| Part 1 | Part 2 |
Fraiser stepped back into the corridor to find the men there waiting. O'Neill was sitting on the floor, with his back against the wall, a deck of cards in hand, apparently trying to explain the rules of poker to Teal'c, who was sitting on the opposite side of the narrow corridor, looking at the colonel as though he'd lost his mind. Daniel Jackson just looked like he'd rather be somewhere else. Actually, he looked like he'd rather be almost anywhere else.
"So, then you bet based on the cards you, unless you don't have any, in which case, you bluff--"
The doctor cleared her throat to get their attention and Jack pushed to his feet with a relieved look. "Hey, Doc, you get Carter back into her clothes?" The other two men followed close behind him.
Janet shook her head. "She was still reasonably dressed when I arrived, actually ... well ... decent anyway," she said when O'Neill raised an eyebrow. "So I didn't even try. I was more concerned about her physical condition."
The colonel tensed, his expression taking on a tinge of worry now. "Problem?"
"I don't think so," Fraiser said carefully. "She's experiencing some mood swings and her pulse and blood pressure are slightly elevated, but I don't think she's in any danger."
Jack and Daniel both heaved sighs of relief, while Teal'c simply peered at the doctor.
"But?" the Jaffa prompted, picking up on the hesitancy in her tone that the other two had missed.
"Whatever it was she drank appears to have had a mild narcotic element in addition to the alcoholic content -- probably something in whatever it was made from."
"She's okay though?" Daniel clarified.
Janet nodded. "I think so. I'd feel a little better if I could get her back to the SGC, but--"
"No," Jack inserted stubbornly, "I'm not having it on her record that she got drunk on a mission when it wasn't her fault. As long as there's no danger, we deal with the problem here."
Fraiser's gaze swung back to the colonel, eyebrows arching. "Just out of curiosity, sir, how much did you three have to drink?"
"Enough for a toast or two ... a couple of sips at most," Daniel answered.
"I as well," Teal'c added with a faint inclination of his head. "And my symbiote would most likely protect me in any event."
Three pairs of eyes swung to pin Jack O'Neill in place. He frowned. "Well, I had a coupla glasses, but it's not like I can't hold my liquor."
Janet reached up and rapped a nail lightly against the bridge of his sunglasses. "If you could just take those off, sir."
He reared back, his expression suspicious. "Why?"
"Just do it, Jack," Daniel muttered, then reached out and tugged them off when O'Neill didn't move.
Janet leaned in to peer up at her superior's tightly constricted pupils.
"Stoned?" Daniel questioned simply.
"Oh yeah." She ran a hand through her hair as she considered the problem.
"I am not," O'Neill insisted and yanked his sunglasses back, replacing them with a disgusted snort. "I think I'd know if that were the case."
Janet glanced at Daniel. "I figured he was a little buzzed during the walk back, but clearly I underestimated the problem."
The Egyptologist shrugged. "He's had a lot of practice looking sober when he isn't," he said practically.
"Helloooo," Jack interrupted, waving a hand to gain their attention. "Still here." He thumped his chest solidly. "And I don't appreciate being discussed like I'm not." Okay, so the ground was swaying a little beneath his feet, but he'd done his job in worse shape. He certainly wasn't doing a Carter and going all haywire. He glanced down to double check. Yep, clothes still in place right where they belonged.
"Sorry, sir," Janet sighed. "I've been on duty since six a.m. and it's starting to show. However, the fact of that matter is that right now, your judgment may not be at its best."
O'Neill glared at her, then swung his gaze to his two teammates. His stiff posture deflated when even Teal'c nodded his agreement. "Okay," he exhaled at last, "So what do we do?"
Janet looked back at the door to Carter's quarters. "Right now, I don't think she's going back unless we carry her--"
"Look, Doc'," O'Neill interrupted before she could get any farther, "if there's any way, I'd rather keep her here. I don't know Hammond that well. Maybe he'd understand but maybe he wouldn't ... and you know as well as I do that if this gets on her record, it could follow her ... no matter what the reasons were."
She nodded, knowing he was right. "I know." A muscle pulsed in her jaw as she ground her teeth together. She hated getting caught in situations like this. The military was designed to allow for a minimum of flexibility, while the medical profession often required almost exactly the opposite. It often made balancing the two competing needs very tricky. "The same is true for you, by the way," she pointed out at last.
He smirked. "Doc, I couldn't be that lucky. I keep trying to resign and they keep bringing me back." He stuffed his hands in his pockets. "But Carter ... this is her career." There was a pleading note in his voice that surprised her.
"He's right," Daniel offered quietly, adding to the obvious pressure.
"Indeed," Teal'c said, "Captain Carter's devotion to the military and her career is exceptional."
A moment passed and then finally Janet nodded. "Okay ... but," her tone sharpened as she pinned a hard look on the colonel, "you're to stay with Mister Teal'c and I want to know if there are any changes in your condition." The Jaffa nodded. "I'll look after Carter, and in the morning, we go back ... whether or not you're both sober again. If whatever this is isn't out of your system by then, we're not waiting around." It was all she could give him, and even that much was under duress.
O'Neill nodded. "Thanks, Doc."
"Thank me later," she sighed, "when we're all back and everyone's okay."
Daniel cleared his throat to get their attention. "You think someone should get back to the gate and let them know it's not serious and we've been delayed? I could get there and back pretty quickly." He glanced at the Jaffa and the colonel. If anyone could keep a drunk O'Neill in line, it was Teal'c. "And things here seem well in hand."
"Probably not a bad idea. Inform them that the situation is under control, but I think it's better off dealt with on this end." Not exactly the entire truth, but not entirely a lie either. Great, only a week on duty and already keeping secrets from her C.O. She waved a hand in a loose gesture, making it his problem. "Just try and keep it as vague as possible."
"I'll get back as quickly as I can," Daniel promised and hurried out.
After he'd gone, Jack slapped her on the shoulder, any past transgressions forgiven and forgotten on his part. "You're okay, Doc. Most officers would've been all worried about rules and regs."
She considered several responses before settling on a rather dry, "Thanks ... I think." She shook off the momentary bemusement. "I'd better get back to Carter. She's not very stable and there's no railing around that second story." Drugs and alcohol could rapidly become a very moot point if the captain went splat all over the floor.
O'Neill folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall. "Thanks." She hurried back into Carter's quarters, though not before she overheard the colonel's voice following after his, his tone cheerfully lewd. "Man, that's a nice view--"
"Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c's voice rumbled disapprovingly.
"I just mean that she's got a really nice--"
Janet slammed the door in her wake just in time to avoid hearing the rest of his comment. There were some things she was better off not knowing. "He's drunk," she reminded herself to stem the rising tide of resentment at his appraising tone. "And besides, you can use the really big needle the next time he's in the Infirmary." That made her feel better and after a few, brain-clearing, deep breaths, she was calm again. Or at least she was until--
Fraiser jumped, startled by Sam's cheerful greeting and her eyes lifted to find the captain's face peering down at her over the edge of the platform, hanging almost perfectly upside down. "I thought we agreed you'd stay in bed," she reminded the blond.
"Oh ... I thought you just meant I should stay up here." Then Sam's head popped back up and before Janet could say anything, she heard the soft slap of bare feet moving quickly on the stairs.
"It's Sam actually," Carter said as she abruptly darted around one of the pillars on the ground floor.
Janet jumped again. Apparently alcohol hadn't impaired the other woman's ability to move quickly. "Right," she exhaled, still catching her breath after the surprise. "Sam."
Blue eyes regarded her quizzically. "You okay? You look a little pale."
"You just startled me," Janet said, the words coming out more uncertain than her usual confident tone. A trip through the looking glass can have that effect on a person. "And it's been a really long day."
"You should relax more," Carter suggested cheerfully, then offered a broad smile. "Kick back ... have a drink."
"I think you've had enough for both of us," Fraiser sighed as she eyed the other woman, noting her bleary good cheer and wavering balance. "More than enough actually."
Carter's mouth pursed in annoyance. She wanted to have fun and the doctor was eyeing her like her father did whenever he was unhappy with her. She'd already not done enough things because of that look. Without planning to, she stiffened her spine, a defiant look firming her expression. "I told you I'm not going back tonight."
"Yes, I remember," Janet said dryly and stepped past the other woman with a soft sigh. She ran a hand through her hair, ruffling it out, then massaged the back of her neck.
Sam pivoted, peering after the doctor. She'd been expecting more of an argument. "Well?" she said after a beat.
Janet stepped over to the pool inset into the ground floor of the room, eyeing the rock waterfall that fed it. "So, is this just for decoration, a fish pool, a really fancy hot tub?" When there was no answer, she turned back to find Sam watching her strangely, her head canted to one side. "What?"
"Why aren't you trying to talk me into getting dressed and going back?" the blond asked suspiciously. She glanced back behind her, wondering if the guys were going to sneak in and get involved.
Janet calmly sat down and began unlacing her boots. "Well, whatever it is, it's about to be a foot bath," she decided out loud, leaving Carter nonplused.
"Well?" the blond demanded again.
Brown eyes lifted and slim shoulders dipped in the faintest of shrugs. "Would you go?"
"No. I already said that."
"And do I look like I'm going to carry you back?" Janet inquired politely.
Sam frowned. This was not going the way she'd expected. "No," she said a little hesitantly.
"And I'm not even going to ask whether you think I'm planning on grabbing you and trying to shove you into your clothes," the doctor said dryly as she peeled off a boot and sock and set them both aside before she began working off her other boot. "And since Colonel O'Neill is equally determined not to go anywhere ... and he's roughly as sober as you are," she finished freeing the second boot and yanked it off, "it looks like we're here for the duration." Her sock followed and she sat wiggling her toes in relief. "So I see no reason not to get comfortable." She rolled her pants legs up and dangled her feet in the water with a tiny, satisfied sigh. "Oh, that's good." Using a jutting stand of rock from the fountain as an impromptu back rest, she leaned back and half turned to face Sam.
Carter dropped down to sit cross legged a short distance from the doctor, dangling the fingers of one hand in the water. "You're not exactly ... that is ... I thought you'd argue," she admitted after the stumbling start. She'd expected a fight, an argument, maybe some manipulation, but not this. "Or maybe try and make a deal..."
Fraiser shook her head, closing her eyes as she leaned back. "My dad taught me never to bargain with drunks. They always forget the terms of the agreement and try to renege later."
Sam thought about that for a moment, tapping a finger in the water and watching the flow and eddy of the waves spreading away from her hand. "You're giving up too easily." She didn't know the other woman that well, but instinct told her that if she'd made up her mind, she could, and would, have dragged and/or carried a patient back to the gate through hell and high water, even if the patient in question was twice as big and kicking and screaming to boot. Fraiser struck her as the stubborn type.
One brown eye opened and then the other and Janet studied Carter seriously. She debated her answer for a moment before quietly adding, "Colonel O'Neill pointed out that this could have the capacity to hurt your career ... and I don't like spiking people that way." She shrugged. "Besides, you're not the only one who looked through people's files. I read yours too. You're a career officer ... from a career family ... looking to advance. Little things can hurt under those circumstances."
A moment of uncomfortable silence passed as it occurred to Sam what the other woman was saying. She was effectively circumventing regulations to help SG-1 protect her back, something which could easily blow back on her. She started to say something, fully intending to disavow whatever plan the colonel had worked up. It was too much of a risk, and besides, having known General Hammond most of her life, she didn't think he'd be any more eager to report her than the doctor or SG-1.
Before she could speak though, Janet intentionally broke the grim moment with a soft laugh. "Besides, if you get booted off this project, there's an outside chance nobody will come home safely since I'm not all that confident anyone else actually understands how that damn gate works."
"Actually, it's not really that complicated," Sam mused, completely forgetting everything else as swirls of complex diagrams danced in her head. "It's just a matter of--"
"Spare me," Fraiser interrupted, holding up a hand to stop the explanation before it got too dizzying. "You must be even drunker than I thought to say that," she teased and rose, eyes running around the room. "So, is there anything to eat around here ... not drink, eat," she added firmly before Sam could answer. "Because I would really prefer to avoid the MRE's in my pack." Hunger was probably preferable to the precooked, prepackaged plastic the military called food as far as she was concerned.
Sam smiled, gesturing to a small table loaded with fruit, bread and cheese. "Yeah... pretty good too." She pushed to her feet, only slightly wobblier than normal to follow after the smaller woman. "So, are you gonna tell me more about this rock band of yours?"
Dark eyes swung her way as Fraiser picked a sweet smelling, pink fruit off the tray. Her expression arch, she eyed Carter. "I'm going to regret telling you about that, aren't I?" she asked dryly.
"Probably," Sam confirmed, grinning broadly.
"Wonderful. It'll probably be the only thing you remember from this little trip."
"Probably," Sam said again. Somehow it didn't seem possible to forget that particular piece of news.
"Why am I going to be the only one who never lives this little adventure down?" Janet questioned no one in particular, her tone somewhere between ironic and whining. Somehow, that just didn't seem fair.
"Just lucky, I suppose." Sam offered a wide grin in response to the humorously annoyed look thrown her way.
"Great. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all...."
Sam laughed a drunken laugh, nearly tipping herself over as her feet got tangled. Janet suddenly reached out, steadying her, and she flung her arms around the smaller woman's shoulders, holding on as the world tipped unsteadily. A grin tipped the corners of her mouth up as she looked down into the doctor's eyes, very aware of the soft curves she'd been mentally calculating before where they pressed up against her. She'd definitely done the other woman a disservice with her calculations by the feel of it. Unable to resist the temptation to find out if the doctor's glossy hair was as soft as it looked, she purposely brushed her fingers through the strands that fell down her back. "Of course," she murmured as a thought suddenly struck her, "you could always bribe me to keep silent."
A hint of a frown touched the doctor's brow, and she found herself a little too interested in what the captain might suggest ... not to mention the blowsy smile curving her lips and the way blue eyes watched her assessingly. She was suddenly dangerously aware of just how little Sam Carter was wearing. "Really?" she croaked, thinking she must have imagined that flirtatious, suggestive note. She shoved that suspicion aside, struggling to force a more normal note into her voice as she asked, "And exactly what would it take to keep you quiet?" Despite her innocent interpretation, there was a tiny coil of tension in the pit of her stomach. It wasn't that she wanted it to be more than the light teasing it had to be, but then again Samantha Carter was a beautiful, charismatic woman. A person -- male or female -- would have to be half dead not to feel a tiny thrill in response to her attention.
Sam appeared to consider the question, lips curving in a knowing grin as her head canted to one side. The look did nothing to slow Janet's suddenly racing pulse. "We-ell," she drawled after a moment, "your first name would be a good start." Her smile broadened a notch. "I hate all this rank and title stuff."
Janet did a doubletake that was pretty comical to judge by Sam's happy giggle, and she had the distinct impression that the blonde was well aware that she'd had a few other thoughts there for a moment. "Janet," she said after a beat. "It's Janet."
Sam's grin brightened another notch. "See, that wasn't so hard," she teased, lifting her arm up over Janet's head as something on the food tray suddenly caught her attention and she reached out for it. "You've got to try these," she enthused as she plucked a bright red fruit off the tray. "They're incredible." She held it up to the doctor's lips.
"Ahm, thanks," Janet said a little uncertainly, leaning back and reaching up to take it from Sam with her fingers, more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of eating from the other woman's hand, though it struck her that Carter could probably have most anyone she wanted to eating from her hand if she put her mind to it. That thought was still making its way through her brain when Sam suddenly spun and bounded up the stairs, her long, lean body lissome, but at the same time a little uncoordinated, like a young gazelle. Smiling ironically, Janet watched her go, ready to leap forward and steady her if her feet slipped, but the captain reached the second floor without incident. Shaking her head, a wry, but oddly affectionate smile curving her lips, the doctor followed behind the soused captain.
A little over an hour later, Sam lay on her stomach on the huge bed in her upstairs sleeping quarters, feet kicking aimlessly in the air, chin pillowed on her folded arms. The doctor had eaten her fill of the local food, kicking back and relaxing for quite some time before she pulled her boots back on, gathered what she'd need and stepped out to check on the colonel. By the time she returned, she'd visibly been dragging, tired from a long, stressful day, while Sam had found herself entering the mellow stage of the binge, content to simply lie on the bed, watching while Janet replaced things in the backpack, then stripped off her boots again, lying on the floor, her head resting on a pillow stolen from the bed, feet dangling in the tiny pool at the base of the small fountain that fed the larger one on the ground floor. Outside, the world had grown dark, the only light in the room coming a pair of gas lanterns that lit automatically at sunset, their hazy light creating an oddly intimate atmosphere.
"Can I ask you a question?" Sam asked quietly, her voice low as she broke the companionable silence.
"Hmmm?" Fraiser mumbled, waving a hand in what Sam decided was an invitation.
"When you were playing with the band and trying to get thrown out of school, was it because it was something you wanted to do or were you just avoiding something you didn't want to do?" She was still drunk enough to actually ask the question, but sober enough to be questioning her own actions.
Janet rolled onto her side, propping her head on her hand, taking a moment to untangle the sentence and her own thoughts before she answered. "I'd say there was a lot avoidance in there. I was eighteen and scared to death because I just didn't have a clue where I wanted to go in life, so it seemed safer to go nowhere." She traced the intricate parquet floor pattern with one finger, tracking its progress with her eyes. "And when I was playing with the band, I didn't have to think ... didn't have to worry about growing up or who I wanted to be. It's not like there was much risk of actually making a success of it."
Sam sighed softly. There was the crux of her fear, right in a nutshell. "Is that what I'm doing today ... avoiding and not thinking?"
Janet looked up then. "I dunno. Maybe. You're the only one who can answer that." She pushed up, sitting cross-legged, elbows on her knees, fingers loosely linked, carefully studying the complex twining of bone and muscle, as fascinated as she always had been by the way they worked together. "I can tell you all about how your body reacted physically ... the effect of alcohol and narcotics ... endorphins and neural receptors. I can tell you why you feel dizzy, why the mood shifts are happening, and even why you kept feeling hotter as you drank and not cooler. But I can't tell you what you're thinking or why." A moment passed and then another and finally Janet looked up from her hands. "Sam?" she whispered softly, then frowned as the sound of gentle snores that were really little more than heavy breathing reached her ears. Janet pushed to her feet then, drawing closer to the sleeping woman, a bemused smile curving her mouth. She reached out, curving impossibly gentle fingers around Sam's wrist where her hand lay against the sheets, checking her pulse just to be certain. When she finished, she pulled her hand back, barely resisting the urge to brush disarrayed bangs off the other woman's brow. Her face soft in sleep, Sam Carter looked all of about ten. "Get some rest, Captain," Janet whispered very softly, tugging a blanket over the sleeping woman. "I suspect you'll need it." That done, she eyed the floor as she considered her own exhausted state. There was only one bed in the place, and nothing so much as a chair that might serve as a temporary cot.
Janet's gaze slid back to the bed where Sam Carter lay sleeping so peacefully. It was awfully large, she noted. She could take the other side, and they probably wouldn't so much as brush hands. She ran a hand over her hair. And why the hell was she making such a big mental deal of it all anyway? Sheez. She was just being silly. Okay, so Carter was an attractive woman ... very probably a very straight attractive woman ... but there was no reason for acting like an out of control teenager. Janet allowed herself a mental snort at that thought. She'd been controlling her hormones quite successfully for some years now. Really, it wasn't a big deal. She mentally dusted herself off, throwing off the brief bit of purely hormonal response to a beautiful woman, then tugged a loose blanket up from the bottom of the bed.
"Honestly, Fraiser," she muttered to herself as she curled up on the opposite end of the bed from Carter, "you really need to get laid." Yeah, right. Like that was gonna happen. Especially now that she'd joined what was very possibly the most top secret project in the country. Maybe she could just wander down to the nearest gay bar and pretty much guarantee winding up stored in the sort of place where the military put security risks who know too damn much. Yeah, that's a good idea, she thought acidly, then snuggled deeper into the blankets, struggling to ignore several parts of her anatomy that really wouldn't have minded a good solid workout since they'd pretty much been locked up in that proverbial closet for entirely too long.
Sam mumbled in her sleep and shifted in the blankets, drawing Janet's attention, and she pushed up on her elbow to peer over her shoulder at the other woman. It really would have helped if it weren't for the fact she'd always found tall, blue eyed, lanky blondes entirely too attractive ... particularly ones who were brilliant, sweet, funny, and a little shy too boot. The drunk thing she could do without, but that was just temporary....
And she was going to have to be very careful around Sam Carter, she realized. It would be far too easy to wind up pining after the woman like a hormonal teenager -- something which, unless she was vastly mistaken, several team members were already doing -- and the whole pain of unrequited love experience was the last thing she needed in her life.
So there, she thought she rolled back so she was facing the opposite way and tugged the blanket more firmly around herself. Tugging her pillow into place, she punched it into shape, then settled in, utterly determined to ignore the softly snoring woman sleeping on the other side of the bed.
It took a reasonable amount of determination, but she even succeeded reasonably well, and was deep -- if somewhat restlessly -- asleep in fairly short order.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ *
Still more than half asleep, it took Janet a long moment to realize the warmth and sweet smell enveloping her in a safe hold were arms and a length of body that was enough taller than herself to feel good coiled protectively around her. Cocooned in a safe, dark place, she turned into the warmth, so unused to the sensations of waking up in the company of anyone other than herself that she first thought she was still dreaming; especially since the body holding her so close was everything she could possibly have described as her personal physical ideal. Her dream lover even smelled impossibly good. She nuzzled a little closer to sweet smelling skin, pressing her nose into the curve of a slender throat. Her dream lover lifted a hand to the back of her head, fingers slipping through her hair to gently tug her head up. The kiss that followed was slow and tender, the mouth that met hers to trade exploratory caresses utterly gentle. Groaning low in her throat, she slid her arms around the curvaceously slender frame pressed against her own, clinging tightly as that long, sleek body rolled on top of her, the kiss deepening and becoming breathless. Sensations raging through her body, her senses dazed with passion, she held on tightly, hips rising instinctively to meet the knee that rode between her thighs.
The mattress sank near Janet's head as her lover shifted her weight and braced herself, then another hand tugged her t-shirt free of her waistband, sliding underneath to stroke Janet's stomach lightly. The soft caresses only drove her low groans, making her tremble and press closer. As her eyes slid open, she ran her fingers up into silky hair, working them through the pale, gold strands.
Pale ... gold ... strands; the color of gossamer moonlight in the faint illumination that floated in through the windows.
Those details sank in just as Janet realized exactly who was lying above her in the flesh ... no dreams, and no dream lover.
"Oh God," Janet groaned as she tore her mouth away from the heady kiss.
Sam didn't appear to notice the sudden tension, and simply ran her lips down the curve of Janet's throat, tasting and teasing soft skin as her hand skated higher on Janet's abdomen, caressing supple flesh with a gentle hand. "So beautiful," she groaned softly, fingers sliding back down and fumbling with the waistband of Janet's pants.
Her blood running hot with need, Janet could barely think straight. Even knowing she should pull back and put a stop to things, it was nearly impossible as long as Sam was touching her. "Captain Carter ... Sam," she groaned, her voice ragged and breathy as she tugged lightly on the woman's hair to pull her head up.
Sam's chin rose and blue eyes met Janet's gaze. Even in the faint light, they gleamed too bright with the effects of the narcotic laced alcohol. Showing no sign of having heard Janet, she trailed the hand at her waist up to cup the smaller woman's face in the palm of her hand, staring down at her with hungry abandon. "You are so beautiful. I wanted you the first time I saw you."
Janet swallowed hard, pulse racing out of control. It was probably just the one hundred proof courage running in her veins and removing a few inhibitions, she reminded herself. Weren't most women supposed to have a few fantasies about other women? That was probably all it was, and even if it was more than that, high as a kite on an alien world wasn't exactly the way to do things. "Sam," she groaned when the taller woman leaned down and began nibbling on her throat again, then stilled, apparently listening, "we ... uh ... we ... can't...." She tensed as the blonde captain pressed more heavily against her, a bolt of fear running through her. Was the other woman so addled with drink and drugs that she would ignore a refusal? She couldn't believe Sam Carter would react that way for any other reason, but....
It was then she realized that Sam wasn't moving anymore. In fact her body was limp. As if to punctuate that point, she began snoring very softly -- little more than heavy breathing really -- her breath ruffling Janet's hair and playing over her throat.
"Captain Carter," Fraiser gasped, pushing solidly at the taller woman's shoulders.
The blonde was an unmoving deadweight.
Grunting a curse under her breath, Janet shoved more firmly, putting enough muscle to the task to finally roll the captain off to one side. Breathing hard, she stared down at the other woman, but Sam remained limp and unmoving. Her touch light, the doctor quickly checked Carter's vitals, finally concluding that she was just sleeping, and there wasn't any kind of emergency. She continued to stare at the sleeping woman for a long time after she finished before finally climbing off the bed, dragging her blanket and a pillow with her before settling in as comfortably as possible on the floor. Despite her physical exhaustion, her brain raced out of control for a long time, running possible scenarios even as it insisted on replaying the brief scene on the bed. Even knowing it wasn't in her best interests, her pulse raced every time it looped in her head. "God, what am I thinking?" she groaned at some point. There were no easy answers forthcoming, especially since she wasn't even sure of the question, and she finally drifted off to sleep with everything still jumbled in her mind.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ *
"Kill me now," Samantha Carter moaned, her body throbbing with every step. Dark sunglasses hid a very bloodshot pair of blue eyes and the brim of her cap was pulled down low on her forehead to offer any additional shade possible from the bright sun overhead.
"Only if you kill me first," Jack O'Neill groaned weakly, his own footsteps ploddingly unstable. He was ghostly pale, his jawline dark with two days' growth of stubble, eyes nearly as bloodshot as Carter's behind his sunglasses. The P3X-595 Hangover, as he'd mentally dubbed it, was among the worst he'd ever had.
"Nobody's killing anybody," Janet Fraiser broke in, her tone ironic as she eyed the pair of whining officers. She'd given them both a thorough once over before leaving the palace, intensely grateful to discover that Carter showed no signs of remembering the brief spate of passion in the bed. For all their sakes, that was the best possible outcome. With that in mind, she'd opted to simply store it away at the back of the deepest, lockable drawer in her mental filing cabinet. With luck she could completely forget it had ever happened in a day or two, but until then, she could do denial with the best of them.
Both Carter and O'Neill appeared to be in just about the condition expected for a couple of people suffering from nasty hangovers. During the limited physicals she could give on location, she'd checked them both thoroughly, getting fresh blood samples and giving them both what little treatment she could offer -- a vitamin shot and aspirin -- but she'd stayed close during the hike, tracking their condition closely, forcing frequent rest stops and checking their pulse, blood pressure, and overall health. So far, despite the volume of complaints, neither officer seemed to be in any real physical distress. She glanced up, noting Daniel Jackson and the alien, Teal'c, who showed no sign that he even noticed the additional weight of her backpack were well ahead of them. Both men were undoubtedly avoiding the two hung-over officers and she couldn't blame them in the least. The moaning and groaning, not to mention whining, whimpering, and complaining were getting a little nerve wracking.
"If you could try not to breathe so loud," O'Neill growled, interrupting her thoughts, "It would really be helpful." He glared at her for a good measure, then stomped a few steps ahead.
Janet chuckled very softly at the final irony that Colonel Jack "I can hold my liquor" O'Neill was definitely the whinier of the two, offering at least a half a dozen complaints for every one of Carter's. "Wimp," she muttered under her breath, then heard a muted snicker. She slanted a look at Carter, who still looked ghastly, but had managed the tiniest of smiles.
"Don't make me laugh," the blond begged almost inaudibly, "it hurts too much."
O'Neill's spine stiffened, showing he'd heard the remark and Janet had to fight to stifle a chuckle. Sam was no help because her shoulders were trembling very gently with her own soft giggles.
"I heard that," the colonel grumbled which very nearly dissolved both women into hysterical laughter. It was only the sudden appearance of the Stargate as they rounded a bend in the road that distracted them both from the bizarre humor of the situation.
"Oh, thank God," Sam exhaled. She toppled into a loose sprawl at the bottom of the steps while they waited for Daniel to enter the coordinates into the DHD. O'Neill sat a short distance away and Janet crouched, checking the colonel's pulse before moving on to Sam. Warm fingers wrapped around the blond's wrist, resting lightly on the pulse point just below her palm. "Will I live?" she questioned when the doctor finally released her wrist.
"I said you would and I don't seem to have lied," Janet replied and offered an easy smile. She'd been tense when they first started the hike back, but had relaxed as she became more certain that Sam really didn't remember.
"You also said I might not consider it such a blessing today," Sam reminded her as she reached up to massage her temple, though it did no good for the painful headache throbbing there.
"And I think you'd agree that I didn't lie about that either," Janet drawled knowingly.
"Unfortunately," Sam whimpered. She registered Janet's sympathetic look and saw the other woman start to rise. She turned her hand, momentarily catching the doctor's fingers in her own and holding her there. "Thank you."
"Don't make it a habit, Captain," Fraiser said softly, but there was no rancor in her tone. "I might not be so nice next time." She winked, taking any edge off of the warning.
"It's Sam," Carter reminded her.
"Sam," Janet confirmed with a smile.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ *
The gate room was a bustle of activity as the returning team stepped through the Stargate. They were all checked for any sign of Goa'uld invasion in short order, then Fraiser indicated the visibly wavering pair of officers. "I'd like these two moved on down to the Infirmary, but I'll handle their physicals. We'll probably be keeping them overnight, by the way."
"Doc'--" the colonel interrupted, but she cut him off in a hard voice.
"No argument," Janet snapped impatiently, holding up a hand to silence him.
The colonel's mouth tightened, molars grinding as he glared at her, but he held his tongue. A hung over Jack O'Neill was not a happy man, but neither was he a fool. The look in the doctor's eyes was a clear warning. Push her too far and he'd pay for it.
Janet suddenly realized that General Hammond had entered the gate room and was quietly watching the small confrontation with a raised eyebrow.
"Go on," Janet said softly, nodding to her staff to move them on their way, while she straightened her shoulders and focused on the coming discussion with the general as he moved her way. As he stepped past Carter and O'Neill, he gave each of them a long once over.
"Doctor," her superior said quietly when he moved to stand in front of her. He glanced back after the two officers as they were led out. "Brief me on their condition."
Unnoticed, Daniel Jackson and Teal'c slipped out. Janet would have gone with them if she could have. She wasn't looking forward to the briefing. Lying had never been her strong suit.
Fraiser took a breath, exhaled some of it to release stress, then began carefully, "They were at a friendship ceremony of some kind and apparently either ate or drank something that didn't agree with them. It showed up a little more quickly in Captain Carter than it did in Colonel O'Neill, but I don't think it's anything serious." Which wasn't really that far from the truth.
"Ah huh," he murmured thoughtfully. He studied her carefully. "I'm surprised you didn't bring them back here where you had full access to the infirmary and staff."
A tiny shrug. "Neither of them was really up for the walk back and I felt it was better not to move them or risk exposing anyone else until I was more certain what was going on. Luckily, they were both much better this morning, and everything indicated it was simply something they'd both ingested." She wondered if the smile she offered him looked as forced as it felt. "I'll run some additional tests, but I'm comfortably certain I know what the problem was."
They were standing well away from the remaining staff still working in the gate room, their voices low so as not to be heard by anyone else.
"Yes," Hammond said dryly, "I'm sure you are."
Janet glanced at her superior, wishing she knew him better because she couldn't gauge his mood at all and that had her edgy.
"Doctor," his tone was soft and without rancor, but something about it still firmed the string of tense muscles across the brace of her shoulders, "would I be overly mistaken in assuming that the source of their illness," he put extra emphasis on the word, "was more likely liquid than solid?"
Fraiser swallowed hard and slanted a look at her superior as she tried to appear to be watching the various workmen in the room. "Sir?" she tried to sound nonchalant, but was comfortably certain the prevalent emotion in her tone was closer to panic.
Hammond simply raised an eyebrow, silently challenging her to deny it.
"No, sir," she said after a beat, eyes momentarily sliding closed as she uttered the confession. She wasn't standing at attention, but her shoulders straightened automatically, chin coming up, eyes straight, preparatory to responding to a barked order from her C.O.
There was no bark though, simply a quietly murmured, "I assume it was in the line of duty?"
The general nodded, absorbing her response with the same calm demeanor. "And you didn't feel that belonged on anyone's permanent record," he diagnosed correctly.
Janet managed a stiff nod. "No, sir." She swallowed hard, well aware of his perusal, her knees trembling ever so slightly. She was so dead.
Another nod from the general and she missed the hint of a smile that touched his lips before it disappeared behind a bland fa�ade. The SG teams needed to know they could trust this woman. They would be facing god only knew what and they had to be confident that she was completely on their side and it was safe to tell her anything. However, he could not allow that bond to outweigh his position of command. A moment passed and then another, while Fraiser could feel a tiny trickle of sweat sliding down the line of her spine. "Doctor," Hammond said at last, "while I agree with your conclusion and admire your support for your colleagues, if you ever cut me out of the loop like that again, I will personally see to it that the most interesting medicine you practice for the remainder of your career in the Air Force involves lancing boils on the butts of first year airmen." His tone never changed, but there was no question about the seriousness of the threat. "Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
"Yes, sir, perfectly clear, sir." Her response came out with military precision, leaving no doubt she meant it.
"You're good at what you do, Doctor. You wouldn't have gotten this position if you weren't, but this mission is likely to face some very unique challenges and distrust is a luxury we cannot afford." He rested a hand lightly on her shoulder. "Next time, have a little faith. I'm aware of how complex things can get out there and I have every confidence in your abilities, but that needs to be a two way street." He sighed softly. "Now, you should go. You have patients to attend to."
"Yes, sir," Fraiser exhaled and started to leave, only to pause and turn back, taking a deep breath to calm herself before she spoke . "You're right. I should have trusted you and I apologize for my behavior. All I can do is promise that it won't happen again."
He nodded. "That's good enough for me. Now, I suggest you go look after your patients." A smile touched the older man's mouth. "They didn't look too good."
"No, sir, they didn't," Janet agreed, then nodded, her voice more than a little breathless as she added, "Thank you ... for understanding the situation. I only hope I can live up to your confidence. I will certainly do my best."
"I know you will, Doctor," he said with quiet certainty.
Janet nodded, then fled.
The only thing worse than packing to move, Janet decided as she glared at the boxes scattered around the livingroom of her new rental, was unpacking after moving. She didn't know where anything was, the movers had managed to totally mix everything up, and as an added bonus, they hadn't done the best job packing her dishware. Cursing under her breath, she tried to decide what to do with the breakage since she still hadn't found a garbage can and the sharp edges were threatening to slice up her hands if she tried to get anything unbroken out.
The doorbell interrupted her before she could decide on a course of action, and she was just as happy not to have to deal with the whole mess for a little while. Still dusting her hands off, she opened the front door, only to pull up short as she recognized the tall blonde figure shifting from foot to foot on her front porch. "Captain Carter?" she said, so surprised by the woman's appearance, she couldn't think of anything else to say for a moment. Carter licked her lips nervously and for some reason Janet's brain absolutely insisted on dredging up a memory of the taste and feel of that mouth pressed against her own. "I ... uh ... what can I do for you?" she managed to stammer after a beat.
Carter ran a hand over her hair, ruffling it before moving on to massage the back of her neck. She looked like hell, her skin still pasty, dark circles under her eyes. "Sorry for dropping by unexpectedly," she apologized a little uncertainly, "I was just gonna call, but when I looked up your number, I realized you were just around the corner from me." She made a haphazard gesture indicating the next street over. "So I just kinda ... stopped and knocked," the words trailed to a halt as she finished the explanation, suddenly thinking this really hadn't been such a great idea. Maybe the phone would have been a far better choice. Or maybe nothing at all, she mused. Really, keeping her mouth shut wasn't such a bad option all things considered. "It was an impulse thing," she added a little helplessly.
"Oh," Janet exhaled, sounding every bit as uncertain as Sam felt.
Sam shifted nervously from foot to foot. "It's just that I didn't really get much of a chance to thank you for your help ... y'know on P3X-595..." she began hesitantly after a beat, the words coming in hesitant bursts with long pauses between. "...and I wanted to make sure you knew that I realize you didn't exactly follow the normal protocols ... and ... well ... I appreciate it."
Janet shrugged, her response slightly smoother than Sam's but not much. "I was glad I could help. It's not like you did anything intentionally...." She trailed to a halt, an image of Carter rolling on top of her in the huge bed suddenly imprinting itself in her mind, which did nothing for her comfort level.
"I know," Sam admitted, bracing one hand against the door frame and leaning heavily. The doctor had released her from the infirmary that morning, but she still hadn't completely thrown the after effects of the hangover. "But I also know there are plenty of people who would have played it a different way ... and ... well ... thank you."
Feeling a blush heat her cheeks, Janet couldn't think of a thing to say for a moment. She carefully shoved any and all thoughts of those moments of passion to the backalleys of her mind, focusing instead on the professional skills of the woman in front of her. Samantha Carter was possibly the single most important member of the team, since she actually understood the technology. Protecting her was, thus, only logical. "I just tried to do what I thought was right," she said at last. "Even if General Hammond wasn't very happy with me about it."
Carter looked down at her feet, her expression rife with guilt. "He figured it out, huh?" she asked through a wince.
"Oh yeah." The memory of her superior's glare caused the doctor to flinch ever so slightly and distracted her from other, more carnal concerns.
"I guess he gave you holy hell?" Sam asked worriedly, hating the idea that her behavior might have gotten the other woman in trouble with their commanding officer.
Fraiser offered a small, wry shrug. "He was very firm about the fact that he wouldn't tolerate a repeat of being cut out of the loop," she allowed, choosing her words carefully. "And he was a bit upset," she admitted after a long moment during which Sam simply stared at her, waiting for the details.
Sam flinched. "I was afraid of that. I'm so sorry," she apologized quickly. "This is all my fault."
Fraiser waved Carter's guilt off. "Don't worry about it. I'm a big girl. I knew what I was doing." Her mouth tipped up in an ironic smile. "Besides, I don't think he was really all that angry ... just making sure I knew the ground rules." If he'd wanted he could easily have had all of them up on report. The evidence was right there in the blood tests. "Don't worry about it, okay?"
Sam nodded, then suddenly chuckled, wincing at the resulting pain. She offered a limp grin. "Well, at least you know if you get thrown out, you have your music to fall back on."
Fraiser made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she said with mock-innocence. "Any rumors of my being in a rock band were nothing but an alcohol induced nightmare."
"Sorry, not buying it," Carter disagreed smugly.
"Damn," the doctor hissed, one eyebrow quirking upward. "I wonder if the Goa'uld have some kind of forgetfulness ray we could borrow?" she mused out loud.
"You wish," Sam teased, then fell silent, staring down at her feet, clearly hesitant to leave, but apparently equally at a loss to continue. Somehow, this was managing to be both harder and easier than she'd expected.
"Was there something else you wanted?" the doctor asked after a beat when the other woman still hadn't spoken.
Sam looked up, a hint of a frown touching her brow. "I ... uh ... I guess not," she murmured and pulled her hand back only to stagger unsteadily.
Janet reached out instantly, catching the other woman's upper arm supportively. "Still feeling it, huh?" she asked worriedly.
Sam reached up to massage her temple. "It's not too bad," she denied none too believably.
"Anything I can do to help?"
Sam shrugged even as she offered a pathetic whimper. "I don't suppose you have anything for the headache?" Janet shook her head and kept shaking it as Sam's list continued, "The nausea? Cottonmouth? Blurriness? Body ache? Sheer stupidity?" The last was said with a hopeful look and an embarrassed smile.
Janet laughed. "Captain, if I could cure stupidity, I sure as hell wouldn't be in the Air Force. I'd be at Pfizer making millions in stock benies."
"Well, if you do come up with anything, can I be the first to test it?" Sam groaned. "Clearly, I could use it." She massaged the back of her neck again. "I can't believe I kept drinking that stuff." She shook her head in annoyance. "It didn't even taste that good."
"Well, I promise you'll be first in line when I invent an anti-stupidity drug," Fraiser assured her, "but don't be too hard on yourself, okay? It could have happened to anyone. You were just unlucky enough to be a lot more susceptible to the drug involved, particularly when it was mixed with alcohol."
Sam snorted softly. "But I'm supposed to be the genius around here--"
"In some things," Janet allowed, her tone gentle, "but not in everything." Concluding that Carter was reasonably stable, she started to pull her hand back, only to reach out again when Sam tottered ever so slightly on her feet. "However, I really don't think you should be driving at the moment." Practical realities trumped any other concerns, and it was clear her patient was in no condition to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.
"I'm okay," Sam insisted, though she was a rather dramatic shade of green and her eyes didn't appear to be focusing very well.
"Why don't you come on in and catch your breath." Janet glanced over her shoulder, flinching at the sheer havoc inside. "I ... uh ... I think I can clear a space on the couch." She looked back in time to see Carter's brows climb expressively skyward. "I'm still unpacking," Janet said by way of explanation.
"Ah," Sam exhaled understandingly, then offered small shrug. "Air Force brat here. I learned to travel light a long time ago." She straightened away from the doorframe, offering an apologetic smile. "And, really, I appreciate your offer, but it's obvious you're working. I didn't mean to bother you." She started to pull away, but Janet kept a firm grip on her arm.
"It's no bother," the doctor said instantly, her hold steadying when Carter didn't appear to be entirely stable. "And, as a doctor, I really do think it's best if you sit down for a little while ... and if you're still like this later, I'll drive you home or you can call a cab." Her tone obdurate with professional concern, she made it clear that she had no intention of allowing Sam behind the wheel of a car anytime soon.
That fact finally sank in, and Carter frowned ever so slightly, eyes dropping to hand curved to her upper arm. "This isn't optional, is it?" she said with sudden understanding.
"Not in the least," Fraiser agreed cheerfully, applying enough pressure to tug Sam inside.
A moment later, the captain found herself ensconced on an empty spot the doctor had managed to clear on her couch. Fraiser stepped back a pace, resting her hands on her hips as she glanced around the chaotic interior of her livingroom. She reached up, massaging the back of her neck as she considered the mess. "I don't actually know where my coffeemaker is, so that's out ... and I've got a couple of beers in the fridge, but I really don't think alcohol is a good idea." She peered at the blonde captain. "I think I've got a couple of diet cokes around if you could handle that idea. And I could probably scare up something disgustingly unhealthy in the way of a snack if you haven't eaten."
"Actually, that sounds great," Sam sighed, sinking back into the couch, suddenly more tired than she'd realized, and vaguely aware that her stomach was protesting the lack of food. She'd been too nauseous to eat earlier, but she was apparently getting better because she was definitely hungry now that she thought about it.
"I'll be back in a minute or two then," Fraiser murmured, and hurried to rustle up both food and drink.
The doctor returned several minutes later, a cardboard filing box lid serving as an impromptu tray as she brought in a diet Pepsi and a glass of ice for Carter, a beer for herself, cold cuts from the grocery deli, a box of crackers, and a bag of cheese puffs. She pulled up short as she realized Sam had spent the time while she was gone glancing through the books stacked on the end of the couch. They weren't intended for the livingroom shelves, and she'd simply tossed them there as she was sorting the book box with the intention of moving them to the shelves in the bedroom. And she'd managed to completely forget about them while moving the file boxes that had been sitting in the spot Carter now occupied. Not one of her smarter moments.
Sam looked up, a dark blonde brow rising in an oddly suggestive pose.
Janet swallowed hard, unable to decide what that look meant.
"Interesting collection," the blonde said very softly. "Rita Mae Brown ... Karin Kallmaker...." she trailed off thoughtfully. "A few other names, I can't claim to recognize, but the covers are interesting."
"I ... uh...." Janet could feel her heart hammering against the inside of her ribs and licked her lips nervously, suddenly aware that her hands were trembling hard enough to make the ice in Sam's cup rattle gently. Was she now looking at the end of her career? There were more than a few homophobes out there who were reacting against their own hidden desires. Given that Carter showed no signs of remembering events of the night before, was it possible she'd dealt with some less than acceptable thoughts -- at least by military standards -- by going after anyone she perceived as gay? "I'm not sure what you mean," she exhaled, trying unsuccessfully to sound nonchalant.
Carter's brows climbed another notch. "Doctor Fraiser," she exhaled after a beat, her tone faintly chiding.
Fraiser considered her options, finally opting for the direct approach, chin thrust pugnaciously forward. After all, if Carter wanted to create a problem, she had a certain amount of ammunition of her own. "I don't suppose there's any way I can convince you those aren't mine?" she drawled, facing the other woman with a stony look.
Carter shook her head, tossing the paperbacks in hand aside rather carelessly. "No," she confirmed, then frowned as she recognized the suspicion in the other woman's expression.
"I ... see...." Fraiser drawled, swallowing hard before continuing, "In which case, you might want to know a few things about your own behavior--" she whispered tightly.
"I already know," Sam interrupted before the doctor could continue. Janet pulled up short, her expression drawing into a confused frown. "I kissed you," the blonde continued, her voice still low and measured. She noted the way the makeshift tray was shaking in the doctor's hands, threatening to send beer and melting ice everywhere. Suddenly the steadier of the two of them, she pushed to her feet, reaching out and taking the box lid from Janet to carefully set it aside on the few inches of open space on a nearby end table. "I came here because I ... I remembered what I ... what I did," she said, going from reasonably confident to stammering uncertainty in the blink of an eye as she remembered her original purpose for knocking. "And I was ... worried...." She didn't finish, uncertain how to describe her fears. It had seemed obvious that Fraiser had no intention of reporting her, since she'd covered for her ... but then again, the military could be strange place, and anonymous tip-lines were all the rage when it came to the don't-ask-don't-tell experience.
Janet felt the tight band binding her lungs relax ever so slightly as she recognized her own fears mirrored in Sam Carter's eyes. She knew exactly what the other woman was asking without her having to say it. "No ... I'd never...." She swallowed again, trying to moisten her suddenly dry throat. "You don't have to worry," she added, her voice raspy with tension.
Carter flicked a grateful look at the other woman. "I also wanted to apologize," she added quietly, gaze downcast as she suddenly focused on the drinks she'd set aside. "I ... uh ... I really don't normally go around trying to maul people." She risked a tiny glance up through thick lashes.
Janet shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, a blush heating her cheeks as she remembered her own response to waking up ensconced in Sam Carter's arms. She could hardly complain about a mauling she'd been enjoying so much. "It really wasn't ... that is ... it wasn't a problem," she stammered haltingly.
"Oh." Sam risked another glance up through thick lashes as she tried to assess the other woman's tone. Not exactly raging, do-me-now enthusiasm, but a long ways from the die-bitch hostility she was half expecting. "I just ... I ... uh...." She fell silent, concluding she had no idea precisely what it was she actually wanted to say and standing around babbling was only going to make things worse. She directed a quick glance over her shoulder, noting the books she'd seen before and struggled with their probable meaning even as her brain starting spinning completely innocent scenarios that explained them. "Are you?" she asked at last, the suddenly realized what she'd said and paled several notches, half expecting an outraged slap in the face for her efforts.
Which was why Carter was so surprised when the doctor simply said, "Yes."
She looked back at the woman in front of her, seeing a hint of the fear she knew so well. God knew she'd glimpsed in the mirror enough times. "Me too," she said very softly.
They both heaved heartfelt sighs of relief.
A moment passed and then a tiny, semi-hysterical giggle escaped Fraiser's lips. "Sorry if I got a little hostile," she exhaled. "I just thought you were--"
"Yeah," Sam interrupted understandingly, "I got that." It was possibly the least specific conversation she'd ever had in her life to be so utterly clear to both participants. She shook her head, risking a longer look at the other woman. "I didn't mean to scare you. It's just when I saw the books ... well ... I kinda hoped...." She swallowed hard. "Gets kinda lonely."
Janet nodded understandingly. "That it does."
Both women were silent for a long moment, neither one knowing quite what to say or how to act in light of everything that had been revealed.
Sam risked another look at the other woman, pulling up short as she realized Janet was doing the same thing. Their gazes locked and held, the thudding increase in her pulse reminding Carter that she'd been attracted to the doctor from the first moment they'd met. She didn't know whether to curse her little bout of drunkenness or be grateful. It had made her look like an idiot, but then again, it had confirmed something she'd been hoping for, but would never have had the chutzpa to ask about. "I ... uh ... I hope you know I meant what I said about trying to jump you," she said, her voice coming out on a breathy gasp. She shook her head. "I really don't normally behave like that."
A genuine smile lit Janet's face. "I know," she assured the other woman. "Somehow I think it would have affected your career by now if you did."
Sam nodded, her expression momentarily poignant. If she let herself consider that side of things too seriously, the unfairness of it all would bug the hell out of her. Better to just ignore it all. "Yeah ... I'm not what you'd call a womanizer," she sighed, a little embarrassed by the idea.
Fraiser's smile broadened a tiny notch, her head canting to one side as she considered the other woman, quite certain the other woman was telling the truth, despite the fact that she had no doubt Samantha Carter would have to beat them off with a stick the day she decided to turn on the charm. As it was, she was one seriously potent combination of beauty and sweetness that she found incredibly appealing. "Thank god," she murmured. "Personally, I never liked that type much anyway."
"And do you like me?" Sam whispered before she could think better of it, then suddenly realized what she'd said and started to verbally backpedal. "I mean ... I really shouldn't have--"
"Yes, Captain Carter -- Sam," Janet corrected herself, her expression serious as she stood silently watching the other woman, "I do like you ... a lot."
Sam froze for a second, completely mentally shutting down while her brain insisted on replaying that simple answer in the effort to decode it. "Really?" she whispered at last when the message had finally gotten through.
"Really," Janet confirmed as a smile tipped her mouth up.
The expression was infectious and Sam soon found herself grinning like a maniac. "That's good," she said, the words coming out breathless, the grin still gleaming out of control, "because I like you too."
It was Janet's turn to find herself grinning uncontrollably, her heart hammering in her chest, incredibly aware of the full bore impact of the high power charm rays directed her way. "I'm glad," she exhaled heavily, then fell silent, totally captivated by the Sam's smile. She swallowed hard, breaking the potent contact, suddenly aware that she was gasping for air as though she'd run a marathon, so nervous she could barely think straight. Celibacy had definitely not worked wonders for her social skills, a wry part of her brain felt the need to point out. Which why it was such a surprise when she suddenly found herself doing something she never did and making the first move -- or sort of making the first move, if you overlooked one small kiss -- though judging by the way her lips were tingling in response to the memory -- along with one or two other body parts -- small was perhaps not the best word to describe it. Her brain was still involved in the running internal dialogue, even as her mouth opened and she distantly heard herself ask, "In which case, I don't suppose you'd consider dinner and a movie sometime soon?"
"As in a date?" Sam asked, brows shooting up, clearly caught by surprise.
Janet blinked as what she'd just done struck her right between the eyes. "I ... uh ... only if you feel like saying yes," she said in an attempt at humor. She offered a terrified smile. "If the answer's no, I was just being neighborly," she added in a belated attempt to salvage any possible remaining dignity. Too bad she wasn't a surgeon, she decided right then and there, then she could sew her mouth up, and keep herself out of this kind of trouble.
Sam saved her from the effort of passing the surgical boards. "I'd love to," she said quickly.
"You would?" Fraiser demanded, not quite believing she'd heard right.
Carter nodded. "That'd be great," she answered eagerly, the grin reappearing with manic intensity.
That smile sparked Janet's as well, and they stood grinning at each other like fools for a long moment before Sam finally wavered on her feet. The doctor reached out, curving a supportive hand to the other woman's arm. "But in the meantime, I think you should probably sit back down."
Sam nodded, resting a hand on the smaller woman's shoulder to steady herself as she returned to the couch. "Yeah, you're probably right," she allowed, then paused, sliding her hand up to stroke Janet's cheek very lightly. "But I've gotta ask if it's just me, or if we're looking at the start of something special here?" she whispered very softly.
The doctor slid a hand up behind Sam's neck, tugging her head down, the kiss that followed little more than the barest brushes, though it left both of them breathless. "Definitely something special," she confirmed.