Title: Tough Love
Word count: ~4600
Summary: A family in crisis.
Disclaimer: SG-1 its characters belong to B.W, J.G. and MGM. No copyright infringement intended, no money be made.
Spoilers/Timeline: AU, S8, Heroes II didn’t happen, anything S1-7 fair game.
“You could pose as the mother of all evil herself and I still would love you.”
Janet arched an eyebrow. “That’s a good thing, because it just so happens that I am.”
“The mother of all evil.”
Sam paused and for the first time really looked at her lover. It was Saturday morning, the doctor’s day off, and it was clear she had not slept well. Her normally soft, chocolate brown eyes appeared dull and had dark circles under them. Something was obviously wrong.
“What happened, Janet? What did Cassie do?”
Janet let out a sigh. She’d been up half the night because the 18-year-old stayed out long past her curfew. And when she’d finally deigned to come home, she and Janet had gotten into a verbal, knock-down, drag-out fight. Of course, it didn’t help that the teenager had obviously been drinking... again.
Rather than answering, which was impossible due the huge lump that had suddenly appeared in her throat, silent tears began to spill down her cheeks.
Now Sam was beyond concerned. She moved to Janet’s stool at the breakfast bar and wrapped her arms around her lover. She felt Janet cling to her tightly as her small body trembled and she silently cried. She unconsciously glanced at the ceiling, at where the teenager’s bedroom was, and vowed she’d set the young woman straight – whatever it was she’d done to hurt her mother so.
Finally, Janet pushed back and wiped her eyes and cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she managed in a ragged whisper.
Arms still holding her loosely, Sam kissed her on the forehead. “Shhh, don’t apologize. You ready to talk about it?” she asked gently.
Janet just shook her head.
Sam knew better than to press Janet too soon to talk. “Okay. I’ll tell you what, I’ll go quickly clean up and change. When I come back down we figure this out.” She kissed the doctor on the lips. “Remember – I love you.”
Receiving another nod, Sam let Janet go and headed upstairs. She’d just gotten home after an extended 12-day mission to P6H-347. Before she left she knew things were a little tense where the teenager was concerned, but she’d figured it was simply growing pains as the girl turned 18 and felt the urge to feel more grown-up and independent. Sam’s own tumultuous and angst-filled teens tended to make the blonde just a little more tolerant of Cassie’s acting out than Janet was. However, the teen was about to find out she’d crossed the line.
At the top of the stairs she veered left instead of right, rapping her knuckles against the door once, and immediately opening it. She was somewhat surprised to find Cassie’s room empty – messy, but empty. Disappointed that she couldn’t immediately confront the girl, Sam turned around and went to the master bedroom. Grabbing a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt, she went into the bathroom and took a hot shower.
Downstairs, Janet was, once again, going over everything that had happened the night before. But it wasn’t helping. No matter how she tried to dissect the events leading up to the argument, and subsequent events, she couldn’t find a solution. In fact, the more she thought about it, the angrier she got... and not just at Cassie. She was angry at Cassie for the obvious reasons, angry at herself for letting things get to that point, angry at the Air Force for taking some of her choices away... and angry at Sam for not being around more instead of gallivanting around the universe.
Sam came back downstairs. “Now, tell me what happened, Janet.”
Janet closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and set her jaw. “Not now.”
“Come on, Janet, talk to me. I can’t fix it unless I know what the problem is.”
The doctor’s eyes opened and she glared at the blonde. “This isn’t like one of your naquadah reactors. You can’t just swoop in at the last minute and fix things. Maybe if you’d been around more in the first place you’d know what was going on, maybe we could have done something to prevent this. And maybe if you’d been a little more interested in being a parent and supporting me, instead of being Cassie’s best buddy and accomplice in defying me, she’d still be here!”
Sam was shocked almost speechless by Janet’s outburst. And it took a few moments for the actual words to sink in. “W-what do you mean ‘she’d still be here?’”
“She’s gone. She packed up her things and left.” Janet turned and marched out of the kitchen. But Sam was on her heels trying to get an explanation. Janet whirled around at Sam’s questions. “I said, not now.” She marched upstairs and slammed the bedroom door.
Sam picked up the phone and dialed Cassie’s cell phone. She needed answers. All she got was the girl’s voicemail. She’d been gone less than two weeks, but it seemed everything had gone to hell in a hand basket. She was surprised to see Janet come back downstairs dressed in her uniform.
“I thought you were off today.”
“I have to go in. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” And with that, Janet was gone.
Sam tried Cassie’s cell phone again.
General Hammond looked up at his visitor. “You wanted to see me, Doctor?”
“Yes, sir. I know you’re busy, so I won’t take but a minute of your time.”
“Have a seat.”
“No need, sir. I just need to give you this.” She handed him an envelope.
“What’s this?” he asked even as he opened it.
The general’s head snapped up. “Excuse me?”
“I’m resigning my commission, sir.”
“What’s this about, Doctor?”
“I need a change, sir. I can’t keep on the way I have been. I’m sorry, sir, but... I have to do this.”
“Well, I can’t force you to not resign, but I would encourage you to reconsider.”
“If that’s all, sir?”
With a sigh he nodded. “Dismissed.”
But she turned back a moment in his doorway. “Sir? If you could keep SG-1 from hounding me, I’d appreciate it.”
After Dr. Fraiser left his office, Hammond picked up his phone and placed a call. “There’s something you’re not telling me,” he growled angrily when the call was answered.
Janet was actually relieved that Sam wasn’t home when she got home. It would make things easier. In the bedroom she changed into civilian clothes, packed a bag, and left. She needed to get away. She needed some time and space to think. She got in her car and drove away.
Meanwhile, Sam was out looking for Cassie. She went to the mall, to her best friend’s house, and to the park. She tried the girl’s cell at least a dozen more times. With a sigh, she finally turned her bike towards home. She’d have to wait for the answers she was looking for.
She laid down on the couch and took a nap when she got home.
When Sam woke up it was dark outside. She jumped up and checked the house to see if anyone was home, but she was alone. She tried Cassie’s phone yet again, and still only got her voicemail. With a sigh, she called the base to check with Janet and find out what time she might be home. She was more than a little surprised to find out that not only was Janet not at the base, but that she hadn’t worked at all that day. Before panicking she called the Academy Hospital. After all, Janet had said she needed to go in, but didn’t say where.
After finding out that Janet hadn’t been to the hospital Sam started to get worried. Where the hell was she? And why hadn’t Cassie returned any of her several messages.
Janet sat at the water’s edge, knees drawn up, arms around her legs, and sighed. Fueled by her anger, she had driven for two long days and nearly 1500 miles. And now she sat on a beach on South Padre Island. She’d found a reasonably priced hotel and checked into a small efficiency for an indeterminate length of time. She honestly didn’t know how long she’d stay – perhaps a couple of days, perhaps a couple of weeks. However long it was, she’d stay until she figured out a few things.
She needed to decide exactly what she would and would not do about, and for, her daughter. Cassie was on a destructive path, and nothing Janet said or did seemed to make a difference. She’d do anything for her daughter, had done anything – even to the point of threatening a prisoner at gunpoint. She knew she would have pulled the trigger and killed Nirrti. That had been a real eye-opener into her own psyche – one that took a while to deal with.
But maybe the time had come to not do anything for Cassie. After all, as the girl had so vehemently pointed out, she was 18 and could make own damn decisions. She wasn’t bound by Janet’s rules anymore. Maybe it was time for the girl to get a real taste of adulthood – especially its responsibilities. That was why she had told Cassie to go ahead and leave when the girl threatened to move out. She’d been surprised when the girl took her up on it. Cassie had gone to her room, packed her things, and left.
Janet also needed to decide just what she was going to do about Sam, about their relationship. They’d been together seven years. But how much of that time did they actually spend together? Sam was off-world half the time and put in long hours when she wasn’t. They had agreed to raise Cassie together, but Sam had been more of a friend to the girl, and not really supporting Janet when she had to discipline her.
The blonde always seemed to make some excuse for Cassie’s misbehavior – blaming everything on the tragedy on Hanka, and citing her own troubles when she’d lost her mother. However, there had to come a time when a person is held responsible for their actions and not simply be a victim of circumstances. That time had come and passed for Cassie. And if Sam couldn’t see that, then perhaps it was time to end things between them.
Sam was beside herself with worry. When neither Cassie nor Janet came home at all that first night she’d contacted the general. That was when she got a couple of answers about what was going on.
Cassie had stormed out of the house Friday night. She’d stayed with a friend, but then went to ‘Grandpa George’s’ Saturday morning, asking if she could stay the rest of the weekend because of an argument between her and her mother. Reluctantly, he had agreed, but only on the condition that she go home Sunday night and work things out.
Then Janet had come to see him Saturday and resigned her commission. That’s when he’d called the girl, trying to find out what was going on. Cassie stonewalled him and left his house. She hadn’t been seen or heard from since.
Sam was stunned. She couldn’t imagine Janet simply resigning, especially without her saying anything to Sam. But first things first, Sam called the team on Sunday and told them that Cassie was missing. They launched a city-wide search for the teen, calling all of her friends and friends’ parents, checking out every possible place they could think of, and continuing to call her cell phone and leave messages.
It was almost a week before they found her. She was passed out drunk in a fleabag hotel. She’d been drinking so much that even her friends had gotten fed up with her. When they couldn’t rouse her they took her to the hospital where the doctors confirmed Cassie was suffering from alcohol poisoning – she’d come damn close to drinking herself to death.
Some decisions were made, a judge consulted, a court ordered obtained, and Cassie was committed to a treatment program.
Two weeks into her 30-day treatment program, Cassie was allowed a visitor. She tried to prepare herself to face her mother, so she was a little surprised when Sam arrived. They hugged.
“How are you feeling?”
She wouldn’t look Sam in the eyes. “It sucks being locked up in here.” The girl shrugged and sighed, “But I understand why you did it.” She walked to a window and looked out. “Is Mom still mad at me?” she asked in a small voice.
Not sure what to tell the girl, Sam said, “You know your mother loves you. She always will, no matter what.”
“You don’t know the things that I said to her. I wouldn’t blame her if she hated me.”
“She could never hate you and neither could I. But, Cassie, you do have to make some changes. You can’t keep going on the way you have been.”
The girl didn’t respond.
Sam sighed. “Well, since you don’t feel like talking I’ll go. It was good to see you.” She turned to go.
“Will you tell Mom I’m sorry?”
Out in the parking lot Sam sat in her car, tears trailing down her face. How did her family get to this point? She hadn’t seen any of this coming. Cassie was in a treatment program and her lover was... somewhere.
She took out the letter she’d received a few days after Janet had left. Her tears blurred the writing, but she knew what it said, knew each word by heart – she’d read it over a dozen times.
First off, let me apologize for the way I left. I should have told you in person I was leaving, but I just couldn’t take any more. Saying goodbye in person would have been emotional, more so than I could have handled. So, I did what was easiest for me... something I haven’t done in longer than I can remember.
Second, I want you to know that I love you. That hasn’t changed. I’ll love you until the day I die. But right now I don’t know where we go from here. It’s been seven years since we became a couple, but I’ve spent so much of that time alone while you’ve been off-world or holed up in your lab.
I know you did what you could when you were home, and I know you tried to be there for Cassie, but there were so many things that happened while you were gone, so many times I had to deal with a parenting crisis on my own. I don’t blame you, Sam, even though it may sound like it. It’s just the way things were, the choices we both made.
For now, I need some time alone. I need to figure out what I want and what I need. As Cassie has so aptly pointed out, she’s 18 now, an adult, and doesn’t need me anymore. You know I’d do anything for her... and right now, I’m giving her what she wants, and what I think what she needs – a chance to be on her own and to be responsible for herself.
I know there were many times you thought I was too hard on her, that I didn’t let her do enough. I know you identified with her because of your own adolescent experiences. But I was doing what I thought best for my daughter, and though I’ve no doubt made mistakes, I stand by the decisions I made. I just wish you could have understood that and backed me up more often. It was awfully hard, and very tiring, opposing both of you when you didn’t.
I don’t know how long I’ll be away, or what the future will hold when I return. I know you’ll want to try to track me down and get in touch with me, but I’m asking you, please don’t. It won’t help... it’ll only make things worse. I’ll come back when I’m ready. In the meantime, take care of yourself, Sam.
Sam wiped her eyes and started the car. As she drove home, she made a vow to herself that she would do whatever it took to make things right between her and Janet. She realized Janet had been right. There were a lot of times she’d acted more like a pal to Cassie than a parent, even arguing with Janet about punishments and rules.
She also realized that she had taken Janet for granted, assuming she’d always be there to handle whatever problem that came up. She didn’t think about all the things Janet had to deal with when she was gone. And she was gone a lot – more than she really needed to be. She had no excuse, other than the fact she’d taken her lover for granted.
She’d told Cassie that she needed to make some changes. Well, she did too. She just prayed Janet would give her the chance to do so.
The next time Sam went to visit Cassie they discussed what was going to happen when the teen left the treatment program. As much as Sam would have liked to have Cassie home, after talking with her counselors, it was clear that coming home probably wouldn’t be the best for her. Reluctantly, Cassie agreed, and they made arrangements for Cassie to enter the Sober Living Halfway House. It had a well-established program and a good success rate.
Cassie nervously waited for her ride. She figured her mother would come with Sam to take her to the halfway house. She hadn’t seen her mother since the night she’d walked out of the house, over a month earlier. She’d been disappointed that her mother hadn’t called or come to visit her during her 30 days in treatment, but her counselors had told Cassie she needed to work on herself and allow her mother to contact her in her own time.
She saw Sam’s car pull into the parking lot. With her primary counselor, Lynne, at her side, she went outside and was met by the blonde.
Cassie looked around. “Where’s Mom?”
“It’s just you and me today, kiddo.”
“Oh.” Her disappointment was palpable.
Lynne put her hand on the young woman’s back. “Remember, Cassie, you have to let people come to terms in their own time.”
Cassie nodded as Sam picked up her bag and carried it to the car. She gave Lynne a hug. “Thanks for everything, Lynne.”
“Just keep doing what you’re supposed to, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
In the passenger seat Cassie looked over at Sam while she drove. “So is Mom ever going to forgive me, Sam?”
“I’m sure she already has.”
“Then why hasn’t she visited me, or even called me?”
Sam took a slow breath. “The truth is, Cassie, Janet has taken some time off. She’s been out of town.”
“What do you mean?”
“She left. After everything that happened she decided she needed some time to herself.”
Cassie was getting worried. “When did she leave?”
“The day after you left.”
“And she’s still not back?! That’s over a month!”
“I know, Cassie.”
“Have you heard from her?”
Sam nodded. “I got a letter from her. In it she explained why she left.”
“You haven’t talked to her?”
“She specifically requested that no one try to contact her. She’ll come back when she’s ready.”
Cassie turned to look out the window, tears welling in her eyes. “It’s my fault she left.”
“No it’s not.”
“I said the most hateful things to her that night, Sam.”
“It’s not your fault, Cassie; a lot of it is mine. I haven’t been... holding up my end of things; I just took it for granted that she’d pick up the slack; I took her granted.”
Cassie looked at Sam again. “Are you two going to be okay?”
“I honestly don’t know. It depends on what Janet wants when she comes back. I won’t force her into anything she doesn’t want, but I do hope she’ll give me the chance to make things right.”
Janet slicked her wet hair back as she waded out of the surf. The sun had bronzed her skin and lightened her hair until it was almost blonde. She’d spent every single day of her time on South Padre Island on the beach. She swam, sunned herself, and wrote in a journal. It was the extensive writing, and subsequent reading of what she’d written, that allowed her to sift through years of memories, thoughts, and feelings... and to finally find some peace. Of course, the sessions with the local psychologist she’d been going to twice a week had also helped.
She dropped down onto her towel and laid back, leaning on her elbows. She let her head drop back and relished feel of the sun. It was her last day on the island. Now that she’d gotten everything sorted out and knew what she wanted and needed, it was time to go home.
Although she’d asked General Hammond to keep SG-1 from hounding her, and had asked Sam not to contact her, she wasn’t oblivious to events back in Colorado Springs. She’d actually kept in touch with the general; not on a daily basis, but certainly with enough regularity to know how close Cassie had come to drinking herself to death and her subsequent committal to a treatment program. She’d actually spoken on the phone to the judge about the matter. She also knew Cassie was living in a halfway house. She was leaving the island in the morning and driving back to Colorado.
After the sun dried her, Janet picked up her towel and headed back to the hotel. She sat on the end of the bed and opened her cell phone. Taking a deep breath she dialed a number she hadn’t called in over a month.
“Sam, it’s me.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I am. And I’m coming back.”
“Well, I’m leaving in the morning, so three days. I just thought I’d give you a heads up.”
“If you think you’ll be back in time for dinner, I-I can make reservations... if you’d like.”
“That would be nice, Sam. I look forward to it.”
“I’ll see you in three days then.”
“See you then.”
Sam tried on over six different outfits while getting ready. She hadn’t felt this nervous the first time she’d asked Janet out. Janet had called to let her know about what time to expect her. As she looked at her watch she panicked. Janet would be home in only 15 minutes and she still hadn’t decided on an outfit.
The restaurant they were going to wasn’t fancy, but was popular enough to be quite busy, so she’d made reservations to guarantee they’d get their favorite table.
The head waiter showed them to their table and took their drink orders.
“You really look good, Janet, stunning actually. The sun and salt air really agree with you.”
“Thank you. It’s been years since I’ve had so much sun.”
“Well, it certainly becomes you.”
Their drinks arrived and the waiter took their dinner order.
“So what made you decide on South Padre Island?”
Janet shrugged. “Just happenstance really. I got in the car and just drove; South Padre is simply where I ended up.”
“What did you do?”
“A lot of thinking,” she replied with a small sigh. “I also saw a counselor to help me work through a few things.”
An uneasy silence fell over them as they waited for their food. They didn’t delve beyond polite small talk during their meal.
“Did you want some dessert, Janet?”
“Oh, no. I’m full. That was a delicious meal; I’m glad you suggested coming here.” She sat back as she sipped her after dinner coffee. They’d managed to put off the conversation all evening, but it was time to clear the air. “Sam, we need to talk.”
The blonde nodded. “I know.”
Janet set her coffee cup down. “Why don’t we go for a walk?”
The restaurant wasn’t far from a park, so that’s where they headed.
“I know I shouldn’t have left the way I did, Sam. I’m sorry.”
“I won’t say it didn’t hurt... but I understand why you did.”
“Yeah, I do. I realize that even though I promised to help you, in reality I often made things more difficult for you... and I took you for granted. I’m sorry, Janet.”
They sat down on a bench.
“I love you, Sam, and I want to work things out. But for things to work out, we’re going to have to do some things differently.”
Sam nodded. “I agree. In fact, I’ve already taken some steps to change things. I resigned from SG-1 and I’m heading up the science and research department at the SGC.”
Janet was shocked. “Sam, I’d never ask you to give up SG-1!”
“You didn’t ask. I made the decision, and I made it without knowing whether we had a chance or not – because it’s the right decision.”
“It’s the right decision for me, Janet. Trust me. For years, despite my commitment to you, I’ve put everything but my family first, and that’s exactly what I need to do now, not just for you and Cassie, but for my own sake as well.” She smiled. “You know what? When I get to work in the lab all the time, it’s amazing how much I can get done! I haven’t worked more than nine hours a day in weeks.”
Janet’s eye widened. “What on earth have you been doing with yourself?”
The blonde grinned. “Well, let’s see... I fixed the dishwasher, cleaned out the garage and the attic, repainted the shed, repaired the toilet in the guest bathroom, and re-caulked all the windows. Oh, and I took care of the squeak in your chair in the office.”
Janet smiled. “You certainly have been busy,” Janet said with a chuckle.
“You want to know the best part?”
“I’ve loved it, I really have.”
They talked for a couple of hours before finally going home.
Sam carried Janet’s luggage up to the bedroom for her. Janet was surprised when Sam turned to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“The other bedroom.”
“Because I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
Janet walked up to the blonde and took her hands in her own. “Sam, I came home to make things better between us. I love you and I want to be with you. So unless you want to be alone, I’d really like us to hold each other tonight.”
Sam smiled. “I’d really like that.”
They both changed, slipped into bed, and snuggled together.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Cassie tomorrow.”
“I know she’ll be thrilled to see you. You know, she’s worried you’re still mad at her.”
“I figured.” Janet sighed. “But she needed to learn a hard lesson. It wasn’t easy for me to not contact her. I would have a number of times if not for my counselor.”
“Yeah. I did keep tabs on her though, so I know she’s doing well.”
“Do you really think I could just abandon Cassie?”
“No, you couldn’t do that. I’m sorry I wasn’t more help with Cassie.”
“You’ve done wonderfully since I’ve been gone.”
“I never realized how hard parenting is.”
“Yes, it is.”
“We’re all going to be okay, aren’t we?”
“I believe so.”
“I love you, Janet.”
“I love you, too.”