Janet's eyes don't flutter when my fingers pass over her eyelashes. Skin, a delicate light brown that reminds me of Abydos, is soft and warm under my cupped hand. Her lips are slightly chapped, bitten rose colored.
She's perfect and I never noticed it before.
Janet invited us over to the house on a July Saturday. Cassie pulled Sam and me into the pool while Jack grilled hamburgers and Teal'c watched with one eyebrow raised. I talked to Janet, my arms slopping water on to the deck, and she leaned over and pushed my glasses on to my face, reminding me that it was time for my eye exam. After dinner, when Janet suggested washing the dishes, Jack lifted her up with one arm, her petite frame dangling over his shoulder, like she hardly weighed anything at all. She laughed, her face cracking wide in a bright smile. At Cassie's insistence, Jack tossed her mother into the pool. Janet came up sputtering, her short hair plastered against her neck, threatening Jack with long needles and prostate exams on his next trip to the infirmary.
I should have realized it then.
I lean over and kiss her rose bitten lips, taste the drying saliva. As I pull away, I lick my lips, trying to remember the gritty texture of the dirt in my mouth, the weight of my realization. I squeeze her still warm cheek, still warm but not moving.
A staff blast hits the tree over my head, and I belatedly duck. The medics suddenly come into focus. The dirt in the air is too sharp, too tangible, like film sped up and over exposed. The scurried motion around me is too fast, the frantic shouts too loud. Grenades explode behind me. I lean over Janet, feel the damp front of my shirt against my skin. A voice crackles at my chest. I don't have enough room in my head for this. I have to translate the words a few times before I comprehend: Jack's been hit, too.
"Dr. Jackson, we have to go. Jackson!"
A rough hand around my arm hauls me to my feet. My palm goes cold when it pulls away from Janet's face. There's blood.
I stumble with the others, gaining momentum as I run, getting my feet beneath me as I pull my mind together. We have to get back to the 'gate. There's a litter in front of me, carried by two marines. I have to help save Senior Airman Simon Wells. He has a son on the way and a staff blast through his midsection.
And if he dies, her sacrifice will have been for nothing.
I catch up to them, grab his outstretched wrist in my bloody palm, and say, "You're going to be okay."
An explosion to the right covers the sound of his words, but I can read his lips. "What about Dr. Frasier?"
I glance over my shoulder and see two soldiers lift a litter. They're running towards us, catching up quickly. The litter sags slightly in the middle, the weight of a body. But the way the men are running it looks light, like it hardly weighs anything at all.