P3X-8596 -- Argos
Sam Carter stared at Daniel Jackson where he sat on the temple floor, his efforts at translating the Goa'uld, Pelops, work showing in the stacks of alien tiles and jotted notes scattered on the floor around him. His expression was dark with worry at what he'd found. Pelops had been experimenting on the local populace, accelerating the aging process to see how they would evolve, hoping to find something that would benefit himself. After all, if the host could become more powerful, then the parasite within would profit. Once upon a time she wouldn't have believed such a thing was even possible, but she'd already seen the evidence with her own eyes. The team had helped deliver a child only a few days before and already the infant had grown into a sturdy toddler. "Daniel?" she said softly, not liking the way he refused to meet her eyes.
He looked uncomfortable, glancing briefly at Teal'c as though hoping the Jaffa would somehow save him from whatever he had to say. This was a scene he would have preferred to avoid. He'd been hoping his suspicions were wrong, but everything he'd read simply confirmed his worst fears. "Okay," he said at last, "I didn't want to say this, but I think he may have created some kind of virus ... and viruses are often spread through bodily contact--"
"Some are," Sam allowed, not wanting to consider what the Egyptologist was saying, "and some are airborne--"
Daniel broke in, his tone firm, if afraid. "But I think this one isn't."
A beat passed as what he was suggesting sank in. It was Teal'c who finally spoke, his tone calm, though there was a subtle, underlying note of worry. "What has drawn you to this conclusion?"
Daniel shrugged a little helplessly, his voice thick with a sick kind of finality. "Because only one of us passed out last night and it was Jack." And Jack O'Neill was the only one who had slept with a local girl. They'd all seen her dance seductively for the colonel and lead him off and he'd more or less admitted what had happened between them. The resulting conclusion seemed obvious to Daniel any way he looked at it. The Argosians were afflicted by some kind of aging disease and passed out like clockwork every evening. Now Jack had done so as well.
Sam swallowed hard, wanting to argue, but unable to come up with any logical reason for disagreement. "Yeah," she exhaled, then admitted, "I've been getting as many samples as I could." She'd redoubled her efforts after the colonel's collapse, half afraid of something like this at some level.
Daniel nodded. "I think maybe it's time to take what we have back to the SGC ... let them take a look and see what they can come up with." He ran his thumb along the edge of one of the tiles, his expression thoughtful. "Is Fraiser back on duty yet?"
Sam blinked, caught by a wave of guilt at the unexpected mention of the doctor. Guilt because she was the reason Fraiser had been off duty, unexpected because she'd done her best to avoid any thought of the other woman since spending the night at her place. "I don't know," she said, her tone unintentionally defensive. She hadn't seen Fraiser since that difficult morning after her night of standing guard. She'd been guilt-ridden and apologetic and the doctor had been distinctly cool and distant. Feeling unwanted, and afraid her very presence was somehow threatening, Sam had made sure the other woman was safe to be left alone, left her number taped to the fridge, then slipped out. It had been a rather perverse relief when the team was sent to P3X-513 that afternoon to retrieve her ex-fiancÚ, Jonas Hanson. Even in the midst of the hell of finding someone she'd once cared for out to deify himself at the cost of anyone who got in his way, her thoughts had gone frequently to the injured woman, until she'd blocked them out through sheer force of will. She'd more or less stuck with that tactic since then, finding it the most successful one she could come up with. "And what difference does that make?" she added, sounding even more defensive, even to her own ears.
Daniel blinked in surprise, rocking back a little as he stared at her in surprise. "Because she's the SGC expert on infectious diseases," he reminded her gently.
Sam suddenly realized that both men were staring at her a little oddly. "Right," she exhaled, sounding embarrassed. "I knew that," she assured them.
Daniel was still watching her, his head canted to one side. "It wasn't your fault, y'know," he said, correctly guessing at the source of her agitation even if he didn't have all of the facts. "You didn't mean to hurt her."
"Indeed," Teal'c added as he realized what Daniel was referring to. "You were one of the Touched when you injured Doctor Fraiser. I am certain she understands this and bears you no ill will." The woman he had seen her to be seemed unlikely to carry an unfair grudge.
Sam made a face."I know, guys," she assured them with forced confidence. After all, they weren't exactly in possession of all of the facts, something she could only be grateful for. "I'm sure it won't be a problem." She picked up one of the discarded tiles, pointedly changing the subject back to the matter at hand. "I think we should take this to Colonel O'Neill first." Implicit in the soft statement was her discomfort with running back to command with any tales of her superior's sexual conquests without talking to him first. While he hadn't broken any specific regs, it wasn't the sort of thing command was likely to approve of ... especially if it had resulted in some sort of intergalactic venereal disease.
Daniel frowned unhappily, uncomfortable with any delay, but he nodded. "All right, but no matter what he says, I think it's time to bring in the experts." He was certain the colonel was likely to deny there was a problem and try to ignore it, but if there was any risk that O'Neill had contracted some kind of aging disease, they couldn't just ignore it, no matter how uncomfortable the means of transmission made anyone.
Sam sighed and nodded. "Agreed."
Less than an hour later, after insisting he didn't have the disease in question, Jack O'Neill collapsed right along with the rest of the Argosians as the sun sank below the horizon. It was Sam who caught him as his knees buckled. "Get back to Earth." The order was raggedly given as he struggled to remain conscious. "Figure this thing out."
"Yes, sir...." He was unconscious before she could say any more. Sam looked up at her colleagues where they stood ready to help if need be. "Look after him. I'll take the samples back and see what I can find out...."
* * * * * *
Sam Carter froze as she looked up from the sample case she was handing off to a waiting lab-tech and ran into a pair of rich, dark eyes; Janet Fraiser, looking cool and collected as she entered the research lab. Sam swallowed hard, startled by the flood of relief at seeing the other woman back on duty. "Doctor Fraiser," she said with a tiny nod of acknowledgment, well aware that, while none of the surrounding personnel appeared to be listening, every last one of them had an ear cocked to the conversation. Word of Fraiser's injury at Carter's hand had spread quickly through the base in the days since the incident and everyone seemed to be waiting with baited breath to see what happened the first time they met again. According to Daniel, the colonel even had a twenty riding on the outcome, though the Egyptologist had been close-mouthed about exactly what outcome he'd bet on.
"Captain Carter," Fraiser said, her tone cool and professional, showing absolutely no hint of acrimony that might set overactive tongues wagging. "Those are the samples from P3X-8596?" She nodded toward the case the tech was holding.
Sam nodded. She'd already briefed General Hammond on the situation while receiving a cursory examination in the gateroom to check for a Goa'uld. Obviously, the general had informed the doctor about the situation while Sam was en route to the research labs.
Fraiser looked over at the tech. "Go ahead and start a complete work up on those," she instructed. "I want all safety protocols in place and a full battery of tests on everything."
"Yes, Ma'am," the tech said with a brief nod and hurried away, moving to do as ordered.
Fraiser looked back at Sam. "If you could join me in my office, I've got some questions," she said briskly.
"Of course." Sam straightened her shoulders ever so slightly. A moment later, she followed the other woman out, aware of the faint letdown among the staff at the lack of a catfight; relief from some, disappointment from others. As she caught up with Janet in the corridor, she slanted a look at the smaller woman, trying without success to read the bland expression she presented to the world. "I didn't realize you were back on duty," she said, hoping to return to the kind of easy friendship they'd begun before her experience as one of the Touched.
Fraiser glanced over, her tone still distant and formal. "Actually, I've been back for a couple of days. We've just been on different shifts."
Which implied she'd checked. Sam didn't know whether to be worried or relieved. "I didn't realize," she said softly, not knowing what else to say.
"I wasn't hurt that badly, Captain Carter." The doctor looked fully at her then, her expression and tone formally reassuring; a perfect bedside manner; seemingly warm, but in reality politely distant, with a solid wall between herself and the rest of the world. "There was no need for me to stay out any longer."
Uncertain how to take the quiet words, Sam settled on the relatively innocuous, "I hope you're feeling better now."
"Just fine," Fraiser responded, still using that polite, professional tone that was rapidly beginning to wear on Sam's nerves. She gestured Carter into her office, then pushed the door closed in their wake. "Go ahead and have a seat." A moment later, they were both settled into their chairs, Sam in front of the desk, Janet behind and bent over a computer printout, a legal pad sitting nearby. Eyes on the paper, her voice distant, the doctor began, "If you could give me an overview of what happened ... symptoms, possible agents of transmission ... anything you can think of that might offer a clue."
"Okay," Sam began hesitantly, then began going through things in as much detail as possible, well aware that even a small factor might well make all of the difference. The doctor took copious notes as she recounted everything from the team's arrival on P3X-8596 forward, starting with their discovery of a pregnant young woman about to give birth in the temple.
The only time the doctor looked up or did more than ask a brief question for clarification was when Sam verbally stumbled, a blush crawling over her cheekbones as she tried to explain about Jack O'Neill and the young Argosian woman, Kinthea.
Janet's dark gaze locked on Sam like a laser sight honing in on its target, her expression increasingly arch as the captain hesitated and stammered, her blush growing increasingly vivid with every passing moment she struggled for words.
Finally, Fraiser's head cocked to one side. "I believe what you're trying not to say is that Colonel O'Neill slept with this girl?" she politely translated Carter's rambling non-answer.
A beat passed and then Sam's eyes dropped away. She winced as she nodded, feeling like a complete and total, utter snitch. She had a sudden mental image of O'Neill pointing at her and chanting, "Tattletale." Great. What an ideal way to foster good relations on a team.
"Uh huh," Janet grumbled and Sam actually heard the rapid scratch of her pen as she made some kind of note -- strongly worded, judging by the way she triple underlined it.
Sam looked up and winced again, suddenly very glad she'd turned down several similar offers from various of the Argosians. No way in hell did she want that look directed her way.
Janet responded with a brittle smile and answered the unasked question. "Apparently a fairly severe reminder about certain behaviors needs to be included in the next briefing report ... with an eye to making some standards official ... and I should probably give a few private reminders as well."
Carter swallowed hard, wondering if she'd just put her head on the chopping block with her superior. Judging by the look on the doctor's face, he was in for one hell of a lecture if and when everything was okay again. "I ... uh ... if you could avoid telling him I told you that..." she begged hesitantly.
Fraiser jotted another note, one eyebrow climbing high on her forehead. A moment passed and then her mouth twisted into a smirk. "He won't hear it from me," she assured Sam, though her eyes remained firmly on the paper beneath her pen. "Besides, it's not like he's--" She caught herself, cutting off whatever she'd been about to say mid-sentence. She made another note, indicating Sam should continue as she questioned, "Did he show any symptoms when you first saw him the next morning?"
Sam answered the query and the ones that followed, halting frequently as she scanned her memory for any additional details. When the doctor finally seemed to have run out of questions and Sam had gone all the way through the story at least twice, Fraiser paused and glanced back over her notes, the distance a factor of her concentration now, rather an any conscious effort to put up an emotional wall. "The obvious consideration is that it's some kind of extremely virulent venereal disease ... particularly since Colonel O'Neill was the only one who...." She trailed off, then looked up abruptly as a thought occurred to her. She looked a little nauseous. "He ... uh ... was the only one I assume?"
"Yes," Sam yelped, then felt a blush heat her cheeks again as she added more calmly, "As far as I know."
Fraiser jotted another note and Sam thought she flushed ever so slightly. "Well, that's good to hear," she muttered under her breath before continuing more smoothly as she continued looking over her notes. "Could have also been the cake ... something else he ate ... or just something he didn't have any natural immunity to, but which the rest of you do." She gnawed thoughtfully on her lower lip, escaping the momentary embarrassment by concentrating on the objective facts. After a moment, she sighed softly and shook her head. "Hopefully, the tests will help track down something specific."
Sam leaned forward, elbows braced on her knees, her expression worried. "You can help him, can't you?" O'Neill was her C.O. and even though they occasionally clashed, she respected the man and valued his friendship.
"I don't know," Janet admitted, still studying her notes as though they might offer some magic solution if she just stared hard enough. "We know so little about the possible dangers through the Stargate ... but with luck, I'll have a better feeling once I see the lab results...." She trailed off again, her expression thoughtful.
Sam could almost see the gears turning in her head as she studied the problem from several different angles. It was fascinating to watch and she found herself leaning closer.
Brown eyes lifted as Janet became conscious of the close perusal. "Yes, Captain?" she queried politely and Sam was disappointed to see the professional mask slip back into place.
Caught flat-footed, Carter couldn't think of a single thing to say that wouldn't make her look like an idiot. Somehow, 'I was just watching you think,' seemed unlikely to do the job. Finally, her brain still threatening to shut down, she murmured, "Your side. I was just wondering if it's completely healed."
"As I said, it's fine," the brunette answered crisply as she looked back down at her notes ... actually, glared at them would be a better description, "which you could have found out any time during the last week with a single phone call." She glanced up and her mouth hung open for a second as though she was as surprised by the words that came out of her mouth as Sam was. A beat passed and then she looked back down at her notes, concentrating on them with ferocious intensity.
Sam's breath caught and she rocked back in her seat, momentarily not knowing what to say. If she hadn't known better, she would have sworn it was hurt she'd heard in the doctor's voice. "I..." she began, only to run out of words, uncertain exactly what she wanted to say. "I'm glad you're okay now," she stammered at last.
A moment of total silence passed, then Janet spoke without looking up, her voice respectfully distant once again. "If that's all, Captain, I think I have everything I need now."
Effectively dismissed, Sam pushed to her feet. She started to say something, but Fraiser's head remained down, her posture thoroughly uninviting, and she started to leave. She'd only gone a step or two when she changed her mind and turned back. "I wanted to call ... meant to even," she said on impulse, half afraid she'd only make things worse, but not wanting to leave them the way they were. "But I didn't know what to say ... and there was everything with Jonas ... and I didn't want to bother you," she added after a beat, that last one probably being the real reason. "I mean that morning, it didn't seem like you wanted me ... there...." She shrugged a little helplessly. It was all so damn confusing and now she'd probably just put the final nail in the coffin of any chance they had for a friendship. "I'm sorry...." She barely got the words past the tightness in her throat, then spun, needing to escape before she looked any more foolish than she already felt.
"Captain Carter ... Sam ... wait."
Sam pulled up short, but didn't turn back. She was startled when the doctor quietly added, "I'm sorry." Another soft sigh, then a moment of silence, and then she continued, "I'm behaving like a raving bitch here and you should probably tell me to take a flying leap."
Sam debated several responses before finally turning to face the other woman, a hint of a frown creasing her brow. "I should've called," she said hesitantly. If she was honest, she'd wanted to, but had chickened out every time, afraid of another icy reception.
A wry smile twisted full lips and Fraiser shook her head. "Not with everything that was happening," she disagreed and ran a hand over her hair as she stretched her shoulders tiredly. "And especially not after the way I behaved that morning." She looked down at her notes again, using the brief moment to gather her thoughts. "I was rude and I'm sorry." She let out a small, dark laugh. "My only excuse is that I'm one seriously lousy patient ... I mean really bad ... the kind doctors pay not to have to deal with."
"You were hurt and scared," Sam disagreed, remembering the way the other woman had clung to her, the look in her eyes frightened and uncertain, the feel of her body warm and boneless. Then she'd turned a trusting look on Sam, eyes huge in her face.... No wonder Sam had been confused the next morning to find herself facing a cool, impersonal reception that made her feel like she was intruding.
Fraiser sighed softly. "And I'm not good at dealing with that," she admitted, then shook her head. "The doctor can't handle being a patient. I don't like people seeing me when I'm feeling ... vulnerable...." The last word came out with all the grace of a tooth being pulled. She leaned on her elbow, massaging her temple. "And now I've done it again." She muttered something under her breath, though Sam sensed it was herself she was castigating this time. "It probably doesn't help that I've been on duty since six a.m.," she sighed disgustedly.
Sam shrugged. "We all have days like that," she said carefully, mentally debating saying any more.
Fraiser apparently saw the thoughts running through her brain because she tipped her head back, her tone practical. "Just say it," she suggested. Better to go ahead and clear the air between them.
Sam glanced down at her feet, then looked back up, swallowing hard on her unease before she spoke. "I was just afraid that it had something to do with ... with what happened ... how I...." She didn't finish, just let the words die away, reminded of something she'd really prefer to forget. It was just too uncomfortable in too many ways.
"No," Fraiser disagreed firmly. "You had nothing to do with my behaving like an idiot."
Sam's head canted to one side, her expression doubtful.
"I promise," Janet murmured. "It's my hangup and has nothing to do with ... that." Or if it did, it wasn't in any simple, straightforward way that she had any intention of thinking about too closely. Her hand moved randomly over the paper, doodling loosely, and she looked away from Sam, watching the random designs she created with her pen. "In fact, I owe you an apology for any misunderstanding. I wasn't angry at you that morning ... I just didn't want you to feel you had to stay ... and I was probably feeling a little embarrassed by how I acted the night before." She sighed without explaining any further. "I should have realized how it would look...." Now it was the doctor's turn to leave a sentence unfinished as she made a small, annoyed sound in the back of her throat.
Sam absorbed the confession, sensing how difficult it was for the other woman to open herself up like that. "You had nothing to be embarrassed about ... and I didn't stay because I felt I had to." Clear blue eyes focused on the doctor. "I stayed because I was grateful for any chance to make up for hurting you."
Janet froze, swallowing hard, caught like a deer in the headlights. Both paralyzed, they stayed like that for a long moment and then a tiny smile crept over Janet's lips "I'll tell you what, Captain ... what say we call it even and start over."
Sam frowned, still processing the offer. "Start over?" she repeated as though the doctor had used some language other than English.
Janet nodded. "Clear the proverbial slate ... shake the Etch-a-Sketch of life ... and just forget the last couple of weeks ever happened." There was a flicker of humor in her voice, but something oddly pleading in her expression. Dark eyes fell away again and she had to struggle to get the words out. "It just feels like some things have spiraled ... not your fault or mine." She studied the abstract designs on her notepad with unusual attention. "It just happened." Slim shoulders rose as the doctor took a deep breath, then looked up. "I like and respect you, Captain. You're a brilliant woman ... with some amazing ideas ... and I think I could learn a lot working on this project with you ... and maybe even teach you a thing or two...."
Of that, Sam had no doubt. What she'd seen so far made it obvious that Janet Fraiser was no slouch when it came to intelligence or creativity.
"...but right now," Janet continued, "we're both walking on eggshells ... which makes it almost impossible for that to happen ... and I hate it." Genuine frustration colored her voice and expression.
"I don't like it either," Sam admitted. She hated feeling that the other woman should fear her, hated that she felt like she had cause, and hated her own terror of making it happen again. She just didn't know how to get past it.
"Which is why I propose a do over," Janet held out the tantalizing idea, purposely using the childish term in an effort to lighten the situation, "just put it all behind us and start over. I'm willing to forget it all if you are." An enticing smile teased full lips in silent invitation.
A beat passed and then an answering smile quirked Carter's mouth. It was definitely tempting. "Do you really think it's possible?" she questioned uncertainly, doubting it could be that simple.
"Yes," the doctor stated confidently. "After all, for those twenty-four hours, neither one of us was exactly our normal self ... and I think our working relationship ... and friendship ... are more important than a few hours of out of character behavior."
The seriousness of her expression was oddly comforting for Sam, soothing her fears that forgiveness was impossible. "All right," she said at last. She was more than willing to try.
Janet pushed to her feet and held out her right hand. "Shake on it?"
"All's even now?" Sam whispered, still hesitant about the idea for reasons she wasn't sure even she understood.
"On one condition," Janet responded, joking lightly to ease the tension. "Some time when things are quiet and this place is relatively calm -- which I fully admit could take awhile -- we get the hell out of here and do pizza and movie ... or anything stupid and fun ... and don't discuss anything related to the Stargate."
Sam couldn't contain a tiny gasp of relief. At some level, she'd been half expecting to be told to just stay as far away as possible and pretend there hadn't been the beginnings of a friendship before everything got blown to hell. "You drive a hard bargain," she said after a beat. She hadn't done much of anything that wasn't somehow related to the gate since joining the project. Or before joining the project either. Generally, she raised the bar for Type A personalities.
"Take it or leave it." An elfin smile dared Carter to take the chance.
"Deal." Sam knew when she was being offered a golden opportunity. She stepped forward and thrust her hand out until it met Janet's over the middle of her desk.
"Pleased to meet you, Captain Carter," Fraiser greeted her with a relieved smile.
"It's Sam ... and I'm very glad to meet you, Doctor Fraiser--"
"Janet," the doctor corrected, eyes twinkling.
It occurred to Sam that their hands remained linked longer than strictly necessary, and she was a little embarrassed to find that she couldn't quite stop grinning like a maniac. Despite everything on her mind, the chance to straighten out the situation with Fraiser was a huge load off her shoulders.
Another beat passed before their hands parted and then Janet straightened her shoulders and smoothed her labcoat. "I should get back to the lab ... supervise the tests."
Reminded of the seriousness of the colonel's situation, Sam's brief flare of relief died away to be replaced by worry. "If you've got a lab free, I'd like to stay close while I do some research ... see if I can come up with anything in our files on gate travel."
"No problem. You can take Isolation-Two. It's not in use right now and you'll be just down the hall if anything comes up." The doctor was back in professional mode, her tone calm, expression cool and collected.
"You'll let me know if there's anything?" Sam questioned, the brief respite from the current problem over.
The doctor brushed light hand against Sam's upper arm. "I promise. I'll let you know the moment we have any word." She offered a reassuring smile. "I'm sure everything'll be all right."
"Thank you," Sam whispered then, without anything more to say, slipped out, well aware of the dark eyes that followed her and oddly warmed by them.
* * * * * *
Two Weeks Later
Jack O'Neill peered at his own face in the mirror, studying the unfamiliar, wrinkled features, then running his fingers up to trace his thoroughly receded hairline. So much for the notion of growing older gracefully. He glanced over his shoulder at Fraiser where she stood making a note in his chart. "So, how long before I'm back to my usual, stunning self?" he asked sarcastically.
Dark brown eyes rose from the paper. "Probably another week," she informed him. Her gaze touched on his hairline and he barely resisted the urge to smooth a hand over the hair that was no longer there. "Your hair may take a little longer though since that'll require new follicle growth." Her tone was cool, carrying the same note of mild disapproval his mother had used when he was a child and she was of the opinion that he'd gotten exactly what he deserved for some stunt or another.
"I don't suppose you've got anything for that?" he asked hopefully.
Her eyes narrowed. "Baldness cures ... not very high on my priority list, sir."
"Right," he exhaled. She'd already given him holy hell for being dumb enough to sleep with a woman on alien planet, complete with a very dire picture of what could happen to him, his partner, the whole planet, and possibly the entire universe if he were take such a chance again. He still wasn't entirely certain whether the threat came from what trading 'bodily fluids' might do to him or what she might do to him. Privately, he was inclined to think it was probably the latter.
She glanced at her watch. "If that's all, sir, I'm off duty."
He couldn't contain a smirk. Maybe she was human after all. "Gotta hot date, Doc'?" He leered teasingly to punctuate the point.
And earned another disapproving look for his efforts. "Hardly. Captain Carter and I have both been all but living in this place since your little case of 'shore leave,' so we're going grab a bite and catch a late movie."
"Oh." He looked disappointed, then his expression brightened as a thought hit him. He hadn't been off base in ages, and since the nano-whatevers weren't contagious.... "I don't suppose I could tag alo--"
"No," Janet clipped before he could finish. "Not to be rude, sir, but the last thing either of us needs is more of you." O'Neill's intellect was firmly back in place, but he was still playing the grumpy old man, or maybe that was just his normal personality and they'd never noticed when he didn't look the part. In any event, he was making her a little crazy -- scratch that, a lot crazy. "Besides, you're supposed to be resting." She pointed toward the hospital bed, the command implicit in the gesture.
He made a face. "Y'know, you have a very hard-hearted side," he commented as he climbed back into bed.
"That's right," Fraiser agreed entirely too cheerfully for his comfort. "It's the mad scientist in me."
"Y'know, I'd feel better if I didn't believe you," he muttered mock resentfully. He looked down at himself as if checking for any new changes. "You aren't running any weird experiments on me, are ya? Turning me into a frog-man or something like that?" He was joking ... mostly.
She offered a slightly insane grin in reply.
"Janet, are you about finished?" Sam Carter questioned cheerfully as she entered the room, totally oblivious to the grouchy look thrown her way by Jack O'Neill. She was wearing civies for once -- a dark blue turtleneck, black jeans, and a battered leather bomber jacket -- O'Neill noted with a raised brow. Would wonders never cease? He glanced at Fraiser, wondering how she'd managed the trick. Blackmail maybe. God knew, that was probably the only way to get Carter to leave her beloved gate willingly. He knew he'd failed miserably the time or two he'd tried. "Hi, sir," she added, nodding at him. She smiled encouragingly and got an acid look in return. "Looking younger all the time."
He grumbled something under his breath.
"And definitely acting that way," Janet added with a too bright smile. Her tone made the words anything but a compliment.
Sam glanced back and forth between the two people. Clearly, there was a little too much togetherness going on here. "You ready?"
"Just finishing up here." The doctor snapped Jack's chart shut. "Doctor Warner will be in to check on you later. Let him know if there are any problems. And now I'm outa here." She looked disgustingly cheerful at the notion.
"Take care of yourself, sir," Carter encouraged him as she held the door open for the doctor. She glanced down at the smaller woman as they stepped into the corridor outside O'Neill's room. "You gonna change here or do you want to stop by your place on the way?"
O'Neill didn't hear the answer as the door closed behind the pair. Clearly, they were pals again. He supposed it was a good thing, but then again.... "Damn." Now, he was out twenty bucks.
"I'm just saying that it's completely ludicrous to think they could have come up with a computer virus, plus figure out the connection protocols, and then successfully upload and trigger that virus to drop all defenses and make an alien ship crash in anything less than a year," Sam insisted as she ambled along next to the slender figure of Janet Fraiser. They'd driven back to the doctor's house after the film, then on impulse walked the couple of blocks to a nearby ice cream shop, enjoying a night off too much to want it to end quickly.
The doctor took a long swipe from the mint and chocolate chip cone clutched in one hand, then looked up at Sam, shaking her head. "It's a fantasy," she argued. "It's not supposed to be particularly realistic." If either woman was aware of the irony of the conversation, they paid it no mind.
"But they could have done it in a way that made sense ... come up with something else ... like a real virus that made the aliens sick or something." Sam took a swipe from her own cone, a chocolate dipped raspberry swirl frozen yogurt.
Janet stared up at the taller woman with a slightly blank expression. "You do know it's just a rewrite of War of the Worlds, right?" she enquired between licks. "That it was a real virus in the original?"
Carter looked down, a frown creasing her forehead. "Actually ... I really hadn't thought of that," she had to admit. The two women paused in the middle of the sidewalk, staring seriously at one another, then suddenly broke into mutual giggles. "You think there's a chance I take this stuff a little too seriously?" she asked when she could speak again.
Janet shrugged, still shaking with laughter. "Occupational hazard I guess." They reached her front walk and wandered toward her porch together. "Though I dread to think what it would be like to watch an episode of Star Trek with you."
"Well, the transporters are pretty unrealistic ... can you imagine the bandwidth that would be required to break a human down into a computer signal?" Sam mused out loud. "Especially with all thoughts and personality intact... Actually, I'm not sure that's even remotely possible ... though I guess since thoughts are electrical impulses, you could...." Janet cleared her throat and Sam trailed to a slightly embarrassed halt. "Taking it too seriously again, aren't I?" the blond laughed at herself. She shrugged defensively. "I like Babylon 5."
"Personally, I just can't believe you wanted to see a sci fi," Janet chuckled, shaking her head. "I expected a bad romantic comedy or some tacky action flick--"
"It had action," Sam said defensively, then grinned. "Albeit of an extremely brainless variety."
Fraiser laughed, climbing the few steps to her porch and leaning against a wooden support post as she worked on the last of her cone. The additional steps put them roughly on eye level and she was struck by how much younger the other woman looked after a relaxed evening away from work. "Brainless is good every so often," she proclaimed happily. "Gives the grey matter a chance to take a break."
A fine blond brow arched thoughtfully. "Why do I get the feeling that comment is directed at me?" Sam drawled knowingly. She'd had a few lectures along those lines over the years, most recently from Jack O'Neill.
"You and everyone else at the SGC ... myself included," the doctor corrected. "Do you know this is the first non-work related, totally useless thing I've done since I got here ... and I'm guessing you're no better."
Sam shrugged. "I've been accused of being a workaholic once or twice," she admitted wryly. Or twenty or thirty times, if she was honest.
Janet smiled. "I know that speech," she sighed and munched on the last of her cone, purposely drawing the moment out. . "I've heard it soooo many times." She grinned knowingly and rolled her eyes.
Sam laughed despite herself. She'd been expecting a lecture on the topic, but the doctor's admission reminded her of the bond she'd sensed from the first. They had a lot in common, and she was suddenly incredibly grateful that they hadn't squandered that. Her expression more serious, she looked over at the other woman again, considering her easy smile and relaxed manner. Unless she was one hell of a performer, it was no act. She really was enjoying herself and really was totally comfortable. Sam suddenly realized that she'd fallen silent and Fraiser was watching her carefully, her head canted to one side. "Sorry," she apologized quickly, "I just slipped off into my own thoughts for a moment." She finished off her cone with a childlike grin, half hoping to forestall any questions.
It didn't work. "Anything you care to share?" Janet asked quietly, her tone curious but not pushy, giving Sam the room to respond or not, depending on her preferences.
Arms folded loosely across her chest, Sam leaned against the opposite post, one foot resting lightly on the first step. "I had fun tonight," she murmured thoughtfully, rocking her head back on against the wood post to stare at the stars overhead. "Thank you."
She was still stargazing when Fraiser's softly spoken response reached her. "Nothing to thank me for. I had a good time too."
Sam looked down then, shaking her head. "I don't mean for tonight," she explained a little hesitantly, uncertain whether she really wanted to discuss what she was thinking of, but at the same time feeling a real need to say something. "I just meant that I'm glad...." She trailed off and took a deep breath to clear her head, trying to decide what she was trying to say. "Glad that you didn't walk away from a friendship ... that we could start over...." If the other woman hadn't pursued healing the rift, she knew she would never have had the courage; too afraid of rejection to take the risk.
A long moment of oddly companionable silence passed, then Janet quietly murmured, "I'm glad too." She didn't bother to elaborate, trusting that Sam understood what she meant as well as she needed to. "So," she said at last, "would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?"
It was tempting, but it was getting late. Remembering she was due back on duty before sunup, Sam glanced at her watch and shook her head regretfully. "Actually, I'm on the early shift, so I should probably head home." Her tone made it obvious she would rather have stayed, but her ability to ignore work had its limits.
"Maybe next time?" Janet invited, her tone warming Sam and reassuring her that she wasn't simply trying to be nice.
"I'd like that." Sam straightened away from the post, watching silently as the other woman unlocked her front door.
Janet turned back as she pushed the door open, a lazy smile curving her mouth, her hand resting lightly along the doorframe. "I'm off early next Wednesday and we never did get that game of pool I promised you."
Sam didn't even take time to consider. She had Wednesday evening off too. She never even considered saying no. "Sounds like a plan."
"Then it's a date." Janet grinned at Sam's surprised look.
"I'll mark it on my calendar," the blond promised as she regained her voice.
"You do that," Janet murmured, still leaning against the doorframe and watching Sam.
Sam stood there silently for a moment, at a loss for words. Finally, she nodded toward her car where it was parked on the street, her words coming in halting syllables, regret and temptation warring in her head. "I should be going now ... home I mean ... early day tomorrow... and a lot to do...." She stuffed her hands in her pockets, stepping away from the porch a pace. "G'night."
Janet just nodded, a twist of an unreadable smile curving her lips. "Good night," she said after a beat.
Sam nodded, walking backwards down the front path, her lips lifted in an irrepressible smile. "Seeya tomorrow."
Her smile broadening, Janet nudged her shoulder up against the doorframe, leaning there comfortably as Sam backed away. "Yeah, you will," she said agreeably.
Sam was unaccountably pleased by the fact that the doctor stayed there while she climbed into her car, and didn't step inside until after she had started the engine and was pulling away from the curb. The image of the other woman standing in the doorway still in her head, Sam's mouth lifted in a smile. "Until tomorrow...."