Title: Unchangeable Law
Pairing: Sam/Janet, Janet/male
Word count: ~9250
Summary: Janet’s abusive ex-husband moves to town. Will someone be able to save her before it’s too late?
Warnings: This is rather dark since it explores domestic violence, rape, and the effects on the victim, both physically and emotionally. There is description of rape.
Spoilers/Timeline: The summer between seasons 4 and 5.
Disclaimer: SG-1 and its characters belong to B.W, J.G. and MGM. No copyright infringement intended, no money be made.
A/N1: First line prompt provided by londynon who requested some Janet angst/whump that had nothing to do with Rite of Passage, Heroes, or Sam being hurt or captured.
A/N2: Special thanks to oxfordshoes2 for the beta! Written for the Spring 2010 Sam and Janet Ficathon.
All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away. This is the pure unchangeable law.
Her worst nightmare had come true; her ex-husband was standing on the porch of her home looking as menacing as he ever had. All the terror she lived with for almost two years came flooding back, paralyzing her in place.
“Long time no see, honeybuns,” he smiled a bright, charming smile.
“W-What are you d-doing here?” Janet stammered.
He dropped his eyes and took a slow breath. “I didn’t think you’d take my phone call and I really need to talk to you.”
“It’s about Mom, Jan.”
Her thoughts immediately turned to her former mother-in-law. She had always loved Clara Porter. It had broken Janet’s heart to lose contact with her mother-in-law after she and Nelson had divorced. Clara had never known about the bad things that happened between Janet and Nelson during their marriage. She’d made it clear that she didn’t believe Janet’s allegations during the divorce, which, from her perspective, had come out of nowhere. Even so, Janet still loved Clara.
“What’s wrong with her?” she asked with genuine concern.
“She’s dying, Jan... and she’s asked to see you.”
He nodded. “I think she wants to apologize to you.”
“For not believing you.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve told her the truth, Jan. I told her what I did to you,” he said softly. “I’m not the same person I was – I’ve changed. That’s why I owned up to what I did.” He paused. “May I come in so we can talk, please?”
She was surprised by Nelson’s admission of guilt. The fact that he told his mother the truth spoke of real change in him. After several moments Janet nodded and stepped back to allow him entrance.
In the living room Nelson sat on the couch as Janet sat in a chair. He declined the offer of something to drink.
“Look, you had, and still have, every right to hate me. What I did, the way I treated you, was so wrong. I don’t expect you to forgive me, and I’m not asking you to. While I was in prison I went through a program. It made me take a hard look at myself... and I didn’t like what I saw, so I’ve been working hard at changing. I even got out early for good behavior.” He paused and looked her directly in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Jan, for everything.”
Janet had never expected an apology from Nelson. Neither did she expect to feel something inside her let go when he did apologize. It felt like the last bit of an infection being lanced and drained away. Nelson’s apology meant he knew what he did was wrong, and that it really hadn’t been her fault. Her heart and soul suddenly felt lighter.
She acknowledged the apology with a nod. “So what exactly is wrong with Clara?”
“Ovarian cancer. She’s really not good, Jan. I don’t think she’s going to make it to the weekend. Can you come see her? Please?”
She knew there was no way she could say no. She wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she did. She had to at least try. “Let me call my CO and see if I can take some leave.” Fortunately, Cassie had just recently left to spend the summer with her grandparents, so Janet didn’t have to worry about arranging for someone to watch her.
Their plane touched down at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport at 6:00 that evening. Nelson drove them straight to the hospital. Clara Porter was in the ICU.
“Excuse me, we’re here to see my mother,” Nelson said to the nurse at the desk.
“Hi, Mr. Porter. I’m sure she’ll be glad to see that you’re back.” She then looked at Janet. “I’m sorry, but only family members are allowed.”
“She is family,” Nelson quickly replied, “She’s my wife.”
The nurse nodded.
Janet was struck with how pallid and frail Clara Porter was – so different from the active, vibrant woman she’d known. Cancer was never an easy death, taking such a heavy toll on the patient... and their loved ones. She sat in the chair next to the bed and took her mother-in-law’s hand in her own.
“I’m here, Clara.”
Because Mrs. Porter was so close to death, there were no restrictions on her visiting hours. Janet and Nelson sat with his mother through the night. She woke up early in the morning and was coherent enough to have a heart to heart with Janet.
Nelson had left to give them some privacy. When Janet emerged from the room he was waiting for her with a cup of Starbucks coffee. She gratefully accepted it with a teary smile.
“Are you okay?” he asked softly.
She shook her head as the tears began to fall. He gently took her in his arms and held her. Old wounds healed began to ache with the absence of pain. If only she’d been able to mend the fences between them before now.
As if he could read her thoughts, Nelson spoke softly into her hair. “At least you’ve had the chance to reconcile and to say goodbye.”
Janet’s cell phone woke her up. It took her a moment to realize she was on a couch in the ICU waiting room with her head on Nelson’s lap. She sat up, feeling groggy as she fumbled for her phone.
“Janet, it’s me.”
“The general said you had to go out of town suddenly. Is everything alright? Is Cassie okay?”
“A problem with your parents, or one of your brothers then?”
“No; they’re all fine.”
“I don’t really feel like talking about it right now,” she said, cutting Sam off. Her emotions were just a bit too raw to talk about everything.
“Okay.” Sam paused. “Are we still on for this weekend?”
Janet and Sam had been friends for four years, and lovers for two months. The coming weekend was supposed to be a romantic getaway.
“I’m afraid not. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Even if I am back in time, I won’t be up to it.”
“That’s okay. I understand.” Sam almost managed to hide her disappointment. “Well, I hope whatever is going on works out. If there’s anything I can do let me know.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you when I get back.” Janet hung up.
Janet almost startled at Nelson’s voice. “Samantha – a friend from work,” she explained.
“Ah.” He stood and stretched his back. “Listen, we’ve been here over 18 hours. Why don’t you go and get a shower, a decent meal, and some rest. You can use my room at the hotel – it’s only three blocks from here. I’ll stay with Mom.” He held out a room key to her.
“Yeah. I’ve been living out of suitcase for a while now, spending my time traveling on business and coming here to visit with Mom.”
Tired, hungry, and sore, she took the key. “Why isn’t your brother Cliff here?”
Nelson sighed. “He and Mom had a falling out after Dad died. I don’t know the specifics because it happened while I was in prison and neither one of them will tell me about it.” He swallowed. “I just wish he’d let go of his anger and see her before it’s too late.”
Janet stood. She reached up and cupped his cheek. “Thank you.”
“For coming to get me... for giving me a chance to say goodbye.”
He reached up and took her hand in his, giving it a squeeze, and simply nodded.
After a hot bath, a sandwich ordered from room service, and a restful nap, Janet felt much better. She walked back to the hospital.
“Welcome back, Mrs. Porter.”
Janet almost froze at the nurse’s words. She hadn’t been called Mrs. Porter in a long time – in another lifetime. She shook off the ghosts of the past and continued to Clara’s room. She stopped in the doorway and watched as her ex-husband lovingly brushed his dying mother’s hair, talking to her softly.
As bad as the last half of their marriage had been, Nelson hadn’t always been violent. He did have some good qualities – or else she never would have married him to begin with. He was probably the best looking man she’d ever known; hair almost black, eyes bright blue, and an athlete’s well maintained body. Nelson had always been a hard worker. Even though his family had money, he worked as hard as anyone in his family’s construction business – starting out as a gopher, learning carpentry as an apprentice, and working his way up to foreman and then into management.
Standing there, watching Nelson with his mother, reminded Janet of the reasons she’d fallen in love with him. He looked up and met her eyes, giving her a sad smile. Her heart hurt for him. Clara opened her eyes and weakly reached out a hand towards Janet. She walked to the bed and took the dying woman’s hand in her own.
Clara Porter died in the middle of the night, with her son holding one hand and Janet holding the other. Janet took her distraught ex-husband back to the hotel where he finally succumbed to exhaustion and grief as he cried himself to sleep in her arms.
The next few of days passed in an emotional haze of funeral arrangements, condolences, and legal issues.
During her last day in Dallas, Nelson had surprised Janet when he told her that he was back with the family construction business and that Porter Construction had successfully bid on a construction job in Colorado Springs. Porter Construction was opening an office there. Before he accepted the position of running the Colorado Springs office, he wanted to know if Janet would be okay with him being in the same city. He basically asked her permission to take the job.
She took her time answering, because she wanted to honestly weigh her feelings about it. Nelson had hurt her in the past – physically as well as emotionally. He’d turned from the good and loving man she’d married into an angry and violent bully. On the other hand, she had just spent the last few days with the man she’d originally fallen in love with. He was all the things that made him the good man he had been in the beginning. And she hadn’t seen a single sign or indication of the brutal tyrant she’d divorced. Finally, she reached a decision... she said yes.
Janet looked up at the knock on her open office door, and felt a knot of dread settle heavily in her stomach.
“Do you have a minute?” Sam asked from where she leaned against the doorframe.
She leaned back in her chair with a silent sigh, and nodded. “Close the door.”
Sam closed the door and sat down in the chair in front of Janet’s desk. “Is everything okay?”
She wasn’t sure where to begin, but knew they had to talk. She owed Sam that much. “What do you mean?” she asked, stalling to find the words she needed.
“You took leave for a family problem.”
Janet nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
“What happened, Janet?”
“Someone I cared for a great deal... died.”
“Oh, Janet, I’m so sorry. Who was it?”
“I don’t really feel like talking about it right now, Sam.”
“Okay. I understand. Why don’t I pick up dinner from Mario’s and bring it over tonight? We can watch a movie and just relax.”
“Actually, I’d rather be alone tonight.”
Sam was clearly surprised. “Oh.”
Janet closed her eyes and felt her stomach roll. She took a slow breath and then opened her eyes, looking into bright blue eyes that reminded her of someone else. “The truth is, Sam... I need to take a step back... from us,” she finished softly.
Sam heard the words but they didn’t compute. It had taken her so long to work up the courage to tell Janet how she felt about her. She’d been happier than she thought possible when Janet was also interested in her. What could be better than having a lover who was also your best friend?
“I need to be just ‘me’ instead of part of an ‘us’ right now.”
“You’re breaking up with me?” she asked in disbelief.
Janet lowered her eyes. “I guess I am.”
Several seconds of uncomfortable silence passed before the stunned blonde got up and left the room.
Nelson arrived in Colorado Springs only three days after Janet had broken up with Sam. He called ahead of time and she picked him up at the airport. Her offer to cook him dinner took them both by surprise, but he accepted.
He sat at the kitchen table watching his ex-wife as she moved around the kitchen preparing dinner. He’d spent the last few years in prison because of her... and he was going to make her pay. But first, he was going to have some fun.
Janet served a meal of breaded and baked chicken breasts, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and tossed salad.
“I haven’t had a home cooked meal in ages. Dinner was really good, Jan, you haven’t lost your touch,” he said with a warm smile.
She was surprised by how much the compliment pleased her. She gave him an apologetic look when she set a bowl of chocolate ice cream in front of him for dessert. “I’m sorry, but ice cream is all I have for dessert.”
“This is just fine.”
After dinner Nelson helped Janet wash the dishes before they settled on the couch sipping some wine. At the end of the evening, when his taxi arrived, she walked him to the front door and he kissed her chastely on the cheek.
Every day for a week and half Janet and Nelson either had dinner together, or spent time on the phone talking in the evening. According to Nelson, things were going very well for him at work. In fact, Porter Construction had been awarded a second contract.
To celebrate, Nelson asked Janet out to dinner. He told her to get dolled up in her finest and then took her out for a night on the town. He wore a tailored suit and even presented her with flowers when she came downstairs. He took her to one of the finest restaurants in town – ensuring their lack of reservation wasn’t an issue with a hefty tip to the maître d’.
Dinner was served by candlelight, accompanied by her favorite wine, and followed by some dancing. Nelson was a smooth dancer and Janet truly loved a good waltz or foxtrot. All evening he’d been attentive, complimentary, and charming. It was just like it had been when they were dating or first married. The evening reminded her of all the wonderful reasons she’d fallen in love with him. When things had been good between them they had been really good.
As they danced he kissed her and whispered an apology. He expressed his regrets about how he’d handled things in the past, but said that he’d changed. He’d gotten the help he needed while in prison – counseling with a professional and peer group work. He didn’t expect her forgiveness... but he did want to try again, to start over with a clean slate.
She didn’t know what to say. In a way they already had started over. But how far did she want to take things?
“You know, it wasn’t all bad between us, Jan,” he said gently as he kissed her temple.
“No, it wasn’t,” she admitted, remembering the good times with a genuine smile.
“In fact, it was pretty damn good for a while.”
She had been enjoying getting to know Nelson again as a friend. And yet, it felt so good dancing in the arms of the man she’d exchanged marriage vows with, the man she’d fallen in love with... the man she was falling for all over again.
“We can be that good again.” He pulled back enough to look down into her dark eyes. “All we need is a chance, Jan.”
She gazed into his bright blue eyes and felt... a little hope. They kissed tenderly.
That night was the first time Nelson spent the night at Janet’s.
The first few days after Janet broke up with her Sam kept busy with work, putting in extra time in her lab. Then she and her team went off-world for a week. During that time she did a lot of thinking. She’d been hurt when Janet broke off their romantic relationship; however, she realized that she did not want anything to come between them as friends. She missed the comfortable companionship that had been the hallmark of their friendship.
It was kind of late when they returned from off-world, so the general agreed to hold their debriefing the next morning. Having not spoken to Janet in almost two weeks, Sam decided it was past time to talk with her best friend. So Sam drove to Janet’s house. She parked her bike at the curb; however, before she could even take her helmet off, an unfamiliar car pulled into the driveway. She saw Janet get out of the passenger side of the car and wait for the driver to get out and come around to her side. There was just enough light from the moon for Sam to be able to tell the man was very handsome. He stepped up to Janet, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her.
Sam closed her eyes as her stomach clenched. It couldn’t be true. Janet said she needed time alone, not that she wanted to be with someone else. When she opened her eyes she felt truly sick. Janet was sitting on the hood of the car... there was no mistaking what was going on. His hand was up her skirt between her legs, and Sam saw Janet’s hand disappear into his pants through his fly. They were all but screwing right there in the driveway!
With tears in her eyes, Sam silently pushed her bike down the block, unnoticed by the couple. She didn’t start it up until she was several houses away.
Nelson picked Janet up, carried her to the front door as they continued to kiss, unlocked the door, and carried her in and up to the bedroom.
Janet smiled when she woke up in the morning. The night had been wonderful. She felt lips against her the back of her neck.
“Morning, beautiful.” His arms tightened around her.
“Morning.” She took two deep breaths and looked at the clock. “I have to get up.”
“Can’t you stay home today?”
“No. I can’t take any more time off so soon after taking leave to go to Dallas with you. Besides, you said you’re going to be busy today.”
He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Yeah, I will be busy.” He kissed her shoulder. “What time will you get off today?”
“It really depends on what happens.”
“Give me a call when you get ready to leave and I’ll pick us up some dinner,” he offered.
After SG1’s debriefing Sam headed up to the infirmary. She found Janet busy with a patient, but the doctor indicated with a tilt of her head for the blonde to wait in her office. Sam was pacing when Janet entered.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Janet said as she sat down at her desk.
“I went by your house,” Sam said when she finally stopped pacing and sat down in the chair facing the doctor’s desk.
“Last night.” She saw Janet flinch and look away guiltily. “I figured it had been a couple of weeks since... well, since we talked. And I wanted to spend some time with my best friend.” She took a slow breath. “I saw you come home from your... date. Who is he?”
“Nelson... my ex-husband.”
“His company just opened a new office here in Colorado Springs. He lives here now.”
“So he looks you up and you decide to have a roll in the hay for old times’ sake?” she bit out angrily.
“It’s not that simple, Sam. It’s complicated.”
“No, it’s not. You fucking lied to me! You told me you needed to take a step back, that you needed some time alone to figure out some stuff. Apparently, that wasn’t true. You didn’t want to be alone; you just didn’t want to be with me.”
Janet pinched the bridge of her nose as she took a slow, deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she said softly before looking up again. “I was going to tell you about him, but... We’re going to give things another try.”
Hurt and angry, Sam stood up so quickly she knocked over her chair. She spun on her heel and left, slamming the door behind her.
No one on the base could miss the tension that was between Major Carter and Dr. Fraiser. They were both well known and liked, and it was no secret that they were close friends. So when the air took on a real chill whenever the two women were in the same room, people noticed. Even Colonel Jack O’Neill.
The colonel didn’t pretend to be as smart as Carter or Doc, but he wasn’t a fool, and he knew his team. He knew the blonde major wouldn’t say anything until someone dragged it out of her. Daniel had already tried to talk to Sam a few times about what was going on, but she told him to mind his own business and clammed up. Teal’c, while quite aware of the tension between the two women, felt that unless his opinion was asked for it was none of his business.
So, Jack waited to talk to his 2IC until he knew she couldn’t walk away – he waited until they were off-world.
SG-1 was on P7R-575 for a routine recon. After they’d set camp, eaten dinner, and were ready to settle in for the night, O’Neill assigned their watch schedule.
“Carter, you take first watch. I’ll take second. Teal’c, take third, and, Daniel, you take have morning watch.”
With a nod, they all acknowledged his orders. Jack eyed Sam as she moved away from the fire to restore her night vision and to take up watch. He waited until the other two were bedded down before taking the bull by the horns.
Sam whipped around, weapon at the ready when she heard a pebble clatter as it was dislodged. She lowered her weapon and relaxed when she saw O’Neill casually leaning against a tree.
“You’re slipping, Carter. I could have taken you out several times over.”
She didn’t say anything to dispute him – she knew she wasn’t at the top of her game. “Do you need something, sir?”
“I need my second in command back.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Carter... Sam, you haven’t been yourself since whatever happened between you and the doc happened a few weeks ago.” He waited several seconds, giving her the chance to say something. He continued when she didn’t. “What happened?” he asked gently.
“It’s nothing, sir.”
“Well, we all know that’s not true.” He sat down on a nearby log. “I figure you finally told her how you feel about her.”
“Come on, Carter, it’s no secret that over three fourths of the people at the SGC are in love with the doc... but for damn near every one of them she’s way out of their league.” He paused for a beat. “You aren’t.”
Sam didn’t know what to say.
“What happened? She not react well when you told her?” He looked at her with an expression that clearly indicated there was nothing she could say or do that would convince him she didn’t know exactly what he was talking about. After several seconds she deflated with a heavy sigh. Jack waited patiently for her to finally speak.
“Actually, she did take it well. We were together for two months.”
Jack was surprised. While he knew Sam was in love with the doc, he’d had no idea they had actually gotten together. “So... did you two have had a spat?”
“Not exactly.” She sighed. “Her ex-husband has moved to Colorado Springs... They’ve decided to give things another try.”
“Oh. I see. I had no idea.” He paused. “Is she happy?”
“Is Doc happy?”
Sam shrugged. “We haven’t exactly been on speaking terms.” She closed her eyes and sighed. “I... She seems to be,” she finally admitted as she sat on the log next to him.
“I’m no expert on relationships, but if you love someone...”
“Then their happiness should be what matters,” she finished quietly.
“Something like that.” He patted Sam’s back. “Think maybe it’s time to bury the hatchet with Doc?”
She sighed again. “I suppose.”
“Good. Because I already invited her to my BBQ this weekend,” he said as stood and walked away.
She whipped her head around. “You what?!” She watched his retreating back, knowing he was smirking all the way back to his tent.
Jack opened the door when the bell sounded. “Doc! Come on in,” he said with a bright smile.
“Colonel, this is Nelson Porter. Nelson this is Colonel O’Neill.”
Jack stuck his hand out. “Call me Jack. Drinks are in the kitchen and everyone’s in the backyard.”
Nelson shook his hand. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“Any friend of Doc’s is okay in my book.” He ushered his guests out to the deck and backyard.
Sam watched Janet with her ex-husband as they moved among the guests. They appeared to be inseparable – they were either holding hands, or Nelson had his arm around Janet constantly. The only time they weren’t glued at the hip was when Janet went to the bathroom. That’s when Sam made her move. She waited outside the bathroom for Janet to come out.
The doctor pulled up short when she opened the bathroom door since she wasn’t expecting to find Sam standing there.
“Can we talk?” the blonde asked.
“Is there any point?” Janet was a little fed up with weeks of Sam’s disdainful looks, snide mutterings, and cold shoulder.
Sam sighed. “I know I’ve been... bitchy. I’m sorry.”
Janet took a slow breath. “I never meant to hurt you; I hope you know that, Sam.” She sighed. “Things between me and Nelson have always been... complicated.”
Sam just nodded.
“Jan?” Nelson’s voice called from the living room.
Sam frowned. “I thought you hated being called Jan.”
Janet did hate it... but it was better than ‘honeybuns.’ She didn’t say anything though; she simply walked down the hallway to the living room.
Sam hesitated before following. When she arrived in the living room, she observed Janet and Nelson in a whispered, but obviously heated, discussion. She saw something pass behind the man’s eyes... something vaguely familiar. Before she could figure out what it was, Janet and Nelson left the party. She watched through the window as they got in their car and drove away.