Bits and Pieces #7
Sam was surprised to find Janet only half dressed, her face still devoid of makeup, when she answered the door Saturday morning. Normally the doctor was absolutely punctual and her raised eyebrow said it all.
"Sorry," Janet apologized quickly, still fumbling with the buttons on her blouse. "My damn alarm never went off this morning ... and there was some kind of commotion in the neighborhood last night that woke me up about three a.m." She rolled her eyes in annoyance and kept talking through a yawn. "Couldn't get back to sleep for hours and must have either slept through the alarm or shut it off without waking up ... or maybe I forgot to set it," she admitted with a helpless shrug. Then dark eyes fell on the bag in Sam's hand with a look of pure lust. "Be still my heart ... I do believe I love you, Samantha Carter ... especially if that's coffee I smell."
Grinning, Sam simply handed the sack over, once again finding it fascinating to compare the doctor's off duty persona -- which tended to be on the high energy side -- with the controlled and formal aura she normally projected at the SGC.
"Mmm, smell those caffeine fumes," Janet exhaled happily as she removed a large foam cup from the sack. She popped the tab and took a sip, then grinned. "Triple Mocha Espresso." Another quick into the sack revealed several bagels already split and slathered in cream cheese. A russet eyebrow rose. "I distinctly remember a promise of donuts," she remarked in mock-annoyance.
"I was afraid a sugar rush on top of that much caffeine might turn you into a human gas molecule," Sam pointed out as she followed Janet into the kitchen. "Besides I got you raisin and cinnamon with cinnamon cream cheese."
Janet peered into the sack to double check the order, and her grin returned. "Forgiven," she pronounced cheerfully, grabbing for the bagel in question while Sam pulled a couple of plates from the kitchen cupboard. The doctor pulled the second foam cup out of the bag with an experimental sniff and made a face. "Orange juice?"
"Some of us aren't quite the caffeine addicts that others are."
Which earned the blond a dirty look. "Mmhm, and some of us never did a residency where seventy-two hours shifts were the rule and not the exception," Janet pointed out between bites of bagel and long gulps from her cup. "I'm addicted now. It's too late to change." She glanced at her watch. "However, if I don't finish getting ready, we're never going to get out of here." Grabbing her plate and coffee, she hurried out of the kitchen toward her bedroom.
Smiling, Sam grabbed her own things and hurried after the other woman. Janet was already in the attached bathroom when she reached her bedroom and took a seat on the still rumpled bed. The bathroom door was open, but the angle was such that Sam couldn't see more than an occasional shifting shadow. "So what was the neighborhood problem last night?" she called out as she set her plate next to her hip, gnawing on a bagel thoughtfully.
The doctor stuck her head out of the bathroom door and shrugged. "The hell if I know," she admitted and hooked her thumb over her shoulder. "I think I heard something crash, then the dogs next door just went nuts."
Sam frowned. "Any chance you had a prowler?"
The doctor stuck her head out again. "I don't think so. The motion sensors in back were never triggered, and the only one in front that went off was the one over the garage." She shrugged and stepped back into the bathroom. "A cat probably ran by, knocked something over and set those mutts off ... I swear, those dogs are dumb as a sack of hammers and-- Oh Damn," she yelped abruptly.
"Problem?" Sam questioned, half rising, ready to help.
The doctor stepped back into the doorway, a large coffee splotch prominently visible on the off-white blouse she was wearing. "Small accident," she muttered, already unbuttoning the front of blouse, her tone wry as she added, "This is what I get for trying to do too many things at once."
Sam noted a créme colored blouse tossed over the back of a chair in the corner. "Why not wear that one?" she said practically.
Dark eyes swung to touch on the garment. "Actually, that's what I planned on wearing, but I can't find the bra that goes with it."
Pale brows rose curiously. "It has a matching bra?"
"No," the doctor laughed. "But the neckline is a little odd. I've only got one bra with straps that don't show and I couldn't find it this morning." She shrugged, frowning thoughtfully. "Actually, I don't think I've seen it for a couple of weeks." She ducked her head back into the bathroom, totally missing the way the color abruptly drained out of Sam's face.
The blond suddenly shoved a hand into the side pocket of her leather jacket, paling another notch as her fingers encountered soft silk. She'd completely forgotten it was even there, but now that she'd remembered she had a bad feeling she knew exactly where the missing garment was hiding. She glanced toward the open bathroom door. Saying anything meant explaining how it had gotten there though, a subject she'd just as soon not revisit. Just thinking about the moment when she'd realized the other woman wasn't alone made her stomach muscles clench with remembered tension. The fact that the man in question had turned out to be the doctor's ex-husband, and the interrupted moment more about comfort than passion alleviated the sense of discomfort less than she would have liked. Sam knew it was probably unfair, but in a life where she had so few opportunities for friendships with other women, she was none too eager for Janet to attach herself to any man. In her experience, friendships tended to fall by the wayside whenever that happened, and she was in no hurry to find herself on the sidelines again.
"Earth to Sa-am."
Carter looked up abruptly as she realized she'd momentarily gotten lost in her own thoughts and her friend was calling to her from the bathroom doorway, her head poking around the doorframe, the stained blouse hanging open in front. "Wha.... Oh, sorry, just thinking about something," she hastily explained without offering any further information.
An arched eyebrow ticked upward. "Deep thoughts I assume?" Janet murmured.
In no hurry to explain anything even remotely connected to her thoughts, Sam shook her head. "Just some stuff involved with work." Which wasn't a complete and total lie since they worked together.
"Hmmm, not even out of the place a whole day and she's already running formulae in her head," the doctor tsked, then grinned. "I was just asking if you'd do me a favor."
Still shaking off the moment of bemusement, Sam nodded quickly. "Sure. Anything."
"Would you check in the laundry room? There should be a burgundy blouse hanging on the rack in there." She glanced down at herself. "It goes nicely with this skirt."
Sam set her food on the dresser that sat along one wall, then hurried off, quickly reappearing, blouse in hand. "Here you go," she called out, passing the hanger over as a hand darted out and snatched it out of her hold.
"Thanks," Janet said quickly and Sam could hear the soft rustling sounds she made as she changed into the clean blouse.
It wouldn't take her more than a minute Sam realized as she stuffed her hand in her pocket and felt the silky texture of the unintentionally stolen bra tease her fingertips. She cast a quick glance toward the bathroom door. It was tempting to avoid any risk of detection and simply leave things alone. But at the same time, something about that idea felt ... uncomfortable. Like it somehow made something intentional ... and like maybe she wanted to keep the blasted thing for some reason ... talk about your uncomfortable ideas. Another glance to make certain the doctor was still safely out of sight and she slipped the delicate garment out of her pocket, palming it as she glanced around the room. A step or two and she was standing beside the low-slung dresser where she'd set her food. She dropped the pale fabric, surreptitiously kicking it under the bureau when Janet suddenly came out of the bathroom, straightening her blouse with one hand, while she downed the rest of the latté. Sam quickly retrieved her discarded juice, downing it in one gulp before snagging her half bagel and grabbing a fast bite. "Ready?" she mumbled around the food.
"Almost." A black leather jacket hung from a hook on the back of her bedroom door and Janet slung it on, smoothing the graceful blazer cut on her shoulders, then turned to peer at Sam as she gulped down the last of the bagel, her head canting to one side, one eyebrow rising neatly on her forehead. The blond could eat faster than anyone she'd ever known when she was of a mind. "I think the only thing left is my briefcase and it's by the door."
"Great," Sam said quickly, eager to be out of the other woman's bedroom, half expecting Janet to somehow know she'd planted the bra and say something. "Let's go." She started to reach for the plate left on the dresser, but Janet waved a hand in dismissal.
"Don't worry about it. I'll take care of the dishes later," she said quickly to forestall her friend, then paused, sensing odd currents that she didn't understand at all. "Is anything wrong?" she questioned after a beat.
"What could be wrong?" Sam said too quickly, her attempt at looking innocent coming out more panicked than confused. "Just in a hurry to be moving so we're not late."
"Sorry about that," the doctor apologized, suddenly understanding. Sam hated anything that smacked of irresponsibility, especially when if it risked drawing attention to herself. The thought of wandering into the symposium late was probably making her crazy. "All my fault."
"Don't worry about it," Sam assured her as they hurried out.
Neither woman noticed the way the closet door slowly slid an inch or two wider in their wake or saw the pale blue eyes that watched intently as they hurried down the hallway. Tony Phillips silently stepped out of the doctor's large, walk-in closet. It had been so simple to get into her home. He'd entered through the garage, nearly chickening out when he tripped over a rake and turned on the motion sensing spotlight on the front of the garage and setting off the dogs in the neighboring yard. But then he'd been inside, safe and sound in the darkened interior of her garage, her soft scent detectable there even with the musky smell of dust and oil. Tense and scared of discovery, he'd waited until the only sounds he could hear outside of his own heartbeat were the faint creaks and groans of the house settling, then taken five minutes to open the door that led from the garage to the kitchen. He'd wandered on light feet through the small house while she slept, mentally making it his own, so comfortable he even stood in her doorway to watch her sleep at one point. His hands fisted tightly at his sides as he remembered her features soft in sleep.
"You should have taken Our gift," Hathor's voice rang in his head, her tone imperious and angry. "By failing to do so, you fail Us."
"I couldn't," he whispered defensively. She wasn't ready and would have fought him. Despite all of Hathor's promises, he was sure of it. That was why he'd hidden in the closet when he couldn't resist the urge to be closer while she showered. She'd nearly caught him, but he'd dived inside just in time to avoid detection, then stayed there while she got ready, grateful that she was so organized she'd laid out her clothes in advance. Otherwise, she'd have found him in the closet, and then he would have had to....
"Yes," Hathor whispered with hungry intensity, her pleasure at the notion a boundless well of perversity.
He shook his head at the ideas she planted in his brain, struggling to resist the unwanted eroticism.
"You must or you will lose her completely," Hathor chided, her tone icy. "Carter wants to steal Our gift to you. Would you fail your goddess in this manner?"
"No," Tony hissed, "she's not like that." But something in the goddess' words sent a bolt of chill terror right through him. He couldn't help but remember the way the two women had looked working out in the gym; flushed and sweaty, totally focused on one another. He'd simply stopped by to watch ... then been transfixed by the sight of his intended looking so sensual and alive and ... aroused.
The chill dropped in temperature until it became absolutely frigid.
He shook his head in an effort to throw off the thought, but Royce's words suddenly rang in his head. "I'd sooner believe she was dyking it with Carter...."
"No," he groaned again.
Like a movie he couldn't shut off, images of the two women in the gym continue to flash, unwanted, in his head. It had been intense ... sensual ... both of them determined to get the upper hand, but in the end Carter had lain above his intended, their hands twined together, bodies meshed, the pose inherently erotic, the smile on her face triumphant. She'd enjoyed every minute of it; probably thrilled to have the freedom to touch the flesh she most desired. Rage slid over and through him at the presumption, and he concentrated on his fury as he struggled to ignore the other image burning in his mind's eye; his intended grinning up at the blond captain, her smile unconsciously inviting.
Barely conscious of his own actions, he reached for the nine millimeter holstered at the small of his back, drawing it with the ease of someone used to carrying a gun. He quickly checked to make sure the clip was firmly in place, a round chambered, and the safety on.
"Yes, child, you have the power," Hathor praised, her pleasure visceral. She was in his head, whispering and taunting, once again whiling away the time by tormenting him with a combination of pleasure and pain that he knew was painfully sick even as he found himself powerless to resist it. "Take what's yours ... with Our blessings."
He nodded, his eyes glinting with raw fury as he imagined all of the things Carter wanted ... all of the things she would do if she ever got the chance. He remembered overhearing the discussion about the symposium they were supposed to attend, but he suddenly imagined the blond suggesting they skip it and spend the day some other way.
Like in bed, in some seedy, little motel with in-room movies.
He shook his head suddenly, fighting the image. No, that didn't seem right. He didn't know Carter that well, but that didn't seem her style at all.
"You have the proof," Hathor hissed angrily, her voice so loud it was like a feedbacking signal in his head. "You must act or you will lose everything."
Proof? He knelt, reaching under the dresser, easily finding the tiny scrap of cloth he'd seen the blond drop and try to hide from his hidden vantage-point. He ran his thumb over the silky lace edging, jaw muscles clenching as he realized what it was.
"And how do you think she came by that?" Hathor demanded triumphantly. "Or what she plans to do next?"
He continued stroking the silky fabric, glaring angrily at nothing in particular. "She won't succeed," he promised his goddess quietly. "And if she tries, she'll die...."
* * * * * *
Jack O'Neill heaved a comfortable sigh of relief as he took a swig from his beer -- in a tall, frosty mug. not a glass -- and let his eyes run over the interior of Mike's Place with its utilitarian cement floors, and walls that were undecorated except for a few posters of scantily clad women selling various brands of American beer. The SGC was welcome again since the bartender was apparently out of counseling now -- having been talked into the notion that the Goa'uld he'd seen erupting out of an SGC lieutenant's back had, in fact, been a snake that had somehow gotten into his shirt and bit him. Some days the psychology profession's ability to come up with a 'rational' explanation for anything utterly amazed Jack. Then again, if it hadn't been for that wrongheaded bit of rationalizing of the impossible, the bar's owner would never have relented and started allowing the Air Force back in, so Jack couldn't complain.
Of course the fact that Mike's profits had probably dropped at least seventy percent since throwing the Air Force out might have had something to do with it, Jack thought as he glanced around the bar. There weren't many people who weren't in some kind of uniform, and probably even most of the folks in civvies were off-duty SGC personnel. He couldn't imagine anyone bringing a date to Mike's Place. It wasn't where you took anyone you were hoping to impress -- depress, maybe -- but never impress.
Jack heaved another sigh. After a long day of administrative and budgetary meetings -- something he found slightly less enjoyable than a root canal without the benefit of anesthetic -- this was good.
"I still fail to understand your preference for this establishment over the other one where you have also gone to imbibe alcoholic substances," Teal'c broke in on Jack's happy musings.
The colonel looked over at the Jaffa, his expression mildly impatient. "There's no comparison, Teal'c. Mike's is a guy's bar." A dark eyebrow rose fractionally. Teal'c's all-purpose expression, Jack mused wryly. "It's a real place ... sports on the TV over the bar -- and by that I mean real sports like baseball and football, not skateboarding -- American beer on tap, sexy posters on the walls ... male bonding at its best."
Teal'c's eyebrow rose another quarter of an inch, a sure signal Jack wasn't getting through. "I was unaware, Colonel O'Neill, that your preference is for bonding with males."
Or that he was getting through in a completely different way than he intended, Jack realized in a rush as it occurred to him how Teal'c had interpreted his comment. "No," he yelped, "I mean ... no ... not that kind of bonding. I just meant--"
Jack couldn't decide whether to be annoyed with or grateful for the interruption as he turned around in response to the nervous voice and found himself face to face -- well, face to top of head -- with Duncan Royce. A wry smile twisted O'Neill's mouth. He liked the kid, he really did, but he couldn't help but remember that it was Royce's mouth that had helped get him in trouble. Honestly, he was basically a good kid, but his wisecracks were a pain in the ass. It occurred to Jack that maybe he wasn't the best person to be complaining about somebody's smart mouth even as he realized Royce wasn't alone. "Yeah, what's up?" He recognized the good looking, Hispanic lieutenant standing behind Royce as a member of Fraiser's staff. Martinez. He couldn't remember the first name, but the last was definitely Martinez. The kid had helped the doc stitch him up after he'd torn his arm up on a mission one time. He'd seemed likeable enough, and the doc had appeared to trust him.
"Well, I ... um...." Royce began hesitantly, which seemed wholly out of character from what Jack knew of the young lieutenant. He was usually the type to shove both feet into his mouth first, then apologize later ... usually in an effort to keep himself alive. The kid glanced uneasily at Teal'c, and Jack waved a hand.
"Don't worry about Teal'c," O'Neill told the younger man, sensing an unusual edge of tension. "You can trust him."
Teal'c simply raised an eyebrow.
Royce glanced back at Martinez, but didn't speak. After a moment the medic leaned forward. "You have to tell him, Duncan," he said sharply, then flashed a quick look at the two older men. "I know Fraiser trusts both of them." His tone made it obvious that was good enough for him.
Royce looked back, his expression scared. "But you know what that means," he hissed over his shoulder. "I told you what Phillips said...."
Jack tensed as he heard the airman's name. Seemed like something bad was happening every time he'd heard that name lately. "What about Phillips?" he demanded, his tone suddenly deadly serious.
Royce cast a nervous glance toward the crowd, then back at the colonel. "You don't understand," he exhaled, "he made threats if I said anything...."
"Don't worry," Jack said quickly. "If he's done something, nobody's gonna let him hurt anyone." Phillips was half again as big as the lieutenant. He couldn't entirely blame the smaller man if he was feeling a bit intimidated.
Royce shook his head. "Not those kind of threats ... well ... at least those weren't the ones that...." He trailed off, teeth gritting. "He knows about something...."
"If you don't tell him, I will," Martinez threatened quietly, and Jack suddenly got it. He was tempted to tell the kid to relax; that half the people in the SGC had probably put that little affair together. And it didn't help that Royce's efforts at playing the macho, skirt-chasing stud usually came across as suspiciously overplayed.
"Look, whatever it is, it's none of my business," Jack assured both men. "And nobody's gonna know I heard anything from you."
Relief flooded the young lieutenant's expression. "Thank you, sir," he said softly.
"Now, what the hell should you tell me?" O'Neill demanded impatiently.
"Yeah, I got that," Jack said shortly. "What about him?"
"He attacked me yesterday ... after that whole scene in the gym. He was coming out of the lockers after the changeover ... and when I asked him why, he threw me in a storage closet. Started slamming me around and telling me to shut up about his girlfriend--"
"His girlfriend?" Jack repeated in confusion, trying to figure out what she -- whoever she might be -- had to do with anything.
"That was my response, sir ... but then he claimed it was Fraiser--"
"Which is absolutely not true," Martinez inserted helpfully. "He was one of the guys that brought in Makepeace the other day, and he had her totally creeped out."
"I made a pretty crude remark," Royce admitted and glanced at Martinez -- who glowered disapprovingly -- then back at O'Neill, "and the next thing I know he's claiming she's his fiancée. Then he shoved a fist in my gut a couple of times, told me to keep my mouth shut or else, and stormed out...."
Jack rocked back on his heels. That was not good news. This was a whole hell of a lot more serious than a simple crush, and a guy acting like an idiot. He glanced at Teal'c who had worked his way all the way up to looking mildly worried. That was never a good sign. He saved the mildly worried look for the end of the world and other assorted catastrophes. "Thanks for letting me know." He looked back at the two men. "And don't worry, nobody said a word to me, and I don't know anything."
"Thank you, sir," Royce exhaled, but Martinez stepped forward, his expression still worried.
"His remark," the medic said, nodding to Royce in a way that suggested there was going to be quite a tongue lashing -- and not in a good way either -- the next time they were alone together, "it was crude ... really crude," he flashed another quick glare at Royce, "and it was about Captain Carter ... and Doctor Fraiser...."
Considering a few of the smirking whispers from the gym, Jack could just imagine, but he wasn't sure where it was leading.
Teal'c got it though, and his expression darkened. "If Airman Phillips is obsessed with Doctor Fraiser and comes to view Captain Carter as competition, they could both be in danger."
"It really set him off," Royce confirmed, his expression hangdog. "That's when he really seemed to lose it."
"Thanks for letting us know," Jack said quickly, then offered a wry twist of a smile. "And like I said, don't worry. Nobody told me anything." He was aware of Teal'c curious gaze, but it wasn't the time for explanation, something the Jaffa seemed to understand because he didn't ask. "Come on, Teal'c." He motioned for the Jaffa to follow him as he hurried through the bar. He dug his ever-present -- and ever-annoying in his opinion -- cell phone out of his pocket, quickly dialing Carter's home number from memory. Her voice mail picked up after a couple of rings, and he left a simple message telling her to give him a call. "Well, what the hell else was I supposed to say?" he demanded when Teal'c raised an eyebrow. Jack climbed into his Bronco and reached across to unlock the passenger side for the Jaffa, then started the engine it before he dialed the number for Carter's cell phone. It was still ringing as he pulled onto the street. "She must not be answering," he muttered, then glanced at Teal'c. "I don't suppose you happen to know Fraiser's number?"
The Jaffa shook his head. "I do not."
They hit a red light and Jack sat rapping his fingers on the wheel impatiently.
"What I do not understand," Teal'c murmured thoughtfully, "is why Airman Phillips has apparently formed such a sudden and intense feeling for Doctor Fraiser." He shook his head. "When he has never shown similar impulses in the past." It simply made no sense.
"Yeah, well, I guess Phillips liked that taste he got when Hathor stopped by."
Teal'c peered at the colonel, his head cocking to one side. "I do not understand," he admitted. "He attempted to eat Doctor Fraiser?" As far as Teal'c knew, the followers of Hathor had no history of cannibalism.
Several responses occurred to Jack, each one cruder than the last. "No," he finally exhaled, concluding that there were conversational places even he didn't want to go. "I just meant when she kissed him."
Teal'c's frown deepened, his expression quicksilvering from one of curious confusion to something far grimmer. "Doctor Fraiser kissed Airman Phillips while he was under Hathor's influence?" he demanded.
"Well, yeah," Jack said sarcastically. "That's how she and Carter escaped when Hathor had 'em locked up. Apparently she laid a big wet one on the guy and stole his gun while his brain was still turning itself inside out."
Teal'c shook his head. "I was unaware of any such contact."
Jack peered at Teal'c as though he was an alien from another planet -- which actually he was, now that Jack thought about it, but still.... "Sheez, Teal'c, don't you listen to any of the gossip?"
"No," the Jaffa said firmly. Humans babbled constantly about inane things that he neither cared about, nor considered of any importance. "What occurred between Doctor Fraiser and Airman Phillips?"
"Well, I wasn't there," O'Neill responded, uncertain why the Jaffa was so intent on the subject, "but according to Owens, he got his tongue at least halfway down her throat before she got his gun." He couldn't quite contain an envious smirk. He would have cheerfully changed places with the kid. Considering his post-Hathor response to the doc, the lady knew how to kiss ... and that sounded like a whole lot more fun than getting a womb in his gut, which was how Jack had spent his Goa'uld related vacation.
"We must hurry," Teal'c said softly, his gaze suddenly distant.
"I don't understand," Jack admitted. "What's got your knickers in a twist?" Teal'c stared at him for a long moment, until Jack finally clarified, "What's got you so worried?"
"According to legend, Hathor rewarded the men who served by giving them women ... and their need for these women would grow more intense with each passing day, until it was second only to their worship of Hathor herself...."
Jack frowned uncertainly, not liking where that was headed at all.
"She used it as another means of controlling those in her court. Many of the women were her priestesses, but many were simply slaves ... and if they attempted to resist in any way, the men would become violent ... often even killing the women ... something Hathor apparently enjoyed greatly."
O'Neill swallowed hard and lost all color, abruptly rethinking his desire to trade places with Phillips. "And if he tried anything, Fraiser would definitely be one to fight."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, "and if the legends are correct, he would harm her -- perhaps even kill her -- to take what he desires."
"Damn," O'Neill hissed, then suddenly looked up and realized the light was green as the car behind him began laying on the horn. "Here," he growled, handing the Jaffa his cell as he was forced to concentrate on traffic again. They were only a few minutes away from the base, and they'd have access to the information and support necessary if there was some kind of problem. "Call in and make sure Hammond's there. I think it's time we let him know what's going on." Noting Teal'c's grim profile, Jack pressed his foot harder on the accelerator, a very bad feeling forming a solid lump in the pit of his stomach.
* * * * * *
"Well, I definitely had an," Sam paused thoughtfully, trying to decide on the right word before settling on, "interesting ... time today." She was standing on the front porch of her friend's house, hands stuffed deeply in her pockets due to a rising chill, pleasantly exhausted after a long day. Odd how sitting around listening to lectures could be so tiring, she thought as she smothered a yawn.
Janet finished shutting off her alarm system and turned back, grinning at Sam. "Betya never had anyone use autopsy details as a pickup line before," she said with an ironic eye roll.
"That was a definitely a first," Sam had to admit. She winced and had to fight a brief bout of queasiness as she remembered the experience. "And hopefully a last," she added, drawing a laugh from the doctor.
"I probably should've warned you about that unfortunate trend." Fraiser chuckled softly, leaning her shoulder against the doorjamb and folding her arms loosely across her chest. "So, can I treat you to a cup of coffee?" she invited.
More than a little tempted, Sam nonetheless shook her head. If she said yes, they'd undoubtedly start arguing some obscure, scientific point and that could easily eat up half the night. As she knew from more than a few blinky-eyed mornings. "I really shouldn't," she sighed regretfully, wishing the answer was otherwise, "but I've got a briefing with the engineering section early tomorrow." A wry smile twisted her mouth as she realized she'd actually found something better than lecturing on the gate ... or at least better than giving the same lecture she'd already given a dozen times before. The doctor didn't have her background in physics and engineering, but she had a knack for picking up concepts and often came at problems from such an offbeat angle that it sparked Sam's imagination in all new directions.
Seeing the temptation in her friend's eyes, Janet held out the additional carrot, "Chocolate amaretto coffee." Carter wasn't much for morning coffee, but late at night she had a definite weakness for anything that ought to be wrapped in foil and sold on the candy counter.
"You're an evil woman," Sam complained, steeling herself to refuse, "but I really do have to go..." she sighed softly, "since I've still got to prep the visuals for the presentation."
Janet settled a little more comfortably against the doorjamb. "Well, if you're going to be such a good girl, I guess I should quit encouraging you to play hooky." Sam almost relented at the mildly pathetic note in the doctor's voice until a tiny grin snuck through, and she realized that was the plan.
"Stop that," the blond chastised, though she was smiling. "I'm trying to be responsible here," she added a little plaintively. She really would rather have whiled away the hours arguing about some of the equipment they'd seen during the day and ways it could be applied to their work on the Stargate Project, but she was already running considerably later than planned since they'd stopped for a late dinner after the symposium. "And it's not easy either." Which was rather strange actually. Normally, being responsible was her forte. She always paid her bills on time, couldn't let a phone ring without picking up to save her life, and she was the definition of punctual.
Janet laughed, the sound low and oddly sensual. "Clearly I'm a bad influence," she drawled and flipped the collar on her jacket up a la Elvis, offering a mock sneer. "If you aren't careful, you'll wind up standing around on street corners talking about gas chromatography and mass spectrometry with the rest of the cool crowd."
"Ooo, and probably selling black market microscopes too," Sam teased through her laughter.
"Yep, you can tell the really bad kids by their black leather pocket protectors," the doctor drawled without missing a beat.
Sam couldn't think of a single thing to outdo that image and held up her hands in surrender. "And on that note, I really do have to head out," she murmured, still laughing as she fished her keys out, hooking the ring around her index finger. "But I had a good time today. Thanks for the invitation."
"Anytime. I'm just glad you could come, since those things are awful alone." Flipping her collar down to signal she'd accepted defeat gracefully, Janet leaned back against the doorframe, legs loosely crossed at the ankles. Clearly, Carter wasn't going to be dissuaded, she noted with some disappointment.
Sam nodded her understanding. "Well, give me a call any time you've got something like that on the docket." She offered a small smile. "If I'm not on duty, I'll be more than happy to join you." She smothered another yawn. "But I really do have to go this time," she reminded herself as much as the doctor.
Janet nodded her understanding and offered an easy smile. "Drive carefully," she murmured without moving from her comfortable spot against the doorframe.
"Will do," Sam exhaled and backed away several steps, then finally had to turn as she took the stairs down to the walk. She looked back as she reached her car, offering a small wave, happy to receive an easy smile in return. A moment later, she accelerated smoothly away from the curb, checking her rear view mirror in time to see Janet step back inside her house and the porchlight click off.
* * * * * *
Janet heaved a tired sigh as she finished locking up and rearming the alarm system, her mouth still uplifted in a faint smile. Who would have thought a symposium she'd been dreading, but had felt duty-bound to attend, could turn into an enjoyable day? Sam was good company, and she had a wickedly dry wit when she was in the right mood -- something desperately needed for surviving such things mentally intact. A hint of a smile touched full lips as she thought of the astrophysicist's response to several of the new technologies being presented. She was so genuinely excited by anything that sparked her scientific impulses that it was energizing just to be around her when she was in that mode.
Fighting a yawn, she ruffled her hair and wandered toward her bedroom, peeling off her coat as she moved. Tossing it across the foot of the bed, she kicked off her shoes, lobbing them toward the closet, then flopped back on the mattress, tempted to just fall asleep that way.
The sudden jangle of the phone ended any fantasies along that line. Janet rolled, reaching for the cordless phone that usually sat on its cradle beside the bed, only to come up short as she realized it wasn't there. Probably sitting beside the computer in her office. That was usually where she found it when she'd forgotten to hang it up. Cursing under her breath, she ran for the phone in the livingroom. That would be faster than scrambling through the piles of junk that seemed to accumulate around her computer.
Her voice had just finished the obligatory, "Leave your name and number at the sound of the beep," message when she reached the livingroom.
"Doctor Fraiser, this is General Hammond...."
She reached for the phone, only to be abruptly yanked up short as a gloved hand closed on her wrist from behind.
It's amazing just how subjective time can become, and how many disparate signals the human mind can process when it has to. Janet realized that Tony Phillips had surged out of the shadows around the entertainment center, even as she heard Hammond's worried voice echo over the loudspeaker on her answering machine.
"...please call in as soon as you can. We may have a problem with Airman Phillips...."
Right. Definitely a problem with Airman Phillips. A big one. She caught a glimpse of a Beretta M9 in his free hand. A nine millimeter one in fact. Janet made her decision in an instant, suddenly grateful for Sam's insistence on the lessons with Teal'c as she pivoted on one foot, throwing her body into Phillips' even as she drove her elbow into his gut just the way she'd been taught.
He grunted, but didn't go down, instead hammering the grip of the pistol into her back with enough force to send her to one knee, the wrist still clutched in his fingers torquing at an agonizing angle. Unfortunately, the realities of fighting aren't always as neat as the lessons.
"According to Teal'c, there's reason to believe he may still be infected by Hathor in some way...."
Despite the stress on her wrist, she turned into the attack, punching hard with her free hand. He let out a dull roar of pain as she connected a glancing blow with his groin and responded with a brutal backhand that opened a nasty cut on her lip and sliced her inner cheek open against her own teeth. But she had him staggering. Janet twisted her trapped hand hard, breaking his vicious grip as she pushed to her feet and rammed the heel of her hand into the underside of his chin, driving his head back. She saw the airman start to stumble backwards and spun, diving for the phone, her only thought that it would be okay once the base knew what was happening.
"...and may pose a danger to you...." Hammond continued, oblivious to her plight.
Her hand closed on the handset, intent on getting word to her superior.
Phillips' hand clamped down on hers before she could lift the handset off the cradle, and she felt the chill brush of steel against her opposite temple. "Lift it one inch," the airman snarled through his pained gasps, "and I'll blow your head off." He was absolutely serious, she realized in a sick rush.
She slanted a look at the heavy silhouette of the M9 pressed against the side of her head even as Teal'c's reminder to keep pressing the fight until the battle was won rang in her head. He was going to be seriously pissed that she'd forgotten what he considered the most important lesson so quickly. He might even twitch both eyebrows at once. She just hoped she was still alive to hear the lecture when he found out she'd screwed up.
"We're trying to contact Phillips now ... and a retrieval team has been sent to his apartment, but until he's in custody and we know more about the situation, I'll feel better if I know you're safe."
Janet let out a tiny sob of frustration, fingers tightening instinctively on the phone. Phillips' response was almost instant. He knocked the barrel of the sidearm into the side of her head hard enough to leave her seeing stars. "Stop it!" he hissed angrily, his voice trailing off into a frustrated whine. "Don't make me hurt you like she wants."
Her ears ringing, she heard Hammond include the date and time as he signed off, and then the machine clicked softly, signaling it had shut down, leaving her feeling more alone than she had thought possible.
"No more fighting," Phillips panted in measured syllables, releasing his grip on her hand to wrap his arm around her waist, hauling her back against his chest. "Not now." His voice dropped to a whisper and he nuzzled her hair, breathing in the scent. "Not when we're finally together."
Janet swallowed hard, tracking the gun out of the corner of her eye as he trailed it over her cheek and along the curve of her jaw, every cold brush reminding her of just how close she was to dying. So much for the physical approach. Time for a shift in tactics. "Together?" she croaked, struggling to make her voice work. The general had mentioned Hathor and said Phillips might still be infected somehow.
"Mmhm," he mumbled, lost in sensation as he touched her again ... just the way Hathor had promised he would be. "We'll always be together the way She said we would be."
She? Hathor no doubt. The kiss, Janet realized in a rush. Somehow the witch done something that had left Phillips obsessed and increasingly unstable ... and she'd probably unknowingly triggered it with that damned kiss. What she'd thought was nothing but a crush suddenly took on a much darker taint. She took a deep breath to calm her shaky nerves. There had to be some way to break through whatever hold the Goa'uld had over him. After all, the men had quickly thrown off her other programming once she'd left. "Airman--"
"No," he snarled and shoved her away hard enough to send her stumbling into the nearby wall. Janet caught herself on her hands, but didn't have time to do anything else as he spun her around by the shoulder and shoved her back into the wall, blocking any hope of escape as he crowded into her and shoved the barrel of the M9 against the underside of her chin. "Now say my name," he ordered hoarsely.
"Airman Phillips--" Janet began, but he cut her off.
"NO! My name!" he bellowed furiously, wanting to hear anything but the impersonal titles the military insisted on.
Momentarily uncertain what he wanted, Janet had a moment of panic as she saw his finger tighten on the trigger and she searched her memory for something that might placate the unstable airman. "Tony," she gasped as she suddenly remembered his last aborted attempt to ask her out.
He calmed almost instantly, leaning closer, his expression a mockery of affection. "Say it again," he groaned, one hand braced against the wall near her cheek, the other holding the M9 against the side of her head.
"Tony," Janet exhaled, afraid that any other response might trigger him.
His eyes slid over her and a smile curved his mouth. "I knew it was all an act," he exhaled on a relieved note. "I knew you felt the same way about me that I feel about you."
Janet just stared up at him in mute horror, shaking her head slowly.
* * * * * * *
Sam was several blocks away from Janet's house, idly wondering if maybe she was a little overly responsible as she sat at a red light with absolutely no traffic going either direction anywhere in sight. She was seriously considering running the red light -- not that she would -- she never had after all, and she'd had the thought before -- when her backseat began ringing softly.
Sam blinked. No, not her back seat, she realized as she glanced back. The briefcase sitting in her backseat. Janet's. They'd been so involved in their discussion that they'd both forgotten about it. Grabbing the handle, she hauled it into the front seat and reached for the latches. She couldn't stand to listen to a ringing phone, and besides, it was probably Janet asking her to come back. She grabbed the cell tucked into a pocket, flipping it open as she thumbed the switch. "I'm about to turn around and head back your way," she said, firmly convinced it was her friend.
A brief beat of silence and then a confused, "Captain Carter?"
Definitely not Janet, Sam realized as she recognized the familiar Texas drawl despite the tinniness she was certain came from a speakerphone. "General Hammond?"
He didn't give her time to explain why she was answering the other woman's phone, just clipped, "Put Doctor Fraiser on."
"I can't sir," Sam said instantly. "Actually I thought you were her. I just realized she left her briefcase in my car with her phone inside," she added, feeling a confusing need to explain in response to his terse tone.
Hammond's voice only became more clipped. "Where is she?"
"I just dropped her off at her place. We were at a symposium all day," Sam said, a frown creasing her forehead as she realized just how tense her superior sounded. "Is something wrong, sir?"
"How long ago?" he demanded without registering her question.
"Five ... maybe ten minutes now ... plus we spent a few minutes on her front porch." Sam tried to shake off the sense of unease sliding through her. It was probably nothing, just a situation at the base that Janet needed to check on, but--
"We just called and no one's answering at her place," Hammond said sharply.
Sam shook her head. "She's definitely there, sir. I walked her to the door, and saw her go inside." The light over the intersection turned green, but she ignored it in favor of the conversation, a growing knot of tension in her stomach leaving her certain something was very wrong.
"Carter, I just tried her place again," O'Neill's voice came over the doctor's phone this time, once again tinny from a speakerphone. "Even her answering machine's not picking up now."
"Damn," Hammond growled unhappily.
"What the hell's going on?" Sam said, the knot in her stomach twisting itself into pretzels.
Hammond briefed her in short, concise terms.
And then Sam slammed her foot to the floor, accelerating the Mustang into a hard u-turn, not caring in the least that the light had turned red again. She barely registered the squeal of tires or the shouted curses emanating from the bright yellow Volkswagen that narrowly missed her, her concentration already on getting back as quickly as possible. "I'm going back," she told Hammond.
"Captain--" the general began, but Sam cut him off.
"Pull up her security profile. I need the passcode to her garage door opener...." And then she cursed as she remembered what Janet had told her that morning about barking dogs and the motion sensor over the garage. If he already had the code, it would have been so easy for Phillips to get in, then just sit and wait until the time was right to do whatever he wanted.
"Captain?" Hammond said by way of question.
"He beat you to it, Carter," O'Neill broke in, confirming what she already instinctively knew. "Phillips pulled it up a couple of days ago ... got everything."
"Give me the number," she ordered in a hard voice, already going over the floorplan to Janet's house mentally and hunting for a way to get inside without being seen. She barely noticed hitting seventy on the straightaways.
He read the numbers off, knowing she could easily remember them. "Look, Carter, Teal'c and I are outa here now," he added. "We're gonna get there with a team as fast as possible, so don't do anything stupid."
"Understood, sir," she clipped, snapping off her lights and coasting as she hit Janet's street. She pulled up to the curb across the street from the doctor's house. "Gotta go now," she said without waiting for him to respond before she shut the phone off. She stared at her friend's house, noting the lack of lights and movement. It looked quiet enough, but instinct told her that wasn't the case. Unfortunately, sneaking up on any entrance was a tricky proposition due to the motion sensors.
A moment passed and then she slipped out of the car, quickly retrieving a tire iron from the trunk, before trotting across the street. The motion sensors in front didn't cover the very edge of the property and Sam jogged along that fine dividing line until she reached the shoulder high backyard fence. Bracing her hands on the top edge of the rough redwood, she leapt, momentarily pushing up on her hands before doing a quick vault to land lightly on the other side. The dumb-as-a-sack-of-hammers dogs in the neighboring yard went nuts, barking and hurling themselves at the fence that separated the two yards, but she ignored them in favor of the side wall of the house. There was a little clearance before she hit the motion sensor covering the back yard, so she wouldn't trigger it if she just stayed close to the wall. The power box was a grey blob in the darkness and it took a moment to find it, then another to locate the catch and get it open. Not locked, thank god. Sam curved her hand to the main breaker switch, praying she was doing the right thing as she threw it into the off position. That would take out the alarm system and the motion sensors. Unfortunately, it also meant the code for the garage was useless.
With that done, she hurried around the side of the house, quickly noting the position of the windows and back door. She stood silently for a second, listening for any sound that might offer a clue as to what was happening inside the small, ranch-style house, but there was nothing. It was as quiet as a tomb. A shiver slid down her spine at that thought. Not good and not the way to be thinking. She'd dropped Janet off only a few minutes before. She had to be okay.
Hurrying forward, she checked through each window as she passed, but everything was quiet and still as far as she could tell. Maybe they were all worrying for nothing. It was possible Janet had hopped straight into the shower and missed the general's call. "Please, God," Sam breathed, hoping she was completely overreacting.
She was just passing the back door when she heard a muffled thud and cry. Ears pricking as she hunted for the source of the sound, Sam gripped the tire iron more tightly and cautiously edged forward. Then suddenly she heard voices, muffled and hard to understand, but still recognizable.
"Say it!" Tony Phillips' voice wasn't one she would normally have recognized, but now she knew it instantly, and it set her battle instincts humming. God knew, he wasn't there for any good reason.
A moment of total silence followed as Sam continued along the back of the house, every sense painfully alert, well aware that she was moving too slowly, but hesitant to move faster for fear of drawing unwanted attention that might further endanger Janet.
"Damn you, admit you love me!!"
The fury in his voice sent a fresh shudder of horror down Sam's spine. She had to find them and quickly. And then she reached Janet's bedroom window, pulse slamming into overtime as she saw the shadowy figures inside; one broad and towering over a shorter, slighter figure, one arm chalked back, ready to strike. She almost threw caution to the winds in that instant and dove through the window, but then she caught a glint of light on something gripped tightly in his other hand. Pressed up against the window like a child in a demonic candy shop, she could only stare helplessly as she realized he held a gun pointed at her friend's head. He was too far from the window. If she tried to go in that way, Janet would be dead before she could do anything to stop him.
"No." Janet's groan was low, nearly inaudible, but Sam felt the soft vibration where her hands were pressed against the glass. She was fighting him, but she couldn't hold out alone for long.
He grabbed her by the front of her blouse and shook her like a dog with a rag. "Say you love me."
Again Janet shook her head. "It's rape if you do this, Tony, not love ... not a gift from Hathor ... rape. Do you hear me--" she gasped, then cried out as he slammed her into the wall again.
Fighting the urge to stay, as though her very presence might make her friend safer, Sam hurried to the back door and jammed the crowbar end of the tire iron into the crack between the door and frame, praying he was too wound up to hear her coming, the muffled edge of his rage and pain still playing in her ears.
"NO!" Phillips screamed, rocking on his heels. "Quit saying that," he continued, his voice so soft Sam almost couldn't hear him. He almost sounded like he was crying. "Don't make hurt you ... please don't."
She hit the crowbar with her full weight, muscles screaming with adrenaline driven strength and the door gave way with little more than a dull cracking of the wood frame. She caught it before it could swing around and slam into the wall, then paused for the briefest moment, listening desperately to learn if he'd heard her entry.
"Why won't you do what you're supposed to?" Phillips demanded almost plaintively.
"Because I don't want this," Fraiser panted. "And neither do you ... not really--"
"Lying bitch!" He was angry again, his tone sliding into out-of-control hysteria.
Obviously he was still oblivious to her presence. In some ways Sam almost wished he wasn't. Maybe if he'd heard her it would have drawn some of the ugly rage away from Janet.
Another hard thud -- the sound of a body hitting a wall -- as Sam lunged forward, moving down the hallway as quickly as she dared even as their words rang in her head.
"It's all her fault." Another hard thud and a small cry. "Did you think I didn't see how she looked at you? Or that I wouldn't find that little trophy she left to taunt me?"
"Wha--" The sound Janet made hitting the wall was terrifyingly loud this time.
Sam reached the doorway to find the airman pinning the doctor's small frame to the wall with the weight of his body, one hand tangled in her hair, forcing her head up, the other waving the gun in her face. She froze, not daring to move, terrified he'd completely lose it if he realized she was there.
"Did she peel it off your body?" he growled, nuzzling his prisoner's cheek and grinding up against her. "Or did you give it to her as promise of things to come?"
Sam saw Janet shake her head in genuine confusion, and a sick ball formed in the pit of her stomach as she realized what he was talking about. He'd been there that morning ... not only gotten into the house, but into her very bedroom ... maybe hiding under the bed or in the closet ... and seen her drop the bra. He thought--
"Or maybe you both just get your thrills wrestling," he sneered the last word, putting a sexual spin on it that made Sam's skin crawl, but one she couldn't have completely denied if she was honest with herself. There had been something dangerously sensual about the grappling session, the flex and play of muscle working against muscle and warm flesh touching and sliding, offering a irresistible kind of sensory pleasure.
Sam shook the thought off, concentrating on the scene in front of her as she hunted for some kind of opening to act without getting her friend hurt. Now wasn't the time for certain mental places.
"This isn't you," Fraiser whispered in reply.
"Oh, it's me," Phillips snarled, the anger back in full force. "And you ... are ... mine," he spat each word in precisely metered time. "Now, tell me you love me."
Janet just kept shaking her head, fighting to make him see reality, terrified that if she gave way, she'd only wind up more out of control of the situation. "I won't help you play her game." Or maybe she just couldn't stomach the idea of giving him what he wanted.
Phillips leaned closer, his voice dropping to a hiss. "Then maybe we should just go over to Captain Carter's place and see what she thinks." His words were a dark promise.
"No," Janet panted, staring up at him with raw horror, understanding the threat in his words for what it was. "Dammit, Airman, this has to stop."
"Say it or you can watch me kill her."
"Say it!" he screamed, still waving the gun frenziedly
Sam couldn't wait any longer. If he wasn't going to get the gun away from Janet, then she was just going to have to draw his attention. "Say what, Airman?" she demanded, her voice little more than a low growl as stepped forward, the tire iron held surreptitiously at her side.
He spun, swinging the weapon around, his eyes wild and terrified in the faint light. It took him a beat to recognize her, and then he waved the gun as if he could banish her that easily. "That she loves me ... not you," he snarled. "That it makes her sick every time you touch her," he added for good measure, wanting to drive her away as he sensed his prisoner's sudden surge of hope.
"Sam." The name was little more than a low gasp, but it held a wealth of gratitude.
Carter's eyes met the doctor's dark brown gaze with what she hoped was a reassuring look as she got her emotions back under control. Losing it now wouldn't help anyone. "Is that what you want to say, Janet?" she asked, purposely keeping her voice low and almost preternaturally calm. In the thin light, she could just make out the way Janet's lips moved ever so slightly, whispering something, but she couldn't tell what.
The gun in Phillips' hand shook as he fought to keep it trained on her. "Tell her," he ordered raggedly as he glanced at his prisoner, the threat obvious.
Sam lost sight of the faint glitter of dark eyes as Janet closed them to escape the situation for a moment. "Sam, you should go," she whispered at last. She couldn't let him hurt the other woman ... and he would, she realized. Some part of him would be screaming in agony, but he'd do it. He was that out of control.
Carter didn't move an inch, just maintained the aura of unshakable calm, even though she was achingly aware that any mistake could cost Janet her life.
"Hear that?" Phillips demanded furiously. "She wants you out ... of this house ... her life ... and her bed if you've managed to sneak in there too." His lips twisted into a sneer on the last words.
Sam shook her head, her expression deadly serious. "She doesn't want me to leave, and we both know it," she disagreed quietly, refusing to be cowed by the way he waved the handgun. "She's just scared ... of you ... and what you might do."
"No," he hissed, some of the panicky anger giving way to a rawer kind of fear.
She was reaching him at some level. Sam was sure of it. "Yes," she said implacably. "You're standing there with a gun, Airman ... threatening rape and murder. How can she not be afraid of you?"
He shook his head, desperately fighting to resolve reality with the constantly changing script in his head and Hathor's whispered orders and demands. "She knows I'm just protecting her," he insisted, the words sounding insane even to his ears.
"By shoving a gun in my face ... threatening to pull the trigger?" Janet demanded, her voice little more than a low whisper. "By slamming me around ... and threatening to kill my friends?" She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip, muscles flexing to shove her more firmly into the wall. "Where's the protection in that?"
"You don't understand," he moaned, his resolve weakening suddenly in the face of the joint attack. The gun still trained on Sam, he looked back at his prisoner, seeing the way his fingers were clawed into the front of her blouse, his knuckles pressed punishingly hard into her sternum. He didn't want this; didn't want to hurt anyone, but--
"Yes, I do," the doctor disagreed. "I understand that Hathor somehow got inside your head and made you believe things that aren't true--"
"Stop it!" he ground out, caught between the implacable logic coming from both women and the river of hate and violence roaring through his brain courtesy of Hathor. He looked back at Sam, his tone almost pleading. "Get out ... just go." He was trying to fight the surging desire for violence, but he couldn't do it with her there ... taunting him ... reminding him of everything she--
Amazed by how calm she managed to appear, Sam shook her head. "You work security, Airman," she said, her flat tone breaking through the thoughts rampaging through his head, forcing him to listen even though he didn't want to. "You know the protocols if you're in a situation where you feel someone's in danger," she said, striving to reach that professional training that had been drilled into the young man. "So, you know why I can't do that."
"She's not in danger," he cried out, his tone somewhere between agony and anger. "She's mine, goddamn you--"
Janet started to speak, but Sam shook her head subtly, intent on keeping his attention focused on her. "You can't own people, Airman." She took a cautious step forward, her grip tightening on the tire iron. He was so unstable, there was no way to predict what he might do from moment to moment. She had to be ready to react in any way necessary. She edged a little closer. "You know that--"
"She's mine," he whimpered, rocking on his feet, nearly lost in the torment. "Hathor promised--"
"Hathor tried to take over your world, Airman," Fraiser broke in. "She's a Goa'uld ... your enemy."
He looked back at the doctor, a dark frown cutting deep trenches in his forehead. "You kissed me. That meant something." He remembered the feel of her mouth under his, the taste and sensation, the rush of pleasure hotter than anything he'd ever felt in his life ... and the way she'd instinctively pulled back even then--
NO! He fought that thought desperately.
Janet shook her head as she confirmed his darkest fears. "It meant I wanted your weapon, not you ... never you--"
"No!" he bellowed in anguished confusion, her rejection pushing him beyond even a pretense of sanity. Carter suddenly forgotten, he lunged at his prisoner, pulling her close in an effort to prove the truth in his head. Rough and unforgiving, his mouth came down on hers, demanding a response she could never give, so lost in the perverse drives Hathor had inflicted on him that he barely knew where he was. Spreading one hand against her lower back, he hauled her against his body, then braced the other against the wall when her struggles threatened to unbalance them both. He never noticed that the hand pressed against the wall above his prisoner's head still clutched the gun he'd used to terrorize her.
Sam saw him press the pistol flat against the wall, the barrel aimed ceilingward, and didn't wait for another chance. She hurled herself at his back, slamming the tire iron into his right hand with bone-shattering force. Screaming, he lost his grip on the weapon and it fell away uselessly as he whirled, backhanding Sam with enough force to whip her head around. Tasting blood, she stumbled back a pace, but didn't go down as she swung the tire iron at him a second time. This time, he caught the makeshift weapon before it could make contact, wrenching it out of her hand and hurling it aside. Without losing a beat, Sam slung a punch at him with her other hand, cracking her knuckles into his jaw. She saw him pull his fist back and braced herself to block the blow.
But before he could throw the punch, he let out a scream, toppling straight down. It took Sam a quick beat to realize Janet had dropped him with a hard kick to the back of the knees.
Not giving him a chance to catch his breath, Sam followed and began pummeling him until he toppled to the floor, head down, his face bloodied and swollen. As he collapsed, she reached across the dazed airman, grabbing Janet by the upper arm and hauling her clear. She shoved the smaller woman behind herself with the clipped order, "Get the gun."
Sprawled face-down on the floor, Phillips whimpered pathetically, then tried to push up on his hands with a pained groan.
"Don't ... move," Janet's voice was little more than a furious growl, each word said with the precision of a striking bullet.
Sam twisted to look at her friend, her heart constricting with worry at the hurt and anger she saw in the doctor's expression. Blood ran from her nose and mouth and her makeup was streaked by sweat and tears. She had the M9 gripped tightly in white knuckled hands, the sight trained on the center of Phillips' back. "Easy, Janet," she breathed, half afraid she might just pull the trigger after what she'd been through.
Dark brown eyes narrowed fractionally in the darkness. "Don't worry," she said through dragging gasps, "I'm not outa control." Close, but not there yet.
"Okay," Sam exhaled, her gaze sliding back to the man on the floor. His whole body wracked by hard shudders and sobbing something unintelligible, he struggled onto his back, forcing her to leap back to avoid a flailing arm.
But he wasn't reaching for her, just trying to see the woman holding a gun on him with frightened determination. "Why?" he whispered, the tremors rattling through him as though the temperature had dropped to ten below zero. "You were supposed to be mine."
Somehow, Janet stayed her hand even though the combination of rough-edged pain and anger left some part of her wanting to pull the trigger. She yanked herself back from that dark temptation with effort. He was almost as much a victim as she was ... maybe even more. Her mind was still intact even if she suddenly felt like she was trapped in a washing machine set perpetually on spin cycle. "That wasn't real ... it was never real." She shook her head, rejecting everything he'd tried to force on her as the room whirled around her, leaving her dizzy and uncertain of what was up and what was down. "I never wanted you in any way."
He looked up at Sam, who simply nodded, pitying him. "It was a trick by Hathor," she said almost gently.
Phillips wrapped his arms tightly around himself, shuddering violently, the look in his eyes horrifyingly confused. "What's happening to me?"
"I don't know," Sam admitted, careful to stay out of his reach. "But we'll find out ... and we'll find a way to help you through it." She flashed a worried glance at Janet, half afraid she was none too stable. A fear that suddenly magnified a thousand times as she saw the doctor's hands tighten on the gun.
"Sam, get down!" Fraiser shouted in warning even as the airman screamed.
"I'LL NEVER LET YOU HAVE HER!!"
Sam twisted in time to see him grab for a revolver holstered on his ankle and take aim on her. She heard the double impact of weapons being fired on both sides of her as she instinctively dove clear of the line of fire. A bullet whizzed past her ear, then she hit the floor and rolled, coming back up to a half crouch only to find Phillips already in a sprawl, clutching his bleeding shoulder with his broken hand. Janet had hit him with one shot. He was still holding the gun and tried to bring it up, but couldn't make his arm work. She stood and kicked the pistol away.
"It was holstered on his ankle," Janet panted. "I thought ... oh God, I thought...." She didn't finish the sentence, just trailed off as she fought to drag air into her lungs.
Sam quickly retrieved the second gun, pointing it at her prisoner. It was a snub-nosed 38 more than capable of stopping anything he might try, and she wouldn't repeat the mistake of thinking they'd reached him. Tony Phillips was still in there, but whatever Hathor had done to the poor bastard had him so crazy he couldn't make more than an occasional brief appearance. She glanced back at Janet, noting the way the doctor was trembling, her breath coming in rough gasps. "You okay?" she asked worriedly. Even in the faint light she could see that Janet wasn't doing well. A cold sweat momentarily slid over her skin; a burst of stark terror that the doctor had been hit accelerating her pulse to something approaching hummingbird status. But there was no sign of blood and the trajectory had been all wrong. "Janet?" she said after a beat when the doctor still hadn't spoken.
Fraiser nodded, eyes never leaving the man on the floor. "I'm all right," she said simply, though she was visibly wavering on her feet. She tried to shake the unsteadiness off, but that only seemed to make it worse.
That was a lie if ever there was one, Sam thought. "You don't have to stay in here," she said, her voice coaxing, eager to get Janet somewhere safer. "I've got him covered and there's a retrieval team on the way."
The doctor shook her head, rejecting that plan. She wasn't letting him out of her sight until she knew he was cuffed and controlled.
Sam considered arguing, but before she could form a cogent argument, she heard the sound of heavy vehicles at the front of the house. "BACK HERE!" she shouted, knowing they'd have sent scouts ahead. No more than a moment or two passed before she heard the tread of heavy boots and the colonel and Teal'c entered in night vision goggles.
"Looks clear," O'Neill spoke into the microphone hanging in front of his mouth as he eyed the man sprawled on the floor. "We're in the back bedroom and Phillips is down. Looks like he took a bullet to the shoulder." His head swung toward the two women. "Carter, you two okay?"
"I think so." She flashed a worried glance at Janet. "Just a little banged up."
The colonel nodded, tipping the night vision goggles up. He started to reach for the bedside lamp to turn it on, but Sam shook her head.
"I shut the power off to take out the alarms and motion sensors."
O'Neill nodded his understanding, reaching into a pocket and pulling out a lightstick to solve problem. A one-handed snap and a quick shake and they were all bathed in sickly green light. He held it up to get a better look, frowning when he saw how badly Fraiser was wavering on her feet. He started to question Carter, but the rest of the team arrived before he could say anything. "There he is," he told the men who entered.
"Careful. He's already pulled out one hidden gun," Sam warned them.
But Tony Phillips had slid somewhere past the ability to understand. Whimpering softly, he didn't even try to resist as they cuffed and shackled him, then hauled him to his feet. Only then did he show any signs of coherence, looking back over his shoulder at the woman he'd attacked, his head shaking dazedly back and forth. "Doc' ... I ... I...." He just kept shaking his head as reality and fantasy battled in his brain, then his voice melded into an agonized cry. "Get her out of my head," he begged the men dragging him out. "Just make it all go away ... please, God, make her stop saying those things."
O'Neill stared after the team as they pulled the stumbling young airman out of the room. "Jeesus," he exhaled slowly, a frisson of thick horror sliding down his spine.
"Yeah," Sam exhaled, sounding equally ill, then swung her gaze to touch on Janet where the doctor stood perfectly still, the gun still trained on the last place Phillips had been visible in the doorway. She'd obviously tracked him the entire time the team was pulling him out, then frozen once he was gone. "Colonel," Sam said softly and handed him the revolver she'd retrieved from Phillips.
He took it as he peeled off the uncomfortable night vision equipment with his other hand. Teal'c started to step forward, but he stuck out a hand, stopping the big man. Even not knowing exactly what the situation was, he was acutely aware that having two men closing in on her might not be a good situation for the doctor.
"Janet?" Sam said softly as she turned to face her friend. The doctor didn't move for a brief second and then her gaze swung over to touch on Sam. "You okay?" Carter asked, genuinely worried by the blankness in her friend's expression.
Janet blinked, struggling to refocus on Sam, and shook her head dazedly, tottering back and forth ever so slightly. The world had become a hazy blur with a distinct tendency to waver unsteadily. "I don't know," she admitted, the softly spoken words requiring a maximum of effort. There was something there, if she could just figure it out. Unfortunately, clear-headed thought had recently become almost impossible.
A sick kind of terror knotted Carter's stomach as it occurred to that maybe she hadn't made it in time after all. "Janet," she whispered again, her tone low and coaxing. "Tell me what's going on. He's gone now ... you're safe..." she soothed, thinking it was left over from what Phillips had done to her. She reached out, carefully curving her fingers around the weapon clutched tightly in fine-boned hands, tugging gently. Dark eyes darted toward the door as the doctor resisted letting go. "It's okay. Just let me have the gun." She reached out with her other hand, carefully working the pistol free from stiff fingers. This time the doctor didn't fight her, and Sam quickly passed it back to her superior, grateful to have it out of play. She stepped a little closer to the smaller woman, her voice low and soothing. "Janet, talk to me ... let me help you."
Janet's chest was heaving as though she was struggling for breath. "Sam," she croaked, the single syllable coming out rough and uneven. She reached out and Sam took a hesitant step forward, reaching back to slide an arm around slender shoulders. "Shhh, it's okay," Carter soothed as she gently tugged the smaller woman close, a little startled by how overheated she still was from all the exertion. A hand slid around her waist under her jacket as the doctor nuzzled into her shoulder and surprisingly strong fingers spread against her lower back, clinging tightly to the much needed comfort.
"Carter, she okay?" O'Neill questioned worriedly, not at all certain what to make of a Fraiser who wasn't in full command of her facilities and barking orders. This was getting scary.
Sam glanced back, meeting her superior's gaze in the thin light and shook her head. "I don't know, sir," she admitted, her voice so soft it was nearly inaudible. "Janet," she whispered after a long moment, dread creeping into her voice as she curved a hand to the back of the doctor's head, fingers slipping tenderly through silky hair. "What happened?" She carefully guided her head up until their eyes met.
Janet's gaze narrowed for a brief second as she struggled to put it all together in her head, grateful for the momentary respite and support she'd found in her friend's arms. "Sam," she rasped, her voice trailing off into a ragged cough. As she regained her breath a second later, she let out a tiny, hoarse laugh as the pattern suddenly came into focus. "It's contagious ... most likely bacterial..." she babbled, her voice a bare whisper. "Probably asymptomatic in female victims until something triggers it ... highly symptomatic in males ... causing hormone storms, massive endorphin rushes, eventually psychosis ... must completely screw up the body chemistry--"
"What?" Sam whispered in confusion, half afraid her friend had seriously lost it. She'd expected almost anything but a discussion of symptomology.
"Hawkins," the doctor breathed, tipping her head forward until her forehead was resting against Sam's shoulder. Exhausted beyond measure and barely clinging to consciousness, she fought to keep her head clear long enough to say what she had to, struggling to get the words out in uneven syllables. "Tell 'em to get Hawkins ... on it ... full bacterial scans on myself ... and Phillips ... test for antibiotic effectiveness."
And then Sam felt the hand clinging so tightly to the back of her blouse go limp. It fell, dangling loosely at the doctor's side even as her entire body went completely boneless. "Colonel!" Sam shouted as she fought to cushion the other woman's collapse, lowering her as gently as possible to the floor. "Get an ambulance!"
"Teal'c, Go!" Jack shouted as he skidded forward on one knee. "What the hell happened?"
Sam shook her head. "I don't know. She was a little beat up when I got here, but she was coherent." She brushed a hand over the doctor's forehead, smoothing soft hair back from her brow, then flinched as she realized just how hot her skin was. What had felt like simple overheating through the barrier of their clothes was actually a raging fever. "God, she's burning up." A frown creased her brow as she dissected what had seemed like babbling and realized the truth. "She figured it out. We've got to get her back to the base ASAP. And call them and tell them to get Hawkins in if he's not on duty." She slid a hand down, fingers curving to a delicate wrist where she found Fraiser's pulse fluttery and unsteady, her skin papery dry from fever.
"We'll see to it, Captain," a familiar drawl assured Sam, and she glanced back, surprised to see General Hammond enter. He was wearing a flack jacket and a worried expression. He'd stayed back during the actual operation, well aware his presence would be a distraction none of them could afford, but he wasn't one to stay away any longer than necessary when his people were in trouble.
"General, I didn't expect...." Sam trailed off, surprised by how grateful she was to see her CO.
"I needed to know what was happening," he said softly, worried eyes falling on the woman lying sprawled on the floor. "I'll make those arrangements." With a small nod, he turned away, already dialing a cell phone to call the base and handle things.
"It'll be okay, Carter," O'Neill said softly, his tone oddly understanding. He patted her shoulder clumsily, offering what little comfort he could, reminding her once again that despite some of his more irritating traits, he genuinely cared. "The doc's not Ali McGraw in Love Story--"
"Damn right," a hoarse voice croaked weakly, then trailed off into a harsh cough. "Lousy, melodramatic claptrap of a movie--"
"Janet," Sam whispered, leaning over the limp woman as she realized she'd either regained consciousness or never completely lost it. "What happened?"
"World just spun a little," Fraiser rasped, then swallowed hard, fighting a painfully sore throat. "Hit really fast after he kissed me ... contact must accelerate it somehow ... maybe trigger it to burn itself out ... and if nobody minds," she groaned weakly, "I'll be passing out again...." She went limp again, leaving Sam staring helplessly down at her.
"Well," O'Neill murmured in an effort to reassure himself as much as Carter, "death can't be too imminent if she's got time for movie reviews."
Sam could only pray he was right as she stared helplessly down at her friend, tenderly smoothing soft hair back from Janet's brow in an effort to offer what little comfort she could.