Title: Missing You
Every breath you take
“Every Breath You Take”
Off world again. Sometimes Captain Samantha Carter felt like a displaced orphan shuffled from one place to the next. She had a home base, but rarely enjoyed spending much time there since jumping through the Stargate to worlds unknown occupied most of her time. Not that she had really minded the fast pace her life had acquired after joining the Stargate Program. It was a once in a life time assignment. One that put her childhood dream of one day joining NASA as an astronaut to shame.
That is, until she met...her. Janet Fraiser, Chief Medical Officer to Stargate Command. The love of her life. The dark eyed beauty who stole her breath away every time she thought of her. The gorgeous little dynamo that fueled a fire that Carter thought was extinguished long ago, or maybe had never been started in the first place. The woman who now was more important to Sam Carter than anything else she had ever experienced, which was saying a lot.
Unfortunately, Doctor Fraiser was oblivious to the Captain's feelings. And would stay that way until the shy blonde confessed said feelings or hell froze over. Which ever came first. At the rate Carter progressed, the likelihood of the planet plunged into darkness and frozen solid was a safe bet.
She threw the stick she had been whittling over her shoulder and sheathed her field knife to her left thigh. It was her third attempt at shaping the wood into...something. She really had no idea what she had been doing. It started out innocent enough with the Colonel sitting across the camp fire deftly shaving away at a block of wood. He told her it helped him think to keep his hands busy and the mind clear. Easier for solutions to problems to just pop up when he least expected.
She had no idea what he was trying to say. Did he know what plagued her day and night? Did he see through her happy facade? No. No way could Colonel O’Neill be that observant. But, then again, he had asked Carter why she was so preoccupied. She had casually laughed off the observation and emphatically denied anything was wrong. Nothing that a hot meal and soft bed couldn’t cure.
So there she sat, all alone while the rest of her team were fast asleep in their make shift home away from home, waiting for dawn and their next planned activity with the natives of P8X-290. It had been a week of nonstop entertainment. SG-1 had miraculously saved the King’s son from certain death. They had innocently stumbled upon the young man playing in the forest. The soldiers unexpected activation of the Stargate and subsequent jump through the metal ring had scared the boy enough to send him bolting through the large evergreens and nearly tumble to his death over a sharp precipice. The young boy had fallen fifty feet to land on a narrow ledge. Mountain gear in hand, SG-1 made a quick rescue and returned the boy to his village. Miraculously, he had only suffered a broken arm, which Carter had set and splinted without any problems.
The King was so grateful, he declared a week of celebration to honor the safe return of his son. No one mentioned that the swoosh of the gate and the arrival of four aliens through the ring of water was what caused the young man to run half-cocked through the woods in the first place.
Carter sighed and shifted her weight on the log. They should have been home three days ago. The jump was a simple mineral survey mission, in and out in less than twenty-four hours. Carter knew she was feeling churlish, but couldn’t help it. She didn’t think she could stand three more days of eating and drinking questionable fare. They should be home, on stand down, enjoying the holidays. Tomorrow, which technically was today, was the SGC Christmas party and she was looking forward to going with Janet. They had shopped the week before and Sam couldn’t wait to see Janet decked out in that hot little number again. Only that wasn’t going to happen now.
The sharp snap of underbrush startled the blonde and she jumped when a warm hand settled on her right shoulder. “Jesus, Daniel stalk much?” She grumped, mad at herself more than her friend since he was able to sneak up on her unnoticed. A sign the disgruntled woman was way too preoccupied with thoughts better left alone, especially while she was on watch.
He swung his leg over the log and took a seat next to her. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.” The archaeologist warmed his hands near the open flames. “It’s a bit cold out here, Sam. Why don’t you crawl into your sleeping bag and warm up.”
She hadn’t noticed the chill air, thought her ass was numb from sitting on the hard wood. “I’m okay, Daniel. I’m not really cold.”
“You’ve been upset ever since we extended the mission. Want to tell me why?” He asked.
I miss her. I miss her more with each passing moment. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Blue eyes averted to stare off in the distance.
“You know, you’re a terrible liar. When you won’t look me in the eye, it’s a dead give away.” He unconsciously licked his lips. “You’re upset about being off-world over the holidays.” Before she could offer a response, he continued. “I know I am and don’t have someone waiting for me.”
Her brow wrinkled in confusion. “What are you talking about?” Her voice was calm, but her mind raced a mile a minute.
Surely Daniel wasn’t insinuating anything. How could he know? She had been extra careful not to tip her hand. She mentally slapped her forehead, what if she talked in her sleep? What if she did more than talk in her sleep?
She quickly reviewed all the dreams she had had of Janet in the past few months and inwardly groaned at the implications. To say that her dreams had escalated into the erotic was an understatement. She distinctly remembered waking with Janet’s name on her lips last week. She thought it was more of a whisper than a moan, but wasn’t so sure now.
Daniel waved his hand in front of her pale face. “Sa-am.” When she didn’t respond, he snapped his fingers. “Earth to Sam. Turn your head off. You’re giving me a headache.”
Blue eyes blinked a few times and the blonde was back.
Daniel chuckled. “Nice trip? Where’d you go?” He found it amusing to see his companion so discomposed.
She was usually so self-assured. It kind of made her more human. He knew it was unfair to think that, but Carter was way too stiff and removed. It was good to see her more emotional than normal. But to be honest, Daniel had to admit the slow change in her demeanor had started a while ago. Subtle changes after Dr. Fraiser had joined the SGC and then more so after Sam had saved Cassie.
“I’m not fond of games, Daniel. What are you implying?” Better to get this out in the open now, off-world and while O’Neill and Teal’c slept.
Turning away from the fire to look his friend in the eye, his profile cast a shadow against the dancing light. He shrugged his shoulders as if what he was about to say really wasn’t a big deal. At least not to him. He wasn’t military and could give a damn about stupid bigoted regulations mandated by homophobic fools. “I like Janet.”
A pale forehead scrunched in confusion and then she swallowed a pang of jealousy.
Daniel’s smile lit up his face, blue eyes twinkling with amusement. “You like her, too. It’s more acceptable for me to like Janet, but nobody can tell you not to do something without waving a red flag in front of your face and then daring you to prove them wrong.”
A blank stare was her only response. What could she say? Ambiguity was an art form and Daniel was its master.
She shook her head and groaned. This was going to take awhile.
“Sam, you’re an adrenaline junkie. You live on the edge and do whatever you want no matter how many times you’re told you can’t. Maybe it’s the challenge that makes you more determined to succeed. Whatever the reason, you are who you are today because you refused to listen to the norm and achieved more in your lifetime than even you could have predicted. Why change your beliefs now? Tell Janet how you feel.”
“Indeed.” A deep baritone joined the conversation. “DoctorFraiser is a most worthy mate.”
Blonde heads turned in unison as Teal’c quietly sat across from them. Neither Sam nor Daniel heard the large man’s approach. Carter wondered if he had been a cat in a previous life. More like a Bengal tiger.
“Is it not customary for Tau’ri warriors to take a mate? If you were Jaffa, we would not be having this conversation, you would have already claimed DoctorFraiser as your own and killed anyone who objected to your coupling.”
Daniel’s pep talk was bad enough, but love advice from Teal’c? “Come on, guys.” Sam jumped up and gestured wildly with her hands. “Give me a break here.” Killing opponents? And Teal’c was dead serious. She didn’t know what bothered her more. Teal’c’s advice or the fact that he knew how she felt about Janet.
“Relax, Sam. Teal’c and I are just concerned. We want you to be happy and Janet makes you happy.”
“Indeed.” The big man inclined his head in agreement.
Daniel had watched as Dr. Fraiser slowly coaxed the single-minded, over-worked scientist out of her shell. He noticed small changes in their friendship. Lunch in the commissary once a week had turned into a daily venture, duty permitting. Then the astute archaeologist observed innocent brief touches between friends and stolen glances when one woman thought the other wasn’t watching. That’s when he realized neither knew of the other’s desires, they were flirting between friendship and something else. Something unspoken in their chosen careers. Something that could ruin one if not both of their brilliant careers.
They were heading down an uncertain path and at one point it seemed as though they had drifted apart. Daniel had thought an invitation for much more had been offered and then declined, but upon further snooping, he noticed that Sam and Janet had taken their friendship off the base. Maybe a mutual agreement to cool things down. But now, seeing Sam utterly confused, he realized that there was no secret relationship. Or maybe it was so secret neither woman understood the magnitude of their attraction. Now he was giving himself a headache.
A swift kick knocked Daniel’s crossed legs apart. “Ouch!" The sandy haired man scowled at his friend.
“Uh, now who’s stuck in la la land?” She smirked. “What are you thinking about?”
“Janet,” he smirked back at her.
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” She sighed.
“Nor am I.” Teal’c chimed in.
She rolled her baby blues. What choice did she have now? She could continue to dance around the Janet issue and be miserable. Not to mention, Daniel and Teal’c bugging the living hell out of her. Or she could tell Janet once and for all. Sam thought Janet felt the same way about her, but they both opted to keep quiet and not rock the boat. They were already best friends, and they were raising a daughter together. What more could Sam want? She had lived this long without any lasting sexual relationships. Surely, she could do without now. Right?
Wrong. Sam wanted Janet, all of her.
One positive note to this entire bizarre situation was she didn’t have to hide her feelings from her teammates anymore. It was a relief to finally have a confidant. The Colonel was another matter, but not one to be dealt with tonight.
One question begged an answer. “Guys, how did you know about...” A red blush replaced her pale complexion. “...know that, um, I wanted to be more than friends with Janet?”
A mischievous glint twinkled in Daniel’s eye. “Do you really want me to answer that, Sam?”
She cradled her head in her hands. “Shit,” she groaned. “Last week, right?” Carter knew she should have bunked solo.
Daniel had a question of his own. “Tell me, if you’ve been pining away for Janet all this time, why are you so upset now?” He didn’t think missing the Christmas party would mean that much to her. She was more socially lacking than he was.
“I made a promise to myself a year ago. A New Year’s resolution to be exact. I wouldn’t spend another Christmas without her. And now here I sit, lightyears away from her and I haven’t told her yet that I love her.”
“So, you’re running out of time, Carter.” Jack O’Neill leaned against a tall tree with his arms folded across his chest. “What, do you turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight and lose the ability of speech?” He smugly delivered his one-liner.
Sam didn’t feel so bad this time. Even Teal’c looked surprised at O’Neill’s ghostly appearance. But then again, it wouldn’t hurt to have Janet check her hearing. “In case you haven’t noticed, Sir. We’re in the middle of no where.”
“And yet another crappy banquet to attend. I don’t know about you kids, but I for one am tired of being here.”
He plopped down bedside Teal’c deep in thought. This mission should have been scrubbed days ago, but at Daniel’s insistence, O’Neill agreed to foster relations with the natives in exchange for more time to study the mineral deposits found by the UAV. Turned out the ore was contaminated and unusable. “Daniel, King whatshisname is big on etiquette, correct?”
The archaeologist slowly nodded his head in agreement. “What are you thinking, Jack?” Whatever if was, it couldn’t be good.
A huge, boyish grin raked his face from ear to ear. “Just leave everything to me. We’ve got a Christmas party to crash.”
“Oh shit, I’m so screwed,” groaned Carter.
And so, exactly six hours later, SG-1 was roughly escorted to the Stargate and forbidden to return again.
Daniel quickly dialed the gate with Carter standing to his left. “What did the Colonel say?” She asked.
The four members of SG-1 had just taken their seats flanking the King, his son, and sister at the head of the long wooden table. O’Neill casually leaned into the sister’s personal space and whispered in her ear. Lightning quick, she gasped and slapped his face. Hard. Carter was so going to owe him big time.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know.” Daniel had never known Jack O’Neill to be so crass, vulgar, and uncouth in one single statement, but the man certainly knew how to get results.
Surprisingly enough, the blonde didn’t press the issue and once the wormhole formed and the iris opened, she joined her teammates and returned home. If they hurried through the medical exam and debriefing, they might only be fashionably late.
O’Malley’s was a small pub owned by a retired Marine. Max wasn’t Irish, but he threw one of the best parties this side of the Stargate. Rented for the rest of the evening, the local hangout entertained the men and women who dedicated their time and expertise to the top secret program.
The SGC Christmas party was in full swing. The Marines commandeered most of the long oak bar and traded stories more outlandish than the next as the booze freely flowed. The Air Force officers and enlisted mingled amongst themselves.
Frigid air blew through the opened door as several more party goers joined the holiday celebration. Janet Fraiser craned her lithe neck hoping Sam Carter would walk through the door. Wishful thinking, she knew, but she couldn’t stop her eyes from wandering to the entrance every time the door opened.
She sighed and turned back to her date for the night. When the doctor had learned that SG-1 had extended their mission and would not be home in time for the Christmas party, the dejected woman had decided not to attend. At the last minute she relented and allowed her companion to talk her into going to the celebration. Her position as CMO demanded an appearance, or so he had convinced the brunette.
The door rattled in the wind and Janet once again found her gaze directed to the new arrivals. A tall slender figure, flanked by two others, strode into the bar. With their backs to the crowd, the three new identities were impossible to discern. Janet’s pulse skipped a beat when the tall woman removed her hat to reveal a blonde head of hair. She held her breath and silently pleaded. Already half out of her chair and turned toward the front of the bar, Janet’s disappointment was clearly evident when the blonde woman turned out to be Captain Martin. She sat back down and took a healthy swig of her drink and sighed. Again. It was going to be a long night.
While Janet’s attention was diverted to front of the bar, Sam and her companions slipped unnoticed through the side entrance.
“Toldya we’d make it, Carter.” O’Neill smirked. “The party’s barely started, the jarheads are still standing.” He jabbed his thumb towards the bar where Colonel Makepeace was arm wrestling with a junior officer. Then his gaze shifted as he scanned the entire room. “Don’t see the Doc, not that she’s easy to find.”
Sam rolled her eyes and swatted him on the arm. “I’m going to tell her you said that, Sir.”
O’Neill winced. Janet Frasier may be diminutive, but she packed a vicious bark. He absently rubbed his ass. And a mean bite. He really didn’t want to be on the wrong end of a sharp needle any time soon, and pissing off said needle wielder was just, well, stupid. “Sorry, Carter. No more short comments.”
When the doctor’s location was not easily discovered, the Colonel assumed command. “Teal’c, cover the bar. Daniel, check out the tables over there.” He indicted to the left with a head nod. “Carter, hang out back here. I’ll take the area by the pool table. Our objective is to locate the Doc. Don’t approach her, just report back to Carter with her position.” The men nodded in total understanding. “Okay, fan out.”
All that was missing was a high-five and group hug.
Sam stared incredulously at her teammates as they snaked through the crowd intent on their assignments. Her intention of telling Janet she loved her had somehow turned into a covert operation. The blonde hung her head in her hands. A fleeting thought that it may have been better to have stayed on the planet flickered momentarily and then was replaced by a vision of Janet in the beautiful red and black low cut dress. She chastised herself for thinking such thoughts. The memory of shopping and trying on dresses with Janet brought a smile to her lips.
A southern drawl brought her from her reverie. “Captain Carter, I’m glad you could make it.” General Hammond smiled at the young woman. “Although, I wasn’t expecting SG-1 back for a few more days.” His tone suggested he expected an explanation.
“We, um, the Colonel,” she sputtered. “You see, Sir.”
Hammond held up his hand. “No matter, Captain. I’m sure Colonel O’Neill has a perfectly good explanation.” His grin surprised the blonde. It seemed her CO was enjoying the holiday spirit. “Where are Colonel O’Neill and the rest of SG-1?” The bald Texan asked as he briefly scanned the area.
“They went to the bar for some drinks,” she lied. Well, at least Teal’c was ordered to patrol the bar.
“Sounds like a good idea.” He held up his empty glass and headed for the bar.
Once Hammond was gone, Sam searched through the crowd determined to find Janet before the guys embarrassed her in front of everyone. Just when she began to think Janet had stayed at home, she spotted the brunette across the small dance floor sitting at a table with Siler and his girlfriend, Ferretti and his wife, and some young man she didn’t recognize, although he looked slightly familiar.
Janet’s gorgeous visage stole her breath away. Sam hadn’t seen her in over a week. Dr. Warner was on duty prior to SG-1's last jump and due to the skeleton crew assigned at the base during the holidays, a junior medical officer conducted the post mission exams. Seeing her now with her hair done and just the right amount of make up to accentuate her natural beauty, Sam had to fight the urge to hyperventilate and pass out on the spot.
Who ever said absence makes the heart grow fonder was never graced by the beautiful doctor’s presence. Absence made Sam’s heart pound an uneven staccato and her breath to hitch. She swallowed twice before clearing her constricted throat. She would need a drink to wet her parched mouth before she attempted to talk with Janet.
Sam slowly made her way to the front of the bar, her piercing blue eyes never wavered from the smaller woman, who had yet to notice her appearance. As she closed the distance, Janet’s siren call invaded her senses and any thought of detouring to the bar was squelched and the blonde quickly changed direction and started towards the woman who held her heart.
A rowdy group of Marines burst through the door and Janet nearly fell off her chair watching them stomp snow off their boots. She cursed SG-1 under her breath. It was just their luck to be stuck off-world during the holiday two week stand down. She had really been looking forward to spending time with Sam and Cassie. They had become inseparable lately and she found she had missed her friend more and more with each passing day.
Janet absently picked at the table cloth and sipped the rest of her drink. She easily followed the table conversation and interjected her comments here and there so as not to be rude, but she wasn’t interested in the Bronco’s heart-breaking loss to the Steelers last Sunday or the latest gizmo brought back from PX...blah, blah, blah.
Her date nudged her left arm. “Jan, this is supposed to be a party, not a funeral.” His dark brown eyes flashed in amusement, which only irritated the already annoyed woman all the more.
Sam smiled at the far away look on her friend’s face. She would just swoop in and rescue her from certain boredom. Her version of a knight in shining armor. How could the smaller woman resist her charms?
“I’m sorry. I just don’t feel much like celebrating.” When Janet saw the hurt look settle on the younger man’s face she tried to smooth over her insensitive remark. “It’s not you, Jeff.”
“I know that, honey.” He rubbed his palm up her arm in a comforting gesture. He looked at her empty glass and offered to refill their drinks. “I’ll be right back.” He leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and received a warm smile in return.
What the fuck? The young whelp kissed Janet. And she let him. And she smiled at him. Lovingly. Before her position was compromised, the blonde made a hasty escape. Just as she reached the back entrance, she resisted the urge to glance over her shoulder and bolted into the frigid night.
Jack O’Neill watched as Carter made her retreat. He shot a death glare at the doctor and then took several determined steps in her direction. A firm hand grabbed him by the shoulder and brought him to a halt.
“Don’t, Jack.” Daniel had also witnessed Sam’s reaction. “Give her some time alone. I’m sure it was quite a shock to see Janet making eyes with him.” He was stunned at her public display of affection. He couldn’t imagine what was going through Sam’s head. That wasn’t entirely true, he could imagine he just found it difficult to believe what he had seen with his own eyes.
Shrugging off his hand, O’Neill turned to follow his friend. “Fuck that, Daniel. Did you see her face? She was crushed. And frankly, if I don’t leave right now, I might be tempted to shake some sense into little miss cradle robber.”
Well, when he put it that way. “I’ll find Teal’c and fill him in,” Daniel offered.
“While you’re at it, keep an eye on the Doc and find out who her date is.” Jack stormed through the door and into the cold.
The young archaeologist turned on his heel and headed into the crowd in search of Teal’c. He easily found his accomplice standing at the bar where he had an unobstructed view of the entire area.
Once Daniel joined the black man, he whispered into his ear, “Sam’s gone and Jack went after her.”
The big man tipped his head, indicating behind him and slighly to the right. “DoctorFraiser is sitting at that table with an unknown male.”
“Yeah, we saw her with him too.” He ran his hand through sandy blonde hair and sighed. “That’s why Sam high-tailed it out of here.”
He refused to turn and glance directly at their table. Instead, he watched Janet and her friend through the beveled mirror behind the counter as he didn’t want to appear any more conspicuous than they already were milling around in their jeans amid the well-dressed crowd.
“Jack wants us to find out who’s with Janet,” he informed his friend.
Teal’c nodded and then both men casually made their way over to Janet. Before reaching their intended target, a beefy hand grabbed Daniel by the elbow.
“What have we got here? You boys miss the memo?” Colonel Makepeace and the rest of SG-2 appeared out of the crowd.
Several Marines laughed as they watched their commanding officer make a show of turning his nose up at Teal’c and Daniel’s attire.
“That’s right, Makepeace. We were off-world until a couple of hours ago and didn’t have time to change.” Daniel cursed his misfortune to run into the Marines without Jack as back-up. The Marine Colonel could be a handful on any given day.
“And here I thought SG-1 was missing in action ‘cause they didn’t want to be humiliated again this year.”
Another round of laughter erupted and caused several heads to turn in their direction.
Last year’s Christmas party had nearly ended in a brawl after Carter had run the pool table on the deciding game of the night. Daniel didn’t know what had bothered Makepeace more, losing to a woman or standing on the table forced to declare SG-1 the better of the two teams.
“Funny, that’s not how I remember it,” Daniel quipped.
Before the Marines could mount a response, Teal’c added, “Nor, I.” His intimidating posture warned them to be very careful about what they said next. Just because O’Neill wasn’t there to outrank Makepeace, it didn’t mean the brash Marines could run roughshod over them.
“There a problem here, gentlemen?” The deep baritone interrupted the retort Makepeace was about to unleash.
The Marine gave his adversaries a ‘this isn’t over look’, and then spoke to General Hammond. “No, Sir. No problem. I was about to challenge SG-1 to a rematch of last year, but looks like O’Neill and Carter are AWOL.”
His smarmy smirk turned Daniel’s stomach. Just as the civilian was about to make an excuse and look for Dr. Fraiser, General Hammond took matters into his own hands. “I’m sure SG-1 will be more than happy to accept your challenge, Colonel Makepeace.” The older officer clapped both men on the back and herded them toward the pool tables daring either man to refuse. “I’m sure Colonel O’Neill and Captain Carter are around here somewhere.”
As Daniel marched to his doom, he stared at Janet out of the corner of his eye and wished he had never heard of the Stargate Program.
Heavy footfalls echoed down the empty corridor as Colonel O’Neill made his way to the one place he knew Carter would feel safe. Her lab. He dipped his head around the door jam and spied the blonde woman huddled over her laptop, her body language unapproachable. She turned away from the door refusing to acknowledge his presence. Five minutes later, neither had moved an inch. Each cursing the other’s stubbornness, the stalemate was finally interrupted by the shrill ring of the older man’s cell phone.
He whipped the phone out of his jacket. “O’Neill!” He barked. His dark, brooding eyes flashed in anger at the interruption. He turned away from his friend and spoke in a clipped whisper. “What the hell do you mean, you can’t find her? She not that fucking small, Daniel.”
His grey eyes clouded more and more with each sentence that filled the void between the lab and O’Malley’s, as Daniel desperately tried to fill him in on the particulars since his hasty departure. Jack incredulously listened as the younger man hesitantly admitted to momentarily getting sidetracked from their mission. Just as Teal’c and he were about to join Janet’s table for a chat, Makepeace and his goons had insulted them and then proceeded to challenge them to a game of pool. They were in the middle of a sound beating after handing the Marines a surprising loss in the first game. Adding insult to injury, Janet had disappeared before either man could manage to talk with her or her date. Apparently, he told Jack, she had gone home early.
O’Neill closed his phone with a loud snap and tossed it back into his pocket. Perhaps it was time for a different approach. He walked over and stood in front of Carter. When she still refused to acknowledge him, he reached over and snatched the laptop off the bench.
“Be careful with that,” she hissed as she unsuccessfully tried to grab the computer away from him.
He placed it on the counter behind him and then leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, Carter.”
“What’s that, Sir?” She was in no mood for his sarcastic wit. She would just let him say what he came there to say and then politely tell him to go fuck himself.
A crooked finger beckoned the blonde to lean closer and listen to what he was about to say. Instead, she folded her arms and sat back in her chair, mimicking his body language and daring him to continue.
“Life’s short. Don’t waste the little bit of time you have trying to figure out what to do about the Doc.” He looked away and winced as he thought about his own poor choices. He wished someone had offered to pull his head out of his ass, as he was about to do for his best friend.
“Let me get this straight, Jack. You’re speaking from experience?” She had spent many hours talking with her friend on long boring missions, and he had never once mentioned someone special in his life. Okay, so O’Neill didn’t have the sarcasm market cornered.
“Yeah, Carter. Believe it not, I’ve been there.” No sarcasm, just a simple statement of fact.
She couldn’t hide her surprise at his candor. He had never mentioned his past. She had assumed he didn’t have one, that he was married to the military and had no time for romance.
He openly smiled at her being taken unawares. “I wasn’t born a curmudgeon, Carter. It took many years of practice to acquire this thick hide.” He grabbed a chair and sat facing her. “I’m just saying, don’t get so caught up in the ‘what if’s’ that you let life and any chance for happiness pass you by.”
She exhaled an exasperated sigh. She knew he was right, but she wondered if she was already too late.
As if reading her mind, O’Neill added, “Janet may not wait much longer.”
Anger flashed behind cerulean blue. “From the look of her all cozied up with Mr. Right, I’d say she’s not waiting for anyone.”
O’Neill snorted. “Since when are you such a pushover?” He got into her personal space, almost touching nose to nose. “Gonna let a wet-behind-the-ears pretty boy steal your girl?” He dared.
“She’s not my girl, Jack.” Sam slammed her fist against her thigh. “That’s the fucking problem. She’s not mine.” She ran her hands through blonde locks. “You guys seem to think we’re already together.”
“Christ, Carter. I thought you had bigger balls than that.”
She shot him a withering glare, but he remained totally unfazed.
“You know what?” He asked as he jumped off the chair. “If you think it’s too much of a challenge for ya, then go home. Feed the cat. Water the plants. Watch ‘em grow.” He started toward the exit and stopped just short of the doorway. Without turning to face her, he waved over his shoulder. “Have a nice boring life, Sam.”
Jack O’Neill had never known Carter to back away from a challenge. He knew he wasn’t playing fair. He had basically dared her to open her heart to the woman she loved.
Once Sam was alone, she lightly banged her forehead on the bench and groaned. “Sometimes I really hate that man.”
Sam parked the Volvo across the street and sat unmoving, debating the wisdom of baring her soul to Janet. She had planned on slipping in unnoticed and placing the Christmas gifts under the tree before Janet came home from the party, but that would be impossible now. Janet’s car was parked in the driveway and the lights were on. She reached over to the passenger seat and picked up a small box wrapped in shimmering silver paper topped with a beautiful blue ribbon. The distraught woman wondered if she should even bother giving its contents to Janet.
Thirty minutes later, the blonde hadn’t budged from behind the steering wheel and was no closer to gathering enough courage to confront the brunette and admit her hidden feelings. For good or bad, Sam couldn’t stand living in limbo any longer.
Watching Janet earlier with her date and his comfortable familiarity with her, like he had been touching her all his life, set her teeth on edge. She feared she had waited too long.
Steeling her resolve, the recalcitrant woman grabbed the bag full of presents and unfolded her tall frame from the small driver’s seat and crossed the street, only to find herself hesitant to open the door. She knew Janet was home, but what she didn’t know, and was loathe to discover, was whether the older woman was alone or not. How would she react if she walked in on Janet and her boyfriend in a compromising situation?
Sam stood on the porch and mentally kicked herself in the ass. If she had to fight for Janet, then so be it. The blonde’s hesitancy in the past had placed her in the situation to begin with. If she had only confided in Janet long ago, she wouldn’t be standing out in the cold, literally and figuratively.
A final mental shove willed her hand to dig deep into her leather coat pocket and remove the same set of keys that had allowed her entrance into Janet’s home many times over. So many times, that she felt as if it was also her home. Janet had to feel something for her, right? Or else the doctor wouldn’t have given her the keys and opened her home to her. In doing so, had the brunette opened her heart as well? Sam had to think so or else walking through the door would mean nothing.
Hearing the jingle of keys, Janet quicky ran out of the kitchen and into the foyer. It could only be Sam standing on her door step and she couldn’t be more pleased. All night she had waited for the blonde beauty to stride through O’Malley’s and liven up her miserable week. She couldn’t have been more surprised to see the younger woman open her own door and step into the warmth Janet had to offer.
“SAM!" The brunette bounded down the hall and stopped short of jumping into Sam’s arms. “When did you get back?” She asked enthusiastically.
Her blonde friend turned to close the door without speaking. In fact, Sam seemed very preoccupied and Janet wasn’t sure if Sam really wanted to be there at all. The doctor wondered if something had happened off-world, but dismissed that thought almost as quickly as it had surfaced. Dr. Michaels would have notified her if any medical emergency had occurred with SG-1, as protocol dictated that the CMO was always kept in the loop. At least she hoped the young physician would remember to follow protocol.
After the door was closed, Sam stamped her feet to knock off the snow she had tracked onto the thick carpet. She stood awkwardly in front of Janet and suddenly wondered if she was doing the right thing. Janet’s soft smile was so reassuring that she decided that she had made the right choice after all.
She returned the brunette’s smile with one of her own, relieved to see that Janet had genuinely missed her too.
“Hey,” she said shyly and offered the gifts to Janet.
She slid the black leather off her shoulders and moved to hang it on the coat rack. Her hand froze in mid-motion when she noticed an unfamiliar coat already hanging on the hook she normally used. Her eyes then glanced to the floor where a pair of men’s boots sat next to a much smaller pair.
Janet hadn’t noticed her discomfort and took her coat and hung it right next to the offending garment before placing the bag on the floor out of the way. She wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist and pulled her into a hug. “I’m so glad you’re home. I just wished you could have made it to the Christmas party.”
Sam stiffened in her arms. “Really? You could have fooled me,” she hissed.
If Janet had missed the rude posture, the venom in Sam’s response certainly could not hide the fact that the blonde was extremely upset about something. The smaller woman unwound herself from around her waist and lightly grabbed the angry woman by her upper arms. “What the hell do you mean by that?”
The blonde’s only response was to try and extricate herself from Janet’s grasp, but the brunette tightened her grip and refused to let go.
“Sam, what’s wrong?” The doctor implored, trying to catch her eye.
Sam averted her gaze, not wanting Janet to see the pain and disappointment swimming in the liquid blue water threatening to spill down her cheeks. Pain because she realized that Janet was not her’s, nor would she ever be, and disappointment for allowing herself to think it was ever possible.
Even though she had seen Janet with the younger man with her own eyes, she still had hoped that there was a very plausible explanation. Now, though, seeing the evidence first hand, she had to admit that Janet hadn’t secretly harbored feelings for her. That revelation cut deeply. With her ego and heart sufficiently crushed, Sam wanted to get the hell out of there before she said anything to totally destroy their friendship. Yes, she was profoundly shaken, but if she couldn’t salvage some kind of relationship with her friend, Sam wasn’t sure she would survive.
Truly concerned by Sam’s lack of response, Janet cupped her chin and forced the blonde to look at her. What she saw scared the hell out of her. The dark blue stare lacked the normal vivacious sparkle, and that added with the uncharacteristic sharp tone of voice, alarmed the doctor more than she cared to admit.
“Janet, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.” She tried to look away again, but the smaller woman prevented the movement by refusing to let go of her chin.
“Why would you think I didn’t want you to come home?” Rehashing the accusation in her mind, Janet suddenly realized what Sam had said. “You don’t think I wanted to go to the party with you?” She couldn’t understand why Sam was acting so strange.
This time, Sam managed to pull free and she quickly took several steps away from her friend. She didn’t know how to smooth this over without revealing the truth.
Refusing to meet her gaze, Sam looked anywhere but at the imploring brown eyes of the woman she so desperately loved. Should she confess the secret she had been hiding for over a year? Did Sam want to jeopardize her friendship with the other woman? She had shared everything with Janet. A steady friendship, a career, a daughter, and a home away from home. Everything except what she craved the most.
Piercing blue eyes finally chanced a glance at the brunette and then she inwardly groaned when Janet refused to look away. Sam fell into impossibly deep brown depths and lost her resolve. “I saw you with him!!" She shouted.
“Keep your voice down. Cassie is upstairs asleep,” she admonished. What was Sam trying to tell her? “You saw me with him?” Her forehead crinkled in confusion.
“I saw you with him,” she repeated slowly in a much lower tone, as if each word pained her to admit her confession. She unconsciously glanced at the boots and then to the coat rack.
Janet followed the blue gaze as it first rested on the boots and then the coat. Five simple words, but the meaning was crystal clear. Sam was jealous as hell. Brown eyes widened in surprise when realization finally dawned on the smaller woman. “You’re jealous! ” Janet exclaimed, staring unbelievingly at her friend.
“That should have been me,” she whispered.
When the petite doctor didn’t answer, Sam forged ahead. “At the party. That should have been me.” Long, slender fingers sifted through soft brown hair. “I should have been there, at your side, drunk with the sense of you.” She leaned closer to inhale the delicate curls sliding through her fingers.
The steady rise and fall of Janet’s chest increased as Sam pressed her nose deeper and sniffed the vanilla fragrance of her best friend. She rubbed her face through her hair and then intimately massaged the back of Janet’s neck. Determined fingertips trailed under her chin and then finally caressed the soft skin of her tanned cheek.
Deep brown eyes dilated with surprise and desire. Unable to withstand the caress without imploding, she reached a steady hand and placed it over Sam’s.
Confusion marred the blonde’s face when Janet stilled their hands, but when the smaller fingers entwined with longer ones, Sam chanced a smile.
Janet closed the distance between them. “Oh, sweetheart. It’s always been you,” she breathed.
Feeling the weight of the world lift from her shoulders, Sam leaned down and captured soft lips in a brief kiss. She reluctantly broke the kiss and watched Janet carefully to gage her reaction. When the expected slap never reached her cheek, all doubts fell away and she slowly took possession of the brunette’s mouth in a searing kiss. Slender arms wrapped around Janet’s slim waist as she pulled the brunette closer. Smaller hands responded as she slid her palms up the blonde’s torso to momentarily rest on her upper chest before venturing over the strong musculature of her back.
Moaning with pleasure, Sam stroked her tongue back and forth in Janet’s mouth tasting the brunette’s mounting desire. Her hips rocked unconsciously with the rhythm of her tongue, driving harder and deeper with each thrust. Finally the need for oxygen halted their erotic dance as their mouths stilled and swollen lips parted to suck in a much needed breath.
“Oh, Sam. Where did you learn to kiss like that?” She had never been more thoroughly kissed in her life, not that she was very experienced, but she certainly had been kissed a time or two.
“In my dreams.” Sam pressed their foreheads together, basking in the passion of their embrace.
Moments later, the floorboards creaked and a male voice called into the hallway. “Janet, can I come out now?”
Janet pressed her forehead harder against the blonde when she stiffened at the sound of his voice. “Trust me, honey.” Sam relaxed and Janet kissed her soft lips. “You have nothing to be jealous about.” Taking her by the hand, the brunette led her into the kitchen.
The young man sat at the table running his index finger over the rim of his glass. He smiled at the women when they entered the kitchen.
“Sam, this is my youngest brother, Jeffrey.” She introduced two of the most important people in her life.
“Oh shit.” She squeezed Janet’s hand. “I am such an ass.” Sam hid her face in her hands.
Sam knew he had looked familiar, but she was so shocked to see Janet with him that she wasn’t thinking straight. The mantle over the fireplace held many of Janet’s favorite photos. Among the numerous pictures of SG-1 in various combinations were many older ones of her family and newer ones that included Cassie. Sam’s favorite was of Janet and her brothers taken when they were much younger. The photographer had captured quintessential Janet with her dark mysterious eyes and her impish crooked smile.
“Yes, but you’re my ass,” Janet laughed.
The young man snorted and reached his right hand across the table. “I’m glad to finally meet you, Sam. My sister has been driving me crazy with all her talk about you, especially this week. She was so upset, I had to force her to go to the Christmas party.”
Sam shoved her hands in her pockets and didn’t know what to say. She knew how much Janet was looking forward to the holiday celebration and hated disappointing her. “Thanks for being there for her.”
“Any time.” He conspiratorially leaned closer to Sam and winked. “She’s really not that bad...for an older sister that is.”
“I love you too, little brother.” Janet swatted him playfully on the shoulder.
Jeff walked around the table and kissed Janet on the forehead. “Good night, Jan.” He brushed past the taller woman and spoke in a soft voice only the blonde could hear. “She’s very special. Take good care of her.”
The megawatt Carter smile lit up her face. “I know, and I will.” She whispered back.