Road Less Traveled
Author: ocean gazer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Dec. 19, 2002
Category: um … missing scene, angst … and more than a
touch of philosophy
Rating: PG, for a couple mild swear words
Pairing: Sam/Janet established relationship
Season: 3, a follow-up of sorts to Pretense
Spoilers: Pretense (obviously), In the Line of Duty, Jolinar’s
Memories, The Nox, The First Commandment … I think that’s
Summary: An unexamined life is not worth living.
Archive: Pink Rabbit, Singularity, Area52 – assuming any
of you want it. Anyone else, please ask.
Disclaimer: I think it’s obvious that I don’t own them;
they belong to MGM, Showtime (SciFi channel?), Gekko, Double
Secret, and so on and so forth. I’m just borrowing them for a
while because I find them so doggone interesting and
fascinating. No money or bribes have exchanged hands; I do this
solely for my own demented entertainment.
Notes: I’ll admit I wasn’t all that interested in the
episode Pretense, but the exchange between Sam and Lya towards
the end completely intrigued me, especially since Sam was
clearly bothered by Lya’s actions in light of the Nox being
pacifists. And I couldn’t help but wonder why … and after
much pondering, this idea came to mind. Once it got into my
head, I just couldn’t let go of it. I know that it’s clearly
outside of canon since we’ve never seen Sam really question
her role as a soldier … but I hope I’ve kept it true enough
to her character that it doesn’t feel too much like poetic
license. I do know the piece is still a little rough … partly
because it’s mostly conversation and partly because of the
intensity of the subject matter. Feedback would be very much
appreciated. And hell, if you feel the need to send flames, go
right ahead … the beauty of democracy is that we’re all
entitled to our own opinions and have the right to express them
<g>. A multitude of thanks to Barb; she knows why.
Janet Fraiser looked up from her paperwork, crinkling her brow in
surprise as her eyes focused in on Jack O’Neill. Given that SG-1 had
been off active duty for the past week, and given that the colonel
tended to avoid the infirmary like the plague – even when he was in
dire need of its services – he was about the last person she would
have expected to see.
The colonel didn’t seem terribly thrilled to be there either, for
all that he was lounging casually against the open door of her office.
Janet could easily read the tension in his limbs and see the rigid set
of his jaw, despite the deceptively lazy pose. For some reason, it set
off all the doctor’s internal alarms, though she carefully kept her
face and voice neutrally pleasant. It was a trick she’d learned well
in medical school, and she found it useful for all sorts of situations.
"Come in, sir," she offered politely. The man followed the
summons, pushing the door shut behind him and taking the seat across the
desk from her. She noticed the way he couldn’t quite meet her eyes and
the not-so-subtle drumming of his fingers against his thigh.
Janet couldn’t help but wonder what on earth – or perhaps, more
accurately, the known universe – she was getting herself into. The
colonel’s discomfort was almost palpable. Taking a steadying breath,
she asked calmly and smoothly, "So, what can I do for you,
He didn’t respond right away, and she hadn’t really expected him
to. He was a man of action, not of words, leaving that category to
Daniel. She waited patiently, watching as he unfolded himself from the
chair and began to pace. Abruptly, he stopped and turned to the doctor,
his voice and words hesitant.
"It’s … well … it’s about Carter. There’s something
that I … uh … want to talk to her about … but I don’t know how
to bring it up … or what kind of stuff I should say … and I was
hoping that you could, y’know, maybe help me." She watched as he
swallowed hard, finishing in a rush as though he wasn’t sure he could
force the words out any other way. "I’m pretty sure you’re
better at the whole heart to heart talk thing than I am."
Janet felt her heart skip a beat or twenty as the sentences bored
into her brain. And as the words clicked into place and meshed with her
own pre-formed assumptions, she knew, she just knew, that O’Neill
wanted her advice on how to broach his romantic feelings for Sam with
Sam. The feeling that idea raised in her chest was abject horror. She’d
known for a while that the colonel’s feelings for his
second-in-command were not precisely professional … you’d have to be
blind, clueless, and a professional in the art of denial not to notice.
But she’d hoped to never actually have to deal with the knowledge in
any direct fashion. The idea of giving advice to a ranking officer about
his unprofessional feelings for a woman who just happened to be her
lover was a place she never – EVER – wanted to go, if it was all the
same to the universe.
Janet pulled her spooked kitten thoughts back into a somewhat
coherent ball of on-end fur and cleared her throat. With a resigned
sigh, she looked up at O’Neill, who had resumed his pacing, seemingly
intent on wearing a tread in her floor. As steadily as possible under
the circumstances, she said quietly, "I’ll do what I can to help,
Colonel, but I’m probably not the best person to be asking advice
She was surprised when that simple statement stopped him in his
tracks. He sat down with a thud and regarded her with raised eyebrows.
"You’ve got to be kidding. You’re her best friend, right?"
Fraiser nodded slowly, wishing fervently that they weren’t having this
conversation. "So you’re the perfect person. She talks to you
about stuff that she would never bring up around the rest of us."
Fighting the urge to just hide under her desk in hopes that he’d go
away, Janet repeated hesitantly, "I’ll do what I can to help,
O’Neill nodded in grim satisfaction, and Janet was aware that he
seemed completely unconscious of her uneasiness. She figured it was
because he was too busy dealing with his own discomfort. For some
reason, she felt a miniscule bit better as he raked a hand through his
hair, leaving pieces standing on end, and said, "God, this feels
weird." She silently agreed with his assessment. Sarcastic barbs
and vaguely worded threats about what she could do with her needles, no
problem. She could handle that. But this sort of vaguely serious and
intimate conversation was ranking right up there with having a root
canal sans anesthesia.
She took a deep breath to steady herself as O’Neill plunged right
in. "Carter’s been really quiet ever since we got back from
Tollana, but whenever Daniel or I ask her what’s going on, she just
smiles that polite smile of hers and says she’s fine. I know something’s
been bugging her since that mission and I just want to talk to her about
it. I mean, we do some things in our work that can leave some scars on a
person … and I don’t want her to feel like she has to hold things in
all the time. I’m not real good at the talking thing … but I want to
be there for her."
When he paused, looking away for a moment as if to gather his
thoughts, Janet let out the breath she’d been barely aware of holding.
This wasn’t quite as bad as she’d been imagining, but then again,
she could tell he wasn’t remotely finished with the conversation. She
sat up straighter in her chair as his eyes drifted back to her, seeing a
glimmer of intense feeling in his gaze. She couldn’t identify it
clearly and didn’t have time to analyze it as he cleared his throat
and continued. "The problem is that the whole Ska’ara/Klo’rel
thing is hard for me to put into words. And talking about the Goa’uld
isn’t something I’m really comfortable with in the first place. I
never know how to talk about the snakes without it being really clear
that I’m not a big fan of the Tok’ra … and I know it hurts her
when I lump them all together. And she’s obviously having a tough time
with the whole thing anyhow … and I don’t want to make it worse by
sticking my foot in my mouth. So I was hoping that maybe you could help
me figure out what to say. I don’t even know what’s bothering her
… and I don’t want to bring up the Goa’uld if she’s really
thinking about something else. That would probably make things even
She felt her eyes widen in surprise since this was pretty much the
last thing she’d expected to hear. She’d been braced for a totally
different sort of conversation and she nearly burst into hysterical,
relieved laughter once she realized that the universe had – indeed –
granted her wish. She fought down the reaction, but she could see the
colonel watching her, and could tell from the furrowed brows that he
knew something was going on with her.
She opened her mouth to say something to explain herself, when he
beat her to the punch, apparently thinking he knew why she seemed so
surprised. "I know this must be weird to have me coming here for
advice. But I usually go to Daniel and this time he’s as much in the
dark as I am. And if Carter isn’t confiding in Daniel, you’re the
only other person I can think of who she might talk to. I just … we
just want to help her get through … whatever it is she’s going
through. Have you noticed her acting weird, and has she said anything to
you about it?"
Janet mustered up a wry laugh as she decided her earlier relief over
the tone of the conversation had been premature. This was quickly
leading towards equally uncomfortable territory. He cocked his head to
the side as he examined her, and opened his mouth as if to speak. She
spoke quickly, managing to beat him to the punch this time, hoping to
forestall whatever sardonic observation lay on the tip of his tongue.
"Actually, sir, I have noticed Sam has been really withdrawn, and
yes, we have talked about it."
As she’d hoped, the revelation hauled his mind away from wherever
it had been going, to refocus on the matter at hand. He offered a soft
sigh of relief, which the doctor took to be because at least Sam was
talking to someone. He leaned forward in his chair, his voice softening,
as his words grew more earnest. "Look, Doc, I know there’s
probably a lot of stuff that you can’t tell me … but … what’s
going on with Carter? I’m worried about her and I just want her to
know she’s not alone."
Janet felt her muscles tense fractionally at the sentiment in his
last sentence, still a little on edge from the thought of the colonel
sharing his romantic feelings with her. She could maintain her sense of
denial about that situation as long as the words were not directly
He must have seen something in her face and known the gist of her
thoughts, if not the precise cause of them. He said, somewhat hastily,
"She’s a team member and a friend, and I’m worried about her
the same way I’d be worried about Daniel or Teal’c. As her CO it’s
part of my job to look out for her. And it’s not just me … Daniel
and Teal’c are worried about her too."
She nodded at him, seeing that he was still as uncomfortable with
this whole conversation as she was. She and the colonel had never really
talked much about anything related to Sam’s state of mind before …
the closest they’d ever come to it was in the aftermath of the woman’s
possession by Jolinar. And that time, they’d danced around the topic
… focusing instead on what tangible things they could do to help her
recover. Janet sighed deeply, wrenching her thoughts back to the actual
subject of the conversation. "Well, sir, you’re right … there’s
a lot of things that Sam and I have talked about that it isn’t my
place to discuss. But I can tell you that something that happened on
your last mission is really weighing on her mind and she’s been doing
some soul searching."
O’Neill sighed unhappily. "Let me guess. The whole Ska’ara/Klo’rel
thing is giving her flashbacks about Jolinar."
Janet sympathized with his unhappiness. The alien symbiote that had
taken over Sam’s body had left the woman with some serious emotional
scars. Not the least of which was the knowledge that Jolinar had ended
up dying to save her life, leaving both a void and a sense of carrying
around an un-payable debt.
But even though the mission had triggered some flashbacks and was
causing Sam to once again have some horrific nightmares, that was a lot
more personal information than the doctor was willing to share. And even
though it seemed like the obvious answer, it wasn’t actually the cause
of Carter’s quiet mood and her heavy pondering. Janet mused that while
it was troubling information, it was irrelevant to what O’Neill really
wanted to know.
She took a deep breath and then blew it out between her teeth,
speaking carefully. "Actually, colonel, that’s not the problem.
It’s … well … it’s related to something the Nox woman
Every pore of O’Neill’s body radiated confusion. "Lya?"
Janet nodded briefly, knowing she’d said too much already, but also
knowing that it was better to give the man something to work with than
to not say anything at all. Hopefully, a bit of information would
prevent him from hounding his second-in-command. She knew her lover was
in a far more fragile state of mind than she was letting on; she’d
been there, holding Sam in her arms after the nightmares, petting her
hair gently in an effort to soothe her back to sleep. The last thing
Carter needed was the colonel on her ass, determined to find out what
was bothering her. That would just add a layer of stress that the other
woman wasn’t up to dealing with right at the moment. She just didn’t
operate that way – she wasn’t a Daniel who needed conversation like
he needed air. She needed time and space to process things. She needed
time and space to heal.
Janet sat quietly, watching the man across from her as he screwed up
his face in concentration, as if he were mentally replaying the entire
mission in his head. Abruptly, he sat bolt upright, a distinct look of
amusement in his eyes. "You don’t mean that little snippet of
conversation about Lya being a pacifist, do you?"
In spite of herself, she couldn’t prevent a sarcastic smile.
"Give the man a cigar," she murmured dryly. Then she shifted
gears rapidly. "Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. You
figured it out all on your own."
She couldn’t tell if he actually registered her words, since he was
too busy chuckling aloud. She could hear the humor in his tone as he
stated, "You have got to be kidding. I thought we’d hashed all
that stuff out the last time we dealt with the Nox." She could
easily read the doubt in his eyes as he stared at her. The look on his
face was suspicious, as though he suspected she was playing an elaborate
joke on him, clearly not certain whether she was serious.
Despite understanding his sense of relief that the problem seemed so
minor, she found the humor annoying. After all, no matter how minor or
trivial the matter seemed to him, it was definitely serious to Samantha
Carter. She couldn’t help but wish he didn’t find it so damned
She must have glared at him without being aware of it, she realized,
as he abruptly reined in his reaction and couldn’t quite look her in
the eye. "Sorry," he mumbled, a brief hint of guilt flickering
across his features. "It’s just … well … she’s really still
upset over that?" Janet watched as he shook his head and then
brought his gaze back up to meet hers. "I mean, yeah, there are
times when pacifists just bug the crap out of me … they stand around
passing judgment on the very people who are responsible for keeping them
safe. But y’know, it’s just really not that big an issue. Not
everyone’s got the guts to stand up and fight."
Janet sighed unhappily as he fixed an earnest gaze on her. She heard
his voice grew fractionally softer in what sounded like his attempt at
reassurance. "Listen, Doc, I’ll sit down and have a little talk
with her … and don’t worry, I’ll leave your name out of it …
tell her I’d been doing some thinking and came up with the Lya thing.
Maybe it’ll do her some good to talk to a career military type who
understands the frustration."
At that, Fraiser could not resist an acid glare and he abruptly
remembered just whom he was talking to, and that – labcoat aside –
she was a career type just like he was. "Oops." She could tell
by the look on his face that he intended to say more than that. But he
closed his mouth abruptly – apparently deciding his attempts to dig
himself out of that hole might actually make it bigger.
Janet held up her hand to get his attention. "Don’t do that,
sir," she pleaded quietly. His eyes held more than a touch of
challenge and she leaned forward in her chair, arms folded on the desk,
closing the gap between them. "I know you want to help,
Colonel," she said softly, "but Sam needs time to process
things in her own head. You know how she is … how private she is. If
the subject comes up naturally, then by all means, talk to her. But if
you push when she’s not ready, it may well push her deeper into her
shell. Right now, the best way to help her is to just leave her
She felt a rush of guilt for saying so much – as if she was
betraying her lover’s confidence by talking about her. But she was a
doctor, being asked for advice by a senior officer about an issue of
health (albeit of the mental variety), and it was her duty to give the
same kind of information and advice she’d give about any patient,
provided it didn’t violate issues of confidentiality. It was one of
the many sticky situations and issues that came with the territory of
working in close quarters with her lover. Especially since their
relationship wasn’t exactly public knowledge, so there was none of the
deference to that aspect that might otherwise have been offered.
He drummed his fingers on the desk for a long moment, and she could
easily tell he was turning her words over in his head. Finally, he
leaned back and sighed dramatically. "I know you’re right. I just
hate not being able to do anything, y’know?"
Janet nodded briefly, empathizing all too well with the man. She was
suddenly aware that for all their differences she and O’Neill had a
lot in common. It wasn’t the most comforting realization she’d ever
made, since she often thought the man was aggravating and boorish. But
it was that same desire to be able to do something that led her to
medicine in the first place.
"I know," she countered, with more than a trace of sympathy
audible in her tone. Despite the fact that Sam was actually talking to
her about a few things, she still had the uncomfortable feeling that she
wasn’t actually able to do anything to help the other woman wrestle
with her demons. Her lover had things locked tightly away inside her
head, and Janet didn’t have a magical key to get in.
O’Neill flashed her a tight smile and she continued, "For what
it’s worth, sir, Sam knows you’re concerned about her and I think
that means a lot to her. And even though I know it’s hard to see her
withdrawn, it isn’t anything life-threatening, and nothing that poses
a danger to the team." She knew all too well that she was leaving
out the spectre of the nightmares related to Jolinar, which could well
be considered a danger to the team. But SG-1 was off active duty for a
few weeks for Daniel to translate a set of rather important looking
documents, for Carter to catch up on some of her naquada experiments,
and for O’Neill and Teal’c to run a group of newly assigned officers
through some field training excursions. Janet was confident that Sam
would be back to normal on that front by the time the team was back in
the field together. If she wasn’t, then the doctor would find a reason
to ground her. There was no way she would let anyone – her lover
especially – go through the Stargate if they posed a danger to
themselves or others.
They sat in silence for a moment and she watched him as he processed
her words, his head tilted to the side as if he were weighing out
scenarios. For all that the man didn’t understand much of the science
at the heart of the SGC, and for all that he played to the hilt his role
as "just a dumb soldier", he was not a stupid man. Janet found
it interesting to watch him putting together all the pieces of
information to try and form a coherent picture.
Without preamble, he stood up, pushing away from the desk and chair
in one fluid motion. "Thanks, Doc. We’ll just kinda keep an eye
on her, but not bug her about stuff."
She nodded, not feeling the need for a verbal response. He made his
way to the door, opened it, and then paused with his hand on the knob.
Turning back towards her, his face crinkled in thought, he asked
quietly, "She’s really still bugged by the Nox? I just figured
– military upbringing aside – that Carter was a lot more
open-minded. I mean, she agrees with Daniel’s peaceful and diplomatic
approach to things almost more often than she agrees with me and Teal’c
and our ‘the best offense is a good defense’ approach."
Janet sighed, blowing her breath out between her teeth. She realized
in an instant that until O’Neill had the entire picture in his head in
a way that made sense to him, he would end up hounding Sam, despite his
best intention not to. That, in its own way, would probably be worse for
the other woman than her divulging tiny pieces of information. She
wrestled with what to say for a second, and then just offered quietly,
"Actually, Colonel, you have it backwards. It’s not Lya she’s
questioning, it’s herself."
Despite the serious situation, his face lightened and he offered an
understanding, "Ah, I see." And looking at him, the doctor
realized that he finally had a logical picture put together in his mind.
Surprisingly, his face shifted into a mode of sympathy, and Janet got
the distinct sense that he’d been in Carter’s shoes more than once
in his life. "She never did the whole rebellion thing, did she?
Never questioned how she was raised or whether she shared the same
beliefs as her folks or anything?"
Janet sighed deeply and just shook her head.
O’Neill echoed her sigh. "Well, I guess if it had to happen
sometime, it came at a good time. At least we’re not on back to back
missions while she’s doing all that soul searching." He raised
his eyebrows and flashed her a reassuring smile. "Don’t worry,
Doc. If the subject comes up, I’ll keep your name out of it. As far as
I’m concerned, this is just between you and me. I’ll just tell
Daniel and Teal’c that she’s thinking about meaning of life stuff.
And … well … it’ll be ok … she’ll come around. You’ll
Janet walked through her front door, frowning as she realized the
house was dark. She knew Cassie was spending the night at a friend’s
house, but she figured that Sam would have been home by now. Of course
it wouldn’t be the first time that the other woman had gotten delayed
at the SGC. In fact, delays and emergencies were pretty much par for the
course for anyone who worked there.
She stepped slowly into the living room – her eyes not quite
adjusted to the dark – and reached out her hand to turn on the lamp
that sat on the end table.
"So, what did you tell the colonel?"
Janet jumped in surprise at the unexpected sound. She breathed deeply
for a moment, trying to calm her racing heart. Hearing a voice in the
darkness had been about the last thing she’d expected. As her pulse
rate settled back to something approaching normal, she found herself
frowning at the flat, monotone echo of Sam’s voice.
She flipped the lamp on, blinking hard against the sudden, soft glow,
and looked over to see her lover curled up on one end of the couch. The
blonde wasn’t looking at her; those expressive blue eyes were fixed
resolutely on her long fingers, which were tangled into a knot and
resting in her lap.
The doctor shrugged out of her coat, letting it drop in a heap on the
floor, and kicked off her shoes. Slowly, she walked over to the couch,
settling herself on the unoccupied end of it. Rather than answering the
question that hung in the air, she asked one of her own, not entirely
sure how to interpret the downcast eyes and the flatness of Sam’s
"Are you mad at me?"
The question was both odd and abrupt, and she knew it the moment it
tumbled from her lips. But she wanted some gauge of what she was dealing
with, so she’d have an idea of the best approach to take. And, a tiny
voice whispered in her ear, you want to hear her say she’s not angry,
even though she has a right to be. Janet spent most of her days
reassuring others and keeping her own feelings hidden under a
professional mask of detachment. But she had come to rely on taking that
mask off around her lover, and had found she needed the reassurances
that the other woman gave her.
Sam slowly brought her eyes up to meet Janet’s. The doctor felt a
lump in her throat when she saw the stony paleness of her lover’s
face. It wasn’t often that that expressive face was unreadable –
especially to her – and it worried her to see that reaction now. She
didn’t trust her voice to say any more, and wouldn’t have known what
to say even if she could have mustered words. She just locked eyes with
her lover, trying to broadcast her concern and her love.
The blonde let out a shaky breath and her features softened as she
shook her head minutely. "I’m not mad at you," she breathed,
her voice soft, but firm. "I probably should be, but I’m not. I
know you were just doing your job … that you have a responsibility to
give out information relevant to an officer’s performance and
health." She broke off and glanced back down at her hands for a
long moment, clearly uncomfortable with some aspect of the conversation.
Finally, she lifted her eyes again and looked at Janet, the blond brows
bunching in a question. "I just … well … I just wondered …
what you said … what he knows … was it the … the nightmares?"
It wasn’t the most articulate sentence ever spoken, but Janet
understood it completely. She saw in an instant that it wasn’t a blank
mask of anger on her lover’s face; it was actually one of fear. She
scooted slightly closer to the other woman, close enough that her hand
could make contact, but not quite touching, not yet. She knew Sam wasn’t
always receptive to touches when she was under emotional stress and she
had learned to hold back until she knew her lover was ready to receive
"No, I didn’t say anything about the nightmares. They aren’t
really related to what he wanted to know. And as long as they’re gone
by the time you’re back on active duty, I see no reason that anyone
else needs to know about them." She saw some of the tension drain
out of Sam’s body at that assurance. Given the strain that the field
teams were expected to endure, she knew that Carter didn’t want to
give anyone reason to doubt her strength … or her sanity. That had
happened before, after the other woman had been taken as a Tok’ra
host, and Janet never again wanted to see that experience repeat itself.
Her lover had been as scarred from the doubts and animosity of her
co-workers at the SGC as she had been from the trauma of the forced
blending and subsequent tortured death of the symbiote. Thankfully, the
members of SG-1 had stood behind her, as had the doctor, but it hadn’t
been easy for any of them, particularly Sam.
"He just wanted some sense of why you’ve been so quiet and
withdrawn, and I told him it was related to the Nox woman. He figured
out the details on his own." She watched her lover carefully as she
spoke, needing to gauge her reactions. It was hard on both of them,
having a relationship that could never be shown openly, having to always
sublimate their personal feelings in the realm of work. And it was
especially hard when their duties were in direct conflict with their
personal lives. They dealt with it fairly well most of the time, but
that didn’t make it any less hard at others.
As much to remind herself as to remind Sam, Janet said gently,
"He needs to know about things that affect the members of his
She could easily read the flash of guilt that shone in Sam’s eyes.
When her lover spoke, the words were whispered, but sincere. "I
know … and I should have told him what was going on … rather than
putting you in that position. I’m sorry."
Janet found herself surprised by the apology. She rather thought that
if anyone should be apologizing, it should be her. But, then again, she
mused, her lover was the overly responsible type. She scooted closer to
Sam, curling her legs under her in an imitation of the other woman’s
pose. Their knees were touching and judging that it was ok, she reached
out to lightly cover the woman’s tightly knotted hands with her own
hand. Gently, she traced over the stiff lines of those long, deft
fingers. Then she moved her hand away, letting it rest against the spot
where their knees and thighs were pressed together. "I’m sorry
too," she offered after a beat. "I should have let you know
that the colonel had come to talk to me, rather than making you find out
She studied the other woman closely as the apologies hung in the air
between them. For a long, uncomfortable moment, silence reigned.
Then she saw the blonde head swing up and she released a breath she
hadn’t known she was holding. Sam’s face was still set in serious
lines, but there was warmth in the blue eyes, and long fingers reached
out to find Janet’s hand, tracing her knuckles lightly.
She had expected Sam to say something, but the other woman remained
quiet. Sighing softly, Janet turned her hand over, pressing her fingers
against her lovers, taking comfort in the light touch. Her voice was
quiet as she said, "I hadn’t planned on talking to the colonel.
But he’s worried about you. Daniel and Teal’c are worried about
you." Her next words came in a whispered rush, as if she couldn’t
get them out any other way. "I’m worried about you and want to
help you through this, but I don’t know how … you won’t talk to
She winced when Sam froze. It wasn’t too hard for Janet to feel the
sudden burst of tension in the other woman via their connected
fingertips. Her lover took a deep breath and bit out sharply, "Don’t
you think I know you’re all worried? I’m not trying to make this
hard on any of you … that’s exactly why I haven’t been talking to
Well, that was certainly news to the doctor. In her experience –
both medical and mundane – talking about things tended to make people
less worried, not more. She shrugged off the hurt that welled up from
Sam’s bitter words, from the sense that her lover felt like she couldn’t
share all of herself with her. Janet shook her head, trying to make
sense of what her lover had said. When the words still failed to gain
any clarity after some contemplation, she let her own frustration come
out in her tone. "I can’t imagine what you could have to say that
would make things harder for us. At least if we knew more of what was
going on, we might be able to help you come to peace with it."
She wasn’t terribly surprised when Sam pulled away from her and
scooted closer to the arm of the couch, though she took it as a good
sign that the other woman hadn’t gotten up and left. Running her
fingers through her hair tiredly, she rested her arm on the back of the
couch, cradling her head in her hand and studying her lover. She knew
she would probably have to be the first one to speak, but she delayed it
for the moment, knowing she had every reason to be frustrated with the
entire situation. Being understanding and comforting were both a basic
part of Janet’s nature, but she wasn’t a saint and she had her
She was mulling over what she was going to say, when Sam – staring
resolutely at her once again knotted hands – opened her mouth. "I’m
sorry, Janet, that was out of line. It’s just … well … I hate
feeling like I’m burdening people with my problems … my dad would be
so ashamed of me … he’s from the ‘stiff upper lip’ school of
That tidbit turned on the proverbial light bulb above Janet’s head.
But in an admirable show of restraint, she managed to not exclaim,
"Aha!" since she sensed that the other woman wasn’t quite
In a small voice, Sam admitted quietly, "And even though I
really didn’t want to burden anyone, I think I’m also scared of
letting you down … of not being what you think I am."
That hard wrung confession melted Janet’s heart and she reached out
to gently massage a tense shoulder. She couldn’t quite contain her
incredulity at the sentiment, since she couldn’t imagine what thoughts
her lover could be hiding that would make anyone think any less of her.
It wasn’t like the other woman had ever shown any sign of being
someone likely to end up on the Jerry Springer show. "Sam, what we
see in you is a brilliant woman, a loyal teammate, someone who cares
deeply about making a positive difference in the world. That isn’t
going to change just because you’re having to wrestle with some
Janet paused briefly, seeing the flicker of surprise in the shadowed
gaze, and then offered a light quip. She was well aware that it could
backfire, but she felt relatively certain the humor would break up some
of the tension. "For a genius, you’re not always the sharpest
crayon in the box."
She held her breath as Sam turned to regard her, the blue eyes
clearly showing the woman’s confusion about how exactly she was
supposed to take that comment. Janet let the corner of her mouth quirk
upwards in a half smile and suddenly an embarrassed smile edged onto the
face across from her.
"I’ve been a complete idiot again, haven’t I?" muttered
Sam, dropping her gaze back down to her hands.
More certain now of her lover’s mood, Janet scooted closer, placing
a finger under Sam’s chin and coaxing her head up. "Not a
complete idiot," she offered in a light tone. "You’re just
too easily convinced that people will think less of you if you show them
that you’re human."
Since that particular statement had been uttered many times before
– and since it had been uttered by both women in regard to the other
– Janet wasn’t surprised to hear a tiny chuckle and an indignant,
"What? You mean I’m only human?"
She leaned closer and pressed a soft kiss to her lover’s forehead,
then dropped a kiss onto the tip of her nose. "C’mere," she
whispered softly, and was gratified when Sam followed the mild order,
snuggling her body against Janet’s and resting her head on the doctor’s
shoulder. She knew that her lover’s acceptance of the physical comfort
was a sign that she was in a space where they could talk. And hopefully
that meant they could finally get to the heart of what was bothering
She waited patiently, letting her lover take the lead in pursuing the
conversation. Though she dearly wanted to know exactly what was going on
in the other woman’s head, rather than just getting random bits and
pieces, she had a sense that the silent snuggling was just as healing
for both of them as any long, drawn out discussion. At the very least,
it was easing some of Janet’s worries and her sense of inadequacy with
regard to helping Sam.
She smiled softly when Sam reached out and twined their fingers
together. Slowly the blonde began to talk quietly, her uncertain pauses
showing that she was thinking out loud.
"You know that I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened on
Tollana … about how the Nox live … just wondering what they know
that the rest of us don’t."
It wasn’t the most elegantly worded summation, but Janet nodded in
understanding and offered a simple, "Yes."
"My whole life has been lived in the shadow of the military …
I’ve never really paid attention to the fact that there is a whole
other way of life that doesn’t involve weapons and violence. I’ve
always tried to live up to the expectations of my father … and he let
us know in no uncertain terms that anyone who wouldn’t pick up arms
and fight was a coward and a sissy. That’s one of the reasons he and
Mark have been estranged for so long … Mark turned his back on that
and went his own way. It wasn’t just about my mom’s death."
Janet heard the shuddering sigh and held her lover tighter, knowing
that the memory of her mother’s death still had the power to reduce
Sam to tears. There were some pains that – while they faded in time
– never completely went away. She ran a hand through the blonde hair,
feeling the way the other woman snuggled deeper into her embrace.
She heard a faint touch of desperation in Sam’s voice as she
continued. "In the past couple years though, I’ve just seen so
much death … so much destruction. We’ve fought the Goa’uld and
killed some of them … but more just rise to fight us … they pass
their hatred onto their offspring just like we do … and the cycle of
fighting never seems to end. I look at Earth … how many wars have we
fought over the centuries … how many people have died fighting with
people who ought to be neighbors? There are people fighting each other
today because of something that happened hundreds of years ago between
their ancestors … and everybody thinks they’re right and everyone
else is wrong. And with all the wars and all the fighting … what has
really changed? All we’ve done is perpetuate the cycle of violence …
all we’ve done is preach the gospel that might makes right."
Janet heard a soft sigh and knew from experience that it meant the
other woman was searching for the right words to try and explain her
thoughts. She continued gently sifting her fingers through blonde hair,
offering the only comfort she knew how. And the small part of her mind
that wasn’t fully preoccupied with the quietly spoken words was amazed
at the fact that Sam was still curled up in her arms and accepting the
comfort she was offering. It wasn’t often that her lover allowed
herself to be held like this unless it was when she was half asleep
after a nightmare.
It was a rare gift, and one that Janet didn’t take lightly.
After several minutes of silence, Sam shifted slightly in Janet’s
embrace, her words low. "I’m really not sure I can do this
anymore … not sure I can keep making the choice to pick up a gun as a
way to try and make a difference. I keep thinking of something the
colonel said to me a couple of years ago. It was on the mission where we
were sent after SG9, when Captain Hansen became unstable and thought he
was a god. I could have ended things. I could have stopped him. We were
inside the cave and I was able to get his gun … I had it pointed at
him, hoping he’d come to his senses and surrender so the whole
nightmare would be over. He just looked at me without any trace of fear
and dared me to shoot him."
She broke off and Janet could feel her shaking her head slightly, as
if trying to erase the scene from her mind. "I couldn’t do it. I
couldn’t shoot him in cold blood … not even to save the lives of my
teammates … not even to save the lives of all the people on that
planet. When I told the colonel about it, about my weakness, he reminded
me of the Biblical commandment that ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ He told
me that no matter the reason, every time we break that commandment we
get a little closer to becoming someone like Jonas."
Janet felt her heart catch at the words, not because of the content,
but because of the obvious guilt and grief in the other woman’s tone.
She’d known bits and pieces of this from prior conversations, but even
she hadn’t expected this from Sam. She was simultaneously impressed
with the depth and breadth of her lover’s thoughts and alarmed by the
idea that her lover felt like she was making things worse in the
universe rather than better.
She wanted to say something wise and profound, but couldn’t think
of a single, solitary thing that qualified. And she wanted to say
something comforting and reassuring, but couldn’t think of anything
that wouldn’t sound like an empty platitude. And she knew as well as
anyone that her lover hated empty platitudes. So Janet simply sat
holding Sam close, her fingers lightly brushing through blonde hair in
an almost absent-minded manner … clueless as to what else she should
do. She realized that she’d been hoping that a solution would present
itself when she finally had the whole picture of what the problem was.
Whoever said knowledge was power clearly didn’t have a clue what the
hell they were talking about. At least not when it came to situations
As the silence stretched on, she heard a soft sigh from her lover.
Then she heard a tiny whispered confession, the words tinged with what
sounded like embarrassment. "I was afraid to tell you guys what was
going on in my head. I know the colonel and Teal’c would think I’ve
lost my mind, while Daniel would want to spend hours talking morality. I
just don’t have the energy to deal with those reactions …" the
soft voice dropped even lower " … not while I’m still so worn
out from the nightmares."
Janet fractionally tightened her hold on her lover, knowing how hard
it was for the strong, stubborn woman to even talk about the nightmares
since she perceived them as a weakness. And then she suddenly realized
there was a glaring omission in Sam’s words. The thought tumbled from
her lips before she could think better of it. "What about me?"
She heard the faintest quiver in Sam’s voice, though it was so
slight that no one else would have caught it. "I … I’ve been
afraid that you’d think less of me for …"
After a few moments, it became clear that the other woman wasn’t
trying to be difficult, but that she really wasn’t sure how to voice
her fears. Janet finished the thought for her, speaking quietly and
holding Sam close. "For having doubts? For wondering if weapons and
military might are the best ways of solving problems?" She felt the
tiny nod her lover offered as confirmation.
If it wasn’t such a serious conversation, she might have found it
amusing that for all Carter’s confidence and intellectual brilliance
in the realm of her work at the SGC, the woman was so tentative and
uncertain when it came to the realm of emotions. It was a paradox that
alternately fascinated and irritated Janet. It was usually fascinating
because it showed how incredibly complex her lover was. But it was often
quite irritating because there were times when she wished her lover was
a little more grounded in reality and didn’t need so much reassurance
about things most people would take for granted.
At the moment – despite the situation – it was the fascination
that was predominant in her thoughts.
She let her fingers wander gently through silken gold hair.
"Believe me, if anything, I think more of you for having these
sorts of doubts." She could literally feel the start of surprise
her words prompted in Sam and she pressed her lips softly to the top of
her lover’s head. "And I’m not just saying that to make you
Janet paused for a moment, not sure how best to explain what she
meant, especially since these weren’t things she thought about on a
routine basis herself … and hadn’t for a long time. She’d followed
her father into the military, much as Sam had, and yet there had been a
time when she found herself opposed to using violence to deal with
violence. It had been the single biggest reason she’d pursued medicine
once she’d made the decision to join the military. At least she was
doing something to preserve life, not simply take it away. But once she’d
made the decision, she’d rarely given any more thought to the whys and
She exhaled slowly, not quite sure what she was going to say until
she heard her own voice. "Throughout history, the people who have
done the most harm have been the ones who were certain that they were
right … who felt they had some kind of Divine mandate to destroy
anyone who didn’t see things their way. The people who never have
doubts about using force, the people who never wonder what they’re
killing for … those are the people I would think less of. Doesn’t
mean they stop using force to stand up for what’s good and what’s
right … just that they’ve thought about the fact that there are
consequences for every action."
She could almost hear the wheels turning in Sam’s head, and she
wasn’t terribly surprised when the other woman shrugged out of her
comforting embrace, opting to sit next to her and be able to face her
while they talked. If anything, she was surprised that the other woman
hadn’t pulled away earlier. "But what if using force isn’t what
actually makes the difference in the end? What if all it does is
reinforce the idea that might makes right? What about all the people
like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. – the people who used words and
nonviolent action to make their points? Maybe changing the cycle of
violence starts with one person putting down a gun."
Janet sighed softly; she’d never particularly enjoyed debating
philosophy. But she knew that it was not so much what arguments she made
that were important here, but rather her willingness to entertain the
subject matter. Yes, Sam was looking for some sense of reassurance.
Unlike many other people, however, she tended to find reassurance in the
simple ability to debate and question. It was as if the ability to
question things somehow made them more real and tangible. And often,
just the ability to debate an issue gave her the insights she needed to
resolve it for herself.
Janet opted to piggyback on the opening she’d been given. "Or
maybe one person putting down a gun just leads to more slaughter. Maybe
the cycle of violence actually stops when those who prey on the weak and
innocent are defeated once and for all." She was far more cynical
about human nature than Sam was, and she truly doubted that anything
short of lethal force would impress some of the people who preyed on
those weaker than themselves.
There was a brief, mirthless chuckle from the other side of the
couch. "The difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is
simply the difference between who wins and who loses." There was a
brief pause while Janet tried to decipher that, not entirely sure how to
take the statement. While she was still considering, Sam continued
softly. "I just mean that our perceptions of who holds the moral
high ground largely depends on who wins the fight. To the British, the
colonists in America who fought their rule were probably not considered
freedom fighters. But that’s what we call them because we won … we
gained our independence. Had the colonists lost, they’d probably be
described as terrorists in our history books."
Janet shifted position on the couch, sitting up straighter and
draping her arm over the back of the couch. She was fully aware that she
was fidgeting as a delaying tactic, since she really wasn’t up to
differentiating that carefully between shades of grey. She studied her
lover’s face, seeing the way the lamplight cast shadows across Sam’s
troubled features. Somehow, it seemed wholly appropriate for the nature
of the conversation.
She watched as Sam cocked her head slightly to the side. She knew it
was a sign that her lover was preparing to shift mental gears, and she
listened carefully to the other woman’s solemnly spoken question.
"When we use violence to achieve our goals and to keep the peace,
how does that make us any different from our enemies who do the
Janet finally felt like she had some stable ground under her feet.
She wasn’t naïve enough to think that meant she had any of the
answers … just that she had better questions. "Do you really
think we’re the same as the Goa’uld? Do we run around enslaving
entire worlds and posing as gods? Do we have that same callous disregard
Sam quickly shook her head, very real distress in her eyes. "Of
course not. We don’t gate through the galaxy, taking innocent people
as hosts, casually killing anyone who doesn’t worship us. But that’s
not exactly the point. We’ve caused death and destruction … and we’ve
killed some innocent people in the process. I know you’re going to say
that it’s an unavoidable consequence of the war we’re fighting with
the Goa’uld and the work we’re doing. But that doesn’t change the
fact that we’re responsible for their deaths and for the destruction
we’ve caused. No matter the reason, their blood is on our hands."
Janet reached out to lightly touch the other woman’s shoulder, as
if the motion would drive home her point. "The problem is that you’re
seeing things in the abstract, but we’re living in the real world. We
have to do what we can with what we have available. We do our best to
not harm the innocent, but sometimes it can’t be helped. And it’s
for damn sure that if we weren’t fighting the Goa’uld, a lot more
innocent people would die."
She took a deep breath, wanting to lighten the mood, if only for a
moment. "And you can’t honestly tell me that you think the Goa’uld
would be impressed if we held a love-in and told them we wanted nothing
but peace. They’d wipe us out without a second thought and there’d
be no one left to love them."
She couldn’t resist a wry laugh at the image that scampered through
her brain as accompaniment to her own words. And apparently Sam found it
amusing as well, judging by her surprised chuckle. But the blue eyes
still radiated a very real sense of concern.
"I guess I just wonder how long we can run around using weapons
to make our point before we start to lose our own morality … before we
turn into those we despise."
Janet shook her head, wishing there was some easy answer to the
question, knowing full well there wasn’t. If there was a simple
solution to the age old questions of war versus peace, then humans would
have never seen the need to develop ever more sophisticated and deadly
weapons in the name of deterrence. But then again, maybe the answer wasn’t
to find an easy answer to try and set Sam’s mind at ease, but rather
to ask the difficult questions and let Sam figure things out for
She cocked her head to the side, studying the blonde as she spoke.
"Do you think the colonel or Teal’c enjoys killing?"
The denial was immediate and emphatic. "God, no. I mean, they
both are soldiers and sometimes they take the ‘shoot first and ask
questions later’ approach. But as far as I’ve ever seen, they see
killing as a grim necessity."
Janet nodded, having already known what response she’d get.
"Ok, so why do they keep doing it? Surely, Teal’c could find a
planet where he could live in peace, where Apophis and the other system
lords couldn’t find him. And the colonel’s retired once … why
doesn’t he retire again and refuse to continue getting blood on his
Sam looked away from Janet, her troubled eyes focused on the far
wall. It wasn’t too surprising, the doctor thought, since the other
woman was more than smart enough to figure out where she was going with
The blonde’s voice was low and distant, as though reciting a lesson
she’d memorized. "Teal’c’s fighting for freedom for his
people … and he’s fighting to destroy the false gods so that they
cannot continue to enslave and destroy whole peoples. The colonel … I
think he feels like there’s not a lot of choice … that we could sign
a treaty to protect Earth, but that there are a whole lot of people on
other planets who need someone to stand up for them. And since he’s a
soldier and is trained to fight … he has a responsibility to do what
it takes to protect those around him."
Janet heard the deep sigh that followed that statement and wasn’t
particularly surprised when Sam argued, "I know where you’re
going with this, Janet. And I know … I know that we’ve done a lot of
good out there … we’ve saved people’s lives by making sure that
creatures like Ra and Hathor can’t attack them … can’t destroy
them. But does that give us the right to do it? Do we have any more
right to take a life than they do?"
Janet offered up a short laugh, leaning back against the arm of the
couch and bringing her knees up to her chest. This was something she’d
struggled with in medical school, only there, it was in the form of
debating euthanasia. "I don’t know that anyone has the right to
take a life. But sometimes it’s not a matter of whether you have the
right, it’s a matter of whether you have the responsibility. Hitler
didn’t have the right to take the lives of millions of Jews, gypsies,
homosexuals, and political prisoners … and no one had the right to
take his life. But they had a responsibility to ensure that he could not
continue to kill anyone he thought was unclean or unfit. And sometimes
that responsibility involves killing someone to prevent them from doing
something evil. I remember once reading about a rapist and killer who
preyed on children … when he was caught and sentenced, he asked for
the death penalty … because he knew if he ever was released from jail,
he would kill again."
At that, Sam pushed up from the couch and began to pace, showing that
some of the colonel’s habits were rubbing off on her. Her voice was
deathly quiet. "He has the right to decide that because it’s his
life in question. But what gives me the right to decide something like
that? You’re making it sound like there’s only one way to deal with
the Goa’uld or with someone like Hitler. There’s always another way
… there’s always more than one choice."
Janet rubbed her eyes with her hand, suddenly worn out by having a
deep, philosophical conversation after having a very long workday.
"You’re right, of course, there’s always more than one choice
… and everyone has to decide for themselves what they’re willing to
do." She paused for a long minute, feeling like she was on the
verge of saying something important, and not sure what it was.
"Pacifism is a personal choice … and it’s not something that
everyone can do, just as being a soldier isn’t something everyone can
do. It comes down to that very choice … do you choose to use force and
violence, if necessary, to protect someone from harm? Or do you refuse
to respond to violence with violence, even if it means letting someone
beat you into a pulp and not fighting back? Ultimately, that’s what it
comes down to."
She looked up at her lover, noting that Sam stood shock still, as if
her whole being were listening to and absorbing the words. Janet sat up
straight again and her voice softened as she said simply, "I went
through a phase where I detested the military and everything it stood
for, until I realized that I don’t have it in me to not fight back if
someone attacks me or someone I love. There are people who can … they’re
willing to put their own bodies and lives in the line of fire to stand
up to oppression or allow their loved ones to run to safety. But they’re
not willing to use force to protect themselves, because it means harming
another human being. It’s not cowardice … it’s a personal belief
that all life is sacred. That’s what pacifism ultimately comes down to
… it’s whether or not you’re willing to cause harm to another
person in defense of yourself or others. And I know I don’t have it in
me to take a blow and not fight back."
It hadn’t been exactly what she’d planned to say, but she was
struck by the sudden sense that she’d finally managed to find the very
heart of the problem and turn it from some abstract principle to a very
personal question. And that’s really what it was … a matter of
She watched as Sam turned slowly towards her, making her way back to
the couch. The other woman sat heavily, her face contorted in thought.
Janet waited patiently, giving her lover some time to wrestle her
thoughts into something she could put into words.
After several minutes, Sam spoke quietly, her voice full of an
emotion that Janet couldn’t quite name. "I don’t think I could
do that either. As much as killing someone makes me sick … if I could
pick up a gun and prevent someone innocent from being hurt, I’d do it
without question. Even Daniel has learned to shoot a gun and has no
qualms about using force to protect himself … or to protect us. And he’s
one of the most peace-loving people I’ve ever met."
Janet slid across the cushions, once again sitting knee to knee with
her lover. "Sweetheart, the fact that you’re even asking these
questions shows that you are light years away from turning into your
enemy. You don’t use force and violence because you enjoy it, but
because it’s the only realistic means you have of defending the people
you care about." She felt a slight tension radiating from Sam’s
body, and sensing that the other woman wasn’t completely convinced,
she added gently, "Maybe the cycle of violence ends when the only
people left with guns are the ones who know how to put them down."
Sam shook her head as if in denial, though Janet could tell from her
expression that she was turning the words over in her head.
"Maybe," the blonde conceded reluctantly. "I just can’t
help but wish I understood more about the Nox and how they can live in
such harmony with everyone … even the Goa’uld."
Janet sensed the conversation was coming close to a natural stopping
point and she let her tone grow wry. "Well, I would guess that it
might have just a little bit to do with their ability to turn themselves
and their cities invisible. It’s not too hard to maintain peaceful
relations with people who can’t find you to kill you."
She was relieved when a startled laugh greeted that statement.
"You may have a point there."
"Score one for me, "Janet muttered. She wanted to say
something else, but was interrupted by her stomach, which chose that
moment to growl loudly. She felt an embarrassed blush creep across her
face, especially when she saw Sam staring intently at her.
"Sorry," she mumbled, "lunch was entirely too long ago.
She saw a flash of guilt in guileless blue eyes. "And then
instead of getting to come home and eat dinner, you end up having to
debate philosophy with me." Absently, Janet noticed that Sam’s
voice seemed less haunted and more normal than it had been in quite some
time. She was pretty sure the other woman still hadn’t quite come to
terms with her fears and questions; they were too deep to be easily
resolved. But maybe, just maybe, she would find enough peace to be able
to deal with her other demon … namely the nightmares.
A soft voice interrupted her rambling thoughts. "I appreciate
you listening, Janet. I can’t say I don’t still have doubts and
questions … but I feel a lot better now that I’ve been able to
verbalize things." Janet felt her lover’s arms circle her in a
hug and she leaned into it, enjoying the gentle touch.
"Anytime, sweetheart," she said. "I’d much rather
debate philosophy with you than have you feel like you can’t confide
in me. I love you for who you are … and I can’t imagine that ever
changing." Unable to resist teasing the other woman, she pulled out
of the hug and added drolly, "Even if you become a neo-hippie and
walk around saying things like ‘Peace, man.’"
Sam shook her head and rolled her eyes, but managed to retort,
"I’ll have you know that I look good in tie-dye."
Janet merely laughed. "Yes, and we all know that it’s clothes
that make the woman." She stopped laughing a moment later as Sam
leaned in and kissed her. Just a short, sweet kiss, but it felt like
sunshine after rain.
"Seriously, Janet … I want you to know how much that means to
me. And I’m sorry that I hurt you by not telling you what was going
Janet saw the continued flickers of guilt and her tone softened at
the obvious contrition. "I should have known you’d talk to me
when you were ready. I know how you are … I know you need space to
process things. Just …" She trailed off for a moment. "I don’t
want you to be afraid of me. I love you, Sam. Never forget that."
Another soft kiss and a whispered, "I love you too."
After a moment of simply sitting together and drawing strength from
each other, Janet pushed off of the couch and held out a hand to Sam,
helping the other woman to her feet. "I don’t know about
you," she drawled, "but these types of conversations always
work up my appetite."
She smiled as Sam chuckled softly. "Amazing how soul searching
will do that to a person. I think maybe we’d better feed you. I’ll
even buy dinner … since it’s my fault that you’re so hungry."
Janet reached up and brushed an errant lock of blonde hair off her
lover’s forehead. "I’m not going to refuse such a gallant
offer." She stretched up lithely and pressed a kiss to Sam’s
cheek. "You’re going to be ok, you know," she said
impulsively, not even sure why she felt the need to say anything."
"I know," Sam replied thoughtfully.
She looked up into her lover’s face, seeing the gleam in blue eyes
that always heralded a new idea or a solution to a puzzle. Not bothering
with the niceties of conversation, Janet asked simply, "What?"
Despite the still-present spectre of nightmares, she felt the last of
her worries about her lover lift from her heart as Sam said softly,
"Maybe the cycle of violence ends when the only people left with
guns are the ones who want to put them down."
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