DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 is property of Showtime, Gekko, etc etc etc. In other words, not mine. Guess the muses weren't done with me.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Another Break in the Wall.
What is and What Should Always Be
Moon high, midnight; the sky is a black and silver blanket of stars. Galaxies spiral against the aerial fabric in a dance whose passage is already old and dead by the time she witnesses them.
Constellations form and Sam silently names each one. The air around her grows colder while the white steam of exhaled breath wreathes heavenward. Time drifts into a haze of stars. Thoughts twist and turn, enveloping her in a blanket of memory. The shrill cry of an early rising bird returns Sam to reality. Squinting, she looks at the sky. Far in the distance, dawn is pinking the horizon, but daylight is still at least an hour in coming.
The events of the past twenty-four hours have left Sam drained. On a daily basis, Colonel Samantha Carter, astrophysicist, soldier, pilot and all around galaxy-saving hero, is accustomed to facing all manner of evil, but nothing in her years of service has prepared her for the simple and undeniable fact of having her fondest wish granted.
She looks upward, seeking answers in a silent sky. Behind her, there is a soft rasp of an opening door. Footsteps shuffle across the creaky wooden floor of the deck.
Sam feels the warm presence long before the smaller body eels its way under her arm. Every nerve is afire with the sensation of the woman now resting her head against Sam's shoulder. Thank you. Somewhere, in the vastness of all that is, was and will ever be, strings have been pulled and Sam knows that she owes the cosmos a huge favor.
"Cassie in bed?" The colonel's voice is thick with exhaustion but she refuses to sleep just yet. I just need one more minute, one more heartbeat so I know it's real.
Janet nods, and adds a sleepy, "Mmhm, but I doubt she'll stay that way."
Sam closes her eyes and buries her face in Janet's hair. She knows all too well why Cassie won't be able to sleep long and for the same reason, neither will Sam.
Fear; deep, gut-twisting, heart-shredding terror that if they close their eyes, the last twenty-four hours will have been nothing more than a fanciful imagining. A dream brought on by the fevered imaginings of an early winter flu.
Sam clings to Janet and remembers the look in Cassie's eyes.
Their lips are kiss bruised and their breath comes in tiny, shallow gasps but they can't seem to stop smiling.
"Again," Janet whispers and just like that, Sam is losing herself in the shape and feel of the doctor's mouth. Their kisses are open and slow, fast and hot, hard and driving and always, always followed with long moments of amazed smiles and tender caresses.
Sam's cell vibrates and she almost ignores its summons until she remembers that she is not the only one for whom Janet's presence will be like a gift from God.
Capturing the device, she only has to see the number to know that things are about to get interesting.
"Cassie's here," she whispers, and Janet goes rigid in her arms. "Janet? Are you okay?" Sam says, as concern pushes the smile out of her eyes and leaves them to shine with worry.
"What if she's forgotten me, Sam?" Janet's voice is like broken glass, all shards of hurt and pain. "What if she doesn't want me to be her mother anymore?"
The question is like a solid blow to Sam's gut. Of all the eventualities she has imagined evolving from this day's events, Cassie's feelings for her adoptive mother were never in question.
"Oh Janet," she says, feathering the backs of her fingertips against the doctor's tear-soaked cheeks. "That's just not possible. You are and always will be Cassie's mother. Her love for you is as certain as mine."
In surprise, Janet looks up to catch Sam's gaze and the astrophysicist smiles bashfully.
"That might be the most bass-ackwards way anyone has ever confessed their heart to me, Sam." The fondness in Janet's words barely overshadows the fear.
Sam shrugs one shoulder. "You know me, Janet. I gotta be different." She leans down and brushes a soft kiss over the doctor's temple. "I do. Love you, that is."
The words seem to act as verbal courage as Janet summons a brave smile. Standing, she says, "Let's go see our daughter." It is a short trip to Sam's office.
Sam goes into the room first, to prepare the young woman for what is to come. Janet follows shortly, and Sam can tell by the pole-axed look on Cassie's face that she cannot believe the evidence in front of her eyes.
"Cass," Janet whispers and reaches both hands out to a daughter who has gone from little girl to adult back to little girl.
Half rising from her seat, Cassie gasps, "Janet?" Her hand flies to her mouth and she emits a strangled whimper that becomes, "Mom!" Then she flies across the room, falls to her knees, and wraps her arms around Janet's waist and sobs, "You were dead. They told me you were dead."
"Oh, Cass " Janet goes boneless and slides to the floor, pulls Cassie into her arms and begins to rock the young woman gently. The doctor's earlier fears seem groundless in the wake of Cassie's outburst.
"You're okay, right? You're not going away again?"
Janet looks up and finds Sam. With an unspoken plea, the colonel is kneeling beside them and drawing the two women into her embrace.
"Shh, Cassie. Everything's okay now," whispers Sam. Even if she doesn't quite believe it yet, she's willing to fake it for Cassie's sake.
It is Daniel Jackson who walks in on this tableau ten minutes later. The archeologist is so stunned that he forgets to babble and just says, "Janet. Oh my God, it is you." This of course, sets off yet another round of tears, hugs, and hellos that lasts long into the day.
Hours pass before Janet is cleared to leave the base, but when freedom comes, it arrives on a golden platter.
General Landry escorts Janet, Cassie, and Sam to the surface. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c are already waiting to take them home. They have strict orders to, "Feed the gals and then let 'em get some sleep," and Jack's already muttering something about beer and pizza.
The midday sun is so bright; Sam squints for most of the ride home.
Held in the warm embrace of her best friend and soon to be lover, Janet Fraiser is vaguely aware of the emotional upheaval suffered by her family. It is also fair to say that the good doctor's own sense of balance has long since evaporated, leaving her to drunkenly meander across a narrow beam of steadily growing hope.
For nearly three years, she has been dead to everything she has ever loved and her return has opened a Pandora's box of feelings. It will take time before everything settles into something approximating normal, but right now, all she really wants is to crawl into her bed God, my own bed. Who would have thought I'd ever miss something as simple as a mattress. and sleep in the arms of the woman she's loved for years.
There have been many tears this day. Those that she has shed have left no imprint on Janet's thoughts. She is scattered into a million pieces by emotions that seem so real, but truthfully barely touch upon the ball of ice buried deep within her chest. She is alive. Breath goes in, breath comes out. Standing pressed against one of the two people in the universe that have haunted her dreams for nearly three years, Janet Fraiser struggles to melt into reality.
For lack of anything better to say, Janet murmurs, "We should try to get some sleep."
The catch in Sam's breathing does something unreal to Janet's heart.
"Could we " Sam hesitates and clings to Janet. "Not just yet, okay?"
Janet's eyes sting and she blinks, then realizes that Sam's afraid to let go of this day. In a rush, it comes to her that she feels the same. A brisk wind whips cold air through the trees, making them clatter and shake. Janet shivers and burrows closer to Sam.
Sam holds on to Janet. Everything about the diminutive doctor fits so well against her; appeals to senses Sam hadn't even been aware of until Janet was there with her softness and her scent and the warmth of her body. The future looms only as a shadow against the hard reality of Janet Fraiser's heartbeat echoing in Sam's chest.
There will be challenges to this love. Sam knows this like she knows how to field strip a P-90 in ten seconds. She also knows that nothing worth anything comes without cost and that life with Janet Fraiser will be richer than the combined hoards of all the system lords.
And yet, there is a distance she can feel is uncrossed. A barrier lies between now and later and Sam is unsure how it can be breached. She wants God, she wants nothing more than to lead Janet to bed, where they will or will not make love for the first time as their emotions lead them. But, and there is always a but, she is choked by dread.
It is impossible to move from here and now to tomorrow.
I knew it was too easy, she thinks but says nothing, for as long as she holds it in, as long as she does not break the bubble surrounding her and Janet, everything is almost perfect.
Dawn is coral and cold. Janet's skin is as icy as the demeanor of her Asgard savior. Captor, more like, for all that he refused to let me come home. Is this really home? This house - Janet's gaze is drawn to the wood and stucco structure. It is and was her home - the place where she raised Cassandra. Shadows of memory linger in the darkened corners. She sees laughter in the beer stains that mar the deck; tears in the smear of long-dried cake frosting that runs along the bottom of the back door and a lot of good years rubbed into the worn fabric covers on the patio furniture.
She shivers again and this time Sam notices.
"You're cold," says the astrophysicist.
Wryly, Janet replies, "It's winter in Colorado. What do you expect?"
"You should have said "
With the tips of her fingers, Janet covers Sam's lips. "Don't. I can't handle recriminations right now, Sam. Just take me to bed."
The room is much as Janet remembers it. A bed, a dresser, clothes heaped in piles on the floor everything seems to be in the exact place she left them the morning before jumping to P3X-666. Only, the clothes are not hers, and the bedding I'd never use that particular shade of green, ever. I see enough olive drab at the mountain.
Sam is in the hall bathroom, performing her ablutions and Janet should be doing the same in the master bath. Instead, she is drawn to touch and investigate all the corners of this room that was once hers.
"It seemed better for Cassie's sake if we stayed here," comes Sam's soft voice from the doorway. The colonel moves into the room and sits on the end of the bed. She is wearing little more than a thin tank top and cotton pants, and Janet finds that her mouth has gone dry at the sight.
Pushing aside the rising tide of desire, Janet says, "You did the right thing, Sam. It's been nice to come home, home." Even if this isn't quite her home right now, it will be. It has to be, because there is a little girl all grown up who still calls her "mom" and a best friend whose eyes speak volumes about love and passion who have both been waiting to breathe again.
Janet exhales and feels a thin thread of warmth creep through her body. Slowly, she makes her way to stand before Sam and then reaches down to slide her fingers through the colonel's spiky blonde hair.
"It's longer, or something. Different," she says and Sam chuckles and looks up at Janet.
"Yours, too. How "
Janet reaches up to touch the fringes of her hair, cut almost painfully short. "Odin. Sixteen months after P3X-666, I accidentally got my hair trapped in one of the Asgard devices. It took three hours to pick it all out before he could even begin to repair the machine." There is actual mirth in Janet's voice as she recounts the adventure.
Sam grins. "Well, it's different." She rises and circles Janet slowly then comes to a stop in front of the doctor. Hesitantly, she lifts a hand to cup her friend's cheek. "But I think I like it."
Pursing her lips, Janet says, "You're being nice, Sam. It looks awful. All I had to cut it with was some odd looking bladed instrument the actual purpose of which I'm sure was largely ceremonial."
"Daniel's wet dream, no doubt," Sam says softly, brushing the pad of her thumb against the corner of Janet's mouth.
Drawing breath becomes near impossible for the doctor. With her gaze firmly caught in the colonel's, Janet tilts her head into Sam's touch. The heat rolling off Sam washes through Janet slowly, and turns her guts into a puddle of liquid fire.
Like a switch clicking on, everything suddenly makes perfect sense. Of course, she is home, standing not more than two heartbeats away from falling in love with her best friend. Where else would she be?
They have kissed in the past; they will kiss again. Hell, they're going to kiss right now. Janet can feel the pressure of Sam's mouth against hers even before the other woman moves. She can taste it; it's like honey. Warm and golden, sweet and light a memory of summer filled with a brilliant cascade of flowers.
"Janet?" Sam's voice is strangled by emotions that match the flurry of sensation roiling in Janet's stomach.
I'm the wicked witch, Janet thinks as she melts into Sam's kisses.
Sometime midmorning, Janet comes groggily awake to see Cassandra lurking in the doorway.
"Cassie honey, are you okay?" she says, sitting up part way.
The young woman flinches and shakes her head. "No mom, don't get up. I'm fine. I just " She breaks off and rubs the heels of her hands into her eyes. "I had to be sure you were real."
"Oh baby, come here." Janet reaches a hand out to her daughter and Cassie hesitates only as long as it takes her to notice that Sam is awake as well.
"Yeah, Cass, come on. It's okay." Sam scoots over and pulls Janet against her, leaving plenty of room for Cassie.
This is all the invitation the young woman needs. With a soft cry, she launches herself onto the bed and snuggles into her mother's arms. They doze together for nearly an hour before Janet's stomach wakes up and complains, loudly.
Sam groans and drags her portion of the blankets over her head. Another grumbling rumble comes from the vicinity of Janet's tummy, causing Cassie to start giggling.
"Pancakes?" Janet says as if this is just another normal day.
"Yum," says Cassie as she jumps out of the bed and heads for the kitchen.
"Sounds perfect." Sam levers herself up and peers down at Janet before leaning in for a good morning kiss. "But then again, I'd eat plain oatmeal so long as I get to eat it with you."
Janet smiles into the kiss. "I never would have pegged you for the mushy romantic type, Samantha."
A teasing pout wends its way across Sam's face, causing Janet to laugh. This only inspires further pouting and more laughter until both women collapse in a heap of giggles.
"Mom!" Cassie's voice is loud and demanding. "Food, please, some time this century!"
Rolling her eyes in an affectionately exasperated manner, Janet says, "It's nice to know that some things never change."
Sam chuckles and then wraps Janet up in a tight embrace. Pressing her cheek against the top of the doctor's head she whispers, "You're home."
The shudder that wracks through Janet shakes her from head to toe and leaves her breathlessly clinging to Sam. "I'm home," she says in wonder.
"Mom did you want blueberry or chocolate chip?" Cassie's voice trickles to a stop as she bursts into the room. A wicked smile edges onto her lips as she says, "All right guys, do I have to break out a hose?"
The young woman's smile vanishes when both her parents leap from their bed to chase her through the house. Screaming in mock fear, Cassie's delighted giggles are soon joined by the deeper timbres of Sam and Janet's laughter. The walls of the Fraiser house echo with the utter normality of the day.
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