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fic: In the End Is the Beginning 3/3

Title: In the End Is the Beginning
Author: ocean gazer
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Season: starts in season 8, jumps to season 3, ends up in season 4
Spoilers: major spoilers for Shades of Grey, Jolinar's Memories, The Devil You Know, 1969, 2010; minor spoilers for Serpent's Song, Point of View, Fair Game, and The First Commandment
Pairing: Sam/Janet, both established relationship and first-time
Summary: How do you stop the zombie apocalypse? Time travel, of course!
Category: AU, mild horror, drama, angst, hurt/comfort
Rating: 18+, please
Warnings: violence, occasional language, minor gore, after-the-fact descriptions of torture – nothing too graphic, but read carefully if that's a squick
Archive: Passion and Perfection, Pink Rabbit; others, please ask first
Disclaimers: I think we all know I don’t own the characters, the show, or the concept; that honor belongs to Showtime, MGM, Double Secret, Gekko, so on and so forth. They're just nice enough to let us all play in their sandbox. I write for my own entertainment and – occasionally – edification, and make no money from it.
Author's Notes: I'm not even sure where to start with this one. The story is not at all what I intended – it was supposed to be a short and somewhat tongue-in-cheek story for a zombie ficathon. That didn't happen. First, the ficathon was more than a year ago – I might be a little late for it...lol. Second, all these unexpected references to a somewhat dark back story kept popping up. Somehow, I ended up with three acts and a story that was only partly about zombies. The story got shelved for a while, then I started the editing process, added about 7000 words, and ended up with a short novella that still was only partly about zombies. Shrug. In the process of writing this story, I've discovered that time travel gives me a headache, that story research can lead you down interesting paths, and that the CDC has a blog entry about the zombie apocalypse (no, I'm not kidding). I'd like to thank the folks at Stargate Wiki – they've compiled a wealth of useful information and their episode transcripts were particularly helpful. I also want to give a special thanks to Pink Rabbit Productions for some helpful feedback on an early draft of the story, and for coming up with the acronym MHD (and letting me use it). What else? I guess that's about it, other than to say that I hope you enjoy the story. Feedback is, as always, adored, but never required.
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Act III – Future

Eight months after the point of return...

George Hammond sat at the head of the conference table, staring at the man who'd stormed out of the SGC roughly fifteen months before, swearing never to return. Colonel Jack O'Neill was fidgeting under his scrutiny, but he didn't care. Truth be told, even after all this time, George was still annoyed with the man. His teammates had tried to talk to him in person two or three times since his undercover mission for the Tollan and Asgard, and each time he'd thrown them out of his cabin. The general understood the toll the mission had taken on the colonel, he truly did, but Jack's behavior had been unexpected, not to mention rude.

"So, why am I here, General? The goon squad that showed up on my doorstep wasn't exactly forthcoming with details."

George bit back a laugh. The colonel's distinct lack of patience was still in evidence. But he carefully kept any hint of amusement out of his tone. "You're here because we need your help."

He saw Jack open his mouth, likely to make some smart-ass comment, and held up his hand to forestall it. He continued, "Your former teammates have been captured by Apophis. We spent three weeks looking for them, but the trail was stone cold."

Watching Jack carefully, he saw the way the man went white for a moment at his words, then pulled himself together. Good. George hadn't been entirely certain O'Neill still gave a damn about what happened to his former friends. He explained, "We know Apophis is the one who has them – he made a point of releasing Major Cameron Mitchell, who took your place as the leader of SG-1. Mitchell was captured with the others, but Apophis had no interest in revenge on him, since he wasn't part of your mission to Netu, or any of the other missions where you tangled with Apophis. He left Mitchell unconscious by the Stargate for us to find."

George didn't miss the nearly inaudible sigh that escaped O'Neill's lips as the colonel absorbed the news. Half-expecting some kind of quip, he was caught slightly off-guard by the resignation in Jack's tone. "So what do you want from me? I've been out of the game for a while. If you're expecting me to have some idea where to look for them, you clearly haven't been paying attention to what a big freakin' galaxy it is out there."

Hammond felt a subtle flare of annoyance. "I'm well-aware of that, son. After all, we're the ones who have been out there looking for them." He saw that his rebuke had hit home and softened his tone. "Jack, as disappointed as I was with your decision to leave the SGC, I respect the fact that it was your decision to make. I wouldn't be asking for your help unless I thought it was the only way to bring back SG-1. The Tok'ra contacted us two days ago. They have a plan and it involves you."

O'Neill leaned back in his chair and his tone was sardonic as he said, "Gee, let me guess – they have an operative who's infiltrated Apophis' ranks, and they want that operative to use me as bait."

George smiled. Obviously the time away hadn't dulled the colonel's tactical abilities. "Got it in one, Jack. Apophis took over Sokar's fleet and commands many Jaffa, but he's paranoid and hiding even from his allies. The operative gained a place in his inner circle after Teal'c defected and yet even he's in the dark. All he knows for sure is that Apophis is on board a Mothership, where he can jump into hyperspace at a moment's notice to avoid detection."

He heard Jack clear his throat, and spoke quickly, not giving the colonel time to start arguing. "It's pretty clear that Apophis is holding SG-1 on the ship, since he can't take his revenge if they're not there with him. The plan is for the operative to contact Apophis and say he captured you while on a scouting mission, then see how things play out after that. He's fairly certain that Apophis will deem the news important enough to come to where he is, giving the rescue party more options for getting in and out of the Mothership. But if Apophis insists on meeting elsewhere, he'll take the rescue party on his Al'kesh and use the transporter rings to beam them to the Mothership, and you'll be fitted with a locator beacon so that they'll be able to find you."

He studied Jack, noting the subtle nod indicating that the colonel approved of that piece of the plan. George continued, "SG-2 and SG-3 are ready to deploy as the rescue team, which also includes Major Mitchell and Dr. Fraiser, whose medical expertise may be sorely needed. The Tok'ra have pledged to send two of their people with us. The only catch is that you'll have to travel by cargo ship from the nearest Tok'ra base camp to the planet where the operative will be pretending to scout around. He specifically chose a planet with no Stargate and no Jaffa presence in order to even the odds a little – as well as to pique Apophis' curiosity about how you got there in the first place. It will take a few weeks to travel to the planet, as well as a few weeks to get back afterward. The only ship the Tok'ra can spare for this mission is one that doesn't have a fully functional hyper-drive."

It didn't surprise the general when O'Neill's eyebrows jumped somewhere into the vicinity of his hairline. What once would have seemed miraculous – being able to get to a planet across the galaxy in anything less than a lifetime – now seemed like forever to those who'd become accustomed to gate travel.

He bit back a grin at that thought and added the final incentive. "Given the help of the undercover operative and the other Tok'ra, as well as the isolation of the planet, we think there's an eighty percent chance of the rescue mission being successful. Apophis is paranoid about his own safety, but he's not expecting anyone to come after his prisoners. You know as well as I do that those kinds of odds are rare. But regardless of the outcome, it's going to be a long mission."

He watched Jack's eyes narrow, and knew that the colonel was mulling it over. He wanted to say more, but knew that pushing too hard was likely to come across as manipulation, which was part of what caused the man to leave the SGC in the first place.

O'Neill leaned forward again in his chair. "Let's be clear on one thing. This doesn't mean I'm agreeing to come back to the SGC. This is just me agreeing to go on this one mission, because it could save..." The general heard Jack's voice falter for a moment, before he hardened his tone and changed tacks. "Apophis is a royal pain in the ass and I only wish he'd died the first time we tried to kill him."

George didn't offer any reassurances, despite realizing that the colonel was more concerned about the fate of his former teammates than he was willing to admit to. The reality was that Apophis' interest in SG-1 was personal. The Goa'uld was out for revenge, and God only knew what types of tortures they were enduring. He could only imagine what kinds of sadistic things Apophis had learned from his time in Sokar's prison – and he knew O'Neill wouldn't appreciate him trying to gloss over that reality.

He kept his tone businesslike. "Of course, Jack. Just the one mission. Let me dial up the Tok'ra and we'll go over the plan."

******

Four months later...

Janet Fraiser glanced around her living room at the six people sprawled across various pieces of furniture. She didn't even pretend to look at the TV screen since she'd already seen the movie playing more times than she could count.

Cassandra was wedged in between Cam Mitchell and Jack O'Neill on the love seat, the teen's eyes darting back and forth between the two men she considered her uncles, giggling as they sniped at both the movie and each other. Janet chuckled to herself; Cass had seen The Princess Bride more times than she herself had, and she had a hunch the girl had selected the movie simply so she could focus her attention on the people around her.

Janet turned her head slightly. Teal'c sat in the recliner next to the couch, his feet up and his head leaning back against the chair's cushion. His eyes were fixed raptly on the screen. Daniel sat on the other end of the couch from her, closest to where the Jaffa was sitting, and he, too, appeared to be paying careful attention to the movie. She suspected neither man was terribly invested in the plot, but that they were each relishing the opportunity to just sit and relax and bask in the sense of normalcy and safety that came from knowing that they were all here together. They'd been back on Earth for two months now, but between debriefings, psych evaluations, physical therapy, the usual galaxy-threatening disasters, and various other distractions, this was the first time all of them had been away from the base at the same time.

Janet looked down at Sam, who was lying on the couch between her and Daniel, her feet in Daniel's lap and her head pillowed on Janet's thigh The doctor combed her fingers gently through the tousled blonde hair, the tactile sensation strangely comforting. Sam's eyes were shut and Janet couldn't quite tell if she was actually asleep, or if she was finally feeling safe enough to relax.

Not that it really mattered; it was a good sign either way. Janet sighed softly – she knew better than anyone that both Sam and Daniel were massively sleep-deprived, their nights haunted by nightmares out of the hell Apophis had created for them. Even Teal'c had reported that achieving a sufficient amount of kel'no'reem was proving difficult. And for her part, there were nights when her dreams featured the scars on Daniel's face and on Sam's wrists and hands, the scars that neither her medicine nor the later use of the Tok'ra healing device could erase. She supposed she should be glad she'd been able to heal the wounds without permanent nerve damage, but it did nothing to prevent her feelings of guilt and sorrow.

She fought down a shudder at the memory of the rescue mission, at seeing the three teammates looking more dead than alive. Their two Tok'ra allies had sacrificed their own lives to allow the rest of them to get off of the Mothership, and to provide cover for their operative to stay in place within Apophis' ranks. Janet knew that guilt about their deaths was still hanging over Sam and Daniel's heads, even though Garshaw herself had made a special visit to the SGC and reminded them that they had taken equal risks to protect Tok'ra lives on more than one occasion.

Since neither SG-2 nor SG-3 had much experience using Goa'uld or Tok'ra technology, Jack and Cam had been left on their own to figure out how to fly the cargo ship and find their way back to the Tok'ra base camp using what they could decipher of the data banks, while she'd had her hands full taking care of Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c. The trip back to the Tok'ra base camp was little more than a blur in her mind. For the first week, all her energy had gone into keeping the trio alive and healing their injuries as best she could, with the help of the limited supplies she'd been able to bring along. After the initial danger was over, her attention had been on doing what she could to heal their minds.

Admittedly, she hadn't done much for Daniel and Teal'c – they'd bonded deeply while prisoners and started working through some of their demons together, with a little help from Jack, who'd opened up about some of his past experiences, much to her surprise. Given the especial hell Sam had been put through this time, it was good that Janet had been able to devote all her time and energy to her friend.

Janet took a deep breath, fighting off the memories that hovered too close to the surface, and felt a hand caressing her thigh. She looked down as Sam shifted below her, and found herself staring into concerned blue eyes. An irreverent corner of her mind noted that clearly her friend hadn't been asleep after all. Leaving her fingers tangled in blonde hair, she reached down with her other hand, covering Sam's hand where it was still pressed against her thigh.

She kept her voice low, not wanting to disturb anyone else. "I'm okay. It's just..."

She trailed off then, having no clue how to give voice to her thoughts. She saw understanding dawn in her friend's eyes and heard Sam's ghosted whisper. "We've all been through hell and sometimes it just hits you that things could have turned out far, far differently."

Janet breathed, "Yeah." She was more touched than she'd expected by Sam's effortless understanding of her thoughts, and by the blonde's casual acceptance of the fact that the capture of SG-1 had been hard for those left behind as well. It would have been all too easy for the other woman to have gotten locked inside her own pain and misery, the way she had after the death of Jolinar.

Janet was still awed by how much her friend had opened up to her in the aftermath of the rescue. Then again, she and Sam had gotten much closer in the past year or so, ever since Colonel O'Neill stormed out of the SGC, leaving a self-doubting Major Carter in his wake. She loved Sam...

She blew out a shaky breath as looking down into guileless blue eyes gave that simple thought a whole new weight than it had ever carried before. She'd known she loved Sam as a friend for a long time, had even told her that more than once. But something had shifted recently – for her, at least – and it was big and important and it scared the hell out of her. She didn't just love Sam; she was in love with her.

Various moments from the past several weeks ran through her mind in a jumbled blur – simple, ordinary scenes of time spent with Sam as she recovered from her ordeal. But with the new knowledge embedded in her mind, Janet replayed those memories and started to wonder if she was the only one for whom things had shifted.

Was it possible that Sam was in love with her, too? Or was she just reading too much into things?

Sam's hand shifted under hers and long fingers squeezed her hand gently. Her friend looked up at her in concern, and Janet realized some of her inner turmoil must have shown on her face. Taking a steadying breath, suddenly remembering where she was and who all was there, she mouthed, "Later," trusting Sam to understand. The blonde squeezed her hand harder, clearly still worried, but nodded.

Deliberately, Janet shifted her gaze over to the TV screen, willing her heart to stop beating quite so fast.

******

Janet ran her fingers through her hair, staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as if it would help calm her sudden bout of nerves. On the surface, there was nothing to be nervous about. She and Sam had slept in the same bed more times than she could count – whenever the blonde crashed at her house after a late night, they always just headed up to Janet's room. The guest bedroom had never even been discussed. So why, tonight, when Cam and Jack were camped out in the living room and Teal'c and Daniel were taking over the guest room, did it feel so odd to know that Sam Carter was waiting for her in her bedroom, in her bed?

She snorted at herself. Like that was a real question. Now that she realized just how she loved Sam, actions that used to be completely innocent took on a whole new meaning. Only now she also carried the fear that the feelings were one-sided, that Sam still only cared for her as a friend.

And none of that was going to be resolved if she just stood there in her pajamas, staring at herself. Taking a deep breath, Janet turned on her heel. She'd never been one to sit idly by and just wait things out; she wasn't about to start now.

Slipping through the door that connected her bathroom to her bedroom, she stopped short at the sight that greeted her. Sam was sitting on top of the covers, in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, her back against the headboard, her long legs stretched out as she looked down at her lap, studying something intently. In and of itself, there was nothing unusual about that; the blonde always looked like that before bed. What caught Janet off-guard was that instead of being focused on a book or her laptop like usual, the other woman was staring intently at her wrists, rubbing the scars absently.

The sight broke Janet's heart and she was across the room and climbing into bed before she knew it. Sam didn't even seem to register her sudden presence. She reached out, covering her friend's hands with her own, and felt the blonde's start of surprise. Gently, Janet ran her thumbs over the hardened skin of Sam's wrists and hands, tracing the intersecting trails of scars. She could feel the tension in the woman beside her, could tell that it was taking all of Sam's considerable self-control not to pull away and bolt.

She spoke without thinking. "You are a beautiful woman, Sam, and these scars don't change that. What they do is show your strength...show that you are a survivor."

Looking up at the woman next to her, she wasn't surprised to see the sharp shake of a blonde head. Sam disagreed, "But I'm not strong, Janet. I...I broke. I let Apophis get to me."

Janet shook her head. This was a familiar argument – one she hadn't yet won – and she felt the familiar frustration rising. "Sam, you didn't give away any information about Earth, or about the Tok'ra, or about anything of strategic importance. So what, exactly, makes you say you broke?"

Her friend had not yet answered this question, evading the topic with a skill Janet thought politicians would be impressed with, so it caught the doctor off-guard when Sam sighed heavily and muttered, "I let my insecurities get the best of me and he used them against me...he used my feelings for y..."

The blonde broke off with a strangled yelp, as if she hadn't realized she was going to say that, and yanked her hands out of Janet's grasp, turning bodily away.

Janet sat very, very still for a moment, her brain trying to catch up with what the hell had just happened. Tentatively, she reached out and put her hand against Sam's shoulder, massaging gently. Her voice soft, she asked, "Your feelings for me? The same feelings I have for you?"

It was a risk and she knew it, but she'd already resolved to have this conversation and she wasn't going to back away from it. She just hadn't predicted that this was how the topic would come up. For a long moment, she held her breath, waiting. She could feel the tension quivering in the muscles under her hand and wasn't entirely sure what Sam was going to do.

At long last, the blonde took a deep breath and turned around to face Janet, her blue eyes glassy. Sam's voice was shaky. "He used that damned memory recall device on me, and he realized he was on to something when he used you in the hallucination for the first time. I hadn't really realized how deeply I cared about you until he...dug it up. I mean, I knew we'd gotten really close and I knew I loved you...I just didn't realize what it meant until...he conjured up a nightmare and..."

Her words choked off there and Janet shuddered. She had an active enough imagination to get the idea of what kind of scene Apophis might have set to bring Sam's feelings to the fore. Her heart ached for her friend having to go through such a horror, even if it did turn out to be just an illusion.

She wanted to pull Sam into her arms, to hold her and soothe away the terror and the pain, but she didn't move, just kept gently massaging Sam's shoulder. She knew her friend; she could tell that the woman was finally on the verge of opening up and starting to purge some of her demons. That was never an easy step for Sam to take, living in her own head as much as she did, and Janet knew the quickest way to stop it would be to soothe and comfort. Still, knowing that didn't make it any easier to just sit there and do nothing.

Sam turned her gaze away, eyes dropping back down to her lap, and Janet noted the way she was once again absently rubbing her scars. The blonde's voice was soft. "I lost track of how many nightmares he conjured up, how many different ways he found to hurt me. It's like he was playing with me. Not just with the memory device – you know some of the other things that he did...physically...that he had his Jaffa do..."

Even knowing her friend wasn't looking at her, Janet nodded, tears stinging her eyes for a moment. As Sam's doctor, she was all too aware of what had been done to the woman. She heard Sam draw in a deep breath, clearly trying to regain her composure, and then the blonde continued, "I mean, I know it wasn't just me – he hurt Daniel and Teal'c too...badly. But even though he and Daniel have history because of Sha're, and he's still angry with Teal'c for turning on him, they weren't on his radar screen the way they have been in the past."

Janet felt the shudder that shook Sam, before her friend whispered, "I don't know why, but for some reason, I was his focus this time and the torture was...personal..."

Janet swallowed hard at hearing the words stated so baldly, but couldn't disagree. On the trip back to the Tok'ra base camp, she'd quickly figured out that Sam had borne the brunt of the abuse, simply based on the severity of the injuries each of the three had. When Teal'c had recovered enough to debrief her on what he could, she learned that while Daniel had been placed in the sarcophagus once during their ordeal, Sam had been dragged there three times.

Even now, recalling the tremor in his voice when he told her that was enough to send chills down her spine.

Shoving her own reactions away, she continued her gentle massage of Sam's shoulder, feeling the tension in the muscles under her hand. Sam sat nearly as still as a statue, her only movement the obsessive rubbing of her scars and her shaky breathing.

Silence reigned for several minutes. Janet wanted to say something, but could read her friend's reactions well enough to know there was something else Sam still wanted – needed – to say. So she bit her tongue and remained silent, letting the other woman battle herself.

When Sam finally did speak again, it was in a low monotone. "Finally, when he got bored with the memory device, he started taunting me, using what he'd dredged up from my mind. He told me what a coward I was for not telling you how I felt, how stupid I was for not knowing how I felt until he discovered it. Then he told me that I didn't deserve love from someone like you – that he knew from his time in the infirmary that you were a woman of compassion and integrity, and that a hateful, destructive soldier like me wasn't worthy of you."

Janet couldn't help it. Heart in her throat, she murmured, "Oh, Sam."

Sam didn't seem to hear her, clearly lost in her memories. "He tied me down, and then took a knife and deliberately carved up my wrists and hands. He took his time with it, took pleasure from it, and just kept telling me how ugly I'd be with the scars, how no one would be able to bear my touch...how you wouldn't want me to touch you."

The distinct lack of emotion in Sam's tone as she described the horrific scene made it clear to Janet just how traumatic the experience had been for her friend. She kept up her gentle massage of Sam's shoulder, hoping the touch could provide some small sense of comfort in the midst of remembering such cruelty.

Sam's next words were still in that same flat monotone, but were barely a whisper. "He laughed at me and said when he was finally done with me, my hands would be completely destroyed, useless. He told me that I wouldn't be able to use a computer or hold tools or fix things – that I'd be weak and worthless and would no longer have a place at the SGC."

To Janet's surprise, her friend looked up then, meeting her gaze, tears finally spilling out of blue eyes to stream down her face. Sam's voice cracked as she admitted, "He got to me, Janet. I knew he was going to keep hurting me...and that that time he wasn't going to heal the damage he did. I believed what he said about me being worthless when he was done with me...about me not being worth someone like you. That's what I mean when I say I let him...I let him break me."

Janet didn't even try to stop her own tears from falling as she heard the last piece of Sam's heartbreaking confession. She wanted to say something in response to such pain and self-condemnation, but didn't even know where to start. Instead, knowing that her friend had just taken a major step by revealing what she had, she did the only thing that made sense to her in that moment: she leaned over and stretched up and gently kissed Sam's forehead, then her cheeks, then her lips.

She could taste the salt of the blonde's tears, and see the swirl of emotions in glassy blue eyes. She let her hands drop down to find one of Sam's hands, lifting it up and pressing kisses along the mess of scar tissue, then finding the inside of Sam's wrist and gently kissing the faint pulse point there.

She looked up into blue eyes again, seeing the odd mix of fear and hope on her friend's face. Finding her bearings, Janet spoke firmly. "He didn't break you, Sam. He didn't. You were drugged, you were hurt – and even if you were willing to believe the worst about yourself because of his taunting, that's not the same thing as being broken. It didn't lead you to betray Earth or give up on a rescue or turn away from Teal'c and Daniel, did it?"

There was a note of surprise in Sam's voice as she slowly answered, "Well, no."

Sensing she was on the right path, Janet pressed the advantage, her tone brooking no argument. "He didn't create insecurities out of whole cloth, and he didn't make you think something about yourself that hadn't been there subconsciously before, did he?"

She didn't need Sam's ashamed head shake to know the answer. Janet knew full well that while the woman sitting next to her was generally confident in her professional skills, she had battled self-doubt for years on the personal front, which sometimes bled over into the professional realm as well.

Looking down to drop another kiss on Sam's wrist, Janet continued, "All he did was make you feel bad about yourself, which you can already do quite nicely on your own, without his help. You already worry that some day you'll run out of miraculous fixes and let your team and the SGC down. You already feel like you're too flawed to be worthy of love."

She paused there to let those thoughts sink in, not surprised to find that Sam was now staring down at the bed sheets, unable to meet her eyes.

After a minute or so, Janet softened her voice and said, "So he got under your skin. But let me tell you something, Samantha Carter: even if he had destroyed your hands, you'd never be worthless to the SGC. You're a brilliant scientist and Apophis could never take that away from you. And you're still one of the strongest people I know. Your strength comes from the fact that you keep going, even when you are full of doubts and fears about your own worth."

The blush that graced fair features didn't surprise Janet in the least, and actually made her smile. With another kiss to Sam's wrist, she whispered, "You are the most conscientious solider I know – there's nothing hateful about you. And you're still beautiful, and you're no more flawed than anyone else, and you deserve to be loved."

Sam looked up at her then. The expression on the blonde's face was a kind of surprised wonder, even as her blush deepened and the tears started again. Janet pulled her friend into a hug and held her gently while pent-up emotions found their way to the surface. She felt her own emotions sweeping through her and cried as well – for the fear she'd carried while Sam was missing, for the pain Sam had endured, for her hopes for the future.

After a while, Janet heard a hiccup and felt her friend pull away. Wordlessly, the doctor reached over and grabbed a handful of Kleenex from the bedside table – handing some to Sam. She blew her nose and wiped away the the remnants of her tears, knowing the other woman was doing the same thing.

Janet collected their used tissues and tossed them into the garbage can beside the table, then turned back to study her friend. The blonde's cheeks were red and blotchy from crying, and her eyes were bloodshot, but there was a peace on Sam's face that hadn't been there in a long, long time.

Sam spoke, her words soft and hesitant. "You really have feelings for me?"

Janet nodded, unable to speak for a moment. Then she mustered her courage and said, "It wasn't until you were missing that I realized just how deep my feelings went. Up until then, I guess I just thought that it was what best friends felt for each other, since I'd never had such a close friend in my life before. But then we were caught up in the whirlwind of the rescue, and nursing the three of you back to health, and I just didn't have time and space to really acknowledge – even to myself – that something had changed, that I loved you as more than a friend."

Sam sniffled, but Janet could tell it was a reaction to the crying spell, not a fresh bout of tears. She felt a little twinge of fear when the blonde eyed her carefully, as if weighing whether or not she should say whatever was on her mind. Then Sam took a steadying breath and said, "I need you to believe that my feelings are real...that they aren't just something conjured up by the memory device. I've been drawn to you since I first met you; I just wasn't able to admit it to myself."

Janet opened her mouth, to say that she did believe that, but was silenced by a slender finger on her lips. The finger dropped away and Sam continued quietly, "I've known since high school that I was bisexual and that I leaned towards women more strongly than towards men. But I stuffed that knowledge away – hid that part of myself completely. I'd grown up in an old-school military family, I knew how my father felt about that kind of...immoral behavior."

Sam made a wry face, then sobered again. "I'd already lost one parent and I couldn't bear to lose the other. I was already enough of an oddity because I liked science and math; I didn't want to stand out any more than I already did. I basically buried that side of myself, gave all my attention and passion to work, and even when I was dating Jonas, it was more because it was expected than because I loved him."

Sam paused there, pain written in blue eyes. Janet again wanted to say something, but knew her friend wasn't finished yet. She waited patiently and soon enough Sam picked up where she'd left off.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though it took the memory device for me to recognize the things that I'd hidden away, they were there all along. Like you said, Apophis didn't create any of these things out of whole cloth. The device can warp memories to some extent, though the warped memories never feel quite real. But it can't invent them, any more than it can invent feelings. If my feelings for you weren't there already, he couldn't have found them."

Janet reached up to wipe a stray tear from Sam's face as the blonde took a deep breath and finished, "I'm done hiding how I feel and pretending to be something I'm not. I almost didn't make it back this time. It brought home the point that life is too short to miss out on any chance of love and happiness."

Janet was touched by that declaration and smiled at Sam. She said, "I do believe you. I hope you know that. I...I know what it's like to be in denial." Not surprisingly, she heard a tremor in her own voice with those last words, given that she'd abruptly switched the focus from her friend to herself. She felt Sam reach out to hold her hand, fingers caressing gently, and the touch soothed her more than she'd expected.

She took a deep breath and continued, "You aren't the only one who hid that part of herself and for similar reasons. My parents are more liberal than your dad, but I grew up deep in the heart of traditional values country. Believe me, I know what it's like. The only difference for me was that I've always been more attracted to men, so it wasn't too hard to just focus all my attentions on them and forget about women as anything more than friends."

Janet paused there, thinking over the last few months – the fear that she'd never see the other woman again, the shock of seeing what had been done to her dearest friend, the soul-deep relief that came when she finally knew Sam was going to live and be okay. Her next words were quiet. "I can't imagine my life without you, Sam. I feel like we've gotten a second chance, and I don't want to waste it."

She felt like she should say more, even though nothing specific came to mind, but was interrupted by a yawn from Sam. Her doctor's instincts took over. "I know this is a big thing and we probably need to talk more about it. But right now, we need sleep."

Sam yawned again, blushing as she did so. "I'm sorry."

Janet waved off the apology. "Don't even worry about it." Sam had already been plenty tired before they started this conversation, so it was no surprise that the emotional storm had left her completely exhausted.

Sam squeezed her hand, then let go. The blonde cocked her head to the side and said thoughtfully, "You're right. We do need to talk more, especially because this does have implications for our careers."

Janet wasn't too surprised when the other woman paused there, as if mentally running through various scenarios. She shook her head, but before she could start mock-scolding her friend, Sam chuckled, saying, "But I clearly don't have the energy to have that conversation tonight. It's enough for me, right now, to know that we both feel the same way."

Janet smiled at Sam, amused that even exhaustion couldn't stop her friend's brain from trying to analyze things. She agreed, "Yeah. We don't have to get it all figured out tonight. And really, it's probably not nearly as complicated as it might seem – the career stuff aside, that is. It's just a matter of figuring out how to move from being best friends to being, well, more than best friends. We've already seen each other at our worst and stayed close, and we already know we can talk to each other about anything."

She paused, then admitted, "In a weird way that I can't put my finger on, it feels like we've already laid the groundwork for this relationship, y'know?"

She was glad when Sam nodded and said, "I know exactly what you mean, even if I can't explain it. There's a definite sense of déjà vu here."

That's one word for it, Janet mused. Caught up in trying to identify what felt so achingly familiar, it took her a moment to realize that Sam had glanced away, her expression anxious. She asked gently, "Sam?"

The blonde cleared her throat and looked back at Janet, her words tentative and soft. "I just might need some time to adapt to the change in our relationship. I want it...don't get me wrong...but..."

Janet wasn't surprised when the other woman stopped there. Given what Sam had just told her about Apophis and his tortures, she knew her friend was likely to be skittish for a while as she worked through her demons. Resting her hand just above Sam's knee, she massaged lightly, and said, "I understand, sweetie, I really do. I'm not going anywhere. We have all the time in the world."

She felt Sam's hands come up to gently cup her face, and was drawn close for a soft, sweet kiss. Sam whispered, "Thank you for being so patient with me. I love you, Janet Fraiser."

Janet reached up to cover one of Sam's hands with her own, caressing gently, as she kissed Sam tenderly. "And I love you, Samantha Carter."

The kiss broke when she yawned, followed moments later by Sam yawning yet again. Janet couldn't help it; she laughed, and was relieved when the blonde followed suit. Shaking her head, she said, "I guess that's our cue that it really is time to get some sleep."

Obediently, Sam pulled back the covers and slipped her long legs underneath, sliding down the length of the bed, then rolling over onto her side with her back towards the doctor. The familiarity of the motion made Janet relax a little after the intensity of the conversation. She turned and stretched until she could reach the lamp on the table beside the bed, then switched off the light. Blinking against the sudden darkness, she slipped under the covers herself and stretched out on her back, expecting sleep to come quickly, as tired as she was. But after several minutes, she found herself feeling fidgety, unable to get comfortable.

Without really thinking about it, she rolled over on to her side and lightly spooned up against Sam's back. Janet felt the woman freeze at the contact and froze in place herself, abruptly reminded that her friend was still easily spooked after the ordeal she'd endured. But then the blonde shifted slightly, snuggling back against her, and she found she could breathe again. Moving slowly, cautiously, Janet draped her arm around the curve of the woman's hip, letting her hand rest on Sam's stomach. She could feel the tension in the body next to her, but Sam didn't pull away.

After a few moments, the blonde's arm moved, coming to rest on top of Janet's arm, her hand warm against the back of Janet's hand. Sam whispered, "Sweet dreams."

"You, too," Janet whispered back, her eyes welling with tears again at the reminder that the other woman's sleep had been anything but peaceful in recent weeks. But Sam was beginning to relax in her arms, the tension leaving her, and the blonde's breathing was already starting to deepen. She could tell her friend was beginning to doze off, even if she wasn't fully asleep just yet.

Sam gave a soft sigh and shifted slightly towards her, snuggling incrementally closer, her fingers caressing Janet's hand where it rested on her stomach. At such an obvious sign that Sam was truly feeling comfortable with the intimacy, Janet finally relaxed fully into the embrace, holding her friend tightly, grateful beyond words for such a gift.

The warmth of Sam's body against hers and the motion of Sam's fingers against the back of her hand was lulling and she felt herself beginning to drift into sleep, a smile on her face. She didn't know what their future held, but she had faith that they'd figure it out and that everything would work out fine.

She had a sense that together they could survive anything – hormonal teenagers, sarcastic colonels, hostile aliens, sadistic Goa'uld...even something as far-fetched as zombies.

The end
Tags: fanfic, stargate sg-1
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