Warning: This story implies a loving relationship between two consenting adult women. So, if you're not old enough, please go away and come back later. If two women loving each other is illegal where you live, you should seriously think of moving.
Pairing: Sam/Janet (established relationship).
Timeline: Season Nine with a twist: O'Neill is still in command of the SGC, General Hammond is heading Homeworld Security, Sam is the leader of SG-1, and Janet is back.
Part III of the "Beauty is Nothing but the Beginning of Terror"-Series, sequel to "Listen, My Heart, As Only Saints Can Listen". This story can be read as a stand-alone though there is mention of characters and events from the two stories preceding this one.
Special thanks go to Slam who helped me to overcome a mountain of writer's block.
Summary: Having brought Janet back from 666 after almost a year of longing Sam turns a bit overprotective.
Janet's voice was calm, "Who the hell do you think you are, Lieutenant Colonel Carter? The Joint Chiefs? The President? Who do you think you are to interfere in this matter?"
"I didn't want to lose you again," Sam's answer was barely above a whisper. "I knew that you would be angry with me but..."
Seeing the beginning of tears in Sam's proud eyes and the crestfallen expression on her face quelled much of Janet's ire.
"I understand how you feel, baby. I feel the same whenever you step through the Gate. I almost lost you so many times; it scares me to even think about it. But, Sam, going out in the field is part of my job, with the threat of the Ori plague more than ever. You have to let me do my job.
"I already told General O'Neill that he will have to look for a new CMO if he does something like this ever again. And now I'm telling you, Sam. Don't ever again use the influence you have on General O'Neill to pull such a stunt. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes Janet. I'm sorry. I only thought of keeping you safe," Sam answered softly.
"I know that's why I'll let you off the hook this easily, and now let's go home and you can keep me safe in our bed."
Sam snapped out of her thoughts of the past. They had not gotten much sleep that night but it had been worth the ribbing she had had to endure from Daniel the next day at her constant yawning. Her smile faded when she heard the elevator door open and close but she sank back into her seat when there was only the sound of men's boots on the concrete floor and not that of Janet's heels. Sam took a deep breath and turned back to her work but the relatively simple equations on her black board suddenly didn't make any sense. Instead she began to ask herself if she really had done the right thing.
SG-4 and SG-7 had asked for a medical team to help cure the inhabitants of P5X-786 from a widespread disease that had all the markings of a rather aggressive cold. O'Neill had sent two teams because there had been rumors of the planet being regularly raided by renegade Jaffa. Groups of Jaffa warriors who no longer served the System Lords but also didn't want to join the ranks of the Free Jaffa were starting to become a real security risk.
So, Sam once again had pleaded with General O'Neill and he had overruled Janet's decision to lead the team herself. And now Sam was hiding in her lab and hoped that Janet would once again forgive her.
Sam started to pace and almost jumped out of her skin when the telephone rang.
"Get your ass to my office, now!"
For a moment Sam looked at the old-fashioned receiver in her hand and put it gently back on its cradle. The general had sounded angry, very angry. She could count the occasions she had heard this inflection on the fingers of one hand, and she had a nagging feeling that she knew what had caused it.
Moments later she knocked on O'Neill's office door. He looked as angry as he had sounded and Sam instinctively snapped to attention.
"I told you that it was a bad idea and now we'll have to deal with the fall-out. I want you to make this go away."
Jack handed her a piece of paper with hand writing on it.
"Find the doc, fall on your knees and beg, but make this go away. According to the perimeter guards she left the mountain three hours ago."
Sam stared disbelievingly at Janet's hand writing. She had really done it. Janet had resigned as Chief Medical Officer of Stargate Command, effective immediately. She also considered resigning her commission altogether. Her military demeanor gone, Sam slumped down on one of the chairs in front of O'Neill's desk, her eyes still glued to the ominous piece of paper.
The klaxon of an unannounced off-world activation sounded and O'Neill hurriedly left the office but Sam barely heard it. In the doorway he turned around.
"Fix it, Carter. I don't care how you do it, just fix it. Bring her back, Sam."
Janet's words began to dance in front of her eyes and in a sudden revelation Sam understood what her over-protectiveness had done, not only to the SGC but also possibly to their relationship. Janet had specifically asked her not to interfere in her job, and at the first opportunity she had gone and done just that, again. Janet must think that she didn't trust her, that she didn't trust in her judgment, that she didn't trust her as a soldier. O'Neill had been right; she had to fix this.
Sam requisitioned a car and a driver to get home. Their car was not in the driveway when she arrived. She opened the front door after dismissing the young airman and listened. The house was silent. When Janet was angry she often cooked, but the kitchen was empty. Other times she worked in the garden to get rid of her angry energy, but there was no sign of her in the backyard. Sam checked Janet's study, nothing.
A knot formed in the pit of her stomach as she climbed the stairs to their bedroom. She didn't really expect to find Janet there, but she found a note on her pillow.
I need some time alone; I need some time to think. I understand that you and the general are just worried about my safety, but I can't do my work if you and half of the SGC are always hovering over me.
I can't breathe this way. I can't live this way. It's poisoning my mind. I can't be myself this way.
Carolyn has proven herself as my second-in-command. She will make a good CMO and she's head strong enough not to let General O'Neill intimidate her.
I will be back when I'm ready. Please don't try to find me. I love you, forever.
I need some time alone; I need some time to think. I understand that you and the general are just worried about my safety, but I can't do my work if you and half of the SGC are always hovering over me.
I can't breathe this way. I can't live this way. It's poisoning my mind. I can't be myself this way.
Carolyn has proven herself as my second-in-command. She will make a good CMO and she's head strong enough not to let General O'Neill intimidate her.
I will be back when I'm ready. Please don't try to find me. I love you, forever.
The mention of Carolyn Lam told Sam that Janet was really serious about her resignation. The letter also told her that she had deeply hurt her lover. She had to find her and make her believe that it would never happen again. But would that also be the truth? Could she live with herself if something happened to Janet off-world, again?
Sam took a deep breath and put her brain into gear. She opened the door to their walk-in-closet and made a quick inventory of the clothes Janet had taken with her. As far as she could tell Janet had taken enough for about two weeks. A few of her summer dresses were gone as well as her hiking boots. Where would she go? Had she left with a clear destination in mind or would she let the roads guide her?
Jack's cabin would be perfect to be alone and think. They had a key and a standing invitation, but even before Sam had checked if the key was still at its usual place in the kitchen, she sensed that Janet would not go there. It was too obvious a choice and the first place where everyone would search for her. Besides, Jack had been one of the people who had driven her away, if only at Sam's initiative.
Sam considered other options. It was entirely possible that Janet had decided against being alone. Would she want to see Cassie? She would want to tell her about the resignation personally. But she had written that she wanted to be alone to think. Still, she could have changed her mind.
Sam pulled her cell phone out of her jacket and pushed the button for Cassie's cell phone, after having checked the time to make sure that Cassandra was between classes.
"Hey, Sam, what's up? It's not like you to call in the middle of a school day. Please don't tell me that you and Mom won't make it for the birthday of the twins. They're..."
"No, Cass, it's nothing like that. It's worse. I totally fucked up. Your Mom left."
"What do you mean with 'Mom left'?"
"I fucked up. I drove her away. She left."
"Start from the beginning, Sam. Mom loves you, she wouldn't just leave you."
Sam haltingly told Cassie what she had done and read Janet's note to her, "I need to find her and tell her how sorry I am."
"No, Sam, that's exactly what you should not do. Had she wanted you to follow her she would have left you a clue where to find her, openly or subconsciously. Do what she asks of you, Sam. Prove to her that you trust her to take care of herself. Prove to her that you love her enough to give her the freedom she needs. Mom loves you, Sam, that's the only thing that really counts. She will come back to you, and though it undoubtedly will take you and Uncle Jack some groveling, Mom loves her job. She once told me that working for the CDC had been a boring desk job compared to the wild ride the SGC offers. Give her the time she needs."
"When did you get so wise, kiddo?" Sam asked.
"Oh, that's easy. I have a lot of positive role models and made a few mistakes of my own."
"Mistakes?" Sam asked almost tonelessly, her mind's eye offering her the memories of how she had found Cassie in that biker bar, half naked and drunk and hurting over her mother's death and Sam's supposed betrayal in the past she had lived before her and Jack had changed it and brought Janet back. "What kind of mistakes?"
"It's in the past, Sam. Let's just say that at one point while Mom was ascended I had a hard time to cope. I fell in with a biker gang that had set up shop in a run-down bar. Their leader, a guy named Rover, welcomed me with open arms and lots of booze. It was so completely different from life at home or on campus or with Professor Wellington and her family. For a while I was fascinated but when Billie confronted me about the drinking and the fact that I had started to skip classes because I was too hung over I quickly understood that I was about to ruin my life and I stopped meeting with them.
"We all make mistakes, Sam, but as long as there is life mistakes can be corrected."
"I'm sorry that I was not there for you, Cassie."
"Please don't, Sam. I didn't tell you about it to make you feel even more guilty. You had enough on your plate at the time and I wanted you to be proud of me and not have to worry. No, I told you because... Hanging out with Rover and his gang was a dozy of a mistake but I learned from it and everything worked out, just like what you did was a pretty big mistake, but you will learn from it and everything will work out for the best one way or the other. Trust Mom."
"I will, Cassie. So, how's school?"
They spoke a few more minutes of mundane things and Sam promised to call as soon as she heard from Janet. The talk had done a lot to help calm Sam down and let her think more rationally. Bottom line was that Cassandra was right; respecting Janet's wishes would be a sign of trust. It was the right thing to do. Yes, she would wait.
Sam gulped down a glass of water and went over to the living room. She blankly stared at the dark view screen of their TV and her mind mockingly supplied her with images of all the times they had snuggled there together, of the times the snuggling had turned into necking and occasionally more.
The mental images comforted her but they also made her sad, depressed. They reminded her of the endless months she had spent without her love, of the ache in her heart that never went away and could only be dulled by throwing herself into work. It made her think of the real possibility to lose Janet and with her everything worth living for. She knew this time even her work would not be enough. She dreaded the emptiness to come.
Rationally Sam knew that she was exaggerating. Janet was not dead and the letter said that Janet loved her, forever, and that she would come back - but...
Sam took deep breaths to keep her rising panic under control, and though night had yet to fall she switched on the floor lamp, just to do something. The indirect light bathed the room in a warm gold but instead of being comforted, Sam only felt more alone.
Her overactive thoughts led her to imagine Janet walking back into the house, telling her to take a seat on the couch but remaining standing herself, just at the other side of the couch table but still worlds away. Images of Janet calmly telling her that she loved her and always would, but that she couldn't share her life with someone who didn't even trust her to do her job.
She heard Janet's voice saying that she had already arranged to work fulltime at the Academy Hospital but even with the work situation resolved she would need some distance before being able to trust Sam again and would move out for a while. Sam heard her own voice offering to go instead. She heard herself say that it was her fault and that Janet should not have to suffer because of it. She heard herself say that she would stay in her quarters on base and saw herself kissing Janet softly on the lips, without her lover returning the kiss.
The scene sent her into a tailspin of depression. Tears were running down her face and she cried herself into exhaustion. When she opened her eyes again she had a painful crick in her neck. The light from the floor lamp gave their living room an almost romantic appearance, made painful by the fact that Janet was not at her side to share it.
Sam sighed and rose. She stretched her cramped muscles protesting the slumped over position in which she had spent the last couple of hours. Only then she saw the road map on the low table right in front of her. It was one of Janet's quirks to study a map prior to going on a trip even though they had a state of the art navigation system that even met Sam's exacting standards.
She stared at the map without really seeing it. Her eyes were going right through it as she realized how utterly selfish her earlier thoughts and fears had been. She had only thought about herself, her loss, her fears.
In a sudden epiphany she realized that convincing General O'Neill not to send Janet off-world had never been about Janet but about her fear of losing her again, a fear so overwhelming it stole her breath away even at this moment. Janet had lived with this fear for years, every time she had gone on an off-world mission and not come back in time, every time she had been at the brink of death. Janet had overcome her fear and still had let her go. Janet had let her go to do what she had to do and to be who she was.
How would she have reacted had Janet asked her to give up gate travel? Would she have done it and then become resentful towards her lover?
"I can't breathe this way. I can't live this way. It's poisoning my mind. I can't be myself this way."
Sam now knew that these words could have been written by her if their roles had been reversed. She somehow had to make it right.
The map for the first time came into focus and to her surprise she saw a red circle near the bottom of the map. That was strange. Janet didn't mind marking maps that had been printed out but real fold-out road-maps had always been off-limits. Had Janet simply been distracted, was it an old mark or was it a sign for her to follow? One evening when they had been stargazing in the backyard Janet had told her about wanting to go there to see if the stars looked different from there as they were vaunted to do. They even had had it all planned out for their next holiday.
They had planned to rent a convertible for the drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and to stay at one of the hotels for the first couple of days. A couple of short hikes would let them get used to the terrain, like the Mosca Pass Trail or the Medano Lake Trail. Sam had especially been looking forward to see Janet in that cute blue one-piece swimsuit at their beach. They would take afternoon strolls through the dunes, maybe even camp out there. And they had planned to tackle at least one of the 14,000 feet peaks, but didn't have decided on which one.
But then P3X-666 had happened.
Would Janet stay in a hotel or motel close to the National Park or would she prefer the privacy of camping out?, Sam wondered. Janet loved her creature comforts but she also loved being outdoors. It was one of the points where they usually didn't agree because Sam was of the firm opinion that she spend enough time roughing it in a tent or sometimes just a sleeping bag when off-world and that she was entitled to warm bubble baths and soft beds when taking time off.
Sam went down to the basement to make sure and found most of their camping gear gone, a small tent, self-inflatable mattress, a mummy sleeping bag, a small stove and other necessities. Sam absently grabbed another sleeping bag and returned to the living room. Leaving it on the living room table she brought two bottles of water and a few provisions from the kitchen, medical supplies from the bathroom. Throwing a few changes of clothing in a backpack she added that to the growing pile. After careful consideration she added a KA-Bar but decided to leave her sidearm locked up in the safe.
Pleased with her preparations she grabbed the phone from the right side of the couch. Just before she pressed the speed-dial to General O'Neill's house her eyes fell on her wrist watch and she put the phone back in its charger. It was almost a quarter past two, definitively too late to call without it being an emergency, and looking at the rain falling heavily outside Sam reluctantly decided to wait until morning before going in search of her lover. She knew the sensible thing to do would be to go upstairs and sleep in their bed but she stayed downstairs. Without Janet at her side, she reasoned, she wouldn't have gotten much sleep anyway. So, she bunked down on the couch and closed her eyes.
Sleep still eluded her but her mind was much calmer now and she thought back to the first time they had made love, only weeks before Cassie had entered their lives.
Meeting Janet at the SGC and becoming her friend had felt right from the very first moment, and it had had nothing to do with the fact that though only captains they were the two highest ranking female officers on base. On Sam's part it had been more than friendship but she had tried to keep her attraction for the beautiful doctor well under wraps. And it had worked 'til the day of the Hathor incident.
After Janet had been shot, Sam had had a hard time to stay focused. All she had wanted to do was to take her in her arms and keep her safe. She had driven her friend home and had even insisted on opening the door for her. Janet had invited her in for a cup of coffee and Sam had carefully closed the door behind her. She had turned around and found her eyes captured by Janet's brown orbs filled with the same need she had felt. Janet's uninjured arm had reached out and pulled her head down. Their lips had touched and a tentative kiss quickly had turned passionate and had left her slightly dizzy.
Then Janet had shooed her out of the house and ordered her to come by for breakfast and to bring the croissants. They had not talked about the kiss and they had not kissed again, but each time they had met, either by chance or design, they both had been all too aware of what they really wanted. Air Force regulations had held them back, but soon even the threat of being found out had not been enough to stop them.
A few weeks later, after what Jack O'Neill had dubbed a girls' night-out, they had kissed again and this time they both had poured all of their longing into the kiss. Sam's whole body had been humming with need. Never before had she reacted this way. Spooked by her own sudden passion Sam had fled and when she had arrived at her own small house a message from Janet had been waiting on her answering machine.
"Hello Sam, I'm glad that you were strong enough to go. It was getting really intense there. My body is still tingling. You know as good as I do the trouble we could get into, but still: I want to spend the weekend with you, explore the possibilities, even if in the end we should decide that it's just too much of a risk. It might be that all we both need to do is to get that need out of our systems, once and for all. I hope that there's more between us but we'll never find out if ... Anyway, we both have Monday off, so we could make it a long weekend. I know a nice spot three hours' drive to the north-west; it's quiet and secluded, a camping ground close to a small creek. I know you don't particularly like to ..., what did you call it?, yes, rough it in the outdoors, but if you agree to it we can go there on your bike. I'd have to do some shopping first. Will you pick me up around 1300?"
Sam smiled at the memory; she never had deleted the message. It only was lost when a lightning strike had fried the answering machine almost a year later. Janet had resisted all of Sam's earlier attempts to get her on one of her motorbikes, citing security concerns. So, it had been a trade-off of sorts, and that's how it had been between them ever since: both readily doing things for the other woman they would not have done for anyone else. But that first weekend had not only been about sex; it had been the beginning of so much more, the start of a new life.
- - -
Sam made sure to stay just under the speed limit and after only a couple of miles and a few bends in the road she had felt how Janet relaxed against her back. They arrived at the otherwise deserted camping ground late afternoon. Combining Sam's off-world experience and Janet's enthusiasm they quickly set up their gear, right in time to share a spectacular sunset. It was cold up there in the mountains and they quickly retired to the warmth of their tent.
Sam had zipped two standard military sleeping bags together and they slipped inside. Being this close to each other soon was too much to bear without touching, and their pajamas were quickly discarded as too much of a barrier between them. Janet's skin was so soft, like the finest silk and it smelled of peach and vanilla, just like her hair.
Ever since getting to know Janet Sam had dreamed about making love to her and in all of her dreams she had been the one to take the initiative. Now, Sam suddenly found herself at the receiving end of Janet's affections, and she enjoyed every moment.
Janet put a fleeting kiss on her lips and slowly kissed her way down her throat, lingering at the jugular vein. Sam felt Janet's teeth scraping over her skin. Turning her head slightly to give Janet easier access, she enjoyed the sensation of her skin being sucked into Janet's mouth, creating a prominent hickey. She never before had allowed any of her partners to mark her this way but with Janet it just felt right.
Sam was pushed on her back with Janet's weight right on top of her, anchoring her. Janet's left thigh wormed its way between her legs and Sam's strong hands found Janet's hips and pressed her against her own centre. Janet's mouth left her throat and returned to her lips. She willingly allowed an inquisitive tongue entrance while her hands wandered from deliciously curved hips to Janet's even more enticing nether cheeks. Making full use of her long arms Sam began to caress the back of Janet's thighs. The smaller woman shifted slightly and parted her legs some. Sam took it as an invitation to explore as far as the tips of her fingers could reach.
The tip of her middle finger just barely entered Janet's soft, wet folds at the exact moment when they had to break the kiss to breathe. Following her instincts she pushed Janet up to give herself more room to maneuver. Her middle finger parted the other woman's inner labia and entered deeply while her index and ring finger retraced the outer nether lips and soon braced an already un-hooded clit from the left and the right.
Janet's mouth was now right next to Sam's left ear; the tip of her tongue explored her auricle. The moment Sam's index finger pressed down on Janet's clit, her tongue darted outwards and thrust deep into Sam's ear. She involuntarily raised her head to encourage Janet. Angling her hand a bit the index finger was replaced by her thumb on Janet's quivering bundle of nerves. The index finger quickly was sucked into Janet's warm, moist centre.
Sam felt the wetness between her thighs. The scent of Janet's and her own arousal mingled in the small confines of the sleeping bag and the tent. They quickly melted together, creating the most enticing perfume she ever had smelled. Janet's tongue in her ear created the rhythm in which she thrust her slick fingers into Janet's pussy. The pressure of Janet's thigh against her own centre made her buck her hips in an effort to get more out of the contact. Suddenly the thrusting in her ear stopped and Janet whispered, "More, I need more of you inside of me."
Pushing Janet up just a bit more, Sam happily obliged and let her ring finger join the other two. For a moment she held them absolutely still and then she began to curl and uncurl all three of them. She smiled at the sudden gasp and inched deeper inside until the back of her fingers hit something that felt slightly different than the rest of Janet's inner walls. Experimentally she pressed against it and was instantly rewarded by another sharp gasp and a deep, growling moan. She did it again and felt sharp teeth biting her shoulder just above the collar bone. The pain sent jolts of arousal to her clit and centre. Janet's inner muscles contracted when her fingers hit this special spot a third time. The smell intensified and they both exploded in a violent orgasm. Sam cried out Janet's name and Janet buried her teeth deeper in Sam's flesh.
It took them a long time to calm down with Janet still lying right on top of the taller woman. Their heartbeats slowly returned to normal. Janet tried to slide to the side to give Sam more breathing space but the blonde held her firmly, "Stay, I like the feeling of your soft skin on mine."
"I must be squishing you, Sam."
"No, Jan, you're anchoring me. Feeling you makes me believe that this is real. Stay," Sam answered.
Janet raised her head and looked into Sam's deep blue eyes. Despite the dim light inside of the tent they almost seemed to glow. "You're so beautiful, Samantha, just like your name."
"You're the one who's beautiful, Janet-mine." Sam gently kissed her new lover. The kiss was meant as nothing more than a confirmation of her words but it quickly rekindled their passion.
[End of Flashback]
- - -
Sam smiled at the memory. They only had fallen asleep shortly before dawn, letting their bodies and passions do the talking. Neither of them had trusted their bone deep feeling that even this first night there had been more. Neither of them had ever felt as fulfilled, as complete as they did with each other. That had been something they had only started to understand later, Monday afternoon when they had taken down the tent to go back to their lives at the SGC.
- - -
"You know, I think I gained a whole new appreciation for being in the outdoors and roughing it in a tent," Sam said playfully.
"So, you're going to tell me that you'd like this to be more than a one-time thing?" Janet asked.
Sam heard the nervous undertones in her lover's voice and despite her smile saw the seriousness in Janet's eyes. She dropped the tent-pole she had been about to fold up and took the smaller woman in her arms. She knew the sensible thing to do would be to regard this weekend as nothing more than a one-time thing and hope that they could keep their friendship alive. It was the only rational decision, but for once in her life she didn't care about logic and regulations. This weekend had been too perfect to simply let it go.
"You know what I found out when I woke up this morning with you in my arms? I realized that I never want to wake up without you at my side. I don't want this to be a one-time thing. I want it to be a forever-after thing," she said softly.
"I love you, Samantha."
"And I love you, Janet-mine."
[End of Flashback]
- - -
Sam had a smile on her face when she opened her eyes to a new dawn. She stood up, stretched and forced herself to check the contents of her backpack in an effort to resist the pull of her mind to delve deeper into her memories of this first weekend. She was determined to do everything in her power to get this back and she would do everything it took to do that.
She looked at the wrist watch, 0605, just the right time to call General O'Neill before he left his house to drive to the base. The phone was picked up at the second ring. Sam told him what she had found at the house and what she intended to do.
"I don't like it. How can you be sure that she really went there? She could be anywhere. Are you sure that you're not grasping at straws, Sam?"
"Am I desperate? Yes, Jack, I am, but I'm also sure that she either subconsciously or deliberately left the map for me to find. Before you point it out, yes, I know that I don't have any facts and that I'm working on instinct alone. I have to do this, Jack."
"Alright, take all the time you need. I'll keep SG-1 grounded in case you need any help. Take the SGC cell phone and keep me posted. And Carter, don't do anything stupid."
"Thank you, Sir."
Sam cut the connection and made sure that the she also had packed the second energy cell for her satellite traceable phone. She made sure that the house was secure, mounted her '47 Indian and headed south.
Sam stopped her Indian after about half an hour's drive. The words of Janet's short letter kept repeating on a loop in her head: "I need some time alone... I will be back when I'm ready. Please, don't try to find me." She stood at the side of the road, and suddenly reaching the Great Sand Dunes National Park no longer was that important.
Janet still loved her. Janet would come back. That was what was important.
Now, it was up to Sam to prove to Janet that she trusted her enough to wait until her beloved was ready to return home. That counted more than her pride and her fears.
Sam took the next exit to return home but after a few miles she knew that she would not be able to stay alone at the house. It would be too much of a reminder of all those endless, dark, empty months when Janet had been dead, before she and Jack had brought her back using the time ship, a couple of Goa'uld healing devices and a big portion of luck.
So, Sam decided to bypass Colorado Springs and pay Cassie a surprise visit. Cassie had told her on the phone that she had a lot of work to do but she had yet to see the day her adopted daughter would turn down an invitation to dinner. She could also take advantage of the standing invitation Billie and Will had given Janet and her years ago to come and stay with them whenever they wanted. Sammy and the twins undoubtedly would keep her from fretting too much about Janet, and her friend Billie would read her the riot act about being a pig-headed overprotective worrywart.
Yes, that was what she needed.
Sam turned her front wheel towards Fort Collins and the Colorado State University. But when she arrived in front of Billie and Will's house, no one was there. The kids were still at school, which was no surprise. Billie was probably lecturing about 'advanced something or other' as her daughter would call it. What was surprising, however, was that there was no sign of Will who usually worked from home.
Sam debated with herself if she should drive over to the campus to look for Cassie or Billie but decided against it. She didn't deserve to have fun with their friends after having driven Janet away with her fears. No, she would return to their house and suffer the emptiness and the memories of that time when she had thought Janet dead and gone as penance for her lack of trust.
That's what she deserved. She had suffocated Janet with her over protectiveness, to a point where she no longer felt like herself.
"I can't breathe this way. I can't live this way. It's poisoning my mind. I can't be myself this way."
Sam angrily brushed away the tear rolling down her left cheek. She had no right to feel sorry for herself. She had brought this upon her. She had no right to cry.
Sam resolutely put her helmet back on, turned the key in the ignition, and headed south, but when circling around Denver to avoid being stuck in traffic, instead of taking the exit towards Colorado Springs, she continued on to the West and drove towards the mountains. She didn't think of where she was going. She just drove on.
Every minute she spent cruising the countryside was a minute less she would have to face their empty home and the consequences of her panic driven actions.
The hours slipped by without Sam being really aware of the day passing, and when the sun started to go down she found herself at a very familiar spot, the place where they usually left their vehicle when going to the secluded campground where they had made love for the first time. The parking space was deserted.
Without thinking Sam secured her bike and pulled the saddlebags off. She swung them over her left shoulder and followed the half-hidden trail. In the waning light she saw a small tent, and staring out at the setting sun the silhouette of someone she would recognize among billions: Janet, her Janet.
Sam impulsively took a couple of steps forward and then froze in mid-stride. Janet's letter once again echoed through her mind; "I need some time alone. I need some time to think... I will be back when I'm ready."
The sensible, the responsible thing to do would be to leave before Janet became aware that she was no longer alone, to give her the privacy she needed, but Sam was unable to move. She felt frozen in time, in space. Her gaze was riveted on the small figure huddled close to the riverbank.
Janet's voice was soft when the warm breeze carried it to Sam's ears, "Come here, Sam, sit down."
Sam didn't need another invitation. She sprinted to the other side but she didn't sit down. She sank to her knees right in front of her beloved. She wanted to say something but didn't find the words. Still, she opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Janet just shock her head.
"Just sit down, Sam. I'm not ready."
So, Sam mimicked Janet's position though she longed to at least take her lover in her arms, just to feel her presence. Instead she focused on the sound of Janet's breathing. It was slow and steady, and reminded her of the nights when it had been the only thing preventing her to slip into a horrible nightmare.
It also made her remember the time when Janet had been dead and extremely bad dreams had been part of her nightly routine, when seeing Janet die over and over again had been her recurring nightmare - only that it had not been a nightmare. It had not been a product of her imagination. Janet had really been dead and the better part of her heart had died with her.
Sam shivered and instinctively pulled her knees to her chest and hugged them with her arms. The breathtakingly beautiful crimson sunset was lost on her, as was the concert for frogs and crickets going on close by. Her perception had narrowed down to the sound of Janet's even breathing. It was what allowed Sam to gradually relax.
Janet was alive. Janet was sitting next to her. Janet had known that she was standing behind her without turning around. Janet had not sent her away. Janet loved her.
For hours they sat next to each other, without speaking, without touching and mostly without moving. When the evening breeze had turned chilly Sam had pulled her sleeping bag out and had draped it over Janet's shoulders. Janet had tucked it in place until only one half of it was protecting her and then pulled the other half wordlessly over Sam's shoulders.
As the night wore on Sam's nose and ears started to get cold but she could not have cared less had she been standing naked in a freezing ice storm. She could smell Janet next to her. She could hear the sweet sound of her breathing. She could feel Janet only inches away, and for the moment this tiny slice of heaven was enough for her.
The next morning Sam woke to the blissfully familiar feeling of Janet's head resting on her shoulder. The ground under her was hard and damp, but she didn't care. Her arms were encircling Janet; the length of Janet's body was snuggled at her side. The morning dew creeping through her clothes was inconsequential in comparison.
Sam raised her head and saw that the part of Janet that was not laying half on top of her was resting on the sleeping bag, the rest of which was carelessly slung over both of them. It would be dawn soon, and under normal circumstances Sam would have gently extricated herself from Janet's enticing hold to go for her run. This morning she closed her eyes and reveled in the feeling of Janet's chest expanding against her side with every breath she took.
She could have cried at the peaceful, relaxed expression on her lover's face and simultaneously kicked herself for having caused her harm, for having hurt her the way she had. Still deeply asleep, Janet's hand sneaked under Sam's top and gently stroked the underside of her bra clad left breast. Sam sighed in contentment and closed her eyes hoping that Janet's unconscious movements would grow bolder in time.
Sam must have fallen asleep again because Janet was looking down at her and the sun had come up when she opened her eyes the second time that day. Sam smiled at her and opened her mouth to wish her a good morning but Janet's finger on her lips silenced her more effectively than an elaborate gag would have.
"I'm still not ready, Sam. Please build us a fire. We both need something warm to get the chill out of our bones; and change into something dry."
"Yes ma'am," Sam mock-saluted without bothering to get up.
Sam longed to tell Janet how much she loved her, but it was not her love that was in question. It was her trust, and for now trusting Janet meant to let her set the pace and follow her lead. For now trusting Janet meant not to kiss her the way Sam wanted to kiss her. For now trusting Janet meant to build a fire and give her the mental space she seemed to need.
Sam first gathered enough stones from the riverbank to create a ring for their fire and cleared the ground. She left the clearing to gather some wood and thanks to a decade of off-world experience had the fire going in no time. Only then did she change into a pair of dry jeans and a sweater.
She crouched next to the fire and waited for Janet to get out of the tent but she kept her back to its entrance. Sam didn't want to pressure her in any way by appearing too eager, but couldn't help to sigh in relieve when she heard the tent's zipper go up. She forced herself to keep her eyes on the fire.
Sam expected to be ignored until Janet was ready to talk or go home. Instead Janet stepped up to her and caressed the side of Sam's neck with the pad of her index and middle finger in passing. It was a gentle, unobtrusive caress she often used at the Mountain to reassure Sam - and this time too it didn't fail to do just that. Sam smiled and felt the set of her shoulders relax, but she didn't turn her head. She was determined to give Janet all the time and space she needed.
Janet handed her a mug of steaming coffee. After they both had taken their first sip, she asked, "How did you find me?"
Sam also heard the question she had not asked aloud, 'Why didn't you respect my wish to be left alone?'
So, Sam told her about finding the road map with the Great Sand Dunes Park encircled in red and everything else 'til finding the empty parking spot and seeing her in front of the setting sun. She, however, didn't tell her about her self-recriminations.
"So, you wanted to search for me but then didn't and found me?"
Sam nodded, and after a while with her eyes still on the fire, she asked, "Why didn't you go to the National Park, Janet?"
"I was about half ways there when I turned back. I remembered how much fun we had planning this trip and I knew that I didn't want to go there alone. When I was about to turn into our driveway I saw dim light coming from the living room. I was no longer as angry as I had been, but I also was not ready to talk to you."
"I'm sorry that I'm such an idiot, Jan. I never wanted to hurt you. I love you," Sam said softly, her words pale compared to the intensity of her remorse.
"I know, Sam, but I'm still not ready," Janet said with an air of finality.
At least that's how it sounded to Sam. So, she slowly got to her feet and grabbed her leather jacket and the saddle bags, intent on giving Janet not only mental but also physical space.
"What are you doing, Sam?"
"What you asked of me in your letter. I'll leave you alone and wait at home 'til you're ready. I love you, Jan. I can't lose you."
Janet took the saddlebags from her, put them down and held Sam's hands, "Whatever happens with work, I will never let you go. You will not lose me. Wait here 'til I'm ready."
Sam wanted to thank her beloved but she knew that she would not be able to hold off her tears of relief if she so much as moved a single muscle in her face. Janet still seemed to understand her. She put her right hand gently on Sam's face and said, "We'll find a way, baby. I love you."
Her index finger sealed Sam's lips but Sam's slightly shaky smile spoke for itself.
"Put your things in the tent, Sam. I'll see to breakfast."
They had bread and bananas and apples and another mug of coffee. Janet got up and offered Sam her hand. Sam let herself be pulled to her feet and to her pleasant surprise Janet didn't let go of her hand. She pulled her towards a big boulder close to the riverbank that had more than once served them as a seat.
It looked towards a gentle bend in the river and the oncoming water that further up was fed by run-off from a glacier. Even in the middle of summer the water was too cold to swim in it, but it provided the best drinking water one could imagine, high on all the minerals and trace elements a human body needed. Sam had tested it with her off-world analyzing kit the first weekend they had spent at the clearing.
Sam followed Janet's direction and sat down. She was surprised when Janet nudged her legs apart, sat down between them and leaned back against her chest. Sam smiled, having Janet pressed against her was feeling almost as good as waking up with her in her arms; it felt like coming home after a long mission. Janet pulled Sam's arms around her middle and elicited a contented sigh from her partner.
They just sat and looked down the flowing water glinting in the sun, in easy silence. Sam enjoyed it too much to think any further. For once her always overactive mind had been silenced. So, she was more than slightly startled when she heard Janet's voice.
"If I ask you some questions will you answer them as honestly as you can without asking questions in return?"
"Yes, Jan, I'll answer your questions honestly," Sam answered with a certain trepidation.
Would Janet want to know how she would have reacted had O'Neill and Janet conspired to interfere in her work? Would she...
Janet put her hands on top of Sam's and stroked the side of Sam's index fingers with her right thumb. The simple, probably unconscious gesture allowed Sam to get her thoughts back under control. She focused her attention on the water sloshing against the irregularly spaced row of boulders that allowed crossing the river without risking hypothermia.
"After I died, when was the first time you cried?"
"Eleven months, twenty-two days, sixteen hours after Doctor Warner declared you dead," Sam said softly.
"Oh, Sam," Janet tried to turn around and look her lover in the eyes but Sam held her too tight.
"I was close to tears, dozens, maybe hundreds of times but the tears never came. I held your dead body and I knew that I had to tell Cassie. I didn't know how and I fled to the locker room. All I wanted was to go back to 666 and have Anubis' Jaffa finish what they started by killing you. I didn't want to live without you.
"I had my Ka-Bar in my locker. It would have been so easy to cut my femoral artery and let myself bleed to death, just a deep puncture wound and a slight twist. I couldn't do it. I knew you would not want me to do it. I knew you would want me to take care of Cassie. I was close to crying then but I could not. I knew that I would not be able to stop if I shed even a single tear.
"I was close to tears when I held Cassie in my arms, and when General Hammond asked me to speak at your memorial service. There were so many times I felt like crying but I never could. If I had been with you instead of Jack O'Neill you might not have died," Sam concluded.
"Sam, please, don't do that to yourself. You did what you had to do and you brought everyone else home. I read the reports and spoke with Daniel and General Hammond. There was nothing you could have done differently, Sam. You kept the retreat of our troops from being a headless flight and made sure that all surviving personnel got away, including the wounded. Without you keeping your head we would have lost more people. We could have lost the whole rescue team."
"We lost its most important member, Janet. We lost you. I lost you."
Janet pressed her back closer to Sam's chest, as much to reassure Sam as to calm herself. Even after months of being back among the living, so to speak, of being back in Sam's arms, there was still so much pain in Sam's voice, as if the wound to her heart and soul had not really healed.
"Did you ever speak to someone? A professional?"
"I don't do shrinks, Jan."
"A priest then or a grief councilor?" Janet asked.
"I stopped believing in God when my mother died and I never was one to trust strangers with my feelings. Besides even if I could have been honest with them, they only would have tried to convince me that there are five stages of grief and that in order to live a productive life after a great loss I would have to go through all of them and accept your death as my new reality. I couldn't do that. It hurt too much. It would have meant giving up on you, on what we shared. I couldn't do that, Jan. I just couldn't."
Once again Janet didn't answer with words. She pulled Sam's hands up to her lips and kissed them, first the back of the hands and then every single knuckle.
"I love you, Samantha Carter."
Janet turned Sam's hands around and kissed her palms and fingertips. For a while their breathing and the water flowing down the river were everything one could hear.
"You are afraid to lose me if you let me out of your sight, right?"
"Yes," Sam whispered the word. "I'm sorry that I made you believe that I don't trust you. I'm sorry that I hurt you, Jan."
"I know, Sammy. I know you meant well. I did a lot of thinking before you found me. Let's just sit for a while."
Janet put her head against Sam's shoulder and lowered Sam's hands back around her waist. They sat in silence, a comfortable silence. Just feeling Janet lean against her, have Janet's hands covering her own, hear and feel her regular breathing; it made all of Sam's insecurities go away and let everything she wanted to say appear almost inconsequential. If she could she would have frozen this moment in time.
After about a quarter of an hour Janet asked her next question, "Before P3X-666, how many times was I called off-world for one emergency or the other?"
"Twenty-three times for emergencies and thirty-two times for other reasons, but not one of those emergencies sent you right into an on-going attack," Sam answered.
"Of those fifty-five off-world missions, how many ended up with us being attacked? How many times have we had to run to the gate to save our hides?" Janet asked.
"Eighteen, twenty, if we count P3X-718 and M5X-182," Sam wanted to ask Janet why she asked all those questions but she remembered that Janet didn't want her to ask any questions of her own.
"So, roughly a third of the time I went off-world I and the team with me got into a dangerous and potentially deadly situation. People died during those missions. I was injured twice but you never even tried to influence General Hammond to make me stay on Earth. Why?"
Sam swallowed hard before answering, but she had promised Janet honest answers, even if it hurt to give them.
"I feared for you every time you went off-world, and I did my best to get SG-1 assigned to go with you. It didn't work out every time but I felt better just being with you. I thought that with me and the guys around, you would be safe. But I was wrong. I couldn't protect you when it counted.
"Before you died I didn't know how it feels to walk the corridors of the SGC and expect to meet you just around the next corner and then realize that it will never again happen because you're dead and buried. Now, I do know."
Janet turned in Sam's arms and looked at her blue eyes, brimming with tears.
"Now, I know exactly how it feels to wake up in my quarters on base and for a blissful heartbeat believe that I'll see you soon in the infirmary, and how it feels when reality comes crushing in with the next heartbeat, a reality without your smile and your strength and your love.
"I know it's selfish, but I never wanted to feel like this again. You are my life, Jan. Without you I barely survived. Please, give me another chance. I'll even seek professional help with my dependency and control issues. I promise, just don't ask me to speak to Mackenzie. Please, Janet, I can't lose you."
Janet kissed Sam. She drew her in a passionate kiss, a kiss that left no doubt about who was claiming whom. Sam surrendered to the kiss, abandoned herself to the feeling of completeness and safety.
"Are you serious, Sam? You just said that you don't do shrinks."
"Yes, Jan, I'm serious. Every time I step through the gate now I'm terrified that I won't come back and that my death will do to you what yours did to me, and sooner or later I will get into a situation in which such fear will get me killed. I tried to get Jack to take me off active field duty. With Cam really leading SG-1 in my stead, Lieutenant Hailey would be more than capable to fill my spot but with the Ori threat there's no chance of that. I'm tired of being afraid."
Janet renewed their kiss. There was something magic about the feeling of Janet's lips on her own, of Janet's tongue dancing in her mouth and playing with her tongue. She was breathing hard when Janet broke the kiss.
"I love you," they said simultaneously, and then broke into a fit of nervous giggles. The giggles turned into laughter and the laughter into tears, tears of remorse and relief, of loss and love, of hurt and hunger, of pain and passion.
Janet got to her feet and pulled Sam up. They walked back to the tent and though the sun was already high in the sky they crawled inside. They both were still crying when they resumed the kiss and began to undress each other, only interested in feeling the other's skin on their own.
To Sam it was almost as if she had to relearn Janet's body, though in reality they had only spent a single night apart, "Oh, Jan, please take me, claim me, make me yours. I need you so much."
"I love you, Sammy. I don't need to claim you. You're already mine, just as I am yours. I always will be. Make love to me, my Sam."
Sam kissed Janet, slowly, gently. The tip of her tongue retraced Janet's lips while Janet's hands ran up and down Sam's muscular back. Sam began to kiss her way down to Janet's throat, intent on reaching her chest and breasts. Janet, however, had other things in mind.
Her whispered request, "Turn around, baby. I want to feast on you," was an order to Sam, an order she eagerly followed.
Sam's knees soon were positioned to the left and right of Janet's head and Janet pushed them further apart to gain better access to her prize. She raised her head and quickly found her goal. Sam exhaled sharply when Janet's teeth grazed her inner labia while sucking them in. Her breath hit Janet's already pulsing clitoris like a warm gust of wind. The tip of Sam' tongue danced around the hard nub, offering only the most fleeting touch.
On any other day it might have been a playful gesture but this time their need was too great to draw it out much longer. The licks and kisses quickly got more intense and it didn't take long for them to reach their climax and rejoice in the other's scent and taste.
Sam snuggled against Janet's side after she had turned around, "I love you, Janet Fraiser.
"I love you, Samantha Carter," Janet answered and pulled Sam closer. Her right hand was stroking Sam's back while her left was gently fondling her breast, "You're so beautiful, Sammy, inside and out."
"You are the one who's beautiful, Jan-baby, in reality even more than in my dreams. And now my worst nightmare hopefully will never come to pass."
"Tell me, Sammy."
"On days I missed you most I dreamt that I came home from a mission and the pictures of you were gone, all of them, from the mantle, the study, the bedroom, Cassie's room, from the photo albums and scrap books, all gone. Instead of your face there were only formless white spaces, and suddenly I no longer could remember how you looked. I couldn't remember the sound of your voice. All that was left was emptiness. On those days I woke up and spent the rest of the night staring at your photo on the nightstand, memorizing every detail of your face."
Janet removed her hand from Sam's back and rolled them over until Sam was looking up into her gold speckled brown eyes.
"I'm here now, my Sam. I love you and I won't let you go. Kiss me."
Sam did more than just kiss. She pulled Janet down until she was resting on top of her. She pressed Janet against her body and sealed Janet's lips with her own when she wanted to protest. Janet's hard nipples were poking the upper part of her breasts and she knew that likewise Janet could feel her nipples at the underside of her firm globes. Janet tried to take some of her weight off Sam's torso, but Sam would have none of it.
"Please, Jan, I want to feel you, all of you."
"But I'm squishing you, Sam. I'm not a light weight," Janet protested.
"Light as a feather, Jan. Please, just for a few minutes. Please, indulge me."
Janet saw the raw need in Sam's eyes and relented. She kissed her beloved and relaxed, but stayed ready to press herself up at a moment's notice should the pressure get too much for Sam. She used her right hand to stroke the sensitive side of Sam's left breast. Sam's skin was so soft and inviting.
Janet could have lost herself in the simple touch, had there not been Sam's hands roaming leisurely over her body. It was slowly but surely setting her skin on fire. They both were breathing hard when the kiss broke. Sam's sky blue eyes had darkened considerably.
"Please, Jan, I need you."
Janet didn't need any further instructions. She slid far enough to the side to allow her right knee to part Sam's thighs and press against her centre. Sam moaned at the contact and groaned when Janet pushed her torso upwards to gain full access to Sam's breasts. That also changed the angle of Janet's knee and increased the pressure against Sam's sex. Sam's hands on her buttocks pulled her even closer.
"Hands above your head, Airman. It's my turn to play."
Sam complied after a last squeeze and grinned at Janet who retaliated with a playful lick of the tip of Sam's nose. Janet slid back far enough to comfortably lower her mouth to Sam's left breast. She first licked around the aureole and then began to suckle the nipple. Her free hand rolled the other nipple between thumb and index finger. She pinched the hard nub and was rewarded with Sam's moans and gasps.
All the while she made sure that her knee stayed in contact with Sam's nether region. Sam's juices were coating her skin and she felt that she also was dripping wet. Sam arched her back, craving more contact and offering herself more completely. Janet bit down on the nipple and changed hands and breasts. Her mouth was now clamped around the left nipple and aureole while her left hand focused on Sam's right nipple. Janet could feel Sam's heart beating wildly in her chest.
"Oh, Jan, please, please, I need you. Go inside."
Janet's lips let go of Sam's nipple. She pushed herself back upwards and kissed Sam, another breathtaking, passionate, thought consuming kiss. The golden speckles in Janet's eyes were dancing.
"You don't need to beg, baby. I love you. I won't leave you hanging. Bear with me, my love. Soon, I promise. For now I want you to move your hands and touch my breasts, no pinching, just gentle touches. I can't afford to be too distracted by your actions."
Sam obeyed immediately with a whispered thank you. Janet redistributed some of her weight on her left knee, so she could move her right knee more freely between Sam's legs, touching her centre and letting go, pressing harder against her folds and letting go. She built a slow rhythm that had Sam squirming under her. Sam's hips strained against Janet.
A couple of minutes more like that, Janet knew, and Sam would come from anticipation alone. But Janet longed to feel the clamping, tensing, contracting of Sam's inner muscles against her deeply embedded fingers. She wanted to feel her come. So, she abandoned the firm breasts, pressed her torso further away from Sam which made it necessary for Sam to change the angle of her own hands to continue with her surprisingly gentle caresses, considering the tension emanating from the rest of her body.
Janet's right hand trailed down Sam's stomach, her fingertips played with the blond curls. They sank deeper, brushed Sam's engorged clit and hovered at the entrance of her vagina.
"Look at me, my Sam. I want to see what my touch does to you. Keep those beautiful eyes open."
Sam nodded and was rewarded with two of Janet's fingers entering her and Janet's thumb on her clit. The thumb created was fast rhythm, pressing down, letting go, down, go, down, go, which soon matched Sam's heartbeat. Her fingers, in contrast, stayed completely still and only began to flutter almost erratically when Sam's inner walls started to contract around them.
Sam's eyes were pleading for more.
"Tell me, my Sam."
"More, please, I need more. I need you, all of you. Put your whole hand inside, please. I need you so much."
"Not today, my love. We don't have any lube and I don't want to hurt you."
"Don't care, please, Jan."
Janet shock her head, but added a third finger and made sure to brush over Sam's G-spot every now and then. She also increased the pressure of her thumb.
Sam's eyes had fluttered close the first time Janet's fingertips had touched Sam's pleasure centre. Janet immediately admonished her to keep them open. Her voice was low and sultry, and her words had an air of authority Sam would have obeyed even at the threshold of death and beyond.
Janet's eyes were blazing with her own arousal, and Sam let go of one breast. She had to stretch and squirm to reach her goal. Janet's clit was already unhooded and though she wanted to squeeze the hard bundle between her fingers she only allowed herself a gentle caress, soft touches that finally incited Janet to add a fourth finger.
Janet allowed the whole length of her fingers to glide inside of her beloved. She alternated between fluttering and thrusting. Janet by then was practically straddling Sam's left thigh. When the thrusting began Sam raised her knee to press Janet's centre against her skin.
She could feel Janet's heat and wetness, the throbbing of Janet's clit, her scent, her accelerated heartbeat; it sent her over the edge the next time Janet's fingers hit her pleasure spot. She instinctively squeezed the breast she was still fondling hard and pinched Janet's clitoris which in turn pushed Janet to her orgasm. They came almost simultaneously. Sam cried out Janet's name, being the more vocal of the two of them, and Janet sighed Sam's name and stretched to reach her lips.
Their kiss was still passionate but not meant to arouse. It served to reassure them and allowed them to calm down. Janet began to remove her fingers from Sam's centre.
"Please, don't, stay inside."
Janet silenced her with soft kiss and pulled out as slowly and gently as she could. Sam's eyes had closed in defeat.
"Open your eyes, Sam. Look at me."
Sam complied and observed how Janet thoroughly cleaned her own fingers of Sam's juices. She unconsciously licked her lips, and Janet answered by swiping the fingers of her other hand through her slick folds and offering them to Sam to clean. Sam's eyes whose color had begun to lighten darkened again in arousal at the first taste of her beloved but she held eye contact with Janet.
Janet's knee inadvertently touched Sam's centre. Sam's leg in return rubbed against Janet's sex and both were sent into a mini-climax that left them with wide grins.
"I love you, Janet-mine."
"And I love you, my Sam, my Sammy."
They snuggled in each other's arms and quickly fell asleep.
Sam opened her eyes to the sound of her cell phone. It was Cassie's ring tone. She pushed herself up to find her leather jacket, but Janet was faster, "Hey, Sam, have you heard from Mom?"
"I'm right here, Cass. Are you alright?" Janet asked.
"Mom? Yes, I'm fine. Lots of work. Are you guys alright? Please, don't be too angry with Sam. She's just afraid for you. It was so hard for her when you were gone," Cassie said.
"Sam and I will be fine, sweetheart, don't worry; and everything else will sort itself out as well. So, do you have any idea what the twins might like for their birthday?"
Sam propped herself up against Janet's rolled up sleeping bag and listened to the conversation between mother and daughter, at least that's what it looked like. In reality her thoughts were stuck on Janet's earlier words: everything else will sort itself out as well. It brought a goofy smile on her face though she also had heard the future tense in Janet's answer: Sam and I will be fine. They were not there just yet but they would be, soon.
"Say goodbye to your daughter, Sam."
"Come, Sam, lets enjoy the rest of the day outside. We'll wash up, get something to eat and get some sun."
Due to the low temperature of the river water washing up was a rather hurried affair. Janet pulled out some cheese and bread for their late lunch and Sam supplemented it with a couple of energy bars. They unfolded a pick-nick blanket in the half-shadow of the tree line, shared a bottle of juice and stretched out to finish their interrupted nap, but were unable to actually fall asleep.
"Sam, what you said earlier, that you're willing to seek professional help, did you really mean it?"
"Then let's go together."
"Together?" Sam asked. "You're the strong one in this relationship, Janet. You're not the one with the dependency issues. You don't need a shrink. But I really would like it if you were present at my sessions."
"Oh, Sammy, you are strong. Don't underestimate yourself. You wouldn't have survived otherwise. And Sam, coming back from the dead, so to speak, has been harder on me than I let on. A lot happened during that year, and people treat me differently now. Not only you and Jack, almost everyone on base is extremely protective of me. Rationally I can understand that, but that's not enough."
Sam looked at Janet with pain in her eyes and Janet knew that her beloved blamed herself for her problems, "Don't do that, Sam. It's not your fault, and it's nothing that can't be made better, my love. I didn't say anything because I didn't want you to blame yourself. Just like you didn't tell me how afraid you really are all the time not to burden me. We'll get through this, together."
The relief on Sam's face was evident and Janet gave her a chaste kiss, "And I know just the person. I met her during my residency in Bethesda. She left the Air Force years ago, but from time to time she still works as a private consultant for the Air Force. She has experience with classified projects, not as high profile as Stargate Command, but she's so good that the brass overlooks the fact that she's also openly gay. Her name is Doctor Harriet Ender."
"But only her mother and her partner call her Harriet when they're yelling at her. Five foot six, flaming red hair, dark green eyes, and a temper to match if someone insults her intelligence, an acerbic sense of humor that would give Jack a run for his money, and the most patient and gentle person imaginable; are you talking about that Harry?" Sam asked.
"That's Harry to a T. How do you know her?"
"Desert Storm. My backseat was out with a bout of diarrhea but one of the C-130s with supplies for the refugee camps needed an escort. I took an F-16 up in the air, together with two others. The transport plane and the other Falcons made it, I was shot down. It took me four days to find my way to one of our outposts, dodging enemy patrols and search parties who were looking for the pilot. My CO refused to let me back into a cockpit without having gone through a psych eval, and Harry was the shrink. She declared me fit for duty after the first session but she stayed at the base for three months treating real cases of PTSD and we became friends. We stayed in contact when she left the Air Force about a year after Desert Storm, at least as long as I stayed in Washington. Do you think she would consider coming to Colorado Springs? Not only for us, for the rest of the base as well?"
"It's worth a try, Sam. Jack has been looking for a replacement for MacKenzie ever since he took over as commanding officer. Harry would be a real asset for the SGC, and if memory serves it's always a blast to work with her."
"So, you'll come back to the mountain?" Sam asked and quickly added, "Sorry, I didn't want to ask that. I promised myself that I would not pressure you."
"You didn't, Sam. It was a logical question. I love my job. I don't really want to give it up, but I have a few conditions, for General O'Neill and for you."
"What kind of conditions, Jan?"
"Nothing you won't be able to do, Sam, I promise. We'll talk about it on Monday. For now, let's enjoy our prolonged weekend. No more shop-talk. 'Til Monday it's just you and me, Sam and Janet, just two lovers enjoying the outdoors," Janet declared with command in her voice and a twinkle in her eyes.
"I guess I can do that, but I have one question. You don't have to answer if you don't want to..."
"Ask away, Sam."
"Why are you not angry with me? You have every right to be angry that I didn't keep my word and interfered with your work."
"I was angry, Sam, very angry. It took the whole drive half ways to the Great Sand Dunes, back to Colorado Springs and up here to calm down enough to start to see things more rationally. Had you caught up with me earlier, I would have sent you away, probably with harsh words. I left the car at the trail head about a four hours hike from here. It's how I found the clearing in the first place. It was already dark when I parked the car and I spent the night before last in the car. Besides, we have to go there later to get some more supplies. I didn't pack food for two people."
"And yet you had two plates and two mugs..."
"And two sets of cutlery, I know. I guess I brought them for the same reason I forgot to put away the map. I might unconsciously have wanted to be found by you. Harry will have a field day with us."
"She undoubtedly will, but I don't care. I was so afraid that my overprotective stunt would make me lose you, and now that it didn't I'll do everything to never again get into such a situation. I can do anything with you by my side."
Monday morning two very relaxed and slightly sunburned officers asked to speak to General O'Neill and were immediately ushered into his office. Sam's calm expression told him that at least on a personal level everything was alright between his friends. Now, only the question remained if he would really have to get used to a new chief medical officer, and true to style he came right to the point.
He held her resignation letter up and asked, "Can I put this in the shredder, Doc?"
"Yes, Sir, but I have conditions. As the CMO it's my prerogative to decide on the personnel send off-world to lend medical assistance, including myself, and I will not allow any interference in this regard. If you have concerns, I'm ready to listen to reason. I will not listen to fears, that goes for you too, Sam. That's my first condition. However, I concede that the universe is a dangerous place and that when treating a patient doctors and medics can't also be on the look-out for possible dangers around them. So, as my second condition I want a group of SFs or Marines to go with the medical team to protect them and the patients, not only when there's trouble brewing but as a new general policy for every medical team send off-world."
"Consider it done. Welcome back, Doc," Jack said with a wide grin.
"There's more, Sir," Sam said.
"After Sam found me, we talked, and we agreed that we both need professional help to deal with everything that happened, but we do not trust MacKenzie."
"I don't trust him either, hell, I doubt that anyone on base trusts him with their mental health. I have a folder full of complaints about him, requests for reassignment and complaints on his part to order our people to talk to him. I guess you have someone in mind."
"Yes, Sir," Janet said and pulled a folder Sam had printed out the night before from behind her back and put it on his desk.
Half an hour later he looked up, "That woman sounds too good to be true. So, where's the catch?"
"The catch is that it might not be easy to convince her to work for the Air Force again, Sir," Sam said.
"She wouldn't have to re-enlist. We have lots of civilian consultants. What's really up, Carter?"
"At her last consultant job she had to evaluate the command staff of a base. The CO took offence at her presence and at the fact that she's a lesbian. He had her thrown in the brig for three days. That base now has a new commander, but from the scathing report she wrote I guess she was rather angry at the military as a whole, and she's not someone to suffer stupidity lightly."
"So, you know her personally?" Jack asked.
Janet and Sam filled them in on their personal history with Doctor Harriet Ender. They discussed a few points in the report and Jack asked, "It says here that she just gave up her private practice in Monterey. So, where is she now?"
"That's the beauty of it, Sir. Harry just moved to Colorado Springs," Janet said. "Her daughter, Kerry, has been accepted at the Air Force Academy, and she and her partner apparently have decided that they don't want to be separated from their only child by more than a thousand miles. Sam found out that they bought a house only three streets from ours and moved in at the end of last week."
"I see. Alright, let me check some of her references and look over the background check Carter already has done and which I'll probably find in my inbox. I'll clear it with General Hammond. So, prepare to leave at a moment's notice, dress uniforms. We'll have to impress a shrink. Dismissed."
The women rose, "Oh Doc, that thing on P5X-786, it turned out to be a harmless cold. Doctor Lam has the report on your desk. And Carter, you're in charge to choose our new medical team protection squad; two teams of four in shifts, hand to hand combat, surveillance, and if possible experience as CPOs."
"I'll get right to it, Sir, and Jack, thank you."
"Go, dismissed, out. I have work to do," he said gruffly.
A few hours later Sam and Janet rang the door bell at a two story house with a front yard in dire need of a loving hand. A young woman opened the door and froze at the sight of two women in Air Force dress uniforms.
"Hello, I'm Janet Fraiser. Is Doctor Ender available?" Janet asked while trying to keep her amusement at the girl's reaction from showing on her face.
Kerry Ender was barefoot. She was wearing faded blue jeans and a form fitting T-shirt. Dark skin, red hair and blue-green eyes combined with high cheek bones made her beautiful, if not for the fact that her mouth was half open in surprise and she was not blinking.
Sam decided to interfere, "Attention, Cadet!" She barked, and Kerry snapped to attention. "Lieutenant Colonel Fraiser to see Doctor Ender. Lead the way, please."
"Yes, ma'am. She's in the study. If you would please follow me," Kerry said almost in a trance.
They barely had made a step inside the house when a voice called, "If that's the guy from IT services send him in. He should have been here Saturday."
That seemed to bring Kerry back to reality. She once again froze for a second and answered, "No, Mom. It's two Air Force officers to see you."
"Air Force? I'm not dressed for visitors, and my time of working for the military has passed," the voice said.
"I'm sure you can make an exception for old friends, Harry, and we'll be able to make you change your mind," Janet said and stepped through the open door into the study.
Kerry wanted to follow but Sam stopped her, "Give them some time alone, Cadet Ender, and let me introduce myself. My name is Samantha Carter. I apologize that I ordered you around as if you were still in boot camp."
"Boot camp is not that long ago, and besides, you're a lieutenant colonel; you have every right to order me around," Kerry answered.
"Academy classes only start next week, so, at the moment you're off duty. I'm not an instructor but I know most of them and not everyone expects their students to sprain something whenever they see them. You'll get used to high ranking officers. So, do you already have a specialty?"
"Yes, I want to go into engineering and design."
"Design, hmm. Major Mayrinck is the best in that department. He rarely accepts first year cadets in his class but if you want I can get him to test you and possibly make an exception," Sam said.
"Thank you, Colonel Carter, but that will not be necessary. Major Mayrinck already accepted me on a trial basis, provided I'll stay in the top ten percent of all my other classes."
"Sam," Janet said from the study.
"Then I have no doubt that you will have a very interesting and exciting time at the Academy. Sorry, I'm needed in there."
Sam stepped through the door and saw Harriet standing behind her desk where she obviously had been busy filling the drawers. There were a bunch of boxes labeled 'books' scattered all over the room and empty dark paneled book shelves behind the desk. Janet was looking at Harry with a half hurt, half puzzled expression on her face.
"What's wrong, Jan? Hello Harry, long time no see." Sam put her arm around Janet's waist.
"Harry just told me that I'm dead and should go away. I told her that the news about my death had not been exaggerated but that I'm much better now. She does not seem to think that funny," Janet answered.
"That's because it isn't funny, my love," Sam said softly, "I know it's hard for you to understand, but your death hurt a lot of people, and when you say things like that, as if it had not been a big deal, it only reminds us of the emptiness your absence, your death created," Sam said softly.
"Oh, Sammy, I didn't know. Why did you never tell me?" Janet asked, completely forgetting about the other woman in the room.
"I didn't know how, my love. I thought the pain would go away in time, now that I have you back."
Sam was peripherally aware of Harriet walking around the desk and so she didn't jump when she felt a hand on her shoulder, "You are real and alive. You are real, the two of you."
Harry pulled Janet in a heartfelt bear hug, "I'm so glad that you're alive, Janet. So glad that they made a mistake. You were just missing, right? Missing in action, not killed?"
Janet extricated herself from the forceful embrace and answered while reaching back with one hand to make contact with Sam, "Yes, I'm alive again, thanks to Sam. It's a long story and part of the reason we came to see you. We are authorized to offer you a job."
"A job? That'll have to wait. I'll first need to have a better look at the apparition at your side. Seeing her is an even bigger surprise than seeing you. Sam, is that really you? You just disappeared, fly girl."
"I'm sorry, Harry. I threw myself into that new job and lost contact with a lot of people when I left Washington," Sam said and stepped forward to hug the psychologist.
The hug was a bit awkward because she still held Janet's hand, a gesture that was not lost on the psychologist, "You've grown even more beautiful, fly girl."
"It's been a long time since I was in the cockpit of an F-16, Harry. I promise I'll fill you in on my life as soon as you've taken the job. Janet and I really need your professional help, and so does a whole base of others. General O'Neill, our commanding officer, wanted to come with us to make the offer himself but he was held up by a phone call he could not refuse to take."
"Let's table that job proposal for a while, please. Tell me about yourself. How long have the two of you been together? Is Sam the fellow officer you told me about who helps you raising your daughter?"
Sam and Janet exchanged a long look.
"We've been together for eight years, four months, twenty-seven days," Sam said, "not counting the time Janet was dead."
Janet pulled her taller partner closer, "Harry, I don't want to lie to you but we also can't tell you the whole truth as long as you have not been briefed. What we do is classified and far above your clearance level. But I can tell you why we're here now.
"The circumstances are not important but last year I was killed in action; about six months ago Sam found a way to bring me back. For her and everyone else I had been dead for almost a year, for me only a few hours have passed, and I have a hard time to cope with the reactions of everyone around me, with their fears and over-protectiveness. And ever since I'm back Sam is afraid to let me out of her sight."
"The brass didn't make a mistake, Harry. I held Janet's dead body in my arms. I spoke at her memorial service. I lived in our empty house. I worry about Janet all the time, even when I hold her in my arms at night. I'm afraid every time I have to go on a mission that I'll get killed and won't come back and hurt Jan the way I have been hurt by her death. I even asked to be pulled from active field duty, but at the moment that's not an option," Sam said with surprising openness.
The blond woman really no longer was the cocky pilot she had first met or the enthusiastic geek she had been in Washington. No, the woman facing her now, despite the fears she had just verbalized, despite the haunted expression in her eyes was strong and self-assured - and a big part of that strength apparently came from the small doctor standing next to her, holding her. They probably would get through the trauma they had described without her help, but their body language and their expressions told her that there was more and that it had to do with what they were not telling her.
"Alright, Janet, I'll help you, I'll treat you, you and Sam, and sign any non-disclosure agreement you want me to, but I'm not sure that I'm up to care for a whole base. It's been a long time, my recent experiences with the military were rather unpleasant and I had planned to write and observe my wife while she creates art out of thin air," Harriet answered.
Sam quickly produced a slim folder from the briefcase she had brought with her. Harry pulled the glasses hanging from her neck up to her nose and began to read. A few minutes later she said, "That certainly is not your standard non-disclosure agreement."
"We wouldn't ask this of you if it were not necessary, Harry," Janet said. "What we do at Cheyenne Mountain is not your average top secret operation. It's more important than that. I'm sorry that...."
Harriet signed the non-disclosure agreement.
Sam and Janet exchanged another glance. Sam nodded and Janet said, "It all started in Egypt at Ghizeh in 1927...."
T H E E N D
Author's Note: The titles of the "Beauty is Nothing..." series are lines from the "Duineser Elegien" by Rainer Maria Rilke. The translation I found online is basically correct except for the title of this part. In German it says: "Sehnt es dich aber, so singe die Liebenden", a literal translation would be: "When you feel longing, sing of lovers / people in love" because the word "Liebende" is not restricted to a specific gender. For the purpose of this story, however, "women in love" is more appropriate. So, I hope that the God of translation and Rilke's ghost will forgive me.