General Hammond was waiting as soon as Janet came through stargate. He welcomed her with a big smile. “Welcome home, Doctor. You’ve been sorely missed.”
“Thank you. I need to speak with you, sir, in private.”
He nodded. “Come with me.” Once in his office Hammond sat behind his desk and regarded his CMO. “Now, what do you need to talk about, Dr. Fraiser?”
“I need some time off, sir, a month, maybe longer.”
His surprised showed on his face. “I fully expected you to need some time off, a couple of weeks to reacclimate, but a month?”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“I just spent the last three and half months thinking I’d never see home again – never see my daughter, my parents, my brothers. I know how difficult it’s been for me and I can only imagine how devastating it’s been for Cassandra. It’s going to take more than a couple of weeks to help my daughter deal with this. And if you can’t see your way to give me that time, then I respectfully resign my commission, sir.”
Hammond was genuinely surprised by the doctor. It was obvious she was absolutely serious and wouldn’t think twice about resigning. “There’s no need for you to resign, Doctor. You have the time, beginning as soon as you’re cleared through medical. However, I expect you to keep me advised of your whereabouts.”
“Thank you, sir. I intend to take Cassie to see my parents. I’ll inform you if we go anywhere else.”
“Very well.” His demeanor softened as he stood. “I’m very glad you’re back safe and sound, Doctor. We’ve all missed you.”
“Thank you, sir,” she replied a little less stiffly. “If I may, I have a small favor to ask.”
“What is it?”
“Could you not tell anyone where I’m going?” At his questioning look she explained. “I’m not ready to deal with everyone... I just need some time.”
Hammond nodded. “Very well. I’ll do my best to keep Colonel O’Neill and the rest of SG-1 from tracking you down and bothering you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome.” He paused for a moment. “And, Doctor, we would not have abandoned you. We contacted our allies about sending a ship to rescue you.”
She gave him a nod and left.
Janet passed her physical and sped home, where Hammond’s daughter met her – with Cassie in tow. Mother and daughter hugged and cried. Within half an hour, they had packed and were on the road, driving to her parents’ place. She deliberately left her cell phone turned off.
It was time for SG-1 to go home. But they had promised to return for a celebration of the Edorans’ homecoming. And there was still a treaty to negotiate.
Jack looked around. “Where’s Doc?”
“She, uh, she already returned to the SGC, Jack,” Daniel answered.
“Oh.” He was clearly surprised, as was Sam.
When SG-1 returned, they reported for their post-mission physicals. They then started looking for Janet. It was when they met with the general that they found out she’d left.
“A month?!” Jack exclaimed. “We just get her back and she takes off?”
“It may be longer.”
“Where did she go?” Sam asked. She couldn’t believe Janet left without saying a word to her about it.
“She asked me not tell anyone.” Hammond held up a finger and continued, cutting off whatever Jack was going to say. “And I’m ordering you, all of you, to respect her wishes. Do not attempt to track her down or contact her in any way. She’ll be back and speak to you when she’s ready. Am I clear?”
It took Janet and Cassie a couple of days to get to her parents’ place. Kate and Jameson were pleased by the unexpected visit, but they also sensed their daughter’s underlying discomfort over something.
About two weeks after their arrival, Kate pulled Janet aside to go for a walk so they could talk. “What’s going on, Janet?”
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“I mean, something has happened – tell me what it is.”
Janet sighed. “I can’t.”
“Then leave out the classified part and tell me the rest,” Kate said, not letting it go.
Needing to talk about it, Janet looked around. Spying a nice large shade tree, she sat down and leaned against the trunk. Kate sat next to her.
“There’s a lot I can’t tell you.” She gathered her thoughts. “Recently I was sent on an assignment, a routine medical aid assignment. It was supposed to be for a just a few days, but...”
“But what, Janet?”
She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “But due to a natural disaster, we were cut off with no contact, no way back, and no way for anyone to reach us.”
“How is that possible? I mean, we have planes and can make air-drops.”
“I can’t tell you why that wasn’t possible because it’s classified, but we were completely cut off.” Janet looked down at her hands which were nervously fidgeting in her lap. She clenched them into fists in an effort to still them. “But I can tell you we were stuck for almost three and half months!” Tears threatened to spill. “Just me and some of the villagers... for almost three and half months I thought I’d never see Cassie again... or you and Dad, or Scott and Jeff...”
Kate took her daughter in her arms and held her close. Janet clung to her mother as the damn broke and she cried, giving full vent to her emotions. Her mother rocked her and whispered soft assurances until she finally settled down.
“I’m so glad you’re home safe and sound, sweetheart.”
“I honestly didn’t think I would ever come home, Mom.”
“That must have been very scary.”
“What were the villagers like?”
“You said it was just you and some of the villagers.”
“For the most part they were really nice. There was one man who seemed to think that everything that went wrong was my fault.”
Janet nodded. “I know. He seemed to forgive me eventually, after about three months.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Janet’s head on her mother’s shoulder. Kate eventually broke the silence.
“There’s something you’re not talking about. What is it, Janet?”
Janet lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder and quietly sighed. She shouldn’t have been surprised her mother was so perceptive. It was one of the things she admired about her.
“I...” She wasn’t sure how to begin. “There was someone...” Janet pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs, unconsciously pulling herself into a ball and making herself smaller. “I met someone... one of the villagers...”
“What was her name?”
Janet whipped her head round and gaped at her mother. How the hell did she know?!
Kate correctly interpreted her daughter’s expression. She put her hand on Janet’s back and gently rubbed circles between her shoulder blades. “I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. And I’ve known you your entire life, dear.”
“I’ve always known. It was one of the main reasons I never really approved of your marriage to Nelson. I never said anything about your preference because you didn’t seem open to talking about it, so I figured it wasn’t any of my business.” Her throat tightened as she thought back to when Janet finally filed for divorce. “I wish now I’d said something then – if I had, maybe I could have prevented him from hurting you.”
Janet leaned over and kissed her mother’s cheek. “It wasn’t your fault, Mom. I knew I shouldn’t have married him; it was destined to fail.”
Kate looked at her daughter and remembered her pain and anger when she’d found out what that bastard had done to her little girl. “I still wish I’d said something. If I’d known he’d hurt you like that...”
“I know, Mom. He was the apple of Daddy’s eye, and none of us knew what he was capable of. But it’s over and done with, and you can rest assured I’d never let anyone like that be part of my life again.”
Kate gave Janet a watery smile and they hugged. She wiped her eyes as they parted. “So, tell me about this woman you met,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Her name was Laira. She was the only bright spot about the situation. I felt a connection to her almost from the moment we met. We... got involved a few days before the rescue,” she finished softly.
“Will you see her again?”
“Surely you can go visit her.”
Janet carefully considered her words for several moments before she replied. “I don’t know that I would, even if it were easy to do.”
“As much as I was attracted to her, and as glad as I am we met, I couldn’t have ever been really happy there with her. I don’t think I could have given her everything she was willing to give to me.” Her mother remained quiet as Janet tried to find the words to explain. “Even if we’d met under different circumstances... I think we’d have had a nice time together, but... I don’t think it would have worked in the long term.”
“Because of the military’s rules?”
“No. If it ever really came down to it, to a choice between being with someone who really makes me happy and staying in the Air Force...” She shrugged. “I’m a doctor, I can practice medicine anywhere.” She took another deep breath and slowly let it out. “I will tell you though, that it was nice to not have to hide or worry about saying the wrong thing. None of the villagers thought it the least bit odd or unusual for us to be together. The only comments I heard were nothing more than light teasing, made out of friendship and acceptance.”
“This village sounds like a nice place.”
“It was... but it wasn’t home.” Janet closed her eyes. “I think I learned something while I was there.”
“That life’s too short. That we should be thankful for what we have and for the people in our lives. That we shouldn’t deny ourselves a chance at happiness.”
Kate slipped her arm around Janet’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze. “I’m glad you feel that way, I’m just sorry you had to go through what you did to learn that lesson.” Janet laid her head on her mother’s shoulder again and Kate kissed the top of it. “You do know that your father and I want nothing more than for you to be happy, right?”
“Thanks, Mom, for everything.”
The two Fraiser women sat under the tree for a while, simply enjoying each other’s companionship.
A couple of days later, Kate and Jameson went with Janet and Cassie to Florida and spent a few days at Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. Janet was able to let go and play like a kid with her daughter.
By the time Janet and Cassie got back to Colorado Springs the month Hammond had given the doctor off was almost up. She had three days to get settled back in at home and prepare for her return to the SGC. The previous weeks had done wonders for Cassie and in helping them reconnect. She was doing so well that she was finally willing to spend some time away from her mother. On their first full day back home, Friday, Cassie asked to go visit her friend, Lisa. Janet smiled and gave her permission.
After Cassie left to go see her friend, Janet rolled up her sleeves and began to clean the house. It was a few minutes after noon when there was a knock on her front door. She wiped some sweat from her forehead and opened the door.
The archeologist smiled. “Hi, Janet.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Uh, can I come in?” he asked as he glanced over his shoulder a little nervously.
She stepped back from the doorway and let him enter. “Can I get you something to drink? I haven’t done any grocery shopping, so all I can offer you is water or a diet Coke.”
“No, no thanks.”
“So, what’s on your mind, Daniel?” she asked as she sat in the recliner and Daniel took a seat on the couch.
“Well, we heard you were back, and uh... well, the general ordered us not to contact you, so Jack and Sam couldn’t come by. And Teal’c, well, he...” He took a breath. “Anyway, we want you to know that you’ve been missed and we’re glad you’re back.”
“Janet... I know you’ve had a lot to deal with, but uh... I think there’s something you should know.”
“You don’t know this, but Sam worked night and day to make your rescue possible. She singlehandedly conceived of, designed, and built a particle beam generator – something no one on Earth has ever done before. She worked for over three months straight with no more than two or three hours sleep a night, if that. Any time we tried to get her to take a break, she’d shake her head and say she couldn’t take a break as long you were trapped off-world. She didn’t have to do that, Janet, because the Tollan were willing to send a ship for you, although it wouldn’t have gotten to Edora until next year. To Sam that was completely unacceptable.” He finally stopped to catch his breath. “Anyway, I just thought you should know.”
“You’re right, I didn’t know all that. Thank you for telling me.”
Daniel leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Janet...”
“What is it, Daniel?” she prompted when he didn’t continue.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I am. Certainly a lot better than I was a few weeks ago.”
“Do you think you’ll go back?”
“What? To Edora?”
He nodded. “To see Laira,” he said gently. “I, uh... I noticed how close you seemed to be.”
She took a deep breath and let it out. “No,” she finally said. She looked away. “We did become close, but...”
“But ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’?”
Janet looked at Daniel, and didn’t see any judgment from him. “I care about Laira, a great deal, but I’m not in love with her. And, if I ever do fall in love ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ isn’t going to dictate what I do in my private life.”
Daniel nodded in understanding and then stood. “Well, I’ll leave you alone now. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.”
Janet stood and walked the archeologist to the door where they hugged. “Thanks, Daniel. And you can let the others know I’ll be back to work on Monday and I’ll see everyone then.”
“Alright, and welcome home, again.” Daniel left.
When Janet finished cleaning, she took a shower, got herself a large glass of ice water, and turned the stereo on low. She settled down on the couch and started looking through some photo albums. She had become a bit of shutterbug since she’d adopted Cassie. There were pictures Cassie by herself, Cassie with SG-1, and Cassie and Sam. There were pictures of her and Cassie. Those were, of course, taken by Sam because Janet had never really mastered the timer on the camera to take them herself.
And then, there were pictures of the three of them – Sam had mastered the use of the camera’s timer. Janet turned the page and froze. She didn’t remember ever seeing the picture staring up at her. She peeled back the static film holding it in place, turned it over and found her daughter’s handwriting:
My moms – July 4th, 1999
Cassie must have taken the picture during the last Fourth of July picnic, almost a year ago. Janet replaced the photo and stared at it. She found herself running her fingertips over the images of the picture. She seemed to be looking at someone off camera; however, Sam’s bright blue eyes were clearly locked on her. She felt her heart clench at the look in the beautiful eyes – such naked want – directed right at her.
“Oh, God... Sam...”
She went back to the beginning of the album and reexamined each photo that had both her and Sam in it. In almost every single one Sam’s eyes were on her and filled with obvious love and desire. Why hadn’t she seen it before?
Because you weren’t ready to see it. You weren’t ready to drop your walls and let anyone in... not until Laira.
Janet closed her eyes. She mentally reviewed the last two and half years – every action, every word of the blonde astrophysicist (and herself) – and saw everything in a whole new light. She suddenly had an epiphany and realized why she’d found Laira’s blue eyes so beautiful.
God, I’ve been so blind.
So what are you going to do about it?
Even though it was her day off, Sam was in her lab going over some equations when her cell phone rang. “Carter.”
“Sam, it’s Janet.”
“Listen, Sam, I was wondering if you had some time to talk.”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“No, I meant in person. Would you mind coming over to my place?”
“Okay. I’ll be there in about half an hour.”
“Good, I’ll see you then.”
Janet opened the door and smiled. “Hey.”
The women hugged. “Come in, Sam. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Only if you want a diet Coke. I haven’t been to the grocery store yet.”
Janet retrieved the cold sodas and joined Sam on the couch.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” the blonde asked.
“Well, first off, I want to thank you, Sam, for everything you did to get me back from Edora. I know you’re the reason I’m not still stranded there. So, thank you.”
Sam’s stared at the can of soda in her hand. “You know the rule – never leave anyone behind.” She paused. “You seemed to make some friends on Edora,” she added softly. It still hurt to think of Janet wanting to be with someone else.
Janet realized she was going to have to take the bull by the horns. “Yeah, Laira and I became close friends.”
“Looked like more than friends to me,” Sam murmured before she could think to stop herself.
“We were more than friends,” Janet confirmed, eliciting a surprised look from Sam. She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I admit there was an attraction as soon as we met... but nothing happened until a few days before Teal’c arrived.” She tried to gauge the blonde’s reaction. “Have I shocked you?”
“Surprised me, that’s for sure.” She finally looked at the doctor. “I never knew you were... I mean, you were married, you have an ex-husband.”
“Are you going to turn me in?”
Sam’s eyes widened. “What? No! I would never do that!”
“Then are we okay? Are we still friends?”
“Of course we are!”
“I’m glad; you mean a lot to me, Sam.”
“You mean a lot to me, too.”
Janet hesitated a moment, but then forged ahead. “How much?”
“How much do I mean to you, Sam?” At the blonde’s confused look, Janet continued. “I know how hard you worked to make it possible for me to come home, but like you said, ‘Never leave anyone behind.’ What I want to know is, is there any chance there was something else, something more, that drove you to push yourself so hard?”
Caught off guard by the direction the conversation was taking, Sam tried to find her emotional footing. “W-what do you mean?”
Janet set her soda on the coffee table, leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Sam’s lips.
Sam’s heart skipped a beat and she all but sighed into the kiss. But then she suddenly pulled back and jumped up from the couch. She ran a nervous hand through her hair as she began to pace on the other side of the coffee table.
Janet watched Sam, more than a little surprised by her actions... and a little fearful. Had she just ruined everything?
“No, no, no. I can’t do this.” Sam looked at the doctor for a few moments as she kept pacing.
“Sam?” The pain in the blonde’s eyes was heartbreaking.
“I can’t do this. I can’t be a rebound, Janet. It never works; I’ve been there and it hurts.”
“You fell in love with Laira on Edora and didn’t really want to come home. I can’t be a substitute for her.”
Janet got up and walked around to where Sam paced. She reached out and grabbed the blonde’s shoulders to stop her pacing and then took her face in her hands, looking into her eyes. “You are not a substitute for Laira, Sam. If anything, she was a substitute for you.”
Sam didn’t understand. “What?”
“I’m not in love with Laira, I never was. She was there... when you weren’t. Sam, it’s you... it’s always been you.” She pulled the blonde into a kiss, trying to convey all her feelings in that one kiss.
Sam heard each word, but it took a few moments for their meaning to really sink in. Janet’s kiss took her breath away and she felt her knees turn rubbery. She wrapped her arms around the woman she’d been in love with for such a long time.
Janet’s heart skipped a beat the moment Sam relaxed into the kiss and fully returned it. She slipped her arms around the taller woman’s neck and deepened the kiss. Eventually a lack of oxygen made them part. Sam looked at her, her heart on her sleeve and her emotions clear in her blue eyes. She tenderly caressed the blonde’s cheek.
“Yes, this is real.”
“I love you, Janet.”
“And I love you.”
They kissed again, long and deep, finding themselves breathless and wanting more. With quiet whispers, they agreed to climb the stairs and retire to Janet’s bedroom.
With reverence and tenderness they slowly undressed each other, kissing and touching smooth flesh as it was revealed. Lying down in each other’s arms, they came together at last, whispering their love with soft caresses and low moans.
Janet reveled in Sam’s arousal, thrilled that she had such an effect on the blonde. She suckled on a hard nipple as she gently pushed her fingers inside Sam. She matched the subtle rhythm of Sam’s slowly rocking hips. She kissed and licked her way down the lean body, memorizing what made the blonde moan and whimper with want and need. She dipped her tongue into her bellybutton then settled between her legs.
Sam arched up off the bed when Janet’s tongue pushed between her folds. The combination of the brunette’s velvety tongue and her knowing fingers still moving in and out of her was enough to send Sam over the edge. She could taste herself on Janet’s lips and tongue when she moved up and kissed her. Sam rolled them over so she was on top of Janet. With the meticulousness of a scientist she explored every inch of Janet’s skin.
The doctor let out a moan and fisted her fingers in short, blonde hair when Sam took her in her mouth. Sam was driving her mad, taking her to a point just shy of orgasm but backing off, and then doing it again... and again. Finally she couldn’t take any more and begged Sam to make her come.
Afterward, they snuggled together and drifted off to sleep.
When Janet opened her eyes she found herself looking into big, blue eyes. “What?”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Sam reached out and caressed Janet’s cheek. “I’ve loved you for so long...”
Janet placed her hand over the hand on her cheek. “I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner. But in truth, I wasn’t ready for a relationship before now.”
“Is that what this is? A relationship?”
“If you want it to be. I know I do.”
Sam’s eyes watered. “There’s nothing I’d like more.”
They sealed their future with a heart-stopping kiss.