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rocketfic | the stars and sea

Title: The Stars and Sea by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Written for the SG Rare Pairings Ficathon. My prompt came from sgate_2001, who requested first time Sam/Janet fic, "maybe Rite of Passage based."


I know more of the stars and sea than I do of what's in your head
It's Beginning to Get to Me, by Snow Patrol


Janet paused at the door to her quarters, reaching to massage the back of her neck as she looked up at Sam. "G'night," she murmured. When Sam's eyes dragged up off the floor to meet hers, Janet managed a small smile. "Thanks for everything."

"I didn't do anything," Sam demurred.

The doctor thought back over the past few days, seeing Sam's caring face every time she'd looked around for support, feeling her friend's presence steady her while she'd teetered on the edge in Nirrti's cell; it was impossible to think she could have survived it all without her.

"You did," Janet countered quietly. She reached out to squeeze her friend's hand. "I couldn't have gotten through it without you."

Sam could only duck her head, shyly avoiding the other woman's gaze. For another long moment they just stood there mute in the corridor.

"G'night, Sam," Janet tried again.

"Could I come in for a bit?" Sam asked immediately.

Janet sighed. She had been rather hoping to have a few minutes to herself to fall apart. The past few days had been hell, and the stress and fear had worn her raw. Whatever burden Sam was looking to unload could wait until she'd gotten some rest, right?

"Of course," she heard herself saying instead. Why was it always so hard to deny Sam anything?

Once the door had closed behind them, Janet fidgeted nervously for a moment before pointing to her small bathroom. "I'll just..." she said haltingly, then sighed and disappeared to change.

"I'm really glad Cassie's okay," Sam called after her. "I was really afraid we'd lose her. That you'd lose her." She realized she was on the verge of babbling, and took a deep breath to steady herself. "Listen to me. After all you've been through, and I'm still here dumping on you." With that, she looked back into Janet's eyes as the doctor emerged wearing loose sweats. "Look, I just wanted to say... If you need anything -- anything at all..."

She was cut off by Janet's sudden, solid hug. The doctor's smaller frame thudded warmly against her, knocking her breath away for a moment. "Oh," Sam exhaled, as she carefully folded her arms around her friend.

If you need anything...

It had been a common refrain from her coworkers the past few days. Janet supposed they all meant well, and on some level she was grateful for the implied support.

But what she needed was not to be facing this thing alone anymore. She needed the space to lose control - only for a little while - and the confidence to know that someone else would be able to look after things while she did.

She didn't have that luxury, but she could bury her face in Sam's shoulder for a little while. It would have to do.

Sam could feel the tremors in the smaller woman's body, and ached for the burden she'd had to carry around the past few days. She set aside her own sense of helplessness, and decided that she could offer her friend a safe place to hide out for a few minutes. She turned her head to press a kiss against Janet's hair, and murmured quiet consolation.

When Janet finally pulled away, she kept her face averted, knowing that if she looked up into Sam's bright, sympathetic eyes, her composure would fail completely. She couldn't afford that -- not right then, and definitely not with Sam.

Unwilling to surrender contact quite that easily, Sam rubbed her hands across Janet's narrow shoulders. "I always forget how strong you are," she said quietly.

"I'm not," Janet whispered in protest. Her eyes slid shut as she began to withdraw.

"It's like getting a hug from a linebacker," Sam continued, as if not hearing her. "I don't know why that always surprises me."

Janet started to shake.

"Maybe it's because I keep hoping you'll think you don't have to be strong all the time. At least, not with me."

After taking a moment to decode the words and the implied meaning behind them, Janet stared up at her friend in utter confusion. Unsure if it was an invitation, unable to accept it even if it was, she could do little more than stutter. "I... I don't..."

Sam held up a forestalling hand, and offered a smile. "Right now? Probably not the best time. I know. Just keep it in mind." She let her hand continue its journey up to tug her fingertips through Janet's hair, then she stepped away. "I'll talk to you later," she promised quietly, holding Janet's earnest gaze until she'd closed the door of the doctor's quarters behind her.



It had been a blessedly peaceful week once Cassandra had gone home. Command was using the rare quiet to conduct training drills, which meant the worst injuries Janet had to treat were a few sprains and a sunburn or two. She had caught up on her sleep, her paperwork, and even the base's requisite vaccination schedule.

For some reason, even Sam was keeping a low profile, which suited Janet just fine, given the swirl of emotion and uncertainty the blonde woman's presence provoked these days.

As was the usual way of things in the SGC, the reprieve was too good to last. She was hardly even surprised when General Hammond darkened the door of her office. "Sir?" she asked, as she set aside Colonel O'Neill's file and stood at attention.

"Doctor," he greeted solemnly. "I wanted to commend you on your efficiency these past few days. I haven't seen a single airman sitting straight after your latest round of shots."

She smiled. "Thank you, sir."

He pursed his lips and nodded. "As you know, we've been conducting some offworld training exercises, especially for those expected to man the Beta and Gamma sites in case of emergency," he said.

Janet was fairly certain she didn't like where this was headed. "Yes, sir."

"And it's been over three years since your last offworld certification," he said gingerly, bracing for her reaction.

Offworld certification amounted to survival training on an unoccupied world, with a team split in two, given limited supplies, and dropped several kilometers from the gate. Less practiced field officers were paired with members from regular offworld teams, ostensibly to share knowledge and experience.

The last time Janet had suffered through it she had been paired with Colonel Makepeace, who had taken a rather sadistic glee in pushing the doctor around for three days while they trekked through alien mud and snow. She had even gotten some incredibly persistent form of tree sap stuck in her hair that had prompted her to cut most of it off.

"General, I'm sure you understand that with the current state of Cassandra's health, I can't possibly go on a camping trip offworld." It was all she could do to restrain a growl of irritation.

"Cassandra can stay here on base for the duration of your absence, and we will be able to recover you in under an hour if she requires your assistance," Hammond replied reasonably. He watched as she mentally ordered the dozen other objections she had ready to hurl forth, and he raised a hand to stop her. "And I know your feelings on the matter already. Get over them."

"But sir..."

"This isn't a suggestion, Major," he stated.

She drew up to her full height, indignation practically leaking out of her pores.

"The fact of the matter is," Hammond continued, "Humanity's best chance against Goa'uld invasion might well be the escape of a select few through the Stargate. We all need to be prepared for that possibility. And I know you know all that already, so consider this little pep talk to be for the benefit of us both." He paused, then offered a grim smile. "It seems I am due for re-certification as well."

For a moment Janet warred with her remaining annoyance and the distinct desire to giggle at the general's evident discomfort. "I see, sir," she finally managed to say.

He grunted suspiciously, quite sure he didn't like her amusement at his expense. "Make whatever arrangements you feel are necessary for your daughter, Doctor. We gate out at 0800 tomorrow." He turned and stalked out without waiting for her acknowledgment.



The next morning Sam stepped into the gateroom, tugging on her hat as the gate spun into motion. "Hey, Teal'c," she greeted breezily. "Know where we're headed today?"

"I believe it is PY6-159," he said. He dipped his head in acknowledgment as General Hammond and Doctor Fraiser entered the gateroom behind his teammate.

"Isn't that the one with all the..." Sam began, then caught herself when she noticed Hammond's stern expression. "Um."

"The climate pattern on the planet's northern continent leads to significant precipitation almost every evening," Teal'c intoned helpfully. "Either rain or snow, depending on your elevation."

Janet sighed. "Great," she muttered under her breath, though the word was drowned out by the roar of the engaging wormhole.

Sam seemed to hear it anyway, and she smiled down at her friend. "It's not that bad," she said.

"Try to stay dry out there, General," came the obnoxiously cheerful voice of Colonel O'Neill through the gateroom speakers. "We'll hold down the fort for you."

Hammond peered up at his subordinate, who was offering a decidedly annoying wave. "Thank you, Colonel. We'll see you in a few days." He stalked up the ramp, followed closely by Teal'c.

Sam bumped Janet with an elbow as they took up the rear. "This'll be fun," she said brightly, just as they hit the event horizon.



Half an hour later, Janet watched the SGC's purloined tel'tac lift off, effectively abandoning her and Sam deep in a shadowed alien valley. She sighed and stripped off her backpack to dig out a locator relay.

"Teal'c? Do you copy?" Sam said into her comm.

"I hear you, Major Carter. General Hammond and I are in position," he replied, though his voice was fuzzy and distorted through the radio.

Janet squinted up at Sam upon hearing the nearly garbled transmission, then looked back down at the readout on her relay. "There's a lot of EM interference in the atmosphere," she said with a sigh. "You guys couldn't make this one easy?" She reached up to activate her own comm. "General Hammond?"

"Go ahead, Doctor," came his immediate response.

"Sir, interference in the atmosphere is going to limit the range of our locator beacons and radios," she said. She stood and looked around, shielding her eyes from the faint glare of the alien sun. "We appear to be in a valley on the west side of a mountain range. Can you see the mountains from where you are?"

After a moment, the general replied. "Yes, doctor. Looks like we're on the east face. I don't see any easy passes, so how about we head south and see if we can catch up to each other?"

"Sounds like a plan, sir." She eyed the position of the sun in the sky, and the terrain to the south. "I estimate we can be at the south end of the range in thirty hours."

"We'll see you there. Check in every two hours."

Janet signed off, tucked her equipment away, and swung her backpack across her shoulder. "How we doin' so far?" she asked Sam dryly.

Sam just grinned at her. "Not bad. You've been reading up."

"I do actually understand the importance of these drills, Sam. If it comes down to sending out colonization teams, I'll be in charge of maybe a hundred people with limited field experience, and if I'm lucky, Cassie and her dog." For a moment, her eyes teared up, and she had to look away. When she spoke again, her voice was lower, rougher. "I have a responsibility to them."

Struck by the depth of the doctor's sincerity, Sam could only watch while Janet regained her bearings and began walking toward their rendezvous point. She had to jog a few steps to catch up.

"You know, last time I checked, you're on Gamma Two," Sam said, referring to the planned colonization deployment. "I'll be leading Gamma One."

Janet frowned and looked over at her friend. "You mean..."

"I'll be there with you. Assuming we get to evacuate the planet in an orderly fashion and all," Sam said with a shy smile.

The admission seemed to lighten Janet's steps considerably, and they spent the rest of the morning in relative silence as they made their way across the rolling alien grasses.



It was almost pleasant, Janet decided, as she munched an MRE while sitting in the shade of a convenient sapling. The sun was bright, the air was cool, and the company was friendly. She caught Sam's eye and smiled.

"You almost look like you're enjoying yourself," the blonde observed.

Janet shrugged. "It's an okay place to be stranded."

"I'm glad you think so."

"Seriously. You, me, Cassie, a couple hundred terrified colonists... I think it could be fun."

Sam chuckled. "We'll see how you feel once the rains hit."

"Yeah, about that 'rain,'" the doctor said. "It's not toxic or anything, is it? I know the point of these drills is to teach us to survive in hostile environments..."

"It's not about 'hostile,' it's about 'alien.' The point is that there are no cell phones out here, and no backup - at least in a real emergency. But in any case, the rain won't hurt you. I promise."

"But there has to be something here that I'm missing. Something that makes this place more dangerous than it looks."

"There always is, Janet. That's the point," Sam replied evenly.

Janet nodded thoughtfully. "You're a lot better at this than Colonel Makepeace," she said, and returned Sam's answering grin. "I think our hut should be right over there," she continued, nodding to a flat space in the clearing behind them.

"'Our' hut?" Sam asked with a surprised chuckle.

"Sure. You, me, Cassie, and the dog."

Sam froze. The comment tread uncomfortably close to a subject they weren't supposed to talk about, and feelings they definitely weren't supposed to feel. She watched her friend carefully, and noted the flaring of Janet's nostrils that gave away her otherwise relaxed pose. "Sounds perfect," she said quietly.

At that, Janet stood abruptly and dusted herself off. "We should get going," she announced, and continued marching determinedly south.

Unwilling to abandon the moment, Sam jumped to her feet and scampered after the other woman. "Hey - how about to pass the time, you tell me something I don't know about you. Maybe from high school or something," she said.

"I don't understand what you mean." Janet sounded irritated, and just the slightest bit rattled.

"It's not a trick question," Sam said, chuckling. "I'm just curious."

"I'm not..." Janet stuttered to a verbal halt and stared over at her friend. "Why?"

"I just like to know stuff," Sam replied with a shrug. "It's a hobby."

"You mean, 'lifelong obsession,'" the doctor corrected, teasing. "But I don't know why you'd..." She gestured down at herself, as if to indicate she had nothing to hide, and indeed wouldn't even bother. She prided herself on being entirely forthright, on her lack of false fronts.

Sam studied her friend for a moment. "See, here's the thing," she explained. "I can reasonably predict what will happen with supernovas and subatomic particles and just about everything in between. But you're still a complete mystery to me."

At that, the other woman stopped dead in her tracks and looked distinctly alarmed.

Sam stopped a couple steps later, then turned to look at her. The trepidation plainly visible in Janet's eyes made her voice soften. "Janet, you're my best friend. I'd just like to know more about you," she said.

"I'm really not that interesting, Sam." The answering smile told her that Sam didn't believe a word of the denial, though she didn't push the point further. With a shake of her head, she continued walking, allowing Sam to fall into step beside her. "Okay... High school, huh?"

"Sure. I'm betting you were the head cheerleader and had a line of boys tripping over themselves just to talk to you."

Janet snorted indelicately. "You'd lose that bet. I was quite the nerd. Glasses, headgear, and all."

"Chess club?" Sam asked, with a delighted smile.

"Worse. Drama club."

"No!"

"It wasn't really my idea. They couldn't find anybody else small enough to fit in the flying harness to play Peter Pan." She risked a look over at Sam, and saw the amusement sparkling plainly in blue eyes. "I'd, um, appreciate it if that bit of information didn't make its way to Colonel O'Neill."

Sam laughed. "Not a chance. I'm keeping that piece of you all for myself."

The doctor hesitated again, unsure what to think about the little shiver provoked by Sam's words. After a moment she smiled and continued following Sam through the valley.



The terrain got rougher as they drew nearer to the base of the mountain range. After stumbling to her knees on the umpteenth patch of loose rock, Janet bit back a curse and glared at Sam disdainfully. For her part, Sam stayed prudently quiet, having ended up on the wrong end of Janet's frustration several times in the past hour. She merely extended a hand down to her friend and waited.

"This sucks, Sam," Janet complained.

"So we can't build a cabin here after all?"

The doctor flashed her a dirty look before grabbing the proffered hand and hauling herself upright. "Not all of us have the legs of a mountain goat," she grumbled.

"This is true. Actually, 'Goat Legs' was one of my nicknames in the Academy. I almost made it my callsign," Sam deadpanned in response.

Janet eyed her friend for a moment. "Why the hell are you in such a good mood?" she asked, annoyed that her own annoyance stood little chance in the wake of Sam's goofy grin.

"We don't get to hang out much, just the two of us. It's fun."

"We don't actually need to go to another planet to have 'fun.' Though it does help when you don't avoid me," Janet pointed out, referring to the other woman's recent tendency to duck out of sight the second the doctor spotted her.

"I wasn't avoiding you," Sam protested. "I was giving you space." She looked away, and offered a shy shrug. "I thought maybe I'd made you uncomfortable."

"I'm only uncomfortable when you hide from me, Sam," Janet said with a sigh. "Look, I appreciated your offer. More than you know. And the truth is... There are times I could really use some help."

Knowing implicitly just how hard that admission was to make, Sam stepped closer to her friend. "All I want to do is be there for you," she whispered.

Instinct told Janet to run, to get back to the mission at hand, to look anywhere but into Sam's earnest and affectionate gaze. Instead she stayed put, bathed in the comfort of that tender regard. When she let herself see it, Sam's devotion was an extraordinary thing. When she let herself submit to the feelings she had in return, she was breathless from the power of it.

"We have to keep moving," Sam said quietly, with regret hanging heavy on each syllable.

Janet managed to choke out a perfunctory reply, and together they turned and walked into the long afternoon shadows.



As predicted, the alien world fell under cloud cover by twilight, with the first sprinkles coming down once the sun dipped out of the sky. Janet paused under the boughs of a tall evergreen, and hailed their other team members. At first only static crackled back at her in response, then even that faded as her comm went dead. She threw Sam a worried look.

The other woman only stripped off her pack and set about establishing their camp for the night. The tent went first, since she knew the rain was going to get worse in a hurry.

The doctor stared at her, horrified by her apparent disregard. "What if something happened to them?" she asked. Suddenly the reality of being stranded on an alien world hit her square in the gut, and she started to panic. "Sam, they could be hurt, or dead. We could be stuck here with no way to find them and no way to get back to the gate and..."

To circumvent the brewing freakout, Sam dug into a pocket and pulled out a Tok'ra communicator configured to bypass the frequencies battered by the atmospheric interference. "Teal'c? You still with me?" she asked.

"Indeed, Major Carter," came the immediate response. "General Hammond is most... displeased."

That earned a chuckle from Sam. "Reynolds?" she continued, speaking into the communicator once more.

"Read you five by five, Major," the pilot responded. "Should I come pick you guys up?"

Sam watched comprehension dawn in Janet's eyes, as the knee-jerk panic subsided. "Negative. We'll continue as planned. Carter out."

While she stowed the comm and got back to work, Janet tilted her face up into the falling rain, not sure whether she was more embarrassed or angry. "That's why you made that crack about cell phones earlier," she said. "When they have to work too hard to find a signal, they drain their batteries more quickly. We should have kept radio silence."

"Maybe," Sam said. "But what if they really had been hurt or ambushed? If your comm was off, the time between radio checks might have been too long."

"So either way is wrong?" the doctor spat, frustrated.

"No. But the point is, neither way is necessarily right."

Janet glared at her friend. With that patronizing little riddle, anger quickly supplanted her embarrassment. "So how long have you been waiting to spring this on your poor, clueless Earth-bound colleagues? I bet O'Neill's laughing his ass off right now," she snarled.

"What?! This isn't about..."

"Making me look foolish? Proving I don't have the faintest idea how to take care of myself offworld? Getting your little smug superiority kick when I screw it up?"

"Hey!" Sam yelled. "That's not fair, and you know it." She moved right in front of Janet, close enough that she could feel the smaller woman's angry breath as she seethed.

"You didn't want me to be 'strong' all the time, right? Well, you found a way to take care of that!" Janet cried, on the verge of snapping entirely.

"I want you to be smart, and to know when to ask for help. And I want you to be able to take care of yourself, even though it would be nice if you could trust me every once in a while!" Sam countered.

The doctor snarled and stomped away into the dark, rainy night. Sam swore and followed after her friend.

After a few minutes, Janet could no longer stop the tears of utter frustration, not noticing as they mingled with the rain that streamed down her face. She stopped and spun back around, knowing the other woman was right behind her. "Dammit, Sam. I hate this!" she yelled.

The taller woman reached out and grabbed hold of Janet's sleeve. "I know," she said miserably. Instinctively, she knew it wasn't just the rain, or the training drill, or even worry for Cassie that had pushed Janet so far. She could hear the yearning the doctor's voice, the emotional need which was normally so well concealed.

"You don't," Janet disagreed. "You can't." She tried to turn away, but the grip Sam had on her jacket wouldn't let her escape. After a moment of twisting she spun back around and pelted a frustrated hand against Sam's chest.

When Janet pulled her hand back to hit her again, Sam caught it and held tight. "You think I don't know?!" she asked, the desperation in her voice apparent even over the steady roar of the rain. "You think I don't see you? How hard you work, how much you love Cassie? You think I don't hate staying at arm's length and pretending I don't care as much as I do?"

The smaller woman struggled in her grasp. "I love you!" Janet cried, defiant.

"I know!" Sam answered. She felt the fight leave her friend's taut muscles almost instantly, as Janet sagged in her hold. "I know," she said again, more quietly. "I keep trying to tell you, Janet... you're not in this alone. I'm here, and I love you, too."

Janet was panting, flushed with the exertion of struggling almost entirely against herself. She let her eyes slide shut as she tipped forward, into Sam's waiting embrace.



They were both a soggy mess by the time they stumbled back to their meager camp. Without words, they crawled into their tent and stripped off the soaked outer layers of clothing. Finally they knelt, facing each other in little more than their underwear. All at once, the air was humid and heavy with their mutual awareness, even as both women studiously avoided staring at each other's exposed skin.

Instead, Janet found herself absolutely riveted by Sam's eyes. Inexplicably, she flashed back to Daniel's offer a couple weeks earlier.

If you need anything...

It was an offer made of friendship, duty, and probably a bit of something else. Her life would undoubtedly be a lot easier if she found his gentleness and devotion more appealing. He would be safe, and generous, and they could fall in comfortably amongst their coworkers' expectations.

He wouldn't tear her heart out when he came back injured. He might even consider giving up front-line missions to stay home, safe with her.

If you need anything...

She'd been fighting against "safe" for most of her adult life. "Safe" married a man she didn't love, and tried to settle into a life she hated. It didn't dare try to be the first Fraiser to get into college, much less med school. It didn't dare to save whole worlds, and it certainly didn't adopt a terrified girl from another planet.

"Safe" didn't fall in love with Samantha Carter, and quake every time she stepped through the event horizon of the unknown.

If you need anything...

She knew what she needed. It wasn't the safety of a warm male shoulder to cry on, or a father figure for her daughter.

No, what she needed was the gray, stormy, desperate look in Sam's eyes right at that moment. The one that said, "I ache for you more than you'll ever know."

With sudden hunger she lunged forward, catching Sam's lips with her own. Sam inhaled sharply in surprise, but only pressed closer and lifted a hand to cradle the back of Janet's head. The smaller woman surged and pushed Sam backwards, scoring her mouth with a long, hungry kiss before parting again.

Propped on one hand, Janet used the other to push damp strands of hair gently away from her friend's face. The noise of the rain had faded into the distance, replaced by the harsh rasp of their shared breath. Both women could feel the sheer power of the moment, amplified by the desire that sizzled between them after being repressed for so long.

"This is all they'll let us have," Janet gasped.

"Then you can have everything," Sam answered. With a groan she raised her head to taste her friend's lips again.



Janet awoke at dawn, though she didn't remember actually going to sleep. The storm had moved on sometime during the night, undoubtedly while she and Sam were too wrapped up in each other to notice. She inhaled the still air deeply and pushed herself upright, wondering where Sam had gone.

As if on cue, a blonde head ducked into the opening of the tent. "Hey," Sam greeted softly.

"Hey," Janet replied.

Sam knelt and held out a cup of instant coffee. When the doctor lifted it out of her hand, Sam reached up to run her fingers across Janet's cheek. For a moment she lingered, absorbing the warmth of Janet's expression, before pulling away with a sense of tragic finality. What they had shared was to be left there forever, forgotten in an alien storm. She knew that was the smart choice, but that didn't ease the burning memory of their limbs pressed together in a heated tangle.

"We should go soon," Sam murmured. She hesitated a moment longer, then sighed and backed out of the tent.

Janet had to set the coffee mug down before it fell from suddenly nerveless fingers. Somehow she'd thought giving in to their feelings would make things easier, relieve some of the tension and let them get back to normal. She hadn't counted on wanting to give in forever.



Within a few hours they were walking up another steep grade, and Janet gratefully used the opportunity to concentrate on her footing instead of the emotional tumult raging in her head. Long minutes later they had crested the ridge, and she couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Sam, I..." she began, then paused when she spotted a thin white streamer of smoke rising from the trees in the distance. She sighed. "I think that's for us," she said, pointing.

Blue eyes tracked in the direction Janet indicated. "Yeah, that's them. Should be another twenty minutes or so," Sam said, fighting to keep the sad resignation out of her voice. She took a few steps down off the edge of the ridge.

It was falling away from her, Janet realized. "Normal" would no longer be an option with the memories and sensations simmering between them. Just like she'd always feared, their dalliance would break their friendship, hurt Cassie, and maybe even interfere with their work. Everything would come crashing down in a mere twenty minutes, after five years of suppressed desire and one night of joyous, incredible release.

All of a sudden Janet wanted to declare her feelings, to start an argument, even to protest the unfairness of their position, but couldn't force out the words. "When I was thirteen I won an essay contest and met an astronaut," she blurted instead.

The other woman stopped and turned around. "Okay," Sam answered slowly.

"I got my picture in the local paper." The anguish in her voice said volumes beyond the words themselves.

After a moment a shaky, understanding smile spread across Sam's face. "I bet your parents framed it."

"It's still up in my dad's study," Janet confirmed with a weak grin of her own.

Sam moved back up the ridge and reached to gently stroke her friend's cheek. "Tell me something else I don't know," she said, her voice low and coaxing.

"I love you," Janet whispered desperately.

Despite the tremble that went through her limbs, Sam's answer was confident and sure. "I knew that already," she replied tenderly.

Janet made a noise halfway between a laugh and a sob. "What are we going to do?" she asked.

The blonde took a deep breath, and studied the smoke rising from the ravine. "We're going to go meet up with our team, and I'm going to show you how to jury rig a signal boost for your locator beacon. Then the tel'tac will pick us up and we'll go home."

"After that?" Janet whispered. "Sam, I can't lose you."

"You won't," Sam replied. "You, me, Cassie, and the dog, remember?"

"Still?"

"Always," Sam vowed.

"This will be hard," Janet warned, despite the wash of relief that left her lightheaded.

For her part, the blonde was feeling downright cocky, now that she knew the admissions and discoveries of the previous night weren't fruitless after all. "Hey, we save the world once a week. How hard can this be?"



An hour later, their boots hit the familiar metal scaffold that supported the Stargate in the SGC. Janet grinned when she saw Cassie waiting at the base of the ramp, trying her best to look cool and uninterested. Even doing her best disaffected teenager impression, she withstood a hug from her mother and an affectionate hair ruffle from Sam.

"General!" Colonel O'Neill greeted boisterously. "Feeling all damp and re-certified?"

Hammond pointedly ignored the jibe, then turned to the Jaffa behind him. "Teal'c, thank you for volunteering on this mission. You are an excellent instructor, and had another member of your team participated, I suspect SG-1 would be down to three by now."

"Hey!" O'Neill complained, while Teal'c bowed in acknowledgment. "I'm a good instructor too!" The general only grunted and left the gateroom, leaving the colonel to pout. He turned to his 2IC instead. "So how about you, Carter? How was the trip?"

Sam grinned, and gave the doctor a knowing look. "Very... educational, sir."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. Janet nodded helpfully in concurrence.

O'Neill groaned, then leveled a stern look at Cassandra. "Kid, if you ever wanna know what camping is supposed to be like, you'll come with me, okay?" Grumbling, he wandered away.

Cassie turned to her adoptive mother. "Do I have to?" she whispered.

Janet laughed and lifted an arm across the teen's narrow shoulders as they strolled out of the gateroom. "Of course not. But how about you, me, and Sam go on a roadtrip in a couple weeks?"

"Cool," Cassie answered, diffident. "Can Nerfherder come too?" she asked, referring to her beloved dog.

The doctor choked up for a moment, and felt Sam's comforting hand at the small of her back. "Yeah," she answered. "You, me, Sam, and the dog."

It was a bizarre thing to get emotional about, Cassie decided, as she watched the two women turn misty. But yet, she couldn't disagree. As far as she was concerned, it was how things were supposed to be.

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