blonde sat numbly. Her fingers tangled together in her lap as she regarded the doctor with a nervous expression. "What did you find?"

"There are some spots on your MRI that concern me, but I'm not qualified to make a definite diagnosis."

"So, what? Like a tumor or something?" Sam asked in a shaky voice.

"No," the doctor said reassuringly. "But I want an expert to take a look at the films."

The blonde nodded, and tried not to let her nerves get the best of her. Janet was being remarkably calm, so whatever she saw had to be fairly minor. Right?

"All of the MALPs have returned, Major," Sergeant Davis reported eagerly when Sam entered the control room twenty minutes later. For once something different had happened, and he was happy to be the one to report it, if a bit nervous about the potential implications.

She raked her fingers through her hair and actively kicked her brain into work mode. "Great. Find anything?"

"The first one arrived at an abandoned mining operation," he said, flipping on the monitor to show the video feed from the first probe. "This one's from the Abydos Cartouche -- P9F-478. SG-7 stopped by there a couple years ago. Nothing here to indicate any new activity since then."

Sam looked at the video capture for a bit, then shrugged. "Well, what about the other two?"

The sergeant was slowly building up to his punchline, and would not be dissuaded. "The second one arrived outside what looked like a Goa'uld installation. SG-5 and SG-8 are already prepping for a recon mission."

"Okay," she said with a nod. "And the third?"

At that the sergeant gave her a grim smile, and punched a command into his computer. The image on the monitor switched to the recorded feed from the third MALP, and he paused as the camera zoomed in on the Goa'uld warning symbol standing somewhat askew from the rough ground.

Sam stared at it blankly, knowing it should mean something to her, but not remembering what.

"Korosh'nai," Teal'c intoned behind her, having suddenly materialized in the control room. His sudden ability to sneak up on her was going to take some getting used to.

"SG-1 last encountered this symbol on P3R-233," Sergeant Davis added.

"It means, 'Turn Back,'" the Jaffa concluded.

That afternoon, Doctor Michael Simmons met Janet in his office with a vigorous handshake. "Hey Jan, been a while. It's good to see you," he said warmly, then turned to Sam. "Major Carter, I presume?" The neurologist smiled, and indicated they should sit.

"Hope you don't mind me sitting in on this, Mike," Janet said. "I'm Major Carter's primary care physician at Cheyenne, and I'd like to have a full briefing," she explained according to her pre-planned script, editing out the part where she wanted to say "She's my lover and I'll be damned if she'll be sitting here alone for this."

Simmons sat down with a shrug. "So long as Major Carter's okay with it, it's fine by me." He saw Sam nod, then opened the thick folder on his mahogany desk. "I just got your file, so please give me a couple minutes to read through it." He read through the charts quickly, then paused, squinting at the stacks of MRI films in the patient file. "What's with all the MRIs?" he asked with a frown.

"Occupational hazard," Sam remarked dryly. She crossed, uncrossed, then recrossed her legs in a vain effort to find a comfortable position in the chair. She finally slumped in the seat, and blew out an explosive sigh. Janet reached over and subtly rubbed her knee, keeping her hand out of the neurologist's line of sight.

He looked up at Sam with a blink, then glanced over at Janet, who leaned forward to point at portions of the file. "You'll notice that her last scan was four months ago, and the lesions weren't visible at that time."

"That is interesting," he acknowledged. "Any head trauma recently?"

"Define 'recently,'" the blonde muttered. Between various alien entities possessing her, having her consciousness dumped into a computer then poured back into her brain again, Goa'uld ribbon devices, and the less exotic but extensive list of injuries she'd sustained while working for the SGC, it was sometimes a wonder she was still relatively in one piece.

He looked at her again with a confused frown, then went back to studying the images of her brain. After about a minute he flipped back through the charts, studying results of Sam's bloodwork. "Doctor Fraiser, I take it you're aware of the unusual protein signature present here?" he asked Janet.

"Yes," she answered succinctly.

Simmons peered up at her again. "Do I want to know where it came from?"


He nodded once, with a bemused look. "Okay. And there are some portions of the file that are missing..."

"National security, Mike," Janet explained with a sigh.

"So that means I can't write a research paper about this?" he joked wanly, then turned his attention to Sam. "Major Carter, I'm sorry to say I've never seen anything quite like this before. The MRIs show lesions forming in your brain, centered in the cerebrum and hippocampus. I'd say it's Multiple Sclerosis, but it doesn't quite fit."

"Aside from memory loss, there are no indicative symptoms," Janet interjected. "No loss of sensation, no double vision."

"Exactly," Simmons agreed. "This is a new one." He sat back in his chair, tapping a finger on his chin as he paused to think. "The reason I asked about head trauma was to isolate the possibility of retrograde amnesia, which can impede retrieval of memory information prior to the traumatic event. But then, from what Doctor Fraiser described it appears your short-term memory is affected as well..."

Janet remained quiet at that, knowing that with Sam's remarkable medical history, literally anything was possible.

"Any other symptoms I should be aware of?"

The two women looked at each other. "No," Sam sighed. She couldn't very well tell the man that she'd suddenly lost the ability to sense the presence of alien parasites.

It was obvious the neurologist didn't buy the denial, but he knew enough not to push. "Well, considering the rapid formation of these lesions," he continued, "I think the best course of action would be to start rounds of beta interferon, try to slow down the damage, and see if it stabilizes. I'd like to see you again in a month, but without more detailed history, I couldn't even begin to speculate as to the cause or best bet for a cure."

Out of the corner of her eye, the brunette saw Sam's face drain of color as the implications of the neurologist's words set in. "Okay. Thanks for your time, Mike," Janet murmured. "Could we have a minute?"

"Sure," he said easily. All three stood, and he gave them a parting handshake. "Major, Doctor. I'll plan on seeing you again soon."

After he left, Sam's knees buckled from under her, and she sat heavily back down in the chair, one trembling hand raking through her hair as she finally gave reign to her building panic. "Jesus. No cure?"

"Sam," Janet said quietly, intensely. She knelt in front of the blonde, resting her hands on Sam's knees. "Sam," she repeated, waiting for the lost blue eyes to track to her. "Honey, you need to stick with me right now, okay?"

Sam focused a dazed look on her lover, and managed a faint nod. "Okay."

"Listen, I know what he said, and I know that you're scared," Janet murmured soothingly. "But he doesn't know what we know, and he doesn't know the people we know, so you've gotta trust me that we have other options here." As she spoke her voice took on an undercurrent of steely strength, a fierce resolve that seemed to burst forth from her small frame in an aura of absolute confidence that did far more to calm Sam than her words alone.

The blonde took a deep breath, and closed her eyes for a long moment, finding a center of peace in Janet's unwavering presence. "Okay," she said again, this time far more steadily.

The brunette released a small breath of relief, seeing her lover visibly back in control. She smiled. "I just needed Mike to confirm what I already suspected," she explained. "Because of what you've been through, your neurochemistry is totally unique, Sam. The answers modern medicine know don't totally apply to you, so we've gotta figure out new ones." She reached up and latched onto one of Sam's hands, squeezing tightly.

Sam managed a faint smile and squeezed her hand back. "Yeah, and maybe Dad can help," she murmured thoughtfully, then stood, pulling Janet upright with her. She reached out and fiddled with the smaller woman's uniform, twitched it to settle more squarely on her shoulders, brushed imaginary fluff off the fabric, and fidgeted idly to keep the full-blown shaking at bay. "You know, for years I've been wondering... how exactly do you manage to make this awful uniform look so damn good?"

The doctor snorted a bit, relieved by the bit of humor. "Looked in a mirror lately, Major?" she returned with a teasing smile. "C'mon, let's get back to base."

When they got back to the mountain Janet retreated to her office, intent on rereading everything she could find about nervous system disorders. For a while Sam hovered in her doorway, seeking some kind of comfort or reassurance, but Janet was clearly already focused on her research. Instead of distracting the doctor, Sam simply tucked her hands into her pockets and wandered away.

Janet worked late into the night, almost frantic with her need to understand, to find a way to defeat the illness that was threatening her lover. At some point Colonel O'Neill stopped by. She gave him an abbreviated explanation of what was wrong with his 2IC, and practically snapped at him before he left her alone again. So unceasing was her attention that she didn't even notice that she was utterly exhausted, except when fatigue finally got the best of her and she slumped asleep against her desk.

It wasn't a nightmare this time, just an expanse of darkness, broken by a single circle of light shining on the spot where she was standing. A cheerfully round man stood before her in ornate robes.

"Was wondering when you'd finally show up," Janet muttered.

The Seer spread his hands in a gesture of supplication. "You were not yet ready. Now you are."

"Sam's sick."

He deflated a bit, and his expression changed to one of sympathy. "I know."

"I can't help her."

"Don't be so sure of that."

She swore under her breath, and turned away from him. He folded his hands placidly and watched her as she paced in a small circle.

"Your position is unique," he said in a mild voice. "You have within your grasp both cause and cure."

Janet drew to a halt, taking a deep breath to remain calm. The Seer's riddles tended to be opaque and annoying in the extreme, but she and Sam had both found over time that it saved a lot of effort if they just paid attention.

"One you have reached already, the other lies farther away than you have imagined," he continued.

"All right. What about the nightmares? What about Alain's people? What do they have to do with Sam?"

Valosh Med broke into a proud smile. "Ah, you have come so far, my friend. Already you See the tangled connections that inexorably bind the life in the universe."

If she wasn't dreaming, she knew she'd have a headache. She rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Balance, right?"

"As always," he confirmed with a bow. He held his hands out, palms up. "But now you must portion out love and duty, power and responsibility. When you See that, you will no longer need my help."

"That's less than reassuring," she said dryly.

He laughed and faded away. When she woke up with her forehead resting against an open textbook, she had a headache after all.

Colonel O'Neill found Sam in the Academy library, at a table piled high with books on everything from basic anatomy to advanced neurology. Somehow he knew she'd be here, that she'd choose to fight what was happening to her brain with all the faculties that remained. He sat down across from her, watching as she flipped through a thick medical text trying to find a particular page.

"Hey, Carter," he said softly.

She jerked away from her reading and looked up at him. "Colonel. What are you doing here?"

A shrug. "Wanted a new book to read." He picked up a volume at the top of a pile. "'Principles of Neural Science,'" he read off the cover. "Bet this one has a surprise ending."

"She told you." Sam said. It wasn't a question.

"Yeah." He set the book down again. "It's a chain of command thing. You know." She nodded and returned to her reading. "Davis said you guys found something on one of those planets."

She wrenched her attention away from the book once more. "Yes, sir. I'm going to ask General Hammond to return me to active duty on a temporary basis so we can check it out."

He pursed his lips and nodded. Sam returned to her book, and he let her read for a couple minutes before speaking again. "But in the meantime you're gonna hide out here and sulk?"

She sighed loudly. "Sir?"

"Look. You're sick, and I'm sorry, but it happens. Teal'c, Daniel and I'll wander the galaxy until we find a cure. Don't worry about that. In the meantime you need to find Fraiser and give her a hug or something. She's pretty messed up over this."

She briefly considered Janet's earlier behavior, and the rather abrupt way she'd been ignored in favor of research. "I'm just a problem for her to solve," Sam dismissed.

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, for cryin' out loud. I'm just a problem for her to solve. You're the person she loves," O'Neill countered. He stopped and looked around quickly when he realized that statement had been a little louder than he'd intended. He dropped his voice and leaned in closer. "She's just as scared as you are. Maybe more."

That rocked her a bit, and she stared at him mutely.

"The two of you, always thinking so damn much," the colonel muttered. "You don't have to lead with your head all the time." He gestured at the books piled around her. "She's doing the exact same thing you are, pretending that she can study this thing to death."

That was odd, Sam realized. They were usually so unalike that way. Sam was the eager scientist who preferred to direct her energy into thinking her way out of problems first, rather than spend time considering the emotional costs. Janet had far more empathy, and a natural feel for others' emotional states. That was part of why Sam had been so hurt at her abrupt dismissal earlier. Now she realized the doctor was simply falling back on objectivity and science as a kind of shield. The emotions involved this time were just too intense, too personal.

"We need you," the colonel was saying. "But more than that, the Doc needs you. So do yourself a favor, and don't sit around here all night feeling sorry for yourself." He nodded once, then got up to leave, but remembered one last thing. "Listen, Carter. Bad Things happen when you don't tell the people you love how you feel." She stared hard at him, and he dropped his gaze. "Been there, done that. Don't make the mistake I did." The colonel turned on his heel and walked away.

After a few cups of coffee Janet decided she was awake enough to head on home. Sam was already there, sitting on the front step, waiting for her. She looked so hurt, so alone, it nearly ripped the doctor's heart in two. She got out of her car and slowly walked up the path.

"So... last night, you said I could choose," Sam said in a shaky voice as she approached. "And I've decided I really need for you to be the person who loves me." Sam paused, and fought the tears welling in her eyes. "Just for tonight." A weak smile. "And maybe tomorrow. After that, you can go back to being my doctor. Okay?"

"Oh, Sam..." the brunette exhaled. Sam stood as Janet closed in and wrapped her arms around Sam's torso in a desperate hug. "I'm sorry," came the voice muffled in the crook of her neck.

"I know you want to help me," Sam responded. "And I love you for that. But we can't solve this today. We have time." She dropped a kiss on the crown of Janet's head, and hugged her back.

Janet pulled away a bit and gave her a crooked smile, but the abrupt electronic chirp of her cell phone forestalled her response. She sighed, then dug the phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. "Fraiser here... Yes sir..." Sam could hear the booming voice of General Hammond as it leaked out of the phone. "We'll be right there, sir." The doctor hung up and looked back up at Sam. "It's your father. He and Anise just arrived, and they need to talk to us right away."

Janet couldn't remember the last time she'd gotten a decent night's sleep, and the absolute last thing she wanted to do right then was have a chat with Anise, the resident Tok'ra scientist. She dutifully drove with Sam back to base, and made herself presentable for the briefing. As they sat around the conference room table she let herself glare at Freya, the host of Anise, indulging herself in a rare moment of active, passionate dislike for another sentient being. Sam flashed her a look from across the table that told her to behave.

General Hammond strode into the room and took a seat. "Okay, Jacob, let's hear it."

"Thanks, George. Sorry to get you all out of bed, but we've made some progress on those samples you gave us," the elder Carter announced.

At that, Freya leaned forward and folded her hands primly on the table. "We believe they were bioengineered to build an immunity to Goa'uld symbiotes."

The statement grudgingly snagged Janet's attention. "Bioengineered? How can you tell?"

"The samples you provided contained native, unaltered plants, and descendants of plants that had been subjected to chimeraplasty."

Sam cocked her head at the new term, and shared a curious glance with Janet. "Chimeraplasty?"

"It is the process of genetically altering plant cells, one base pair at a time. We were easily able to locate and compare the altered base pairs."

"This couldn't have been a natural occurrence?" General Hammond asked.

Freya's eyes flared white, and Anise took over. "This particular set of mutations in this particular kind of plant creates a particular kind of protein that when ingested or injected by a human spurs a particular immune reaction that eventually trains the human body to reject a Goa'uld symbiote. My assumption is that this is no accident."

"Then who did it?" Hammond wondered.

"A valid question," the Tok'ra scientist responded. "Certainly a very advanced race."

"Our initial findings indicate this is probably not a one-time cure-all, but a process of building up an immunity over a length of years," Jacob continued. "Those people were probably left as a running experiment."

"Which we've disrupted with our interference," Daniel added, throwing one hand into the air in a frustrated gesture. "Great."

"This all seems a bit far-fetched, don't you think? Why go through the trouble of finding these people, moving them to another planet, then altering the local plantlife so that eventually they'll be immune to snakes?" Colonel O'Neill asked. "Doesn't make sense. If you're smart enough to do all that, you're smart enough to just make a cure, distribute it to humans across the galaxy, and be done already."

"If these people were intended as subjects in a kind of experiment, it is likely that the combined consequences are far more subtle than a mere resistance to symbiote implantation," Anise countered, putting an emphasis on the word "subtle" that made her opinion of humanity's general capacity for such a distinction perfectly clear. "There are several other benefits to using plants for medicinal or therapeutic purposes. Humans themselves have long known of the healing power contained within certain flora, though a good portion of your modern culture has dismissed such ancient knowledge as primitive nonsense."

Janet just barely restrained the urge to roll her eyes.

"Our studies revealed that other proteins from the samples you provided stimulate immune effects that would significantly prolong human life," the Goa'uld scientist continued.

"Which is why Alain's people are so old," Daniel interjected.

"Their longevity is quite remarkable," she agreed, though she looked rather annoyed at the interruption. "And most likely enhanced by their particular genetic makeup. We've also discovered that on inhalation, the plants trigger certain mood altering effects, including hormonal release that aids in fertility," Freya concluded.

Jacob Carter chuckled a bit. "She means, if you smoke it, you'll get horny. You guys probably didn't have the chance to encounter that one, though."

The five officers around the table alternately cleared their throats, stared determinedly off into space, or rubbed their faces in embarrassment. General Hammond just shook his head and sighed heavily. "So what can we do with this, Jacob?"

"Up to you, George. I'd keep those people tucked away wherever you've hidden them, and keep studying. Anise can give you all the data we've collected so far. It might eventually be possible to artificially replicate the protein and create a series of inoculations and booster shots that could render humans completely immune to the Goa'uld." He canted his head to one side. "I'd say this needs to be handled delicately."

When he was done speaking, Janet swallowed her distaste for the Tok'ra scientist and asked the question that had been teasing her brain since Anise had started describing the plant's effects. "What would exposure to that protein do to someone who'd already had a symbiote that was later removed?" Sam jerked her head around to look at the doctor, her eyes widening. Colonel O'Neill even snapped fully awake at that, as the connection formed in his head with a nearly audible click.

Freya blinked. "I do not know. Within the Tok'ra, hosts are typically only abandoned at death. We have no surviving former hosts upon which to test such exposure."

"Well, we got one here," O'Neill muttered. Sam glanced at him anxiously and nodded.

Fifteen minutes later Daniel and Teal'c stood with Colonel O'Neill in the observation bay above the main room in the infirmary as the Colonel filled them in on Sam's apparent illness. The archeologist took the news especially hard, as his mind quickly sorted through the probable tragic implications of his teammate progressively losing her memory. Teal'c absorbed the information stolidly as ever, but to the colonel's eye his expression was troubled, almost mourning.

Below them Sam sat on a gurney as Anise ran the Goa'uld healing device over her chest and head, and the major's eyes tracked the energy glow with slight apprehension.

"It appears your immune system is attacking the remnants of your symbiote Jolinar," Anise said as she processed the information the device fed to her symbiote.

Janet nodded in sudden understanding. "That makes sense," she said under her breath. Sam looked to her for an explanation, and the brunette took a step closer. "Mike said the lesions on your MRI looked like MS. We think MS is caused by the immune system misfiring and targeting portions of the central nervous system. And in your case it's logical the lesions would be centered in the portions of the brain where memories are stored and accessed, since blending with the symbiote forces a great deal of new memory pathways to be built."

"But why?" Sam asked, and she looked between Anise and her father. "Didn't you say immunity built up over a course of years? I was only exposed to the plants once."

"In concentrated form," Janet pointed out. "The herbal mixture was dried, which probably increased its efficacy."

The Tok'ra scientist frowned. "Interesting," she murmured. She dropped the healing device and picked up a small handheld Tok'ra computer to enter some data.

Janet seethed quietly as the scientist continued her study. Part of her wanted to shake the alien woman into showing the slightest bit of compassion or any emotion other than objective curiosity. Her own personal feelings aside, Samantha Carter deserved more than to be looked at as merely a focus of study. The doctor folded her arms over her chest and let out a sigh that sounded suspiciously like a growl. Unseen behind her, Jacob Carter smothered a small smile.

Daniel leaned over to the microphone in the observation bay that would pipe his voice down to the room below. "So is it something you can treat?" he ventured.

Anise looked up at him, clearly surprised. "No," she said simply, then turned back to Fraiser. "Surely you understand the healing device is specifically designed not to affect naquada, or the protein traces left by symbiotes..."

Sam slumped. "Of course, otherwise how could it avoid killing the Goa'uld?"

"Precisely." Anise looked between the two women and frowned. "You did not know that."

"We never really got a primer as to how the thing actually worked," Janet responded dryly.

The scientist's frown deepened, and she plucked the healing device from the gurney, holding it up to demonstrate. "It is designed to restore normal biological function of humanoid cells, and ignore the physiological changes induced by blending. In this case, the healing device cannot stop the immune reaction affecting Major Carter, because the reaction is a normal biological function, nor can it be used to eradicate the traces left over from her blending with Jolinar, thereby removing the reagent."

For the first time since she'd seen Sam's MRIs, Janet felt like she was about to shatter into a million pieces. The Tok'ra had been the ace up her sleeve, the final line of attack should human science fail to find a way to treat her lover. Now to be told their technology could not assist...

"So a sarcophagus would be useless too," Sam said quietly.

Jacob Carter's eyes flared as his symbiote came to the forefront. "Yes. Unfortunately, Major Carter, we lack the immediate ability to help you. However, the healing device and sarcophagus are technologies modified by the Goa'uld for their own purposes. It is possible the technologies they were based upon still exist, and that they would be able to cure you."

Then Selmak retreated, and Jacob looked at his daughter with a profound measure of sadness. "God, I'm sorry, Sam. I wish we could fix this."

The blonde shrugged a bit, looking for all the world like thirty years had suddenly dropped away and she was just a scared kid who desperately needed her dad's reassurance. Fortunately, the blended general took the cue perfectly, and he stepped in to give her a sorely needed hug. Janet just watched them for a moment, and was grateful for the distraction when the door slid open and the other three members of SG-1 filed into the room.

O'Neill eyed the two Carters, then flashed the doctor a grimly understanding smile. "So where do we find this original technology?" he asked quietly.

From behind him, Teal'c answered, "It is legend among the Goa'uld that there exists a homeworld of the Ancients, the race from which most of Goa'uld technology, including the Stargate, was stolen."

Anise finally looked up from her pad. "Indeed, such a world has been sought for millennia, with little success."

The colonel pursed his lips and nodded. "Then we'll find it." He looked directly at Janet when he said it, promising what he could. The doctor smiled back at him with suspiciously bright eyes.

It was just before dawn when they finally got back home. Despite O'Neill's insistence that they get started looking for a way to help Sam immediately, General Hammond ordered everyone to get some well needed rest, having extracted assurances from both Janet and Anise that a few more hours wouldn't make a difference either way.

Sam trudged up the stairs to the bedroom, and Janet followed listlessly behind. They undressed and tumbled into bed without saying a word. Finally, when they lay facing each other, Janet found she could hardly meet Sam's eyes.

"I'm losing you," the brunette whispered. Unshed tears strangled her voice. "Just like the dream said."

Sam studied her seriously for a moment, and shook her head. "You're more than a memory to me, Janet. My brain can't destroy what's in my heart."

That did it, and the tears pooled in the doctor's dark eyes spilled errantly down her cheeks. "God, Sam."

The blonde gathered her lover into her arms, murmuring quiet assurances into a nearby ear.

"I did this to you," Janet sobbed. "This is my fault."

"No," Sam countered immediately. "Never."

"I risked an unknown substance on your injury..."

"Because I was hurt, and sick, and you didn't have any other choice at the time," the blonde insisted. "Janet, this isn't something you can blame yourself for." She tightened her arms a bit around her lover, and rubbed gentle hands along Janet's back until she eventually relaxed in sleep, then closed her eyes and followed her in slumber.

Janet looked around at the bloody battlefield, seeing humanoid creatures of all shapes and sizes littering the ground. In the distance a lone figure stood and surveyed the carnage, turning in a slow circle to regard at the death and decay that extended to every horizon. She carefully stepped closer, and started when troubled blue eyes looked toward her, then continued in their circuit.

"I have gone further than the gods of old," Sam intoned quietly, as if reciting a prayer. "Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight."

"Sam?" the doctor murmured as she drew closer, and got no immediate answer. "This is your nightmare, isn't it? This is what you've been seeing every night," Janet exhaled in horror. No wonder Sam had been having such difficulty sleeping.

The taller woman nodded. "We met the Goa'uld for the first time this day. This was the army of Aten."

"We?" Janet asked, but the blonde continued as if she had not heard the question.

"The ground ran thick with blood, and the sky clouded so that we thought the sun had set for the first time in thousands of years." Above them the sun broke through the smoke, casting a sickly light on the gruesome scene. Sam tipped her head up and watched it. "Our allies vowed to set in motion a plan to assure this would never happen again. They did not know that some Goa'uld survived this battle, and that one lived to imprison us all."

"Who is us?" Janet insisted.

"To know them, you must lose her," came a voice behind her. "I think you've heard something like that before."

The doctor spun around. The Seer was a few steps away, looking around with an expression of vague distaste. "Dammit," she growled. "Are you here to finally tell me what's going on here?"

"Tsk. You know I can't do anything of the kind. As I keep telling you, I'm as dead as these poor bastards," he responded.

"Well, what difference does it make if you keep showing up in my head?"

"I am merely a construct for you, Janet. You haven't yet learned to trust that which you know inside you, so you use me to make those leaps of logic and intuition you otherwise couldn't cope with."

She stared at him blankly for a moment, then sighed.

"Your friends were correct before," he continued. "You're the one this is all about."

At that, she bristled. "Fine! Fine, it's about me. But leave Sam out of it!" she cried, throwing a hand behind her to indicate the woman standing behind her, her blonde head still tilted up towards the sky.

The Seer folded his hands together and gazed at her with compassion. "I am sorry. Unfortunately, this path was not designed to be an easy one."

Janet turned away from him to watch Sam as she murmured more ancient funeral incantations. "What is this place?"

"Hard to say. But this is not merely a vision," he answered practically. "This is also a memory."

"I think I'd know if Sam ever saw anything like this..." Janet rebutted, then drew up short. "Jolinar."

The Seer smiled. "It might help to know more about your Samantha's former symbiote, don't you think?"

"This is most unusual," Anise murmured. She was in the SGC's control room, studying the telemetry sent from the MALP on P12-093, where the video feed had captured the image of the Goa'uld symbol of Korosh'nai the day before. "I see no evidence here of radiation, or fouling of the atmosphere."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "It does not match the pattern of a typical world desecrated by the Goa'uld."

"We must explore this place," the Tok'ra scientist declared.

"I'm afraid I can't allow that," General Hammond responded. "I can't send personnel to a world that the Goa'uld themselves have advertised as dangerous."

"The symbol must be a ruse," Anise insisted. "It is meant to dissuade investigation, and I believe it conceals something of great import."

The general shook his head. "You can't be certain of that, and I can't risk any of my people on what you might believe." Unfortunately, he'd learned that lesson the hard way the first time they'd encountered Anise, when she'd brought the Atoniek armbands for SG-1's experimentation.

Jacob Carter stepped between them. "Anise has a point, George. We need to know who Isten was working for, and this planet is our best lead so far."

"I could perform reconnaissance safely," Teal'c said. "My symbiote will protect me from any radiation or chemicals left behind."

"Same here," Jacob said. When Hammond still hesitated, the former general leaned closer to him and lowered his voice. "George, we might find something there that can help Sam. If Isten was on the trail of whoever left those people on that planet, then we might be able to find them and the technology we need to cure her."

General Hammond pursed his lips, and stared hard at his old friend before releasing a small sigh. "All right. You'll take SG-1 in biohazard gear, and at the slightest indication of trouble, you return here immediately." He turned to the Jaffa. "Teal'c, please inform your team we have a briefing in one hour."

General Hammond gave Doctor Fraiser a brief sideways look as they gathered at the conference table for the scheduled pre-mission briefing, and wondered if he needed to have a talk with his CMO. She seemed awfully attached to Major Carter these days, and while he knew the two women were friends, and he knew she took her job and those entrusted to her care very personally, he wondered if maybe she was a bit too close to this situation to remain truly professional.

He pushed that particular quandary aside for the moment, and focused instead on Anise's description of the data the MALP gathered.

"Your probe device did not indicate any of the typical Goa'uld tactics for rendering a world uninhabitable," the Tok'ra scientist was saying. "There was no detectable radiation, and the atmospheric readings are well within standard parameters."

"The MALP has no way to detect if any biological agents were left behind," Janet pointed out. "There could be bacteria, viruses, or any number of microscopic contaminants floating around in the air over there."

"That risk is present on any world we encounter," Teal'c pointed out solemnly.

Janet sat back in her chair with a sigh, feeling the familiar frustration that Anise's judgment was being trusted over her own.

"No worries, Doc. That kinda stuff is too... subtle for the Goa'uld, right?" The Colonel said, with a pointed look at Anise.

The scientist inclined her head. "Indeed. The Goa'uld approach to damaging a world is generally far more obvious."

"SG-1 will depart in full biohazard gear in two hours. Major Carter, I'm afraid you're grounded for this mission," Hammond announced.

Sam's immediate instinct was to protest, but she fought it, recognizing the logic of his decision. "Yes, sir."

"Very well then. Dismissed."

Janet stood and caught Anise's attention as the others filed out of the conference room. Sam lagged behind, watching the other two women curiously. They sized each other up in silence for a beat before Janet cleared her throat. "I..." She paused, and glanced over to Sam. "We could use your help," the doctor said quietly.

When the Tok'ra answered, it was the demure voice of the host, Freya. "I will assist in any way I can, Doctor," the scientist answered with no detectable trace of smugness.

A few minutes later they were in an isolation room, tucked away from the normal activity of the infirmary, as Janet described her request to both Sam and Freya.

"I have reason to believe Jolinar might have known some information relevant to our current situation," Janet explained. "I understand the Tok'ra have the ability to enhance memory recall."

"Of course," Freya replied. "But the process isn't necessarily comfortable," she said with a questioning look at Sam.

"The dreams?" Sam murmured, and saw Janet's small nod. "Right. Sure, when can we get started?"

"Immediately," Freya replied, and left to retrieve a the device in question from her gear. Upon her return, she held the memory device as well as a box covered with various diodes and buttons. "We've been experimenting with the holographic projection devices your team reported Hathor used in conjunction with the memory device. With your permission, Major?" She held aloft the small disk, ready to press it to Sam's temple.

"Go ahead," Sam said before she could change her mind. Even though she was braced for the lancing pain of the memory device's activation, she still jerked in her seat and let out a hiss of surprised pain when it attached itself to her skull. Janet found herself levitating toward her, wanting nothing more than to soothe away the anguish apparent on her lover's face, but managed to pull herself to a stop before she collided with Freya.

"Major Carter," the Tok'ra host said blandly, "We will need to tune the device before we delve into the memories Jolinar left behind. I'd like you to focus on the first time you noticed that you were having trouble remembering things."

Blue eyes closed in concentration, and a holographic screen appeared in the thin air beside her head. Janet was so focused on watching Sam's face that she started when her own voice emerged from the Tok'ra projection.

"I believe you promised me a dance, Major."

The doctor turned wide eyes to the holographic image, recognizing herself seen from Sam's perspective, as they stood together in her living room just after Cassie had left for her Homecoming Dance not three weeks before.

"You know, there's a really good reason I stomp around in combat boots all day," the blonde replied nervously.

"I don't want to hear it, Sam. You promised," came the purred response. Janet took a slow, seductive step closer to the taller woman, allowing their clothes to brush together, just enough to transmit the tantalizing hint of body heat.

"There's no music," Sam protested one last time, though she could already feel the heady thrum of sensual energy building between them that provided more rhythm than any actual melody.

"Who needs music?" A delicate hand skimmed along Sam's waist to the small of her back, drawing them closer together.

Of their own accord, Sam's arms lifted to fold gently around the smaller woman, and they began to sway ever so slightly. Their intense gaze never wavered from each other's eyes as they turned a slow circle, moving together in perfect concert. Eventually Janet shifted, resting her head in the hollow under Sam's chin, reveling in the warmth and the comforting steady beat of her lover's heart.

"I can't remember the last time I danced," Sam murmured as she pressed her lips to lover's soft, dark hair.

At the time, neither woman had known she'd meant it literally.

The holograph dissolved, and winked back out of existence. Freya looked up curiously at Janet, then over at Sam. Both women were blushing, and the Tok'ra managed a bemused smile. "Well. I believe that's sufficient for a baseline," she said quietly, and made some adjustments to the device. "Major Carter, are you able to continue?"

Sam eyes were still screwed shut. "Yeah, let's do it," she said through gritted teeth.

Freya looked at Janet for confirmation, and got a terse nod. "Very well. Let's move on to the dreams you mentioned."

The four men emerged from the iridescent puddle of the Stargate onto the surface of P12-093 with cautious steps. Teal'c immediately took a circuit around the gate, and relaxed a notch when he saw no discernible threat.

Jacob held aloft a Tok'ra scanner, and he waved it around as it measured the environment around them. "Radiation levels are still nominal," he announced, then made an adjustment to the device. "There are no biological or chemical agents in the air."

Behind him, O'Neill and Daniel pulled off their biohazard hoods with some relief. "Good," the colonel muttered. "I hate these damn things."

Daniel was already looking around excitedly. "Jack, this building looks a lot like Heliopolis," he said. "Maybe we can find a meeting room similar to that one."

"Easy, Daniel. Let's make sure there's nothing waiting around to kill us first," O'Neill responded, hefting his P90 as he trailed after Teal'c to patrol the area surrounding the gate.

This was hardly an exact science, Janet realized as she watched Freya explore Sam's memory. The implant induced a kind of suggestive state, easing the mind's transition between specific memories, but that hardly guaranteed the ability to surf through the memories at will.

Sam had finally recalled the dream that had been haunting her for weeks, adding some details that Janet herself had not even seen, bits of the gruesome battle that had preceded it. Now they were cautiously trawling through a long lifetime of Jolinar's memories, though the scientist's progress was clearly impeded by the damage already done by the immune reaction running rampant in Sam's nervous system. Each little stutter on the holographic projection, each small hesitation in recall made Janet's heart sink just a little more, knowing that they represented the inexorable progress of loss.

Further complicating the process were the multiplicity of lifetimes, both of host and symbiote, that Sam never had the chance to fully integrate into her psyche. Jolinar's possession of her body had been brief and painful for both, not the harmonious blending the Tok'ra typically pursued. As a result, the memory device tended to skip around between Sam's life, Jolinar's, and half dozen or so other hosts the symbiote had occupied in its long existence.

Janet had been observing the procedure for nearly an hour, her entire body vibrating with tension as she watched her lover struggle through the arduous recall process. They were now more or less focused on the circumstances of the battle Sam was seeing in her nightmares, and they discovered that Jolinar had in fact started out life incubated within the body of a Jaffa in the army of Aten. At the battle the Jaffa was injured beyond repair, and though not yet fully mature the symbiote escaped the dying body of its host and discovered Tau, a wounded enemy soldier who was barely drawing breath.

Left with no other options, Jolinar joined with the soldier. Here Sam's recall grew hazy, and the images projected on the holographic screen were faint, unfocused, probably attributable to Jolinar's own weakened state at the time.

Through the eyes of its former enemy, the symbiote came to understand the atrocities of the Goa'uld, the horrors visited upon their foes. It was then Jolinar became Tok'ra, in deed if not yet in name, as unprepared symbiote and unwitting host were forced to work together to survive and eventually escape the battlefield.

It was actually Tau who had stood upon the hill that Janet had seen in the dream, muttering funeral incantations. It was a combination of Tau and Jolinar who had looked out at the deadly tableau and mourned the senseless loss of life.

Aten had fancied himself the god of the sun, and had discovered this world known to its inhabitants simply as The Light. Its abject defeat by his vast army was to have been a trophy, a mere prize for his ego. Instead it had turned into one of the most bloody and humiliating battles the Goa'uld had ever experienced.

And for some reason, it was the one thing the ghost of Jolinar wanted Sam to know about the most.

It didn't take long for Teal'c and O'Neill to return from their initial recon empty handed. The colonel decided the Goa'uld symbol was likely a ruse after all, leaving the team free to explore the ancient fortress.

As was his typical habit, Daniel promptly drifted away from the rest of the team, following a long hallway covered in complex alien inscriptions away from the Stargate. His mouth formed the foreign words silently, as he read the obscure passages in transfixed fascination. After a few steps his nose twitched a bit, detecting a raw smell emanating from down the hallway ahead of him, but he barely registered it.

"'The demons sought to capture The Light, but failed...'" he quoted aloud, then paused and reread the passage. "'The Light,' huh?" he continued muttering to himself as he wandered down the hallway, then rounded the corner and paused as a sliding door automatically parted to make way for him.

The archeologist swallowed convulsively as the scent of decaying flesh suddenly assaulted him full force, and he pulled a sleeve over his hand to hold in front of his face as a shield. "Uh, Jack? Found something." He winced and lurched away.

O'Neill immediately turned and bounded down the hallway toward him, followed closely by Carter and Teal'c. "Ah, Christ," he breathed when he looked into the room Daniel indicated.

On the floor lay about a dozen small, grey-skinned aliens, long dead and arranged in a row as if they'd been systematically executed.

The memory device left Sam exhausted, drained. She'd endured the strenuous process for almost two hours straight by the time Freya finally disengaged the disk at her temple, declaring they'd made as much progress as was reasonable for the day.

The Tok'ra scientist packed away her equipment in reflective silence while the doctor left to get Sam some ice water. The blonde sat slumped in her seat, head bowed with mental and physical fatigue. Freya studied her for a moment, then nodded as if coming to a silent decision. "Your father speaks very highly of Doctor Fraiser."

Sam sat up straight with some effort, and peered at the other woman. "He does?"

"Indeed. He believes that she takes excellent care of you, which you 'need, whether you know it or not,'" Freya quoted.

The blonde smiled warmly. It sounded like something he'd say. "Well, he's right."

At that point Janet came back into the room, carrying a glass of water and a few painkillers that Sam downed instantly. Freya gave them both one last curious look before excusing herself from the infirmary.

"How are you feeling?" Janet asked quietly as she noted Sam's haggard appearance.

Sam looked up at her with a tired smile. "My head's spinning," she admitted. "It's hard to sort through it all."

"Well, I think the memory device was worth trying. It seemed to help," the doctor responded, watching Sam's face as she sifted through the deluge of stirred up memories. Janet reached up with one hand around the back of the blonde's neck, rubbing the exposed skin in a friendly pattern that eased some of the tension straining her muscles.

Sam leaned into the touch but remained silent as she slowly relaxed. After a few moments the impromptu massage slid down to her shoulder and back while Janet finally indulged the bone-deep need to comfort her lover. Both women jumped a few minutes later when the off-world activation alert sounded, and the doctor followed hot on Sam's heels as she bounded toward the control room.

Daniel ducked out of the way of the medical personnel as they filed past him in the narrow hallway. They were nearly done with moving the Asgard bodies back to Earth for autopsy and forensic analysis, though the archeologist was just glad the stench was dissipating.

He walked back into the room where he'd found the dead aliens and saw Jacob Carter intently studying the alien words imprinted upon the walls. "You said something about 'Heliopolis' before," the former general said quietly, casting a glance at the other man.

"Right, at least, that's what Ernest called it," Daniel answered. "Ernest Littlefield -- he was the first man to go through the Stargate when they began running tests on it back in the 40's. He ended up on a planet he called Heliopolis, and found a meeting room with four different languages inscribed on the walls..."

"... that represented the four great races that originally traveled the galaxy," Jacob concluded with a nod. "The Goa'uld make it a habit to completely ransack such meeting locations when they are discovered. Which, fortunately, isn't often."

"Why are the Goa'uld so obsessed with the Ancients?" Daniel asked.

"Why are you?" Carter returned wryly. He began to pace back and forth in front of the ornate wall. "The Goa'uld are fundamentally parasites -- you know that already. They steal the things they need, enslave the people they need, forcibly inhabit the hosts they need. The more technology they can find from the Ancients and harness for their own uses, the more powerful they become." He shrugged. "That's the simple explanation."

Daniel watched the former general expectantly as he turned at the end of the wall with a sigh.

"The more complicated explanation," Carter continued, "Is what every Goa'uld knows by the grace of genetic memory. That somewhere out there, there was a race of beings who most likely had the technological ability to zap us all into oblivion. And now they're gone, and it was one of us who did it."

The archeologist caught the rather disturbing inclusive reference between the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld, but didn't comment. Instead, like Jacob, he turned his attention back to the inscriptions on the wall, and continued to read.

A few hours later Janet met Sam and Teal'c as they talked together in the main room of the infirmary.

"I don't know enough about Asgard physiology to conduct a thorough autopsy," Janet said as she pulled rubber gloves off her hands with a snap. "But judging by the volume of parasite infestation, I'd say they've been dead a few weeks. Maybe a month."

"Killed by a staff weapon," Teal'c added.

The doctor bobbed her head in a terse nod. "I can't be absolutely certain because of the decay of the surrounding tissues, but the wounds are consistent with a staff weapon."

"So Isten goes to P12-093, kills a few Asgard, then goes to P7X-943 and starts rounding up Alain's people," Sam said. "And according to the navigational logs, he pushed the ship to its limits to get there in a hurry."

"But the Goa'uld had been to P7X-943 before -- Alain's people already knew about them. Why was he in such a hurry this time?" Janet countered.

"And how did he find P12-093 in the first place?" the blonde fired back.

Teal'c merely followed the exchange with a raised eyebrow, having become rather accustomed to the two women's verbal problem solving technique.

"I need to go there," Sam said suddenly. "P12-093. I need to see it."

"I do not believe General Hammond will authorize your travel through the Stargate at this time," Teal'c intoned.

"You don't understand," the blonde snapped. "I've been there before."

"So, Daniel, what does all this stuff say?" Colonel O'Neill asked with a wave at the alien inscriptions.

"I think it's a description of the function of this place," Daniel answered, still rather distracted as he continued to read. "It appears to be a meeting place for the four great races, just like Heliopolis, but I think it's also more than that."

"We've found references to a kind of Goa'uld resistance movement separate from the Tok'ra," Jacob supplied.

The colonel's eyebrows shot up. "More than one resistance?"

The former general shrugged. "There were always rumors," he explained. "The Tok'ra were founded specifically to combat Ra, but smaller, less organized groups sometimes targeted the less influential system lords. Usually, it was some personal vendetta."

"But now we're finding evidence that the four great original races that first travelled the galaxy allied themselves at some point with this resistance," Daniel added in an excited voice.

O'Neill squinted at him. "I thought the Asgard and them didn't bother with that kind of stuff."

"Exactly," the archeologist said with gesture of triumph, before he backpedaled a bit. "But I have no idea what that means."

Sam found General Hammond in the SGC's control room, with Teal'c and Janet trailing close behind. "Sir, request permission to return with Teal'c to P12-093," the blonde said breathlessly.

"Major, I can't allow medically unfit officers through the gate," the general answered.

Sam was nodding before he even finished the sentence. "I know that, sir, but I think Jolinar may have been to that planet, maybe hundreds of years ago. If I go, I might remember more."

He looked her over, gauging her wellness with a critical eye, then looked over at Doctor Fraiser, who surely would have raised an objection if she thought Sam was not well enough for gate travel. "All right. You and Teal'c leave in twenty minutes. Dismissed." He turned and strode up the stairs toward his office.

Janet followed close behind, standing at attention as he sat behind his desk. "Permission to join the team on P12-093, sir."


The perfectly reasonable question came at Janet from around a blind corner. Why indeed? "To... monitor Major Carter's condition," she answered weakly.

"Does Major Carter's 'condition' pose an immediate threat to her health or to the health of her teammates?" Hammond asked blandly.

"Well, no, sir, but..."

"Then I see no reason to authorize a medical attachment to SG-1's mission at this time," he concluded.

Janet took a deep breath. "I understand, sir, but..."

"Doctor," he said firmly. "Your primary duty is to this base, and not solely to Major Carter's health." He stood and rounded the desk, allowing his expression to relax into a more benevolent gaze. "I'm fully prepared to allow you the discretion to pursue all available avenues to assist her, but at this time I don't see that your travel to P12-093 is warranted. Understood?"

Her mouth hung open for a moment to offer further protest, but she snapped it closed. "Yes sir."

Sam grabbed her flak jacket from her locker and slung it over her shoulders. The door of the locker room opened, and Janet wandered in, taking a seat on one of the long benches in front of the row of lockers.

"Hey. You coming along?" Sam asked, sitting beside her to lace up her boots.


The blonde paused, and glanced over at the doctor's profile. "No? Well, I'm sure General Hammond would..."

"That's not my job, Sam," Janet interrupted. "My place is here." She shook her head a little. "I think I forgot that for a while."

Sam's brows drew together in a faint scowl as she struggled to get her other boot onto her foot. "Yeah, I guess I did too," she murmured. She finished suiting up in silence, while Janet stared determinedly at the bland locker in front of her. When Sam was done getting ready, she sat again next to her lover, and exhaled a loud, frustrated breath.

Janet unaccountably felt tears welling up in her eyes. "I feel like I don't want to let you out of my sight," she whispered.

"The area's totally secure," Sam said reassuringly. "There are SG teams crawling all over that building right now."

"I know that, dammit. I didn't say it was rational."

The blonde smiled and dipped her head. She remained quiet for a long moment, considering her next words. "You know, most of my adult life, I swore I was going to fly solo," she began thoughtfully. "I didn't want to get too tangled up in emotional stuff, didn't want to bother with people or kids or pets..." She shrugged. "It just seemed easiest. I could get a motorcycle, 'cause no one would care if I took a turn too shallow one day and got myself killed. I could hop into wormholes and skip around the galaxy facing God knows what because no one was waiting for me when I got home."

She could feel Janet's eyes on her, but didn't return the look, knowing that doing so would render it impossible to finish what she had to say. "Then there was Cassandra, and then there was you... way before you even knew it, there was you. You were the reason to get home, even when things looked impossible. You were the reason to do the impossible." Finally, she met Janet's gaze with a tremulous smile. "Listen, I know you hate being left behind, but you've got to know that having you here is the best possible motivation to do my job out there and hurry back."

Right then a voice on the base intercom system echoed above them. "Major Carter, to the embarkation room."

Sam cast a wry look upward, then looked back at Janet, who was apparently having a hard time forming a response. "Gotta go," she said with a cocky grin.

Delicate hands suddenly held her in place as she found Janet kissing her for all she was worth, consequences be damned. "I love you," the doctor breathed when they finally broke apart.

It was, incongruously, one of the sweetest moments of Sam's life. She closed her eyes to savor it, to feel the strength of the emotion running warm and nearly tangible between them, willing the cursed gaps growing in her brain to allow her to remember just this one heartbeat of time, if nothing else ever again. "I love you, too," she whispered in return.

Sam crossed the threshold of the gate and was immediately presented with the symbol of Korosh'nai mounted in the ground ahead of her. In the extremely malleable fashion common to the Tok'ra, but certainly uncommon to Sam, her mind supplied the image of her own hands driving the pillar into the ground, of a man's voice saying, "This should keep any curious demons away."

"Demons?" Teal'c inquired from beside her.

She blinked and swiveled toward him. "Sorry, didn't know I said that aloud." She paced around the symbol, feeling an overpowering sense of deja vu. In a way, she really had been to this place before. "I remember planting this symbol," she murmured.

Had any other man tried to make the expression on Teal'c's face, he would have surely sprained an eyebrow.

"I mean, it was Tau, Jolinar's original host," Sam clarified. "But I remember it."

By now their arrival had drawn the attention of Colonel O'Neill, her father, and Daniel, who hovered just within earshot. "What else do you remember, Sam?" Jacob asked quietly.

She closed her eyes, focusing on the fleeting internal images of a long-dead warrior and his symbiote. There were scars... She opened her eyes again and looked down at her hands, flexing the fingers as she half expected to see the injuries Tau had sustained in the battle. "I only found five other survivors," she said. Her voice seemed deeper, more resonant, as she called forth the dormant voice of the ancient soldier. "I could not tell them of the being I now carried, for fear of being cast out as another demon. We repaired a Goa'uld ship and used it to leave the surface."

"How did you get here?" Daniel asked.

Sam searched her memory. "Old allies. Friends of my people from long ago. They found us, and brought us here. We vowed that we would take back The Light, repel the Goa'uld, and set forth the plan to defeat them once and for all."

"Well, hey, that's great," Colonel O'Neill interjected. "How?"

She concentrated for a long moment, dredging through the thick memories, and began to shake with the effort of it.

"Sam?" Daniel said, alarmed. He took a step toward her. "Sam, let it go. You don't need to do this." When she didn't answer, he looked to his teammates for help.

In a bare whisper, the blonde said, "We failed."

Then she collapsed.

Janet was just about to head home for the evening when SG-4 returned to base far ahead of schedule, sounding a medical alert through the complex. She grabbed her emergency gear and directed her staff to follow and begin triage procedures. By the time she charged through the open door to the gate room, several airmen were already hefting litters swathed in isolation tents down the ramp.

"It's the Dodonans," the CO of the team reported briskly to the waiting General Hammond. "They're dying, sir. All of them."

Janet swiped at the sheen of perspiration on her brow as she walked around the half-completed Dodonan village while it baked under the afternoon sun. SG-4's report had been tragically accurate; all of the transplanted people here were dying. Some would likely not make it through the day.

She paused in the scant shade of a small tree to readjust the mask covering her face. She didn't really think there was any contagion to be spread here, but it wouldn't do to be careless. Especially since it was apparently their carelessness that got these people into this predicament in the first place.

The dozen or so Dodonans she'd examined so far were all ancient souls by Earth standards, each two to three hundred years old, all rapidly succumbing to massive organ failure. It was as if their bodies suddenly realized humans just weren't meant to last that long, and were now spontaneously giving out.

A slow-moving shadow crossed in front of her, and she looked up to see Alain, the Dodonan apothecary, as he approached.

"Our task is rather grim, but I am glad of your help, Doctor Fraiser," he said with a tired smile.

She studied his face sadly, seeing the jaundice and haggard exhaustion where before had been indomitable youthfulness. "I don't think I can really help that much," she admitted quietly.

The man raised one thin, bony hand, and rested it on her shoulder. "Do not fear. Our long days are not yet over." He turned and walked doggedly on in the heat, ready to tend to those who needed him.

The iris was barely clear of the aperture of the Stargate at the SGC before SG-1 and Jacob Carter came bounding through, with Sam's limp body carried over the shoulders of Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill.

"Medical emergency!" the colonel barked, then looked around and saw several medics already bustling about the gateroom. Two nurses wheeled a gurney over and assisted in placing Sam carefully onboard, then hurried off to the infirmary. O'Neill moved to follow, but was intercepted by General Hammond. "What the hell's going on here?" the colonel demanded.

"The Dodonans have become ill," the general replied tersely. "What happened to Major Carter?"

"Dunno, she just collapsed," O'Neill answered, distracted, as he looked around and recognized a few familiar faces among the alien patients milling around.

"They're all sick?" Daniel chimed in disbelief.

The general gave him a grave nod. "It appears that way, Doctor."

O'Neill muttered a curse, pulled off his cap, and scratched at the short hair at the base of his head. "Where's Fraiser?"

"She's assisting Alain planetside, trying to determine..."

"Well, get her back here," O'Neill growled.

Behind the colonel, Daniel took a step closer. "Jack..." he murmured in quiet warning.

"Doctor Warner is perfectly capable of assessing Major Carter's condition," Hammond responded, bristling just a bit.

Though tempted to argue, O'Neill couldn't very well explain all of his reasons to the general, so he opted to brush past him and follow the nurses moving Carter to the infirmary. If Fraiser couldn't be there to watch over Sam, then he damn well would be.

Janet knew the second she got back that something else had gone horribly wrong.

Jack O'Neill was waiting for her at the bottom of the ramp in the gateroom, and he pulled her aside to explain what had happened to Sam. He also mentioned that Daniel and Jacob had returned to P12-093 to scour the ruins with redoubled purpose to find anything at all that might be able to help. Had she been in a different frame of mind she likely would have dredged up some pity for the anguish etching his features. As it was she simply absorbed his words, then moved mechanically to the infirmary to see for herself.

Sam was hooked up to dozens of machines, her chest moving only faintly as she breathed. The doctor picked up the charts, studied Warner's notes, flipped a few pages, all with impeccable calm. She gave a few quiet orders to her staff, then with one last lingering look at her lover's wan features she excused herself to her office and sat down behind her desk.

It was amazing, she thought in a sort of giddy panic, just how quickly everything could turn to absolute shit.

They'd moved the Dodonans on her say-so, when she said she was convinced they would survive the transition with no ill effects. Now hundreds of people were dying, their bodies simply falling apart, all because of something she missed.

And now Samantha Carter, quite possibly one of the most intelligent people gracing the planet, quite possibly the one person with which Janet was meant to spend her lifetime, was wasting away in a coma. Even if she woke up there was every possibility she'd never be the same person ever again.

And it was her fault.

The metal clipboard containing Sam's chart made a satisfying clatter when she hurled it against the wall in sheer frustration, though the burst of movement drained her of all remaining energy and composure.

Janet Fraiser crumpled against the nearest concrete wall, curled into herself, and wept.

The infirmary was crowded but quiet in the small hours of the morning when Jacob Carter, freshly returned from the continued fruitless search on P12-093, wandered in to check on his daughter. A nurse pointed him toward a far corner, where intimidating piles of electronic equipment beeped and whirred around the gurney on which Sam lay, pale and unresponsive. As he'd fully expected, he saw Doctor Fraiser sitting in silent vigil next to the bed, staring down at Sam as if willing her to wake up. Jack O'Neill was nodding off unobtrusively in a hard plastic chair in the background.

"Doctor," Jacob greeted quietly.

She spun to face him, startled. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. Didn't know you were there."

He gave her a tight smile and jerked his chin at Sam's prone form. "How's she doing?"

Janet's dark eyes did nothing to camouflage her heartache. "Not well. The last MRI shows that the lesions in her brain have grown over four hundred percent." She leaned against the bed railing and shut her eyes as she said it, as if speaking the words aloud rendered them even more difficult to bear. "Using the memory device appears to have radically accelerated the immune reaction's progress."

Jacob's gaze dropped at the news, then he reached out and patted his daughter's leg. "Gotta hang in there, kiddo," he whispered.

The small bit of parental affection was like a jumpstart to Janet's brain as she suddenly realized just how late it was. "I need to get home," she muttered. Her hands wandered in the air as if she was looking for something, but she'd forgotten what, exactly. "Cassie's expecting me, and I haven't been home much the past few weeks..."

"How about you let me drive you, and you can get Cassie and bring her back here?" the former general asked warmly. He smiled back at her disbelieving stare. "Hey, just because I happen to be sharing my body with an ancient, wise alien doesn't mean I've forgotten how to drive, Doctor." He held his hands out invitingly. "C'mon. I've been wanting to meet this kid for ages."

At that point Colonel O'Neill woke up enough to haul himself off the uncomfortable chair with a groan. "I'll keep watch, Doc," he promised solemnly. "Go get Cassie. She'll want to be here."

Cassie bounded out of the house to meet the car as it pulled into the dark driveway, but hesitated when she saw Janet wasn't driving and Sam was nowhere to be seen. "Mom? What's wrong?"

What wasn't? "It's a long story, Cass," Janet sighed tiredly. "Do you want to come stay on base for a while?"

The teenager had now skidded to a complete halt, and was looking at the man climbing out of the driver door with growing horror.

The change in her daughter's demeanor was entirely lost on Janet, who was having a hard enough time just keeping her eyelids open. "Cass, this is Jacob Carter, Sam's father."

Cassie took a few stumbling steps backward. "Mom?"

Jacob looked over at the doctor in mild confusion, then gave the girl a bright smile. "Sam's told me a lot about you, Cassie."

It took a couple more seconds of studying her daughter's panicked expression before Janet suddenly clued into its cause. "Oh, Cass, it's not what you think," she said, taking a step toward the teen. Cassie shrank a bit further away and the doctor sighed, then turned back to Jacob. "She has naquada in her bloodstream," she explained.

"Ah," Jacob said with a nod. "Then she can feel Selmak and she thinks I'm a Goa'uld." He turned back to Cassie and gave her a self-deprecating shrug. "Sorry about that, kiddo. Didn't mean to scare you."

"Sam said you'd joined the Tok'ra," Cassie said in a small voice, not yet totally trusting this new development.

"I prefer to say that the Tok'ra joined me," the older man returned with a smirk, which faded as his gaze turned inward. "But I've been informed that that's not funny."

"Cassie, listen," Janet said firmly. "Sam's sick." That snapped the teen out of her temporary paralysis, and she gave her adopted mother a mildly terrified look. "She's... really sick, actually," Janet clarified, her voice breaking. "Would you like to see her?"

The girl nodded, and walked over to the car. As she passed Jacob she suppressed an involuntary shudder, and tried to give the man a smile. "It's nice to meet you," she said weakly. He gave her an understanding look and got back behind the wheel.

When they arrived at the infirmary, Cassie approached Sam's bed with timid steps, taken aback at just how frail her other parent looked. She'd only seen Sam hurt once before, after Jolinar, and she remembered that then Sam had responded to her presence more readily than anyone else's. She took tentative hold of one of Sam's hands, chafing the chilled fingers with her own. "Sam? C'mon, it's time to wake up," she whispered. She swallowed hard, fighting tears. "Your family's here... Come back to us." Janet wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulder in a hug, while Jacob stood silently at the foot of the bed, watching over them all.

Sergeant Davis sat in the control room of the SGC, fidgeting idly and noting the palpable tension hanging in the air on base. Gate travel except to Dodona had been halted, as the SGC's full resources mobilized to try to find a way to help the aliens they'd inadvertently endangered. Adding to that was the base gossip that said Major Carter was currently down for the count, and tempers were wearing just a little thin.

He was starting to feel rather guilty about ever thinking that his job was boring.

Suddenly the Stargate flared to life, as an unscheduled incoming wormhole established itself. General Hammond immediately stalked out of his office to order a status report.

Davis keyed the standard base alerts and stared intently at his console, waiting for an identifying transmission code to come through, with one hand hovering over the control that would slam the iris shut. Long seconds ticked by in anxious silence. "No IDC, sir," he murmured.

"Close the iris," Hammond said crisply.

The sergeant moved to comply, then found that the controls were non-functional. "I can't, sir."

By now, heavily armed SFs were storming into the gateroom, taking aim at the glowing portal. Colonel O'Neill jogged up the stairs into the control room, his expression grim as he nodded a greeting to the general.

"Sergeant?" Hammond said impatiently.

Davis was working at fever pitch over the controls, running diagnostics and test patterns, but unable to determine the cause of the failure.

Then a single figure crossed the plane of the wormhole's event horizon, resolving into a diminutive, pale, rather oddly-dressed man. The SFs tensed on their triggers, but waited calmly for an obvious threat or the order to fire.

O'Neill jerked with recognition. "Anteaus!" He turned, bounded down the control room stairs and into the gateroom. He shoved a few burly SFs aside and took a couple steps up the ramp. "Man, Anteaus, am I glad to see you."

The forest-dwelling representative of the Nox bowed his head. "O'Neill."

The colonel put a hand to the smaller man's back, leading him down the ramp. "You have excellent timing. We could sure use your help." The SFs parted before them warily, but stood down and let the two men exit on Hammond's order.

"On the contrary, O'Neill. It is we who require your help," the alien countered. That unsettled the colonel in a profound way, but he stayed silent through the trip in the elevator to the infirmary.

Anteaus left the compartment and followed the corridor with definite purpose, his calm gait quickening just slightly. When he entered the infirmary he walked straight to Sam's side, ignoring the curious looks of Janet, Jacob, and Cassie. The colonel followed just a few steps behind, and made an all-clear motion with his hands to make sure they stayed out of his way.

The alien reached one hand out to hover a few inches over Sam's head, and smiled faintly. "Greetings, old friend," he whispered, with a curious cock of his head.

Janet looked anxiously to the colonel, and back at Anteaus. "Can you help her?" she asked in a small voice.

He turned and found himself eye to eye with the doctor. "I cannot," he answered in the same hushed, almost reverent tone. "Though you will in time." The alien gave her an enigmatic smile. "For even the very young must eventually grow up."

Continue to the next chapter, The Lost Are Found.
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