The sight of Jacob Carter leaning heavily against the wall outside of his daughter's room sent a rush of concern and protectiveness through Janet Fraiser. She marched up and slid her arm around his waist before the General and Tok'ra liaison could protest and hustled him into a nearby exam room. She'd learned a few weeks before that Selmak, the symbiote Jacob hosted, was dying and she was worried.
'I'm fine.' Jacob insisted with the same stubbornness that Janet saw every day in Sam.
Janet repressed the urge to sigh and pointed at the bed. 'You were slumped against a wall in my infirmary, sir. That means you get an examination.'
'We've had this conversation before.' Jacob said angrily. 'This is…'
'My infirmary and my rules.' Janet shot right back. She folded her arms over her ubiquitous white lab coat and stared him down. Show no fear. It was her first rule for dealing with military personnel especially those of higher rank.
Jacob's head dipped. Selmak softened the glower on Jacob's face into something more sympathetic. 'We are due to leave for the Tok'ra in one hour, Doctor Fraiser.'
Janet nodded; she'd heard the rumours. 'Then consider this your final pre-mission check.'
Selmak smiled suddenly. 'I find myself wishing I'd spent more time with you, Doctor Fraiser. You are a woman with substance.'
'Call me Janet, Selmak,' Janet gestured at the bed, 'and please; get comfortable.'
Selmak acquiesced and suddenly, it was Jacob again. He shrugged out of his Tok'ra jacket and let Janet check his breathing, pulse and blood pressure without comment.
'How's your leg?' Janet asked, motioning for him to strip so she could examine it.
Jacob scowled but followed her silent instruction. He winced as she poked and prodded. 'Is that necessary?'
'It's healing well.' Janet commented evenly. 'Is Selmak helping?' Jacob had informed her that his symbiote was struggling to heal him with the onset of old age.
'I've asked Selmak to stop.' Jacob admitted reluctantly. 'It will accelerate the decline if…' he stopped abruptly, swallowing hard.
Janet stepped away, her compassion stirring at Jacob's evident distress at the thought of losing his symbiote. 'You can redress.' She turned away and made a notation on the clipboard she held, keeping her attention on her notes and allowing him some privacy to regain his composure as he dressed. 'How are you getting on with the medication I gave you?'
'Selmak thinks it's helping boost my immune system.' Jacob said, slipping off the bed carefully before placing his weight on the leg he had injured.
'Good.' Janet set the clipboard aside and pushed her hands into her pockets. 'I can give you a supply to take with you.'
Jacob blinked at her. 'I don't know how long I'll be gone.'
'Then I'll make you a deal,' Janet said dryly, 'I'll get you a year's supply and at the end of the year you come back for another exam and to restock.'
Jacob rested back against the edge of the bed and folded his arms over his chest. 'You drive a hard bargain.'
'Sam's a good friend.' Janet said mildly. She was still annoyed at Jacob for insisting that he wasn't going to tell Sam that Selmak was dying; that Jacob was in all probability going to go with his symbiote.
'A year.' Jacob agreed.
And just like that, Janet knew he didn't believe he'd make it a year; expected to die long before that.
Janet straightened her spine. Well, screw that. She was doing everything in her power to keep him alive whether he liked it or not. 'Stay here, I'll get the medication.'
Jacob raised his eyebrows, possibly at the glare she was levelling at him, and nodded. Janet turned around smartly and headed for the locked drug cabinet which was in reality a huge storage closet right next to her office. All the major pharmaceuticals were locked away under tight control. Janet unlocked the door, took what she needed, careful to sign out all the medication correctly. She slipped the packets into a brown pharmacy bag that they used to help provide some privacy for people and locked up before hurrying back to Jacob.
She was almost surprised to see him in the room waiting for her return. She had half-expected him to make good his escape while she was gone from the room. She handed him the bag and he opened it up to review the contents. He looked at her with amusement.
'There's more in here than your wonder drug.' He commented.
Janet shrugged, crossed her arms and stared him down. She knew he was surprised at the extras she'd packed; antibiotics; antihistamine; pain killers. 'They won't last long but I have confidence that the Tok'ra can use the samples to synthesise alternatives for you.' She said. 'I believe if you can take measures to deal with your own health issues, it should help reduce the impact to Selmak.'
There was a head dip and Selmak peeked out at her again from behind Jacob's dark eyes. 'Thank you.'
Janet arched one eyebrow. 'I'm expecting you both back in a year for a refill.'
Selmak shifted under her knowing look. 'We understand you are concerned for Samantha, Janet, and Jacob is deeply grateful that she has such a good friend. We realise we have placed you in a difficult position. If Jacob does not return, General Hammond has a letter for Sam that we have written. It tells her everything.'
A letter. It wasn't unusual for frontline soldiers to leave letters behind for their loved ones, but Jacob would never have told her, Janet realised. 'Thank you.'
There was a pause and Jacob was back in control, an expression of half-amusement and half-chagrin on his face at his symbiote's openness. But he straightened and looked at Janet seriously. 'I've been remiss. I've never thanked you for all the times you've looked after myself and Selmak; for all the times you've saved my daughter's life, Major.'
'There's no need…' Janet hurried to stop him; it sounded so final.
'There's every need.' Jacob smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. 'Thank you.'
Janet cleared her throat, easing the sudden tightness there. 'You can thank me by coming home for your refill, sir.'
His gaze filled with reluctant admiration. 'Selmak believes you are more stubborn than even me so I should give in gracefully and say yes.'
Janet smiled back at him. 'That would be my preference.'
'I'll see you in a year, Doctor.' Jacob promised.
'Yes, sir.' Janet said softly.
She gave him a head start through the door before picking up her abandoned clipboard and following. She paused as voices filtered through the open door and she hovered as she recognised Jack O'Neill's Minnesotan tinged voice.
'…are you sure we can't get you to change your mind?'
'I've made my decision, Colonel.' Jacob was saying firmly.
'Right. Just checking.' Jack sounded tired but then he had spent almost twelve hours straight tracking Sam and the super soldier on the abandoned Alpha site the day before. He had slept almost as long as Sam once they'd gotten safely back to the SGC.
'Jack,' Jacob said, sounding tentative for the first time that Janet could remember, 'what you and Teal'c did to find Sam…'
'Think nothing of it.' Jack replied cutting him off.
Jacob harrumphed softly. 'You won't let me thank you for saving my daughter?'
'Hey, she's saved us a few times too. You too. We're going to miss you turning up to bail us out.'
'Just don't go messing with advanced technology and I think you'll be fine.' Jacob bantered back.
There was a silence. Janet's lips quirked with amusement as she imagined the embarrassed look on both men's faces.
'I should…' Jack began.
'And I should…' Jacob chimed in.
A couple of footsteps echoed through the room from the corridor; Jack moving away towards Sam's room if Janet was any judge of his habits.
'Jack,' Jacob called out and halted the other man, 'I want you to know that there's nobody else I trust more with Sam's life than you.'
Janet's heart leaped in her chest. The symbolism of Jacob's words touched her and Janet lowered her gaze to blink back tears. Jacob had all but given over his daughter into Jack O'Neill's keeping with that statement.
'I'll try not to let you down, sir.' Jack's reply was so sincere, and it cut through Janet's wilful not-knowing about his feelings for Sam, Sam's feelings for Jack, like a knife.
Janet closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She tiptoed away from the door, guilt flushing through her at what she'd heard. It should have remained private between the two men. She set the clipboard face down on the bed and sat down heavily on a stool, lowering her face into her hands.
She'd known for years that Sam and Jack had feelings beyond those of team-mates; had been witness to their confessions. Yet neither had sought to pursue the other; they'd held to the oaths and put the mission first and while Janet had occasionally questioned Sam on that, she'd ultimately come to believe that whatever feelings they had, neither would allow it to become a problem professionally. Jack, in particular, had seemed to accept the situation and move on.
But Janet believed that Sam loved Jack despite recent efforts to find someone else – Janet was still withholding judgment about Sam's nascent relationship with Pete Shanahan – and she'd just had borne witness to the fact that Jack still loved Sam. She shook her head. She didn't know what was sadder; that she knew deep down that she wouldn't do anything to force the issue of their feelings out in the open, or that they wouldn't confront the issue themselves. She wondered if Jacob knew about Shanahan; maybe not, given his words to Jack.
'Janet, there you are! I've been looking for you everywhere and…' Daniel Jackson froze in the doorway as Janet's head whipped up. The look on his face morphed from friendly hello to fierce concern. 'Hey, what's wrong?' He crossed the space between them quickly and took hold of one of her hands.
'Nothing.' Janet denied automatically.
Daniel frowned at her, his blue eyes shining behind the panes of the glasses he wore. 'You're crying.'
Janet realised belatedly that her cheeks were wet. 'Bad day.' She ferretted in a pocket and pulled out a tissue to dab at her eyes.
Daniel looked at her sceptically.
'I overheard something,' Janet confessed, unable to continue lying to him. 'It just…it made me sad.'
'OK.' Daniel's thumb brushed over her knuckles. 'You want to talk about it?'
Janet shook her head. 'I was eavesdropping and it's none of my business.' As soon as she said it, the truth of it resonated with her on a deep level. It was Sam's business; Jack's. It was their lives, Janet reminded herself briskly; their decision.
And she wasn't so dissimilar, was she? She'd fallen for someone who was unattainable in focusing on Daniel for a time. He was a patient, a friend, a man so in love with his late wife that he still grieved for her. Janet had accepted that she'd never be more than a good friend to him; had tried to date in the past year to get past her feelings. She'd stopped for a while but maybe, Janet mused, maybe she needed to get back to dating. She gently pulled her hand free of his. 'You were looking for me?'
'Yeah,' Daniel took a step back and wrapped his arms around his torso, 'the General's asked me to arrange the memorial for the people we lost at the Alpha site.'
Another rush of sadness floored Janet. God; they'd lost so many.
'I was hoping you could tell me a little about the medical staff.'
She'd lost two of her medical team. Janet thought sadly of the doctor and nurse who hadn't made it before the self-destruct went off. She wondered if they had left letters behind. 'Doctor Yin knew Karl and Rosie the best. They were his staff. I haven't recalled him from the Beta site; they needed the extra medical personnel to deal with the evacuees.' She slipped off the stool. 'And I don't think I can talk about this today. Tomorrow?'
Daniel nodded. 'The memorial's on Sunday out at the Beta site.' He smiled humourlessly. 'We figure the Jaffa and the Tok'ra will be gone by then.'
Janet winced in sympathy. 'It sounds like the discussions got a little heated.'
'That's one way of putting it.' Daniel commented. 'I mean, we like to think we're better than the Langarans but when push came to shove sitting at that table yesterday felt a lot like sitting with the Langarans. And it's such a waste!' He gesticulated wildly. 'Just when we've got a weapon to make a difference, our allies go off in a huff and suddenly we're alone again and…and I don't even know what I'm saying.'
Janet didn't think; she reached out and a second later had an armful of archaeologist, Daniel's arms wrapped tightly around her. His body curved to hold her petite frame in a solid hug.
'Bad day, huh?' Janet said into his shoulder.
'It's getting better.' Daniel said, his breath stirring her hair.
Janet laughed gently at that before sobering. 'How many people did you lose?'
'None.' Daniel grimaced. 'The military got the civilians out first. Every member of my department is accounted for. R&D wasn't so lucky; botany lost two; xenobiology lost one because Doctor Po wouldn't leave her alien baby rat-thing behind…' he gave a short harsh laugh, 'the rest were Marines and two Air Force officers including Colonel Riley.' His grip tightened. 'And we almost lost Sam.'
'But we didn't. Her Dad and Selmak healed the worst of it.' Janet reassured him. She stroked a comforting circle on his back before pulling away. She snagged the clipboard from the bed where she had discarded it. 'Come on. Let's go check on her.'
They walked down the corridor to the ward. Janet wasn't surprised to find Jack sat on a stool at the foot of Sam's bed; his gaze intent on Sam's sleeping form.
'She dropped off again.' He said without looking up; didn't even seem to notice Daniel walking around the bed to stand beside him.
Janet felt her chest tighten. 'Her body needs time to heal. It's doing exactly what it needs to do.'
'Should we, uh, call Shanahan?' Daniel asked.
Jack's head whipped around to stare at Daniel as though he'd suggested they both strip naked in the control room. 'No!'
'We should discuss it with Sam when she wakes up.' Janet said firmly. Jack might love Sam but he wasn't the man she was seeing no matter how he or Janet felt about it all.
'It doesn't matter,' Jack said, swivelling back to watch Sam, 'Hammond won't let him back on base.' His tone was absolutely certain. He glanced up. 'Where's Teal'c?'
'He headed out to the Beta site to talk with M'Zel.' Daniel grimaced and adjusted his glasses. 'He's not a happy camper about M'Zel's decision and he, uh, muttered something about how it wasn't M'Zel's decision to make and Jaffa rules of challenge.' He wrinkled his nose.
Jack nodded sharply in understanding.
Janet mentally made a note to raise the issue of Pete with Sam when they were alone. She fingered the clipboard. She needed to get to her office and update her notes, destroy the hard-copy in line with the agreement she had with Jacob on Selmak's condition. 'If you're staying, keep quiet and let her rest.'
The two men gave murmurs of agreement but Janet knew she'd lost them to their vigil. She smoothed the sheet by Sam's side and left them to it.
She wandered to her office, poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down. The computer screen stared back at her. Bad day. Bad week. She blew out a breath and took a sip of her drink. She took hold of the mouse and clicked open a new document.
I've never thought of writing letters before and I don't know if it's a good idea – if it's something you would want or not. But there are things that I want to tell you and I hope I tell you them in person but if you're reading this then I'm gone…"
The gate room was organised chaos.
Jacob walked into it carrying the small satchel of belongings he had gathered. It was mostly a few photos of his family and friends; a copy of a book his late wife Kathy had given him, and a tin of his favourite fudge along with the medication Doctor Fraiser had given him. Teal'c was coming down the ramp; the wormhole shutting out behind him.
'Teal'c.' Jacob greeted him warmly. He and Selmak had become fond of both Teal'c and his mentor, Bra'tac.
Teal'c waited beside the ramp and bowed his head as Jacob approached. 'It is good to see you looking so well, General Carter.'
'I owe you a thank you.' Jacob said, getting straight to the point. 'For Sam.'
'Samantha Carter is your daughter and she is my sister.' Teal'c said.
The simplicity and sincerity of the statement took Jacob's breath away and he faltered as he often did when faced with emotion. Selmak slid effortlessly into place.
'Jacob thanks you regardless, Teal'c.' Selmak said quietly. 'It eases his mind to know that Samantha will have SG1 while we are away.'
Teal'c's face darkened. 'I owe you an apology for the way M'Zel spoke with you.'
'And I owe you one for the way Delek spoke with M'Zel.' Selmak replied with a smile. 'We once spoke of the enmity between our two races, Teal'c. Change will take time; more time than we have before Anubis attacks again, I fear.'
Teal'c inclined his head. 'Bra'tac has travelled to the Beta site to oversee the withdrawal of the Jaffa.'
'Then I will say my goodbyes to him in person.' Selmak said. 'Thank you, Teal'c.'
'It has been an honour, Selmak of the Tok'ra; General Carter.' Teal'c bowed and left, passing George Hammond in the doorway.
Selmak relinquished control back to Jacob as the gate began to dial and Hammond walked over to join them.
'Are you sure about this, Jake?' Hammond asked.
Jacob nodded. His old friend looked tired and drawn; they'd lost a lot of people and Jacob knew Hammond felt every loss keenly – he was too good a commander. 'I need to fix this, George.' He sighed. 'Some liaison I've turned out to be.'
'I wouldn't have chosen anyone else.' Hammond said. He offered his hand as the wormhole erupted. 'Take care.'
Jacob shook his hand warmly in a way that had Selmak rolling her metaphorical eyes and whispering in his head to hug the man already. 'Good luck, George.' He pulled away, knowing he didn't need to mention Sam; didn't need to ask his old friend to take care of her; knew it would be done without him saying a word.
'Godspeed, Jake.' Hammond said kindly.
Jacob turned and walked up the ramp. If the gate room had been organised chaos, the Beta site was simply chaos. He spotted Delek and the rest of the Tok'ra standing off to the side finishing their packing. He felt Selmak's fierce resentment and matched it with his own until it was all one ball of anger. They would need to deal with Delek if they were to repair the damage to Selmak's reputation and establish their place again.
On the other side of the clearing, Bra'tac was organising the Jaffa. The decision about where to go first was easy. Bra'tac saw him approach and moved instantly forward, reaching out with one arm. Jacob clasped it firmly.
'My friend,' Bra'tac began, 'these are difficult times.'
Jacob ignored the scandalised looks from both Jaffa and Tok'ra alike at their display of camaraderie. 'Will you walk with me a moment? Selmak and I would like to speak with you before we leave.'
Bra'tac gestured toward a path through the crowd and they set off. They had luckily left the masses behind and were alone when Jacob suddenly stumbled. Bra'tac took hold of his elbow and helped him toward a low stone wall. Jacob sat down and rubbed at his leg. It had healed but it was sore and he was tired.
Bra'tac sat beside him. 'Your leg bothers you?'
'Selmak is taking care of it.' Jacob deflected. He straightened and looked out toward the open countryside; the green trees, rolling hills. It wasn't so different from Earth except for the faint outline of two moons high in the afternoon sky; the faint tinge of green to the blue in the sky.
'It seems our peoples' efforts to build bridges since the Ashrak have failed.' Bra'tac said with enough irritation that Jacob knew he was more annoyed about it than sad.
'I'm not sure anything we could have said or done could bridge the centuries of distrust between the Jaffa and the Tok'ra in such a short space of time.' Jacob demurred. 'It wasn't for the lack of trying.'
'No, and yet we have failed.' Bra'tac harrumphed and pulled his silver cloak around his torso.
'The Jaffa don't need to break with Earth.' Jacob suggested tentatively. 'You guys could stay with the Tok'ra going.'
'We cannot.' Bra'tac looked regretful. 'M'Zel is young and headstrong but his decision is popular with many among the Jaffa who resent the constraints the Tau'ri place upon their coming and going.'
Jacob sighed. 'Teal'c couldn't change their minds?'
Bra'tac hesitated. 'If Teal'c challenged M'Zel's decision, M'Zel would likely challenge Teal'c for the leadership of the Jaffa.'
'You can't believe Teal'c wouldn't win.' Jacob commented assimilating the information.
'Teal'c would win.' Bra'tac's lips tightened. 'But he would return to the Tau'ri and his ruling would simply cause conflict among the Jaffa.'
Jacob smiled at the frustration in Bra'tac's voice. 'He believes he can do more remaining with SG1.'
'He may be right,' Bra'tac conceded, 'but the Jaffa need leadership and if Teal'c is not here, they look to others and he cannot deny them their right to make decisions he would not make if he was.'
Jacob nodded in understanding. He relished the brush of the warm breeze against his skin. It helped refresh him.
'He refuses to listen to my words that the Jaffa need him as a leader.' Bra'tac complained grumpily.
'We both have headstrong children, Bra'tac.' Jacob sympathised.
'Teal'c is not…' Bra'tac began.
Jacob cut him with an impatient hand gesture. 'Teal'c is as much your son as Sam is my daughter.'
Bra'tac huffed. 'Perhaps you are right.'
Jacob believed that Teal'c thought of Bra'tac as his father just as he thought of Sam as his sister.
'There are rumours that you return to the Tok'ra.' Bra'tac questioned.
'The rumours are right.' Jacob shook his head sadly.
'You will miss your daughter.' Bra'tac said quietly. He looked out in the same aimless direction as Jacob.
'Sam understands duty.' Jacob sighed heavily despite his words. 'We need to go back. We messed up. They think we're no longer loyal to them; they cut us out of the loop over Olokun and who knows what else.' His and Selmak's anger bled through his words.
'You deserve better.' Bra'tac commented.
Jacob let Selmak take over.
'We will miss our friendship, Bra'tac.' Selmak said.
There was a rush of her affection for the old Jaffa through Jacob.
'I owe you my freedom.' Bra'tac said. 'You gave the Jaffa tretonin.'
'You owe us nothing.' Selmak countered. 'We should have done more sooner to help the Jaffa.'
'Take this.' Bra'tac slipped her a piece of paper.
Selmak looked at it briefly. It was a Stargate address.
'It is a waystation for the warriors of Hak'tyl. If you ever have need of me you can leave word there.' Bra'tac informed her briskly.
'Thank you, Bra'tac. I wish I could give you the same but I fear the waystations I know are gone.' She sighed and placed it in the satchel; they would memorise the address and destroy the paper later. 'We should return before they think we have eloped.'
Funny, Jacob said dryly inside his head, although he suspected that if Selmak had occupied a female host she might have pressed for more than friendship with Bra'tac.
Bra'tac stood and offered his hand to assist Selmak to her feet. She took it gratefully. They walked back in companionable silence. The clearing around the Stargate was filled with Jaffa on one side and Tok'ra on the other. In the middle, Colonel Kirkland stood with a team of Marines.
Selmak nodded at Kirkland and he ordered the Stargate dialled. She turned back to Bra'tac. 'It has been an honour to be your friend, Master Bra'tac.'
Bra'tac stood and offered her a salute; hand fisted tightly and slapped into his chest. 'Should you have need of me, know that I am yours to call upon Selmak of the Tok'ra, General Carter of the Tau'ri.' He held his head up proudly.
He has guts, Jacob commented admiringly. Bra'tac had proclaimed his personal allegiance to them in front of a substantial part of the Jaffa army.
And we owe him to do the same, Selmak replied. She returned the salute. 'And I am yours, Master Bra'tac of Chulak.'
The wormhole erupted beside them.
'Attention!' Colonel Kirkland ordered loudly.
Selmak glanced toward the Tau'ri and found them saluting, giving Jacob his recognition and accord as a General. She slid back into Jacob's mind and he returned the salute.
He dropped the salute and nodded at Bra'tac. 'Keep our kids safe, Bra'tac.'
'I give you my word.' Bra'tac promised.
Jacob turned and, without looking at the Tok'ra, walked through the wormhole. The trip was one of many and Jacob let Selmak take over, remaining a supportive presence as they ignored the frosty disdain of the rest of the Tok'ra who travelled with them.
It was a relief to finally step out of the wormhole and into the bright crystalline structure of a Tok'ra base. They retreated to their assigned quarters gratefully. They were both furious; Selmak at the fact that she had not been able to accede to the preferences of her host in who controlled his physical body, and Jacob on how Selmak had been treated.
They rested on the sleep platform.
We have much work to do, Selmak realised thoughtfully.
Yeah, it's not going to be easy to reassure them, Jacob murmured. They really believe that I've unduly influenced you.
They are idiots, Selmak said with scorn. They do not understand our partnership.
Maybe not, Jacob allowed. But perhaps it would have been better for you to have had someone else as a host.
I do not want someone else, Selmak said firmly. You will be my last host, Jacob, and I would not change you.
The rush of love and reassurance swamped Jacob and it was all he could do to return it with heartfelt gladness.
A sound by the open doorway to their chamber alerted them to the presence of someone else and Jacob raised his head. 'Garshaw!'
'Old friend!' Garshaw crossed the room quickly and Jacob slipped off the platform to accept the hug she offered. 'Come!'
She took hold of his hand and pulled him out of the room. She hurried him through corridor after corridor until they entered a chamber at the outermost limits of the underground structure. It was filled with storage containers but as they entered, Jacob could hear others talking. They rounded a stack of crates and came into the middle of the room.
Jacob's eyes widened. Malek sat on one crate talking with Anise beside him. Korra stood in the corner talking with Ba'ray who broke off their conversation and hurried over to greet him.
This is a surprise, Selmak said inside Jacob's head but he could feel her delight.
'Welcome!' Ba'ray beamed at him. 'We've been waiting for you to begin.'
'To begin what?' Jacob asked brusquely. 'What's going on?'
'We don't agree with the decision to break our alliance with the Tau'ri and the Jaffa.' Anise stood, brushing off her tunic.
Malek followed her, getting to his feet. 'We're here to help you.'
They make a striking couple, Selmak commented. Jacob hushed her but his amusement brushed over his symbiote and made her mentally snort at him.
'Help me do what exactly?' Jacob pressed.
'Well, for a start, get rid of that insidious little toad, Delek, from the council.' Garshaw said disdainfully.
Jacob laughed. 'And after that…'
'We will help you fix this.' Garshaw reached out and took his hand again. 'You are not alone. You have friends.'
'I don't know what to say,' Jacob began, 'but thank you.'
'Tell us everything that happened.' Korra pushed away from the crates he was leaning upon. 'They hardly told us anything; only that we were leaving the alliance.'
Jacob gave way to Selmak and understood her intention immediately. He frowned but acquiesced to her silent plea. It was time to tell their friends that she was dying. He spared a thought for Sam; for Mark. His kids were safe. Mark in his ignorance of all things Stargate related, and Sam…she had the family she had built; she had SG1.
He had a job to do and a symbiote to support.
It was time to focus on Selmak; to ensure she regained her honoured place among the Tok'ra.
'Your blood pressure is slightly elevated.' Janet frowned at Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey and noted the test result. 'Are you getting enough rest?'
Hailey shrugged into her BDU shirt and sighed. 'We haven't been sleeping well. Matt and I…we both lost friends with the attack on the Alpha site.'
'I see.' Janet clicked her pen off and regarded Hailey seriously. 'It's important for pregnant women not to get too stressed and to be fully rested. Would talking with a psychologist help?'
'No,' Hailey shook her head, the tightly bound hair not daring to escape its French braid, 'I mean, we're dealing with the losses OK. It's not the first time, you know?'
Janet nodded sympathetically.
'Mostly I'm just annoyed that Matt can go to the memorial but I can't because of the baby. We'll get through it.'
'Well, in the meantime, you have my permission to come down here for a nap whenever you need one.' Janet ordered. 'Understood?'
'Understood, ma'am.' Hailey's young face lit up with relief.
Janet stripped her gloves off and threw them in the trash. 'You're dismissed, Lieutenant.'
'Thank you, ma'am.' Hailey paused by the bed. 'Ma'am, is Major Carter allowed visitors?'
'Depends,' Janet asked dryly, 'how likely is it that the scientific question that you're no doubt going to ask her will end with the two of you debating fiercely and loudly in my infirmary?'
Hailey smiled. 'Low, ma'am. I just wanted to inform her of the latest test results from the Prometheus.'
'OK, but don't mention McKay.' Janet instructed. 'Her blood pressure rises every time she hears his name.'
'Mine too.' Hailey looked hopeful suddenly. 'Does this mean you can order me not to have contact with him?'
Janet laughed and waved her out. She had finished updating her notes on the computer when Teal'c rapped on the exam room door.
'I am here for my monthly tretonin review as ordered, Doctor Fraiser.' Teal'c bowed his head in her direction.
'Come on in and hop up on the bed, Teal'c.' Janet pulled on another pair of gloves and set about her examination; the usual blood tests; observation checks. She made notes as she went along until finally the physical checks were done. She pushed her hands into her pockets and let her eyes roam over the Jaffa. 'You're looking tired, Teal'c.'
'The last few days have been difficult.' Teal'c allowed.
'Not to mention you pushed your physical endurance when you searched for Sam.' Janet commented. 'You and the Colonel both.'
Teal'c simply raised his eyebrow. 'I believe you would have done the same in our situation, Doctor Fraiser.'
Janet smiled but she remained focus. 'I'd like you to up your dosage for the next few days; give yourself a boost.'
'Very well.' Teal'c agreed. He slid off the bed. 'Major Carter informed me that you have authorised her release from the infirmary.'
'On the proviso she stays with me for a couple of days so I can assess her.' Janet nodded. 'Selmak healed the worst of her injuries but she's tired.'
Teal'c placed his hands behind his back and took up his usual stance. 'With your permission, I and the rest of SG1 would very much like to visit with Major Carter tomorrow.'
Janet's lips twitched. Evidently Teal'c had been elected to ask her on the assumption that she was most likely to say yes to him. 'How about brunch?' She suggested. 'Cassie's said she's going to take a break from college and drop in to play chess with Sam. It'll be like old times.'
'I believe this would be most acceptable.' Teal'c positively beamed at her. 'I will inform O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.'
'Thank you, Teal'c.' Janet replied and waited until he was out of the room before a chuckle escaped her. She went back to the computer and added her notes about Teal'c to his medical file and copied the data to the tretonin research file. She saved her work and checked her watch. She headed back to her office at a fast clip.
Kate Heightmeyer was already waiting outside. The psychologist looked cool and competent in a blue pantsuit, a crisp white blouse underneath. Her jewellery was delicate and gold, glinting at her ears, neck and wrist. She had sculpted her blonde hair back into some kind of complicated chignon-pony-tail do that Janet envied.
'Sorry to keep you waiting.' Janet apologised automatically as she reached for her keys and opened up the room. She hurried inside and checked the pot of coffee. It was hot. She raised it in a silent offering to Kate who shook her head as she closed the door to give them privacy.
'I'm trying to give up.' Kate said with a bright smile.
Janet pointed at a chair and Kate subsided into it elegantly. 'Thank you for making yourself available.'
Kate raised one shoulder and gestured at Janet. 'It sounded important.'
'You've probably heard that we lost the Alpha site,' Janet began, sitting in her own chair and swivelling around to face Kate, 'most of the civilians got out OK but we have a lot of survivor guilt, two scientists and three Marines who are suffering mild PTSD, and one very stubborn Air Force officer who will only say she's fine, but she's so far from fine I don't think fine is in this solar system never mind on this planet.'
'That would be Major Carter.' Kate surmised, brushing a stray hair back over her ear. 'I heard SG1 pulled off another miracle.' She opened her purse and pulled out her organiser. 'You want me to clear my schedule.'
'Yes.' Janet agreed. 'As much as you can; I know there are patients who you can't reschedule but where possible I'd like you to be available.'
'Would you prefer me to remain on base for a period of time?' Kate asked, keeping her voice neutral.
It had been a source of contention between them in the past. Kate preferred to hold her sessions in her private office in downtown Colorado Springs rather than work from the SGC. Janet couldn't deny that Kate had a point that her patients responded more naturally out of their work environment but there had been issues of concern and confidentiality. They'd compromised in the end with Kate accepting an office on base and using it with those patients that preferred it; all of her notes and files were kept there.
'I would.' Janet replied mildly, inwardly steeling herself for an argument.
Kate pursed her lips and considered her open organiser. 'I'll need to work from my own office Mondays but otherwise I can rearrange to be here for the short term.'
Janet let out a breath of relief and nodded. Another compromise; Kate would do it but only for the current crisis. 'Why don't you update me on Doctor Lee first and then I'll brief you on the people I think you need to see as a priority?'
Kate nodded. 'I think he's ready to stop seeing me.' She smoothly moved into her report. Janet focused, agreeing with Kate's assessment. They worked together well for over two hours and Janet was beat by the time Kate left. Luckily it was the end of her shift.
Doctor Anna Brightman rapped on the door and grinned at her. 'Ready to hand over?'
Janet grinned back. 'You have no idea.' She hoisted herself to her feet and began the ward rounds, informing Anna of the latest admissions and treatments administered. They discussed a couple of personnel issues and a few administrative ones before Anna waved Janet off with an instruction to enjoy her days off.
A hot shower and a change of clothes later, Janet made her way to Sam's ward to pick up the other woman. Sam was waiting for her impatiently. Her blonde hair was newly washed and shone brightly in the harsh lights of the infirmary; her clothes and attitude gave the appearance of health. But Janet could see the dark circles under Sam's eyes; the white lines of tension bracketing her mouth. Sam was bone tired and emotionally fragile under the bravado.
'Ready to leave?' Janet asked.
'Yesterday.' Sam bantered back, dredging up a smile from somewhere. 'Only my evil Doctor wouldn't release me.'
Janet raised her eyebrows and bit back an answering smile. 'If I were you, I would be considering whether evil Doctor remarks are the way you want to go when you're going to be at the mercy of said evil Doctor for the next couple of days.'
Sam rolled her blue eyes. 'Janet.'
The whine was impressive. Janet didn't bother arguing about a wheelchair. She snagged one from the corner and pushed it over. Her look dared Sam to make an issue of it but Sam sat down so obediently Janet figured that her leg had to be hurting her.
'Home, Jeeves.' Sam said in an affected British accent.
'You're really pushing it.' Janet warned her, amused. But she pushed the wheelchair forward and fifteen minutes later they were in Janet's car and on their way.
Janet turned up the heat and focused on the road. The rain was coming down in heavy sheets and it took up her concentration. It was just as well Sam had fallen into a light doze, Janet mused, because she definitely didn't have the brain space to deal with a conversation. They could order out, Janet decided. She would have a nice glass of Merlot; Sam could stick with water and painkillers. She smiled, imagining the complaint that she was certain Sam would make at that.
The drive was hideous, an accident on the main road delaying traffic, and Janet was pleased to get to the house. She let Sam greet the dog before she urged her into the cosy den with its comfortable furnishing; its warm amber and green colours. She settled Sam with some herbal tea, poured herself a glass of wine and ordered pizza. Sam needed something simple and uncomplicated rather than spicy and rich.
Janet curled up in the comfiest armchair in the room and let her gaze travel over Sam again. 'You need some more painkillers after dinner.'
'Yes, Mom.' Sam said. She patted the dog's head a final time and reached for her tea.
'So are you going to tell me what's going on with you and your cute detective?' Janet asked. She'd asked Sam in private the day before if Sam wanted her to call Pete Shanahan and had been surprised at the unequivocal no.
Sam squirmed under Janet's gaze, obviously uncomfortable with the question. 'Nothing, really.'
'Hmmm.' Janet continued to look at her.
'It's…' Sam sighed, 'when I took Pete back to Denver, he told me some things that made me realise maybe things were moving too fast. So…' she sipped her tea and gazed down into the cup hiding her expression from Janet, 'so I asked for some space.'
Janet knew better than to ask what the 'some things' Pete had confided were. She had a feeling Sam knew she wouldn't approve if she knew. 'Then you should take all the space you need.'
Sam's eyes flickered up, surprised. 'I thought you'd be encouraging me to cast my doubts to the wind and go for it.'
'Do I think you need to get out and date, have some fun? Yes.' Janet countered, smiling slightly before letting her amusement fall away. 'Do I want you to end up with someone you're not one hundred per cent happy with or who treats you badly? No.' She regarded Sam with concern. 'Did he treat you badly?'
'Not in the way you mean.' Sam replied, sipping her tea again. She relaxed back against the cushions, her eyes staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. 'He wasn't violent with me or anything like that. He backed right off when I asked him to so I don't think he would ever hit me like…' she stopped suddenly, turning bright red with the admission.
'Like your ex-fiancé?' Janet guessed. Captain Jonas Hansen had ultimately gone crazy and the news that he'd abused Sam didn't surprise her.
'It was just the once – well, twice if you count his attack on me when he was trying to kill the Colonel, but yes; like Jonas.' Sam sighed and wrapped her hands around her cup. 'Actually, the control stuff Jonas did was worse.'
'And what did Pete do?' Janet pressed.
Sam grimaced and Janet could see she was choosing her words carefully. 'He ran a background check on me.'
'He what?' Janet's eyebrows shot up. 'Didn't you say your brother set you up? What was he hoping to find out?'
'I was being secretive about the job.' Sam shrugged. 'He thought he could find out what I wasn't telling him.'
Janet frowned. What Pete Shanahan had done was disrespectful and controlling in its own way. She felt a frisson of worry as she recalled Sam's remarks about Jonas. 'You think he could be as controlling as Hansen?'
'It occurred to me but I don't think what he did was motivated by his need to control so much as his insecurity.' Sam admitted with another sigh. 'He says he did it because his ex-wife cheated on him and kept stuff from him. My secrecy triggered his hurt about that and what he did was a reaction. I don't think he'll do anything like that again. He is sorry and he's sincere. Mark said as much when I talked to him yesterday. Pete apparently confessed what happened to him.'
'And so you're inclined to look at Pete like he's a kicked puppy that just bit you in self-defence rather than a grown man who made an informed choice.' Janet remarked brusquely.
Sam gave a humourless laugh. 'Jonas always said I had a thing about fixing people. He wasn't wrong.' She looked over at Janet. 'What would you do if it was you?'
Janet blew out a breath. In real terms, Shanahan's actions were a warning flag rather than a stop sign. 'If it were me, I don't know,' she admitted, 'I guess it would depend how much I liked him. If I thought our relationship had real potential then I might forgive him and see how it went from there on the basis that one more thing and we'd be done. If I didn't think the relationship had potential, I don't think I'd waste any more time on him.'
'But,' Janet continued, 'as your friend, I have to tell you that I'd prefer you not to give him a second chance.' She paused. 'Especially as I don't think you're telling me everything.'
Sam's lips twisted ruefully. She shifted position to look at Janet. 'I don't know what I'm going to do. I like Pete. He's fun and goofy and…he makes me feel special; it's nice, you know. I haven't had that in a long time and I thought…maybe I could…love him one day.'
Janet empathised. Feeling wanted and special was seductive. 'But?'
'But.' Sam repeated with another sigh. 'I was planning on thinking it all over while I was at the Alpha site only…' she raised her tea-cup, 'well, it doesn't seem that important now.'
'I spoke with our resident psychologist,' Janet said briskly, 'I think you should have a session with her.'
'I'm fine.' Sam evaded, looking away again.
'No, you're not.' Janet contradicted. 'And if you won't talk to me about it, I'm going to need you to talk with Kate.'
The doorbell rang.
'Saved by the bell!' quipped Sam lightly.
Janet stuck her tongue out at her friend and went to get the pizza. A few minutes later, she and Sam were sharing the sofa, each eating large slices of pizza with only napkins to catch the crumbs and drips of tomato sauce. They had almost finished when Sam moved.
'If I talk with you, do I have to talk with Kate?' Sam asked suddenly.
Janet swallowed around a lump of dough. 'That depends on what you tell me.'
Sam sighed and gestured with what remained of her pizza slice. 'You read the report I did for the General.'
'Yes,' Janet said wryly, 'and I never realised you could be that succinct.'
Sam's report had been terse; the super soldier had attacked, she and her father had fled, the super soldier had hunted her into the woods, she'd blown it up with a missile, it had climbed out of the rubble and her team-mates had shown up to save her.
Sam winced. Her hand went to her leg and the injury her father had healed before his departure. 'I was done.' She confessed quietly. 'After the missile, when that…thing climbed out of the rocks, I was done. I just couldn't move.'
'You were exhausted.' Janet deduced, lowering her pizza slice as she examined Sam's tense features.
'I gave up.' Sam's voice was no more than a whisper; she looked so shamefaced. 'If Teal'c hadn't arrived I would have sat there and let it kill me because…' she stumbled to a choked stop.
Janet tossed her pizza back into the empty box and put her arm around her friend. 'Listen to me: you had been hunted for hours. You were injured, dehydrated and hungry. You were mentally and physically exhausted. You don't get to beat yourself up that you gave into a moment of weakness and didn't respond instantly to a threat.'
'They saw.' Sam said tiredly, allowing Janet to take the pizza she held and put it away. 'The Colonel and Teal'c they saw…' she sighed, 'they saw me give up.'
'You really think they don't understand?' Janet squeezed her gently.
'You know what it's like Janet.' Sam said. 'You have to be tougher; stronger; better when you're a woman.'
'Sam, Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c have nothing but respect for you. Have they treated you any differently since?'
Sam shook her head and stopped abruptly. 'Actually, the Colonel, he…' she blushed, the colour brightened her face, 'I asked for a minute to rest and he offered me a shoulder.' She sighed. 'I must have fallen asleep on him.'
'That wouldn't surprise me.' Janet commented, trying to understand what Sam was telling her. 'When the medic team met up with you all, Teal'c was carrying you.' She stopped. 'So the Colonel hugged you?'
'No! It was just a shoulder!' The denial was immediate. 'I mean, I've used his shoulder before, you know as a team-mate, friend using another friend's shoulder,' Sam explained nervously, 'it's just it's the first time he's really offered in the field rather than me…you know slumping against him.'
But probably not the first time Jack O'Neill had wanted to, Janet mused. 'You haven't told him about what happened with Pete?'
'No, and you can't tell him or any of the guys either.'
Janet rubbed Sam's arm soothingly. 'Of course I won't say anything.' Between Sam and her father, she felt like she was turning into the Carter's family confessor. 'I just meant that if the Colonel thinks you're seeing Pete than maybe he can offer a shoulder without it looking inappropriate.'
Sam sounded disappointed as though she had wanted Jack to have offered for another reason. Janet felt her heart go out to the other woman. She cast about for a change of subject. 'You do know if you continue to go out with Pete, the guys are going to threaten him with bodily harm if he hurts you whether you tell them about the background check thing or not?'
'Yeah, I know.' Sam admitted with an easy laugh. 'I figured I'd let them have their fun.'
'So you don't mind me doing the same?' Janet asked, amused. 'Because I will you know.'
Sam simply smiled back at her. 'I haven't decided anything about Pete.' She shook her head. 'And I'm not going to tonight.'
'We should get you to bed.' Janet agreed. She escorted Sam upstairs, left her in the bathroom while she saw to the guest room and ushered her out of her clothes and into bed. She locked up and went to bed herself.
It wasn't until the next day when Sam was ensconced in the den with Cassie playing chess, and Janet was preparing brunch, that their conversation came back to her. She really did need to have Sam see Kate to deal with the guilt Sam was feeling over not having the strength to get back up and continue fighting the super soldier. There was also the issue of Jacob's departure. It was another blow for Sam on top of everything that had happened to her at the Alpha site.
The doorbell chimed loudly and the dog barked reflexively.
'I'll get it!' Cassie yelled.
Janet rolled her eyes but she loved having Cassie back in the house. Cassie had left home for college but she had chosen the University of Colorado Springs for her studies and it wasn't far. She could have commuted but Janet had encouraged her to find a dorm and experience living on campus. Cassie was a mature young woman and Janet trusted her. But she hated the hole left in her own life that her daughter's absence created. She heard Daniel's voice in the foyer greeting Cassie and sighed, wiping her hands on a towel. She definitely needed to start dating again.
She went through to say hello and smiled at the sight of Jack hugging Cassie. Daniel was staying with Jack until he found somewhere to live and the two men had evidently travelled together.
'You've grown.' Jack said accusingly.
'I've only been gone just over a month!' Cassie exclaimed, tossing her brown-red hair back over her shoulder and grinning. 'I haven't grown.'
'What Jack is trying to say is that we missed you.' Daniel tapped Jack's shoulder. 'Let her loose; it's my turn.'
Jack glowered but did as instructed.
Janet laughed and motioned at the open den door. 'Sam's in the den, sir.'
Jack's body language relaxed and he smirked at her as he brushed by.
Cassie let go of Daniel and sighed. 'I'd better go before he takes over my game.' But there wasn't any heat in the complaint and Daniel exchanged a knowing look at Janet. He turned around and lifted a box from the hall table.
'Cake?' Janet asked.
'Chocolate.' Daniel smiled triumphantly. 'Jack wanted vanilla but I out-argued him.'
'What was the winning argument?'
Daniel grinned. 'Sam likes chocolate.'
A loud knock arrested Janet's move to follow Daniel into the kitchen and she opened her front door to find Teal'c and Jonas Quinn on the other side.
'Hi, I was at the SGC for some negotiations and Teal'c mentioned brunch?' Jonas grinned at her easily, his smile lighting up his whole face.
'It's good to see you again, Jonas.' Janet smiled at the Jaffa beside him who was holding a dessert box. 'And you, Teal'c.'
'We have brought an offering for brunch, Doctor Fraiser.' Teal'c handed her the box solemnly.
Janet peeked inside and wasn't surprised to find a pie; lemon meringue.
'I thought it looked sunshine-y.' Jonas explained.
'It's one of my favourites.' Janet assured him, stepping back to let them both in. She pointed them in the direction of the den and wandered back into the kitchen, wincing as Cassie's squeal of delight at Jonas being there reached her ears. Cassie had welcomed Jonas to Earth as a fellow alien and had developed a crush on the Kelownan.
'Teal'c and Jonas?' Daniel queried as Janet crossed the kitchen to organise some coffee for them all.
'And pie.' Janet showed him the box.
'Jack will be in heaven.' Daniel commented dryly. He slid onto a stool by the breakfast bar. 'Hey, did you hear about the President has ordered a documentary on the SGC?'
'So I heard.'
'Jack's pissed.' Daniel said.
'I can see why.' Janet said. She doubted that she would have a major part in the documentary. The journalist would probably want to focus on the SG teams that were on the frontline; the heroes.
The doorbell went again.
Janet frowned but shoved the pie at Daniel, tossing an instruction for him to see to the coffee as she went to answer the summons.
She yanked open the door and stared in surprise at the General. 'Sir, I wasn't expecting you.'
Hammond smiled back at her with calm reassurance. 'I promised Jacob that I'd keep an eye on the Major, Doctor.'
'Of course, sir.' Janet let him in. 'We're having brunch; you're more than welcome to join us. SG1 brought cake and pie.' She smiled. 'I sometimes think they're under the mistaken impression that they're a food group.'
Hammond chuckled. 'I'd like that.'
'Make yourself at home, sir.' Janet waved at the den and hurried back to the kitchen.
Daniel looked up from placing coffee mugs on a tray with a large carafe. 'Who was…'
'The General.' Janet shrugged at Daniel's blink. 'He said he promised Jacob that he'd look after Sam so…'
Daniel's confusion cleared immediately and he picked up the heavy tray. Janet grabbed the pitcher of cream he'd left behind and fell into step beside him as he carried the drinks into the den.
Janet wasn't surprised to see Sam on the small two-seater sofa next to Jack. The General had sat down in the armchair on the other side of her. The chess board on the coffee table was set up for Sam's game with Cassie. Her daughter sat cross-legged on the floor, the dog in her lap. Teal'c sat one side of Cassie; Jonas the other. Daniel placed the tray down and Janet started to give out mugs, finally tuning into the discussion.
'What d'ya say, sir?' Jack clapped his hands gleefully. 'Team chess? Air Force against Civilians and Aliens?'
'I think that's an excellent idea.' Hammond agreed, accepting his mug of coffee with a smile.
'You up for it, Doc?' Jack asked as Janet shoved Sam further up the sofa until Sam was squashed against Jack and sat down.
Sam shot her an alarmed look and Janet ignored it. 'Sure,' she said, 'why not?'
'We accept your challenge.' Teal'c's dark eyes gleamed brightly.
'You know this will be my first time playing team chess.' Jonas commented. He grinned at his former team.
Janet noted they all shifted protectively towards him. Not surprising, Janet mused; Jonas had been in a relationship with a woman not realising she was a Goa'uld. He was recovering his balance from that.
'If this is your first time, Jonas, then there's only one thing that you need to know.' Daniel said teasingly. His amused gaze went to Sam and Jack before sliding to Cassie.
'They cheat!' They said in unison.
'Hey!' Sam exclaimed hotly.
Jack wagged his finger at them but his brown eyes were filled with laughter. 'Oh you are so going down!'
'Bring it on.' Daniel said, dropping down to sit cross-legged by Jonas.
'Well, Carter?' Jack turned to Sam and Janet swore she could see his gaze soften. 'You think we can take them?'
'Absolutely, sir.' Sam said confidently, her chin going up as she responded to the respect and confidence in her that was in his gaze. 'We're Air Force.'
Janet repressed the urge to sigh at their connection. She wasn't sure Sam would ever move on especially in light of her revelations about the detective.
'Damn right, Major.' Hammond agreed, raising his mug in a silent salute.
'What do you think, Mom?' Cassie laughed, waggling her eyebrows.
'I think you should prepare to meet your doom.' Janet replied easily, grinning at her. 'Air Force all the way!'
Janet hid her smile at Cassie's mock look of outrage and gazed around the group, enjoying the banter and the camaraderie. Maybe she didn't have a hot romance but she had good friends and a daughter she adored. Warmth and contentment stole over her; she was a lucky woman because she had everything she needed in her life.