Jack stood at the doorway to Janet’s room. He’d come to check in on Sam. He found her asleep in a chair pulled up next to Doc’s bed. She was holding the doc’s hand and her head was resting on the edge of the bed. Her face was red and tear-streaked.
O’Neill wasn’t as dense as he often led people to think he was. He knew when he first met the young, blonde captain that she was something special. He’d even been flattered when he realized that she looked up to him, but he always knew nothing would ever develop between them. For one, it was against the regulations, and because, quite frankly, he knew he wasn’t in her league and she deserved more than what he could have ever given her. He could have never given her, or any woman, his whole heart. Even though he and Sara were divorced, she would always hold the larger portion of his heart.
Considering the number of men that had entered and left the young woman’s orbit, he had been taken by surprise when he found out about her and the doc. However, when he stopped to think about, they perfectly complimented each other. Even though he was career military, he didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone’s sexual orientation. What mattered to him was if he could trust a person to have his back. Carter and Fraiser both clearly fell into that all-important group.
He quietly moved into the room and laid a gentle hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “Carter?”
Her head popped up. “I’m here.”
She looked up at him through sleepy eyes.
“Come on. You need to get something to eat.” He cut her off as she opened her mouth to protest. “You’re not going to do her any good if you keel over. Come with me – you’ll be back in a just a few minutes.”
As her stomach growled and ached a little with emptiness, she nodded. Sam stood and gazed down her lover. Giving her hand a squeeze she bent down and placed a kiss on Janet’s cheek. “I’ll be right back, love.”
Half asleep, she trusted O’Neill to guide her to the cafeteria where she could fill the physical needs of her body.
Two days passed and Janet showed no signs of improvement.
The doctor looked across the bed at her patient’s lover. “I’m really sorry, Sam, but as you know, Janet was very specific about her wishes. There’s been absolutely no improvement. With a GSC of three for so long...”
“I know,” she whispered as tears trailed down her face. “Just... just give me a minute alone with her.”
“Of course. Take whatever time you need to say goodbye,” she replied softly before leaving the room.
Sam squeezed Janet’s hand in her own. “Oh God, Janet... You completely changed my life the day we met. How am I supposed to say goodbye to you?” She stopped and sniffed, tried to swallow around the painful stricture in her throat. “Janet, please, don’t do this. Don’t give up, please!” Sam pleaded with her lover. “You have to fight to live!” She couldn’t continue. She collapsed into the chair next to the bed, sobbing.
O’Neill and Dr. Barnett came into the room.
Jack knelt in front of his friend and pulled her into his arms. The blonde threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder, her sobs continuing. He didn’t know what else to do, so he simply held her, bearing silent witness to her grief.
After a bit, her sobs died down. Sam felt so tired and drained and sad. Finally, she pulled back from O’Neill’s embrace, a little embarrassed at losing control in front of him. She looked up at the doctor and nodded, silently signaling the redhead to turn off the ventilator.
Dr. Joanne Garnett reached over, disabled the alarm, disconnected the hose, and then turned off the machine. As she held the clipboard with Janet’s chart, she looked at the clock, noted the time, and started to write down the time of death.
And then Janet inhaled.
Jack was actually the first one to react. “Doctor?!”
Garnett put the ends of her stethoscope in her ears, placed the bell against Janet’s chest, and listened.
Sam’s hand, clamped on O’Neill’s arm, reflexively squeezed painfully tight. It seemed like Garnett was taking forever. Finally, the redhead pulled back, removing the stethoscope from her ears.
“Her heart rate appears to be steady and her breathing, while shallow, is regular.” She quickly continued when she saw Sam and Jack’s sad expressions changing to hope. “I caution you, though, don’t get your hopes up too far. There’s no way to know how long she’ll continue like this. She could stop breathing any minute... or she could stay in this state for years.”
“Or she could get better, right?” Jack pressed.
She softly sighed. “It’s... possible.”
In the chair next to Janet’s bed, Sam suddenly sat upright and literally smacked her forehead. “Of course! Why the hell didn’t I think of it sooner?” She stood up and went looking for O’Neill. She found him at the vending machines getting another cup of coffee. She pulled him aside since she didn’t want anyone to overhear them.
“Sir, what if someone brings me the Goa’uld healing device?”
“I’d thought about that.” He took a slow breath. “I called the general and asked him about it, asked if we could use it if it would help Doc. He said he’d look into it.”
“So when is he going to call back?” she asked excitedly.
Jack dropped his eyes, not liking having to deliver bad news. “Hammond contacted Jacob...”
“Selmak said using the device wouldn’t help Doc in her condition – it could even make things worse.”
“How the hell would Selmak know what Janet’s condition is?” she demanded. “She could be wrong.”
“Dr. Warner’s been in touch with the hospital here – he’s got everything on Doc and her condition.”
The blonde deflated. “When did you think to ask the general about it?”
“About two hours after we got here.” He shrugged when he saw the expression on Sam’s face. “You’ve been understandably upset, Carter. I know what she means to you,” he added gently.
Another three days had passed with no change.
Sam woke up and was surprised to see Dr. David Warner going over Janet’s chart with Dr. Garnett. “Warner?”
“What are you doing here?”
“We’re discussing moving Dr. Fraiser.”
“Moving her? Moving her where?”
“Carter.” Standing in the doorway, Jack jerked his head to indicate she should come with him. Out in the hallway he explained. “We’ve arranged for an air ambulance to transfer Doc to the Academy hospital.”
“But couldn’t moving her make her worse?!”
“That’s what the doctors are discussing. If they give the go ahead we’ll take Doc back home. If they don’t think she should be moved we won’t.”
They turned and watched as a specialized gurney was brought in and Janet was very carefully transferred onto it. Only after she was hooked up to the monitors and equipment attached to the gurney did they start to wheel her out of the room.
Sam wasn’t happy that she couldn’t fly with Janet in the air ambulance, but the small jet filled with specialized medical equipment just didn’t allow room for extra passengers. Because it was a private charter, Janet would actually arrive back in Colorado Springs before she and O’Neill would.
Back in Colorado Springs, Sam was required to return to work and perform her duties, including going on an off-world mission. Considering how understanding, supportive, and helpful O’Neill and the general were being, she couldn’t really complain about it.
Janet woke up while Sam was off-world.
It was not sudden. She made the climb out of the abyss of her coma over the course of four days. When examined by the neurologist she was able to give her name, the year, and even her current location – the sights and sounds of the Academy hospital were indelibly imprinted in her mind.
Beyond the required responses to evaluate her cognitive function however, she remained intractably silent. Janet did not respond to the banter of the nurses as they came and went from her room. Nor did she acknowledge the presence of any visitors... not even Sam who’d excitedly rushed to see her after being told she was awake. The only indication Janet gave that she was aware of Sam’s – or anyone else’s – presence, was to deliberately close her eyes and turn her head way.
When Sam came to the hospital the third day following Janet’s return to consciousness, she was surprised to find Dr. MacKenzie in her lover’s room. She’d come to complete stop when she opened the door and saw him there.
MacKenzie looked over at the opening door as she started to enter. “Please wait outside, Major.”
She stepped back out into the hallway and waited for him to come out, because she didn’t want to make a scene in front of Janet. It was 15 minutes before MacKenzie came out. By then Sam had worked herself up into a full head of righteous steam.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Hasn’t Janet’s been through enough without having to deal with you trying to mess with her head?!”
“Do you serious think that Janet doesn’t need any help dealing with her feelings right now?” he asked evenly.
Mouth already open to continue her rant, Sam suddenly closed it, because she couldn’t deny that Janet needed help. “Yes, I think she needs up. I’m just don’t think she needs your help.”
“And whose help do you think she will benefit from? She’s now refusing all visitors, which is her right.”
“I can help her.”
He shook his head sadly. “She won’t see you either, Major.” He turned and walked away down the hallway.
Sam shook her head, then turned and entered Janet’s room. “Hi, Janet. How are you feeling today?”
She didn’t actually expect an answer given the brunette’s recent behavior. What she didn’t know was that as soon as she had entered Janet had hit the nurse call button. Sam just continued to talk about the SGC and her day until a nurse entered.
When the nurse entered, the sullen doctor gave the young lieutenant a hard look and then cut her eyes briefly at Sam. The lieutenant didn’t agree with Janet’s desire to have no visitors, but it was the patient’s right.
“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave.”
“Why?” Sam clearly didn’t understand.
“The patient has explicitly expressed that she doesn’t want any visitors, so you’re going to have to leave.”
“What?” She looked at Janet. “Come on, Janet, tell her you didn’t mean me.”
The brunette still refused to acknowledge Sam’s presence.
“Janet,” Sam pressed.
She silently rolled onto her side, turning her back to the blonde.
Janet was not very happy. Hell, she was furious. The general had come by to see her to inform her that she would not be leaving the hospital unless and until Dr. MacKenzie said so. Even if it meant postponing her release date from the Air Force when the approval for her resignation came through.
In other words, she was stuck with no way out. They had even moved her to the secure ward. She let out sigh that sounded more like huff of disdain. Well, at least she had a private room and didn’t have to worry about any unwanted visitors anymore. Why couldn’t people just leave her the hell alone?
She turned when the door to her room opened and admitted Dr. MacKenzie. She simply glared at him. It must be time for another of their twice a day sessions. After a week she thought he’d catch on that while she might have to listen to him, she didn’t have to talk to him.
“The nurse told me you refused to take the medication I prescribed for you.”
“I do not need to be on an antidepressant.”
“In my opinion you do.”
“Unless I’m a danger to myself or others you can’t medicate me against my will.”
He sighed. She was right. Janet hadn’t shown any suicidal tendencies and the only danger she posed to others was being razed her sharp tongue. She either ignored people or lashed out at them verbally. Neither of which were grounds for medicating her against her will. However, whether she admitted it or not, she was depressed. He had no reason to believe the need for medication would not be temporary, just long enough to help her deal with the death of her daughter.
“Considering what you’ve been through it’s no surprise you’re depressed. And there’s certainly no shame.”
“I’m not depressed dammit! I’m fucking angry!!” she bellowed.
MacKenzie was a little surprised. It was the first crack he’d seen in her stubborn resistance. Usually she ignored him, or was just plain uncooperative. “Why are you so angry?”
Janet looked at the man as if he was a total moron. “Because my daughter didn’t have to die,” she growled.
He tried to get her to talk about what had happened to Cassandra, but Janet clammed up again, retreating behind a wall of defiant silence. However, he did feel there had been a little progress – it was the first time she’d even mentioned her daughter.
Janet Fraiser was a stubborn, willful, headstrong patient. But Dr. Stephen MacKenzie was determined to help her despite herself. And, she was making a little progress. However, his experience and expertise told him that when she finally did break down – which was inevitable – it was going to be a dramatic... and traumatic.
Janet had been holding on tighter and tighter, afraid to give in and give full vent to her feelings. She doubted her ability to escape the abyss if she touched the wellspring of the pain and sorrow that fought to be let out. She feared it would irreparably break her.
MacKenzie’s job was to make sure it didn’t. He knew Janet was going to need her support system before everything was said and done. So he made arrangements to have the biggest part of that system – Janet’s best friend, Major Carter – available during their sessions, just in case she was needed.
Sam had been surprised when MacKenzie had called her at work. It took everything she had to keep a civil tongue in her head – he symbolized whatever was keeping her apart from Janet. She just knew that he was somehow responsible for Janet suddenly refusing to allow any visitors... or at least she wanted to believe it was him. That way she could safely be mad at him. But if it had all been Janet’s idea... then it meant Janet didn’t want her around. And that possibility hurt too much, especially after coming so close to losing Janet forever.
“I feel we’re reaching a critical point in her therapy. When we get there, Janet is going to need all of the support she can get from those closest to her. While we’ve talked about her parents and brothers, I don’t believe they have filled a critical support role for her for the last few years. The person who has filled that role is you, Major. You’re her best friend and you helped her to raise Cassandra,” he explained. “So I would like you to be available during our next several sessions.”
She was definitely surprised. “By available you mean...”
“I mean I want you here at the hospital, so that you can join us when she needs you.”
“Okay. I’ll have to check my schedule to see when I’m available.”
“I’ve already spoken to General Hammond. He’s approved a modified duty schedule for you so that you can be here.”
“Alright. I’ll be there.”
Sam anxiously paced outside her lover’s room. There was only the door to the room keeping her from Janet, and she desperately wanted to see her, to talk to her, to hold her. But for three or four hours each day, she’d been stuck, seemingly permanently exiled to the hallway, unable to bridge the distance.
Each time she’d wait for when she would be needed and would be allowed to go to the woman she loved. And each time MacKenzie would come out and shake his head. He would then sit down and take some time to talk to her – to ask how she was doing.
Sam was astounded to realize that she actually saw genuine concern in his eyes. Even more surprising was that she found herself opening up and talking to him. MacKenzie wasn’t such an asshole after all. Even so, she did not let on to the man that she and Janet were lovers. Enough people already knew that, so there was no need to take the risk.
Suddenly the blonde stopped pacing. She could hear Janet yelling on the other side of that damn door. She couldn’t really make out what she was saying, but the tone in her raised voice spoke of pain.
“We’ve covered this ground over and over, Janet. I understand that you’re angry. And you have a right feel that way. But who are you mad at, and why?”
“Who am I mad at? Who am I mad at?! I’m mad at the whole goddamn world because my daughter is dead!!”
“No you’re not. The whole world didn’t have anything to do with what happened,” he pressed. “So who are you mad at?”
“I’m angry at the goddamn Goa’uld for being evil! I’m angry at Nirrti for conducting fucking experiments on children! My child! I’m angry at Daniel for suggesting we trust Nirrti to help Cassie! I’m fucking angry at General Hammond taking too goddamn long to decide if my daughter was worth saving! I’M ANGRY AT HIM FOR HAVING TO BE CONVINCED CASSIE WAS WORTH SAVING IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!” She paused only long enough to take a breath. “I’m angry at O’Neill and Sam for letting that fucking bitch get away scot-free before making sure she really did cured Cassie! And I’m angry at everyone for pitying me!!”
While he didn’t doubt all of that was the truth, he knew that those things weren’t the root of what was eating away at the woman. And she’d never get better unless he unearthed it – unless she unearthed it.
“Janet,” he addressed her calmly as she panted and paced in the midst of her anger. He waited until she grudgingly looked at him. “Who are you really angry at, Janet?”
Out in the hallway, Sam heard an inarticulate wail. A sound so filled with utter devastation it sent a bolt of fear down her spine and made her heart seize. Suddenly the door to Janet’s room opened and MacKenzie signaled her to come in.
She found Janet crumpled on the floor beneath the windows, curled into a fetal position, her body wracked with gut-wrenching, soul-ripping sobbing. Without hesitation, Sam dropped to the floor and took the inconsolable woman in her arms, not knowing what else to do. She looked at MacKenzie in confused shock.
Janet continued to cry and wail, for several minutes, her lover’s presence making no impression on her. But eventually words began to be interspersed with her keening sobs.
“Oh God... I WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH!... I couldn’t save her because I wasn’t good enough...”
When she finally understood what Janet was saying Sam started crying. No wonder Janet had acted the way she had been. Janet literally bawled until her body could no longer continue and shut down from sheer exhaustion.
Sam looked up at the psychiatrist in question.
“That was the hardest step. Now there’s nothing holding her back. With some time and love and support, she’ll be alright.” He stood. “Stay as long as she wants you to. I’ll be back to check on you both in a while.” He left them alone – although he would keep an eye on them through the two-way observation window.
Janet wasn’t better overnight following her breakthrough; she still needed to process all the grief she’d been stuffing down inside for weeks which had turned into rage. She cried and yelled and cursed the world and herself... but she also healed. Dr. MacKenzie helped guide her through the maze of overwhelming emotions, the volatile rage and overwhelming sorrow, listening to her as she came to terms with something no parent should have to – the loss of her child.
And, perhaps more importantly, she let her lover, her daughter’s other parent, go through it all with her. As they talked about things, the petite doctor was ashamed of so many things she’d said and done. She owed so many apologies: Daniel, O’Neill... the general. But she started with Sam.
Janet was finally allowed to go home. There she and Sam took down the boxes from the attic and went through them. They looked at the pictures and talked about the events around them, sharing some good memories, trying to try to ease the pain. Some of the pictures were placed back where they belonged. The vase that Cassie had made for her mother that couldn’t hold water because of a hole in it retook its place as a pencil holder by the kitchen telephone. And the homemade certificate declaring Janet the World’s Greatest Mom and signed by both Cassie and Sam once again hung over her nightstand. Tears and words and hugs were shared as they found some measure of solace in their memories and each other.
Sam and Janet invited the men of SG-1 over for dinner. When the opportunity arose, Janet pulled Daniel aside.
“Can I talk to you?” she asked.
“Sure,” the archeologist replied.
She led him into the reading room (her old office). “Daniel... I’m sorry for what I said to you and particularly for the way I said it.”
“It’s okay, Janet. You weren’t exactly off base.” He looked down. “I’m sorry for crossing that line of friendship at times.”
“I want you to know I do value our friendship.”
“I do too.”
“Then we’re okay?”
“Yes, we are,” he assured her.
They hugged before going out and joining the others. Janet exchanged a look with her lover, letting her know everything was okay, and received a loving smile in return.
Then it was time to pull the colonel aside. Jack didn’t do touchy-feely very well, but this time he seemed to know that Janet needed to say whatever it was she needed to say.
“Colonel...” She had to close her eyes and deep, steadying breath to continue. “I’m really sorry for the way I acted...” she swallowed, “and for the things that I said to you. I know I resigned my commission, but Sam...”
“Is my teammate and XO. The only thing that matters is that I know I can count on her to have my back.” He captured her eyes and held them. “And I’ll always have hers... and yours.”
Janet’s eyes welled as she nodded, grateful that she hadn’t done anything to harm Sam’s career. “Sam told me what you said when you and the guys picked her up to go to the airport.” A lone tear spilled down her cheek. “Thank you.”
Jack, not always one to be called Mr. Sensitive, did exactly the right thing. He wrapped her arms around the petite doctor and simply held her, giving her all the time she needed to regain her emotional balance.
Sam looked up when Jack and Janet emerged arm in arm and smiled. Her family was going to be okay.
General Hammond answered the door when his doorbell chimed. He was somewhat surprised by his visitor. “Dr. Fraiser.”
“May I come in, sir?”
“Of course.” He stepped aside and held the door for her. “Come in.”
She entered and then turned to face the man as he closed the door. “I wanted to talk to you about...” She wasn’t exactly sure how to say it.
He gave her an understanding smile. “I was just about to have tea. Would you care to join me for a cup?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He poured them both a cup of hot tea and led her into his den where they both sat on the couch. “Now, what I can do for you, Doctor?”
She took a deep breath. “I want to apologize for my recent behavior and especially for... the way I acted in your office. I was way out of line. I’m sorry.”
He regarded her in silence for a few moments before speaking. “And I’m sorry.”
“For what?” she asked, confused.
“For ever giving you the impression that I didn’t think Cassandra was worth saving. I never thought otherwise. I only felt I had to weigh the consequences of our choices.”
Janet had to reach up and brush away the tears that had welled in her eyes. She nodded. “I didn’t really doubt you, I just...”
“It’s okay, Doctor, I do understand.”
“You’ve been more than understanding given my behavior. I know you very well could have filed some serious charges against me... you still could – I was AWOL.”
“Doctor... Janet, you are without question the best doctor I’ve ever known and you have always been outstanding officer. You’ve been an essential part of the SGC, saving the lives of everyone on the base, on Earth, and even lives on other worlds. You’ve never faltered in your leadership and duties no matter what crisis we’ve faced. If that hasn’t earned you a little... latitude given the circumstances, then we should all stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.
“We ask so much of our people, more than the public will ever know or be able to understand. Everyone at the SGC, you included, has gone above the call of duty time and time again. But we can’t forget that despite the miracles we keep pulling off, that we’re all, in the end, human beings. If we forget that, if we forget that our decisions affect people, then we should pack it in because we’ve lost the war.
“I told you that day in my office that I don’t care if you’re gay. You are one the best officers I’ve ever had the privilege of serving with. I’ve already shredded that statement you gave me. As far as I’m concerned it never existed.” He paused a moment. “When the approval for your resignation comes through I’ll do whatever you want me to with it. I’ll sign it... or, I can shred it. It’s up to you, so think about it, and let me know.”
She was stunned. The general had every right to court martial her. Yet he was willing to go against policy to keep her in his command. She swallowed and nodded. “I will,” she replied softly.
Sam took some leave so that she and Janet could go away for a few days. The trip wasn’t about being romantic; it was about reconnecting and healing.
Walking along the Caribbean beach in silence, hand in hand, they took in the extraordinary sunset. They arrived back at the small cabana they were staying in and sat on the porch swing together. Sam wrapped her arm around the brunette’s shoulders and Janet laid her head on Sam’s shoulder. They continued to sit there after the sun dipped completely below the horizon and the sky turned to indigo.
“I’m sorry,” Janet said softly, her guilt sitting heavily on her soul.
“For everything. I never meant to hurt you. I just...” she trailed off as tears welled in her eyes.
“I know. What you said, about Cassie being your daughter...”
“Oh God, Sam, I didn’t mean it.” Tears slowly rolled down her cheeks.
“It hurt. But I know it wasn’t really you talking.” She took a slow, deep breath. “I had the guys to lean on, to help me deal with things. But you... you took everything onto yourself, tried to handle things by yourself and without any help. I only wanted to be there for you, to help you... to help us,” she finished softly.
“I am so sorry.”
“There’s no need for you to keep apologizing. If you need my forgiveness you have it.”
Some of the pain and fear that had gripped Janet’s heart eased. “I love you.”
“And I love you.” Sam cocked her head as she reached up and nudged Janet head off of her shoulder so that she could look into her eyes. “I will always be here for you and we’ll get through whatever we have to – together,” she said as she tenderly brushed her lover’s tears away.
“So we’re okay?”
“Yes, we’re okay... and together we’ll get even better.” They sealed their vow with a soft, loving kiss.