LEFT IN THE DARK
One moment she had been hunched over her microscope, completely engrossed in her research. The next there had been a muffled thump in the distance that had echoed through the superstructure of the underground military facility. For a few quick heartbeats the lights flickered and the computer screen warped dramatically.
"What the�" was all she could manage before they were plunged into utter darkness. For long moments Sam Carter stood frozen before nervously clearing her throat. "Janet?"
Irrational relief flooded down Sam�s body as she realized her friend was still nearby. Janet Fraser�s familiar voice had been tense but calm.
"Okay. Are you still at the computer?"
"Stay put, I�m coming to you," Sam instructed as she fixed a mental map in her mind�s eye of the well-known lab before making a move. Then slowly, gingerly, she began to shuffle across the floor. After a few feet, something rapped across her leading shin.
Desperately she tried to regain her balance and succeeded in merely collapsing to her knees.
"Are you okay?"
"Ouch. Yeah, I just banged my legs up. My drill sergeant would be kicking me across the tarmac for being so clumsy. Talk to me, Janet, so I can find you."
"Okay. I think I may have lost the last few pages of text."
"Damn. Oh well."
"Do you think that thump was an explosion?"
"I hope not."
"Me too, but the air filtration system is down, I�ve never heard it so quiet before."
With a yelp of alarm, Sam tripped again and went down like the proverbial ton of bricks. A startled �whuff� escaped Janet as Sam�s weight slammed her into the back of the chair.
"S�sorry. You okay?"
"Yeah, you just startled me. I had no idea you were so close."
There was the firm pressure of arms around Sam�s skull and shoulders and Janet�s warm body pressed against her chest and face. Their death grips loosened but did not let go, and so Sam gave in to her need to cling. Touch and smell calmed them as only their breathing broke the silence. Janet rubbed her cheek and nose into the blonde hair to help reassure them further.
"So now what?" Sam was surprised her own voice had spoken out loud. Janet�s hands curled even more closely around her neck and shoulder. It was blissfully distracting.
"Umm� we can�t get out of here with no power. The door�s too thick. With the AC out it�ll take a day or so for the air to become dangerous, but it�s going to get stuffy and hot pretty quickly."
"So we�ll be here for awhile?"
"I doubt we�re real high on the priority list. We should make ourselves comfortable," Janet replied with a shrug and felt Sam pull away.
"Fair enough. Give me your hand."
With that lifeline, Sam groped outward along the floor. At full stretch, she finally felt one of the padded industrial mats with blind fingertips. "Found it. Now come to me and bring the chair."
"You want a headrest, don�t you?"
The chair rattled over to Sam and she tugged Janet down beside her. With a deafening clatter the chair was dropped onto its back.
"It�s not much of a bed, but how often do we get to sleep on the job?"
Janet sounded puzzled and Sam allowed her humor to color her response. "Sure. It�ll pass the time and conserve air."
Sam sprawled onto her back and felt Janet curl up against her side. Pillowing her head on Sam�s shoulder, Janet tried to find a comfortable position. Eventually Sam wrapped her arm around her to still the movements. "Wiggler, relax."
"I�m not exactly accustomed to sleeping on the floor in my uniform."
A chuckle warmed the back of Janet�s head where Sam had unconsciously tucked her nose in the soft hair. The women tried to unwind in the half-embrace while faint sounds echoed through the SGC compound like distant seismic tremors. Once they swore they heard a squad troop by but had no time to react. Inactivity, quiet and their combined warmth eventually lulled the pair into a doze.
Again the one-armed hug reassured Janet and Sam moved her other hand to massage the brunette�s scalp gently. With a happy kitten sound, Janet snuggled deeper into Sam�s warmth and at last relaxed completely. Enjoying the taboo closeness, they slept. But as Sam�s inner darkness matched the outer one, she had to wonder if Janet had meant to say more.
Hazy consciousness returned with a multitude of sensations. She was too warm, her shoulder and hip ached and a heavy weight had put her right arm to sleep. A yielding body was cradled close to her, spooned trustingly along her length. A faint frown of confusion marred Sam�s features as her mental inventory sharpened. The texture of the fabric beneath her hand was very familiar, but the soft heat beneath it was not. There was a hand on her wrist that was keeping her fingers curled around�
Before Sam could panic, Janet awoke with a lazy sigh and shifted in Sam�s arms. With the smaller woman�s curled arms keeping her hand in place, Sam could only wait with baited breath.
"Good morning," Janet breathed softly and her tone was equal parts amusement and tension. Forgetting they could not see, Sam hid her face in the brunette hair and burned with embarrassment and nerves.
"Uh� yeah, good morning."
A ripple of movement brought Janet onto her back but kept Sam�s hand pinned to her breast. Something electric and seductive echoed there between them in the stuffy darkness. Where Sam had her nose pressed into Janet�s cheek, she felt a smile appear.
"You�re a cuddler Sam Carter, I had no idea."
Awkwardness burned as much as her awakening right arm.
"Everyone has their dirty little secrets."
"Ah. I promise not to tell a soul."
Another long pause between them as they lay there with far to much awareness between them.
"Do you ever miss having someone to cuddle?"
"Sure. That�s probably why I was molesting you in your sleep."
A low chuckle sang across Sam�s nerves. When Janet spoke again there was a sensual undertone in her voice that made Sam tingle.
"You can molest me anytime you like."
Shocked silence settled over the lab. Unable to see Janet�s face, Sam felt mortified heat under her fingers and Janet struggled to get away.
"Wait! Get back here."
A startled yelp escaped Janet as she was roughly yanked back against her friend. Somehow Sam ended up half sprawled over her to pin her down.
"You don�t need to run from me," the blonde whispered desperately.
Callused fingers ran gently over Janet�s face to match touch to the memory of sight. Brown eyes stared up to where they knew the blue gaze lay so damn close�
"Do you mean it?"
It sounded like Sam wanted to cry, she was so terrified of the answer. Janet was in no better condition but managed to whisper, "y� yes."
"So do I."
And with that whispered confession, Sam leaned down to hesitantly kiss Janet, ready to leap away like a skittish animal. From that shy meeting, the contact deepened. Janet indulged in an old fantasy by burying her hands in the coveted blonde hair, just to experience the sensation. With that convenient handhold, she tugged Sam closer and made a supplicating sound deep in her throat. Ignoring the horrified logical half of her brain, Sam responded with a growl. Her weight shifted to her tingling right arm to let the left trail curiously over belly and ribs. Moaning softly, Janet snaked an arm around her neck to keep them close.
Eventually, Sam�s right arm gave out and she collapsed across Janet to be held close. Long moments passed while breathing and bodies calmed.
"Wow," Janet finally breathed quietly. Irreverent amusement welled up from Sam in a snort of laughter that she tried to muffle into her partner�s neck. A swat on the shoulder only increased her merriment.
For long minutes they were consumed with the morbid hilarity of the situation. Locked in a blackened lab on a top-secret military base doing something that would get them both thrown out of uniform. When at last they began to calm, Janet found herself sprawled over Sam�s lanky frame.
"I�ve wanted to do that for a long time," Sam hummed quietly as they cuddled.
"What? Laugh at me?"
"Cheeky." Sharp teeth nipped the soft skin behind Janet�s ear and earned a yelp of surprise.
"Mmm� you smell good."
Flustered and aroused all over again, Janet let that curious mouth explore her ear and throat. Hands wandered under the white lab coat and the temperature rose. "God Sam� is it hot in here, or is it just me?"
Both of them were drenched and dry mouthed.
"We need to stop."
That brought Sam up short and she froze under the weight of her doubts. A lingering kiss reassured her.
"We�re going to get dehydrated. I wouldn�t be much of a doctor if I let us both overexert ourselves."
"Oh. Right. But what a way to go�"
Reluctantly, Janet rolled off Sam to sit up and strip off the lab coat. Clothing rustled nearby and she guessed Sam was shucking her outer layers as well. After a moment of fantasizing about that long body, Janet shook herself out and began stripping out of her regulation blouse. Abruptly she stopped and laughed.
"I was just remembering the last time I was sitting on a lab floor stripping because I was too hot."
"Machello�s little Gao�uld killers?"
"Yes. It was terrifying to see you as one of them, despite it being a delusion."
Sam gave her a warm hug from behind. "It hurt to see the terror in your eyes."
A heavy silence passed between them. Comfortingly, Janet drew Sam�s head tighter to her neck before holding the encircling arms close.
"Why me? Why� us?"
"Easy. You�re smart, sexy and a wonderful intellectual partner. And� you make me less lonely."
"Mmm, that was beautiful. I think you�ve just about summed it up for me too. Thank you Sam."
"Can we do this?"
"Smart aleck. Will we do this?"
"I�d love to try, but it�ll be tricky."
"Ooo, espionage. But who is Moose and who is Squirrel?"
In one movement, Janet shrugged out of her shirt and twisted to pounce on the laughing Sam. They wrestled in the dark until Janet smacked an elbow into something.
"Cheesy Russian accent Carter, very cheesy. Ow! Aren�t we supposed to be conserving energy?"
"Oh yeah. C�mere."
Once again Janet curled up on Sam�s chest and listened to the steady heartbeat.
"I wish I could see."
"I know what you mean."
Deprived of her main sense, the smaller woman began to map her companion with mouth and hands. When she became a little too aggressive, Sam pulled away with a loving chuckle.
"Easy tigress. The last thing I need is to have to explain distinctive looking bruises on my neck."
"Damn. I wanted to mark you as mine."
Sam was lost in the insistent kiss before she could comment on that. Wet, needy kisses that stole her sense and left her clinging to the small woman like an anchor. Minutes, hours, days could have passed. Sam yanked the soft undershirt loose from Janet�s waistband to run hands over her damp flesh. For her part, Janet wormed a hand between them to cover a rounded breast. A startled noise signaled Sam pulling away from their kisses.
"Janet! I had no idea you were so aggressive."
"Aggressive hell, I�m trying to hold myself in check. Haven�t you ever heard the old clich� about never trusting the quiet ones? Sam, you drive me crazy."
"I wasn�t complaining, but this really isn�t the best place for this."
"I know, I know, but I don�t have to like it."
Once more they settled into cuddling and tried to ignore their thirst and weariness and hormones.
"How long do you think we�ve been in here?"
In response Sam�s stomach growled irritably. "Long enough."
"We had lunch in the lab before the power outage."
"Then we slept for quite awhile."
"So it could be morning already."
Sensing that Sam had mentally pulled away, Janet indulged in the same. But eventually the silence became too much and Sam mused again.
"I don�t understand how we lost power so completely. There are massive fail-safes to ensure it can�t happen."
"I know. I hope the infirmary is okay."
It was slowly becoming difficult to breathe. Rolling to Sam�s side, Janet clung tightly to the tall woman and put her head on a shoulder. The embrace was willingly returned.
"They�ll find us," Sam whispered.
They had to believe it. The alternative was too bleak to contemplate.
* * * * * * * *
With desperate strength Daniel Jackson pulled on the heavy steel pry bar. Across from him, Captain Karen Taylor pushed with everything she had. Everyone had finally been accounted for except Carter and Fraser and no one had any idea where they were. It was Taylor that had abruptly remembered a passing comment in the locker room that morning. Carter had jokingly complained about being stuck in a lab all day and earned a chuckle. It was the only lead they had and all available personnel had been scrambled to search. Not ten minutes ago, O�Neill had managed to tear his leg open in the flickering darkness. He limped off to the infirmary with a look on his face like he was leaving his teammates facing the maw of death on their own. It was heartbreaking. The memory of that expression gave Daniel a boost of strength as he cracked open the forth impossibly heavy door of the night.
With Taylor�s growled words the door finally gave way with a squeal. The gap was only a half-dozen inches, but it was enough for the slender woman to slip through.
"Give me the light," she urged and Daniel stuffed the heavy flashlight through the opening. The Plexiglas face shield was misty with perspiration as Karen swung the bright beam of light around. The little earpiece for the radio network transmitted that Makepeace had no luck down the hallway. Nervously, Karen tucked the mouthpiece more snugly under the mask and prayed the tank strapped to the small of her back still had a healthy supply of canned oxygen. Then the electric torch suddenly illuminated gold hair and a white tank top and her heart skipped a beat.
"I found them!"
The shout echoed throughout the radio network and a cheer went up. Ignoring them, Taylor dropped to her knees beside Carter and Fraser, desperately feeling for pulses. They were curled up like puppies and as still as death.
"They�re alive, but pulse is faint. Jackson! Get in here with that tank! We need a medical team and that damn door open, stat!"
Ignoring the pain along his chest and back, Daniel forced his larger bulk through the door and rushed to Taylor�s side. She had rolled Fraser onto her back and was checking under her eyelids. Quietly and desperately the two SGC personnel yanked the flimsy oxygen masks free of their casings and slipped them over the faces of the unconscious women.
"Don�t open those valves all the way."
"Look, I�m no doctor, but I can�t imagine pure oxygen can be good for them right now."
Shaking with worry, Daniel brushed back blonde and brunette bangs from damp foreheads.
"Stay with us you two. Please."
* * * * * * * * *
It was like someone had had pulled her inside out and reprogrammed her brain into a language no one could understand. Not even Daniel. Agonized with pain in confusion, Sam was unaware she was thrashing until the sensation of bodies holding her down abruptly registered.
"Carter! Carter! Sam!"
The familiar tones of Jack O�Neill�s shouting finally broke through the panic and Sam dropped limp. Unfocused blue eyes were suddenly staring up into his concerned gaze.
"You�re okay," he soothed in his gentlest voice as the others holding her down peeled off. Shaking like a detoxing addict, Sam�s mouth soundlessly tried to form words. Jack remained half draped over his second-in-command and prayed he could help chase the terror from her eyes. A different panic set in and she tried to force her protesting body to look around. Some sixth sense told Jack what she needed.
"Shhh, the doc�s fine. See?"
With strong hands, he raised Sam�s head so that she could see Janet on a hospital bed nearby with Daniel sitting vigil beside her. Profound relief flooded Sam as she watched the steady rise and fall of the small woman�s chest. Only when Sam closed her eyes in relief did Jack lay her head back on the pillow. Suddenly aware of their proximity, Jack backed off and gingerly sat back on the stool where he had been holding vigil. Sam winced and made a protesting sound as waves of the shakes rattled her. There were lights now, but everyone was still in breathing masks. Jack did his best to fill Sam in until she relaxed and hopefully slept.
"There was an explosion near level 42 that somehow managed to punch into the backup shaft. It was a one in a million chance. We�ve got umbilical power for now, but the air�s still out. No jumping any time soon I�m afraid."
Relief rushed through Jack as a small smile ghosted across Sam�s face. Weakly, she flexed her closest hand and he took the hint. Knowing that Janet and her teammates were safe nearly, Sam slipped into healing sleep with Jack�s strong hand to anchor her.
* * * * * * * *
It was almost exactly the same scenario with Janet, hours later, with the notable exception of the lack of violent thrashings. She blearily looked around to spot Daniel asleep in a chair beside her and Jack with his head resting on the bed beside Sam�s arm. All that was missing was Teal�c and he suddenly appeared in the doorway as though summoned by her curiosity. Dark eyes were gentle as he approached the bed to lay a hand on her arm.
"This is a distinct change in procedure Doctor Fraser."
Despite her shivers and nausea and worry, Janet had to smile at his subtle humor. The soft look on his serious countenance was as close as he would ever get to returning it. Daniel woke with a start and scooted close.
"Hey, you�re up. You scared the hell out of us. But you�re both going to be okay."
There was all manner of responses that Janet simply lacked the energy to say. The two men seemed to understand. Again she looked over to where Sam slept and mistily remembered the strange scene in the dark lab. It seemed hazy and distant now, no more than a sultry fantasy. It was a depressing thought and brought tears to Janet�s eyes. Daniel hated to see the vulnerable pain in their beloved physician. He placed one hand on her arm and patted her knuckles with the other.
"Everything�s okay now. You�re safe."
The men�s warm caring eased Janet�s turmoil and she felt exhaustion close around her again. Wearily, she hooked her thumb around Daniel�s finger and he gripped her hand gently.
* * * * * * * * *
When next Sam woke she scowled at the bright light scorching into her eyes. What sadist put such nasty bulbs directly above a recovery bed? Darkly amused, she took quick inventory and decided she felt like the day after. It took some effort, but she managed to sit up and look around. Only then did she notice that the oxygen mask was gone and she had to pee like a racehorse.
"So much for being dehydrated."
There was no one in the small side room she now inhabited, just equipment and a hanging blue curtain. The blanket was yanked loose and wrapped around her as she tentatively set bare toes on the cool cement floor. Thankfully there was a small bathroom nearby and Sam managed that bit of business with little difficulty. She felt decent considering she had felt so unspeakably rotten the last time she had been conscious. Curiosity drove Sam to peek behind the divider curtain and she was relieved to see Janet resting there. The small woman looked pale and fragile against the white sheets, so Sam crept over and ran a loving hand over the tousled bangs. Janet stirred but did not wake. Sam touched the alert button and waited patiently for the nurse to come check on them.
Lieutenant Chamberlain was understandably annoyed to see one of the patients left in his care out of her own bed. Carter had the decency to look sheepish and gestured at the back of the room.
"Had to use the facilities."
The explanation did not chase off Chamberlain�s scowl, but his eyes did glint in understanding and humor.
"Well, for someone recently half-dead, you�re looking remarkably chipper Major. Come sit so I can check your vitals."
While loath to leave Janet�s side, Sam had learned long ago not to argue with the medical staff. They were all as dogged as their boss, now a silent patient. With brisk efficiently the man checked Sam over before giving her a no-nonsense glare.
"Stay put while I get Doctor Thayer to come and check if you�re releasable."
That did earn a smile.
Thayer was a quick and professional fellow that pronounced her fit enough to return to her own quarters. Chamberlain followed up the Doctor with clothes in hand.
"Lucky you Major. You�re excused, no forbidden, to join our comrades upstairs repairing the mess that caused you to be here in the first place. Are you going to be okay on your own?"
"I think so."
"I�ll be right outside if you need anything."
As the man reached the door, Sam paused before stripping off the hospital gown and called out to him, "Lieutenant?"
"Can I come back here after I shower to check in on Doctor Fraser?"
"Thanks. I�m just worried about her."
"She�ll be fine."
"I know, but�"
"I understand. I had to practically chase off the alpha shift. Now change."
Warmed by Janet�s staff worrying over the woman, Sam yanked on enough of the provided uniform to be decent and leaned over to whisper in Janet�s ear.
"I�ll be back soon, I promise."
* * * * * * * * *
Burning with self-imposed guilt, Sam rushed back to the infirmary while trying to look like she was not rushing. After a long, hot shower Sam had changed and sprawled out on her cot with the intent of resting for just a moment. Hours later she had woken and hastily made herself presentable. A grin from the cute little nurse whose name escaped her at the moment, directed her to the room where Janet was. Chamberlain�s voice wafted out of the open door as Sam stepped in and he smiled at her.
"Here she is. You look even better after a nap Major. I�ll be back later, doctor."
Those expressive brown eyes had lit up when the lanky blonde stepped in and both women smiled at the other. Once the man was gone, Sam settled into the chair at Janet�s bedside and leaned her elbows on the bed.
"Good to see you."
Pleasure and awkwardness swirled between them. After a long moment Janet raised her hand to run tentative fingers through the blonde hair at Sam�s temple. "You were right. They found us."
There was no reply, but the pale eyes grew smoky with response to touch and tone. Nervous fingers drew random patterns on Janet�s ribs through the blanket. "Yeah. They found us."
Distracted by Janet�s gentle fingers tracing her ear and terrified by the reality around them, Sam could only stare at her companion with her heart in her eyes. Finally she could not take it anymore and dropped her head to rest on Janet�s belly. That was how Chamberlain found them some time later. One small hand rested atop Carter�s gold hair and both women rested quietly with eyes closed. After the terror they had been through he understood how they must have drawn strength from one another. So he let them be.
Some time later, Doctor Thayer woke his patients when he bustled efficiently into the room and shooed Carter out. A half hour later a bleary-eyed Janet walked out dressed in military sweats and athletic shoes. She looked surprised and pleased that Sam had waited out in the hall.
"So you�re out now?"
"Yeah, we both have at least a week to take it easy."
It took longer than they expected to get out as the medical staff fussed over their boss. A few of them even fussed over an embarrassed Carter. Janet chuckled as the two of them wandered towards their quarters.
"Oh quit squirming Sam. It�s only going to get worse."
Grinning hugely, Janet gestured down the hall and the blue eyes swung around. "Sam!"
Most of the half-dozen military men and women nearby refrained from snickering as a delighted Daniel Jackson pounced on his teammate to hug her fiercely. Most of them. "God, it�s good to see you up and around."
Still grinning like a fool, Daniel leaned back far enough to see the flustered fondness in her soft gaze. Then he abruptly let her go with a mumbled apology and turned to fawn over Janet for a moment. A quick glare at the few personnel lingering sent them on their way, still smiling. Then there was a final hug for both of them from the bouncy archeologist and they were once again able to move on. There was a delightful softness lingering in the corners of Sam�s expression that tugged at Janet�s heart. She remembered the sound of her voice and the feel of her body as they had lay trapped in the darkness. Unbidden her gaze dropped to Sam�s throat and she flushed when she spotted the faintest of round marks on the pale skin. Spotting the dull pink blush, Sam raised a hand to touch the place the brown eyes had just left.
"I was pretty bruised up from thrashing around in the dark. Some of them were in really strange places according to Lieutenant Chamberlain."
While the tone was neutral, Janet could hear the underlying tension. There was little she could say in these public hallways. Then they were in the barracks and Janet paused beside her door. If they walked away now, maybe things would be simple and friendly all over again. Then Janet glanced up into the burning blue eyes and knew that was wishful thinking.
"Come inside. We need to talk."
"No conversation starting with �we need to talk�, is ever a good one," Sam joked lamely but could not resist stepping into the small room. Once the door was closed, the lock sliding home made them both shiver in awareness. Confused and scared, Janet rested her forehead against its solid surface and tried to organize her thoughts. She was utterly unprepared for Sam�s long arms curling around her from behind. The hug was tentative and comforting, very different from those heated embraces in the dark. So she wrapped one arm around Sam�s and curled the other into the soft hair.
"We�re gonna be okay," Sam breathed in a voice that betrayed how desperately she wanted to believe it. "Aren�t we?"
That fragile vulnerability made Janet twist in the hold and throw both arms around Sam�s neck to hug her fiercely. This time the frightening darkness was within, and just as they had before, the women drew strength from one another. While they had done little but sleep the last few days, both still felt the lingering effects of their oxygen depravation.
"Come lie down," Sam coaxed. "We can still talk."
They shifted over the narrow cot and paused.
With a nervous grin, Janet gave Sam a quick push and the larger woman sat with a thump. The scowl was mocking as she reached out to grab a handful of the blue sweats and yank Janet close. Abruptly the small doctor found herself straddling her companion�s lap, nose to nose with her. Oh yeah, this was more like it�
"Do you still want to try this?"
Strong hands slid up Janet�s back to tangle among the locks of auburn brown hair. Holding the smaller woman immobile, Sam gently teased her by barely brushing their lips together. Slowly they learned one another again, sneaking peaks now that they could see. Eventually the embrace grew heated as curious hands explored. Making a frustrated sound, Janet pushed at Sam until the larger woman dropped flat with a chuckle. She quickly pinned her down to run curious hands over the lanky frame and lose herself in the luxury of being able to touch as a lover, not a physician. Sensing that Janet�s frustration was getting the best of her, Sam gently coaxed her up until they were face to face.
"Hey, tigress, c�mere. I�m not going anywhere voluntarily."
Surprise and affection softened Sam�s features even further as Janet�s dark eyes filled with tears. "I� I just expect to wake up and find out none of this is real� All those times I was your doctor� this is different."
Sam�s caresses changed intent, becoming sensuous strokes across back, neck and shoulders. As Janet began to melt into their mutual body heat, Sam spoke quietly. "I don�t know when I came to need you. Knowing you�d be waiting when we came home gave me strength more times than you could know. The SG teams might be this project�s body, but you�ve become its heart."
"Then, somewhere along the line, that feeling became personal. I�m glad you feel the same."
"So am I. How could I resist you? All those times you came into the infirmary worried about your teammates, or I worked with you on some project and you were alive with enthusiasm. Your energy is quite intoxicating. The fact that you can be gentle and loving and want to share that with me is like some wonderful fantasy."
Fondly Sam nuzzled the brunette hair and tugged a blanket over their twined bodies.
"No fantasy. Sleep now."