"Damn," Janet Fraiser hissed as she got a look through the observation panel in the door to the isolation room. Captain Samantha Carter was rolling on the floor with her cellmate, Lieutenant Plumber, both of them free of their restraints, their expressions twisted in feral rage. Inhuman growls and snarls echoed from inside the small room, rattling the reinforced door. She threw the bolt, already calling to the ward attendants. "We've got a fight in here! We need to get them apart!"
Whatever the disease running rampant through the SGC, it was fast turning the better part of the staff into primitive hominids. A marine had been the first to evidence the affliction, attacking Teal'c during a debriefing, then there'd been a fight in C section, then Carter had sexually attacked Colonel O'Neill, who'd turned around and nearly beaten Daniel Jackson to a pulp less than an hour later for asking how Carter was doing. And more personnel were being brought in all the time, their hormone levels all over the map, violent, out of control, threatening, often highly sexualized. Some were even manifesting physical characteristics of primitive humans; heavier brow ridges, thickening bones, and new hair growth. Just another day in the SGC. On duty only a few weeks and already she'd seen more new medical conditions than during the last five years of her career.
The ward attendants leapt past her as she flung the door open, grabbing for their patients. They were both big men, well used to handling struggling bodies, but they could barely get their hands on either of the violently thrashing women. Even with heavy sedatives in their systems, they were inhumanly strong and fast.
"Look out!" Fraiser shouted in warning as she realized that Plumber had a sharp shard of metal -- a bed stay yanked loose from one of the cots by the look of it -- in her hand. She stabbed furiously at Carter and there was a splash of blood. The blond struck back with a roar of fury, bashing her fist into Plumber's jaw, dazing the other woman enough to let the men get their hands on her, then rolled free. "Go!" Fraiser ordered the attendants when they hauled Plumber to her feet between them.
Carter was crouched in the far corner of the room, her side bleeding, one hand pressed against the wound, her head down, while Plumber struggled desperately to get at her again, growling incoherently.
"But, Doc'--" one of the men grunted uncertainly, even as Plumber exploded into a fresh round of wild struggles, nearly getting an arm free.
"Get her out of here!" Fraiser shouted impatiently, putting herself between her men and the injured woman, ready to physically block any further fighting. She heard the clang of the door behind her even as she hurried forward, not closely considering Carter's mental condition, only the possibility that the wound was serious. She realized her mistake even as the blond rose amazingly smoothly for someone who'd just been injured, and straight armed her into the wall hard enough to knock the air from her lungs. "Sam?" she gasped, head tipping back on her shoulders as her gaze lifted to meet vivid blue eyes. There was nothing familiar in that gaze now, just something hungry and feral.
Carter's mouth twitched and she growled very softly, the sound low in her throat. Janet froze as the taller woman leaned closer, frowning and sniffing softly. Her eyes slid past a well-muscled shoulder to the closed door. No telling how long it might be before the men returned. As wild as Plumber had been it could easily be several minutes. And, like her, they'd made the mistake of forgetting that Carter wasn't Carter any more or perhaps they'd simply assumed the captain was too seriously hurt to be a threat. Either way, they'd all made a serous miscalculation. Again, the sound of sniffing, leaving Janet to wonder how sensitive the disease had left the blond's olfactory senses. It had already altered strength and sanity, was even showing signs of changing her bone structure. Increasing the acuity of those senses more important to an animal wasn't an outrageous possibility in light of that. Not good, since, having just come from checking on the colonel, she probably had O'Neill's scent all over her. Carter had already tried to lay sexual claim to her superior -- she tensed as the captain sniffed the air near her hair -- if she was feeling possessive....
"Captain Carter ... Sam," Janet whispered soothingly, using the woman's first name in hopes of reaching the submerged, civilized part of her. "You know me. It's Janet Fraiser. I'm your doctor."
A flicker of a frown touched the other woman's brow, and she pulled back slightly to study this new interloper into her domain, but made no move to attack.
"I'm trying to help you," Janet continued, keeping her voice low and calm. She started to edge sideways, hoping to step around the other woman. Before she could move more than an inch, a hand landed against the wall, Carter's arm blocking her way. Janet swallowed a yelp of surprise and looked back up at the taller woman, startled by the odd smile the curved her mouth. "Sam?" she tried again, "I know you don't want to hurt me."
All language apparently lost now, Carter made no effort to reply, just continued to watch Fraiser like a cat playing with a mouse. Janet turned her head, looking the other direction. As if responding to that small gesture, Sam's other hand flashed out, bracing against the wall and pinning the doctor in place. Janet had a vague sense of something gripped in the other woman's hand, but didn't spare it any attention, too busy trying to figure out the best way to reach her.
"Captain ... please remove your arm," Janet whispered breathlessly, intensely aware of the difference in height and strength between them. Even under normal circumstances, Carter was bigger and stronger, but now.... "This isn't you ... but I know you're in there."
She gasped an instant later as the hand braced against the wall immediately to her left shifted, finding her hair, long fingers working through the loose strands, toying with them. After a moment, Carter tugged hard enough to pull her head back, the gesture neither gentle nor brutal, but simply an application of the force necessary to attain the desired result. Blue eyes ran over her face, studying soft features and full lips before lifting to lock with her darker gaze. A low, husky growl echoed from the blond's chest, and then Janet barely had time to grab a breath as she was suddenly thrust against the wall, pinned there by rock hard muscle, her mouth covered with raw ferocity, the kiss anything but erotic. Lifted off the ground by the force of the onslaught, she got an arm between them, hand braced against Carter's chest while she kicked desperately. Neither effort made an impression on the primitive version of the captain. A knee ground against her body, bruising her inner thigh until she had no doubt that if she couldn't put a stop this quickly, she was in serious trouble. She tried to push the other woman back, but it was hopeless, Carter was too much stronger and she grabbed Janet's wrist, easily pinning it at the small of her back.
"No," Janet gasped desperately as she twisted her mouth free.
The blond growled low in her throat, using superior size and strength to pin Janet against the length of her body. "Mine," she whispered the single word with obvious effort, her voice rough and guttural, her eyes ferally intense. She was an animal bent on conquering and possessing the creature in her territory by asserting sexual dominance.
And since there was no way Janet could overpower her the way O'Neill had, that really only left one option. Total submission. Not an idea that appealed in any way, but the only choice. Like an animal rolling and showing its belly, she went limp in the imprisoning hold, no longer fighting the kiss or trying to twist free. A beat passed and then rough hands gentled fractionally, no longer bruising, though they maintained a firm grip. Carter's mouth softened, her insistence leaving Fraiser little choice but to allow the intimate invasion in order to maintain the act. Janet tasted her captor's low, aroused growl and felt the heat of her body from head to toe. It wasn't pleasurable, but there was an unwanted kind of primitive sensuality. "Please," she groaned through the wild kiss, muscles straining again, this time pressing closer, needing the other woman to believe she'd surrendered completely.
"Yesss," Sam growled, convinced she had won this new mate. She broke the kiss, finding the pulse point just beneath the curve of the smaller woman's jaw and biting softly, tasting her prisoner's rapidly throbbing heartbeat.
Janet twisted the hand pinned at her back and felt Carter release her harsh grip. She twitched as the blond shifted her hand to spread it against her upper back, her touch oddly gentle, then the lips at her throat trailed up, returning to the possessive kiss. Mentally apologizing, she moved her newly freed hand to the other woman's injured side, praying she didn't do any additional damage, but knowing she had no real choice. She had to stop the captain for both their sakes. And if she'd been in her right mind, Carter would have agreed ... which was some small comfort.
Janet punched hard, tasting the gasp of pain Sam let out in the punishing kiss and feeling powerful muscles ripple. A growl of raw rage echoed in her ears and she felt a blast of hot pain across her midsection as she realized Carter had Plumber's makeshift weapon in hand and had slashed it across her side just under her ribs. She got both hands between them and shoved hard, grateful when the blow upended the injured woman and sent her tumbling.
For a moment, both women froze, staring at each other, both bleeding and confused. Janet saw Sam's eyes drop and she followed her intense gaze. The blond was staring at the crimson stain spreading around the wound she'd just inflicted. The captain's thickened brow drew into a frown, her mouth working and then she looked up, blue eyes meeting the doctor's dark brown gaze. Janet experienced a flood of relief as she recognized something familiar in Carter's expression; a look of disbelief and horror. Moving slowly, the blond pushed to her knees, one hand reaching out as if to touch, but she didn't make contact, just shook her head dazedly.
The were still frozen in that strange tableau when the door suddenly pushed open to reveal the returning ward attendants.
"Doctor?" the first of the men questioned, his eyes widening when he saw the splash of blood on her uniform.
"I'm all right, but--"
Startled by their arrival, Carter instantly reverted to feral mode, rising and turning in one smooth move, snarling angrily as she braced herself protectively in front of her chosen mate.
The ward attendants didn't wait for further orders. They'd already seen how violent the afflicted patients could get and their superior was clearly injured. They fell on the captain together, grabbing her wildly flailing arms. She struggled desperately, but despite the strength and ferocity granted to her by the disease, pain and injury had slowed her responses and weakened her considerably. She left a few bruises and drew a few grunts of pain, but wasn't strong or fast enough to escape.
Janet pushed away from the wall where she'd half fallen. "Be careful!" she ordered as the men hauled the growling woman to her feet. She shook her head, fighting her own pain and dizziness. "Get her on a gurney and strapped and down! We need to treat that wound!" She was surprised by the flash of guilt she experienced when confused blue eyes swung her way and Carter's mouth worked soundlessly as though she sensed something was very wrong, but had no way of understanding.
Janet fell back against the much needed support of the wall, dazed by the bizarre chain of events, painfully aware of the throbbing ache in her side. The ward attendants hauled Carter out and a moment later a nurse hurried in, her expression worried.
"Andy said you were hurt."
She nodded shakily, still breathless. She didn't resist as gloved hands gently peeled her hands back from the gash in her side, biting back on a whimper. "It's not that bad. Just a shallow laceration."
"Deep enough that you shouldn't be on your feet," the nurse said, leaning down to get a better look in the poor light.
Janet rolled her eyes. "Since I'm the only doctor left who's still more or less centered in the twentieth century, that's not a choice. We'll do tape sutures and bandage it ... add a local and some pain meds, and I'll be fine." She straightened fractionally, shaking off some of the emotional haze, if not the physical pain.
"If you say so." The older woman sounded doubtful.
"I do," Fraiser insisted more firmly. "I want you to get Adams started cleaning Carter's wound, then give me a hand with this." That was all the concern she showed her own condition before she was again worried about Carter. "I don't think she's hurt very badly ... but it looked like she probably needs sutures and I'll need to do that." She reached up, rubbing her temple. "And send someone to my quarters. I've got a spare uniform there...."
"Yes ma'am." The nurse disappeared, hurrying to do as told, while Janet remained where she was, breathing slowly and deeply to control the leftover panic still throbbing through her in the aftermath. She glanced at her watch, noting the time. Daniel Jackson and the alien, Mister Teal'c were due back at any time with the blood sample from the Land of Light, and she needed to be back on the ball by then.
* * * * * *
Sam Carter ruffled her still damp hair, combing it back where it fell across her eyes. SG-1 had been back from the Land of Light just over an hour, just long enough for the medics to check the team for any sign of the Goa'uld before she grabbed a quick shower. The summons to return to the infirmary had gone out over the loudspeakers and she'd arrived to find Doctor Davis intent on checking the wound in her side. Luckily, the same process that had altered, then reverted bone and muscle had also reknit damaged flesh, and she'd been left with little more than a reddened area and some mild tenderness where the knife wound had been.
"Looks good," the doctor pronounced as she taped a fresh gauze pad in place.
Sam shrugged back into her shirt. "I suppose turning into Wilma Flintstone has its positive aspects then," she muttered, then glanced around. "I guess Fraiser's down in the lab," she said by way of a question. She knew the doctor had been responsible for the cure and wanted to let her know how effective it had been personally, as well as offer some insights on what they'd seen on P3X-797 that she thought might aid their efforts to work with the leaders in the Land of Light.
Davis looked up. "No, actually. She was pretty wiped out, so General Hammond sent her home an hour or two after SG-1 left for P3X-797."
Sam's brows lifted. She wouldn't have expected the doctor to leave until she knew the outcome of the situation. "Oh. I figured she'd see things through."
Davis looked up from Sam's chart. "She wanted to. In fact, General Hammond had to order her to leave, but it was obvious she really needed to get off her feet. The meds were wearing off and her side was really hurting."
"Her side?" Sam frowned in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
It was the doctor's turn to look surprised. "Oh ... I assumed you knew, Captain. She was wounded. It wasn't very serious, but she's off duty for the next few days."
Sam's breath caught. "I-I hadn't heard." She'd seen the other woman before they'd left for the Land of Light and she'd seemed okay. "What happened?"
"She was stabbed during a confrontation with a patient. Since she was the only doctor on base unaffected by the disease, she got the nurses to tape her up, popped enough pain meds to flatten a moose, and kept going, but she was in no shape to keep it up at some point."
"She's okay though?" Sam questioned, worried for the other woman. That damn disease had gotten so many people hurt, most of them at the hands of friends and colleagues. It was only pure luck no one had been killed considering some of the fights that had taken place.
"She should be fine," Davis assured Sam. "According to what I was told the wound wasn't life threatening. Warner considered keeping her overnight but decided not to, so the general had someone drive her home."
"That's just nuts," Carter exhaled heavily. "Thank god she's okay." She looked back up at the doctor, torn between feeling sorry for whoever had done the deed and was doubtless suffering from a hefty guilt load, and resentment that they'd lost all control that way. "Who did it?"
Davis looked uncomfortable, staring at Sam as though she couldn't quite decide how to respond. "Well," she exhaled at last, while Sam glared at her impatiently, "it's just that it's not that simple...."
"Who did it?" Sam repeated, wondering who Davis was trying to protect.
The young staff physician flinched. "Actually ... Captain ... um ... well ... you did...."
* * * * * *
Her heart in her throat, Sam stood on the front porch of the pleasant little, ranch style house listed as Janet Fraiser's local address. It was in a good neighborhood, the trees old and offering considerable shade, the lawns well kept, a few children out playing as dusk fell. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to calm herself, uncertain what she intended to say. After all, 'Hi, I apparently stabbed you earlier today, and I'd just like to offer my apologies,' seemed surreal at best.
She almost turned on her heel and left, but caught herself. "Chicken," she muttered and ran a hand over her hair, nervously smoothing any disarrayed strands. She reached for the doorbell before she could think better of it, brain threatening to freeze up as she heard the muffled sound of chimes in the house. A moment passed and then another. Sam shifted from foot to foot, suddenly worrying that maybe the doctor was hurt, possibly bleeding. Maybe she shouldn't have been released on her own. Had her wound reopened? Was she lying somewhere, too weakened by blood loss to call for help? Sam hit the bell again, bouncing nervously on the balls of her feet as she waited. She glanced at the windows on either side of the front door, noting they were wide enough to get through and not barred. It would be easy enough to wrap her jacket around her forearm, then break the window out. She hit the bell again, then nearly ran for it when a very annoyed reply came back, only slightly muffled by the door.
"Goddammit, I'm coming."
Sam heard the sound of the lock being thrown and would have fled if she'd had even a prayer of making it. Before she could move her feet though, the door opened to the width of a safety chain, a cross demand following almost immediately.
"What do you want..." Janet Fraiser trailed off on the last word, eyes going wide where she peered through the narrow crack in the door. "Oh ... Captain Carter," she said, surprised by her visitor's identity. She pushed the door closed again and for the briefest second Sam thought it was a brush off, then she heard the sound of the chain being removed. A second later, the door opened wide enough to reveal the woman standing on the other side, her hair tousled, looking pale and wan. She was wearing a knee length robe, the cloth belt hanging untied from loops at the waist -- probably because tying it would put pressure on her injury, Sam realized -- one hand holding it together loosely in front. She eyed Sam a little uncertainly. "I ... uh ... what can I do for you?"
Sam hooked a thumb over her shoulder, indicating the general direction of the base. "I just got off duty ... got back from P3X-797 -- the Land of Light," she clarified. She didn't really have a plan for what she was going to say and even if she had, she probably would have forgotten it. Guilt tended to wipe out any coherent thought processes where Sam was concerned. "I thought you'd want to know your cure worked. We found Daniel and convinced the Untouched that we can help the Touched."
Fraiser nodded. "I know." At Sam's blank look, she added, "General Hammond called and briefed me just after you got back. He knew I was worried."
"Ah." A moment of uncomfortable silence followed and Sam's eyes dropped as though her shoes had become profoundly interesting. It was oddly comforting when she risked a glance up and caught something of the same emotions reflected in the doctor's expression. Now, if she just had some idea how to say what she knew she ought to ... but the words wouldn't come. "Well, I guess I should go then," she mumbled at last and took a hesitant step backward. She started to turn away, well aware of the dark gaze watching her the entire time, then pivoted back, shaking her head. "No ... I didn't ... I didn't just come for that," she babbled, then took a calming breath, half afraid the other woman was going to think she was still one of the Touched soon if she didn't show a few signs of coherency. "I found out what happened from Doctor Davis... that I stabbed you while I was out of it," she explained, stumbling to a halt as she finished.
"Ah," Fraiser exhaled. "That." She closed her eyes, calming the brief moment of instinctive fear -- not of Carter, but of the possible side effects of what had happened. She reminded herself that she was the only one who knew about the sexual nature of the attack since it had been apparent earlier that Carter had no memory of the event, she hadn't told anyone, and the cameras she'd ordered installed in the observation rooms as part of the upgrade weren't operational yet. Thank God, because no matter the cause of things, if others knew, the gossip would be hell on both of them. The Air Force just loved a titillating rumor.
Sam nodded, noticing the other woman's tension, but chalking it up to the difficulty of the situation and the doctor's obvious exhaustion. "I didn't even know it had happened until she told me about it. I just wanted to check and make sure everything's okay ... see if there's anything you need...." She stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets just to have something to do with them. "I hope you know I would never knowingly do anything like that."
Janet stared up at the woman standing on her front porch, taking in her restless energy and guilty look. "I know that, Sam," she assured her. None of what had happened had anything to do with the real Captain Samantha Carter anymore than any of the other incidents had to do with those people's real personalities. The sexual aspects were simply another side effect. Unfortunately, they were one that society deemed more uncomfortable than the violent ones. "You weren't yourself. No one who was affected was. There were incidents all over the base. I think we all need to just write it all off and forget about it." That was definitely her plan.
"I know," Sam admitted, "but I just needed to make sure you're okay and let you know that I'm sorry ... I really don't normally go around stabbing people."
"Actually, it was more of a slashing motion," Janet corrected before she could think better of it.
"Ah God," Sam groaned, her tone making Janet flinch. "I'm so sorry." She ran a hand through her hair, suddenly realizing it was trembling as she did so. She just couldn't stop thinking about the fact that she could have killed someone.
"Don't," Janet said instantly, releasing the front of her robe to hold her hand out in a halting motion. "Don't beat yourself up about it. I know you didn't mean it ... or rather that you didn't even do it." She sighed softly. "This thing just brought out everyone's most aggressive instincts. None of what happened was real ... just a nasty byproduct of hormones and whatever." She waved her hand in an airy gesture, then suddenly had to grip the doorframe tightly as the world tilted on its axis.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked instantly, stepping forward, ready to catch the other woman when she looked like she just might go down.
Head down, eyes tightly closed, Janet nodded. "Warner did a few stitches before he released me ... and the local is wearing off." She straightened carefully, still holding onto the doorframe while she decided whether or not the earth beneath her feet was going to stay right where it was. "When I moved my arm on that side it pulled them a bit ... just got a little woozy for a moment." She brought her hand down, then tried to decide if that was such a good idea when things spun even faster.
Sam reached out, curling a supportive hand to the other woman's elbow, making sure to reach for the arm on the side she wasn't favoring. Janet responded by gripping her forearm tightly, steadying herself. "Shouldn't you be in bed?" Sam suggested gently.
"Actually, I was in on the couch, watching the news," the doctor mumbled. "The bed needs making and I wasn't quite up to it." In fact, the mere contemplation of trying to get the sheets in place had left her in a cold sweat. Instead she'd opted to use her limited energy to replace her uniform with comfortable nightclothes that didn't put any pressure on her tightly bandaged side and collapse on the couch. It had seemed like the best choice at the time.
"Okay," Sam said gently without releasing her hold. She didn't even bother to debate, just took command of the situation. "Let's just get you off your feet and then I'll see to the bed." Her touch careful, she urged the smaller woman back inside, keeping the hand on her elbow and holding the other one close, but not quite touching her upper back, ready to offer more support if needed but hesitant to touch if not, lest she add some new hurt.
"No, I'll get it," Janet insisted dazedly. "I just need to sit down for a few minutes." Sit down, clear her head, take it easy. Or maybe just sleep on the couch. It was deep, comfortable, and more than long enough.
Sam kicked the front door shut and reached back to throw the bolt. "Which way?" Janet made a vague gesture to the left and Sam eased her that way, raising an eyebrow when the short hallway opened out into a nice sized livingroom that contained more packing boxes than furniture.
"I haven't really had much time to unpack," Fraiser explained, clearly embarrassed, "what the with upgrade to the infirmary, and all of the reports to read, and everything I've had to--"
"Don't worry about it," Sam interrupted. There was a comfortable looking couch against one wall, facing an entertainment center that was empty except for a small TV apparently on mute. "Things have been busy lately." She carefully helped the doctor, experiencing a fresh wave of guilt when the other woman couldn't hide a pained flinch as she sat. "Are you sure you're all right? I can take you back to the SGC. Get your stitches checked. Make sure there's no problem." The words tumbled out quickly, nervous guilt making her babble. "Maybe you should spend a night or two in the infirmary."
"I'm fine ... just a little sore." Janet waved the suggestion off, then gathered her robe around herself. "And a little tired. It's been a long day." The brunette leaned back on the couch, closing her eyes and consciously relaxing. She shifted in an effort to make herself more comfortable only to wince as the movement pulled at the fresh stitches in her side.
Sam crouched down, watching the doctor carefully. "Are you sure you're okay?" The doctor really didn't look good to her eyes and Sam was terrified she'd done real damage.
A flicker of a taut smile touched full lips. "I'm fine. I just haven't taken anything for the pain and I'm feeling it a little."
Sam rested a hand lightly on Janet's knee, still watching her worriedly. "Okay ... just tell me where your medication is and I'll get it for you."
Janet shook her head. "No ... it's not that I couldn't get it. I just don't like taking anything harder hitting than aspirin when I'm alone." She made a small, embarrassed gesture with one hand. "Just a personal thing."
"But you're obviously in pain--" Sam said hesitantly.
"It's not that bad," Fraiser said, though a tiny groan belied the denial. Her eyes slid open once again. "It's just a minor personal thing," she demurred, trying to push the subject aside, but Sam continued staring at her anxiously until she felt compelled to explain, "I've had problems with paranoia the time or two I've had to take narcotics. It's not so bad if there are people around, but alone...." She shook her head, dismissing the notion. "It's just not a good idea."
Sam paused, absorbing the small confession. "Okay," she said after a beat, "then I'll stay."
The doctor blinked, staring owlishly at Sam. "What?"
"I'll stay," Carter repeated. "I can sleep on the couch. That way you're safe to take whatever you need." It seemed like the obvious answer to her. "And if you have a problem, there'll be someone here to help." She felt more comfortable with that idea anyway, since she was far from certain the other woman should be left alone and she knew for a fact that she'd never get over the guilt if anything else happened to her.
Janet shook her head, waving the idea off. "I can't ask you to do that."
Sam squeezed the knee under her hand lightly. "You aren't asking, I'm offering. Besides, all things considered, it's the least I can do."
"I appreciate the offer, but--"
"It's not up for discussion," Sam cut her off. "I'm staying." She patted the doctor's knee lightly, the gesture meant to calm and soothe and was startled when the other woman tensed ever so slightly. "I'm guessing you've got whatever pain meds you need here, so just tell me where they are and I'll get them for you, then tell me where the sheets are and I'll make your bed."
Janet drew breath to refuse, startled by her own sudden tension. She wasn't afraid of the other woman, but there was an unwanted awareness that was uncomfortable at best. Her eyes dropped, falling on the hand resting on her knee, reminded suddenly of the ugly bruise lying only a few inches higher on her inner thigh and how it had gotten there. No, it wasn't Samantha Carter who had done that, but.... "I don't think--" she began, but Carter interrupted firmly.
"I repeat, it's not up for discussion." Sam rose easily, her decision made. "Now, where are your meds?"
A soft sigh and then Janet gestured toward a short corridor. "There's a prescription in the kitchen ... the tall cabinet. There are glasses there too." Warner had insisted on sending the pills home with her even though she'd been equally insistent that she wouldn't take them.
"Do you need to eat with it?" Sam had had enough injuries and taken enough pain pills to know the drill.
"There's a box of crackers on the counter. A couple of those'll do fine."
A couple of minutes later, Janet tossed a pill back, taking a long gulp of water to wash it down before handing the glass back to Sam.
"Okay," the captain said softly, noting the way the doctor's eyelids were already tending to float. "Why don't you lie down while I take care of your bed." Considering the condition Fraiser was already in, Sam expected the drugs to hit fast and hard.
Janet nodded, lying down on the couch. "The sheets are folded on the mattress. I just didn't have time to get to it this morning...." She thought about it for a moment, then corrected herself, "I mean, yesterday morning."
"Don't worry about it. I was doing military corners before I was out of diapers." Sam laughed softly. "One of the side effects of having a general for a father."
Janet snuggled a little deeper into the couch, sighing heavily. "Personally, I was never all that fond of military corners. I like my beds a little messy." It occurred to her that the pain meds were already starting to do their thing, dulling the ache in her side and her brain along with it. Or maybe she was just relaxing and feeling a little safer with someone else there to look after things.
"Then I promise I'll make it a little messy," Sam assured her. She just wanted to make sure the other woman was comfortable and safe. Hopefully that would alleviate some of the guilt.
"I hate it when the sheets are so tight, they make a quarter bounce," Janet added, her tone a little whiny.
"No bouncing quarters ... scout's honor, but I think I'd better go take care of that before you pass out right here." The doctor's eyelids kept slipping closed and snapping open again as she struggled against sleep, while there was a general bonelessness settling over her small frame. Already exhausted and weakened, her stomach nearly empty, her system was absorbing the drugs quickly.
Ten minutes later, Sam tugged a comforter up over the limp woman. Fraiser lay sprawled half on her uninjured side and half on her stomach, head buried in a pillow, one hand resting on the mattress near her head. Unless Sam was vastly mistaken, she'd been asleep the moment her head hit the pillow. She was just turning to leave when a fine boned hand lifted off the mattress, tapered fingers waving in the general direction of the door.
"There's a spare pillow and blankets in the hall closet," Janet said, her voice muffled by the press of sheets and pillows. A moment later, she was snoring very softly.
Shaking her head, Sam left the bedroom door open so she could hear if there was a problem, then slipped out.
* * * * * * *
She was a feral animal once again, lean and hungry, thinking in terms of sights and smells rather than words, enraged at the creatures who had denied her freedom then locked an interloper into the minimal territory she'd claimed as her own. She roared furiously, clawing wildly to escape from the restraints, rage adding to her already brutal power, even as the challenger did the same. Then they were both free, fighting desperately, each trying to gain the upper hand, a flash of pain and more interlopers into her domain. She roared again, rolling away from the fight, hand pressed against the pain in her side. When she looked up again there was only one outsider, small and delicate, with a scent of fear and flowers hanging about her. The newcomer made no aggressive motions but she attacked anyway, slamming the small body into the wall, staring down into eyes that were wide and frightened. There was another scent there as well. The male she had nearly claimed, but there was no tinge of arousal to the smell, no sense that they were anything to each other. She was glad ... not because of the male. He'd been convenient, but nothing more than that. But this one, she was more. It was the animal in her that blocked the small female's escape, playing with her, testing her. Despite her fear, the female stayed calm, her voice low and unchallenging, recognizing her position and offering no threat; facing the obvious bravely.
"Captain Carter ... Sam."
Yes, she was Sam. She knew that. Though words had little meaning to her now, that one did. She was Sam, and this small, copper haired female was hers now. She reached out, touching fiery hair, slipping her fingers through the softness, taking pleasure from her property. Like any animal, she simply laid claim by virtue of strength and desire, pulling the smaller woman to her, taking what she suddenly wanted with a wild kind of desperation. Her chosen fought, the small body struggling against her superior strength and she felt a kind of pride. The female was small, but her body was warm and supple, and there was surprising strength in her compactly muscled frame.
"Mine," Sam whispered the single word, struggling to summon even that much spoken language, but intent that her chosen understand her fate. She controlled any struggles, overcoming them until the tide turned and the small female went limp in her hold. She kissed hungrily, tasting the flavor of heat and need as well as the subtle flicker of want beneath the submission. The hand she held pinned at the small of her chosen's back twisted, seeking freedom. Sam's side was hurting, but she ignored the pain, the feral drive for satisfaction pressing her onward. She knew with an eerie kind of certainty that once she'd laid claim to this mate she could relax and trust her to stand watch -- just like she knew that the surrender was feigned; a final bid to regain her freedom and deny the thing between them. She clamped down harder on the wrist gripped in powerful fingers, releasing soft lips to taste the smooth curve of a fine jaw, lips and teeth leaving a small bruise there, marking the female as her own. Resistance returned in an instant as her chosen came alive, fighting desperately in a last ditch effort.
Hard muscles tightened and Sam grunted as she heaved them both away from the wall, lifting her mate and carrying her along. Her knees hit the edge of the cot on one wall and she dropped the weight in her hands, coming down on top of her chosen, powerful hands containing flailing struggles with ease. She pinned fine- boned hands over their heads with one hand, then tore at buttons and fabric, caring nothing for such intricacies. She drank from soft lips again, then dragged her mouth down, tasting throat, shoulder and finally a rounded breast. By the time Sam lifted her head again, she'd left her mark on the female's breast, another reminder of her ownership. "Mine," she whispered again, free hand sliding over warm curves, then tasted her mate's low groan as she reclaimed her mouth. Silk and damp fire greeted her touch, sweet breath filling her mouth as she drank in a low groan of genuine submission. The female was hers now, surrendered and possessed, bodies twined and bound together. She lost her grip on one slender hand, then felt sharp nails digging into her back, the edges leaving furrows in her flesh, sending flares of pain and arousal through her veins. They were wild and feral, both out of control, their passion raw and bestial.
"Mine," Sam growled again, then felt her body explode as she heard the single word.
Sam Carter awoke with a gasp, her heart racing, breathing ragged. She was bathed in sweat, her hands trembling. Body still caught in the aftermath of the dream, she stared around herself with wide eyes, hunting for, but not finding, familiar landmarks. It took a moment for her to remember. She was in Janet Fraiser's house, sleeping on her couch. Sam ran a shaking hand through her hair, combing damp strands back from her face.
And she'd just dreamed about all but raping the woman. God, what if....
She couldn't finish the thought.
Sam sat up and let her head fall forward into her hands, rubbing her eye sockets as she struggled to clear her head. She only had a few sketchy memories of the hours when the infection had turned her into a primitive creature, most of them a sensory haze of scents, sounds and sensations that were nearly impossible for a modern brain to decode and make sense of, but there was nothing remotely close to matching the bestial eroticism of the dream. It couldn't have happened. She'd know if she'd done something like that.
Then again she hadn't known about hurting Fraiser. When Davis told her, it had come as a total surprise, and even knowing, she hadn't even the faintest flicker of a memory. It was a case of knowing but not knowing.
What if something like that had happened? She'd attacked the colonel. It was only pure luck he'd been strong enough to contain her. What if she'd attacked Fraiser as well? She was bigger and probably stronger than the other woman under normal conditions. With the virus in her system, Fraiser wouldn't have stood much chance.
Sam shook her head sharply in denial. She wouldn't have....
But it had felt so damn real ... hauntingly, achingly real. Her body still throbbed with unasked for -- and unwanted -- arousal and her hands flexed as though she was still touching silken hair and velvet skin. Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It couldn't be real. If nothing else, Janet Fraiser would never have submitted to her own assault that way. And if anything like that had happened, she would never have allowed Sam through her front door.
No, it couldn't be real; just the conjurings of a subconscious mind still reeling from the aftermath of the reversion and trying to make sense of too many confusing, disparate impressions.
She pinched the bridge of her nose tightly between thumb and forefinger, trying to forget the rest of the nightmare as well, but unable to banish her primitive dream-self's confidence that submission wasn't merely a matter of sexual conquest but of mating and bonding. She'd been eerily certain that once she had that moment of surrender, she had everything ... that she could trust the other woman completely at that point.
Which was just nuts; the stuff of bad bodice rippers. Sam inhaled deeply and exhaled heavily. Clearly, it hadn't happened. It was just a subconscious phantom. Not worth worrying about. Psychologists explained away far stranger dreams under less stressful circumstances every day.
Yet, despite all of the mental reassurances, an edge of fear remained and her fingers continued to tingle with the sensory memory of the texture of hair and skin, the shape of smooth curves and the play of taut muscle.
She was still sitting there, trying desperately not to think about things when something clinked in the kitchen. Not a normal house sound and the doctor was still asleep in her room as far as she knew. Sam was up and moving in an instant, oddly relieved to have something other than her own thoughts to concentrate on. Bare footed, but otherwise dressed, she padded toward the kitchen as she heard another soft sound. Sharp eyes scanned the darkened room in search of something to use as a weapon and came up with nothing. Fine then. Sam had fought bare handed before. If that was what it took, she was more than capable.
Moving on light feet, she stepped up to the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house. There was a dim light glowing through the crack under the door. Not a primary light source, but something small; maybe the light over the stove. Sam's teeth gritted. She'd raided the kitchen earlier and made sure everything was shut off when she was finished. She braced her hand against the door, careful not to make a sound as she eased it open. She caught a glimpse of a shadowed figure in the dimly lit room and moved, her stride fast and sure, grabbing for a shoulder and pulling her other fist back to strike, even as she recognized the slightness and delicacy of her target's build.
Janet let out a startled yelp and spun, staring up at Sam through luminous eyes.
Sam froze, then dropped her fist to her side as she realized what she'd nearly done. "Janet," she whispered breathlessly. Almost instantly she heard a low groan and the doctor bent nearly double, bracing a hand against her injured side as though it had taken a moment for the pain of the sudden movement to catch up with her. "Oh God, I'm sorry," she said instantly and reached out to help the other woman. A hand clamped tightly onto her arm as Fraiser steadied herself. "I heard a sound and thought you were a burglar."
Fraiser took a deep breath, then slowly straightened. "I don't think there's anything that valuable in my refrigerator," she muttered when she could breathe again. "Actually, I don't think there's much of anything in my refrigerator."
"It is pretty barren," Sam had to agree. Her efforts at scrounging had been more than a little disappointing and she'd come up nearly empty handed.
The doctor leaned back against the counter, concentrating on catching her breath as she answered distantly. "Truthfully, I'm not much into cooking and while I keep meaning to go grocery shopping, it's like the unpacking ... just keeps getting delayed," she panted, then shook her head as the surreal nature of the comment occurred to her.
"Did you tear anything?" Sam questioned worriedly, food forgotten as she ran her eyes over the other woman, hunting for any signs of blood that might indicate freshly opened stitches..
Janet shook her head, breathing more easily as the shock and pain drained away. "I don't think so. It didn't hurt enough for that. Just twinged ... I was mostly just startled." She lifted her head, shaking off the brief bout of dizziness.
Sam heaved a sigh of relief, head tipping back on her shoulders. "Shouldn't you be in bed?" she exhaled on a complaining note.
"I was getting another pill," Fraiser explained, gesturing toward the prescription bottle sitting next to an empty glass on the counter. "The first one's pretty well worn off and I couldn't sleep." Her side was throbbing, the recent jarring only increasing the ache. "I was just going to get some water to take it with."
Sam reached past the doctor, pulling the refrigerator door open and grabbing for the gallon water jug that was nearly the only thing inside to pour a healthy measure into the glass. "You said you sometimes have a problem with narcotics," she said as she watched the other woman toss a pill back and wash it down. "How are you doing this time?"
Fraiser shrugged. "A little jittery and tense when I woke up, but not too bad." Just knowing she wasn't alone in the house had been surprisingly effective at chasing off the worst of her paranoia. She took another swallow of water. "Not freaking out or anything, so you can go home. I'm fine." She had no desire to be alone again, but independence and a native hesitance to impose on others made her try and send Carter on her way.
Sam shook her head, watching the other woman carefully and noting her pallor and shakiness even in the faint light cast by the lamp over the stove. "We'll see how you're feeling in the morning."
Janet froze for a moment, startled by the note of determination in the other woman's voice. "Do you always personally look after wounded colleagues?" she asked dryly.
Sam shrugged, resting a hand lightly on Fraiser's shoulder, urging her toward the door. "Only when I'm the one who wounded them," she responded practically.
"That wasn't your fault," Janet murmured, allowing herself to be pushed along. "The virus turned you into someone else."
Reminded of the dream, Sam frowned. "How did it happen?" She wasn't sure she really wanted to know and her reticence showed in her tone. Tension rippled through the shoulder under her hand. Unwanted, an image of the doctor's body trapped beneath her own flashed in her head, and she found herself praying there was nothing to dream for so many reasons, not the least of them the fact that the thought of hurting the other woman made her stomach turn.
Janet took a deep breath, ignoring the fresh flutter of pain caused by expanding her chest. Best to do what she'd already done and stick as closely as possible to the truth while leaving out certain details. "It happened after your fight with Plumber. You were hurt and I stayed when the attendants got her out...."
A chill slid down Sam's spine. That was dangerously close to the beginnings of her dream.
"Not my best judgment," Fraiser allowed, sticking to the story she'd already given Hammond and the others, "considering your mental state. You tried to go after Plumber and I was in the way. I don't think you even meant to hurt me." That much was true, Janet thought as she remembered the shocked look on the primitive Carter's face. For a brief moment, the woman had almost seemed like herself again.
"You're sure?" Sam whispered, uncertain whether or not she believed the account. It wasn't anything she could prove, but something just felt wrong about the brief explanation.
They reached Janet's bedroom door and she pivoted, peering up at Carter. "I'm sure."
Sam's shoulders dipped as she heaved a heartfelt sigh of relief. A moment passed and she suddenly realized the other woman was staring up her, her head canted to one side. "It's just a little scary not knowing what I've done," she explained without getting specific. Somehow she didn't think a complete accounting of her dream was a good idea. "I was afraid there was more that I didn't remember."
A beat passed, then the doctor shook her head. "No ... nothing."
"Okay then," Sam exhaled, not knowing what else to say. "Just call if you need anything," she said at last, hooking a thumb over her shoulder. "I'll be on the couch."
"Will do," Janet said and started to turn away. There was a small reading lamp on in her bedroom, silhouetting her small frame, but she turned away from Sam, light spilled across her face and the hand that rose to rest lightly on the doorframe.
Sam lost all color as she saw the faint purplish discoloration of bruises, one on the other woman's throat just below the curve of her jaw, the other wrapped around a narrow wrist, the mark almost the exact width of a gripping hand. In a final irony, synapses connected in her brain, sensations flashing in her head as her conscious mind finally dredged up a flicker of memory, the images jerky and vaguely disconnected, like time lapse photography, and overlaid by an awareness of things she normally didn't notice; smells and textures, tastes and sounds. She saw dark, luminous eyes staring up at her, scared and uncertain, smelled the subtle perfume of a woman's body, tasted the faint salt of warm skin as she leaned down, lips and teeth clinging to soft skin. A fine-boned wrist twisted in her grasp, and she released her hold only to feel a blaze of agony that made her react without thinking, bringing her hand around in an arcing sweep. The knife hit cloth and flesh, and she felt the brief resistance before it gave way. A hard shove and she was sent sprawling where she couldn't help but see what she already smelled on the air; a bright splash fresh blood.
Before she even had time to think about it, Sam's hand landed on Fraiser's narrow shoulder, not grabbing or pulling, but just resting there.
Janet froze, every muscle locking in place, sensing the other woman's sudden tension at an unspoken, almost instinctive level.
"It was real," Sam breathed, her voice so soft the doctor could almost believe she hadn't really spoken. She lifted the hand on Janet's shoulder just enough to brush loose hair back until she could see the faint purple shape on her throat again; a bruise she had put there. She could see herself leaving a mark, the shape identical to the faint bruise she was looking at. "I attacked you," she said more firmly after another beat, her voice thick with a complex kind of horror. Nauseous at what she'd done, terrified by what it might mean, she could barely think straight.
"Captain, I--" Janet began, her voice ragged.
"Don't lie," Carter cut her off, eyes gleaming with something akin to anger, though it was impossible to know at whom the emotion was directed. The memory was anything but clear, but it wasn't a dream this time. She could tell the difference between dreams and reality and this was horrifyingly real. She had done it no matter how many lies the doctor designed to hide that fact.
Janet swallowed hard, not knowing what to say. The most recent pill was already starting to catch up with her, making it harder to think and speak coherently. Even at that, she didn't have to ask what Carter meant. Her tone said it all. "Yes," she said at last.
Sam yanked her hand back as though she'd been burned. "Why didn't you...." She couldn't quite finish the sentence and paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. "Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded at last, her voice rough and accusatory.
A moment passed before Janet quietly said, "I didn't tell anyone."
"Dammit, I tried to rape you." Sam dragged a hand through her hair in a frustrated gesture, then began again as a sickening thought occurred to her. "How far did it go? I don't even know." the whole idea made her physically ill.
"It didn't ... didn't go that far," Fraiser insisted unsteadily, gripping the doorframe tightly to stay on her feet. Drugs and adrenaline had the floor dipping unsteadily.
"What happened?" Sam demanded, her voice low and intense as she stared into wide brown eyes, refusing to be put off with another lie. She had to know. The truth couldn't be worse than her fears at that point.
Janet swallowed hard, taking a brief moment to cobble together her fractured thoughts before she began. "It was after the attendants removed Plumber. You weren't hurt as badly as I thought and you came up and cornered me against the wall.... You wouldn't let me go and touched my hair and caught my wrists when I tried to step past you," she recited the account in as flat a tone as possible, using the shield of medical objectivity to hide her own confused emotions. "You stared at me for a moment or two ... and then ... you kissed me," her voice dropped to near inaudible levels for the last phrase, forcing Sam to lean a little closer. "I realized I couldn't fight you the way Colonel O'Neill did, so I went limp ... surrendered."
A sharp gasp and Sam had to grip the doorframe to remain standing, knuckles white as she clung tightly, her hand only a few inches above the doctor's. It was all the same as her dream, which meant.... "And then I--"
"No," Janet said quickly, realizing what Carter thought. "You didn't. I swear." Frightened blue eyes searched her own desperately for the truth. "When I submitted, you freed one of my hands ... and I hit you ... where you were wounded." It was the doctor's turn to look guilty. "You reacted, striking out with Plumber's weapon -- you must have picked it up when she dropped it -- that's when I was cut. I pushed you back, and then the attendants returned and they removed you from the room." She lifted her free hand, resting it lightly on Carter's upper arm. "You scared the hell out of me, but I swear, that's all that happened."
Still reeling, Sam couldn't even look at the other woman. "If you want to press charges, I won't fight them."
"I'm not going to press charges," Janet insisted instantly, sounding outraged by the mere idea.
"I sexually assaulted you," Sam whispered, barely able to say the words. The whole idea made her stomach do barrel rolls.
"No, you were afflicted with a disease that messed with your body chemistry and as a result, you did something you never would have done otherwise ... just like a lot of other people." Janet ran a hand over her hair, dragging tousled bangs back from her forehead. "There were a lot of individual incidents ... a lot ... and close to half were sexually related ... and where possible, we didn't list name or specific events. If I were to press charges against you, I'd have to add another dozen officers to the list ... not the least of them General Hammond, who tried to tackle me onto his desk when I went to give him a progress report."
Startled, Sam looked up. "General Hammond?" she repeated.
Janet flinched. She hadn't meant to let that slip. "Among others ... and I'd appreciate it if you didn't repeat that," she downplayed the terrifying moments when her superior had turned into a masher. Thankfully, two young airmen had been there guarding the door, so it hadn't lasted more than a moment. "What I'm trying to tell you is that it wasn't you any more than that was General Hammond." She sighed heavily, exhaustion and pain killers catching up with her with a vengeance. "As for why I didn't tell you...." She shrugged a little helplessly. "I haven't told most people the gory details of what they did ... just makes for discomfort and conversations like this one...." She was silent for a long moment, carefully considering how to word what she wanted to say. "Added to that, there is the Air Force's stance on certain issues." She made a small annoyed sound in the back of her throat. "But, Sam, what happened wasn't about sex ... it was about power and control. You were an animal, and I was an invader in your territory and you simply used a means of domination. Considering that the cause of your behavior was an external factor, I don't consider that an offense."
Sam winced at the description, eyes sliding closed for a beat to hide her own revulsion and shame.
Janet noted the other woman's pallor, but continued in that same flat, professional tone. "In all honesty, there was also a measure of self defense in my decision. The Air Force runs on gossip," she pointed out practically, "and the sheer titillation of something like that...." She trailed off, shaking her head. "It had nothing to do with reality and yet it would make both our lives a living hell ... the rumors would take months to die out ... and in the meantime, the story would do nothing but grow...." She tipped her head back, eyes sliding closed as she sighed heavily and leaned against the wall. "I don't want to listen to it and I certainly don't want to be a part of it." She shuddered gently, the notion of what the rumor mill would do with the knowledge that Carter had kissed her -- no matter what the reason -- sending chills of raw dread down her spine. They would quickly forget that she'd done much the same to O'Neill and been out to dominate anything and everything in her territory. It would be joked about, smirked at, and become little more than a locker room joke. That would get very ugly, very quickly.
Sam stood absorbing the other woman's words for a long moment. Fraiser had a point ... several of them actually, and she couldn't argue, though a hard ball of guilt remained like a lead weight in the pit of her stomach. "Were we all really that bad?" she asked at last.
Janet nodded, her tone wry as she answered, "I was the belle of the ball there for a while." She shrugged a slim shoulder. "I'm not sure why, but apparently primitive hominids find me very appealing."
Slanting a look at the slender figure leaning against the door jamb, Sam noted the hint of smooth curves visible under the loose folds of her robe, the gentle curve of a velvet cheek and the depths of luminous eyes. It occurred to her that she could have told the other woman what the appeal was, but it seemed unlikely to help a tenuously begun friendship that had already taken one solid hit to trust and comfort. "Who knows?" she asked, changing the subject. She couldn't help but wonder what to expect.
"No one but me ... and now you," Fraiser said, then fell silent, not quite knowing what to say or do next. Finally, she cleared her throat, her voice soft and sincere. She reached out to Carter again and the captain looked down at the hand resting lightly on her forearm, the warmth of soft skin making the hair on her arm prickle with awareness. "There is one thing I didn't lie about, Sam," she said softly, the semi-darkness of the hallway making for an odd kind of intimacy that demanded a certain level of honesty. "I really don't think you were trying to hurt me when you slashed my side."
Sam made a small disbelieving sound in the back of her throat. "I appreciate the fact that you're trying to--" she started to disagree, but the doctor cut her off.
"I'm not," Fraiser cut her off firmly before continuing, "I mean it. I hit you where you were already injured and it must have hurt like hell. You reacted on instinct when you hit back. I don't think you even remembered you had Plumber's weapon in your hand." She could feel the way the muscles under her hand tensed as Carter stiffened.
"But you have no way of knowing," Sam said sadly.
"Actually, I do," Janet disagreed, mind going back to those frightening moments when she'd been faced with a bestial, enraged Carter. "I shoved you ... hard ... and you went down." She swallowed hard, surprised by the emotional impact of the memory as the rest came out in fits and starts. "But when you saw that I was bleeding, you froze ... and even though you had to be in agony, you just stared at me like you were horrified by what happened." She shook her head slowly, fighting the drugs running through her bloodstream and making it hard to think straight, the image of confused blue eyes staring at her running through her head. "There were a couple of seconds before the attendants returned when you could have attacked me ... probably could have killed me if you'd wanted -- you still had the weapon in your hand -- and you didn't even try."
Blue eyes rose, searching Janet's face intently as though hunting for some sign that it wasn't true. "Promise me you're not lying," Sam begged after a beat.
"I'm not ... I swear," the doctor whispered. "You were still capable of fighting the attendants when they arrived. You could easily have attacked me ... but you didn't. You stayed where you were ... and you looked...." Janet shook her head, mentally hunting for the right word. "Sorry," she whispered at last, then looked up at Sam again. "I can't believe you could have looked at me that way if you'd meant to hurt me."
Blue eyes slid closed and Sam leaned heavily against the wall, relief flooding her veins as she released a heavy breath. "Thank you," she breathed, muscles trembling gently in the aftermath of the news. She couldn't even begin to express what it meant to her to know that even as an animal, she hadn't had that level of bloodthirstiness.
Janet slid her fingers down Carter's forearm to her hand, momentarily squeezing her palm in an offer of comfort. "I can't imagine how frustrating this all is for you ... how much it is to take in ... but if it helps at all, I certainly don't bear any grudges and I am well aware that nothing that happened has anything to do with who you are."
Sam was perfectly silent for a long moment, not quite trusting herself to speak, the tightness in her throat borderline painful. She swallowed hard, catching her breath with effort. "I'm sorry I hurt you ... sorry I hurt anyone," she added quickly. She looked away momentarily, then looked back. "And I hope...." She fell silent, not quite knowing what it was she hoped for. She could feel the doctor watching her closely during the moment or two that passed before she finally came up with a statement that seemed impossibly weak for the situation. "I just hope this doesn't mean the offer of friendship is retracted."
A warm smile curved full lips. "Nah. You'd have to do a lot more damage for that to happen," Janet said, hoping a touch of humor might lighten things a little.
Despite her guilt, Sam found herself smiling at the other woman's wry tone. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Well, if you could resist the urge to test the limits, it would be appreciated."
"I can do that," Sam promised quietly, the look in her eyes serious despite the bantering tone. The last thing she wanted to do was ever hurt this woman again.
"That's good," Janet murmured, not knowing what else to say. "And now I think I should go to bed before I wind up in a puddle at your feet." She tightened her grip on the doorframe, clinging to its supportive solidity as she carefully straightened. Just a little more and she could stumble over to her bed and collapse with some small degree of dignity maintained. She was almost there when her knees suddenly decided to buckle.
Sam saw the other woman start to topple and reached out quickly, getting a hand around her waist on her uninjured side, automatically pulling her close, while she cupped a hand under her opposite elbow to avoid grabbing her anywhere near the wound. A hand gripped her shoulder almost instantly and she felt the warmth of Fraiser's breath in the open vee of her shirt as the other woman stumbled forward, leaning more heavily against her body. Sam's breath caught and for a second she just stood there, completely paralyzed, vague hints of memory teasing her subconscious even as she became aware of the heat of the body pressed against her own; the shape of full breasts and smoothly curved hips, the flat plain of stomach and pelvis, smoothly muscled thighs quivering under her slight weight. "Are you ... uh ... all right?" she asked, struggling to clear her head and think straight.
Janet's head tipped up, her gaze vaguely unfocused, one hand gripping Carter's upper arm and shoulder, the other moving from its awkward position clutching the doorframe to rest on her upper chest, fingers just curving up over her shoulder. "I think so," she breathed, then looked down momentarily before lifting her head to peer at Sam. "My legs don't seem to be working quite right at the moment."
Sam spread her hand supportively against Fraiser's lower back. "I think I'd better give you a hand," she said carefully, her tone intentionally bland despite the awareness she couldn't help but feel in light of the recent past.
Janet shook her head slowly, fighting to clear her head and control her own body as she leaned against the much needed support. "I'll be okay in a sec'," she insisted. Eyes sliding closed, she concentrated on regaining some semblance of balance. "Just need to get my feet under me." She tightened her grip on Sam's arm and shoulder, using her hold as a brace while she straightened her knees and took her full weight once again. "See," she said proudly, "that wasn't so hard." Stubbornly independent, she started to step back a pace while Sam reluctantly released her supportive hold, only to quickly grab again as Janet's knees buckled and she started to go down.
Sam instinctively yanked the smaller woman against her body, once again putting them so close she could feel every rise and hollow, including the shape of the bandage on the doctor's side where it was pressed between their bodies. The slight bulge was a chilling reminder of just how it had gotten there, and she automatically gentled her hold, careful not to add to the injury. "Then again," she said dryly when the situation had stabilized.
Janet didn't argue this time, just let her head droop forward until her forehead was resting against Carter's shoulder. "If that offer of a hand is still open," she mumbled, "I think maybe I could use it." The world was tilting precariously beneath her feet, while her sense of balance had become a veritable whirling dervish, most likely dooming any further attempts at walking to the same fate as her previous efforts.
"Just lean against me," Carter instructed, tightening her hold until she was supporting most of the doctor's weight, then carefully guided her the last few feet until they were standing beside the comfortably rumpled bed. "Just sit down. I won't let you fall," she whispered near a delicate ear, her breath ruffling fine hair. Muscles taut with the effort required, she carefully helped the woman in her arms sit on the edge of the bed, supporting her until she was settled firmly on the mattress. Even then she kept her hands close just in case. "You okay?" She questioned worriedly as she stared at the other woman's downbent head, hands curling tightly in an effort to resist the urge to soothingly pet tousled hair. It was just that she looked so damn young and scared.
"Yeah ... just a little dizzy...." Janet waved a hand in a loose gesture, her voice breathy. "... triggered a moment of panic ... I mentioned I get that, right?"
Her sarcastic tone made it clear the question was purely rhetorical so Sam simply crouched down, peering up at her. "Anything I can do to help?"
The doctor gripped the mattress on either side of her hips, tension rippling through her muscles as she leaned on the support of her arms, then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm okay," she whispered after a moment as she forced the momentary panic attack down. She offered a small, embarrassed smile, but didn't look up or meet Sam's gaze. "It always hits suddenly like that ... and it does help to have someone around. When I'm alone, it just feeds on itself and makes for a nasty cycle."
"I'm glad I could help," Carter responded honestly. It helped diffuse the guilt a little to know that she could at least offer some level of reparations.
"You have ... a lot." Despite her insistence that she was okay, her voice was a little unsteady and she was still breathing harder and deeper than normal as though she was struggling to control the impulse to hyperventilate.
Sam swallowed hard and continued to study what she could see of the other woman's downbent face through the disheveled bangs that shaded her forehead and eyes. She started to reach out and rest her hand on the doctor's bare knee, only to catch herself mid-gesture and think better of it. She dropped her hand to her own knee and continued to peer up at the other woman. "Well, I'm not going anywhere tonight."
Janet looked up then, dark brown eyes meeting Sam's paler gaze, and they both froze for a beat, uncertain of what to say or how, both conscious of the beginnings of friendship, but also the uncomfortable tension and uncertainty that remained in the wake of Sam's bestial self whether they wanted it or not. "Thank you," she said at last.
Sam did reach out then, curling her fingers to Janet's before she could think better of it. "Anytime." She squeezed the other woman's palm lightly, a soft smile curving her lips. She noted the way dark eyes fluttered closed, then snapped open again, exhaustion once again threatening to overcome the injured woman now that her brief panic was receding. "Think maybe you can get some sleep now?"
Janet nodded. "I think so."
"Okay," Carter whispered and rose, releasing the hand twined with her own as she watched the doctor lie down, her movements sluggish and stiff with drugs and soreness, "then I'll get out of here." Still watching the other woman, she reached up and flicked off the dim, bedside lamp and turned to leave.
Janet winced as she adjusted her position and tugged the comforter up over her shoulders. Despite the painkillers in her bloodstream, her side was tender, the stitches vulnerable to any pulling motion. "Captain Carter ... Sam?" she whispered as the blond reached her bedroom door, her voice bringing Sam back around.
"You really aren't going anywhere tonight?" she questioned, sounding young and scared, even to her own ears.
"No. I'll be on the couch. All you have to do is shout and I'll come running," Sam assured her.
Janet nodded, absorbing the words silently, amazed by how comforted she was to hear them, then sank gratefully into her pillow, already losing her battle against sleep. "Tha's good," she sighed, then mumbled, "Promise?"
She was already asleep when Sam whispered, "I promise." The nightmare and the fears were already softening, dulled by the sleeping woman's obvious trust, but a sense of responsibility kept her right where she was. Later, when she was certain the other woman was fine and no longer so frightened of her own nightmares, she would sleep, but for the moment, she simply stood guard....