You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned
Sam was on fire, her lungs full of water, Daniel's screams ringing in her ears. Hot tears burned her cheeks as she choked on violent sobs of frustration. She reached for him desperately, trying to see where he was in the shifting landscape of water and flames, but every effort to get a better look drove knives of agony through her skull, forcing her back. She could still hear him though, begging desperately for help, his pleas turning to panicked wails, until she had to do something. Screwing up her courage, she fought to make her body respond, muscles flexing as she tried to dive forward. She could almost see him, almost reach his outstretched hand....
Then agony burst behind her eyes with the force of a thermonuclear explosion....
Sam sat bolt upright in bed, her heart roaring in her chest, skin damp with sweat, eyes wide. It took a moment to banish the nightmare and realize she was safely in her own bed and when she did, she flopped back down, folding an arm over her face with an exhausted groan. A minute later she lifted her arm long enough to glance at the clock near the bed. It was the third time she'd been wakened by the same nightmare in a little over an hour, and suddenly she found herself afraid of even trying to sleep again.
Seeing Daniel die and feeling the awful helplessness over and over was just too painful.
She rolled onto her stomach, burying her face in her pillow, hot tears burning behind her tightly closed eyelids. She was exhausted, beat to hell, so tired she literally hurt with it, but sleep had suddenly become the devil glaring over her shoulder. She lay like that for a minute or two, then shifted onto her side, coiling in a semi fetal position around a pillow, clutching it with the same desperation a child might show a teddy bear, or an adult might show a lover.
At that moment, she would have killed to have either the teddy bear or the lover there to hold her close. She was in no position to be picky.
By the fifth time she rolled into a new position, it was obvious that getting comfortable wasn't going to happen ... and that she didn't really want to anyway, because if she got comfortable, she might just fall asleep.
And Sam Carter didn't want to sleep.
She slid out of bed, still clutching her pillow to her chest as though it would ward off the demons running rampant through her head, then stood beside her bed for a minute or two, staring at nothing, tiny tremors rattling through her from head to toe. Deep shadows cast her bedroom in strange shapes, turning the familiar room into an unknown landscape that felt more alien than anything she'd seen through the stargate.
Without really even being conscious of making the decision or moving, Sam found herself in the living room, staring down at the woman sprawled on the couch, her face buried in a pillow, one arm dangling off the edge of the couch, an elderly down comforter bunched around her small frame. She was breathing slowly and deeply, limp in sleep.
Which left Sam in something of a quandary. She didn't want to wake Janet up when she probably needed the sleep, but she also didn't want to be alone. She sighed softly, burying her chin in the comforting softness of her pillow as she contemplated the problem and continued to simply stare, drawing some small comfort just from knowing the other woman was there, even if she was sleeping like the dead.
Except it wasn't enough. She paced back and forth a step or two, still debating what to do.
"Sam?" Her name was muffled and sleepily mumbled, and it took Sam a moment to realize that it wasn't simply a figment of her imagination. She did a slow turn just as Janet pushed up on one hand, peering up at her through disheveled bangs. "Something wrong?"
"I didn't mean to wake you," Sam murmured without directly answering.
Janet rolled onto her side, leaning on her elbow, one eyebrow arched a little doubtfully.
Sam shrugged, an embarrassed half-smile curving her lips as she admitted, "But I guess I'm not too disappointed I did."
Nodding in understanding, Janet scooted to one end of the couch, sitting up with her back against the armrest and folding her legs up to make room. "You want to tell me what happened?" She gestured for Sam to sit, watching silently as the blond took up a place on the other end of the couch, legs folded against her body, still holding the pillow securely in her arms, coiled into as small and tight a ball as possible. Her eyes were wide and sad, the expression mixed with a healthy tinge of fear. She looked like a child afraid of the dark and trying to convince herself there were no monsters hiding in the shadows. "Nightmare?" she finally asked when Sam still hadn't answered after a long moment.
The blond nodded unsteadily. Swallowing hard, she reached up to brush her hair out of her eyes, then returned her hand to clutch the pillow as though it might try to escape. "Several of them," she exhaled, then corrected herself, "Actually, it was the same one ... several times." She looked up, drawing a measure of strength from the steadying look directed her way. "I kept falling asleep," she explained breathlessly, "and it kept coming back."
"And now you're afraid to sleep," Janet accurately diagnosed.
Sam nodded. "I can't face that again..." she admitted, her voice ragged, "...watching him die over and over...." She looked down again, tucking her chin deeper into the pillow, chagrined by her own illogical panic.
"Okay," the doctor exhaled. "You want to talk about it?"
Thinking of the agony that came every time she thought about Daniel's death, Sam shook her head.
Watching her carefully, Janet moved closer, reaching out to stroke the back of Sam's hand very lightly, soothing her the same way she might have comforted a small child. "You're safe, Sam," she murmured, still using the same low, mesmerizing tone. "I'm here and I'm not going to let anything happen...." She stroked the blond's inner wrist, fingers finding the throb of her pulse and checking it with automatic skill.
Sam looked up cautiously, feeling some of the night terrors flee in the face of the reassurance. "I must sound crazy," she sighed.
"No ... just overstressed and too tired," the doctor disagreed as she released her loose hold on Sam's wrist, resting her arm along the back of the couch. "You know you need to sleep." She wondered if the captain had had more than an hour or two of rest since her colleague's death. That had to be adding to her emotional instability.
"I can't," Sam husked, her tone pleading. "Don't ask me to."
Janet started to answer, only to change her mind and take another tack. "Okay," she said softly. It wasn't the time to argue. "So what would you like to talk about?" she asked, purposely brightening her tone and changing the subject.
Sam shook her head. "I should go ... at least one of us should get some sleep--"
"I never sleep when I'm worried about friends or patients," the doctor sighed, combing her fingers through sleep mussed hair. "Since you're both, I don't think it's much of an option." She studied Sam carefully, but the captain's expression was unreadable. "What are you thinking?" she asked at last.
Slim shoulders dipped in a tiny shrug. "I'm not sure I am," Sam admitted. "Thinking, I mean." She sighed softly, turning her head to rest her cheek on the pillow.
"Must be something going on in that head that you can talk about ... anything ... hell, tell me your grocery list if you like." Janet just wanted to get Sam talking.
A minute or two passed with Janet waiting and Sam wrapped in her own thoughts until finally the blond cleared her throat, her expression a little embarrassed. In avoiding images of Daniel, she kept coming back to the only other thought in her head. She was painfully curious but at the same time, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. Then suddenly the question was coming out of her mouth before she could reconsider. "The guy you were with tonight ... have you been dating long?" Janet hadn't mentioned seeing anyone, but obviously....
The doctor flinched, caught flat-footed by the question. It was the last thing she expected and her discomfort showed in her uneasy answer. "We're not dating...."
Sam looked at her, something shocked in her expression. She couldn't believe Janet would just pick some man up and take him home.
Gaze focused on her own hand, Janet missed the startled look on her friend's face. "It was just a ... hard to explain...."
"I ... I probably shouldn't ask..." Sam said at last, face heating with her embarrassment, "but--" She had a sudden nightmare that it was someone from the SGC.
"It's no one you know," Janet murmured as if reading Sam's mind.
Which was some small comfort, Sam thought. At least she wouldn't have to listen to the gossip about some guy's interrupted night of passion with the doctor. That idea just made her stomach clench queasily.
Her gaze distant, Janet continued disgustedly, "Just someone I used to know ... with a knack for knowing when I'm feeling vulnerable and using it." Her eyes slid closed for a moment, not giving Sam time to decide whether the hurt came from whatever SOB had tried to take advantage or other things.
A moment passed and then Sam reached out, clumsily patting a fine-boned hand, wanting to return some of the solace she'd received. It was obvious that the other woman was hurting, though she was doing her best not to show it. "I guess we're all feeling it," she whispered, offering what consolation she could. The doctor's eyes rose to lock with hers and she felt the need to add some kind of neutral explanation, "Losing Daniel has everyone on edge."
Suddenly focused on the hand beneath her own, Sam missed the tiny frown that touched Janet's face. "Right ... Daniel," the doctor exhaled. She massaged her temples, wincing as though she had a pounding headache. Which, now that she thought about it, she did. "I should know better than to do alcohol and depression in some company...."
"I'm sorry," Sam exhaled for what seemed like the thousandth time that night. It was rapidly becoming her signature statement. Possibly not the best news she could have had.
Shaking her head, Janet let out a disgusted snort. "Don't be. I was on the verge of making a profoundly stupid mistake. Truthfully, I'm grateful you--"
"I don't mean for that," Sam interrupted quickly, continuing carefully, "I just meant I'm sorry someone hurt you." She didn't know the particulars, but that much was obvious
Janet was silent for a moment, her expression distant, then she blinked, seeming to come back to the present. "Don't worry about it," she murmured thoughtfully as though she was figuring out a few things for herself. "He doesn't have the power to hurt me ... I'm not sure he ever did." She leaned back against the arm of the couch, sinking into her own thoughts. Oddly enough, that mistake in judgment was the last thing on her mind. Instead, she was focused on the same thing that she'd focusing on when she'd nearly gotten into that particular mess. Dark eyes touched on Sam. As unstable and angry as Sam had been, she couldn't help but wonder if maybe there was a core of truth in the sharp words she'd hurled. Or at least if Sam felt there was a core of truth in them. That had more power to hurt than she cared to admit.
Not knowing what to say to that, Sam silently studied her friend's expression in an effort to understand what she was thinking. Afraid to sleep and not wanting to look to closely at what was going on in her own head, she needed to unravel the mystery walled behind wide, brown eyes. "What are you thinking?" she asked at last when she couldn't untangle the puzzle to her satisfaction.
Janet was silent for a long moment, uncertain whether or not she wanted to open the can of worms trapped in her head. "Does everyone in the SGC just think I don't get it?" she asked at last.
Sam blinked in confusion. "Don't get what?" she questioned uncertainly.
"How dangerous the job you do is ... or how close the bonds formed in the field are?"
It was so far from what Sam expected that she didn't know what to say for a moment. "No," she exhaled simply after a long beat. A flicker of guilt ran through her head and she wondered how responsible her own bitter words were for the question. "Nobody thinks that," she added in hopes of repairing some of the damage. She offered a small, encouraging smile. "Actually, half the junior officers I've talked to are in awe the work you've done ... the things you've faced." She swallowed hard, regret making her voice rough as she quietly added, "The things I said at the wake ... that you weren't a part of it and didn't understand ... that wasn't true, and I was completely out of line."
"It's not just what you said," Janet sighed, though Sam's quiet words eased some of her fears. "General Hammond keeps explaining what it's like for gate teams ... like I'm some clueless cadet...." A touch of bitterness slipped through in her tone and she caught herself, getting the resentments back under control.
"I can see where it might feel that way," Sam allowed, "but that's not how he sees you. Believe me, if General Hammond didn't respect your judgment he wouldn't have gone along with it." She saw the doubt in Janet's eyes and noted the little head shake she tried to hide. "Janet, I've seen George Hammond fight tooth and nail with my father a dozen times ... it doesn't mean he doesn't respect someone. If he hadn't believed you knew what you were talking about, he wouldn't have gone along with your initial judgment ... and the fact that he did something you didn't agree with doesn't mean he doesn't trust you." She paused and took a deep breath before continuing, her tone wry, "As for the lectures ... welcome to the club. We all get 'em ... even Colonel O'Neill. I think the general considers it part of his job."
Janet looked doubtful and Sam held up her crossed fingers.
A moment passed and then a tiny smile curved Janet's mouth. "So why is it I came here to counsel you and you wound up counseling me?" she asked, her tone ironic.
Sam shrugged, feeling better for the chance to focus on someone else's problems for a few minutes. "I dunno ... part of my unique charm?" Her eyelids fluttered, and she twitched to shake off the threat of sleep.
"Very unique," the doctor agreed, "and very sleepy by the look of it."
"I'm fine," Sam lied.
"Sam, you need sleep," Janet chided. She reached out to brush blond bangs out of the captain's eyes. "Brilliant advice aside, you're barely conscious, can hardly keep your eyes open, and your head keeps rocking over until you yank it upright again." She laid out the obvious with brutal honesty.
Sam didn't argue. "And if I sleep, I'll dream..." she whispered. She just couldn't deal with that fear.
"You don't have to ... just close your eyes and I'll help you...." Janet instructed, her voice low and hypnotic.
"I can't," Sam whispered and turned her head away.
"Yes, you can," Janet disagreed, Gentle fingers toyed with the hair at Sam's temple, smoothing it back from her cheek. "Just close your eyes.... You're safe here ... nothing bad can hurt you. It'll be okay."
The whispered words had a mesmerizing effect, and despite her best efforts to stay awake, Sam could feel her head drooping and her eyelids growing heavier. "Not fighting fair," she mumbled, amazed by how effectively Janet was wiping away her resistance.
"I'm not trying to," the doctor admitted, still using that same soft, coaxing voice. "You can't go on like this ... the exhaustion is just exacerbating the situation."
"But the dream--"
"Do you trust me?" Janet questioned.
Sam nodded, her expression serious.
"Okay then," the doctor continued, "I want you to close your eyes...."
Sam couldn't resist the gentle entreaty, and blue eyes slipped closed as she tipped her head sideways, leaning against the side of the couch, the tender fingers in her hair a soothing balm to her troubled soul.
"Just concentrate on my voice and relax.... You're going to be fine...."
"You won't leave?" Sam whispered, suddenly afraid of what might happen if she were alone again.
"I'm not going anywhere," Janet confirmed. "I'll be here and I'll make sure you're okay." She kept talking softly, murmuring quiet reassurances meant to calm the blond's fears, her tone every bit as important as the actual words.
"I just ... I don't want to dream...." Sam whispered, sinking into the couch as her muscles grew progressively more limp in response to the doctor's soothing voice.
"I know," Janet soothed, "which is why I want you to imagine you're behind high castle walls ... and the nightmares can't get past the moat...just keep the walls in place and you're safe."
San imagined the high walls and deep moat, but it wasn't until she envisioned a slender figure standing guard on the highest parapet that she felt safe.
She continued petting Sam's hair slowly. "Just let yourself float ... you're safe ... nothing's going to get past me...."
Her body suddenly impossibly heavy, Sam drooped, her head resting more heavily against the doctor's fingers as they continued to comb through her hair. The gentle assurances formed a kind of mental and emotional cocoon, leaving her feeling safe and cared for. She wasn't even consciously aware of stretching out on her side long minutes later, her arms still wrapped around her pillow, her body extended along the length of the couch.
"It's going to be all right," Janet breathed. She sat pressed into one corner of the couch to leave Sam enough room to lie down, fingers still sifting rhythmically through silky blond hair. Carter's pillow ran up over the edge of her thigh, so that the captain's head was nudged up against her hip where it wasn't pressed into the pillow. "You're safe ... in your own home ... just let yourself go and relax ... I'm here ... and I'd never let anything harm you...."
They were the last words Sam consciously heard before the darkness overtook her and she slept.
* * * * * *
The return to consciousness came with the awareness of a faint but annoyingly repetitive sound. Sam opened her eyes sleepily, blinking against a stream of bright sunlight that snuck in through a crack in the curtains. It took a moment to process the fact that she was asleep on the couch and another moment to remember why. She glanced toward her bedroom, frowning as she listened for the distant sound that had dragged her out of sleep, taking a second to recognize the muffled pulse of her alarm clock.
Another half dozen or so facts occurred to her all at once; she was pressed up against a warm hip, one arm draped around a slender body, someone's fingers tangled loosely in her hair. Sam tipped her head back enough to peer up at Janet Fraiser, taking a beat to remember the gentle comfort that had melted her fears enough to allow a night's rest. Janet hadn't moved, simply pressed into the corner of the couch, one arm draped over the arm, the other attached to the hand threaded into Sam's hair, her head all the way back against the cushions. She was sound asleep, though Sam was certain she hadn't been for long. She had faint memories of soothing words and caresses easing her back into sleep every time the dream had threatened to return during the night. Glancing at her watch, she noted the time with a flicker of guilt. The doctor had spent close to half the night that way. That couldn't be good for her back.
Sam, on the other hand, was feeling the best she'd been since Daniel's death. She'd slept deeply and dreamlessly, and it was tempting to just snuggle back down and grab a few more winks while Janet was there to look after her. A soft sigh escaped her lips. Unfortunately, she was due to meet the colonel and Teal'c at Daniel's place to clean out any secure materials and see that things were boxed up properly. A sad duty any way she looked at it, but at least she felt sane enough to handle it now.
Moving gingerly, she tried not wake the woman huddled peacefully if not comfortably in the end of the couch, but Janet stirred as Sam pushed up on one elbow, her other arm still draped over a slender thigh. Blinking sleepily, the doctor looked down just as Sam looked up and blue eyes met brown. They both froze.
Sam carefully lifted her hand from where it was resting against Janet's thigh, unintentionally drawing more attention to where it had settled so naturally, separated from bare skin only by the thin cotton barrier of the doctor's sweats. "I ... uh ... my alarm's going off," she exhaled and gestured toward her bedroom.
Janet nodded muzzily, her gaze breaking from Sam's as she glanced at the hand still threaded into pale gold hair. Suddenly self-conscious, she yanked her fingers back, wincing as her body protested the sudden movement, then tried to look like she'd meant to do that by lifting her hand to run her fingers through her own hair. "Yeah," she mumbled.
Sam pushed upright, quickly finding her feet and stepping back a pace. It wasn't the most comfortable moment ever for either of them.
"You okay?" Sam asked worriedly as the doctor did a slow stretch where she sat, wincing when kinked muscles pulled uncomfortably.
"I'll be fine," Janet assured her with a faint smile. "Just a little stiff." She paused, studying Sam carefully. "You look a little more like yourself this morning," she said hopefully.
Sam nodded. "Yeah, I woke up feeling a lot better." She paused momentarily before continuing, "Thank you ... I owe you."
"No, you don't," Janet demurred, waving the idea off. "I'm just glad to know you're okay."
They stared at each other, not precisely uncomfortable, but not comfortable either.
"Well," Sam said at last, not knowing what else to do, "I guess I should go get dressed." She glanced at her watch. "I'm supposed to meet the colonel and Teal'c at Daniel's in a little over an hour...."
"You okay to drive?" Janet asked worriedly. Sam looked far healthier and stronger, but she didn't believe that a half a night's sleep had solved her problems, just allowed her to paper them over a bit. On the other hand, she didn't want Sam to feel pressured or like she didn't trust her.
Seeing some of those worries in the doctor's eyes, Sam nodded, doing her best to reassure her friend. "I may not be at my absolute best, but I'm okay to get myself to Daniel's."
"You're sure?" Janet double-checked, carefully watching Sam for any signs of instability.
"I'm sure," the blond insisted. "You on early shift?"
Janet glanced at her watch, noting the time with a soft groan. "No, actually, I'm not due on till eleven. I guess I'll go home and get a couple more hours of sleep," she murmured through a yawn. She'd spent most of the time while Sam slept simply sitting with her, petting her hair and speaking softly any time she stirred or seemed to be sliding into whatever nightmarish landscape her brain kept trying to relive. It wasn't until near dawn that Janet had finally felt safe give way to her own exhaustion for a little while and a few more hours of rest would be a welcome boon.
"Why don't you just crash here?" Sam suggested. If Janet wasted her time driving back and forth, it would hardly be worth the effort.
Janet drew breath to answer, momentarily pausing before she glanced down at the couch and back up at Sam. "Not to be rude, Sam," she said dryly, "but when you said my couch was more comfortable, you weren't kidding." She was tired, but not that tired.
Carter glanced toward her bedroom door for a second, then looked back at Janet. "You can take my bed." She hooked a thumb over her shoulder. "Just let me grab a few things and it's all yours."
The doctor's mouth hung open for a second, then she shook her head. "No, I-I ... I really should--"
"You really should get as much sleep as you can," Sam interrupted sharply, though she was smiling. "You brought a uniform, right?"
Not knowing whether or not she'd be able to go back home before going on duty, she'd planned ahead. "Well, yes, but--"
"Then the smartest thing for you to do is stay here and not waste time driving around."
Janet wanted to argue, but she had to admit, Sam had a point. She also had on her most persuasive smile. "All right," she allowed at last, throwing up her hands in surrender.
"'Kay," the blond's lips turned up in a triumphant grin, making her seem more like herself than she had since her colleague's death. "I'll just get what I need and the bed's all yours," she said quickly, then hurried out, leaving Janet shaking her head bemusedly in her wake.
Just under an hour later, Sam carefully opened the door to her bedroom, a hint of a fond smile curving her mouth as she noted the lump cocooned in her comforter. Janet's nose and closed eyes and a few strands of hair were about all that was visible of her. The comforter was rising and subsiding gently, signaling the woman wrapped in its embrace was sleeping deeply. She glanced at the clock beside the bed, making sure the switch was set so the alarm would go off, and left a note on the dresser next to the door. With a last glance, she slipped out, careful not to slam any doors as she locked up.
* * * * * *
The pulsing beep that invaded Janet Fraiser's sleep addled brain was so totally alien that it took her several seconds to decide it was an alarm clock instead of the classical music station she used to ease her back into the real world in her own bedroom. A low groan and she flopped an arm over to slap the snooze button. Maybe with a few extra minutes, she could deal with the notion of facing the world. Sam's couch might have been a lot less comfortable than her own, but the extra long, king-sized bed was a massive improvement, and she rolled onto her back with a soft sigh, lying with her head buried in a thick mound of pillows. She could get used to this. Eyes closed, pleasantly relaxed, she snuggled deeper into the comfortable cocoon of blankets, taking her time to wake up. When necessary, she was more than capable of snapping instantly awake, ready to work, but it wasn't something she enjoyed. She preferred a nice, slow process that gave her body time to adjust.
She was still lying there enjoying the sheer comfort of the pillow-strewn bed when a soft scent teased her nostrils. Sam's perfume, still clinging to the sheets and pillows she realized with a sleepy kind of awareness. The sweet, slightly floral fragrance was a pleasant reminder of her friend that left her feeling less alone, any unpleasant associations long since replaced by the trust and caring that defined their friendship. She sighed softly, dozing comfortably amid the warm surroundings.
When the snooze timer ran out, it was tempting to just shut it off and laze the day away. But -- she glanced at her watch, noting the time, and sighed softly -- her work wouldn't get done that way. With a regretful sigh, she flipped the alarm off, then hurried to dress, pausing when she saw the note on the dresser in Sam's perfect, draftsmanlike handwriting. She flicked it open, a smile touching her lips as she read the contents.
"Tall, blond, gorgeous, brilliant, and she cooks," the doctor muttered to herself. "Good Lord, Sam, if you weren't so damn nice I think I'd have to hate you." A fond smile curved the doctor's mouth and she silently refolded the note, tucking it in her jacket pocket. The muffins were delicious and she was nibbling on a second when her cell phone rang. It was the SGC and she was wanted there immediately. SG-1 was on its way in from Daniel Jackson's apartment and they had important news. She finished the last bite of the muffin on the road.
* * * * * *
Daniel Jackson was alive.
Held prisoner by a creature called an Oannes -- an ancient enemy of the Goa'uld -- his 'death' had been nothing more than a memory planted in his teammates' minds to cover up his kidnapping. The team had started suspecting the truth after discovering they were having the same nightmares and thoughts while cleaning out their teammate's apartment. Sam's hypnosis by Dr. McKenzie had confirmed their suspicions and the team had returned to P3X-866 only to discover their teammate swimming out of the ocean to meet them. Nem, the Oannes, had released him after he provided information from an ancient Babylonian text that the creature's mate was long dead, murdered by a Goa'uld.
Despite several days of incredible stress, SG-1's mood since returning to the SGC had bordered on jubilant. Daniel was alive, they were sane, life was good. Jack O'Neill had even put up with a physical and psych exam good naturedly.
Fraiser smiled as they were all released from one of the more rambunctious debriefings she'd ever been to, and she heard O'Neill somewhere ahead in the hallway, teasing Daniel about his knack for getting into trouble. If that wasn't the pot calling the kettle black, she didn't know what was. She shook her head, her expression wry.
"Hey, Janet," Sam said a little breathlessly as she caught up with the doctor in the hallway. Carter was grinning from ear to ear, nearly as thrilled to have her brain back in working order as she was to have Daniel back.
Janet slanted a look at the blond, returning the happy grin with a slightly less exuberant one of her own. "You're looking better," noted happily.
"Yeah ... a lot better," Sam said quickly, eyes sparkling brightly as she matched pace with the smaller woman. "Actually, that's why I wanted to catch you. We're all going to take Daniel over to Mike's Place for a celebratory beer after he gets cleaned up and checks by his apartment. I thought you might like to come along." It was the only way she could think of to let Janet know they all considered her a part of the team. After some of the things the other woman had revealed, it seemed important.
"Oh," Janet exhaled, clearly caught by surprise. "I'm sorry ... I can't."
Sam's expression fell. "Oh." A tiny frown creased her brow. "I guess you've got a lot of work to do."
"Uh, no, actually," the doctor murmured, her expression a mix of disappointment and discomfort. "In fact, I'm off duty in a few minutes ... but I've got something I have to take care of this evening."
"Ah," Sam said, sounding disappointed. She considered asking, but something about Janet's tone didn't invite inquiry. "That's too bad." Uncertain what else to do with her hands, she stuffed them in her pockets.
"Yeah," Janet exhaled regretfully, "I wish I could come, but it's something I can't delay ... and it's important."
Sam shrugged, pulling to a halt as they reached the elevator and Janet pushed the call button. "Well, if you change your mind, we'd love to have you. We were going to try and hit Mike's Place some time between nine and ten ... we're all off tomorrow, so we can close the place out if we want."
"Thanks," Janet exhaled, not knowing what else to say. "I don't think I can make it, but if I finish up in time, I'll drop by."
"Hope we see you."
"I'll see what I can do." The elevator arrived and Janet started to step aboard only to pull up short as a hand landed lightly on her shoulder.
"You're as much a part of this project as anyone," Sam said, afraid that her friend was still feeling cut off from the others. "We all feel that way, and if you can make it, you belong there." The words came out on pure impulse, but she was glad she said them as she saw the glitter of pleasure in the doctor's eyes.
"Thank you," Janet whispered, her voice tight. A tiny sigh escaped her lips. "But I really do have to see to something."
"Okay," Sam exhaled without pushing, though her expression was disappointed as she watched the doctor step aboard the elevators just before the doors slid closed. "Damn," she sighed softly.
* * * * * *
"Hey, isn't that Fraiser?" Jack murmured as he peered past Sam over the edge of his beer mug.
The blond twisted in her seat, a frown touching her brow as she noted the slender figure seated across from a man in a booth near the bar. The guy was Janet's age give or take a few years, and good looking in a studied, Marlboro Man sort of way. The perfect macho, stud type. Sam hated him instantly. Janet's head was down and she was reading something on the table in front of her. As Sam watched, Stud-boy, as she mentally dubbed him, reached out to cover the doctor's hand with his own where it rested on the table between them, the gesture far too intimate for someone who was simply there on business. It was the guy from the night before; she was sure of it. He looked like the sort of lothario who'd get off on seducing a beautiful woman when she was hurting and vulnerable. "Yeah, that's her," she murmured. And by the look of it he was picking up right where he'd left off the night before. Sam ground her molars angrily as she fought the urge to storm over and knock the guy silly, while wishing that Janet would do it instead. She had to know the creep was no good for her.
O'Neill's brow knit thoughtfully. "Good looking guy," he murmured, even as his attention was drawn by a cute, busty waitress that wandered through his line of sight.
"Didn't know you noticed these things, Colonel," Sam snapped sharply. He didn't look all that good to her. Certainly not enough to make up for a sleazy personality.
O'Neill's jaw dropped at the sharp comment and his gaze swung back to focus on his 2IC. That wasn't Carter's usual style. "Are you pissed at me?" he asked after a beat, trying to figure out what he'd said. Normally he knew when he was pressing buttons. Hell, normally, he put considerable effort into his button pressing efforts. But this time he didn't have a clue.
"No," Sam exhaled and took a long drag from her beer. "Just ... uh ... making a bad joke," she lied badly. It was a lousy excuse for the crack, but it was the only one she could come up with that didn't involve explaining what she'd seen at the doctor's house or why she didn't like the guy. Somehow she didn't think Janet would appreciate having that information shared and she knew it wasn't something she was eager to discuss.
O'Neill and Daniel both stared at her like she'd fried a few too many brain cells. "Umm... okay..." Jack exhaled uncomfortably, his voice trailing off as he was suddenly distracted when the busty waitress leaned over a table across the way, giving him a good look at her obvious charms. He was definitely going to have to leave a good tip. That view alone was worth a couple of bucks.
Daniel, meanwhile, suddenly found his beer intensely fascinating.
"Perhaps we should speak to Doctor Fraiser," Teal'c suggested, oblivious to the sudden tension, or perhaps simply unimpressed by it.
"No, she said she had something important to do tonight," Sam said softly and looked over again. This time Stud-boy looked back, frowning as he saw her. A flicker of recognition crossed his face, which only confirmed her certainty that it was the same creep who'd tried to take advantage of Janet the night before. He must have seen her through the window when she first arrived. It was the only explanation that made sense because she was sure she'd never seen him before. They stared at each other for a long moment, then their gazes broke at the same instant, both swinging to touch on the woman sitting across from him in the booth. Sam was still staring as she spoke softly. "Teal'c, you want a pool lesson?" She couldn't just sit there. Maybe the chance to hit something would help even if it was just a little white ball.
The Jaffa's gaze followed the direction of his teammate's, but he made no comment, simply responded to her question. "If you wish."
"Yeah, come on," Sam murmured, ignoring the fact that he sounded none too thrilled by the prospect.
"My isn't she a bucket of good cheer tonight," Jack grumbled as he swung his head back around and watched them go. Carter'd been quiet since the debriefing, but she suddenly seemed downright grumpy. Very unCarterlike, he thought, trying to figure what might be causing the problem, but he just couldn't see anything. Seemed like, with Daniel alive and the team sane, she oughta be in a better mood. Particularly in consideration of how truly spectacular that waitress' chest was. Jack took a thoughtful swig of his beer. Clearly, some people didn't appreciate the important things in life.
"You said you were all behaving a little weird," Daniel pointed out, breaking in on O'Neill's thoughts as he tried to ignore the fact that even though it was his celebration nobody was paying any attention to him, and so far he'd picked up the tab for all of their drinks. Somehow that just didn't seem fair, especially since he'd just wanted to crash and get some sleep. "Maybe she's still a little freaked."
"Yeah, but I'm perfectly normal now," Jack said, yanking the Egyptologist out of his silent musings to stare doubtfully at him.
Normal wasn't a word Daniel Jackson could ever imagine using while describing Jack O'Neill.
"Well, I am," Jack said defensively as his teammate just continued to stare.
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