Whispered Promises -- Ch. 3 --  by Pink Rabbit Productions

Title: Whispered Promises
Author: Pink Rabbit Productions
Email: pinkrabbit@altfic.com (comments welcome)
Rating:  Soft R for sex and violence
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Showtime, MGM, & Gekko. I own nothing but the actual arrangement of words right here (though if any of the above mentioned entities want to steal anything herein, I invite them wholeheartedly to do so--in fact, I dare them--hell, I double-dog dare them). Oh, and it should be mentioned that this story contains a mutual admiration society between two women which is quite certainly not one of those "Beyond sex," sorts of things (or perhaps it's beyond "Beyond sex,"-- didya ever think of that? I'll bet not), so if the thought of much prurient type contact between female types offends ya, what the heck are you doing on this site? Get off, run away now. Also, if you are underage where you live, or this would get you or us jailed, you should take a hike. It's rough, I know, but that's just how it's gotta be.
Spoilers: None that I can think of offhand. Takes place shortly after Sam becomes a major (I suppose that could be considered a minor spoiler) during Season Two.

| Prologue-Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4-5 | Ch. 6-7 | Ch. 8-9 | Ch. 10-Epilogue |

Chapter Three

"That goes in the back bedroom," Fraiser directed Teal'c as she noted the heavy duffel bag slung over his shoulder.

He nodded in acknowledgment, stepping around her with a grace that was slightly eerie in a man that large. "I will see to it."

"Colonel," the doctor continued as she noted the figures coming up the walkway of the pleasant little three bedroom ranch-style house she rented in town. "Sam."

Sam barely contained an urge to shake off Jack's supportive hand as she moved up the steps to the narrow porch that fronted the house. After several days of having everyone treat her like she was some kind of porcelain doll, she was getting tired of the whole routine. It just wasn't her style. And then she noticed the woman standing there.

Really noticed her.

Dressed in a burgundy button-down shirt that had to be either silk or rayon, judging by the way it reflected the light, and a pair of well worn jeans that clung to her slender curves in all the right places, she radiated an innocent sensuality that made Sam's heart pound doubletime. After several days of not seeing Janet, Sam had almost convinced herself that her brief hospital crush was just that; a short lived bit of passion that had more to do with the doctor saving her life than any real attraction. She'd even convinced herself that a few days in the same house would be no big deal. She'd probably spend most of her time with Cassie anyhow and besides gratitude wasn't the same thing as desire; she'd just confused the two a bit while she was so badly injured.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

She froze and was only saved from looking like a total idiot by the diminutive figure that came rushing from the house, rocketing past Janet toward Sam.

"Sam!" Cassie shouted as she hurried toward her unofficial second mother.

"Cassie!" Janet barked and the girl skidded to a halt, looking back at her adopted mother uncertainly. "Gently," the doctor reminded the girl. "Remember what we discussed."

"Oh, yeah, sorry," the girl apologized instantly and moved more slowly to Sam's side. "You okay?" she questioned the woman as she reached her.

Sam caught the proffered hand and winked. "I'm fine...be back to full tickle strength in just a few days." Wrestling matches on the living room floor traditionally turned into tickle battles that left both she and Cassie laughing so hard they could hardly breathe.

"Don't count on it," Janet disagreed crisply, her look warning Sam that she would not be taking any chances with her health in the near future. "You're a tickle free zone for the foreseeable future."

"Aren't we all?" Jack deadpanned, earning a stereo glare from the two women, though the double entendre sailed right over Cassie's head. He held up his hands defensively. "Hey, it's a joke." And then he looked behind himself as another car pulled up. "Hey, Daniel!"

The younger man climbed out of his car, then reached back to retrieve a hard silver laptop case and a twelve pack of expensive beer. "Sorry," he panted, as he hurried forward. "I stopped off to get you this." He held out the beer to Sam as a peace offering.

"Daniel, I told you I'm not going to kill you," she insisted with a fond grin.

"Then I guess he can take back that ten-buck-a-can Euro beer," O'Neill drawled.

"Do and you're dead," Sam clipped sharply.

"All right, children," Janet interrupted the byplay, clearly in charge despite the fact that the two officers outranked her. It was, Sam concluded, the mom-voice that did it. That outranked everything, and adopting Cassie had qualified Janet to use it. Probably even the general would have snapped into line if he'd been there. "You," she pointed at Sam, "on the couch in the livingroom. You," she indicated Jack, "Sam's other bag and the medical supplies Doctor Saunders sent still need to come in. Teal'c can show you where to put it. And you," she waved to Daniel, "the beer goes in the pantry until she's stronger."

"But--" Sam started to protest, only to be firmly cut off.

"The pantry...we both know you won't drink warm beer, so that's where it stays for now." She stepped forward far enough to curve a hand to the major's upper arm. "And now I think I mentioned something about the couch." Despite the way she was issuing orders, her expression was warm and worried, her touch gentle almost to the point of delicacy.

Grumbling under her breath, though it was mostly for show, Sam was actually all too happy to let Janet lead her into the livingroom, while Cassie took up a position on her other side.

"Now, this is more like it," she sighed as she sank down, watching the men lug the last of her stuff inside. "Tote that barge, lift that bail," she called out to Jack who made a face, but no comment--or at least none she could hear--though judging by his expression, he thought quite a few of them.

Bags were carried in, a certain amount of unpacking done, the spare bed made-- by Jack, with military corners, since Janet wasn't much for making beds with only one arm in working condition--and finally pizza ordered and devoured by the hungry troops, until, with a final burp, the ranking officer, Colonel Jack O'Neill, proclaimed the mission a success. It was Teal'c who quietly reminded the colonel that the mission was not finished until everything was cleaned up, then began clearing away the detritus of their pizza de guerre. Guilted into action, both Jack and Daniel helped with the final cleanup, though the effort was a simple one, owing to a profusion of paper plates.

Finally, the men were gone, Cassie bedded down, and Sam on the verge of passing out on the couch. She leaned back into the cushions, folding an arm over her closed eyes. "You can shoot me now, if you want." Her first day back in the world had been a long one indeed.

The comment earned a snort of derision and then Janet batted Sam's legs out of the way where they were braced against the arm of the couch. "Move over," she grumbled and sank down with a soft sigh, curling her bare feet under her.

"Who knew being waited on could be so much effort?" the major sighed at last.

"I love those guys," Janet muttered, her own exhaustion showing, "But I swear I thought they'd never leave."

Sam unfolded her arm and opened her eyes to study the doctor where she was curled into the end of the couch. She was slightly disarrayed in the aftermath of afternoon's efforts, her hair tousled, the sleeve on her good arm rolled up around the elbow. Sam's eyes fell on the front of her blouse where it was open at the throat and she felt a dull flush creep over her cheeks as she realized several buttons had come loose during the afternoon, deepening the open vee until she couldn't help but notice the other woman wasn't wearing a bra--no surprise when she thought about it. With her injuries, she probably couldn't get one on, much less fasten it. No wonder the men had been in such a hurry to do whatever the doctor wanted, she thought, then silently chastised herself for the churlishness. Whatever their faults, her teammates weren't Neanderthals when it came to the opposite sex--Janet shifted on the couch, unknowingly giving Sam a healthy glimpse of the inner curve of a rounded breast--then again, they were human, and Daniel had been particularly eager to please. She couldn't even blame him if his thoughts were straying. God knew he'd been separated from Sha're a long time and Fraiser was a hell of an attractive woman, though not what she would have predicted for a guy who's preference ran to primitive Egyptian beauties, but then--

Then it occurred to Sam that she was staring just as hard as she'd mentally accused the men of doing. That wouldn't do at all. Not if she was going to maintain the distance she needed to get through the next few days. "You...uh..." Sam began, stumbling over the words as Janet looked her way. "That is...your blouse...it's kind of unbuttoned."

The brunette looked down, noting the open fabric with raised brows. "Please tell me I wasn't flashing everyone all afternoon," she muttered unhappily.

"I don't think so...I mean, I didn't notice anything," Sam added before it occurred to her that comment might make it sound like she'd been checking, which she had actually managed to resist the urge to do. No small feat, all things considered.

Janet fumbled with the buttons one-handed, her voice thick with frustration as the task eluded her abilities. "I would have worn a sweatshirt or something like that," she muttered as she kept struggling. "But I still can't get my arm over my head." Sam instantly understood what was bothering her. For anyone used to being totally independent and having absolute control of their faculties, having some kind of disability could be enormously irritating.

Sam could have resisted the urge to get involved in the problem if Janet hadn't been so obviously frustrated to the point where she was trying to work her injured arm into position so she could use that hand. "Don't," she soothed, her tone soft as she pushed upright without slowing to consider her actions. "You'll hurt yourself." She still had restricted mobility of her upper arm on the left side, but her hands were working fine. "Let me help you." Focused on the task at hand, she was barely aware of the way the doctor stilled, her chest barely rising and falling with her breathing. She gently batted the other woman's hand out of the way and began refastening the buttons in question. "See...no big deal," she whispered, trying to keep any hoarseness out of her voice. She looked up, noting the tension in Janet's expression as she became aware just how close they were now, bodies touching, Janet's coiled legs and bare feet braced against her thigh.

All afternoon, Fraiser had been in charge, directing the men like a general on the battlefield and showing no sign of any problems. Now, she suddenly looked exhausted, pained, and something else Sam couldn't quite put her finger on. "What's wrong?" she asked, her hands coming to a halt where they rested against silky fabric.

"Nothing," the brunette insisted breathily, her tone shakier than normal. "I just..." she started to say something then seemed to think better of it. "It's nothing."

Carter's eyes narrowed as she absorbed the uncertainly spoken words, turning them over in her mind before she shook her head. "No it's not. Something's obviously bothering you...and not just loose buttons either."

"No...really...it's...." Janet sighed softly. "I'm just too tired...and the last little while...things have been so..." she trailed off for a moment and tried again. "Difficult," she finished helplessly.

A horrible thought occurred to Sam as she sat there staring at the other woman. "Is it me? I mean having me here? If it's too much, I can--"

"No!" Fraiser snapped instantly, cutting her off. "God, no." She rested her good hand on Sam's shoulder, stroking very lightly. "...ignore me," she said at last. "I'm just way too tired and my emotions are a little on edge...that's all."

"If you're sure," Sam whispered. "Because if there's any doubt--"

Janet laid soft fingers across her lips, silencing her. "There's no doubt," she reassured Sam. "If there was, I wouldn't have invited you to stay."

Sam froze, suddenly achingly aware of the delicate fingertips pressed against her lips, and the nearness of warm flesh beneath her hands. Desire and temptation burned through her blood, even if she was in no shape to do anything about it, making her heart roar in her chest, and her hands tremble with the need to touch and be touched. It was only through the sheer force of will that she resisted to urge to find out if the look in the other woman's eyes held the promise she feverishly wanted it to. She could barely force her brain to function coherently as she whispered raggedly, "I just don't...want...to be a...a problem."

"God, Sam," the doctor's voice cracked as she said her name. "The only problem you've been is when you lay on my table...with no heartbeat...." Janet was shaking ever so slightly Sam realized suddenly; tiny tremors moving through her muscles and rattling her slender frame. "I was panicking when we finally got a pulse back." Her eyes slid closed, expression twisting with horror. "And then it was gone again...."

She let out a tiny gasp that wrenched Sam's heart as she imagined how she would feel in similar circumstances. She knew how awful just seeing Fraiser in danger had been. To actually know that her heart had stopped, that she stood at the precipice of death itself; Sam shuddered at the mere thought. "I think I understand how...you must have felt," she whispered uncertainly.

Fraiser let out a soft, grim bark of laughter. "Do you?" she questioned, then continued as if she couldn't hold the words back anymore, "I didn't think I could bring you back a second time...." Dark eyes slid open again, their depths haunted by the memory and Janet reached out, tenderly brushing a few stray strands of hair off Sam's forehead. "God in heaven, I thought you were gone..." she exhaled. "As a doctor, I'm supposed to be objective at times like that...keep my head clear and do what I have to...and I almost couldn't." The finger at Sam's forehead slid downward, stroking along the ridge of her cheekbone as if to reassure herself she wasn't dealing with a ghost, but a flesh and blood human being.

Sam wanted desperately to believe that what she was seeing and hearing was more than simple friendship, but a part of her was scared; terrified that if she did the wrong thing she risked the easy rapport and more tenuous and uncertain link that seemed like something more and let her fantasize she had a chance. "Janet," she breathed, her body perfectly still as though the slightest movement might scare the woman in front of her away like some wild woodland creature. "It must have been awful," she breathed. "To have to work on a member of the team--a friend, I hope--"

"More than a friend," Fraiser inserted, her voice rough with emotion, no longer able to hide from her own feelings when she was already so wiped out. "You're a part of...of Cassie's and my lives...."

Sam looked away for a moment, gathering herself together when her thoughts threatened to shatter in a thousand different directions. "I know when I realized you were in danger...when I saw Barnes manhandling you...the gun against your throat..." Sam trailed off, teeth grinding together at the memory.

"I've never been so glad to see anyone in my life...and at the same time.... "She shook her head slowly as if still absorbing the events that had taken place in those few short seconds. "I knew he'd kill you if he could."

Sam looked up then, eyes blazing with fierce protectiveness. She shook her head slowly, jaw square with determination. "I wasn't going to let him hurt you."

The fingers gently brailing Sam's face slid down along the curve of her jaw, stroking silky skin with an impossibly light touch. "That's how I felt when you were lying there...I couldn't let you die." She frowned, expression serious as she tried to explain in disjointed phrases. "I'm not saying I wouldn't sweat blood and tears for any patient...I would...I have...." She was honest about that facet of her personality. Once she had a patient, she would all but die for them. It was one of the things that made her a good doctor. "But it wasn't the same with you." That tender touch reached soft lips, outlining them in slow strokes that sent the major's blood pressure soaring and left her gasping. Janet looked away as if embarrassed by the words she couldn't hold back any longer, or perhaps terrified of the reception they might receive. "That's why I-I couldn't let anyone else handle your case...I didn't sleep...I just--I stayed with you in the ICU...because I ... I guess I thought that if I wasn't there, you wouldn't make it...and I couldn't take that risk."

Remembering her own fear of that very thing, Sam could only be grateful for the other woman's presence. Maybe she wouldn't have had the fortitude to keep fighting the darkness when it was almost too difficult if she hadn't known there was a welcome figure waiting for her on the other side. "Janet?" Sam's voice was little more than a ragged croak as she struggled to decipher the message in the other woman's words without giving way to the temptation to simply hear what she wanted. "We're friends..." she said hesitantly.

Dark eyes lifted, meeting Sam's pale blue gaze as the fingers at her lips slid lower, finding the unsteady pulse in her throat with automatic ease. "Friends," she husked. "Is that what we are?"

Brow knitted with the faintest of frowns, Sam couldn't think to reply, could barely make herself breathe.

When she didn't answer, Janet's eyes snapped shut and she flinched as though struck, letting out a sharp breath of air. "I'm sorry...obviously I..." She held up her hand in a halting motion and let out another sharp breath as though she was struggling just to keep going. "I shouldn't have said anything--" Refusing to look at Sam, she started to unfold her legs, clearly intending to flee.

Snapping back into motion, Sam dropped a hand to Janet's thigh. "Don't," she said quickly and felt a quiver slide through the muscles under her hand. "I just...you...you caught me by surprise," she admitted, her voice little more than an uneven gasp. "I didn't expect--"

"I didn't invite you here for this...it just...that is...for a moment I thought..." Again she trailed off, staring sightlessly into the distance.

"Shhh," Sam hushed her gently. One hand still rested at center of Janet's chest, clinging to silky fabric and almost, but not quite making contact with even silkier skin. She trailed her fingers up without quite touching until she reached the point of the other woman's chin. The pad of her finger just made contact and she tipped Janet's head up until their gazes locked. "I didn't expect it because I didn't dare hope...that you could even be remotely...interested."

The brunette's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment, her lungs heaving with the effort to draw in air. She had pulled her hand back when she thought her unintended confession was being rejected and now she reached out again, sliding her fingers up Sam's throat and along the curve of her jaw, stroking very lightly. "More than just interested," she whispered almost inaudibly, forcing Carter to lean closer to hear.

"God, Janet," Sam gasped. Almost of its own accord, the hand under the smaller woman's chin slid lower again, dusting down the arch of her throat, then dropping downward until her knuckles just rested in the warm hollow between rounded breasts. Her other hand still rested on Janet's jean clad thigh and she spread her fingers, flexing them slowly in an unconsciously erotic massage. She had no idea what to say next; 'I want...' 'I need...' 'Please...' and 'Let me touch...' all seemed hopelessly inadequate and 'I love...' too much too soon.

In the end, neither of them spoke as they leaned closer, foreheads almost touching pale blond hair mixing with dark auburn as their breath mingled in the shrinking space between them. Then lips just barely touched, brushing and moving, pulling back, then meeting again. Kisses were traded back and forth; sweet, sexy, searching, lips parting to invite deeper explorations, while hands touched and stroked, slipping through delicate strands of hair and sliding over pale flesh.

Gradually shifting to accommodate each other, they stretched out, taking up almost the entire length of the couch as they continued to kiss and caress.

For Sam, it was unbelievable; Christmas, her birthday, Easter, and a month of Sundays all in one delectable package. And judging by the freight train roaring in Janet's chest and the way she clutched at Sam, eager to bring her ever closer, she was feeling just as good.

Careful to protect Janet's injured shoulder, Sam curved a hand to her narrow waist, drawing her closer before trailing her fingers over the S curve of her hip and down the length of her thigh. She tugged the smaller woman's leg up and over her hip, twining their legs together in the instinctive need to increase the sensual contact. Strong fingers slipped into pale blond hair, shaping to the back of Sam's head as Janet encouraged her closer, firming the hungry pressure on soft lips.

When the shared kiss finally broke, they were both breathing hard, chests heaving unsteadily. Janet trailed her lips down a taut cord in Sam's throat, drawing a low groan of arousal while Sam eased her fingers under silky fabric, palming a taut breast with firm strokes.

More caresses followed, buttons were freed, zippers unzipped, fabric parted. Sam shivered as Janet's good hand stroked the flat muscled plane of her stomach, a finger circling her navel before slipping lower, easing under the open fly of her jeans.

A hard shudder rippled through the pair as Sam instinctively bucked against the fingers drawing so tantalizingly close to the center of her arousal.

In an instant, pleasure turned to pain, and Janet let out a tiny whimper, paling as she pressed her face hard into Sam's shoulder.

"Oh God," Sam groaned as she realized that she'd unintentionally put pressure on the other woman's injured side, then she pulled back too fast and felt a sharp band of pain tighten around her ribcage to leave her gasping.

Janet looked up after taking a moment to catch her breath. "I don't think either of us is up to this just yet," she admitted shakily. If things got much more passionate, she was far from certain either of them would survive the experience.

"The spirit is willing, but the body definitely seems to be on the weak side," Sam groaned, hiding her face in Janet's hair, nuzzling the cool strands tenderly. As sanity began to reassert itself, it occurred to her how close they'd both come to doing something profoundly out of character. "And this probably isn't...the best time...or place...." Neither woman was the sort to fall into bed at the drop of the hat and the couch was hardly the best place available when Cassie could easily stumble across them if she used the bathroom or went for a late night snack.

Janet slid her hand up under Sam's sweatshirt, spreading her fingers against the small of her back to cling tightly as they both lay unmoving, letting overexcited nerve endings cool a notch.

Finally, Sam shifted enough to rebutton Janet's blouse, consciously removing the sweet temptation to touch and again lose herself in velvet curves. "If this doesn't get me into heaven, nothing will," she groaned meaningfully. The low answering laughter sent a bolt of awareness down her spine. "You're not making this easy," Sam complained, straightening to brush a soft kiss over Janet's mouth.

"I don't think anything can do that," Fraiser gasped as their lips parted again, the aching awareness of temptation turning her voice into little more than a husky murmur. Even knowing better, she couldn't resist the urge to nuzzle the curve of Carter's jaw. "...haven't been like this since I was a teenager..." she panted.

Sam pressed a small kiss to Janet's temple, struggling to content herself with just holding the other woman. "I know how you feel," she breathed in the scent of soap and shampoo mixed with the distinctive odor of flesh and desire. "I don't usually...ah...that is...I'm not normally...all over someone...like this...."

"I know," Fraiser exhaled, then let out a low ironic laugh. "First time in years that I actually wish I could just be impulsive and I can't...I really can't."

Sam stroked Janet's lower lip with the pad of her thumb. "Then consider doing something else impulsive," she asked for the boon without considering the request, the words just slipped from her lips. "Spend the night with me."

Pressing back into the pillows, Janet tipped her head back to stare into pale blue eyes. "Sam, I thought we agreed...."

Carter shook her head. "We won't...can't...make love...." She continued outlining Janet's lips with her thumb, while she stroked the line of her jaw with sensitive fingers. "Neither of us is up to it...but I want to hold you...feel your skin against mine...hear your heartbeat...smell you on the sheets--"

Janet laid her fingers across Sam's lips with a tiny whimper. "If you keep talking like that," she rasped, "I think I may just risk death and injury...health be damned." She studied the other woman's expression for a long moment. "Just hold each other?" she questioned doubtfully at last.

Sam nodded, brushing a few strands of disheveled dark hair off Janet's brow. "I just want to sleep holding you."

"I have a funny feeling sleep isn't going to be that easy." The brunette chuckled softly. "But then again, I haven't had enough sleep to worry about since you got hurt." She arched up to press the softest of kisses over Sam's mouth. "All right...."

* * * * * *

"Let me get that," Sam whispered, her voice echoing in the darkened interior of Janet's bedroom, as she reached out to help the smaller woman unbuckle the web strapping that held the sling in place. It had to come off for her to change into the indigo silk nightshirt tossed across the foot of the bed, but it wasn't the easiest task, particularly alone. Sam gently batted Janet's hand out of the way as she freed the strap that went around her neck and back.

"Thank you," the doctor exhaled, watching the effort over her shoulder, very aware of every tiny bit of contact between Sam's fingers and her back. She winced ever so slightly as the fabric support came free, then slowly straightened her elbow, working sore muscles.

"How does it feel?" the major questioned, close enough that her breath disturbed the silky hair at the nape of Janet's neck.

Fraiser worked the arm, turning her forearm back and forth and fisting and loosening her hand. She flinched as she tested strained muscles, but the pain was nowhere near what it had been a few days before. "It's still pretty stiff, and if I try to lift my upper arm..." As if to illustrate her words, she started to raise her elbow only to change her mind. "That hurts," she gasped.

"Then don't do that," Sam advised dryly and paced around in front of her.

Janet started to reach for the buttons that ran up the front of her blouse, her injured side still clumsy, but Sam gently blocked the effort as she began undoing them.

"Oh yeah, we're gonna manage to just hold each other," Janet groaned, her voice leaden with equal parts irony and arousal as she tipped her head down to watch, her eyes locked on Sam's hands where they were poised above her chest.

Sam released another delicate button, a hint of a smile gracing her lips. "Think I can't resist you?"

The doctor arched one neat dark auburn eyebrow, but didn't comment.

"Ooo," Sam enthused, eyes glinting with excitement, her mouth quirked upward in an amused smile, "the lady's getting cocky."

Another dark eyebrow rose to match the first. "There are so many things I could say in response to that comment," Janet drawled knowingly, "but I think I'll resist temptation."

The blouse parted another few inches, revealing the upper band of taut abdominal muscles. "Well, that's what tonight's about, resisting temptation."

"No," Janet disagreed, her tone serious, and reached out to rest her good hand lightly on Sam's upper chest. "It's about giving in to it...maybe not the physical part so much...but...."

She didn't finish the sentence, but Sam understood what she was trying to say. "Everything else."

"Yeah."

It was a moment of admission from both of them that this was far more that mere attraction or sex. From here on out, there was nothing simple about what lay between them.

"We should...uh...probably get you into a nightshirt and back into the sling as soon as possible," Sam stammered, suddenly self-conscious. She dipped her head, and began quickly freeing buttons, her fingers trembling as more pale flesh was revealed to eager eyes. "After all, we don't want you hurting yourself." She looked up, her eyes intense. "I don't want you hurting yourself."

Graceful fingers sifted through Sam's hair, then tugged gently to bring her head up. "I've never felt safer in my entire life," she admitted with heartfelt emotion.

Hotly aware of the strip of bare skin revealed by the parted front of the blouse, Sam looked up. "Then we should probably do this quickly," she said raggedly, struggling to keep her eyes from dropping downward. "Because I'd like to keep you that way and I...." She turned away to reach for the nightshirt and came back around to find Janet already letting the blouse slide off narrow shoulders. Carter froze, jaw hanging open as dark fabric slipped low on the smaller woman's arms and down her back, revealing a delicate, pleasantly curvaceous frame; slim, square shoulders, gently rounded, coral-tipped breasts, gracefully arched ribcage, tightly banded abdominal muscles. The only disturbing things were the bruises that marred her pale flesh, the darkest of them a broad band that covered her left shoulder. Still, Sam knew the damage would heal with time. "You're perfect," she exhaled, fingers clenching into the silky nightshirt.

Muscles trembling with the effort required to resist the temptation to just give way to embarrassment and yank the shirt back up, Janet shook her head. "Nobody's perfect." A brief second later, the blouse fluttered to the floor at her feet.

Suddenly dry-mouthed, Sam swallowed hard and moistened her lips as she crossed the short distance between them, her eyes touching everywhere before sliding up meet Janet's sable gaze again. "Don't expect me to agree with you on that."

A moment passed as they stared at one another, and then another, and finally Sam held the nightshirt out by the neckline, spreading the front to make it easy for Janet to slide her arms into the sleeves, then lifted it until the fabric settled on slender shoulders. The doctor twisted to look over her shoulder at her soon-to-be-lover, and their gazes locked and held as Sam paced around to stand in front of her. Silently, she reached out, slipping her hands between the fluttering edges of the nightshirt to unsnap the waistband of Janet's jeans. Normally a soft sound, the rasp of the zipper sliding downward suddenly seemed loud enough to make the very walls vibrate. Then she slipped her fingers inside waistband at the curve of each hip, happily trapping her hands between soft-worn fabric and velvet flesh as she felt tiny shivers arc through both of them like electricity moving through a copper wire.

"Sam?" Janet gasped uncertainly, her pupils dilating until Carter could see her own reflection clearly in their inky depths.

"Can't sleep in your jeans," she whispered and slowly eased the fabric downward, skimming her palms over slim hips and down well-muscled thighs as she dropped to her knees. She finished the journey by stroking down smooth calves, then hooking her fingers in the soft denim to tug it aside as Janet stepped out of the pale blue pool.

Tipping her head back on her shoulders, Sam let her gaze amble upwards, taking in the flowing length of leg and tempting sights just barely visible in the open gap in the nightshirt. It would be so easy to just lean forward and wrap her arms around narrow hips, press her lips against silky smooth skin and explore until neither of them could think about or feel anything but each other.

As if to remind her why that was a bad idea, her side throbbed in response to her recent exertions.

"Sam?" Janet repeated her name in that softly questioning tone, playing with her hair to draw her attention upward.

Carter looked up, noting the way Janet's chest rose and fell with her harsh breathing and the dull flush that crawled over her sweat-damp skin. With a regretful sigh, she pushed to her feet. "This is harder than I expected."

Janet nodded. "Oh...yeah...." She tensed as Sam reached out, but the major only began buttoning the front of her nightshirt, though her fingers were clumsier than they had been. Temptation was hell on her fine motor control. She gave way to the sweet need to touch only once as she finished the task she'd set for herself, leaning forward to press the softest of kisses over the center of Janet's breastbone before fastening the last button. "And one of my professors once said I had no self-control," she exhaled heavily.

Her expression passion-dazed, Janet made a small unintelligible sound in the back of her throat and ran her good hand through her hair, combing it back from her face in a shaky gesture.

"We should...uh...put that sling back on," Sam added, her voice unsteady, though her touch was impossibly careful as she restored the sling and made sure it was properly adjusted again. "Is that okay?"

Janet nodded, shifting her arm in the harness fractionally as she resettled it. Satisfied, she swallowed hard to regain some semblance of self-control, then tipped her head back to study Sam. Finally, she let her gaze drop again, trailing down the length of Carter's lean frame until she reached the bare tips of her toes, then coming back up to rest on her face. "Can't sleep in your jeans," she quoted Sam right back to her and reached out, slipping her fingers under the bottom of the blond's dark sweatshirt to hook a finger in her waistband.

Carter's stomach muscles concaved as she caught her breath sharply, before responding in disjointed bursts, "I...uh...guess I can get...something...from my room...to sleep in."

Janet's lips tipped up in a wicked grin and she shook her head as an idea struck her. "I don't think so," she disagreed, then turned away, grabbing something out of a top dresser drawer. Sam was still peering curiously when Janet pivoted and tossed something at her. "Here."

Carter plucked the white bundle of fabric out of the air, letting it unfold in front of her. A pale brow lifted as she noted the man's button-down shirt, the cotton worn until it was as soft as butter. A burst of jealousy burned through her as she wondered if it had belonged to Janet's ex-husband. "And this is?" she demanded, her tone arch.

A smile flickered across Fraiser's full lips. "A man's dress shirt," she answered simply. "A large one."

Sam didn't move, not quite able to admit that she didn't even want to touch the damn thing if Janet's ex-husband or some other lover had once worn it. "And you have it because?" she whispered, glaring at the material as though it was at fault for her suddenly roiling emotions.

The doctor shrugged. "It's comfortable....And I bought it...for myself," she added as she realized what was bothering Sam. "And now I want to see you in it because it's an image I find sexy as hell."

Carter let out a breath she hadn't even been aware of holding and smiled gingerly, feeling foolish.

"I didn't keep anything of his," Janet murmured and stepped back to stand in front of Sam. "And if I had, I certainly wouldn't ask you to wear it." She slipped her hand under the waistband of Sam's sweatshirt, brushing her fingertips over her stomach. "Now, I think you should change."

While Sam's mobility was no longer as hindered as Janet's, stripping off her sweatshirt was still easier said than done. After some contortions, and with Janet's help, she finally peeled it off and tossed it aside. She jumped a brief second later when a finger slipped under the center of her bra, tugging and letting go so it snapped very lightly against her skin.

"And now this," Janet whispered, eyes gleaming brightly.

Carter took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm her jangled nerves, then lifted her hands to the front catch on the bra, incredibly aware of the woman watching her as she moved.

"Just do it," Janet challenged, her mouth quirked in an evil grin.

Sam swallowed hard, nerving herself up, then popped the catch and let the silky fabric slide down off her shoulders all in one motion, knowing that if she didn't do it fast, she wouldn't have the courage to do it at all.

"Speaking of perfect..." Janet whispered as her eyes hungrily devoured the blond's lean frame.

Shaking her head, Sam blushed violently, though it felt surprisingly right to be standing so vulnerable in front of this woman. "I've got scars...and...." She gestured to the gauze pads still taped over the injury on her side. "And when the bandages come off I'll have even more."

Janet trailed a fingertip along a pale white line that ran diagonally from the point of Sam's shoulder down over the jut of her collarbone before tapering out just short of her sternum. She had seen any scars before of course, just as she had seen almost every inch of Sam's body, but never in the same way as she was seeing it now. "They're a part of you...a part of all the things that make you so appealing--"

"The fact that I get hurt a lot?" Sam repeated doubtfully. That seemed a weird basis for attraction at best.

Smiling, Janet shook her head. "The reasons you get hurt," she murmured. "You save the world on a regular basis and think nothing of it. Every scar is just another reminder of how courageous...how brave...how truly remarkable you are." Everything I could want in a woman, Janet added mentally. She'd always had a weakness for heroes, starting with an addiction to Errol Flynn movies and Wonder Woman comic books at an early age. No wonder she'd fallen so hard for Samantha Carter.

Sam waved the comment off. "Just doing a job," she demurred.

"Hardly that," the smaller woman disagreed distantly and traced her fingers along another scar, this time an almost invisible line that marred Sam's right bicep. She had the almost overpowering urge to lean forward and taste the damaged flesh, knowing full well that once her lips made contact, they wouldn't stop at her arm. She closed her eyes  and consciously took a step backward, holding her hand out in a braking motion. "You might want to put that on now," she muttered with a small gesture. "

Realizing she wasn't the only one shaken to the core, Sam shrugged into the lightweight shirt, settling it on her shoulders before she began clumsily fastening the buttons, then rolling up the cuffs.

After a moment, Janet opened first one eye and then the other, relieved to find Sam somewhat more dressed than before. It made it easier to resist the urge to share anything and everything two lovers could share. Not a lot easier, but at least within the realm of possibility. A brief second later, even knowing they were on thin ice, she couldn't resist the urge to whisper, "I thought the jeans were going to go."

"You really do like to live dangerously," Sam exhaled in an awed voice. "I thought we weren't going to do anything but hold each other tonight."

Rich dark eyes glinted with good humor. "I'm willing to take the risk."

Without a word, Sam unbuttoned her jeans and slid them down over slender hips, revealing muscled thighs and calves toughened by the rigors of her regular duties. She kicked the bundle of fabric aside, not caring where it landed, her entire focus directed toward the woman in front of her. Finished, she reached out a hand, silently inviting Janet into her arms right where she wanted her. As they came together, bodies fitting perfectly, hands eagerly touching, it felt so achingly right that Sam made no effort to resist the desire to lean down and taste soft lips. Their mouths brushed, teased, tasted, pulled away momentarily, then met again before they finally pulled back to a hand's breadth.

Lost in sensation and breathing raggedly, Janet let her head fall forward, leaning against Sam's chest and listening to the hard driving beat of her heart. She spread the fingers of her good hand on the taller woman's chest as if to absorb the throbbing rhythm. It felt so good after those hellish moments when she'd thought it was gone forever.

"Lie down with me," Sam panted into silky dark hair. She wanted nothing so much as to hold this woman close and wake up with her in the morning.

"Yes." The single word came out as little more than a sigh that dusted across the bare skin of Sam's throat.

They both stood unmoving until Sam couldn't help but chuckle softly. "This is always so much simpler in movies...everybody always just falls gracefully into bed in slow motion--"

"And then they cut to commercial while they try and get their elbows out of each other's ribs," Janet couldn't resist the urge to joke. They both needed something to release a little of the building tension.

"What, you don't believe that all those incredibly smooth and hopelessly easy romantic scenes are just like the real thing?" Sam riposted, pretending to look amazed by the concept.

Janet patted her chest lightly. "How about we just climb in?" she suggested through soft laughter.

It was done without fanfare or romantic music. They simply pulled back the comforter and slipped under, adjusting themselves and fumbling around uncertainly, until finally Sam lay spooned up against Janet's back, arms wrapped loosely around the smaller woman.

"The logistics of this are more challenging than I expected," the major breathed near a delicate ear.

Janet turned her head to peer up at the woman pressed against her back. "Only an astrophysicist would use the term logistics at a time like this," she groaned. She was breathing harder than normal, pupils dilated, her skin glowing with a thin sheen of perspiration.

"Well, you know what they say about astrophysicists," Sam joked, "We send you to the stars." She ducked her head to press a soft kiss onto Janet's mouth, painfully aware of every movement made by the woman held safely in her arm.

"Promises, promises," the doctor groaned breathlessly as the kiss broke.

Sam buried her face in dark auburn hair, breathing in the sweet aroma of her shampoo as she struggled to control the hard-driving burn of desire. And this had been her idea. Oh, just brilliant. She was never going to get through this. Against her better judgment, she spread her fingers against the warmth of Janet's stomach, feeling the rough cadence of her breathing. She knew exactly what she'd find if she slid her fingers just a little lower...and just how sweet it would feel.

"This was your idea," Janet accused on a low groan, achingly aware of those long sculpted fingers against her belly. She had no doubt Sam would be a good lover. She'd watched her so many times in the lab, her touch light, sensitive, and perfectly controlled as she manipulated the equipment to do what she needed. Hands like that would know just how to touch and how much pressure to apply in any situation.

Sam seriously considered throwing caution to the winds, strongly suspecting that she wasn't the only one whose self-control was being pushed to the limit. She felt the rough brush of the sling that still protected the other woman's injury and the pull of the gauze taped to her side, reminding why that would be a bad idea.

Amazing to discover at this stage of her life that heaven and hell were one and the same.

"Talk to me," she pleaded. "Tell me something about when you were young...I want to know everything ... about your life." She also wanted something that might distract her from the decidedly erotic nature of her thoughts.

A long moment passed while Janet tried to make her brain function in some vaguely coherent fashion. "Well...when I was sixteen, I got my first car and...."

Sam phased out for a moment as she contemplated an image of Janet at that age. Sixteen was first cars, first dates, first real kisses, the first dawning of sexual knowledge-- No, that wasn't going to help. "Younger," she croaked. "Something sweet...and wholesome...and totally innocent...."

A brief moment passed, then Janet cleared her throat and began again. "We were ... uh... building a treehouse when I was thirteen...."

Sam had a mental image of Janet as she might have been at that tender age, halfway between child and adult, just blossoming into youthful beauty and innocent appeal...in a treehouse where they could have discovered each other's secrets, shared a first hidden kiss and-- "Something else," she croaked, cutting the thought off right there.

Janet twisted to peer up at her, her expression questioning.

"I just...um...keep imagining the two of us...y'know...if we grew up together...."

Comprehension entered the other woman's expression, and then a lazy smile curved her lips as she had a few fantasies of her own. With a soft sigh, she snuggled a little deeper into Sam's arms, resting her fingers on the hand spread against her stomach. "How about when I was six?"

Janet. Six. Cute as a button, probably with pigtails and a missing tooth. Sam could handle that. "Tell me," she whispered against the curve of her shoulder.

Fraiser began slowly, distracted by the feel of the woman pressed against her back, but as she got into the story from her childhood, her voice grew more animated, and with Sam's prompting, she floated into another story, and then another, sharing the bits and pieces of her life in a way she couldn't recall doing with any other lover. Certainly, there hadn't been anyone who'd ever wanted all the myriad of details of her life from the bizarre to the banal.

Finally, she trailed off sleepily, aware that her eyes were tending to slide closed for longer periods of time, while it was taking longer and longer to get out the simplest thought. It startled her to realize that even with sleep hovering at the edges of her consciousness, her body was still burning with a steady low-grade level of arousal. It didn't help that Sam's hand had gravitated until it was loosely cupping her breast, that tender eroticism an ongoing reminder of what lay between them. "Sam?"

"Hmmm?" the blond mumbled against her shoulder.

"Y'still awake?" The question was asked through a yawn.

"Jus' close m'eyes for a sec'," Sam murmured.

It was the last thought she had before the blasting sound of something that seemed to approximate music without actually making the grade rattled the walls. Sam sat bolt upright, momentarily thinking the Goa'uld had attacked.

OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN!
I PLAYED WITH YOUR HEART!
GOT LOST IN THE GAME....

"What the hell?" she groaned, thinking maybe a chipmunk was being tortured somewhere in the immediate environs. As a member of SG-1, she was probably supposed to put a stop to that sort of thing, though as untalented a chipmunk as it apparently was, it hardly seemed worth the effort. Then she noted that Janet was already up and dressed. Her expression annoyed, she pushed the door to her bedroom open and bellowed out into the hallway to make herself heard above the cacophony of bubblegum music.

"Cass! Radio! Down! Now!"

A moment later, the ear-drum piercing wails stopped and Sam flopped over with a low groan, folding an arm across her face as she muttered, "What the hell was that?"

"Cassie's clock radio."

"So, nobody's killing cats in the neighborhood?"

"No, just our regular morning dose of Britney Spears...which means tomorrow will be N'Sync. She's out of her Hanson phase now, so I can't remember what comes after that." Janet stuck out her tongue to punctuate the answer. "It's amazing--and maybe a little frightening--how fast she's assimilated into the culture."

"Dear God, you don't actually go through this every morning?" Sam demanded.

Janet nodded. "I get through by reminding myself that my mother doubtless felt exactly the same way about Andy Gibb and the Starland Vocal Band...actually, I know she did. She reminds me every time we talk." She rolled her eyes. "She thinks this is absolutely hilarious."

Suddenly realizing that the radio alarm doubtless meant the child was up and getting ready for school, Sam pushed out of bed and grabbed for her jeans to yank them on. Neither one of them was anywhere near ready for the explanations that would be required if Cassie walked in right at that moment. She nodded toward Janet's reharnessed shoulder, noting that she'd obviously stripped it off long enough to change out of the nightshirt into a blue chambray button down shirt. "You should have woken me to help."

Janet shrugged. "You needed the sleep."

Without meaning to, they gravitated toward each other, hands touching, stroking, and finally holding on as their mouths met in the softest of kisses that didn't break until they were both breathing hard.

"Cassie," Janet groaned as she leaned into the supportive warmth of Sam's shoulder. "I have to get her off to school."

Sam pressed a small kiss to her lover's temple. "Go," she croaked, pushing Janet toward the door while she still could. After the door had slammed behind her, she shaded her eyes with her hand and leaned against the nearest wall as she listened to the sounds in the other parts of the house. It felt right to be there, hearing their voices and the everyday sounds of the morning ritual. She heard Janet mention her name to Cassie, and felt warmed at the tone used by both the woman and the child. It made her feel like a part of this family.

Sam sighed very softly as she contemplated her situation. She was completely realistic. She knew the dangers if anyone at the SGC found out, but for the first time in her life she had found something worth risking her career for. It was amazing how something could be so exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Finally, she just straightened and headed toward the kitchen still wearing the borrowed shirt and the scent of her lover's body.

* * * * * *

"Exhale," Fraiser instructed, listening to the soft sound as Sam let out the breath she'd been holding. She moved the head of the stethoscope to another point on the blond's narrow back, easily shifting her hand under the loose white shirt she was still wearing. "Inhale." A moment later; "Exhale," again.

"So am I going to live?" Sam asked conversationally as she let her breath out. Cassie was off to school and she was sitting on the heavy wooden table that dominated Janet's kitchen wearing jeans, the shirt she'd slept in unbuttoned and hanging open in front, while the doctor checked her over with a fine-toothed comb. All things considered, levity seemed like her best option.

"No talking," Janet reminded her.

"You're no fun," Sam complained, then took another deep breath as she felt the stethoscope move against her back again, the chilly metal raising goosebumps on her skin. "Do doctors keep those things in the freezer when you aren't using them?" she muttered.

"Just the fridge," Fraiser responded pertly. "Though if you keep talking, I will use the freezer next time."

"Sadist," Sam grumbled, but fell silent, simply inhaling and exhaling on cue. Janet was firmly in professional doctor mode--she'd already changed the dressings on Sam's side, her touch light as she first checked the healing injuries, and now seemed bent on a complete physical--so flirting was more or less pointless. Aside from the occasional one-liner, she just wasn't playing along.

Finally, the doctor trailed her hand lightly down Sam's spine as she finished. "You can button your shirt," she murmured distantly.

Sam twisted to peer over her shoulder at the other woman, her expression teasing. "Actually, it's your shirt...and I don't have to if you don't want me to," she offered.

A dark russet brow lifted in response to the offer as Fraiser yanked herself back to the present. Her manner remained businesslike though. "Any pain or difficulty breathing?" she questioned crisply.

Sam rolled her eyes. "Nope...no problems. Feel like I could run a marathon."

Janet sighed softly and shook her head, but otherwise ignored the remark as she shifted enough to use her good hand to guide Sam's chin her way so she could peer at her eyes, her gaze coolly assessing.

"C'mon, Doc," Sam said, falling back on her teammates appellation for the other woman, "Relax. I'm fine."

Janet stroked Sam's chin very lightly with the pad of her thumb. "I just need to make sure there aren't any remaining complications," she said softly, her tone and expression serious.

Sam waved off her fears and thumped her own chest. "Remember? 'Strong like bull.'"

Janet let her hand fall until it was resting very lightly over Sam's sternum, tapping a staccato tattoo with delicate fingers as she gently mocked Sam's bravado, "Remember? Almost 'Dead like duck.'"

Sam ducked her head in acknowledgment. "Touch�." They both fell silent for a long beat until, finally, she ran a hand through her hair just to have something to do. "So, what's the verdict?"

"The gashes on your side are healing nicely...I doubt there will even be much scarring...."

"There's a but in your tone," Sam prompted suddenly as she noted the hesitation in Janet's manner.

"No," the doctor disagreed. "There's still some congestion in your lungs...I don't think it's anything serious--probably just a side effect of the allergic reaction--but I want to keep an eye on it." It was undoubtedly nothing. She knew that, but after everything that had happened, she'd have been cautious about a bunion.

"So I'm not going to drop dead anytime soon?"

"God, you'd better not. I don't think I could survive the experience again," Janet muttered as she turned away to replace the stethoscope in the first aid kit open on the counter behind her, busying herself in an effort not to think about those moments when she'd heard Sam flatline and seen her go deathly limp.

As she watched, Sam realized that despite the professional fa�ade, Janet lacked her usual steadiness as she repacked the kit. "Janet," she said after a beat, "c'mere."

The doctor's slender back stiffened and she froze in place, her hand still resting on the edge of the first aid kit. Despite her best efforts to concentrate past it, the memory insisted on playing itself out in her mind's eye...over and over.

When she still hadn't moved after a long beat, Sam reached out, her hand hanging poised in the air as she gently invited, "Please."

Janet turned her head to peer back over her shoulder, her eyes suspiciously glossy. "I'm being silly," she said by way of explanation. "I know that--"

"No," Sam disagreed quietly. They'd both had some nasty shocks to deal with. It was going to take time for all of the wounds to heal; not just the physical ones.

"It's just that when I look at the way you were hurt and I remember...."

Sam kept her arm outstretched. "I know. I'm going through the same thing...I see him with that gun to your head." She shivered at the mental image. "That's why I want to hold you...need...to hold you."

"I'm usually a lot more together," Janet whispered breathlessly.

Sam nodded. "The most together person I know." She'd always been impressed by the doctor's crisp professionalism and absolute competency. It had always been a relief to know she was the backup if any of them got hurt. And she couldn't even begin to say how amazed she'd been when the other woman had added Cassandra to the list of responsibilities she juggled full time, somehow managing single-parenthood to a child with some very serious problems on top of her other full time duties.

"I wouldn't go that far."

"I would," Sam informed her pleasantly. "Now, come here."

A moment passed, then Janet quietly snapped the first aid kit shut and turned, flowing into Sam's outstretched hold. With a soft sigh, she leaned into the comforting warmth of her body, unresisting when Sam curved a hand to the back of her head, gently tugging her closer until Janet's cheek was pressed against her chest.

Careful not to jostle either of their injuries, Sam wrapped both arms around the smaller woman and hooked her dangling feet loosely around slender thighs. With a satisfied sigh, she rested her chin on the top of her head, taking pleasure from the sensation of cool silk threads fluttering against her skin and the scent of sweet soap and shampoo--and something else that was wholly unique to this woman--floating around her head. "Feels nice," she murmured, her breath ruffling a few strands of dark auburn hair.

"Mmhmm," Janet mumbled a muffled response as she nuzzled deeper into Sam's hold, hooking her free arm around her waist, accepting the succor they both needed so desperately.

Long minutes passed in quiet communion and contemplation, the steady pulse of life between them a much needed reassurance for both women.

Finally, Janet lifted her head from the warm support of Sam's chest. "I've thought about this before," she murmured, her breath fanning over Sam's skin. "Not quite under these circumstances, I'll admit." She laughed softly. "And definitely when we were both in better condition." Her gaze rose until she was peering deeply into Sam's eyes as though she could see through to her soul. "But I've thought about holding you so many times."

Sam was momentarily struck dumb, her mouth hanging open as she stared at the other woman in shock. She'd never guessed, never even vaguely contemplated that possibility. Not that she hadn't had a few fantasies of her own--she had--but even with the change in their relationship, it hadn't yet occurred to her that she might not have been the only one. "You're serious," she murmured at last.

Janet's brows climbed high on her forehead while a soft blush dusted her cheekbones. Suddenly self-conscious, she nodded. "Yeah." She swallowed hard, looking down as she shifted her hand around to play with Sam's collar. "I just wanted you to know...this isn't some sudden...hormonal thing..." She growled softly in frustration at not being able to easily say what she was thinking. Normally, she had a fairly easy way with words. "This attraction...it's not new...it's been developing for awhile." She trailed her fingers up the graceful arch of Sam's throat, stroking lightly as another thought occurred to her. "Maybe even longer than I'm aware of."

"From the first," Sam breathed her own admission. A tiny, embarrassed half-laugh escaped her lips as she leaned closer, her breath teasing Janet's ear when she spoke. "I noticed you the moment we met...." She brushed her lips along the curve of Janet's cheek, sighing contentedly as the woman in her arms turned her head into the delicate caress until their lips met.

It was the sweetest of kisses; more an expression of caring than passion.

At least it started out that way.

Sam was never sure when it changed, or even if changed was the right word. It was more like it deepened, melding naturally from one expression of their relationship to another. Their lips moved together in instinctive rhythm, trading caresses back and forth, while Janet slipped her hand inside Sam's open shirt, wrapping her arm around her torso to hold on tightly. It went on for long minutes until both of them were breathing hard and trembling.

Finally, Janet broke the kiss, ducking her head to bury her face in the curve of Sam's throat. "Dear God," she groaned weakly. "We're at the kitchen table." She sounded amazed by the discovery, as though she'd momentarily forgotten everything but the woman holding her.

"It's the kitchen table all right." Sam couldn't restrain a tiny, dazed chuckle as she pressed an affectionate kiss to Janet's temple. "We seem to be a little...incendiary...today." Just like the night before went unsaid, but the reality was there with them.

"More than a little."

Sam ducked her head and they shared another small kiss despite any intentions to the contrary. "How much longer are you due to wear this thing?" she gasped as a stroking hand ran into the canvas support wrapped around Janet's arm and shoulder.

"Probably another week."

"We're both doomed," Sam moaned. Her every nerve-ending was jangling. Just the notion of waiting another seven days was physically painful.

Janet held up her hand in a braking motion, her words coming out in stammering fits and starts. "Now...now...it's not necessarily a ... uh ... a bad thing. Neither one of us tend to be the sort of people who leap into these things--at least not normally� and maybe... well...waiting would be...." She paused, trying to convince herself of her argument and ignore the way her blood was burning in her veins. Her thought processes were definitely not at their sharpest. "It's probably best--for both of us--we'll be more...more certain of-of ourselves...and...and where we stand...with each other...."

Sam peered at her for a long moment, one eyebrow high on her forehead.

"So, are you actually buying any of this?" Janet asked after a beat and with more than a touch of self-mockery.

The blond shrugged. "Actually, it's a pretty fair point." She shook her head. "I'm just not used to reacting like this." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm her roaring heartbeat and trembling hands.

The doctor heaved a sigh, tipping her head forward until it was resting on Sam's shoulder. "This is hard," she pronounced each syllable distinctly and with considerable effort. She spread her hand against Sam's back, massaging firm muscles. "Really...really...hard."

"You know, don't you," Sam murmured against Janet's temple, "how much I want to make love to you?"

"Oh... I know," the brunette groaned, her voice cracking mid sentence. Normally, she was so good at self-control, but somehow Sam just seemed to blow that capacity all to hell. "I think," she began at last, and pushed herself back enough to peer up at the other woman, "that I should probably go ... get some work done." It was a genuine struggle to come up with a reason to leave. Work was absolutely the farthest thing from her mind.

Sam kept her hands right where they were, nuzzling Janet's ear as she murmured, "Work? I thought you were totally off for a couple of weeks."

The smaller woman shook her head. "It's nothing major...some file work...requisitions and such." She straightened her shoulders, trying to get herself back under control. "But I think--right now-- that tedious paperwork is probably not a bad thing."

Sam sighed very softly and nodded. "I know you're right," she admitted regretfully. She'd never been like this with anyone before and it was more than a little overwhelming. She couldn't argue that a little breathing space for both of them was the wisest course of action. Wisest perhaps, but not the one her instincts were telling her to follow. "But I wish you weren't."

"You aren't the only one." She stroked Sam's chin with the pad of her thumb. "I just...um...we're both a little overheated."

"A lot overheated," Sam corrected.

Janet smiled. "A lot overheated." She rested her hand lightly on Sam's chest. "In fact, I think maybe it would be better ... tonight ... if we ... uh... did separate rooms. A repeat of last night might be a little much...for both of us."

"Separate rooms," Sam exhaled, knowing full well that she was right. They needed to slow things down a little. That didn't mean she had to like it. "Probably for the best," she admitted raggedly.

"Mmm, for the best." Janet applied light pressure to Sam's chest, edging backwards and forcing Sam to unwrap her legs from around her thighs. "I should get to work." She gestured to Sam's open shirt, keeping her eyes firmly on the other woman's face as she questioned, "Do you need any help...getting down...or anything?"

Sam shook her head. "I'm fine. You go on."

"Right." Janet stood uncertainly for a beat, then finally gestured toward the entrance to the kitchen. "If you need me, I'll be in the study. It's just down the hall...."

"I know."

Despite her intention to leave and not press things any farther, Janet couldn't quite contain a grin and she spoke without planning to. "I'm glad...about this...you...me...I just wanted you to know that."

"I am too," Sam admitted, sharing the easy camaraderie. "Now, you'd better go before I change my mind and drag you back over here."

"I almost wish you would." Thick with longing, the words were out of Janet's mouth before she could call them back. Both women froze for no more than a second, though it seemed to last ages.

"Go on," Sam whispered before she could change her mind and follow her more primitive instincts.

"Going," Janet agreed, sharing a last smile before she slipped out.

When she was alone, Sam slowly began buttoning her shirt, her hands clumsier than normal. "What have I gotten myself into?" she wondered aloud. But there were no easy answers.

* * * * * *

That night, Sam lay in bed in the guest bedroom, reading--or at least trying to read--a mystery she'd borrowed from the bookshelves in the livingroom. Her eyes ran over the words on the page, but none of the meaning sank in. Her mind was too busy running over other things. After her 'checkup,' she'd spent the first half of the day watching TV or trying to read while Janet disappeared into her office doing paperwork. Once Cass got home from school, unknowingly serving as an unofficial chaperon, Janet had joined them for a rollicking game of Monopoly that paused only long enough for Sam to order in pizza. An evening of bad jokes, pepperoni pizza, Ventnor Avenue and Park Place had left them all laughing until Sam's sides ached. It had been nice; the sort of innocent family activity that she'd enjoyed with Janet and Cassie before, except this time there was an added level, another awareness that had never been there before.

An awareness that was still with her as she lay there unsuccessfully trying to concentrate on the words on the page before her. Finally, she just snapped the book shut and flopped her head back into the pillow, closing her eyes, though whether it was to lose herself in, or block out, the fantasies running through her head, it was hard to say.

A night spent holding the other woman had left her with a desire that bordered on a compulsion to hold her again. And this time, she didn't think she'd ever let go.

Sam folded an arm over her eyes, electricity sliding over her skin as she remembered every moment of the night before, from the warmth and graceful curves of woman wrapped securely in her arms, to the timbre of her voice as she talked about her life.

And right now, she was just down the hall; no more than a few steps away.

Sam hurt--literally ached--with frustrated want.

She fisted her hands tightly, aware of the rapid beat of her heart and the movement of blood in her veins. Even the movement of the sheets against her skin was making it worse.

It wasn't so much sexual desire--that was a component of course--but it was the emotional need not to be alone that was really driving her. She wanted nothing more than for Janet to be there... with her...preferably in her arms and in her life.

In her life.

Sam repeated the phrase mentally, then tacked on an addendum, turning the thought into a question.

As in permanently?

Sam froze, seriously considering her emotions. In the past, when she'd had that thought, she'd found herself running away as fast as her feet would carry her, out the door, down the walk, and on with her life. Commitment had never been her strong suit. She'd had relationships, but they had been brief, transitory, and with people who were no more likely to want to settle down than she was.

This time the only running out the door she could envision was out the bedroom door and down the hall to Janet's bedroom.

She just wanted to be with her.

As if in response to some silent summoning, there was a soft knock on the door.

Sam pushed bolt upright, hands braced on the mattress, muscles taut with the barely contained need to do something--like find Janet and drag her close. "Come in."

A heartbeat later, the doctor poked her head in the door, looking slightly uncertain as she spoke. "I hope I didn't wake you."

"No," Sam said instantly. "You didn't." She swallowed hard, wanting to say more, but suddenly lacking the courage. Maybe she'd misread the whole situation. Maybe it was just physical. Maybe Janet had thought better of pursuing a relationship. And maybe Sam ought to stop letting her imagination run away with her. It wasn't helping the situation.

Janet stepped a little farther into the room, and Sam couldn't help but notice that she was dressed for bed, a lightweight white robe belted over the top of the blue nightshirt she'd worn the night before. "I just wanted to check on you before I go to bed...see if there's anything you need," she said by way of explanation.

Sam sat poised to answer honestly for a moment, but they had a deal, she reminded herself. Finally, she shook her head. "No...nothing." Nothing, but you, she added mentally as she eyed the other woman, taking in the graceful curves barely hidden by her light robe.

"All right then," Janet murmured and started to step back into the hallway.

"Wait," Sam said before Janet could get out the door. She couldn't do it. She just couldn't resist the impulse to tell the truth. "There is something I need."

The brunette took a step back inside Sam's room, her expression pensive. "Yes?"

"You," Sam exhaled after a beat. "I need you." Janet stood staring at Sam, while the blond was braced for, and absolutely expecting, a refusal. Probably Janet was more in control than she was. If you're honest, probably anyone is in more control of themselves than you are, a tiny voice whispered in her ear. She was surprised a beat later when a tiny relieved smile touched the brunette's lips.

"I was beginning to think were never going to say anything."

Sam pulled the blankets next to her back, clearly making room in the bed. A brief moment later, Janet's robe lay discarded on the floor, and she slid under the covers with uncommon grace for someone on the injured list. Sam wrapped an arm around the smaller woman, encouraging her as she snuggled up close. She heaved a satisfied sigh as she found herself exactly where she wanted to be. Everything just felt right now. She turned her head until her nose was a scant inch or two from Janet's. "I was about thirty seconds from coming to your room," she admitted breathlessly.

Janet cuddled even closer, resting her head on Sam's shoulder. "I wish you had."

Sam couldn't restrain a flirtatious smile. "Does that mean you like it when the other person makes the first move?" she teased.

"Sometimes," Janet admitted on a laugh. Her gaze dropped to touch on Sam's lips, then lifted again to meet vibrant blue eyes. She should never have even imagined she could resist this woman, even for a night. "But also I have the larger bed."

Sam scooted down a few inches, rearranging herself so that Janet was enveloped safely in her arms. The bed was narrow enough that neither woman could have pulled back very far without falling off the edge. "I don't know," she murmured as she spread her hand against the small of Janet's back, "there some advantages to smaller beds."

Janet stroked the length of Sam's calf with the bottom of her foot, smiling as she felt a tiny shudder slide through her. "One or two," she allowed, then fell silent as she watched Sam contemplatively, studying every millimeter of her features.

"Thinking deep thoughts?" Sam questioned after a long moment of the intense scrutiny.

"A few," the smaller woman admitted. She smoothed a gentle finger along Sam's brow, stroking outward from the center, then running her fingertips into the silky hair at her temple.

Sam swallowed hard, temptation gleaming in her eyes. "Like what?" she whispered as she slid her hand down, stroking Janet's hip lightly and then down her upper thigh, instinctively thrilled by the flare of heat she saw in her dark gaze.

Janet shrugged, suddenly self-conscious and wondering if maybe she was moving things too quickly. She'd been in that boat before; taking a relationship more seriously than the person she was with. She opened her mouth, trying to find a way to express herself, then snapped it shut again as words failed her. Or maybe it was her courage that suddenly failed her. Everything was moving so fast that it was more than a little overwhelming.

Sensing her uncertainty, Sam slid her hand up to stroke Janet's lips softly, outlining them with the tip of her index finger. "Trust me," she whispered. "Tell me what you're thinking."

"I do trust you," Janet exhaled. She wouldn't be there if she didn't. "I just...." She took a deep breath before continuing. "I can't believe how my life has changed in twenty-four hours." She toyed with the silky blond hair at Sam's temple. "And that's how it feels...like my life is in a totally new place...somewhere I've never been before." A tiny, flustered laugh slipped out. "And I know that probably sounds absolutely ridiculous."

"No," Sam whispered and ducked her head, kissing Janet softly, the meeting of their lips achingly tender. "I feel the same way." She kissed her again, lips no more than a hand's thickness apart when they finally broke apart. "Everything is different now." She shaped a hand to the side of Janet's face. "Absolutely everything." And they kissed again, lips meeting, drawing back slightly, then meeting again, setting a rhythm that left them both breathless in moments. Legs twined together, hands moving over smooth curves, flesh blockaded from flesh by only the thinnest of fabric barricades. And then Sam's hand encountered rough canvas, forcing harsh reality back into the passion-dazed situation. "Except this," she groaned, cupping Janet's injured shoulder very tenderly, careful not to risk any further injury. As much as she wanted things to go further, listening to her lover scream in pain wasn't her idea of a satisfying sexual encounter.

"Just take the damn thing off," Janet groaned into the curve of Sam's shoulder, more than willing to take the chance in the quest for more contact.

"No...we...we have to...um...."

Janet dragged her tongue up a sensitive cord in her lover's throat, then found her lips again, fingers digging into her hair as she pulled her closer. Despite her good intentions, Sam couldn't resist the sensual invitation in that kiss, and soon found herself drawn on top of Janet, muscles flexing as she took most of her own weight.

Heat and arousal driving both women past the bounds of coherent thought, they traded hungry kisses and caresses, bodies moving together in a ancient tempo. Sam braced her hand against the mattress, muscles straining, mouth bound to her lover's as she drank in her tiny moans of excitement. She'd never had any idea just how powerful a master desire could be, but she was learning. Then her hand encountered the rough canvas protecting her lover's shoulder again, and she tasted her tiny gasp of surprise--there was no pain in the catch, but there was the threat. A little more pressure and Janet would be in agony and they both knew it.

"We can't," Sam rasped with Herculean effort and carefully shifted to one side, her passion cooled considerably by the reminder of her lover's possible discomfort.

"Sam?" Janet groaned shakily, turning toward the other woman. "Are you all right?" She reached out, afraid Sam had hurt herself.

"Mmm." Sam concentrated to center herself and regain control, then did a slow roll onto her back. "I'm okay...I just...um...we can't...your shoulder..." she babbled incoherently. "...my side...bad idea...God, shoot me now."

"Ah," Janet exhaled in an incoherent attempt at understanding. With a soft, longing sigh, she turned into the protection of Sam's body, nuzzling up close. "No shooting though...the last thing we need is more injuries."

In spite of her vibrating hormones, Sam couldn't restrain a chuckle. "Ain't that the truth," she exhaled heavily. She slipped an arm around Janet's body, holding her lightly. "And now, I think maybe we should try for something distracting...." Janet moved ever so slightly, sending another bolt of sensual friction through both of them. Sam inhaled sharply, the barely restrained wildfire of need burning through her threatening to explode out of control once again. "Very distracting... very, very distracting."

"Ummm," Janet mumbled, struggling to make her brain function on a slightly higher plain. It was a considerable challenge. Finally, she murmured, "Schr�dinger's cat."

Sam blinked in confusion. "Schr�dinger's cat?" she repeated doubtfully.

Janet nodded. "Mmhm...I've never understood the whole concept. I mean the cat half dead, half alive thing...makes no sense to me." Okay, so it wasn't exactly an expected question. Still, she couldn't think of anything more distracting for Sam and less arousing for her than a discussion about quantum theory and astrophysics.

"B-but...."

"And now I've got one of the world's premier astrophysicists here with me." She rested her chin on Sam's chest to stare adoringly at her. "I figure if anyone understands it, it's you."

Sam shook her head, a dry smile curving her lips. "It's about quantum physics. No one understands quantum physics."

"Explain it to me," Janet drawled, somehow making the request an erotic experience.

"Okay," Sam exhaled after a beat. She lifted her free hand to massage her temple as she struggled to clear away the cobwebs. "Schr�dinger's cat...I can do this...." She took a deep breath, struggling to access her scientific left brain--it had more or less shut down due to sensory overload from her more passionate right brain-- then began, her voice far steadier than she expected. "It's actually a philosophical way of discussing quantum physics. You see the cat...."

* * * * * * *

Continue to Chapter 4-5

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