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rocketfic | paracelsus

Title: Paracelsus by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Set immediately after "Ripple Effect." Will they ever see the ripples hit the edge of the pond?


"I missed seventeen versions of you in one room? I missed that?"

Sam smiled into her drink.

Jack tossed his coat onto a nearby stool, ordered a beer, and sat. "This is so not fair, Carter. You guys should have called me."

"We did. You were busy."

"Yeah, yeah," Jack muttered. "'Homeworld Security' waits for no man. But I would have damn well made time to see that."

It was Chicago this time, a nice anonymous bar near O'Hare, where no one would notice two old friends out of uniform and meeting for a drink. They probably didn't really need to be secretive about this kind of thing anymore, but old habits died hard.

"I've discovered we can all be pretty annoying in volume, actually." She shuddered when she thought of walking by the storage bay full of excited Daniels.

"And you saw Marty, too?" Jack asked. "Lemme guess. In his reality, he stars in his own series of Tok'ra toothpaste commercials."

Sam chuckled and shook her head. "Something like that, sir."

He stiffened. "Hey, I thought we agreed..."

"Jack," she corrected, lifting a hand in apology. "Sorry."

"Mhmm." He frowned as the bartender plunked his beer down in front of him. "And Fraiser?" he ventured, while watching her out of the corner of his eye.

He thought she'd been looking pretty damn tired these days anyway. At the mention of her friend, she suddenly looked downright old.

"She's good," Sam replied after a moment. "She's..."

"Short?" he interrupted, hoping for another smile. "Tell me they haven't found a cure for shortness in her universe."

She didn't seem to even hear him. "She's leading SG-1, if you can believe that. They put her in charge during their version of the Ori plague."

Jack blinked, then blinked again. Fraiser in charge of their lead team... Huh.

"And her Cassie is doing really well," Sam continued.

"And her Sam had a kid," Jack added, quietly. "That had to be little weird to hear about."

"A little," she conceded, with a bemused nod.

"They ever mention who the father is?" he asked. He allowed himself a moment of rampant egotism, and decided that their combined genetic product probably looked pretty damned adorable, even in an alternate universe.

Sam scowled, remembering Martouf's deferent glance at Janet, and the doctor's immediate grin. "No. They never did."

He regarded her profile, and the dark circles under her eyes. "So which of 'em bothers you more? Martouf or Janet?" he asked almost offhandedly. Her jaw clenched, telling him he'd struck home. "I bet it was Marty. Seeing him again woulda shook me up, too."

"Because I killed him, you mean?" she asked sharply.

"No," he said, ignoring the barb. "Because of Jolinar."

Sam sighed and let her head hang for a moment. "It was hard," she conceded. "Probably harder for him, after finding out I rejected him in one universe and killed him in another." She was too distracted to even look at him, much less notice that his eyebrows had shot alarmingly close to his hairline. The "rejection" part hadn't been in her official report.

"But Janet..." he prompted, very much hoping to move past the disturbing image of Prettyboy Tok'ra and any Sam together.

"Janet," she said, as if in agreement. "I never got to say goodbye, before. You know?"

He jerked his head in a nod. "Yeah, I know."

"And all of a sudden it was like she never left. She even went toe to toe with General Landry. She went and argued with this CO she didn't even know so that she could get home and save her Earth."

Jack smiled, and didn't mention that he'd read Landry's report on the incident. It was probably a good thing Fraiser had been able to go home, because if she'd stayed and ended up under Landry's purview, she'd have had some serious professional ground to make up. "I heard I'm still in command of her SGC. Bet she's kicked my ass up and down that mountain," he drawled.

The muscles in Sam's jaw worked for a moment, and she set aside her drink. "I'd forgotten how much I'd missed her," she said. The admission was obviously difficult to voice. "I'd forgotten... her. Both of them," she amended hastily.

He watched her, feeling the hurt that radiated away from her eyes, and barely kept himself from reaching out to touch her. "You had to forget, Sam. That's how loss works. It can't rip your guts out forever."

"She deserves more than that," Sam countered.

"She got more than that, somewhere," he said firmly, noting that Martouf-as-addendum didn't last terribly long. "That has to be good enough."

Despite her own preoccupation she heard the warning in his voice, the one that told her he knew she was thinking of ways to further mangle quantum reality just so she could see her friend again.

"I didn't want to let her go," she admitted miserably. "She could have stayed here, and Cassie could have had her mother back."

"And another Cassie could have lost her mother, while her planet was decimated by an alien plague. Doesn't that sound familiar?" He watched her shut her eyes in evident pain. "You wouldn't have done that to that kid."

"You don't get it, Jack." Sam grit her teeth against the tears she could feel threatening to overwhelm her. "I think I knew the real solution all along. I just wanted her to stay."


"Seventeen of me in one room? I think I'm glad I missed that."

"And you were all trying to out-geek each other. It was... remarkable."

Sam smiled when she heard the quiet timbre Janet's voice always took on when she was holding their daughter. "Any of them have new hairstyles I should try?"

Janet peered at her sideways. "Don't even think about it." In her other mother's arms, little Thea yawned and kicked her legs a bit. Janet returned her attention to the infant, and tilted her face close to her daughter's. "Are we boring you, young lady?"

"I can't wait to tell her about the time her mom traveled to another universe to save the world," Sam said, grinning. She reached out to grasp one of Thea's teeny feet.

"And I can't wait to tell her the twenty or so other stories of yours that top that," the doctor replied with a smirk. "I'm just glad I'm home."

"They said on the news that the cure for the plague is being airlifted to some of the more remote outbreak locations," Sam said quietly. "Sounds like the worst is over." Even as she said it, she knew her guilt over being the unwitting initial carrier of the plague would never go away, even though her immunity ultimately protected her then-unborn daughter, too.

They were sitting close enough that Sam felt Janet's shiver, as the doctor contemplated their blind luck on her latest mission. "Close one, this time," Janet murmured.

"Yeah, but I'll take it," Sam said, deliberately setting guilt aside as she scooted closer and propped her chin against the other woman's shoulder. By now Thea was frowning faintly, no doubt picking up on the subtlety of her parents' sudden unease.

"It was weird walking around the SGC like a ghost," Janet observed after a moment. "I kept getting these startled looks from junior officers who hadn't yet heard what was going on."

Sam found herself unable to answer, instead profoundly bothered by the reminder that there was a place she was without Janet.

"And I kept getting hugged," Janet continued wryly. "You... that version of you... actually picked me up off my feet." She felt Sam's sigh against the side of her face, and felt the warmth of her lover's arms close around her, even as she still cradled their little girl. "She was so sad, Sam," Janet whispered.

"I can imagine," Sam answered. In fact, she'd been doing little but imagine the lives of her counterparts, especially the one who'd lost both her father and dearest friend.

"I keep thinking... they helped us so much. Is there anything we could do for them?"

Sam recoiled a bit. "You mean, for her." Janet's silence was its own answer. "You know it doesn't work that way."

"What way?"

"We can't start hacking at the fabric of reality to make someone not be 'sad.'"

"But Cassie..."

"Not your Cassie. Not our daughter. Janet, you can't just go around fixing the multiverse."

"Well, why the hell not?"

"You don't even know that she loved you, there."

Janet shifted away, her eyes hard. "That's not the point."

"It's not?" Sam countered with a knowing look.

"I know you've been thinking about it... If I'd died on P3X."

Sam jerked a bit. "How can I help but think about what might have been? You've just seen more than a dozen iterations of it."

By now Althea was definitely feeling the tension in the room, and was definitely disliking it. She whimpered her displeasure and flexed in her mother's embrace.

"Shh, sweetheart," Janet whispered immediately. "It's okay."

Sam took a deep, calming breath, then reached over to a nearby shelf to find Althea's favorite bedtime book. She flipped it open and deliberately held it up in front of Janet, so they could take turns reading the rambling, childish verse. Janet sighed and relented, knowing their argument had only been tabled for another time.

Their combined presence and quiet voices had just soothed their daughter into a doze when a knock sounded from downstairs. Sam pressed her lips to Janet's cheek and slid away to answer the door while the doctor set about gently putting little Althea to bed.

She was surprised to see Martouf waiting on her porch. Like Teal'c, he'd found it most expedient to live on base, and almost never wandered outside Cheyenne Mountain on his own.

"Samantha," he greeted, in his typically formal manner.

"Martouf. Is something wrong?"

He hesitated. "I... feel I must apologize for my behavior, but I am somewhat at a loss."

"What do you mean?" Sam asked, as she stepped away from the door to let him inside the house.

"I fear I may have taken advantage of your counterpart," Martouf said reluctantly.

Her shoulders dropped. "Not you, too."

His mouth opened to offer a reply, but Janet had come down the stairs and wandered in during the latter portion of the exchange.

"You took advantage of her?" the doctor asked, incredulous.

"In a manner of speaking," he said quickly. "She was... a very lonely person. I believe she was drawn to me because I was familiar, that is all."

"I'm not some interdimensional pound puppy, you know. I'm sure even that Sam could look after herself," Sam grumbled. "Just because we looked alike..."

"And felt alike, and sounded alike, and smiled alike," Janet interjected. "But it wasn't just that."

Sam glared at her lover, and turned to Martouf for confirmation. He only shrugged, somewhat sheepish. "Perhaps... I found her familiar, as well," he admitted.

"And I suppose you want to find some way to make her less sad and pathetic, too," Sam said, directing the sarcastic accusation at her former mate.

He was certain he'd missed something vital to the conversation, but that was not unusual in his interactions with Samantha since she'd fallen in love with Janet Fraiser. "I had not considered it," he said. Both women stared at him. "Not seriously," he added after a moment. "Could... something be done?"

"I don't believe this," the blonde spat. She spun away from them both and headed down the hallway toward the living room, seething in frustration.

Martouf looked down at the doctor, who was at once a respected ally and romantic rival. Their relationship was uneasy at the best of times, but now... "Perhaps I should go," he said. "I am sorry if I have made things more difficult."

"You haven't, Martouf," Janet said kindly. "This was already pretty complicated."

"Ah. As General O'Neill would say, 'A typical day at the SGC,'" he replied with a smile. He bowed and took his leave, but not before casting one last glance at Samantha Carter as she stood in the shadows of a darkened room.

He'd seen her there, in the dark, before. Despite his best efforts while they'd been lovers, only Janet had been able to coax her back out. That was ultimately why he'd felt comfortable stepping aside when the two women's relationship had begun to deepen. Entire lifetimes of love allowed one the luxury of unselfish regard.

But somewhere, he knew another Sam waited in the dark as well. He sighed and closed the door behind him.


Hours later, Sam stared at the bedroom ceiling, seeing patterns dance in the popcorn texture.

She was trying really, really hard to feel flattered.

Janet and Martouf each cared about her so much that seeing another Sam in the cosmos unhappy was unbearable. She was readily humbled by the intensity of their mutual love for her.

But what did that other Sam do to warrant such affection? They were not the same person, despite Janet's protestations. The laws of infinite possibility had broken them apart at some point in the past, and they'd become very different people.

That other Sam was alone, adrift. She was everything Sam herself feared at night, when not even the combined sounds of Janet and their daughter breathing nearby in the dark could soothe her.

Frustrated, she flipped over on her side.

Quantum realities just weren't supposed to bump into each other. They might never know the irrevocable damage done to the fabric of the universe by the reckless actions of another SG-1. They might never see the ripples hit the edge of pond.

The forces at work were too large, too unknown, and entirely too unpredictable. They couldn't just start tweaking the frequencies of matter itself and hope it would work out all right.

Could they?

"I can practically hear the thinking going on over there," Janet slurred, half-asleep, as she snuggled a little closer to Sam's back. She planted a kiss on an exposed shoulderblade. "I'm here when you want to talk about it."

Sam nearly declined. Instead, after a brief internal struggle, she whispered, "If you'd had to stay there, would you have fallen in love with her?"

Janet didn't answer right away, prompting Sam to flip over and face her. Even in the dark, the doctor's expression was intense and just a little angry.

"Do you think for a second that I would have given up on coming back to you and Althea?" Janet demanded.

Sam's face fell instantly in dismay. "No."

"Six or seven of those other Sams would have helped me find another quantum mirror. Or help me replicate the quantum shift with another singularity. Or something - anything. I would have found a way to get home."

"But that Sam... The one you want to help. She was fine with forcing you to stay." Sam took a deep breath, trying to staunch the tears she felt welling in her eyes. "And I don't know if I would have done differently," she admitted, miserably.

"You would have. She would have."

"You don't know that..."

"She was you, Sam," Janet insisted. "A few details in her history were different, but I knew her the second I laid eyes on her. Just like I know you." She scooted forward a bit, until her forehead was resting against Sam's. "Just like I know you're thinking of some way to help her."

"Maybe she doesn't want any help," Sam muttered.

The doctor seized on the note of grudging acceptance in her lover's voice. "If it were me, what would you do?"

And that, finally, settled it. "Saved that one for last, huh?" Sam asked with a weak chuckle.

Janet smiled. "Yeah."

"I'm not sure there's anything we can do," Sam warned.

"You'll think of something," the doctor answered with complete confidence.

There was little she could do to argue in the face of Janet's serene and absolute trust. Sam sighed. "I'll think of something," she agreed. With Janet's answering smile, the clamorous thoughts in her brain slowly subsided, and she drifted off to sleep.

Janet stayed awake a while longer, and thought about how much easier it was to yell at a two-star general than to gently persuade her very headstrong partner.

How can you prioritize the lives of one group over those of another? What makes my Earth any less important than your own?

What made that Sam any less important than her own? Not a thing. And together they'd find a way to make it right.


"What about the other Sams?"

"Hm?" Janet asked absently.

"The other Sams you met. Were they..." Sam sighed. "Were they happy?"

"Reasonably."

"'Reasonably?'"

"None of them were as blissful as you, dear." She didn't bother mentioning the Sam in black who had stared at her so mournfully before beaming to the Prometheus.

Sam rolled her eyes. "That's not what I meant."

"I know," the brunette answered, her eyes twinkling as she deposited an omelette on Sam's breakfast plate. "But I'm choosing to believe you're happiest right where you are."

With the sun streaming through the kitchen windows, her daughter squirming happily in her arms, and Janet making her breakfast, it was hard to argue. She beamed at her lover, who stole a quick kiss before returning to her cooking.

"A few of you were married," Janet continued after a moment. "A couple were engaged." She waved her spatula in Sam's general direction. "And not just to Jack O'Neill, either - before you ask."

"I wasn't going to ask!" Sam said defensively around a mouthful of eggs. "I didn't really want to know that part."

"One of you was married to Jonas," Janet said casually.

"Quinn?"

"Nooooo. The other Jonas."

Sam blinked. "Oh."

"He sounded like an okay guy," Janet mused, then turned to pin a look on the other woman. "And I thought you said Jonas Quinn was a 'cutie.'"

"Only because I knew it annoyed you," Sam countered, with a grin.

The doctor frowned as she very plainly filed that bit of information for later use. "At least a couple of those Sams had a definite thing for Daniel."

Sam's fork hovered en route for another bite, and after a moment she set it back on her plate. "Okay," she said quietly. "I'm sorry for the 'cutie' thing, but... seriously?"

"Seriously," Janet confirmed as she slid into the seat opposite her lover. "I thought it was sweet, in a wondertwin kind of way."

Sam had to fight off a shudder, but couldn't help but spare a thought for the circumstances of a universe that would cause her to regard Daniel in that manner. She hadn't yet worked up the nerve to ask how many other Janets had survived in the other realities her lover had encountered, much less how many other Sams might have had a romantic interest in the doctor. It was easier to think about the versions of herself who were not herself, and the twists of history that had made them so similar, yet fundamentally different. "You're taking this all very well," she observed.

Janet shrugged. "I suppose."

"What if one of those Sams has a version of you secretly pining away for me... her?"

"I don't do 'secret pining,'" the doctor declared primly.

"You most certainly do!" Sam fired back, laughing.

Janet's dark eyes narrowed as she glared at her lover's sudden merriment. "It wasn't a 'secret,' Sam. You were just too dense to notice."

"Yeah, yeah," Sam conceded. By now, the early, bumbling days of their courtship were an old joke between them. "Well, why do we have to fix the universe on behalf of one broken Sam, when there could be scores of Janets in the same boat?"

"Those other Janets can fend for themselves," Janet replied. She spent a minute studiously avoiding her lover's gaze as she sliced her omelette into neat bites. "And I guess this is the part where you tell me how irrational I'm being on behalf of a particular quantum variation of the woman I love."

The blonde gave her a mild smile, and replied, "If the shoe fits..."

"It's a fair question," Janet allowed. She looked thoughtful as she munched on her breakfast. "But, see, I was thinking... There's no real reason their cure to the Ori plague should have worked here."

"I was wondering when you were going to bring that up," Sam said. "Because you're right."

The doctor grinned. It had been a while since they'd had a puzzle like this to hash out together. Since Sam had been off regular duty rotation, then taken leave, Janet had been on her own to solve a lot of the trickier problems they ran into every day at the SGC.

"So, we use that fact and make some suppositions," Sam continued. "What if the likelihood of entropic cascade correlates to the relative 'similarity' of any given universe to another? What if the differences between this universe and that other one are so minute as to make them almost identical?"

"You think that would explain why that other Sam seemed so familiar?" Janet asked quietly. "Because maybe only a small set of events or choices were different there?"

Sam nodded. "Could be, yeah."

"Okay. How does that help us?"

"I don't know yet," Sam answered, but the beginnings of a grin told her lover that an idea had definitely taken root in her brain.

Janet couldn't help but smile back. She could feel the familiar momentum building beneath them again, and just knew something incredible was going to happen. "You know, I didn't realize until just now... I never thought to ask about other versions of me out there. I wasn't even remotely curious."

"No? Why not?"

"Probably because... I know that I'm happiest right where I am, too," the doctor replied.

She wasn't sure if her hormones were still out of whack or what, but it was ridiculous these days how quickly she could be reduced to a puddle of goo by a short doctor with bedhead. "Oh," Sam breathed, her eyes bright with wonder.

Janet rose and stepped around the table, then bent over their daughter to kiss her lover's forehead. "Yeah. How 'bout that?" she whispered, as she gazed into Sam's face. The light spilling into the kitchen seemed to weave between and around them, building the intensity of the moment to the thrum of a single heartbeat.

"I keep wondering what I did to deserve this," Sam said, gasping when Janet's hand rose to stroke her cheek. "How do I rate the perfect life?"

"We've had our share of tough times," the brunette reminded her. "But we're definitely pretty lucky." She dipped her head to regard their daughter, and felt Sam sigh happily against her.

A few minutes passed in their shared reverie before their noses simultaneously wrinkled, detecting the new contents of Althea's diaper. "I'll take this one," Janet volunteered, a little wistful that the moment had passed. She cleared the breakfast table and scooped her daughter out of Sam's careful embrace, much to the girl's evident displeasure. Althea wailed a bit before realizing she was still quite safe, and still surrounded by the warmth of someone who loved her. After Janet's quiet voice calmed her again, Althea looked around, her big blue eyes alert and curious.

"She looks just like you," both women said at once.

Janet grinned, and freed one hand from under her daughter's tiny body to give the back of Sam's neck a friendly scratch. "Hey. Know what I was thinking?" she asked.

"That Cassandra probably has laundry to do and should come home for the weekend?" Sam replied hopefully.

Janet plucked the phone off its cradle and hit the memory button to dial Cassie's cell, then handed it off to her lover. She whisked Althea down the hall to where she'd left the extra diapers. "Tell her to put the ticket on her credit card," she called over her shoulder. "I'll pay it off next week."

"Hey, kiddo," Sam said into the phone when their adopted daughter answered on the other end.


"Hey, kiddo," Sam murmured, as Cassie plowed into her for a hard hug.

They were probably in the way at the cramped airport luggage claim, but they didn't bother moving, instead deliberately savoring the comfort of each other's company.

It was the second anniversary of Janet's death. A winter squall had nearly grounded Sam in Colorado, and she'd considered calling in a favor from the Prometheus in orbit to get her to San Diego. By threatening, bribing and otherwise bullying various members of the airline industry, she'd managed to make the journey by more conventional means.

She felt Cassie take a deep breath, and finally disengage from the hug. "Hey, Sam."

"How's school?" she asked, sniffling a bit as tears welled in her eyes.

"Great," Cassie answered. She began to mist up as well. "How's everyone at home?"

"Great," Sam parroted, then gave a watery laugh as she realized they were both crying. "This is gonna be a rough one, huh?"

"I didn't think it would be," the younger woman protested. She wiped at her nose, and realized they were drawing stares from an otherwise bored airport crowd. "Let's get out of here."

An hour later they were on a patio of a restaurant facing the ocean, sipping iced tea.

They'd agreed that this occasion's anniversary was important, but they hadn't yet figured out how to commemorate it. A year ago they'd been up to their ankles in snow, crying on each other's shoulders at Janet's grave. This year, Cassie couldn't really get away from school, so Sam had made the trip to see her.

For a while they'd made small talk about Cassie's classes, and Sam's latest stories about Cameron Mitchell, but eventually turned back to the real reason they were together on an otherwise nondescript Monday afternoon.

"I'd actually managed to forget, until about a week ago," Cassie said. "Then someone mentioned that Valentine's Day was coming up..." She shook her head. "I just sat and cried."

Sam stayed silent, not wanting to admit that she'd managed to forget as well.

"Do you ever feel like that's when everything went wrong?"

"Wrong," Sam repeated. It wasn't really a question.

"Yeah... Mom died. General Hammond left. Then Jack. Then you and Pe..." Cassie caught herself and cleared her throat.

Sam sighed. "All right. Which part of 'Me and Pete' qualifies as 'wrong,' exactly?"

"Um..." Cassie bit her lip.

"Let me guess. All of it."

"Not all. But... most."

Sam's salad bore the brunt of her sudden frustration as she speared into it with her fork. "Why do I get the feeling I won't be living that down any time soon?" she asked plaintively. "Jack O'Neill collects alien STDs for fun, Teal'c's never met a female Jaffa he didn't like, and Daniel..." She stuttered to a verbal halt when she saw the amused curiosity written all over Cassie's face. "Okay. Let's just say I'm not the only one who's had some lapses of judgement over the years."

Cassie smiled, but the expression was tinged with just a little sadness. "Do you ever think Mom could have helped your dad?" she asked.

"Maybe," Sam answered weakly. It was a question she'd tried not to ask herself in the months since his death. At that instant she came to an abrupt decision, and set aside her meal. Until right then she hadn't decided if she was going to tell Cassie about encountering her mother's double. It had been a toss up whether the revelation would be painful or comforting; Sam herself hadn't yet decided which it was.

"Cassie," she began. "There's something I have to tell you. Remember a couple weeks ago when the base was on lockdown and you couldn't get hold of me for a few days?"

"Yeah," Cassie replied. "Was there something wrong? I mean, that happens all the time."

"There'd been an accident with the Stargate. Long story short, we had a lot of alternate teams showing up... Doubles of SG-1 from other quantum realities." Cassie's face drew up in a scowl, so she pressed forward. "Janet was on one of the alternate teams."

The young woman sat back, staring at Sam blankly. "Wait. Mom? I don't understand."

Sam puffed out a breath, and suspected her own expression mirrored her daughter's head-spun confusion. "Okay, see. There are infinite realities based on quantum variations..."

Cassie cut her off with a wave of her hand. "Mom's alive?"

"In at least one other quantum reality, yes."

"You saw her?"

I touched her. The thought reverberated, unbidden, through Sam's brain as she nodded. "She asked about you. She wanted to know if you were okay."

Cassie only stared at her. She'd fantasized about Janet coming home one day and announcing it had all just been a horrible mistake; she'd fantasized about her second family being whole again. To be told that it was not only a possibility, but a reality in some universe other than her own... It was almost too much to bear.

"I'm sorry, Cass. Maybe... it would be better not to know," Sam whispered. She shut her eyes and slumped, miserable. It would be easier, she thought, to live in a world where life and death were absolutes, and not just rules that could potentially be bent or ignored. It would be easier to have never seen her friend again, and never wonder what might have been. It would be easier if Janet were here to take care of her daughter like she was supposed to be.

"I'm glad you told me," the younger woman said. Her voice was hollow, reminding Sam of how shell-shocked she'd been after first hearing the news of Janet's death. "She asked about me?"

Sam nodded, and tears threatened to overcome her yet again. She didn't bother mentioning that the alternate Janet had burst into her lab, with a trailing Daniel and Teal'c hurrying to catch up, and sought her eyes immediately among the throng of other Sams.

Martouf had been offering a theory about their current predicament, but his words fled her mind the second she'd laid eyes on her friend.

Daniel had chuckled about it later, pointing out that Janet's thought process went immediately from the end of her world, to the fate of another orphaned Cassie, then straight to Sam. He'd sobered when he realized how utterly her that was, and how much it made him miss her, again.

"She wanted to know how you'd been doing," Sam said. "I told her you missed her."

"So she had her own Cassie, where she was from?"

"Yeah," she answered softly.

"Good," Cassie said, with a nod.

Their waiter stopped by to check on them, but left discreetly when he saw the two women were quite preoccupied.

Cassie sniffled, and looked blankly at the surf rolling up the shore a few hundred feet away. "Do you have any way of contacting her?"

"Not really."

"But she's out there, somewhere."

"Cass," Sam said, her tone holding a warning. "She's not real. Not to us. Not for us."

"She's real enough for you to tell me about her!" Cassie cried. "She's real enough for..." she trailed off, studying the haunted pain she saw in Sam's eyes. "She's real to you," she breathed in realization.

Jack had seen it immediately. It probably shouldn't have surprised her that Cassie'd seen it as well.

In her head, Janet was alive again. She was just lost, and so far away.

Sam couldn't deny it, so she merely ducked her head and fiddled with her fork.

"God, Sam," Cassie murmured. "What are we gonna do?"


To be continued...

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