Whispered Promises -- Prologue - Ch. 2 --  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 |

Prologue

A huge crash exploded through the chamber that contained the Stargate, with its watery entrance to the broadest reaches of space, as the door to the universe was reopened. Techs ran, hurrying to man their posts during the unexpected opening of the gate, while the always armed guards drew to attention, their weapons at the ready in case there was some pursuing problem forcing SG-1's early return. It wouldn't be the first time unfriendlies had chased a team through the gate.

Brief moments later, they tightened their grips on their weapons as two familiar figures stumbled through to the tune of voluble curses.

Sam Carter wasn't having a good day. Her left side had been painfully clawed by a creature the team had run into on their latest venture into the reaches of the Stargate. Sharp talons had nearly shredded the heavy flack vest, jacket, and canvas uniform designed to protect the wearer from a myriad of threats, and torn into the soft flesh beneath. She had her right arm draped across Daniel Jackson's shoulders, accepting badly needed support, while she was forced to concentrate on the floor beneath her feet just to keep from going down.

Only a pace behind the other two, Jack O'Neill leapt through the gate still shouting to the remaining team members, "Move it!" His gaze met Daniel's as he checked to make sure the younger man had cleared the gate with his semi-conscious burden. "We need a medical team!" he bellowed to the technicians hurrying forward even as he reached out to help cushion Sam's stumbling collapse to the floor where she lay sprawled, her face twisted in pain, leaving Teal'c to see to their equipment.

"Ah, God," the blond officer groaned weakly. Her side was on fire where the creature's claws had raked her, leaving deep furrows, and judging by the challenge simply breathing presented, possibly cracking a couple of ribs as well. All in all, not a terribly successful mission.

"Jesus, I'm sorry," Daniel apologized over and over as he knelt next to Sam, petting her hair back from her brow and staring in shocked horror.

"You should be," Jack growled as he dropped down beside them. His eyes were scared, and he covered the fear with gruffness. He hated having anyone in his command hurt, but Sam was more than just one of his soldiers, she was a friend, which made it doubly hard to see her in danger.

"It didn't look vicious when I first saw it. I didn't think it would attack"

"It's not that bad, really," Sam tried to insist, though the way her expression was twisted with pain painted the denial for the lie it was.

"Everybody move back," a crisp voice commanded as the medical team, a crash kit and gurney in tow appeared. Dr. Janet Fraiser plowed through the men with professional efficiency, pressing them back as she moved to her patient's side, kneeling down to eye the damage with forced calm. She loved the challenge of working on the Stargate team, thrived on constant flow of new information and otherworldly biology, and genuinely hated it when she had to play the old fashioned doctor and patch up the wounds of the various officers and soldiers who made up the SG teams. She especially hated it when the injured were friends. "Looks like you zigged when you should have zagged," she teased Sam lightly in an effort to distract the obviously pained woman as she carefully started peeling back layers of torn fabric  to get a look at the damage.

Carter tried to force a smile, though it visibly took all of her effort. "What can I say? I told Daniel he shouldn't get his pets from the pound." The riposte melded into a soft cry as gentle hands pried shredded fabric away from torn flesh.

Fraiser looked up at O'Neill, her expression questioning. The colonel looked uncomfortable. "The local wildlife turned out to be more savage than it initially appeared."

"I am so sorry," Daniel Jackson apologized again. An Egyptologist by trade, he'd learned to think like the military out of need most of the time, but he still slipped sometimes and gave way to the scientific curiosity that was his natural bent. Usually, he was the one endangered for his efforts. This time, Major Carter had paid the bill in saving him.

The doctor refocused her attentions on Sam's injuries, paling as she caught sight of the clear yellow drainage mixed with blood in the wound. "We need a backboard--I don't want to jar her any more than necessary," she snapped to the waiting aids, then leaned forward, peering into Sam's eyes, letting her know what was going on to keep her as calm as possible. "We've got a possible toxin in the wound. That may be one of the reasons it's hurting so badly."

Sam nodded her comprehension, though her eyes were glazing over with pain and toxic reaction.

"I can't give you anything for the pain until I know what I'm dealing with...but you are going to be all right. Do you hear me? We'll take care of you." The doctor knew from experience that the patient's attitude was half the battle, and with a toxin in her bloodstream that had no known treatment, it was imperative to keep Carter as calm as possible. She had no intention of losing this patient. That simply was not an option.

The major lifted a hand, curving it to the doctor's forearm and holding on tightly. Her eyes were scared, but her expression was one of grim resolve. "I trust you."

"Atta girl," Fraiser praised quietly, then glanced over as the orderlies approached with a back board readied to move Carter onto it. "We're going to do this as gently as possible," she assured her patient, then turned to the waiting men, directing traffic to keep the trauma to a minimum. Even as careful as they were in moving her, Sam let out a small whimper as she was lifted onto the board. She was slipping into unconsciousness as she heard Janet murmur to General Hammond, "The base is on total quarantine until I know what we've got here." And then the world went black.

* * * * * *

Chapter One

Sam was floating in a very dark and scary place, too hot and too cold at the same time, her body seemingly disconnected from her brain, her side a flaring mass of agony, her heart a roaring freight train in her chest.

"Easy," a gentle voice soothed, calling her back from the black place as cool hands slid over her skin in an effort to chase away the numbing pain. "Don't try to move."

Sam blinked, squinting against dull lights that seemed too bright to her eyes, hunting until she found a pair of dark eyes staring down at her. She forced her vision into focus. "Janet?"

"Shhh, it's all right. You're going to be all right," the doctor assured her, reminding Sam that she'd made the same promise after her collapse on coming through the gate. Was it minutes, hours, perhaps only seconds ago? Carter had no frame of reference to know.

"Hurts," Sam croaked, feeling the rasp of air moving through her dry throat.

"I know." The doctor looked up, momentarily focusing on someone else. "I need a toxicology scan on that as fast as possible!"

In that brief moment, Sam realized there were other bodies moving around her, but they were little more than distant shadows. Her attention was focused on the woman leaning over her, her expression determined as she commanded the medical team. That look had a calming effect on the injured woman, reassuring her that she was in the best hands possible.

Then Janet was focused on her patient again, gloved hands moving quickly and competently as she worked to slice away the uniform keeping her from working on Carter's injury. "Listen to me, Sam," she insisted as she worked, "you're going to be fine. I won't let anything happen to you. Do you hear me?"

"Hear ya," Sam barely managed to rasp, but the darkness was already beginning to return, washing blue across her vision and dulling her hearing.

"Doctor!" the voice barely penetrated the major's expanding fog. "Her heartbeat's becoming erratic!"

Sam could just make out an unsteady beeping sound under the medical team. Her own heartbeat? A hand briefly clenched hers tightly, and the voice she heard sounded thick with stress. "Dammit, you stay with me. Do you hear me, Sam? You stay with me!"

And then the beeping mutated into a steady whine before she had a chance to assure the Janet that she didn't plan on going anywhere.

"Defibrilator paddles!" The shout barely even penetrated the thickening cottony haze.

And then agony flared through the major's universe before the darkness took her back into its uncaring hold.

* * * * * *

A day, two days, a week, or maybe only a minute passed. Sam had no way of knowing which as she returned to something approaching consciousness. Her eyelids were impossibly heavy, so she just lay there, thinking whatever thoughts she could think in a disorganized clutter of random neurons firing in her brain. She could hear sounds: a heart monitor--her heart monitor she hoped, since it sounded much steadier than it had the last time she'd heard it-- soft voices, none of them easily recognizable at first, and the ongoing faint pad of footfalls around her.

And then she picked a known voice out of the m�lange, soft and worried, but not panicked, though it took her a moment to find the association with someone in her life.

"...seizures, and we lost her heartbeat ... twice. I thought...."

The doctor. Doctor Janet Fraiser. Sam was proud of herself for making the connection. Connections weren't her best point right at that moment, so even the simplest seemed like a triumph.

"I understand, Doctor." The voice was deeper this time.

General Hammond? Sam wished she could shake off the confusion, make them realize she was awake, or at least kind of awake.

"The toxin is similar to some insect venoms, but we haven't come up with an antivenin yet. Right now, we're just treating it with epinephrine and fluids to keep her stable."

"Keep me apprized of the situation...."

Sam faded for a moment, or maybe it was longer than that. She didn't really know. She came back to feel a cool cloth on her forehead.

"You're going to pull through this."

Janet's voice again, sounding so desperate that Sam wanted to shout to the other woman that she could hear her. Wanted to tell her, I know I will, as long as you're taking care of me.

A gentle hand smoothed along her cheek, then slid down the length of her arm, fingers resting against the pulse point in her wrist.

"You'd probably be making jokes if you were awake...you look like a high-tech Snow White, you know."

Sam clung to that soft voice, holding on and letting it chase away the darkness for another moment.

"So, who's the fairest of them all?" Janet breathed so softly Sam wasn't sure she'd heard right. Maybe it was just a figment of her imagination. Of course maybe everything was just a figment of her imagination. It was hard to tell when she couldn't open her eyes to see, or trust her ears to hear right. She was still musing such fanciful thoughts when she heard another voice, one she didn't recognize this time.

"Doctor, you're needed in ward two."

Sam almost whimpered as the cool touch broke contact with her skin, and she was left alone except for the machinery rumbling around her. She wanted to cry out to Fraiser to come back to her, but couldn't speak to make herself heard.

She understood only a smattering of words before the darkness swallowed her again.

"...needed in ward two....arrested... filing charges...."

* * * * * *

Fraiser's mind was still with her patient in Intensive Care as she hurried through the narrow infirmary corridors, anxious to deal with the problem and get back to Carter. The major was stable, though still critical, and Janet was terrified her condition might worsen again at any time. They just didn't know enough about the poison in Sam's system for her to be the least bit sanguine. She couldn't help but remember the dull whine of the heart monitor as it flatlined and experienced a flutter of light-headed nausea. There for a moment she'd thought Sam was gone; that she'd never watch the other woman's face light up as she explored some new scientific curiosity, hear the passion in her voice when she fought for something she truly believed in, or feel the sense of give and take that came whenever they worked together on a problem.

It had struck her in those moments just how important Samantha Carter was to the project and on how many levels. She didn't just understand the physics of the gate better than anyone, she was integral to nearly every major branch of the project from the scientific to the practical.

Fraiser had all but lived in the infirmary since then, pushing herself to the limit to coax Sam back from the edge.

They couldn't afford to lose Carter. She was too important to the SGC.

And to you

, a tiny, traitorous voice whispered in her ear. She tamped it down almost instantly, reassuring herself that Carter was nothing more than a colleague and a friend. If she was more personally involved than normal, it was because Sam was a part of Cassandra's life as well as her own and she knew just how shattered her adopted daughter would be if anything happened to her.

Liar

, the voice taunted. She's the person in this place that you care most for, the one who understands the things you love and shares your passions. You almost lost her and if you're honest, you couldn't have handled that. Admit it, she's not just another patient to you. She's--

She was relieved from the disturbing turn of thought as she rounded the corner into ward two to find total pandemonium; nurses moving about while Doctor Warner handled the patient sprawled on the bed and worked around the security officers shoehorned into the room. Fraiser jumped back out of the way to avoid getting run over by a staff member carrying still damp X-rays. "Warner, you need my help?" she called out and he shook his head.

"I've got it under control," the other doctor assured her, while his attention remained focused on his patient.

She felt her sleeve grabbed, tugging her to the edges of the crowded room. Janet glanced back to find General Hammond watching the scene with a grim expression. "Sir?"

"Thank you for coming, Doctor," he said, his eyes still fixed on the tableau in front of them. "I'm sorry to have to drag you away from Major Carter, but I wanted to make you aware of the situation here since it affects how things are run in the infirmary for the next little while."

Janet peered up at her superior, her expression confused. "What happened? The ward attendant said something about an arrest."

Hammond nodded, speaking softly enough that only she could hear. "Several optical tapes have turned up missing from Secured Data Storage--" The entirety of the SGC was secured; even knowing it existed required a minimum of a Top Secret clearance, but the data within the secured archives was among the most protected, even within the SGC.

"Good Lord." She couldn't envision anyone getting anything out of the area. Guards checked everything carried in and out, the computers were monitored to prevent illegal copying of any materials, and security cameras watched every move.

The general nodded toward the patient being worked on. "There's reason to believe that Lieutenant Barnes was involved. When security went to pick him up, he resisted arrest...quite dramatically apparently."

Janet nodded. No surprise there. What little contact she'd had with the man had left her with the impression that he was highly volatile. However, as serious as the situation apparently was, security wasn't under her control, and she barely resisted the urge to hurry the general along. If there wasn't a patient who needed her here, there was one in critical care. "Well, Warner appears to have it under control. I'm not sure what more I can do for you." Even knowing the nurse would notify her if there were any problems, she was chomping at the bit to get out of there and back to Sam.

Hammond's head swung around until he was peering at her. "I just wanted you to be aware that I'd like to keep the prisoner here until he's transferred to an NSA facility. There'll be at least two guards on him at all times, but I'd prefer to keep contact between Barnes and any personnel at a minimum."

Janet absorbed the request with a nod. "Okay, I'll post a memo and arrange the schedule accordingly. Things are quiet here--except for Sam, he's the only patient--so we can run with a light staff if you'd prefer."

"I would, Doctor. Thank you."

"Understood, sir. I'll make sure the staff is aware of the situation."

"Hold off on that...he may not have been working alone and if he wasn't, I don't want anyone to get any advance warning."

"Okay, I'll...uh...say that it's for staff safety...that security doesn't want us under foot unless absolutely necessary."

He nodded, his chin swinging back around to watch the prisoner with sharp eyes. "That'll be fine, Doctor."

She followed his gaze, tracking Warner's efforts with a professional eye. Clearly, he could handle the situation without her help. "If that's all, sir, I really would like to get back to Major Carter. The latest set of blood tests should be ready by the time I return, and I'd like to see if there are any leads on breaking down the chemical composition on the venom."

He nodded. "How's that going?"

She shook her head and let out a soft frustrated sigh. "It's very a complex molecular chain..." She massaged her temple, trying to rid herself of some of the headache gathering there. "It's like it keeps mutating...I'm not sure we'll ever come up with an antivenin for it." She shrugged. "The good news is that it does seem to be processing out through the kidneys...and, so far, we're not seeing any renal damage...so hopefully, even if we can't come up with anything, she'll throw it off with time and good care."

He looked at her again, seeing the exhaustion in her eyes and posture. "Well, she's in the best hands possible. I have the utmost faith in you and your team."

"Thank you, sir. You know I'll ever do everything in my power to get her through this."

A faint smile touched his mouth. "I know that, Doctor." Then he nodded toward the door. "Now, get out of here. It's obvious where you want to be."

"Thank you, sir. I'll see to those memos before my shift is over." Not that she'd be leaving when her shift was done--something her superior politely didn't point out. With an automatic nod, she hurried out, her thoughts already back with the woman in intensive care.

* * * * * *

She was in a desert, Sam decided; a hateful, black, waterless desert made of nothing but bits and pieces of hell itself. Desperately, cotton-mouthed thirsty, she groaned softly as she fought to pry her own eyelids open, wincing as air rasped over the parched Saharan landscape that seemed to coat her throat.

"Easy, don't try to move," a gentle voice soothed as a cool hand brushed lightly over Carter's brow as if drawn by her struggles.

Encouraged by the soothing ministrations, Sam fought the darkness as it tried to surge up over her again, forcing her eyelids open with supreme effort. "Janet?" she croaked as she recognized the worried brown gaze staring down at her.

"I'm here."

A hand touched Sam's inner wrist, feeling for her pulse. Fraiser did that a lot, Sam realized in an instant; as though she needed that little bit of contact to be certain of her patient's health.

"Water," Carter croaked weakly.

"Not yet," the doctor said softly and reached for something next to the bed. Sam considered trying to twist to see, but discarded the idea as quickly as it occurred to her. She could barely keep her eyes open. Even the faintest of movements seemed well beyond the scope of any possible reaction. "But you can have ice chips to at least moisten your mouth."

Sam stifled a groan. Ah God, the ice chip routine. She'd been through it once before, during a hospital stay when she was in her teens. "Just a sip," she rasped, wanting real water after her journey through the black desert of her own unconsciousness.

Fraiser shook her head in refusal. "Not yet...I don't know how stable your stomach is right now." She used a plastic spoon to offer Sam several chips of crushed ice from the insulated cup she'd retrieved from the nightstand. At least they took the worst edge off the drymouth as they melted into the back of her throat.

"Thanks," Sam exhaled a little more comfortably, feeling somewhat stronger for being conscious. She frowned, vision threatening to blur as she studied the woman leaning over her. She looked like she'd been on a three day bender. "You look like hell," she groaned without thinking.

Janet shrugged. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night."

Sam considered that for a moment and was quite proud of herself for managing what at least seemed like a clever comeback, even if it was somewhat slurred. "You've gotta stop goin' to those kinda parties, doc."

Fraiser's answering smile had a relieved cast to it. "Well, I know you're going to live if you have the strength to mouth off."

"Hey, you know me...strong like bull," Sam riposted in an exaggerated Boris Badinovesque accent.

"More like weak like kitten," Janet observed dryly, doing a fair impression of Natasha Fatale as she stroked silky blond hair back from Carter's brow.

Sam had to struggle to keep her eyes open and focused, but she made the effort mostly because the hand petting her forehead felt so good. "How bad is it?" she questioned after a beat, remembering disjointed sensations of agony and dizziness.

The doctor shrugged. "You put a bit of a scare into us all, but you're going to be okay." Then her lips lifted in a reassuring smile. "I promised...remember?"

Yes, she did remember Fraiser's confident voice and intent expression as she assured her she would live. She'd held onto it during her little journey through hell. And she had a flicker of other memories; a soft voice whispering to her, telling her she wasn't going to die, while a gentle hand daubed a damp, cool cloth over her face. "Yeah," she exhaled. "Gonna hold you to that one."

"Anytime."

Carter could feel the darkness swelling around her again. Struggling against it, she slowly took a deep breath, wincing as the movement pulled at her wounded side, reminding her of the injuries there. "Any permanent damage?"

"You'll have a couple more scars...nothing serious... and nothing that will get you out of duty once you're cleared to return, so you can just put any thoughts of shirking out of your mind." The doctor's tone was light and teasing, but her eyes were serious, reassuring Sam that she wasn't going to die anytime soon.

The darkness no longer so frightening, Carter found she didn't have the strength to fight it so hard. "Good," she mumbled weakly as she stopped struggling and felt the cottony haze surge up over her. She was sliding away, her eyes closed, the world warm and safe if not yet pain-free. The last thing she heard before she slipped the surly bonds of earth was Janet's voice, soft and beckoning.

"Don't ever scare me like that again. I don't think I could survive it."

Leaving her to wonder during the brief few seconds before the darkness swallowed her completely, if the doctor had any idea what a lifeline those softly spoken words were.

* * * * * *

"Doctor?" the nurse's voice brought Janet's head up, and she covered her lapse into private musings by snapping the file in hand shut as though she'd still been reading when interrupted.

"Yes?"

"I just wanted you to know that I'm going off duty and Kaczmarack is on." The nurse waved a hand over her shoulder. "And General Hammond and Colonel Samuels are with the prisoner."

Janet offered the young woman an approving smile. "Thank you."

"The general said he'd check in with you before he leaves. I told him you were in here." Not that he'd had to be told. He knew the doctor well enough to know that she'd be with her most seriously injured patient; knew too, that she had a special relationship with the members of SG-1 and would always see to their care personally where possible.

"Thanks. See you in the morning." Janet watched as the young woman disappeared into the corridor, then turned back to her patient, silently watching as she slept, thankful to see a more natural tempo to her breathing and more color in her skin. She reached down, checking for the reassuring throb of her pulse, unaccountably comforted by that tiny bit of contact.

She was still leaning over Sam, her folded forearms braced on the bedrails a long time later when she heard the soft rhythm of arriving footfalls. She expected it to be Hammond, but instead, it was O'Neill who entered.

"Hi, Doc'." He kept his tone low, not wanting to risk waking Sam. "Just wanted to check and see how she's doing."

"Better. She was conscious for a few minutes earlier...." She trailed off, not wanting to promise too much, but also determined to see Carter healthy again.

"But you're not gonna rest till she's back up and getting into trouble," he inserted helpfully.

She laughed softly, covering any emotions with a light tone. "Something like that." Shrugging, she added, "It's my job after all...looking after you lunatics who think nothing of hopping through to worlds unknown."

O'Neill shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Hey, don't look at me. I tried to retire, but they keep bringing me back."

Janet offered a small, wry smile at that, not really knowing what to say. Neither of them was there to speak to the other. It was Sam that drew them both. She restrained a sigh. And considering that she'd been his wife and/or fianc�e in the two alternate universes they'd so far encountered, it was none too surprising. For all she knew they were lovers in this universe too. A lead balloon sank in the pit of her stomach at the thought. "Any idea how the espionage investigation is going?" she asked to distract herself.

He shook his head. "Not much. The senate oversight committee's getting involved again...making noises about cutting our funding, I guess...which means Samuels is in town to monitor the investigation." Jack's lip curled with distaste. The lieutenant colonel was the personal liaison for the committee chairman, Senator Kinsey, who was firmly of the opinion that the Stargate project was a dangerous waste of money. His arrival invariably meant trouble of one sort or another.

"Oh, joy." Janet made a mental note to remain hidden in the infirmary. Whenever Samuels showed up, tempers had a bad habit of flaring.

"Yeah," Jack sighed and reached up to massage the back of his neck. "The general's already popping Tums like candy." His lips twisted in a smirk.

"I'd better check stores and make sure we have plenty on hand," the doctor muttered to herself.

They fell silent again, both lost in their own thoughts, until finally, Jack cleared his throat, running an appraising gaze over her. "How about you, Doc'? You okay? You look pretty ragged."

She waved the question off. "I'm fine. A little worn is all. Hell, it's not as bad as my residency was...I've actually had sleep this week."

"Well, just make sure you don't push yourself too hard." He looked pointedly at Sam. "You're no good to her if you're out on your feet."

Seeing the worry in his eyes--something she didn't care to contemplate the causes for, since she knew his primary worry wasn't so much her health as her ability to care for his second-in-command--she sought to reassure him. "Don't worry, the last thing I'd do is take any chances with Sam's life."

"I know," he assured her, no smartass remarks coming for once. Then he reached out in a gesture that was completely unexpected--and mildly uncomfortable for both of them--patting her shoulder lightly, as if he sensed this was more than just one more medical case for her. "Just be careful. We don't want you collapsing either."

She nodded, falling back on the automatic courtesy that dictated relations between officers. "Thank you, sir. I will be."

He absorbed that, standing uncertain for a long moment before finally straightening his shoulders. "Well, I should probably get out of here. I'm supposed to meet Teal'c for another boxing lesson."

Janet raised an eyebrow. "Yours or his?" she questioned curiously, trying to envision anything about physical combat that the big Jaffa didn't already know.

Jack smirked. "Cute, Doc'. See ya around," he muttered, hurrying out before he had to listen to her soft chuckle.

Fraiser watched him go with a bemused expression. Despite everything, she rather liked the man, even if he was a macho male-chauvinist, with a sense of humor that could cut like a knife. He also gave a damn about his people and would give his life for any of them in a second. She leaned down, straightening Sam's blankets with a light hand. He had to be feeling guilty that she'd gotten hurt under his watch. She chased away any thoughts that it might be more than that. After all, it was none of her business if it was. They were both adults, and�

"Doctor?"

Janet was perversely grateful for the interruption. It stopped her mind from going down pathways that could only be frustrating in the long run. "Yes, General," she said as she turned to face her commanding officer.

"I just wanted to touch base with you and see how Major Carter is doing."

"Her bloodwork's looking better, pulse and respiration are stable, and the fever's way down. She was even conscious for a few minutes." She sighed softly. "I'm not ready to hold a party yet, but I think we're through the worst of it."

"You've done a hell of a job, Doctor."

She shook her head in disagreement. "No, we've just been making the battle as easy as possible. Her body's had to do most of the work."

"Nonetheless, you've--"

"General Hammond," the voice that interrupted was sharp with impatience, drawing both officer's heads around to face the newcomer.

Janet frowned as she noted Colonel Samuels--the senate liaison officer--standing there, another officer in tow, a captain according to the bars on his uniform. Poor bastard was probably the latest in the colonel's many aids. He seemed to go through them like most people ate potato chips.

"Colonel," the general's tone was annoyed, "I was under the impression we were done for the moment."

"Actually, there are several matters we still need to discuss--"

"Well, I'm afraid you can't discuss them here," Janet interrupted, her tone polite but obdurate as she all but physically shooed the three men toward the door. She fixed a hard glare on Samuels. "This is Intensive Care, and I won't have my patient disturbed." Her tone and look made it clear who her comment was directed to, and he flushed angrily

"Colonel," the general interceded, adding his own efforts to the doctor's, while she stood with her hands stuffed in her labcoat, a stern expression in place, feet firmly planted in a bulldog stance. The message was clear. Anyone who thought they were going to risk bothering her patient was in for a rude surprise. "If you'll just come with me."

"Of course," the colonel said after a beat and allowed himself to be led out.

Samuels' aid ducked his head in acknowledgment to the doctor and she thought she caught a glimpse of humor in his expression before it disappeared behind a mask and he followed his superiors out.

Rubbing her temples exhaustedly, Janet pushed the door shut in their wake, relieved to have everyone gone, the only sounds, the soft noises made by the machines that filled the room. Folding into the chair in one corner of the room, she flipped the file still in hand open, and began going back over the chart, hunting for anything she might have missed the first time through.

* * * * * *

Sam was floating again--aware but not entirely conscious--just as she had been for what seemed like an eternity, slipping in and out of wakefulness as her body healed from the damage done by the attack. She was only vaguely aware of the nurses and med-techs around her, registering them as little more than one shifting, shadowed, genderless, faceless entity that left as silently as it entered. In the long run though, floating wasn't likely to entertain a mind as perpetually busy as hers and eventually she struggled upward toward consciousness again.

Sam slowly took a deep breath to test for any ache in her ribs. Pain flared through her left side. Definitely still there, but at least it was no longer the blazing agony it had been at first, when pain often made her retreat from any flickering thought of consciousness back into a safe dark world of sleep.

Carter opened her eyes, disappointed when she didn't immediately spot Janet Fraiser nearby. The brunette had been there since she'd wakened that first time, always close, often looking and sounding harassed and tired until she saw her patient was awake once again. Then she always smiled gently, her tone softening as she moved to Sam's side, soothing her fears and chasing some of the pain away simply with her presence.

A moment later, she was amazed by the sense of relief that burned through her as she spotted the doctor. She was asleep in a shadowed corner of the room; seated in one stiff backed chair, her legs propped up on another, fingers laced together across her midsection, chin pillowed on her chest. Carter frowned slightly. She'd never thought of Fraiser as a small woman despite knowing she towered over her by several inches--she always seemed to dominate her space so thoroughly that it made her seem taller than she was--but sprawled asleep in the chair the way she was, she looked younger and smaller; almost fragile. With her clothes and hair unusually rumpled, she also looked like it was the first sleep she'd had in days. Carter considered speaking, then decided against it. She looked like she needed the rest. The major couldn't help but wonder if the other woman had taken any breaks since her injury.

As if sensing the close perusal, Janet Fraiser's sable brown eyes slid open, meeting Sam's gaze muzzily for a brief second before she remembered where she was and abruptly shook herself all the way awake as she pushed upright. "Sam." Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she hurried to Sam's bedside. "You okay?" she questioned worriedly.

Sam nodded, shifting in bed slightly to try and relieve muscles aching from being in the same position for too long. "Right now, I think I may be doing better than you are." She was proud that she managed to keep most of the slur out of her voice.

The remark caught Fraiser by surprise and, suddenly self-conscious, she ran a hand through her hair, automatically trying to smooth it back into something approaching order. Sam had to tamp down a smile. Fraiser tended to be one for military spit and polish. The grunge look obviously didn't sit well with her. "I'm fine. Just a little tired." She leaned over to wrap delicate fingers around Sam's wrist, checking her pulse despite the steady beep of the heart monitor still attached to her patient. The gesture had a reassuring effect on the injured major, calming any fears. "How about you?"

"Still a little sore," Carter downplayed her condition. "But it's not that bad." And then she turned her arm in Fraiser's light hold as the doctor started to pull back, catching Janet's hand in her own, not willing to lose the comforting contact just yet. For a moment, both women froze, each startled by the impulse. "I...uh...how am I doing? I mean from a medical standpoint."

Fraiser straightened her shoulders, putting on her professional face as she answered, "You're still metabolizing the toxin, but the worst of side effects seem to be past... the wounds in your side are clean and healing.... We have to be cautious, but I don't think there's anything to worry about."

Sam released a sigh of relief. "Thank you," she whispered, "I owe you my life." Sam wondered if she sounded as awestruck as she felt saying those words.

Janet was silent for a long moment, her expression unreadable. Finally, she swallowed her, her voice ragged as she whispered, "I just did what...what I had to." She squeezed Sam's hand tightly. "I had to make sure you were okay.... After all, if you die, it would completely screw up my record," she added the last comment lightly, joking to relieve a sudden blast of tension.

Sam had to moisten her lips to continue. "Can't have that," she croaked at last.

Whatever Fraiser might have said next was interrupted as a med-tech stuck her head in the door, flashing a smile at Sam before addressing the doctor. "Samuels is interviewing Barnes again and he's commandeered the computer station adjacent to Ward Two...and I'm only about halfway through entering the reports from the field medics."

The doctor sighed softly. "You can use the terminal in my office to finish entering the charts in the computer. Once that's done, go ahead take off for the night."

"Liston isn't due to come on duty till six a.m. the tech reminded her.

"That's okay. Things are quiet. I can handle it. If there's a problem, I can call whoever I need in."

"Thanks, Doctor Fraiser," the tech murmured and slipped out again.

"You're just too indispensable for your own good," Sam teased gently.

The comment earned a derisive snort, but Fraiser smiled, already leaning closer and reaching for the thermal glass that sat by Carter's bedside. "Need something to drink?" she asked, purposely changing the subject.

"What, no more ice chips?"

Janet nodded. "Your stomach seems to be stable. I think we can risk a sip or two."

Sam sighed dramatically. "I suppose something tall, ice cold, and alcoholic is completely out of the question?" She'd have killed for a beer right at that moment.

Janet nodded, her smile sympathetic. "Definitely."

"I'll have water then."

They talked a little longer, while Janet saw to her patient's comfort, and then Sam found her eyelids getting heavier with every passing second as she felt herself sliding back into that floating state. Feeling the darkness reaching up to drag her back into its frightening embrace, Sam caught Janet's hand again, so dazed, she missed the expression that briefly flittered across the other woman's face, though the need in her own voice startled her as she spoke. "Please stay... it's not so frightening when you're here."

Janet leaned closer, unable to resist that plea. " I'm not going anywhere," she assured Sam, then stroked her cheek lightly. "Now sleep."

Sam held tightly to the fingers caught in her own, knowing in her heart the doctor would be there and greatly comforted by the thought.

* * * * * *

Chapter Two

Sam Carter blinked in confusion as she awoke to find herself alone in a darkened room, uncertain what had jarred her out of a somewhat restful sleep. And then she heard it again.

A scream, dulled by distance and perhaps by someone's effort not to scream, but definitely a scream.

The major pushed upright in bed and had to bite back on a scream of her own as the surgical staples still holding the fast mending tears in her side closed pulled taut, reminding her of her injuries.

The scream was followed by an angry bellow too muffled for Sam to make out the words, though not the tone. A man; furiously angry, and she was sure the scream had come from a woman. The door to her room was ajar and she peered through the narrow crack visible from her bed, fully expecting to see staff or guards moving in the corridor, but it was dead still.

Not a good sign.

Biting back on the urge to groan, Sam swung her legs over the side of the bed, then tore loose the I.V. needle inserted into a vein in the back of her left hand. Blood beaded up as she finished getting the tape loose and yanked the needle free from her flesh. If there wasn't trouble, Janet would probably kill her for that. Muttering several choice invectives concerning hospital gowns and the way they split up the back, she rose and staggered toward the door, peering out, though she was careful to keep back far enough to stay out of sight. There was definitely nothing moving, which had her heart hammering in her chest. The base had been invaded more than once and she wasn't sure what the hell she was supposed to do if she was the only one still free. Just standing there was taxing her strength. She threw the dark thoughts off, gritting her teeth, determined that she would do whatever she had to to help her friends.

Finally concluding that the corridor really was empty, since there was nothing moving, and if something invisible like the Rheetou had invaded there was nothing to be done for it, she carefully pulled the door open and stepped out, braced to move as quickly as possible if necessary. Her room was at the end of the corridor and there were several other rooms a short distance away. Moving quickly, she checked the first three and found them empty.

As she moved, battle trained instincts were alert to anything that might give her a clue as to the source of any possible trouble, but couldn't hear anything above the sounds of equipment working. Even during the off hours, the base tended to be noisy with mechanical noises which made it difficult to hear anything beyond the nearest room at the best of times.

She kept moving, ducking her head into empty rooms and listening for any indications of what she'd heard. It wasn't until she'd gone about halfway down the corridor before it joined a cross corridor that she got any inkling as to what was happening.

The small hospital room had been trashed and two young soldiers lay bloodied amid the mess. One lay near the bed, definitely dead. A bullet had torn through his skull, entering under his chin and exiting in back, judging by the damage. His eyes were open and he stared sightlessly at the ceiling and his sidearm was missing. The other was immediately to her right, sprawled up against the wall, his chest blotched with streaks of fresh blood. Ignoring the way the world tilted around her, the major knelt down, unsurprised to find him dead as well. She reached across the sprawled man, relieved to find his sidearm hadn't been taken. Sam hefted the gun, quickly checking to see that a round was chambered and the safety off. Armed now, she felt a little better, if no less confused.

Clearly, either there was no one else in the base who could come help or they didn't know there was a problem that required the attention of security. All things considered, she had to assume she was on her own.

She looked around herself, feeling her chest tighten with fear as she wondered what had happened to Fraiser. During the late hours, Janet was often the only one on duty in the Infirmary, losing herself in her research while things were generally quiet. She was a trained officer. She knew how to defend herself, but.... Sam was under no illusions. Alone, unarmed, surprised, and probably too tired, the doctor would be vulnerable to an unexpected attack. Certainly moreso than two well-armed airmen. The mere thought threatened to paralyze the major and she had to slam the doors on any impulse to imagine what might be happening to the other woman. Her imagination was too good, the possibilities too endless, to let her consider the danger and hold her emotions together.

She rose then, adrenaline and determination making her movements surprisingly graceful despite her injuries. She would probably pay for it later, but for that moment, she was all soldier. Janet was a friend, one who'd just saved her life. And she was far from the only friend on the base. If someone or something threatened any of them, Sam had no intention of standing on the sidelines.

She stepped carefully back into the corridor, alert to any possibility of movement. She was still trying to decide what to do when a distant throb of sound assailed her ears; two voices, a man and a woman; too muffled to make out actual words. The major pivoted sharply, easily locating the direction; it was definitely at the opposite end of the corridor from her room.

The sound of flesh striking flesh cracked through the air, sending a bolt of angry fear through Sam. She was up and moving fast then, weapon at the ready as she reentered the corridor.

Still nothing moving, but she could hear flurries of movement and angry voices, even pick out snatches of words now, as she located the source. The surgical ward at the end of the corridor.

"...do it...stupid bitch...." A man's voice, angry, but slurred.

"No!" That was definitely Dr. Fraiser. Sam didn't question why she was so absolutely certain it was her. She just was.

"...fucking...."

Sam felt the rush of adrenaline as she slipped into combat mode; that particular mindset that comes with the knowledge that violence is almost certainly the only available option. Her footfalls perfectly silent, she hurried her pace, almost jogging as she came up on the entry into the surgical ward, easily making out every foul word now.

"Go to hell." A solid thud followed Janet's angry insult.

"I don't think you understand your situation here, Doctor." Sam almost recognized the voice, leaving her certain she'd heard it before, but couldn't quite place it. "I killed those two men. You get that? They're dead. And the information from those missing disks; it's ready to go to the highest bidder--so believe me, I'm not hanging around this place."

Which meant Sam was dealing with something all too human--at least technically speaking. She tightened her grip on the M9, slowing as she came within a few feet of the open door to surgery.

The doctor's voice was little more than a low panting groan as she responded, "I'm not helping you do anything."

"You show me how to set the computer timing system on the oxygen and ether tanks, doc, or I'll blow your fucking head off."

Sam stood just outside the door, braced to move fast, but held back, afraid that Janet would dead before she could do anything if she moved without knowing what she was up against.

"Don't you get it?" Janet sounded perversely irritated, like she'd gone past the point of fear to sheer annoyance. "I'm not going to help you blow those tanks."

Oh shit

, Carter thought as a sick rush slid through her veins, he wants to blow the infirmary. Highly flammable, the gasses in their pressurized steel tanks would explode with catastrophic consequences. It wouldn't damage the integrity of the base, but it would cause more than enough of a diversion to allow someone to escape...and probably cost lives to put out the resulting fire.

Another thud and then the doctor's attacker's voice dropped low and threatening. "Look, Doc, it's gonna happen. Hammond and his buddies aren't gonna send me to Levenworth, not with what I know...they've got special places for people who know things, and I'm not gonna go there."

Sam crept forward carefully, shifting until she could see a watery reflection of surgery in a steel equipment panel.

"So, you help me make a little diversion so I can get the hell out of here, and you can live." His voice dropped another notch as Sam deciphered the shifting images playing across the makeshift mirror enough to lay out their positions in her head. Fraiser was pressed against the far wall by her attacker. The image was hazy and shifting, but it looked like he had her by the throat and something black and heavy--the guard's stolen M9 undoubtedly--pressed against the underside of her chin. The hand gripping her throat appeared to be wrapped in something pale --a bandage or a cast most likely. If she tried to do anything while they were in that position, all it would take was a tiny twitch of the finger and Janet would be dead.

As Sam watched the reflection in frustrated horror, Fraiser's attacker pressed closer, leaning up against the length of the doctor's smaller frame. "Hell, Doc, be a good girl, and I'll take you with me." He nuzzled her cheek, and Sam barely held the rage in check, while Janet visibly tried to press deeper into the wall. "Hit the beaches on one of those little islands in the Caribbean that doesn't have an extradition treaty and you and I could have some fun."

"You're a pig," the doctor hissed.

He laughed then, pressing the barrel of his pistol deeper into the underside of her chin. "And you are severely fucked," he murmured near her ear, his tone making Sam want to blow his head off and ask questions later. If there had been even a small chance of getting a clear shot, she would have taken it. "Only you're too stupid to realize it."

"You're going to kill me anyway," Janet responded, her tone grimly ironic. "Why should I play along?"

Her attacker tensed, momentarily not knowing how to respond. "Well, there is that pretty dyke major in the room down the hall."

And then Sam knew who it was. Clint Barnes. The computer tech had joined the SGC roughly four months before, and promptly made a nuisance of himself by hitting on every woman in sight, herself included. Refusals had merited inferences about the woman's sexual preference--though if he were right, it was enough to considerably alter the commonly accepted 10% ratio. Unfortunately, in her case, he'd accidentally gotten some minor bit of confirmation a month later, when a visiting senator's aid--whom Sam had dated all of once some years before--had made a less than innocuous comment about wanting to try it again when she thought they were alone in a hallway. The soft mocking laughter coming from a dark corner had alerted both women that they weren't quite as alone as they'd thought. After that, Carter had expected Barnes to say something, maybe even try some kind of sexual blackmail, and had been fully prepared to deck him, then confess all to General Hammond, reasonably confident the general would sooner sweep her sex life under the rug than back up an SOB like Barnes. But the junior officer had apparently sensed she wouldn't make an easy target because he never said a word, though he flashed a leering grin her way every time he got a chance, silently reminding her he knew her secret.

And now the bastard had apparently stolen SGC secrets and killed two guards. Sam tightened her fingers on the gun in her hand, mentally envisioning sighting it on his forehead.

"You stay the hell away from her," Janet snarled.

Barnes yanked his prisoner away from the wall, then slammed her back into it with bone rattling force, chuckling at the pained grunt the impact forced from her. Then he pressed back up against her, pinning her hard against the wall with the weight of his body. "Whatsa matter, Doc?" He flicked his tongue obscenely between his lips. "You got a little lesbo thing going with the major?"

Janet tipped her chin up, facing him with the bravado of someone convinced they have nothing to lose. "I apologize for calling you a pig earlier."

Barnes grinned, obviously thinking he'd cowed her into subservience.

"The average pig is a prince next to you."

Barnes let out a low growl of sheer fury, body tensing as he contemplated his revenge. He yanked her away from the wall, twisting an arm behind her back with vicious strength while he shoved the gun deep into the soft flesh just under the curve of her jaw.

Oh shit

, no time for plans or waiting for the right moment. If Sam didn't act fast, Janet was dead. She could see it in Barnes' body language. "Hey, Clint," Sam challenged as she came around the corner, her weapon up and pointed at him. "Get the hell away from her before I blow your head off for sport."

It got his attention. Barnes spun, dragging the doctor around with him and pinning her against his chest as an impromptu shield. "What the fuck?"

"Sam," Janet gasped, her tone perfectly expressing the soul deep relief Sam had felt every time she'd wakened to find the other woman nearby. She held that dark gaze for a brief moment, trying to silently reassure her.

"If it ain't the fuckin' dyke major. Shoulda known you'd come after your girlfriend." Barnes was doing his best to sneer in a threatening manner, but his eyes were scared and he kept the gun pressed against the side of Janet's neck. "Can't blame you. She's a hot piece of ass."

Sam forced down the temptation to lose herself to blind rage, instead becoming calmer and calmer with every foul word. "Hurt her and you're dead," she snapped with military precision. She kept the M9 pointed at him, ignoring the ache in her muscles. She was holding the gun one handed in a sideways stance rather than a normal two-handed grip because there was no way she could stand the pain it would require to lift her left arm and pull the torn muscles on her left side taut.

"You're gonna kill me?" he sneered doubtfully. "You can barely stay on your feet."

Sam knew he was right. She was tiring already, sweat streaming over her skin, her hand no longer as steady as it had been. Added to that, she would get only one shot. One chance to save Fraiser or get her killed. "I'd rather not," she exhaled. "But if that's what it takes...." She took a deep breath, letting it out to settle her jangled nerves and centered the pistol sight on his forehead. Her finger tightened fractionally on the trigger, hoping she would draw his ire, and get him to point the weapon away from the doctor.

It worked. "Bitch," he hissed-- while Sam wondered distantly if he knew any words involving more than four letters -- then swung the weapon toward her.

Sensing her only chance and Sam's plan, Janet drove an elbow into his ribs and slammed her shoulder into his forearm, knocking the weapon off course even as she dove for the floor.

Sam fired once, the bullet exploding out of the chamber at the same moment that Barnes fired his weapon.

His shot went awry, embedding itself in the far wall, sent there by Janet's interference.

Sam's shot made contact, hitting him dead center in the face, flinging his body over backwards.

He wasn't dead before he hit the ground, but he might as well have been. The 9 millimeter bullet tore a hole through his cerebellum that nothing could fix.

Sam stood perfectly still for the span of a heartbeat, then shrugged up against the doorjamb, suddenly painfully dizzy. Despite the wash of weakness, she kept her gunsight firmly trained on Barnes' sprawled figure, determined to fire again if he even twitched.

"Oh God, Sam." Janet's voice was shaky as she scrambled for her feet, then stumbled into Sam's line of view. "You could have been--"

"Barnes?" the blond croaked raggedly.

Fraiser glanced back. "He's dead," she said with the certainty of someone who knew more about gunshot wounds than she really cared to. And then she reached Carter, getting an arm around her in time to cushion her collapse as she started to skid down the wall. "I've got you, Sam."

"Couldn't let him hurt you," Carter groaned, safetying her weapon as she draped her arm across Janet's narrow shoulders. With the danger past, she was suddenly exhausted, her entire body seemingly made of rubber. A gentle hand curved to the side of her head, and she leaned against it. Her side was ablaze and the darkness hovered at the edge of her consciousness until just remaining upright was a feat of supreme concentration.

"Just lean against me." The doctor's breath played over Sam's cheek as the major let her head fall forward, coming to a rest in the hollow of the smaller woman's neck. She petted Sam's silky blond hair tenderly. "You're going to be okay." Her voice was a breathy shadow of itself. "I couldn't believe it when you appeared."

Somehow, Sam found the strength to lift her head from the comfortable warmth of Janet's shoulder and lose herself in the depths of warm brown eyes. Without thinking, she reached up with her left hand, wincing at the pull of damaged muscles, to lightly stroke the point of the smaller woman's chin. "Knew if I didn't take him out with one shot," she exhaled unevenly, barely getting the words out, "he'd kill you...." Suddenly Sam no longer had even the minimal strength needed to remain upright in her braced position between the doctor and the doorjamb, and she felt her knees start to buckle.

Though used to handling weak and limp soldiers, there was no way Janet could keep Sam upright with no help, and they did a slow motion slide to the floor together, coming to a halt pressed up against each other, their heads scant inches apart, breath mingling as they spoke.

"Just hold on," Fraiser panted near Sam's ear. She lifted Sam's chin, peering into her eyes as she carefully explained, "Sam, I don't want to leave you, but I've got to get help."

Sam nodded dully, but didn't release the loose hold she had on slender shoulders.

Janet's hand grazed Carter's left side, not quite touching, but brushing along the loose hospital gown which was dotted with red splotches. "You're bleeding, Sam, and I'm not strong enough to move you alone. I've got to get help," she repeated.

Carter held on another moment. "You'll come back?" she whispered drunkenly

"I will," the doctor whispered intently. "I'll just be gone a moment."

Groaning with the effort required, Sam lifted her arm away from Janet's shoulders, amazed by how heavy the M9 had grown in no more than a minute. The doctor caught her hand before it could hit the floor, taking the weapon to carefully set it aside.

"I'll be right back," Fraiser promised and started to rise. She froze as the sound of a door and boots on tile could be heard in the distance.

"Hey, Teal'c, think Sam'll be up to--"

"Help!" Fraiser shouted, sinking back to her knees with Sam.

"I believe that was Doctor Fraiser." Teal'c's deep voice sounded calm but alert.

"We're in surgery!" Janet called out.

Only seconds later, Sam's three teammates appeared around a corridor bend, breaking into a run as they got a look at the situation.

Sam leaned heavily against Janet's shoulder, trusting her to see to the situation. She let her eyes slide closed, taking comfort from the other woman's support.

"What the hell?" O'Neill demanded sharply.

"Barnes got loose," Fraiser said briefly. "He killed his guards...I thought he was going to kill me. If Sam hadn't...." She didn't finish the sentence. "Somebody needs to wake up Doctor Saunders. Sam's bleeding, and I'm in no shape to do anything about it."

"Daniel, move it! And get Hammond while you're at it!" O'Neill snapped impatiently while he knelt next to the pair, his expression worried. "What about you, Doc, are you okay?"

The doctor's voice was pained as she answered and Sam suddenly realized Janet was leaning against her almost as hard as she was leaning against Janet. "I think he dislocated my shoulder."

Teal'c must have been checking on Sam's attacker because his voice came from that direction as he informed the colonel. "Their assailant is dead. It is Barnes."

"Lucky bastard," O'Neill growled under his breath. "If he wasn't, I'd've done it myself and it would've taken longer."

"Indeed," Teal'c murmured with his usual downtoned reaction, though something dangerous flickered deeply in his eyes.

Sam's barely heard the exchange, her attention focused on Janet and the way the doctor was pressed up against her. She'd said she was hurt--a dislocated shoulder-- and yet she hadn't even paused in offering support, even though it had to have hurt like hell. "I didn't know you were hurt."

"Shhh," Fraiser soothed. "It'll be okay...a lot less than what it could have been." She let her head fall forward, resting it on Sam's shoulder, putting them almost cheek to cheek. "We'll both be okay."

"Yeah..." Sam sighed, feeling the darkness coming up over her quickly. "...be okay...." She was still sliding away when she heard more people coming. "Don' leave me...."

"I won't," Janet promised again.

And then Samantha Carter knew nothing more.

* * * * * *

"We've got to stop meeting like this," Sam mumbled as she opened her eyes to find a familiar face leaning over her.

Janet Fraiser offered a wry grin. "If you could stop getting hurt for more than a few hours, it would help." Sam suddenly noticed the doctor's left arm was in a sling and for once she wasn't wearing her usual uniform and labcoat. Instead she was dressed in navy sweats--one sleeve slashed to make way for the sling--that dwarfed her small frame and made her look more human than usual; softer and less the implacable doctor, more like she was when Sam had seen her at home with Cassie. 

Sam nodded toward the canvas and strapping sling on Janet's left arm. "How bad is it?"

The brunette shrugged. "Nothing serious. Just dislocated. They filled me up with muscle relaxants and popped it back into place. I have to wear this thing for a couple of weeks," she sounded annoyed by the prospect, "but it should be fine."

"Thank God it wasn't worse," Sam exhaled. "Barnes?" she questioned.

The doctor's expression darkened with dislike. "Dead." She massaged the bridge of her nose with her free hand. "I suppose as a doctor I'm supposed to feel bad about that...but..." She shook her head. "I just... can't...."

"That's only human," Sam sympathized. Having woken in the middle of it all, she had little idea why Barnes had been on the rampage beyond the few snippets of conversation she'd overheard between the man and his intended victim. "What happened? I mean...why?"

"They found his prints on a security safe that was missing several disks...when the MP's went to bring him in for a discussion with General Hammond, he resisted...they broke his arm--apparently not badly enough--and General Hammond was keeping him stored here pending his transfer to the NSA custody." Her lip curled with disgust. "He must have tricked the guards, gotten a hand on one of their guns."

"Jesus." As little as she'd liked the man, it was hard to believe he'd been that far around the bend. "That's crazy. Have they found the missing discs?"

Janet shrugged. "Not as far as I know, but the general's playing it close to the vest. There are federal investigators and I think he's edgy about their intentions."

Sam snorted in understanding. "Funding threats," she said simply.

Janet ran fine boned fingers through her short dark-auburn hair, scraping it back from her face in a gesture of exhaustion. "Yeah...Samuels is in town and making the usual noises."

Sam snorted something impolite under her breath, then fell silent, noting the half moon circles under the other woman's eyes. Her forehead creased in a frown. "It looks like I'm not the only one who belongs in bed."

The doctor offered an enigmatic smile. "Remember? I promised I wouldn't leave you."

Sam flushed as she remembered drawing the promise from the other woman. "Under the circumstances, you really could have ignored that one."

Janet shook her head, still smiling that unreadable smile. "I always keep my promises."

Sam was startled to feel her heart give a little thump in response to the look in the other woman's eyes. It wasn't the first time she'd been aware of her attraction to Fraiser. The doctor appealed to a part of her that she'd almost completely shut off in the military, concentrating instead on her research and career, advancing rapidly to the point where she was a holding a position that very few would have preferred to give to a woman, particularly one who hadn't hit forty yet. For years, she'd sublimated romantic yearnings into the drive for her career--avoiding the reality of her desires by becoming the ultimate professional, something she did with consummate skill.

"Yes...you do," Carter murmured at last, caught in the trap of limitlessly deep brown eyes.

Janet suddenly wavered on her feet and had to grip the bedrail with her good hand to steady herself.

"But it really does look like you need to lie down," Sam observed worriedly. "Maybe you should get someone to help you."

Janet waved the suggestion off. "It's just the muscle relaxants...they have my equilibrium a little off." She closed her eyes for a moment, visibly concentrating to stabilize herself. "I'm okay though." She shook her head loosely as if to rid herself of the dizziness. "And besides, I wanted to check on you...see how you're doing for myself. I spoke to Saunders, and he was satisfied that you're okay. The bleeding on your side was just a little pulling around the sutures. They also ran fresh bloodwork and it looks like the adrenaline rush has helped neutralize the last of the toxin somehow."

"Which means?"

"That if the rest of the tests come back looking this good, you can get out of here in a few days."

Sam was surprised to find that she wasn't exactly looking forward to leaving to go back on duty, or more likely, to spend a week or two moping around her lonely apartment. "That's great," she murmured less than enthusiastically.

"Which brings me to my other reason for being here," Janet began, reaching down to cover Sam's hand with her own as she spoke. "With my arm out of commission, I'm officially on medical leave for the next couple of weeks, so I was wondering if you'd like to come stay with Cassie and I when you get out of here?"

Startled by the offer, Sam could only stare at the other woman for a long moment. Tempted beyond belief, she nonetheless shook her head in polite refusal. "I couldn't...y-you've already got so much to deal with. I couldn't impose--"

"I think I can make room for the person who saved my life."

"It was strictly a returning the favor sort of thing," Sam demurred.

Fraiser laughed softly, "Then let me return it right back to you." She winked. "You can return it again by doing half the cooking."

Her expression screwed into one of horror, Sam shook her head. "Trust me, that wouldn't be paying you back. That would be more like raising my bill."

"Then you can buy pizza and Chinese," the doctor offered with a chuckle. "Seriously, Sam, you really shouldn't be alone after something this serious...and I can't believe you want to stay here to recuperate."

"You have a point there," Sam admitted, trying to ignore the little thrill of excitement that shivered through her at the thought of spending more time in this woman's company. "But I just...I couldn't."

"Don't be silly," Janet said instantly. "I've got a perfectly nice spare bedroom, Cassie would love to have you, and I wouldn't mind the company either." She reached out to straighten Sam's blankets as she spoke. "I'm not taking no for an answer," she said practically. "So you might as well just go ahead and agree...that is, unless you want to see me passed out on the floor in a muscle relaxant induced heap because I was waiting for you to say yes." She raised her eyebrows in silent question, as though the implicit question was a serious one.

This was a side to Janet Sam had never seen before, even when she was with Cassie; lighthearted, teasing, bordering on flirtatious. "You drive a hard bargain," she murmured at last.

Fraiser smiled wickedly and twirled an imaginary handlebar mustache. "I'm known for that."

Sam couldn't help but be drawn into the gentle teasing. "I just bet you are," she drawled, eyes sliding over the other woman's slender frame, noting softly rounded curves.

"Hello, you two," Hammond's booming voice interrupted before Janet could reply.

Both women looked up quickly as the general entered, the warmth between them draining away in an instant. The room was, momentarily silent before Janet spoke, "General." Her eyes slid past the older man to the tall figure standing next to him. "Colonel O'Neill."

Hammond's shrewd eyes narrowed ever so slightly as they landed on Fraiser. "I was under the impression, Doctor, that you were under orders to rest." His tone made it obvious they'd had this conversation before.

She shrugged, wincing ever so slightly as she moved her injured shoulder more than was wise and pain flared through her back muscles and down her arm. Her whole upper body was sore, but her left arm and shoulder had definitely gotten the worst of it. "I haven't exactly been running a marathon, sir," she said defensively. "Just standing around

"No, but you've been 'just standing around' for the last several hours...and considering your condition, that's almost as thick headed as running a marathon," Hammond responded crisply.

"Honest, sir, I'm fine. It's nothing."

Startled, Sam swung her gaze over to Janet. She'd been unconscious for hours? And Janet had been with her the whole time? Unbelievably warmed by the gesture and at the same time unaccountably angry that the other woman might have put her health at risk, she heard her own voice as if from a distance. "The hell it's not," she exploded with unexpected passion. "Your health is important to...to the entire team." Suddenly aware of every eye in the room on her, Sam felt a blush rise as she stumbled to a flustery halt. "I--we can't afford to have you take chances with...with your life...or health...."

"Listen to her, Doc," O'Neill broke in, saving Sam from her own embarrassment, "because the lady's got a point."

Fraiser wobbled on her feet in spite of her best efforts to remain steady. "I'm fine."

"Nurse," Hammond spoke sharply to a passing wraith in the hallway outside as he curved a supportive hand to the doctor's good arm. "I need you to do me a favor and see to it that Doctor Fraiser gets some rest." He noted the doctor's instinctive resistance to the command with a raised brow. "And you have my permission to sit on her if need be."

"Yes, sir," the nurse responded with a grin as she led her grumbling superior out of the room.

"I'm glad she's on our side," Jack observed after the doctor was gone.

"You and me both, son," the general agreed dryly, then both men swung their gazes toward Sam who was still staring through the open door as though someone had struck her. "Well, Major," he observed wryly, "you're looking better this time than you did the last couple of times I was through here."

"You can say that again," O'Neill confirmed, grinning broadly.

Sam looked startled. "You were here before, sir?"

Both men nodded. "We do care about you, you know," Jack pointed out in his brusquely teasing way.

"We both stopped by several times," Hammond added for good measure.

Sam pursed her lips, furrows deepening between neatly arched brows. "Then why the hell didn't you make her lie down if you knew she was overtaxing herself?" she demanded of the two men.

"You ever try to make the Doc' do anything?" Jack questioned.

Hammond waved the younger man silent. "She wouldn't go," he informed Sam, "And at some point, it became apparent she wasn't going to get any rest until she was sure you were all right." He held out his hands a little helplessly. "Doctor Saunders felt she'd be more stressed if she left than if she stayed."

Sam bit back on several choice comments, ducking her head as it occurred to her that her behavior wasn't necessarily in line with mere professional concern. "It just seems like we ought to be more careful with health of the base's senior medical officer."

"Well, Doctor Fraiser's going to be fine--"

"Thanks to you," Jack enthused. He grinned again. "Hell, Carter, you shoot better half conscious than I do wide awake."

Sam shivered as she remembered that moment. She'd killed before, but it wasn't something she ever enjoyed. No matter how thoroughly it needed doing.

Jack saw the expressions flitting across her face and instantly his face fell. "Sorry, Sam," he apologized and she could hear the sincerity in his tone. "But don't beat yourself up about Barnes. The bastard deserved what he got."

Slim hands tightened into fists as an image of what might have happened had she not interfered flashed in her mind. "Yeah." Unable to stay sane if she let herself think that way, she shoved the ugly images into the back alleys of her mind. After a beat, she looked up at Hammond, her expression questioning. "Did you want to debrief me, sir?"

The general noted her drooping eyelids and shook his head. "No, Major. Doctor Fraiser was able to give a fairly detailed account of what happened. Anything more can wait."

"And I'm just here because Doctor Saunders said no more than two visitors at a time and Daniel and Teal'c threatened to hurt me if I didn't report back on your condition as soon as possible."

Sam's lips curved in an affectionate smile at the mention of her teammates. "You tell 'em I'm okay," she murmured.

"Daniel'll be glad to hear it. He's afraid you're going to kill him when you get out of here." Jack flashed a wicked grin. "That's assuming I don't do it first."

Sam chuckled softly, knowing O'Neill's teasing was just a side effect of how worried they'd all been about her. And for all of the fact that her accident had come about partially because of Daniel's error in judgment, she knew Jack well enough he wouldn't hold it against the younger man for long. It was a mistake anyone could have made. They'd all done at least a half a dozen things equally thoughtless during their time on the Stargate project. "Tell him I'm not mad at him." She winked broadly. "But he owes me...big."

"I hear plans in that statement," O'Neill said stroking his chin thoughtfully.

Sam grinned. "Let's just say I don't think I'm ever going to pay for another beer when Dr. Jackson's around."

"And she drinks the expensive stuff," Hammond noted dryly.

"Ah, God, you're gonna bankrupt Daniel by making him pay for those fruity European beers you like," O'Neill laughed in a tone of mocking outrage. "Diabolical."

"I know," the major drawled agreeably.

"And on that note," Hammond broke in on the friendly joking, "I really should be going." He reached down, patting Sam's shoulder lightly. "Glad to see you're doing so much better, Major. See if you can avoid getting in any more trouble until you've healed from this bout."

"Yes, sir." She watched as her superior nodded to Jack, then hurried out.

"What he said," Jack added seriously after the general was gone. "The team wouldn't be the same without you."

With the others gone, Sam could feel the brief rush of energy draining from her veins like air from a balloon. "You're just afraid it'll be you getting mauled instead of me," she mumbled.

"That's right," he agreed, playing along with the joke, but his expression was serious. "And all I can get out of Daniel is a sixpack of Bud Lite, so just try to stay out of trouble."

"I promise I will, sir." Sam's eyes drooped another notch and she let her head fall back into the pillow.

"And now, it looks like I'd better leave you to get some rest."

"That'd probably be for the best, sir," Sam agreed, settling back into the mattress as she watched him leave. 

She was just drifting off a few minutes later when a figure appeared in the doorway, moving on light feet. Sam frowned, mouth compressing into a disapproving line. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" she pointed out as her eyes met Janet's.

The doctor shrugged, then winced as the slight movement torqued already strained muscles. "Probably," she admitted, her voice tight with pain, "but I just...just wanted to check on you."

Sam couldn't decide whether to be touched that Janet had been thinking of her, or annoyed that she was risking her health. "You said yourself that I'm fine," she reminded the doctor, though she watched hungrily as she crossed the small room to stand next to the bed, peering down at Sam through liquid brown eyes.

"I know." Janet reached out with her free hand, just barely trailing her fingers down Sam's forearm, the tiny contact sending a bolt of awareness through the woman in the bed. "Just being a paranoid...doctor...I guess," she said haltingly. "Need to make sure my star patient is okay."

Sam turned her forearm under Janet's fingers, deftly catching her hand in a loose hold and felt a tiny shiver of tension move through the other woman. "It's okay," she whispered after a long beat. "We're okay."

Dark eyes slid closed as Janet nodded, rubbing her thumb lightly across Sam's knuckles. "Yeah, I know," she breathed in a very small voice. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then opened her eyes to catch Sam's gaze. "I just...um...the last few days have been difficult...and then today...." She shook her head, her expression mildly bemused. "I was just lying in bed and I realized I couldn't sleep until I knew you were okay." She laughed a little embarrassedly. "I guess that sounds silly, huh? The rest of the staff is perfectly competent to--"

Sam squeezed Janet's fingers lightly. "I understand...and even though you should be in bed, I'm not sorry you're here."

They stayed like that in companionable silence for a long time, both needing the tenuous contact that had developed between them, until finally, Fraiser's chin drooped to rest on her chest and she visibly wavered on her feet, while Sam could barely keep her eyes open.

"You should probably get back to bed," Sam whispered, loathe to lose the contact, but also worried that Janet was pushing herself too hard.

"I know...and you need to get some sleep." Janet sighed regretfully and gave Sam's hand a last squeeze before breaking the warm connection. "I'll see you in the morning."

"G'night," Sam mumbled, already sliding off into slumber, though she did remain awake long enough to see Janet pause in the doorway and turn back, a hint of a smile touching her lips before she slipped out. The image stayed with the major as she dropped off to sleep and played through dreams that were more pleasant than might have predicted after everything that had happened.

* * * * * *

"So, you killed Barnes with one shot?" Lieutenant Colonel Bert Samuels demanded of Sam Carter, his tone making it an accusation as he towered over her where she lay in bed.

A fine blond eyebrow lifted. "That's right," she confirmed. "He was threatening the life of a fellow officer at the time, so it seemed like the best course of action."

The colonel ignored her sarcasm. "To the best of your knowledge, was there any relationship between Captain Fraiser," his use of Fraiser's rank startled Sam, since it was so unusual to hear her referred to that way, "and Lieutenant Barnes?"

She shook her head. "No, none."

"Are you sure? After all, you have no way of knowing that she what happened before you regained consciousness. Couldn't she have been helping him escape?"

Teeth gritted with fury, Sam glared at the man. "He slammed her around, shoved a gun under her jaw, and dislocated her shoulder. What do you think?"

"Please answer the question, Major."

"No." Sam glanced at the other man, his head down, silently taking notes on the debriefing, though terming it an interrogation would have been more accurate. He never said a word, barely even nodding when Samuels introduced him as Captain Blanchard. He just sat there writing it all down while the colonel's questions got so ridiculous that Sam had the urge to ask the notetaker if he'd ever written fiction before.

"You and Captain Fraiser are friends," Samuels continued, his tone putting a spin on the words that left Sam wanting to smash his teeth down his throat.

"That's right," she said, her tone guarded.

"Good enough to lie for each other?"

"No," Sam answered without hesitation, her look sending daggers his way.

"So, your being in the Infirmary just in time to kill the only known suspect in this case was all just a coincidence?" His tone made it sound like an utterly ridiculous idea.

"That's right. A lucky one too, because otherwise she'd be dead...but I guess that idea doesn't bother you much." Sam could feel her temper throbbing in time with her rising blood pressure. What did he think, that she'd purposely nearly gotten eaten by an alien creature so she could wind up in the infirmary?

Samuels met her glare with a shrug. "I'm not on trial here, Major."

"Neither am I," she shot back. "Unless court martial procedures have changed dramatically while I've been on the injured list."

The colonel tensed, but didn't respond, instead simply going back to his notes. "You said you heard a scream and went to investigate, then found the two guards dead?"

Sam sighed softly as she was forced to go through the whole story again...and again...until her already limited stamina was completely depleted and she could barely see straight. Her head throbbing violently, she massaged her temple.

"What the hell's going on here?" Janet Fraiser's angry question cut through the colonel's latest round of insinuating questions.

Sam's chin lifted, a hint of a smile touching her lips as she saw the five-foot, two-inches of sheer fury standing in the doorway. Even in sweats, her arm still trapped in the sling, her dark eyes blazing with unconcealed anger, she managed to exude an air of authority that brought the colonel to a halt.

"I was merely debriefing Major Carter," Samuels insisted, a trace of defensiveness coloring his voice.

Dark eyes touched on Sam, taking in her exhausted pallor. "It looks more like an interrogation to me," Janet said, unknowingly echoing Sam's earlier thoughts. "And, in view of the fact that Major Carter suffered a life-threatening injury only a few days ago, an entirely inappropriate one."

"Captain," Samuels said disdainfully, none too subtly reminding her he outranked her, "I really don't think--"

"Finally, something we can agree on," a sarcastically slashing voice cut in as Jack O'Neill entered the room a few paces behind Fraiser, a duffel bag slung over one shoulder.

"Colonel O'Neill." Samuels ducked his head in acknowledgment, though his lip curled with dislike.

"Get out," Jack replied without preamble, while Janet crossed to Sam's bedside, quickly taking stock of her condition.

"You really don't have any say in the matter, O'Neill--"

"But I do," Janet snapped sharply, turning away from Sam to glower at the interloper in her domain. "While you do outrank me, as the officer responsible for the health of every person in this command, I have not only the right, but the responsibility to see to their well-being. And since it is clear to me that Major Carter is in no condition for an extended interrogation--one which seems to me to be more a product of your own personal feelings regarding SGC personnel than any logical or justifiable suspicions--"

O'Neill let out a tiny, impressed whistle, while Samuels stiffened, his knuckles whitening on the clipboard in his hands.

"This inquisition is over. Now," Janet continued crisply, pointing toward the door with her good hand, "Kindly leave."

Samuels ducked his head. "Of course, Doctor," he said without a trace of sincerity, "I didn't mean to step on any toes."

"Go," O'Neill jeered.

The colonel nodded to his aid, then quickly shoved his papers back into his briefcase. Finished, he turned a calculating look on Fraiser. "Don't worry, Doctor, I can always finish the interview later."

"You do that."

With a last look at O'Neill the colonel hurried out, his silent aid following behind him like a wraith.

"Creep," O'Neill exhaled after the door had shut in their wake. He dumped the duffel slung over his shoulder to the floor, then instantly looked guilty when Fraiser winced. "Sorry, Doc'."

She looked back and down, making it apparent the bag was hers. "That's okay. I don't think there was anything too breakable in there."

Jack turned an annoyed look on Sam, the bag already forgotten. "Why didn't you tell him to get the hell out?"

She shrugged defensively, while Janet turned back, checking the readings on the monitor with a professional eye. "I knew I'd have to go through it sooner or later. I figured I'd get it over with." She folded an arm across her face, groaning softly. "Truthfully, I didn't really expect it to turn into the third degree." She lifted her arm, her tone outraged. "He actually had the audacity to suggest that Fraiser or I might have been involved with Barnes' plans somehow."

Janet snorted disgustedly. "I got the same routine during my," she paused for effect, "debriefing." She tapped the monitor with a fingernail, indicating the readings which were all well within the range of normal. "However, it doesn't look like you're any worse for the wear." She flashed a look at O'Neill. "Colonel, I trust you and SG-1 can handle running interference for the next few days until Major Carter is released."

"Don't worry, Doc'. We'll take care of it." He returned her chiding gaze with one of his own. "In fact, if you had let me know there was a problem sooner, I'd have dealt with it sooner," he said, his tone making it clear that he wouldn't have allowed Samuels to harass her any more than he would allow him to harass Carter.

She looked a little chagrined. "Like Major Carter, I thought I'd get it over with, and it never occurred to me he'd bother her in ICU."

Sam glanced at the discarded duffel bag, then up at the woman leaning over her. "So, I guess you're out of here today?" she murmured, hating the thought.

"Yeah. I'd stay longer, but you're out of danger now, and Cass has had a rough time lately. I don't want to be away from home any longer than necessary."

"Absolutely..." Sam agreed instantly, suddenly feeling churlish for wanting the doctor to stay. "She needs you." She didn't want to think about how much she needed Janet, or how much she wanted her to stay. She was still trying to ignore the ache in her chest when the doctor looked over her shoulder at O'Neill.

"Colonel, I just remembered that Dr. Warner was going to prepare a prescription for me and also give me the name of a good orthopedist he knows in town who can look at my shoulder. Would you mind getting those for me?"

"Sure, Doc'. Be back in a sec'." Then he hurried out to do as she'd asked.

"I guess Colonel O'Neill's giving you a ride home." Sam was surprised by how little she liked that idea.

"Daniel too," Janet said quickly. "He's going to drive my car home, then the colonel will bring him back."

"I guess that makes sense," Sam allowed, surprised to realize she was relieved that Daniel was involved in the plans.

Janet reached out to idly stroke the back of Sam's hand, the gesture so instinctive that she didn't even think before doing it. "I already spoke to Colonel O'Neill. When they let you out of here, he and the guys will bring you to my place--and you heard him, they'll keep Samuels out of your hair until then, so don't be shy about letting them know if he's bothering you." She glanced down, eyes falling on her own fingers where they were lightly brushing Sam's hand, then suddenly looked up again, seemingly flustered. "In the meantime, just...just take it easy, okay?"

Sam swallowed hard, fascinated by the depths of Janet's chocolate brown eyes. "I'll be fine," she assured her.

"I know." Janet broke contact with Sam's hand, curling her fingers to the bedrail instead. "I just feel bad leaving you alone in here. I know how you hate the infirmary."

The major offered a small smile. "It's not my favorite place," she admitted.

"A few more days and you'll be out of here, okay?"

Sam could feel her heart thudding in her chest in response to the look on the other woman's face. It made her feel more safe and cared about than she had since she was a small child. "Janet ... I ... thanks ... thanks for having me."

A tender smile touched full lips. "You're always welcome in my home, Sam."

Any further conversation ended as O'Neill returned, a bottle of pills and a sheet of notepaper in hand. "Here you go, Doc."

She tucked them in her pocket. "Thank you, Colonel."

Jack nodded toward Sam. "Anything you need while I'm out?"

"No, sir, I'm fine." You're taking the only thing I need right now.

"Okay, then we should probably be going, Doc," he prompted Fraiser.

Janet just barely brushed her fingers across the back of Sam's hand again, leaving a trail of awareness in their wake. "See you in a couple of days," she said for Sam's ears only, the sound low and intimate.

"Yeah," Sam exhaled, the timbre of Janet's voice still ringing in her ears long after the woman had left.

* * * * * *

Sam sighed softly as she lay back in bed. She was officially healthy enough to be profoundly bored. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c had all dropped by to entertain her--playing cards or chess, or losing themselves in trading stories that were hyperbolic in the extreme--when they could, but with her out of commission, they were mostly off dealing with their own lives.

Meanwhile, with Janet gone from the infirmary, the hourly checkups had become an unpleasant chore, while the times between left her feeling lonelier than she could have thought possible.

She sighed again, counting the holes in the acoustical ceiling tile directly over her bed. She'd done it at least a dozen counts so far, coming up with a different number each time, and she was mentally forming a mathematical formula for calculating her own rate of error which included a variable based on her physical condition. Yeah, she was definitely feeling the boredom if she was coming up with nonsense formulae.

She didn't even have any duty related concerns to keep her busy. She'd given another statement to the official Air Force investigators, who had been far more polite than Samuels, and they'd seemed satisfied with her version of events. Two of the missing disks had been found--with Barnes' prints all over them--and another two were still being sought. Unfortunately, as much as she hated the thought of data she'd helped gather falling into the wrong hands, there was nothing she could do about it, since she wasn't allowed out of bed to go any farther than the bathroom.

Then she'd had the fun of a Psych Eval, and been found mentally healthy enough to return to duty.

Which left her physical health. The medical researchers had been by, taking more blood samples, then discussing between themselves, the properties of the toxin that had been raging through her bloodstream while ignoring her as if she wasn't in the room. Sam had done her best to zone out during the discussion since being treated like a labrat wasn't really to her liking, and rather like Saunders, they lacked their superior's bedside manner in dealing with patients. Janet would have explained what was going on and what she found so interesting in the samples. She would have spoken to Sam like an actual human being. She would have turned torture into...well, if not exactly something pleasant, then definitely something bearable.

Speaking of which, she wondered if maybe the doctor would consider a game of online StarBlaster. She'd figured out how to play the game with Cassie through an interactive Internet server some months before and it might at least keep her from screaming at the monotony of her hospital stay. She'd already had Daniel deliver her laptop down to the infirmary and there was a communications jack that could hook up to the outside world. It startled her to realize that just the thought of playing a silly online game with the other woman--not exactly an intimate activity--left her feeling warm and a little tingly.

And that was a scary realization. Sam experienced a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach as it occurred to her--not even remotely for the first time--that she was perhaps enjoying the other woman's company more than was entirely prudent. Passionate crush, romantic attraction, or simply profound admiration mixed with a healthy dose of lust; she wasn't entirely certain how to classify what she was feeling--simply allowing herself to feel it was too new and too dangerous--and in some respects, she didn't think it really mattered. It seemed doubtful that Janet would suddenly wake up in love with her. And even if she did, it wasn't like either of them would ever feel safe to act on it. A collegiate type like Daniel wouldn't care--hell, during his university days, Sam suspected he'd seen things that would turn her viewpoint on its edge--but Jack and General Hammond? Who knew how they'd react? They might not care, might just quietly look the other way. Or they might decide that such things were far too blackmailable for a high security agency like the SGC.

Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' where you never quite know where you stand.

Sam drummed her fingers rapidly on the bedrail as she considered her problem. Normally, these were mental pathways she just preferred to avoid traveling. It made life simpler if she just kept her personal life on hold in favor of her professional passions. And in the past, that had been easy enough. It had been a long time since anyone had seriously challenged her love for science and exploration. Needing the research, the way she needed oxygen, she'd simply lost herself in her work. Anything else was just too risky, but....

But you'd take the risk for her

, the thought floated through her brain as she pictured the other woman's face, a gentle smile on her lips, her eyes alight with good humor. Take the risk and be grateful for the chance to do it, that niggling little internal voice added unhelpfully.

But it's never going to be an issue

, Sam reminded herself brusquely, because Janet is straight as the proverbial board--after all, there had a been a husband, albeit of the ex-variety--and wishing for anything else is just denying the painfully obvious facts. Her stomach clenched at the thought. Unfortunately, she'd always been good at denial because she kept thinking of all those soft words and light touches; imagining there might be something more than friendly caring to them.

Another soft sigh followed the others. She really was going to have to get over this, put her emotions back in the nice safe box where she'd kept them locked away for the better part of her career. It was probably all just the result of going celibate far too long anyway.

She had sudden mental image of Janet's pale skin against her own, their bodies twined together in an erotic tableau.

Sam felt her heart skip a beat in her chest with such force that it was clearly apparent she wasn't locking any emotions away on this particular night. Not without the risk of shattering that neat box into a thousand pieces. And then what would she do?

"You really are bored," she muttered, shaking her head at the fanciful turn of thought, then straightened her shoulders, resolved to once again think and behave like the no nonsense officer everyone was used to. She had to. After all, she was due to spend several days in the other woman's company...in her house...sleeping just down the hall from her bed.

Oh yeah, maintaining a cool calm exterior under those conditions was going to be a piece of cake.

Sam flopped over in bed, burying her face in her pillow as she struggled to ignore the fantasies that insisted on playing out in her mind's eye.

For the first time since her injury, sleep didn't come easily.

* * * * * *

Continue to Chapter Three

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