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rocketfic | the tea rose

Title: The Tea Rose by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Part 1 of 9 of the Ancient Air Series. Set soon after "Rite of Passage."

It wasn't the kind of dream she was used to having about Sam.

They were walking together through a wide, starlit meadow, both wearing fatigues. Sam had her hands jammed deep in her pockets, and was staring at the ground pensively.

"Um... Sam? Where are we?" Janet asked, turning around slowly and taking in the expansive night sky.

The blonde jerked her head up to look at Janet a little guiltily. "Hard to say, really." She stopped walking and sat down in the tall grasses, pulling her knees to her chin. "Sit with me a while?"

In the dream this all seemed perfectly reasonable, so Janet complied. She was close enough that their shoulders touched, and the heat of their bodies shared the small space of air between them. They gazed out on the stars for an untold amount of time.

"Do you believe in God?" Sam asked suddenly.

The doctor pursed her lips and considered the question a moment before answering. "We've been chasing gods all over the galaxy..." They shared a sardonic look. "Sometimes I wonder if there's a real one out there worth believing in." She shook her head a bit. "I guess I don't really know. Why do you ask?"

Sam shrugged. "Just curious."

For a time they lapsed back into silence, and Janet became just a bit more aware of the unreality of her surroundings.

"Maybe God's out there playing marbles..." Sam murmured. "Tossing bits of cosmic flotsam around for entertainment value."

Janet snorted a bit. "I'd hope God has more important things to be doing with his or her time."

The taller woman nodded in agreement. "Still... might be fun, pitching societies into chaos by tweaking the constants of space and time and gravity just enough to make the sun disappear behind another celestial object for a few minutes... Throwing a few snowballs across the night sky to shake people up..." An ironic tilt of the blonde head. "You'd be surprised how much trouble a comet or two can cause."

"Idle superstition. Humanity has come a long way," Janet insisted.

"A long way from where?" Sam returned with a smile that indicated she was thoroughly enjoying the small contest of intellect.

"From the point in history when random celestial events were feared as signs of God's wrath. From when a lowly chunk of ice toppling through the cosmos signaled impending doom to entire civilizations. From when the world stopped functioning in sheer panic because of a solar eclipse."

"But celestial events are often causes of major change on Earth. Just ask the dinosaurs."

The doctor sighed heavily. "All right. But what does that have to do with God?"

"What is God besides a good reason to keep looking up?" Sam asked rhetorically. "An explanation for events we cannot fathom? Humanity has come a long way, Janet, but generally speaking we still seek a Creator to be the ultimate impetus for the universe." She paused, gesturing broadly. "Humanity is perpetually consumed by the need to understand what is beyond its reach," she continued, scooting behind Janet and placing her hands on the smaller woman's shoulders. "And the night sky has held the most sought-after answers of countless civilizations. I'll show you. Look up and tell me what you see."

Janet folded her arms stubbornly, but did as Sam asked. "A bunch of stars," she replied.

Sam smiled at her, unseen. "Look closer," she urged.

A few moments later, Janet came to a realization. "I don't recognize any constellations," she said as she frowned up at the night sky. She looked around in confusion.

"That's because you're looking at the Eloyan sky," Sam explained. "Northern hemisphere during the winter season, to be more precise. Early Eloyan cosmology evolved quite similarly to Earth's. The sky here tells stories, too." She pointed for Janet's benefit. "That constellation is the ancient seer, Valosh Med.

"And that is Naok, the cradle of the Prophets. The writings of this world indicate that the ancients witnessed the birth of the supernova in that constellation thousands of years ago. Soon after, they received the First Prophecy of Naok. Ever since, Naok had been perceived as a source of portents and signs from the gods. The name itself came to mean 'harbinger' in most Eloyan dialects."

She paused, drawing a deep breath. When she spoke again, her tone was much lower, more intimate. "When the Goa'uld came here, that's where they were first spotted." A small sigh. "The Eloyim are gone now, and all that remains are their stories... the ones left behind in the sky."

Janet didn't really comprehend her words, concentrating instead on the gentle cadence of Sam's voice. Soon, her body relaxed to rest against the taller woman's, and she looked up at the stars drowsily. "What is that?" she asked, pointing to a fuzzy streak that brushed across the constellation.

"It's a long period comet. Comes by here once every thousand years or so."

Janet stared at it for a while in silence, suddenly feeling as if the ground were falling away beneath her. "What does it mean?" she asked. Her voice was shaking.

Sam grinned wolfishly. "That's hardly a rational question, Doctor. Surely you can't be ascribing supernatural intent to a lowly chunk of ice toppling through the cosmos?"

Janet turned in the taller woman's arms to look at her. "Sam, what does it mean?" she repeated anxiously.

Sam raised her hands to Janet's face, cradling her jaw gently as she looked deeply into the soft brown eyes. "It's the reason to keep looking up, Janet," she whispered.

Janet awoke, still feeling Sam's breath across her lips, to the shrill electronic ring of her cell phone. She fumbled for it in the dark and flipped it open. "Fraiser."

"Doctor Fraiser, this is General Hammond," came the drawling voice. "We've got a situation. Get yourself to base immediately."

He hung up before she could answer "Yes, sir." For a moment she stared pensively at the cell phone. Then she hauled herself out of bed, trying to shake the eerie disconnection from reality left behind by the dream.

"Where the hell is Eloy?" she muttered as she hurriedly threw on the uniform of the day.

Less than half an hour later Janet Fraiser was skidding into in the infirmary, throwing her stethoscope over her shoulder while her various medical technicians and nurses ducked out of her way.

The second she'd hit the base she'd gotten word that SG-1 was back from an off world mission unexpectedly, hurt, and missing a team member. She consciously pushed her disconcerting dream out of her mind, and switched into active Doctor Mode, putting on the cool professional face her coworkers were so used to seeing.

Which meant she almost managed not to flinch when she counted the three SG-1 members in triage and didn't spot a familiar blonde head with them.

Fortunately, the three men appeared perfectly healthy, if a bit... pinker than normal.

"Just clear us so we can get back there and find her!" Jack O'Neill bellowed.

"Calm down, Colonel, let me take a look at you," Janet said placidly, looking over the shoulder of a technician using a geiger counter. "You guys got a little burned?"

"Some sort of radiation burst," Daniel Jackson offered as O'Neill submitted grumpily to her routine poking and prodding. "It knocked us around a bit." Janet noticed that the Colonel had apparently been wearing those goofy goggles he was so fond of when the burst hit, leaving him looking like an inverse raccoon.

Janet nodded, and looked over her shoulder at Teal'c, who was standing stoically out of the way. "You're all right?"

The large Jaffa inclined his head in the affirmative. "The dose of radiation was not severe."

"And Major Carter?" she asked tentatively.

Each man's jaw set identically with the frustration of having left their friend behind. "She disappeared," Jackson said finally. "In the flash. We don't know what happened to her." Janet grit her teeth and continued her examination.

"Doctor Fraiser?" She turned around to see General Hammond waiting expectantly.

She stepped away from her patients. "They appear fine, sir. They'll need to lose those uniforms and take a few iodine tablets, but it looks like the damage was superficial at most."

The general nodded. "Debriefing in 15 minutes. Plan on attending, Doctor."

The air in the conference room was thick with tension. Daniel slathered aloe on his burned face while Teal'c stared impassively at the wall, and Jack sat with one fist clenched tightly on the table.

They'd been here before, when they thought they'd lost one of their own. Janet could tell they were intent on a similarly happy outcome.

General Hammond strode in and took his seat. "I know you're anxious to get out there and find Major Carter. Let's hear what happened."

Daniel and Jack looked at each other, and the colonel nodded, indicating the archeologist could proceed.

"Well, it was a routine jump to PNX-0624. Looked like it was no longer inhabited, but the ruins left behind were in amazing shape. The gate was near a village that probably supported a couple thousand people, and whenever it was that they left, they did it in a hurry. They left everything behind, and it's still there, almost completely untouched. We spent about a day mapping the village, and I think we should probably send an archeological team out..." He trailed off as he realized the four other people around the table were growing impatient.

"Anyway," he continued, speaking just a bit faster. "We found a library. There were dozens of ceramic jars, each well-sealed and containing scrolls with what looked like an evolved hybrid of Hebrew and Aramaic writing. I think maybe Ra picked up a few Hebrew slaves while he was poking around in Egypt and seeded them on that planet..." He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating on the relevant details. "They called themselves the Eloyim, roughly translated as 'The Chosen Ones of God.' They appeared to have developed a unique form of early Judaism combined with almost aboriginal influences..."

Janet's head snapped around and she stared at him. Eloyim -- it was the same word Sam had used in her dream. But how was that possible?

Jack O'Neill interrupted Daniel's scholarly but rambling description of the culture, slapping a hand hard on the table. "There was a temple with an altar and on the altar was a box. Sam opened it, there was a bright flash, then she was gone, and we got toasted."

"DanielJackson and O'Neill were disoriented for several minutes following the radiation burst," Teal'c intoned. "I returned them to the gate to seek assistance."

Daniel was nodding emphatically. "We need to go back, find out what happened to her... We don't know if she's alive or dead or what was in that box or..."

General Hammond lifted a hand, cutting him off. "Doctor Jackson, believe me, we won't leave her behind. Colonel O'Neill, I assume you're ready to go back?"

"Sir," Janet piped in from the end of the table. "Permission to join the team? If Major Carter is hurt she may need immediate care..."

Hammond shook his head. "You know I can't allow that yet, Doctor. SG-1 and SG-4 will return to the planet - in full radiation gear - and find out what they can first." He looked at the determined faces around the table. "Let's bring her back. Dismissed."

"Hey Mom," came the breezy shout from the kitchen. "How's stuff on base?"

Janet didn't answer, instead closing the front door and sitting heavily at the dining room table. She'd stood vigil in the Operations Room for hours after the two teams had left, staring at the gate, willing it to open and for all four members of SG-1 to magically return. Finally Hammond had sent her home, ordering her to get some rest.

"And did you have to leave a Post-It note stuck to my face to tell me you left? I swear, you stay up nights trying to think of weird mom-things to do like that... You couldn't leave the note in the bathroom, or in the kitchen, no-oooo. You had to stick it to my head while I was asleep." This time Cassandra's voice was all the way down the hall in the TV room, blithely ignorant of her adoptive mother's unresponsiveness.

Finally she bounded into the dining room, dropping into the chair across the table from Janet. "Is Sam coming over today?"

"I left the note on your pillow," Janet answered absently. "You must have rolled over and it got stuck to you."

Cassandra's eyes narrowed. "Mom? Are you okay?"

Janet shook her head as if to clear it, and focused her eyes on her daughter. "Cass, there was an incident off world," she began. She'd long ago decided blunt honesty was the easiest way to explain things to Cassandra, since she was just too smart to put up with anything less.

Suddenly the sixteen year old transformed into the frightened little girl Janet had first met years ago. "Sam?" she asked in a quivering voice.

The doctor stood and stepped around the table, kneeling before her daughter and taking her hands. "We don't know what happened to her, sweetie. They're looking for her, but I don't know what they're going to find."

After a couple gulping breaths Cassandra managed to mostly regain her composure. "Okay." She leaned down to enfold her mother in a hug. "If anyone can make it back, Sam can, right?"

Janet smiled as tears filled her eyes. "Right."

Janet slept fitfully that night. This time when the dream came she was on a rowboat in the middle of a vast sea. The sun was blazing directly overhead, and she had to bring a hand up to shield her eyes.

Sam was standing in the bow of the tiny vessel, looking out at the horizon.

Janet had to inhale a few times before finding the breath to speak. "Are we going to discuss obscure metaphysics again? 'Cause I have this killer headache..."

When Sam turned around, the look on her face made Janet's heart stutter. Sam's sandy blonde hair glowed in the intense sunlight, and the vulnerable shyness in the liquid blue eyes was heart-wrenching.

"I'm glad you came back," Sam said softly.

The brunette had absolutely no idea how to respond to that, so she let loose with her pent up fear and frustration. "Are you dead? Because if you are and haunting me is your idea of a fun way to spend the afterlife, I swear to God, Samantha Carter, I will find you in Heaven, Hell, or wherever it is you happen to be and KICK YOUR ASS."

The taller woman began to laugh.

"This is not funny," Janet insisted, but the beginnings of a grin betrayed her, as Sam's typical good humor had always been infectious. Finally she sighed. "All right. So we're back here. What is this place? Where are we?"

"I don't know. Maybe some sort of alternate dimension."

"But you're really here? Not just some figment of my imagination?"

Sam looked down at herself and patted her body gingerly. "I think so... but how would you know if I wasn't?"

The brunette tilted her head in concession. "You're right. I guess I'll just have to take it on faith."

For some reason that brought Sam up short, and her expression seemed to shutter closed for a moment. "Right." She sat down on the bench in front of Janet, and for a while they were silent.

"Do you have any idea how you got here? Colonel O'Neill said you opened a box..."

"Yeah, in the temple. There was a flash, and suddenly I was here - wherever here is. Then I just wandered around until you showed up in the meadow." Sam shook her head. "But I keep feeling... there's some sort of intelligence here. Someone or something trying to communicate with me. I think they're allowing you to come here." She clenched her jaw and exhaled loudly. "This is so damn weird."

Janet's eyebrows quirked. "So, just another day in the life of the SGC?"

"Yeah, pretty much," the blonde answered with a smile, letting her frustration dissipate. They drifted together in silence for a while longer.

"Cassie is worried about you," Janet offered finally.

"Well, once her mom figures out how to spring me from this weird place, I can come on home," came the mild reply.

Janet felt a tremulous bubble in her chest all out of proportion to the words themselves, and she spent a moment reveling in the trust she knew Sam had in her and the tenderness she reserved for their little makeshift family. On impulse, she reached out and grabbed Sam's hand, gratified when the longer fingers folded around her own.

Janet opened her mouth to say something more, but was interrupted by the ring of her cell phone echoing oddly overhead. Sam looked up at the sky. "That'll be Daniel. He's found something."

"But... how do you...?" the doctor faded out of the dream as she woke up.

Sam looked back out at the sea and folded her now empty hands together with a sigh.

Daniel was bent close to an ancient piece of parchment, his mouth moving in silence as he deciphered the texts. Janet watched him for a moment before clearing her throat to gain his attention.

His head jerked up. "Oh! Hey, Doc. Was there a problem with the decon? 'Cause they assured me these were safe..."

Janet waved him off. "No, no problems, I was just curious about whatever you found."

The archeologist's brows raised comically, as Janet had never - not once ever - asked him for details on work he did. Janet watched him and sighed heavily. "I'm feeling a bit useless, just sitting around waiting," she elaborated.

His face lit in understanding. "Ah, sure, I know what you mean. Well, grab a seat, if you don't mind listening to me think aloud." He returned her grateful smile as she pulled up a chair. "Did you know the Hebrew word 'ra' means 'evil' or 'malignant?'"

"That's quite a coincidence," Janet replied.

"Mm... or maybe not," Daniel returned with an ironic shrug. He redirected his attention to the scrolls spread out in front of him. "These are a few of the scrolls in the library that refer to the temple we found. I've been trying to piece together a bit of the history... It seems the Eloyim were left there by Ra, then largely ignored because they were not easily persuaded that he was actually a god, much less the One God they believed in. They thrived in Ra's absence, and an entirely new culture began to form. They eventually believed they were truly the Chosen of God, since they were saved from slavery and delivered to their very own promised land. After several hundred years, Ra and his army faded into legend."

"But eventually Ra came back," Janet interjected.

Daniel shook his head. "Not Ra, but another one of the old system lords, apparently looking for a new planet to exploit because the star in his system had gone nova. The Eloyim saw the nova in the constellation they called Naok... they took it as a sign, a prophecy."

By now he was no longer looking at the scrolls, but studying her. "But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, am I?" Her expression was troubled. "Janet, what's going on?"

Janet shut her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I don't know, exactly. It's so hard to explain."

He leaned back in his chair. "Try me."

After Janet faded away, Sam wandered around the landscape of her current version of reality, barely noticing the dream-like transitions from jungle to desert, island to plateau. While wandering a rocky plain, she saw a figure far off in the distance, its image distorted by the waves of heat shimmering off the ground. She cocked her head in curiosity and approached it.

As she got closer she saw the figure was that of a man, hunched double on his knees, wearing some sort of elaborate ceremonial robe.

Sam drew closer yet, squinting into the sunlight to see what the man was doing. His back was to her, and he looked almost like he was engaging in an elaborate prayer as he shifted back and forth over the ground. She peered around him, then stopped dead as she realized what he was doing.

"You have got to be kidding me."

At the sound of her voice, the man whipped around and grinned at her, holding up a large cats eye marble. "Wanna play?"

Explaining the events of the past couple days to Daniel hadn't been nearly as difficult as Janet thought it would be. Given the rather incredible events that happened with startling regularity at the SGC, the idea that Sam had been sucked into some sort of alternate dimension and was speaking to Janet through her dreams seemed downright mundane.

"So Sam knew about the nova, and about the Goa'uld coming back for the Eloyim," Daniel repeated.


"And somehow she knew that when your cell phone rang it was me, and that I'd brought some information back?"

Janet nodded.

"But she doesn't know where she is, how she got there, or who else might be there with her?"

Another affirmative bob of the brunette's head.

"Huh," he said as he sat back in his seat to digest the information. "Huh," he said again, for lack of anything else to say.

Sam sat on the opposite side of the circle the man had drawn in the dirt, watching him take meticulous aim with his marble.

"So... Are you telling me God really does have nothing better to do with his time than play games?" she asked sarcastically.

"Oh no no, I'm not God. I was just intrigued by this game you mentioned," the man muttered as he knocked two marbles out of the circle and collected them.

"Okay, who are you then?"

"They used to call me 'Seer.'" He flopped down on the dirt to get a better look at the angle of his shot.

"Valosh Med," Sam guessed. "Like the constellation."

"One in the same." Another shot, this time a miss. "Though I swear that constellation makes me look fat."

"Okay, Seer. Maybe you can explain this to me. How come I know who you are? I've never even heard of you or the Eloyim, but yet I suddenly know a lot about you. And where are we? Why does it look like this? Why does Janet keep popping in and out?"

He stopped playing for a moment to sit back on his heels and regard her. "You know how in a dream, reality is malleable? Time and space have no real meaning? You have odd moments of omniscience that tell you that this is a dream, and yet that in itself means nothing because you can't make yourself wake up?"

She nodded emphatically.

"It's like that. But different." He grinned, stood up, tossed a marble at her, and ambled away.

Sam caught the marble and struggled to her feet. "Wait!" she yelled, but he was somehow already fading away in the distance.

Telling the story a second time to General Hammond was a bit harder. Janet found herself nearly apologetic at the unlikeliness of the entire situation.

To his credit, he accepted the story with little more than a blink. "Doctor Jackson, has your research turned up anything relevant to what Doctor Fraiser is experiencing?"

Daniel shook his head. "No sir, not beyond the historical references."

"And the only time you're able to communicate with Major Carter is while you're dreaming?" This time directed at Janet.

"That's right, sir."

"This is damned peculiar, Doctors."

"Yes, sir," they answered in unison.

"Well then," Hammond declared. "Doctor Fraiser, since you're currently our only link to Major Carter, I suggest you get napping."

Sam was wandering again, this time through an utterly featureless waste that she was convinced would drive her insane.

"Don't be so negative," Valosh Med scolded as he suddenly materialized beside her.

Sam whirled on him. "Why are you doing this? What is this all about? Cut the cryptic riddles and just answer me!"

The mischievous glitter in the small man's eyes seemed to temper as he studied her. "You're a scientist, and a brilliant thinker. And yet you're forgetting what you already know. You've had the answer for a long time now."

"Dammit," she growled, turning and stomping away from him.

The Seer watched her go, then nodded as if making a decision. "We called ourselves 'The Chosen Ones of God,'" he called to her retreating back. "Do you know why?"

Despite her frustration, Sam turned around to face him. "Because you got your Promised Land, right?"

The Seer nodded slowly.

"But what happened when the Goa'uld came back?"

"Ah." He pointed a finger into the air as if she'd just solved a complex equation. "Do you know why Seers are called seers?"

"You mean beyond the obvious?" Sam replied.

He ignored her sarcasm with a small glare. "Seers have the ability to look beyond bare fact, bare known quantities, and envision a world the way it could be, instead of the way it must be. On my world, Samantha Carter, you would have been a Seer." He paused to reconsider. "That is, if you weren't stoned to death first."

She rolled her eyes. "The Goa'uld?" she prompted.

"The Goa'uld," he repeated, the word uncomfortable on his tongue. "We called them Harac - the Destroyers."

Sam snorted a bit. "Yeah, they get that a lot."

"I was a young man when the light in Naok split the night sky. My entire village was terrified, convinced the heavens were dying and falling upon us. Then suddenly, I had a moment of clarity... and I came to understand a bit of the exquisite design and timing of the universe. And I knew my people would be delivered."

"So..." Sam thought furiously. "Eloy wasn't the Promised Land after all?"

He grinned then, though his eyes were misted over. "No. Our journey was not yet complete." He poked her in the shoulder. "And neither is yours."

"Is that why I was brought here? To go on a journey? To find the Promised Land?"

"In a manner of speaking," the Seer answered. "Except what most people don't know is that the Promised Land isn't always a place."

"Sometimes... it's a person," Sam murmured in the sudden inexplicable insight common to that reality.

"Sometimes," the Seer agreed.

Falling asleep was always hardest when you knew you had to, Janet reflected. She was on a cot in an isolation room in the infirmary, with a net of electrodes wrapped around her skull to measure her brain activity.

It itched.

The bed was uncomfortable.

And she was anxious as hell.

She forced herself not to take yet another look at her watch, instead focusing on relaxation techniques to ease her body into sleep. It didn't help that innumerable cameras and machines were watching her every blink, nor did the weight of expectation that she would somehow wake up with the mystery magically solved.

Of course Hammond had made no such demands, but she had actively placed them upon herself. Her friend was in some unknown place, in potential danger, and Janet was their best shot at bringing her back.

Her friend - her best friend, she thought idly. Her best friend who happened to have gorgeous blue eyes, an unrivaled intellect, and that devastating smile.

Janet rolled onto her side abruptly. This was not helping. Sam needed her and all she could do was lie awake nursing an unspoken crush.

But her rambling thoughts didn't feel like obeying her direct orders to stop, and her brain happily started tallying all the things she adored about Sam... How amazing she was with Cassie. How endlessly fascinating she was to talk with. How unflinchingly loyal she was to the people she loved. How Janet was more comfortable with her than she'd ever been with anyone before...

It was the last conscious thought she had before she finally drifted asleep.

This time she was on a mountain top, under a brilliant canopy of stars. Sam was standing at the peak with a round little man in ornate robes, and they were pointing at the stars trading observations. Janet took a few steps closer, and as if Sam sensed her presence, her head whipped around to face her.

"Janet," Sam said by way of greeting, shaping her name with a blinding grin.

"Hi," the doctor answered, rendered shy by the adoration in that smile. She tilted her head a bit at the man behind Sam, who was still going on excitedly about the constellations above. "How's it going?"

"Better," the blonde answered. She tossed her head over her shoulder. "Hey, Seer, this is my friend..."

"JANET!" he exclaimed, loud enough to startle them both. "Ah! You're here. That's such good news."

"It.. It is?" Janet stuttered.

"Oh, most certainly." He bounded a few steps down the mountain path to take hold of her hand, then bent to stare intently into her eyes. She recoiled just a bit from the close inspection. "Hmm."


"Oh, it's nothing." He then brushed past her and ambled down the mountain, humming loudly.

Janet cast a confused gaze back up at Sam, who shrugged. "Been like that all day," the blonde explained with a bemused shake of her head. "It's easier just to go with it."

"Is he the one that brought you here?"

"I don't think so. I think he's just sort of a representative."

Janet nodded and climbed the last few feet up to the path to stand next to Sam. "I told General Hammond about all this."

Deep blue eyes sparkled mischievously. "You told our CO that you're dreaming about me? Bet that went over big."

The doctor stalwartly ignored the blush flaring up from her collar. "He wants us to work together and figure out how to get you back. I thought we could start with..."

"How's Cass doing?"

Janet blinked. "Uh, fine, she's fine. I called her from the base earlier... Sam, you know I have a fairly limited time here, don't you want to compare notes, or tell me whatever you've learned from..." she jerked a thumb over her shoulder, "...that guy?"

Sam took a deep breath and gazed out at the stars, down the mountain path, then finally back at Janet. "No, not particularly." She raised a tentative hand to Janet's brow, delicately brushing away a stray tendril of soft brown hair.

And as Sam's hand dropped away, Janet became peripherally aware that something very profound had occurred.

"You look tired," Sam murmured.

"I'm actually asleep right now," the brunette pointed out. "But the past couple days have been pretty hard... I've been worried about you," she admitted.

Sam hummed a low sympathetic noise. "How about, when this is all over, we take some leave and embarrass the hell out of Cassie on a family road trip?"

"Sounds perfect," Janet agreed with a grin.

And for a while after that they stood together in silence, each content to merely soak up the friendly presence of the other. It was, Janet considered, perhaps the single telltale mark of their relationship, that they spent time together without noticing the time going by, and that the easy familiarity never dwindled. Quite the opposite, in fact -- it seemed to be deepening by the second.

Sam noticed the sky behind Janet begin to glow pink with the first rays of dawn. "You're going to be leaving soon," she said quietly.

Janet threw a quick glance behind her. "Someday you're going to have to explain to me how you know that," she muttered. "Sam, I... There are... I want to tell you..."

"Janet," Sam interrupted, reaching to lay a finger across the smaller woman's lips. The contact seemed to paralyze her for a moment and she had to shake herself a bit. "Remember what I said? About the reason to keep looking up?"

The smaller woman nodded once before fading away.

"Do you understand now?" came the voice of Valosh Med from behind her.

Sam turned toward him. "Yes, I do. But what's next?"

"As usual, Samantha Carter, you have the answer before you have even asked the question."

She stopped to think about that for a bit, then with a half smile, reached into her pocket and pulled out the marble that he had tossed at her earlier. She looked at it more closely and saw that it was far more than colorful glass; the inner sphere radiated in an active swirl of energy. As she studied it, the first ray of the new day in this place that did not exist struck the smooth surface of the marble and transformed it.

And suddenly Sam had a snowball resting in her palm.

With a triumphant laugh, she drew back her arm and hurled it into the sky.

Janet jerked awake in the SGC infirmary, sitting abruptly and trying to regain her bearings. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Daniel Jackson burst into the room not five seconds later. He was holding a pad of paper covered with barely comprehensible scribbles. "I've figured it out!" he declared.

The doctor pulled the electrode net off her head and raked her fingers through her hair. "I need to find General Hammond. Tell me on the way."

Teal'c, Jack O'Neill, and the members of SG-4 were in the briefing room giving their somewhat meager status report to General Hammond on the situation on Eloy when Janet and Daniel stormed in.

"The scrolls I've translated indicate that the Eloyim found what appears to be a stable periodic dimensional portal," Daniel began.

"Whose event horizon happens to coincide with the appearance of a long period comet in a certain constellation," Janet added.

"It allowed them to escape the Goa'uld," Daniel continued.

"And it's what's currently got hold of Major Carter."

"Except that the portal's about to close for another thousand years..."

"Which means we have to pull her out of there NOW," Janet concluded breathlessly.

For several long moments, the other SGC personnel around the table simply stared at the two doctors with identically blank expressions.

Hammond was the first to recover. "And how do you propose we go about doing that, Doctors?"

Daniel and Janet looked at each other. Daniel shrugged. "I need to get to Eloy, sir," Janet said finally.

Jack O'Neill cleared his throat. "Um, I don't mean to rain on your parade, guys, but we didn't see any comets out there."

"It'll be there, Colonel," Janet said firmly.

Twenty minutes later the teams were suited up again and bounding through the gate. Janet steeled herself for the transport effect, which she never quite managed to get used to. After being disgorged on the surface of the alien world, she took a moment to shake off the wormhole-induced disorientation. The sun was setting, and she tilted her head up to study the sky.

"There," she said, pointing at the fuzzy trail just above the eastern horizon.

"That's a comet?" O'Neill muttered as he squinted up at where she was pointing. "Looks like a smudge."

"Colonel, where exactly is this temple?"

O'Neill jerked a his head toward the village and set off, with Janet and the rest of the team hot on his heels.

"She's taking her sweet time," Valosh Med remarked with a sniff.

Sam glared at him. "It hasn't been that long."

They waited a while longer in silence. The Seer bounced a little on the balls of his feet. "Go ahead and ask. You know you want to."

She exhaled. "All right. Where are the rest of your people?"

"Ah yes. Well, think of this place as a kind of passageway. If you went through it you would be in quite a different place altogether. If you turned around and left the way you came, you would be exactly where you first started."

"So your people went through... they escaped the Goa'uld?"

A solemn nod. "All but one."

Her face fell with sudden realization. "You didn't make it."

He kept his eyes fixed grimly on the horizon and did not answer.

"But I don't understand," she said in dismay. "You knew the portal was coming..."

The Seer took a deep breath. "When the Harac - the Goa'uld - arrived, there was chaos, total panic. Suddenly I was no longer the eccentric Seer, but the sole hope for my entire people. It fell to me to make sure that they escaped. And I did," he concluded with a proud lift of his chin. "As the soldiers closed in on the temple, I was the very last Eloyim left on our world. I knew the portal was closing, and I had nearly made it... Then the soldiers all fired their weapons simultaneously. Suddenly there was a cataclysm of light, and I found myself here. Here and perfectly unable to leave."

"I'm sorry," she said in a bare whisper.

He turned toward her then, and took her hands in his own. "Don't be. For now, I am a savior to my people, a story inscribed in my world's stars, and occasionally a guide to a wayward traveler." He smiled tenderly at her. "Believe me, I'm all too happy to deliver you to where you belong. You ask too many questions." He closed his eyes then, and his voice grew less distinct. "Time grows short, Samantha Carter. Remember what you have learned here - consider it a blessing."

"I will," she promised.

He was dissolving in front of her, bits being carried away by a force of wind she could not feel.

The semi-reality was receding from her, but she had one last question left. "Why did you do this?" Sam called loudly.

An ethereal chuckle. "Because, Sam... All are Eloyim."

Light spun nauseatingly around her and she was suddenly back in real space, on the altar in the Eloyan temple. The transition was a bit too much for her equilibrium, and she tumbled off the altar...

... just as Janet charged up the steps to reach her, wrapping her arms around the taller woman and cushioning her fall.

The doctor was barking orders to various people around her, and Sam remained perfectly comfortable ensconced in her protective embrace.

Janet looked down at the dazed blue eyes, as if searching them for the friend who had disappeared. Sam found the energy to summon up a beatific smile. "Hey," she murmured.

"Hey," Janet responded, smiling as tears pooled in her dark eyes. Sam felt the arms around her tighten as the mental and physical strain of the past several days caught up with her and she finally lost consciousness.

When Sam came to, she found herself in the SGC infirmary. The familiar bland concrete walls and the reassuring beeps and clicks of the medical monitors attached to her brought a somewhat incongruous smile to her face - she was home.

"Hey, you're awake," came a quiet voice at her bedside. She blinked and forced her head to turn to the source of the sound, seeing a beet-red Daniel Jackson seated at her bedside with a notepad and pencil. He hauled himself out of his seat with a yawn. "How're you feeling?"

"I'm fine... just tired," she murmured and squinted at him. "Why do you look like a lobster?"

Daniel smiled. "Apparently that portal throws off a lot of energy when people are moving in and out of it. Gave us all a pretty bad sunburn." He lifted his notepad into view, pointing at some vague calculations and notes. "When you're feeling better, I have some really amazing stuff to show you."

She gave him a mild conspiratorial-geek-grin back. "Can't wait."

"Think I'll be fighting for your attention, though," he observed, inclining his head toward something on her left. Sam turned to follow his gaze, unable to restrain the smile that creased her face upon seeing Janet sprawled face down on the neighboring bed. The doctor's skin also bore evidence of radiation exposure, though clearly not as severe as Daniel's. "She wouldn't agree to get some rest until we worked out a shift schedule to sit with you," Daniel was saying. "She was worried that the dimensional jumping might leave you a bit out of it, and insisted that someone familiar be around."

He looked back down at her and saw that Sam was already asleep again, the faint remnants of that smile still tugging at her lips. Daniel shrugged and sat back down, then flipped a few pages ahead on his notepad and chewed his lip as he studied them.

Several hours later Sam woke again, this time to the sound of low voices murmuring just past the foot of her bed. "Hey, could you guys keep it down? Some of us are trying to sleep here," she muttered.

Instantly the group moved to surround her bed, and she smiled up at the faces of her team mates. Colonel O'Neill's skin sported a shade of red a bit deeper than Daniel's, and of course Teal'c looked utterly unaffected.

"Hey Carter, good to have you back," O'Neill said cheerily, reaching out to pat her leg a bit. "How're you feeling?"

"Fine, sir," she replied. "Thanks for coming back to get me."

"Psh. All we did was stay out of Doctor Fraiser's way," he said with a dismissive wave. "Daniel here was just telling us about the scrolls he's translated. Looks like the Eloyim had some pretty amazing mathematicians. They had that portal's event horizon clocked to within a couple of minutes."

"I'll need your help figuring out some of the more complex formulas," Daniel said eagerly.

"And I am most curious about your experience within the portal," Teal'c added.

"It'll wait for a few days," came a clipped voice behind the three men. They shifted out of the way as Janet stepped intently up to Sam's bedside. She took hold of Sam's wrist, fingers landing lightly on her pulse.

"Ah, that's our cue, boys," O'Neill muttered. "Get better, Carter." He grinned rakishly and escorted Daniel and Teal'c out of the infirmary.

"So will I live?" Sam asked Janet wryly.

Janet didn't answer, but went through her standard battery of patient checks. She flashed a penlight into Sam's bright blue eyes, then pulled out her stethoscope to listen to her heart and breathing. Finally, she leaned against the side of the bed.

"You'll live," she confirmed with a smile. "But you'll need to stick around here for a couple more days. Your electrolytes and blood counts are off... I'm guessing due to whatever kind of forces were present in that portal, added to the stress of not eating or sleeping for three days. You've been asleep here for almost twenty hours."

"Explains why I'm so stiff," the blonde said, shifting on the bed just a bit to stretch. She was watching Janet carefully, noticing the subtle distance the doctor was putting between them. Right now her deep brown eyes were steadfastly avoiding hers, as Janet fidgeted in uncharacteristic nervousness.

"Janet," she murmured, reaching out to grab hold of a wandering hand. In an instant those eyes were locked back on her. Sam could feel the intensity building between them, especially as their fingers intertwined without conscious thought.

This... was complicated, Janet realized. Complicated and risky. They had shared a truly unique and emotionally intense experience, which seemed to only deepen the already strong bond of respect and friendship they shared. And attraction - yeah, there was definitely a healthy dose of that too. It was taking all her resolve to stay still, while every ounce of common sense she had told her to back away, to regain some sort of friendly propriety.

"Thanks for staying close while I was out," Sam said quietly.

Well then. Common sense be damned. Janet tightened her grip on Sam's hand in response and wondered if Sam was even remotely aware just how much her heart showed in her eyes.

"Anytime," Janet answered, hoping her own gaze said as much.

The next day Janet cleared Sam for a brief departure from the infirmary to deliver her report to Hammond. When she came back, she looked troubled.

"Sam? Are you feeling all right?" Janet asked in alarm as she guided the blonde back to her bed.

"Yeah, I guess so," Sam answered absently. She sat down on the bed and stared off into nowhere. The doctor saw the unfocused look and reflexively reached out to check Sam's pulse, while running the back of her hand across Sam's forehead in a cursory check for fever.

The gentle touch shook Sam out of her daze. "Sorry, Janet. I really do feel fine. I'm just... distracted. General Hammond asked me some questions I don't know how to answer."

The brunette breathed a small sigh of relief as the normal alertness returned to Sam's eyes. "Given the circumstances, that's not too surprising, is it? We have no record of anything like this happening to anyone anywhere before. There are bound to be some things we can't account for."

Sam thought about that for a bit. "Yeah, I guess," she muttered with a dejected shrug.

Faint alarm bells rang in Janet's head. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked quietly.

After a moment the blonde head bobbed once. "Yeah, I'd like that," Sam answered, with a glance around the infirmary that held the definite subtext of "but not here."

Janet picked up the signal perfectly. "How about coming over for dinner tonight? Cassie's dying to see you."

Sam flashed her a grateful smile and accepted the invitation just as Daniel bounded eagerly into the room. "Hey Sam, can we talk about these calculations I found in those scrolls?"

Janet excused herself as the two scientists got to work.

"Sam!" cried Cassie as she flung herself at her favorite unofficial parent.

Sam barely had time to get out of the car before almost getting knocked off her feet by a high-velocity teenager. She obligingly wrapped the girl in a bear hug, before tilting her up off her feet with a squeeze. "Hey kiddo," she whispered.

"I knew you'd come back," came the voice muffled in her shoulder.

Sam looked over the top of the car at Janet, who was watching them with tears in her eyes. They shared a smile, then Sam set Cassie down and released her grip. "Pizza's getting cold," she said with a grin, reaching up to ruffle the girl's long hair.

Through the evening Janet watched as Cassie and Sam had a marvelous time together, even while working on the ever-tedious math homework. It occurred to her to be a bit envious of the effortless rapport between her adopted daughter and her friend, but shook the feeling off. How could she blame the two people she cared about most for enjoying each others' company?

It was late when Cassandra reluctantly went off to bed, and Sam and Janet sat together on a bench on the back porch, each nursing a bottle of beer. The temperature had dropped sharply since the sun set, and the noise of the crickets in the woods around the house was nearly deafening.

Every time Janet looked over at Sam the blonde was staring hard into the distance, her brow furrowed as if deep in thought. Finally Janet reached out with a foot to poke Sam in the leg.

Sam blinked and looked down at the small foot poking her, then over to Janet on the other side of the bench. "I'm sorry, I've been a total space cadet today," Sam said apologetically.

"S'okay, what's going on?" Janet asked.

The muscles in Sam's jaw bunched furiously. "I just... I don't know what to think about Valosh Med, and that portal."

One of the most important things about being a healer was knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Janet took a sip of her beer and waited patiently, knowing that Sam would tell her more when she was ready.

"I mean, it doesn't make any sense," Sam spat out moments later. "Daniel showed me those calculations he found. There was no way for anyone with that level of technology to be able to come up with information that precise. Hell, we probably couldn't manage it now."

"Well, he was a 'seer,' right? Maybe he had the ability to sense things other people couldn't."

Sam turned sharply to look at the smaller woman in surprise. "What, like ESP? You're a doctor, Janet. You can't possibly believe in that kinda stuff."

Janet shrugged a bit, and took another sip of her beer. "One thing you learn early on as a doctor is that the human body is capable of far more than the sum of its parts. People get better who shouldn't be able to. Or they don't... dying patients who are completely unresponsive to outside stimuli will cling to life just long enough for their loved ones to arrive and say goodbye. There's a lot more about humanity than can be explained by current science."

"You just have to take it on faith," Sam murmured, quoting what Janet had once said while within the portal.

"Sometimes," the doctor agreed quietly.

After a moment, Sam pushed herself upright, pacing the length of the porch and leaning on the railing. "I'm a scientist, Janet, I need a better answer than that."

Janet traced small patterns in the condensation on her bottle, taking some time to consider how best to proceed. "Okay then. How did you know that Cass would be okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"When you first brought her here. When she had that naquadah bomb in her chest. You stayed with her. You said you knew she'd be okay."

Sam closed her eyes. "I don't know how I knew," she answered through clenched teeth.

Janet stood and slowly moved up beside her against the porch rail. She placed a tentative hand at the small of Sam's back, rubbing the tense muscles there in a gentle circle. "Sam, things happen that we can't explain. Things that science will never provide a satisfactory answer for. It's not a failing on our part, it's just how it is." She smiled a bit. "'Faith' isn't a bad word, even to a scientist."

"I've never been a religious person," the blonde admitted.

"Religion is different than faith," Janet countered mildly.

They were silent for a while after that. Eventually Janet's hand stilled on the taller woman's back, but she didn't remove it. They shifted their bodies minutely to be closer together, partly in deference to the chill in the night air.

Long minutes later, Janet said, "You asked me, that first night, if I believed in God."

The blonde nodded. "I remember."

"Do you remember what I said?" Janet asked, tilting her head up to study Sam's profile.

"You said you weren't sure if there was anything out there worth believing in."

"Right. I wasn't sure then. I am now." A serene smile shaped her lips, and she waited for Sam to look back at her. When she did, the blue eyes were liquid with emotion. "I believe in you, Sam," Janet whispered, putting her entire heart in the words.

Sam made an anguished sound, then turned and enfolded Janet in a smothering hug. The doctor wrapped her arms around her friend and returned the embrace full force.

Janet didn't see Sam for a couple days after that night, but was too absorbed with other duties around the SGC to really notice. Until early one afternoon, when the blonde suddenly showed up at her office door wearing her motorcycle jacket and a rakish grin.

"Wanna play hooky?" Sam asked slyly.

Janet sighed. "Sam, I can't, I have all this paperwork..."

"It'll wait. You have a cell phone. And no teams are even out right now." She held out a hand invitingly. "C'mon. You need a break." Her eyebrow quirked as if in challenge.

"What did you have in mind?" Janet asked, narrowing her eyes at the taller woman.

Sam's grin widened. "Trust me."

With that, the doctor didn't even break eye contact, she just flipped the file she was working on shut and grabbed Sam's hand. Janet fought the urge to giggle as they snuck off the base property, deftly avoiding a boisterous Jack O'Neill and General Hammond in the main corridor.

A short time later, they were hiking up a steep mountain path outside of Colorado Springs.

"This was your idea of taking a break?" Janet complained. "And could you please walk a little slower? Some of us lack those freakishly long legs," the diminutive doctor grumbled as she sat on a felled log to retie her bootlace.

"Sorry, shorty," Sam replied with an amused smirk. She turned to study the sun as it slid lower in the sky and bounced anxiously on the balls of her feet. "So. You ready to go?"

Janet glared up at her suspiciously. "Why are we in such a hurry?"

"It's worth it. You just gotta trust me," the blonde answered. She unleashed her most charming smile, the one she just happened to suspect Janet was incapable of resisting.

But the thin mountain air, the sweat dripping into her eyes, and the rocks in her shoes lent the doctor an unusual amount of resolve on this particular afternoon. "You are so buying me dinner after this."

"Deal. C'mon." Sam offered a hand to help Janet up.

They continued their trek up the narrow path, and Janet continued her mostly-good-natured grumbling with every step. Sam was several paces ahead and missed most of the ongoing diatribe, but had to stifle a laugh when the words "kill your Amazon ass and drag your body off this damn mountain" trickled past her.

They crested the peak. "Just a little further," Sam threw over her shoulder as she eagerly picked her way to the spot she'd been seeking.

Finally, they made it to the end of the path, which widened into a small shelf worn into the rock with a panoramic vista of a good portion of the mountain range. Janet pulled up as she noticed the view for the first time. "Whoa."

"Yeah," Sam agreed. "But it gets better. C'mere." She grabbed Janet's hand and led her to the front of a large slab of granite, then sat and tugged the smaller woman down to settle between her legs.

Janet shivered, both from the close contact and the chill air moving across her sweat-dampened skin. Long arms closed around her and she relaxed, leaning back into Sam's welcoming embrace.

It was physically the closest they'd ever been to each other, but even as the doctor felt her heart begin to race, their bodies grew accustomed to the contact, mingling heat and scent in an altogether pleasant way.

Sam lifted a lazy arm to point off to the distance. "That's Pike's Peak," she murmured.

Janet nodded, then reached out to recapture Sam's hand and return it to its former place wrapped around her waist. In response the taller woman inclined her head to lean into Janet's sweet smelling dark hair and tightened her embrace minutely.

All at once the sun was swallowed by the mountains beyond, and the sky seemed to burst into flame. The kaleidoscope of colors over the peak was breathtaking, and they sat together in silence as the light faded away, and the sky deepened to an almost impenetrable violet. Sam smiled as the first stars of the evening flickered into view.

"When I first came to Colorado, a friend of mine brought me up here to see this," she said quietly. Her voice was pitched low and it burred pleasantly next to Janet's ear. "It was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen... and I knew then that I needed to share it with someone special..." She took a steadying breath. "Someone I loved."

She heard the catch in Janet's breathing, and screwed her eyes shut to maintain the courage to continue. "I've been thinking... Valosh Med kept saying that I had the answers to the questions I was asking before I even managed to ask them. And he was right -- you've been here all along."

At this, Janet squirmed around in her embrace, and Sam let her hands fall loosely to the ground, intending to let the smaller woman regain her distance. Her eyes were still shut and she was so miserably occupied with her own nervousness that she didn't notice Janet wasn't actually pulling away from her.

"Sam..." Janet whispered, reaching up to run a delicate thumb along Sam's cheekbone.

Sam's eyes jerked open to find Janet's face scant inches from her own, with a look so intense in her dark eyes that they threatened to swallow her whole. "My Promised Land is right here with you..." She swallowed convulsively. "I love you, Janet," she whispered, the words pulled out of her by a will not entirely her own.

The answering smile on Janet's face could have lit the entire night sky, and she dipped her head in to plant a gentle but heartfelt kiss on the blonde's lips. After a long moment she pulled away just enough to regain her breath. "I love you back," she declared reverently.

They stared into each other for an unknown amount of time before Sam finally broke the spell, dropping her head with a bashful smile. Janet laughed and hugged her, and they snuggled close together, trading the occasional kiss and watching the idly passing night sky.

"So, Sam..." Janet murmured after a long while, nearly asleep as her head nodded on the blonde's shoulder. "What do you believe now?"

Sam tipped her head back, regarding the heavens, then looked back down at the precious companion huddled comfortably in her arms. "Everything," she whispered.

Continue to the next chapter, Darkly Within.
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