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Sam rolled cautiously onto her side, trying hard not to disturb the sleeping form curled up close to her. She had been trying to fall asleep with no success, despite her exhaustion, and she hoped that a change in position would do the trick. The figure beside her stirred briefly, but remained layered in slumber as Sam finally got herself settled.
Sam looked across the bed to find Janet staring at her bemusedly. The doctor was also on her side and wide-awake. One of Janet�s hands rubbed gently at Cassie�s back; Cassie sighed in her sleep and snuggled closer to Sam.
"As hyper as she�s been all day, why is it that she�s asleep and we�re awake?" Janet�s whisper held equal parts irony and wonder.
Sam smiled at that. It had, indeed, been a joyful homecoming. She�d practically had to pull Cassie off the ceiling. The girl had barely allowed either woman to leave her sight for something as simple as bathroom breaks.
"I�m a little worried about her," Sam confessed. "She seems awfully clingy�wanting to sleep with both of us and�"
She broke off as Janet reached out over her daughter�s head to run a gentle finger along Sam�s jaw. "She�ll be fine. This is just her way of reassuring herself that us being home is not just a dream. Believe me, she will be fine."
Sam nodded, then reached up to trace over Janet�s finger with one of her own. "How about you, Janet? Are you going to be fine?"
Janet scooted closer to Cassie, so that she wasn�t straining to reach Sam. She pulled her hand away from Sam�s face to let it lie lightly on Sam�s waist. For her part, Sam reached over and stroked Janet�s cheek and neck before letting her hand mimic Janet�s. Sam looked down to reassure herself that Cassie was still soundly asleep underneath the bridge of their arms.
Janet sighed, very softly. "I�ll be ok eventually. I don�t like the feeling that someone�s been messing with our heads."
Sam�s response came in the form of a mirthless laugh. "I�m still furious that it was our own Research team that did this. I don�t put it past Maybourne, but I just can�t believe that other officers let this happen. It�s like some sick joke."
Janet ran her hand very lightly along the curve of Sam�s hip. "Good thing you aren�t really Wolverine," she teased. "I wouldn�t want to try explaining to Matthews how I got claw marks along my waist."
Sam felt her anger fade as Janet�s words sank in, and she ran her hand along Janet�s side and up to her face. Caressing Janet�s cheek, she said with a smile, "Well, like you said, I�m not really the Wolverine type."
Janet sighed again and pressed her face against Sam�s hand. Sam felt her breath catch in her throat, awed by the simple gesture.
Janet�s eyes grew thoughtful as she regarded Sam. "Are you going to be ok?"
Sam offered a half-smile. "Eventually," she echoed Janet. "I�m feeling a little like I need to hibernate for a while, and take some time away to get to where I feel a little more able to trust people."
Janet moved her hand up to cup the side of Sam�s face. "I know just what you mean. I�m not feeling very trusting myself. And you�re welcome to stay here as long as you like�we can hibernate together."
Sam licked her lips and blinked back a sudden wave of longing. The words were out of her mouth before she even was aware of their presence. "God, I�d love nothing more than to be here with you."
Janet levered herself up on an elbow and stretched cautiously over the top of Cassie�s slight form. She pressed her lips to Sam�s cheek, to the tip of Sam�s nose, and finally let them linger on Sam�s forehead. Sinking back down onto her side, Janet offered, "And I would love to have you here with me."
Sam looked down again at Cassie, who was dead to the world for all intents and purposes. She looked back up into Janet�s warm brown eyes, and just let herself stare into the liquid gaze. Time slowed down, or maybe ceased to exist all together, as they hung in the shared look�the kind that sees far into the soul.
Cassie broke the intense gaze by turning in her sleep to cuddle against Janet. Janet exhaled a shaky breath as she looked down at her daughter. "Wow," was all she could whisper.
Sam swallowed hard, trying to tamp down some of the feelings rushing through her. She was very conscious of the low throb of arousal pulsing in time with her heartbeat. She caught Janet�s gaze again, and could see the flame of desire burning in the brown eyes.
"Where do we go from here?"
It was a simple question on Janet�s lips, but the seriousness of it--in context of the reality of their lives--gave each word the weight of a soliloquy. Janet looked away from Sam�s searching gaze, as if she feared the answer.
Sam reached out and tilted Janet�s head up. "All I know," Sam said, her words quiet and careful, "is that given the nightmare we�ve endured, we deserve to have some happiness." She broke off and smiled at the sudden influx of hope scrolling across the doctor�s face.
Janet captured Sam�s hand in her own, and pressed both hands against her face. "Just being with you makes me happy."
Sam offered a light laugh. "Likewise. You know, Janet, I never knew you were so�"
Janet stuck out her tongue and then yawned. Sam felt her own eyelids growing heavy.
Sam patted Janet�s face and disentangled her hand from Janet�s grip. "We really should get some sleep."
Janet responded by lying down and yawning again. Sam followed suit and closed her eyes. It was as if the need for the conversation had been the only thing keeping them awake.
As she began to drift into sleep, Sam heard Janet whisper, "This certainly gives new meaning to the phrase �we finally slept together�." Sam fell asleep chuckling.
It had been an eventful few days. There were the psych evaluations and then official statements about their experiences. And there were seemingly endless medical tests, checking to see if the machines had caused any residual damage. (Even Janet�s patience with her staff had given out after a couple days.)
Finally, the General put a stop to what Janet had begun calling "our days as virtual reality poster children." He reminded them again that he was glad they were back and then promptly sent them away for a week�s leave.
Sam lay back against the arm of Janet�s couch, a beer in one hand, and the tv�s remote control in the other. Cassie had gone to bed half an hour before, and Janet was in the kitchen, talking to a friend on the phone.
Sam found herself amazed by the fact that no matter how many channels she flipped through, she could find nothing to watch. Then she found herself amazed by the fact that she had been searching fruitlessly since Cass went to bed. She hit the off button, laughing at herself.
Janet walked into the room, plopping down on the opposite end of the couch from Sam, a glass of wine in her hand. "What�s so funny?"
"I�ve turned into the Colonel," Sam announced with more than a touch of mockery. Janet shrugged her incomprehension; Sam waved the remote in the air to illustrate.
"Well, Sam, if you�re bored, there�s plenty of other things you could do," Janet offered, as if Sam were no older than Cassie.
"Well, the bathroom needs to be cleaned and there�s still laundry to fold and�" She broke off as Sam stuck out her lower lip and pouted. "Oh, you wanted something fun to do."
Sam fought to contain her amusement; continuing to pout. She liked this side of Janet�a teasing side she rarely saw. As an officer, Janet was tough as nails and stubborn as ivy roots, and as a doctor, she was gentle and warm. For some odd reason, they didn�t share a whole lot of laughs in the SGC.
Janet set her glass down and moved closer to Sam. She leaned over and pressed her lips against Sam�s�and Sam lost any thoughts of continued pouting. The touch was light and tentative, and could still be considered friendly.
Janet pulled back, her cheeks pink and Sam took a slow breath. "Is that fun, Sam?" Janet asked, her voice low and husky with emotion.
"It would be, if I wasn�t scared out of my mind," Sam whispered in a rush of honesty.
Janet raised an elegant eyebrow. "If it�s any consolation, I�m terrified."
Sam exhaled sharply and stroked a gentle path through Janet�s bangs. "We haven�t crossed over any lines yet. We�re still standing firmly on the side of friendship. We can stay friends without anything to haunt us later."
A serious expression etched itself across Janet�s face. "True�but that wouldn�t change how either of us feels, would it? We�d still know there is something else there. I don�t know about you, but the knowledge would probably haunt me more than us�experimenting."
Sam kept her fingers busy in Janet�s hair, mulling over the truth of her words. "We could end up losing everything, Janet," she observed quietly, not able to meet the doctor�s eyes. "Even a simple kiss could get us both booted out of the military."
She felt Janet�s finger on the tip of her chin as the other woman coaxed her head up. Sam met Janet�s eyes and saw the flash of anger burning in them. "And this is the same military that Maybourne works for, whose superiors just condoned putting us through hell. Let�s not forget that little point. It might just be worth getting kicked out."
Sam�s breath caught in her throat at Janet�s words. She sat up straight and took Janet�s face in both her hands. "You can�t be serious, Janet."
The brunette smiled briefly. "Not entirely. I�m just saying that this virtual reality thing has kind of made me wonder whether my career is worth sacrificing my personal life for."
The sharp edge of concern knifing through Sam�s heart must have been evident on her face, because Janet reached out to caress Sam�s cheek. "No, Sam, I�m not ready to throw everything away, and I�d never ask you to do that. I�m just saying that I am less concerned with future and intangible consequences than I am with being happy right now. But if you don�t want�"
Sam�s response came in the form of placing a brief kiss to Janet�s temple. "I do want," she clarified softly. "I just want to make sure we�ve really thought about this."
Janet laughed aloud at that. "No wonder you never go out on any dates. Thinking things out in advance is not precisely the stuff of romance novels."
Sam�s laugh echoed Janet�s. She opened her mouth to make a clever reply, but was forestalled as Janet�s lips met hers. Unlike the earlier kiss, this one walked clearly over the line of friendship. Lips meshed together, tongues darted out to briefly explore, and arms looped tightly around bodies.
Sam�s heart was pounding in her chest and her whole body was on fire. Something tugged at the back of her mind, even as she tightened her grip on Janet. Suddenly, with a gasp, Sam pulled away from the kiss.
She couldn�t miss the hurt look Janet sent her. "Sam, what is it; did I do something wrong?"
Sam untangled herself from Janet, but grabbed tightly to the doctor�s hand. Her eyes darted frantically around the living room.
Her voice sounded distant to her own ears as she absently reassured Janet, "No, you�re fine. It�s just that there�s someone else here."
Janet reached out and physically turned Sam, forcing the blonde to meet her eyes. Her tone was brusque with anxiety. "What do you mean �there�s someone else here�?"
Sam swallowed hard, forcing herself to meet Janet�s gaze, even though she felt other eyes watching them. "I mean there�s someone else here, and it isn�t Cassie."
Janet took hold of Sam�s shoulders and shook her. Hard.
"Dammit, Sam, don�t you do this to me. Don�t freak out on me. Get yourself under control�you�re suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. There�s no one else here."
Sam wrenched herself from out of the restraining hands. She grabbed Janet�s wrists. "Listen to me, Janet. There�s a Goa�uld here somewhere close by."
Sam felt the cold hand of fear pressing down on her, and she watched helpless as her fear translated to Janet.
The doctor�s voice held an edge of panic as she tried to speak logically. "Sam, that�s not possible. How could a Goa�uld get through the Stargate, then out of the SGC, and then find us here? And why? I mean, I trust your�instincts, but�"
Sam sat perfectly still for the span of a heartbeat, willing herself to stop sensing the presence of a Goa�uld. It didn�t work. She still had the same feeling she had every time Teal�c and his larval Goa�uld were present, one of the "gifts" Jolinar had left her.
"Oh my God," Sam breathed as an awful thought occurred to her. "Janet, we never got out of virtual reality."
Their eyes met and the realization hit them both with its truth.
"I mean, if it really was Maybourne and his crew, we escaped too easily," began Sam.
"And there was no one monitoring our responses while we were in those machines�."
"And it still doesn�t feel like we�ve been missing for a month�."
"And the way they found us was too much of a coincidence�."
"And there�s no reason to think mutant humans would be able to fight the Goa�uld any better than the rest of us; we�ve already done a lot of damage to them�."
Janet had another observation on the tip of her tongue, when the world disappeared in a flash of light.
Sam�s scream was torn from her involuntarily; she heard Janet cry out as well.
Blinking rapidly, Sam came back into the world, struggling to focus her eyes and her thoughts. She tried to lift a hand and found she was strapped tightly to a chair of sorts. She managed a glance to the side and saw Janet in a similar predicament. There was a metallic device haloing Janet�s head, which appeared to be Goa�uld technology. From the feel of pressure on her own head, Sam concluded she also sported one.
Sam looked quickly around the room. White-coated technicians monitored various machines; guards stood near the door; and a man with glowing eyes that broadcast his species as well as his anger stood glowering over the two women.
He shot a warning look at Sam before stalking away to converse with a couple of the techs.
Sam took a closer look, relatively speaking, at the guards. "Janet," she blurted out, "that�s SG-8."
Janet, too, examined them. "What the hell is going on here?"
As if in response to her question, the Goa�uld snapped out a series of commands. Techs came over to release Sam and Janet from their bonds, while the guards leveled their weapons at the very confused women.
Another series of order had the guards pulling Sam and Janet from their seats, roughly pushing them to follow in the Goa�uld�s wake as he led them to a cell. Without ceremony, they were shoved into a rough-hewn cell with enough force to knock them both to the ground. The door was locked and Sam and Janet were left alone.
Sam was the first to rise, clambering to her feet and going to examine the door. She gave an experimental shove, and groaned as she managed to cause a nice bruise on her shoulder. She turned back to Janet, griping, "Ok, so the head wound was virtual but now I�ve dislocated my shoulder. This is not one of my better missions."
Janet rolled her eyes. "Sam, trust me. You didn�t dislocate anything."
"A fine doctor you are. You haven�t even examined me."
Janet chose to ignore that comment, instead observing. "So you remember we were on a mission?"
Sam stared at Janet and said with an air of surprise. "Yeah, I do. We had been doing a chemical analysis on an artifact that SG-8 found. They wanted us to go planet-side to do further study, and when we got there, there was no sign of SG-8 and then something hit me from behind�"
Janet�s voice brimmed with satisfaction. "I remember the same thing." She looked around their prison and then walked over to Sam, and her voice grew pensive. "But how do we know this isn�t just another virtual setting?"
Sam put a light hand on Janet�s shoulder, and said quietly, "We don�t know for certain. But this makes a certain degree of sense that the other situations have lacked."
She was about to say more, when the Goa�uld slammed open the cell door. He strode in, with his guards close behind.
His voice echoed off the walls. "You will answer my questions. How did you know of my presence? You seemed unaware of me at other stages of this test; how did you know me and know you had not yet reached your home?"
Sam mouthed a barely audible, "Teal�c," to Janet.
Janet nodded, understanding all that Sam was not saying. She hadn�t sensed his presence before, because he had worn the form of Teal�c; Sam had just assumed that her sensing of a Goa�uld was the Teal�c�s larvae.
Sam threw out a statement, hoping to somehow distract their captor. "You aren�t a regular system lord. You don�t even have an army of your own."
The Goa�uld held up his hand, and Sam winced as she recognized the torture device. She fell hard to the ground as a wave of pain coursed through her.
Following the apparently universal code that seems to require villains to confide their plans to their captives, the Goa�uld spoke haughtily.
"You are fools. I have more power than you could dare contemplate. My powerful mind can make the puny minds of your species see things that are not real. I have been exiled from my people, spent decades away from the System Lords, plotting my revenge.
"They have been unable to conquer your planet with force. I will conquer it through illusion. And when I do what no other Goa�uld has done, when I conquer your world, I will take my long overdue place as one of the System Lords.
"These comrades of yours do not even see you; you are seen as alien while I am seen as their hero. You have been my final test, to watch you continue in illusion when you believed yourselves free of it."
Sam struggled to her feet, Janet�s hand under her elbow.
"Give me the information I require and you will live a comfortable life as my prize prisoners. Refuse me�." He let the threat lie unspoken.
Janet murmured in Sam�s ear, "He�s been in exile. He doesn�t know. We can�t tell him, can�t let him know."
Sam shuddered, but nodded. He didn�t know she had been Jolinar, didn�t know she could sense a Goa�uld presence. And oddly enough, that lack of knowledge convinced her this was real. He thought she had beaten the illusion, and as long as he thought that, there was a chance that Earth could stay safe from him.
She shared a long look with Janet, seeing in the doctor�s eyes the memory of their last experience with the torture device, seeing in Janet�s sad gaze the knowledge that they were signing their own death warrant.
The Goa�uld was growing impatient. "Tell me," he commanded, and Sam shook her head.
The energy hit her, sending agony through every nerve in her body. She fought the pain as best she could, collapsing as he smiled and released her.
She shook her head, and a cry of torment ripped from her throat. The pain overwhelmed her and she wanted to tell him, wanted nothing more than for the pain to stop. But somewhere at the edge of the blaze that was her body, she heard a whisper, a soft voice calling her name, and she remembered Janet and tried to be strong for Janet, if for no one else.
The release from the pain was so sudden that Sam gasped with its absence. She found herself on her back, limbs trembling.
The Goa�uld smiled again, an utterly sadistic smile. "If you will not tell me for your own sake, perhaps you will tell me for hers."
And then Sam heard Janet cry out as the device was turned on her. The doctor collapsed, convulsing under the energy pulse and Sam felt the rage flush her body with a strength she didn�t know she had.
She got to her hands and knees, waiting for the room to stop spinning, and watching helpless as Janet writhed in pain. Then Sam exploded onto her feet, launching herself at their torturer. He swung the device back on her, but by then she had knocked him off balance so that they tumbled to the floor in a messy heap.
She fought hard to get her hand up and wrest the device out of his grip. He fought her tooth and nail, and only sheer desperation gave her the upper hand. With an elbow to his neck, she got the leverage she needed to pry the device from his fingers.
She felt her shoulder pulled out of joint, but that pain was minor�comparatively speaking�and without conscious thought, she pulled the device onto her own hand. It came to life and the Goa�uld released his hold on her with a sudden curse.
"You are primitives. The device should not work for you." His voice trembled with horror.
Sam held the device towards him, and the energy shot into his body and he cried out. She felt a surge of satisfaction as he collapsed, and then felt a surge of nausea that she would be capable of torturing someone.
She pulled her hand back, and jerked in surprise as gunshots sounded close to her ear. The Goa�uld�s body twitched as round after round of ammunition hit him. Sam ducked instinctively until the shots ceased. She studied the Goa�uld for a moment, and realized he was dead. She then turned to see SG-8 behind her, with fury and bloodlust written across their features.
"That fucking bastard�tricked us into thinking he was on our side."
Sam stared dazed at the men, and one turned sheepish eyes on her. "Honest, we didn�t know it was you he was hurting. Had some damn illusion in place. Didn�t see what was really happening until you turned that thing on him and he collapsed."
"Of course," Sam whispered to herself. "He lost his mental control."
Sam forced her thoughts back to the present. "It�s ok," she reassured the soldiers automatically, not knowing if it was anything close to the truth.
Janet suddenly appeared at Sam�s side, having crawled over on hands and knees. Janet reached out a trembling hand and held tightly to the back of Sam�s shirt. Sam, for her part, grabbed hold of the doctor�s pant leg.
Janet looked up at the cell door, where a set of shadows appeared. "Oh God, not again," she whispered, burying her head against Sam�s back.
Sam couldn�t resist a grim laugh as O�Neill and Teal�c stepped into the room.
"Something funny here, Carter?" O�Neill snapped.
Sam managed a shaky, "It�s gonna be a hell of a de-briefing, Sir."
It had, indeed, been a hell of a de-briefing. Sam felt an unnerving sense of deja-vu as she and Janet ran through their stories for General Hammond and the members of SG-1.
The main thing that reminded Sam that this was not simply a repeat of an earlier performance was the setting. They were in one of the recovery rooms in the infirmary, since both Sam and Janet were confined to the infirmary for continued treatment of the physical after-effects of their torture.
In truth, Sam really didn�t feel up to a de-briefing: she had managed to get quite a nice concussion during her fight with the Goa�uld, and both her head and her injured shoulder throbbed mercilessly. She spared a glance to the bed beside her and noted that Janet looked about as uninspired as she herself felt. It wasn�t surprising, really, since the de-briefing had already been going on for more than an hour.
"I understand the reason you were not aware of the Goa�uld�s presence, Major Carter, but I am still confused as to why he was unable to sense that you have been a host. Other Goa�uld�s we�ve run across are able to sense that from you." General Hammond raised his eyebrows in a question mark as he spoke.
Sam chewed her lower lip, pondering an answer. She had been wondering the same thing, and had a theory, but the pounding of her head made it hard to really think things through. "Well, Sir, I�m not really sure. I mean, he was running two separate tests at the same time.
"The one on us was the virtual reality to see if we could separate reality from illusion. But he was also using the power of his mind to create an entirely different illusion for SG-8, to refine his own abilities in preparation for his plan to conquer Earth. The best answer I can come up with is that his mental abilities were limited by the energy needed to create the illusion SG-8 was caught in."
She glanced once again at Janet, this time looking for the doctor�s reaction to her theory. Janet returned the gaze and gave a weak nod of the head in agreement. "Projecting an illusion on that scale would definitely have limited his ability to read you clearly."
Sam looked back at the General, and anticipating Hammond�s next question, said, "And as for why we didn�t fall under the same illusion as SG-8�well, he needed to know why we were able to realize we were in virtual reality. If he had simply manipulated our minds into his illusion, the responses he got to his questions might have been suspect because�well�they wouldn�t have been reactions to the true situation."
Sam broke off as she realized in frustration that she simply could not clarify the subject any further. She gave an exasperated sigh and turned once again to look at Janet. The other woman sighed in response and Sam saw her own exhaustion mirrored on Janet�s face.
The General noticed the fatigue in the shared glance and his voice grew softer than usual. "I am sorry to have put you both through this, but you�ve been missing for over a week and I needed to know what happened to you and SG-8. And given the initial reports of Colonel�s team, I wasn�t quite sure I should trust in the information given to us by SG-8."
Sam seized on two words of his sentence. "One week? That�s all the time we�ve been gone?"
She stared hard at Janet, ignoring O�Neill�s acerbic response.
The doctor sighed quietly and spoke in a low voice. "That sure feels about right."
"Doctor? Major?" Hammond�s voice held just the barest hint of impatience.
Sam exhaled sharply, wincing as her headache protested. "Well, Sir, the time frame feels right. In the last de-briefing�the�um�well�virtual one�when you�when�they said we�d been gone for a month, it just didn�t feel right."
Janet�s words sounded smooth and stubborn. "Sir, you have to remember that we are still not quite sure what exactly is real; this setting may be just another illusion."
There was an awkward pause while O�Neill and Daniel exchanged uncomfortable glances, and Hammond�s brows knit in concerned lines.
Sam and Janet simply waited, both of them watching the others. Sam wanted to say more, but knew she didn�t have the right words. And she knew that there was nothing anyone could say that would convince her entirely that this reality was real. She was 99% certain; but there was no way mere words could fill in that one little suspicious spot.
And then Teal�c�s calm, simple words broke into the air. "You know that you are both real. Given time, you will come to realize this of us as well. Until that time, you will have to rely upon each other, as there is nothing we can offer in the way of proof or persuasion."
Sam felt a profound sense of relief, knowing that one of her teammates understood her inability to trust in her perceptions.
She smiled briefly at the Jaffa and he inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment.
Doctor Matthews chose that moment to enter the room and say casually, "Ok folks, this party is over. My patients need some rest and anything else is going to have to wait, unless it�s a crucial matter along the lines of thermo-nuclear Armageddon." He fixed the General with a stern look. "I thought you were going to keep this short."
He was met by a stereo-glare from O�Neill and Hammond, and Sam bit back her smile as Matthews faced them obliviously. Sensitivity to emotions (not to mention protocol) was not one of the man�s strong suits. She glanced over to see the ghost of a grin on Janet�s lips.
Hammond broke the glare and conceded defeat. "We�re actually done here," he announced. "I�ll check in with you tomorrow and we�ll tie up the loose ends."
He and the rest of SG-1 paused on their way out the door to tell the women how glad they were to have them home. Teal�c, oddly enough, was last in line.
"I do not believe they yet understand your position," he offered without preamble. "I will ensure that they realize the implications of your experience."
Before either woman could even formulate a response, he disappeared out the door.
Matthews clucked his tongue like a mother hen as he regarded his patients. "Should have kicked them out of here, Janet," he said in a mild tone. "You know neither one of you was ready for that."
Sam could hear the defensive note in Janet�s voice. "What exactly should I have done? I�m not in a very convincing position here, and the information we gave them was fairly important."
Silence reigned as Matthews did brief exams of each woman, checked their IV units, and then walked over to the door.
He shot a measuring look at Janet. "I know you just wanted to get the de-briefing over with," he stated calmly, "but in my opinion, taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally is a little more important than strict adherence to military protocol.
"I�ll bring in a phone shortly so you can call Cassie and talk to her for a while. She knows she�ll have to wait to see you, and she understands, but I know you�ll want to say hi. And then after that, doctor�s orders, no visitors and no phone calls. You both need to get some rest; that torture device does some nasty work."
As he left, Sam turned to find Janet watching her with wide eyes. "Odd little lecture," the brunette breathed. "Seems to echo the shades of our last private conversation."
Sam nodded slightly, and then regretted it as her head began pounding more fiercely. "For what it�s worth, I think his lecture was just coincidence, not another test. I really feel like we�re back home this time." She reached up with her good arm and massaged her temple lightly.
Janet shrugged slightly and then sagged back against her pillows. "Well, like Teal�c said, we just have to rely on each other."
Sam let her arm drop back down and smiled at the words. She felt a wave of affection wash over her at the warmth in the brunette�s beautiful eyes.
"You know, Janet, if I have to keep walking through this uncertainty, I�d rather do it with you than with anyone else."
Janet laughed aloud at that. "And you said I was sappy."
The re-arrival of Matthews with a cell phone stifled any retort Sam might have made.
Sam groaned as she practically fell onto Janet�s couch. She lay back and set her feet on top of the coffee table. Sam didn�t bother to look at the brunette, similarly situated on the other end of the couch as she closed her eyes and said, "This has been the longest week of my life."
Janet�s voice hummed with exhaustion. "Possibly the longest one in the history of humankind."
Sam sighed deeply. "Maybe even the history of the universe."
Sam groaned again, mentally replaying the whole week. Janet had been released from the infirmary after two days, but Sam had remained captive for four days. There were seemingly endless medical tests to study the effects of the torture, including a visit by Martouf to use new Tok�ra technology in an attempt to speed the recovery of the women.
It had proven useless on non-blended humans, but Sam was pleased nonetheless because it had healed her concussion and her shoulder injury. Both women felt pretty much back to normal physically, but Matthews was still acting as if they were china plates.
And then there was de-briefing after de-briefing after de-briefing. Each time, there was a whole new set of faces, higher up in military command than the last set. Sam had grown extremely bored with repeating the same story over and over.
General Hammond had finally called an end to the madness earlier in the day, and had sent Sam and Janet on official leave for two weeks. He had also, at Teal�c�s prompting, arranged for Teal�c, Daniel, and O�Neill to take leave at the same time and take Cassie on a camping trip. Janet had protested, but Cassie was eager to go.
The girl had been ecstatic at their homecoming, but she was�after all�a teenager. And one of the seemingly universal teen traits was to separate from parents at every opportunity. Janet had finally given in.
Before they left, Teal�c had taken a moment to speak to Sam and Janet. "Perhaps when we return, you will have had sufficient time and space to realize you have truly arrived home."
At their somewhat off-guard "thank you", he had inclined his head in acknowledgment and walked out the door.
Cassie had lingered to say--in her most grown-up voice, "Try to get some rest, and don�t worry about stuff. I love you guys; see you in two weeks!" She had raced after Teal�c, leaving two very bemused women in her wake.
Sam wrenched her thoughts back to the present as she heard Janet offer a profound sigh. Sam opened her eyes to regard the doctor. Janet�s eyes remained closed, and Sam noticed the fatigue lines on her face.
She wrestled herself into a sitting position, and pulled Janet�s feet from the coffee table into her lap. The brunette opened one eye in surprise, then closed it again as Sam began kneading a sock-clad foot.
They sat in a comfortable silence, punctuated only by Janet�s occasional soft sighs of pleasure. Sam smiled as she watched the other woman relaxing under her touch.
Finally Sam broke the silence open. "Um, Janet, can I ask you something?"
Janet forced one eye open, regarded Sam for a moment, and then opened both eyes. "You�ve got that serious look on your face again. What�s up?"
Sam licked her lips. "There�s something I�ve just got to know. If you don�t think I make a good Wolverine, then who do you see me as?"
Janet sat up straight on the couch, her brown eyes sparkling with amusement. Laughing, she managed to spit out, "You�re still thinking about that?"
Her laughter proved infectious, and Sam found herself hit with a serious case of the giggles. She tried to speak, but only laughed harder.
Janet wiped her eyes on her shirtsleeve, and then reached out to pat Sam�s shoulder clumsily. "Oh hon, I think we definitely needed that."
Sam nodded, wiping her own eyes, and Janet scooted closer to the blonde, until she was practically sitting in Sam�s lap.
Janet reached out a hand and cupped Sam�s cheek, stroking gently. Her tone was sincere, though her eyes still twinkled merrily. "You would make a good Professor. Calm, confident, and way too smart for his own good."
Sam stared into Janet�s eyes, suddenly finding that it was very hard to breathe. Her heart pounded wildly in her rib cage at the closeness of the other woman, and she said the first thing that came into her head, trying to distance herself somehow from her reactions.
"Wouldn�t that kind of mess up your neat little love triangle?"
Janet laughed again, but this time the sound was low and husky, and Sam exhaled quickly at the seductive sound. "Yeah, but that�s ok. I was going to drop Cyclops and Wolverine anyway�don�t have much in common with either of them."
Sam chuckled and ran her hand lightly across Janet�s shoulder blade. The doctor leaned in and kissed the tip of Sam�s nose, then dropped down to press against her lips. Sam brought her hand up to the back of Janet�s neck, and held the doctor close as they kissed, picking up where they�d left off before.
After a moment, Sam broke away and breathed, "Nice."
Janet let her hand trail from Sam�s cheek down her neck, coming to rest in the hollow of the blonde�s throat. "Very nice," she whispered.
Sam stroked Janet�s neck as she asked quietly, "Are we really ready to do this? Are we ready to risk this going any farther?"
Janet sighed and fanned her fingers against Sam�s chest. "Sam, you are the only thing I know for sure is real. You are the only thing I can hold onto, and right now that�s a lot more important to me than anything else.
"We�ve been through hell together; I think we deserve a little piece of heaven."
Sam didn�t bother to answer with words. She captured Janet�s lips with her own, her kiss hungry and eager. Janet�s mouth opened beneath hers, and Sam responded in kind. She felt the tentative push of Janet�s tongue into her mouth.
Lips and tongues danced together in a blaze of desire. Sam let her hands circle around Janet�s small frame, stroking the small of the brunette�s back before sliding lower to caress gentle curves. Janet�s hands dropped lower on Sam�s chest, finding the swell of aroused breasts through the blonde�s sweatshirt.
Sam groaned through the kiss as Janet�s hands knowingly teased hardened nipples, and she brought her own hands around to slide along the plane of Janet�s stomach. Janet gasped in pleasure and Sam�s lips tightened against her mouth.
And then Janet broke the kiss, her breath coming hard. "Bedroom?" she panted.
Sam could see the burn of arousal in the brown eyes and she shivered at the intensity of the desire pulsing in her own veins. Not able to speak, Sam simply nodded, and in one quick motion, Janet rose gracefully to her feet and pulled Sam with her.
Sam kept hold of Janet�s hand as she followed the shorter woman, and in the doorway leading out of the living room, she paused and pulled Janet back to her, kissing her again. Janet put her arms around Sam and walked backwards, still locked in the kiss, bringing Sam with her.
It wasn�t the graceful scene depicted in movies; Janet bumped into the hallway wall more than once, and when they stumbled into Janet�s room, Sam somehow ended up banging her arm hard against the dresser. But neither woman cared, their awareness focused on the passion binding them together.
At the foot of the bed, Janet pulled her mouth away and pushed Sam back, her eyes sliding over Sam�s form. Sam stood still, embarrassed by the scrutiny, and then Janet reached out and tugged at the bottom of Sam�s sweatshirt. Sam started to take the garment off, but Janet swatted her hands away.
Janet�s voice throbbed with arousal. "Don�t. I want to do it."
Sam swallowed hard as Janet began peeling her shirt off. The doctor�s movements were slow and Sam could feel every nerve ending burn where Janet�s fingers came in contact with her body. The shirt was pulled over Sam�s head and then Janet�s fingers dropped to the front of Sam�s jeans, and she slowly, teasingly, stripped Sam out of her pants.
Sam shivered with a sudden sense of vulnerability as she stood in bra and underwear in front of Janet. Janet looked up into her eyes, and kissed her softly.
"God, Sam. You�re incredible."
And then Janet�s hands came up, teasing Sam�s breasts through the thin material of her bra. Sam groaned low in her throat at the sure touch of the doctor, and then in one smooth motion, her breasts were exposed. Janet�s tongue darted out to paint each hard nipple, and then she let her attention wander down to the last piece of clothing covering Sam�s body.
Sam felt her knees go weak as Janet stroked lightly against the thin barrier of her underwear, her body overwhelmed by just how good Janet�s touch felt. And then Janet stripped her out of the material, leaving Sam completely breathless with the erotic combination of desire and vulnerability.
"It�s been a long time since you�ve been with someone, hasn�t it, Sam?"
The blonde swallowed hard and simply nodded, suddenly embarrassed.
Janet kissed her again, and whispered, "No reason to be embarrassed. I feel pretty special that you trust me enough to be with me. I�ll take good care of you."
She pulled away from Sam, pushing Sam down to sit on the bed. Sam watched in awe as Janet removed her own clothes, amazed that this wonderful woman wanted to be with her, amazed at the way Janet was taking the lead. Sam was a take-charge officer, but she had always been fairly shy when it came to love, and Janet seemed to know that instinctively.
And then Janet stood naked before Sam, her eyes flashing with heat. Sam reached out a trembling hand to lightly dust the pale skin of Janet�s stomach. "Oh, Janet," she breathed, "You are so beautiful."
Sam wanted to say more, but then Janet walked over to the bed and crawled into the middle of it, reaching out to pull Sam close to her. Janet pushed Sam back, until Sam was lying with her head cradled in the pillows. Janet hovered over Sam, leaning her head down to kiss Sam.
Their mouths meshed together and hands reached out in exploration. Nerve endings blazed with fire at the feel of skin on skin.
And then Janet moved her mouth away from Sam�s, trailing her lips down Sam�s throat, her tongue flickering out against Sam�s tender flesh. Sam gasped, "Janet?"
Janet sent one hand to rest possessively on Sam�s stomach. "Trust me, Sam."
Sam nodded and then lost herself in sensation as Janet�s mouth moved lower to create wet pathways across her breasts. Lips and tongue teased, and Sam felt her body tensing with need. Janet�s teeth lightly nipped at the hard tip of one breast, and Sam gave an aroused groan.
She tangled one hand in Janet�s hair, and reached up with the other to clutch tightly at one of the pillows under her head. Janet bit down again, harder this time, one hand bracing her weight as she hovered over Sam�s body, the other dancing lower and lower on Sam�s abdomen.
Sam arched her back as Janet�s mouth worked magic on her body. Janet�s mouth followed the path traced by her fingers, and then she shifted position. Janet gently pushed Sam�s legs apart, settling herself between the spread thighs. Sam briefly stiffened with tension, momentarily scared of the intimacy, but then she relaxed when Janet turned concerned eyes on her.
Sam saw understanding in Janet�s reassuring smile, and Janet�s touch was impossibly gentle as she reached out with a single finger to trace the folds of Sam�s most intimate flesh.
Sam�s breath came in quick gasps, as the doctor�s touch grew bolder. Her whole body throbbed with desire as Janet bent down, her tongue searching for the center of Sam�s arousal, her fingers sliding softly into Sam�s wet depths.
Sam writhed under the exquisite touch, absently aware that she had never felt this way with anyone before. Just the feel of Janet�s breath against her hot flesh was producing sensations that Sam had never known existed.
And then Sam arched and cried out as Janet sent her over the cliff edge into a sea of pleasure. She floated for perhaps an eternity, aware only of the thrilling waves washing through her.
She came down from the high slowly, to find Janet lying beside her, a satisfied glow on the other woman�s face. Sam�s limbs felt like they were made out of rubber, but she managed to turn and catch Janet in a passionate kiss.
Sam could hear the quaver of emotion as she spoke. "God, Janet, that was incredible."
The doctor�s voice was tender, but dripped amusement. "Like that, did you?"
Sam kissed her again. "You know I did." She paused to search for words. "No one has ever touched me like that before, and I don�t just mean physically. I�ve never been�so�open with anyone else."
Janet smoothed sweat soaked hair off of Sam�s forehead. "I know just what you mean. I�m not usually so bold, but�" She let her words blend into the warmth of Sam�s mouth. "I wanted to show you how much I care about you�"
Sam turned neatly, pressing Janet underneath her own body, letting her hand walk down the front of Janet�s body. "I want to show you the same thing," she offered in a whisper, "but I�ve never been with a woman before�"
Janet cut her off. "Don�t worry, it�ll be fun to teach you."
They both giggled, and then Sam followed Janet�s earlier lead, beginning to kiss her way down Janet�s body, feeling her own excitement grow as she felt Janet�s body respond to her touch. Sam lightly kissed each of Janet�s hard nipples, and then looked up to meet the other woman�s eyes.
"You know, Jan, I don�t even care if we�ve made it back to our own reality, as long as I get to spend the next two weeks alone with you."
Janet reached down to ruffle blonde hair. "I appreciate the sentiment, hon, but you�re getting way too sappy on me."
Any further criticism was lost in a pleased gasp as Sam bit down lightly on a tender spot.