“It’s not that bad,” Janet said, plucking at the short hairs on top of Sam’s head.
Sam blew out a raspberry at her mirror image in the bathroom. Janet grinned and Sam curled her lips in disgust. “It’s really, really, badly, short.”
“But it’s not that bad,” Janet insisted, still a smile wrinkling the corners of her mouth. “I’m serious.”
“So am I, dammit!” Sam insisted, and she pushed her hair up with both hands, making it stick up and out, making Janet laugh. Sam snatched the brush off the sink counter and started roughly smoothing her hair back down. “Goddamn fucking people,” she growled.
Janet gasped and feigned shock. “Language!”
Sam pointed at Janet’s mirror image. “If there’s ever a time to cuss, it’s now, Jan. I’m serious.”
Janet moved behind her, grabbing her shoulders in a backward hug. “We’ll fix it.”
“How?” Sam asked, eyes wide, then gestured at her reflection. “Look! When my eyes go wide, this stupid haircut makes me look like a deer in headlights!” Janet made a sympathetic grimace and Sam made another growl and left the bathroom. “I can’t look in the mirror. It’s horrible.”
“Then let’s go to Patrick’s on 47th and get you fixed up.”
In the kitchen, Sam shot her a glance. “Yeah right.” She opened a cabinet and grabbed a coffee mug. “Coffee?”
“Let’s get a latte as we go out,” Janet said, taking Sam’s mug and returning it to the cupboard. “He has an emergency opening. Right now.”
“What?” Sam asked, astonished. “Why didn’t you say?”
“Because we have a little time. Ten minutes. And because I needed to let you have your bitch session.”
Sam snorted. “It’ll be Patrick’s turn when he sees my hair.” Her eyes went wide. “Oh my god, Janet! He’s gonna ask how I could do this to my hair! We have to come up with something.”
“On the way,” Janet said, ushering Sam out of the kitchen and toward the front door. She grabbed her keys in the basket, next to Sam’s. “Let’s go.”
… 2 hours later …
“It’s better,” Janet said on the way home.
“He thinned it, and rearranged it, and that’s all he did for $60, the thief.”
“Don’t Sam me, Jan,” Sam sighed. She looked out the passenger window, spying an idea. “Stop at the liquor store. I wanna get drunk.”
Janet’s brows went up, but she still turned into the small shopping center. “Your place, or you give me your keys.”
Sam shot her the first grin in eight hours. “I’ll give you my keys.”
… The Next Evening …
“Okay, Sam,” Janet said quietly as they sat alone in the control room. It was Sam’s turn to man the console while the regular staff went home. It would be thirty minutes until shift change. “Out with it.”
Sam glanced at her, but continued staring over the console, into nothing. “It’s no big deal,” she decided and shook her head, as if clearing mental cobwebs. “You going home soon?”
Janet shook her head. “Not that easy, honey. Talk to me.”
Sam made a face, guilt staining her features. “It’s just … “ She shook her head again. “No, it’s not … it’s only …” She sighed and closed her eyes, knowing that either right now or later, Janet would pester her to clear whatever troubles fogged her thinking. When she opened her eyes, she sought Janet’s. “I fucked up, Jan.”
“How?” Janet asked, her personal psychoanalyst hat coloring her tone. She had an idea of what was bothering Sam, but she didn’t dare jump to conclusions.
“I … sort of … got this relationship going …” Sam looked away. “With the Colonel.”
Janet felt a hole in her stomach. “Physical?”
Sam’s eyes widened and she swiftly shook her head. “NO!” she said, too loudly, then quieted. “No, Jan, no, no, no. Nothing like that. But …” She met Janet’s gaze and whispered, “But if there’d been a way, I’m totally sure we would have … you know.” She made another face. “I’m so sorry! I’m so, so, so—“
“Stop it,” Janet soothed. “It’s okay.”
“How? I betrayed—“
“Stop it!” Janet said with a whispered harshness. “Right now. You did nothing wrong.”
“But how can you look at me?” Sam pleased, pain in her eyes. “And how in the goddamn hell do I look at him tomorrow? At Daniel? At Teal’c? How?”
“You remember everything, right?” Janet double-checked.
“Everything,” Sam said, looking briefly at the ceiling. It immediately reminded her of Jack shooting out the skylight, so she looked at the gate instead. That stupid gate. “And so do they. I wish we didn’t.”
Janet tilted her head and reached out to smooth a non-existent problem with Sam’s hair. “Does Daniel know how close you got?”
Sam sat straight up, then leaned back in her chair sharply. “How could he not? He remembers. He saw.”
Janet winced a bit. “Shit,” she said tightly.
“Yeah,” Sam said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t envy the chat they’re having right now.”
“If it’s a chat,” Janet said with a grimace. “You know how they are together.”
Sam snorted with sudden laugh. “If they’re not arguing, they’re …”
Janet smiled. Briefly. But both their smiles disappeared just as quickly as they’d appeared. “The Colonel will understand, Sam. From what you’re saying, he’s got his own guilt to deal with. Don’t you add his to yours, okay?”
Sam let a tiny sneer zip across her face. “How can you …?” she asked, mostly rhetorically.
Janet looked perplexed, then realization filled her eyes. “Because I know you,” she said softly. “And because we’ve discussed this before a long time ago.” Sam wasn’t looking at her and she poked her shoulder. “It’s all good, you know.”
“Really?” Sam asked, searching Janet’s warm eyes for any hint at a loving lie. There wasn’t any. She sighed again, this time giving Janet a smile. “Tell me the instant it isn’t, okay?”
“Nothing to worry about,” Janet said, reaching over to rub Sam’s shoulder. “Nothing. Understood?”
“Understood,” Sam replied, and leaned into the rub with a groan. “I need one of your backrubs.”
“The minute we get home,” Janet promised.
They were silent for a little bit, then Sam threaded her fingers through her hair, a habit she’d picked up since it was cut. “I hope they’re all right.”
Janet tried to look positive and knew she only managed half-way. “They’ll be fine. But even if they aren’t, it’s not your fault and stop feeling guilty.”
Another sigh, and Sam reached over to take Janet’s hand, squeezing briefly before letting go. Reluctantly. “Maybe a hot bath, too,” she said after a minute.
Janet smiled. “I bought the new beads.”
Sam groaned and slid halfway down her chair. “Is it seven yet?”
Janet got up, and squeezed Sam’s shoulder. “Soon, honey. Soon.” She ruffled Sam’s hair gently. “It ain’t that bad,” she said, and smoothed the ruffle. “It ain’t that bad.”
“Promise?” Sam asked, understanding the double-entendre.
“Cross my heart.” She leaned over and kissed Sam on the top of her head.
After Janet left the control room, Sam crossed her arms and stared back at the gate. She remembered the feelings, remembered the moment when Jack said he remembered “feeling feelings”. She still didn’t know what he meant, whether he was talking about her or talking about Daniel. Despite Janet’s comfort, she couldn’t help the guilt suffusing through her muscles. As Thera, she’d gravitated toward the Colonel like a goddamn moth to flame. She was sort of glad, come to think about it. At least she hadn’t gravitated toward Brenna. Not like that. Janet was her one and only. And still, the guilt was so deep, as if she’d betrayed her. And Daniel.
He hadn’t even changed as Carlin. He seemed to want Jack, the way he stared at him sometimes, but the situation they were in felt wrong to him, and it proved to Sam all over again that he was stronger than they were, than they all were. Sam closed her eyes and rubbed them with her fingers. It was all such a mess, but Janet was right. It wasn’t that bad. Sam reached up to smooth her hair, thinking of a bath and a quiet night in cool sheets and warm skin.