Spoilers/Timeline: Set post Heroes. Spoilers for Heroes (s07e17-18).
A/N 1: My most heartfelt thanks to my beta Jazwriter.
A/N 2: This is the result of a prompt I saw on DW in a challenge comm that I am not a participant in. It just sort of caught my attention and inspired this story. The prompt was: second chances.
Janet drove the rental car down the dirt road, leaving a dusty cloud in her wake. It had been far too long since she had been to her parent’s farm. After her father retired from the army, they had returned to the family’s “home base” and settled into the steady but comforting work of the small horse farm. It was where Janet’s earliest memories were formed as a child, where she had learned to ride a horse, and where she had gazed into the night sky and dreamed of a more exciting life.
Janet smiled. Well, she certainly had gotten a more exciting life! As the Chief Medical Officer of the Stargate Program her life couldn’t get much more exciting. She worked with some of the absolute best people in the military as well as top professional civilians. She even got to visit alien worlds – albeit usually during a medical crisis of some kind.
In addition, she adopted an orphaned girl from another planet. Cassie was the light of her life and proved all teenagers were pretty much the same when given half a chance. Cassie was attending freshman classes at Stanford and majoring in premed, with the intention of going into cancer research.
Janet couldn’t take all the credit for how well her daughter had adjusted to life on Earth after her adoption. A lot of credit also went to Janet’s best friend and lover, Samantha Carter. She glanced over at the blonde, who was sound asleep in the passenger seat. Sam was as brilliant as she was beautiful. Although their relationship was brand new when Cassie came along, Sam supported Janet from the very beginning. Sam was right by Janet’s side raising Cassie from the first. Sam even sold her house and moved in – ostensibly into the other bedroom as far as the Air Force was concerned. Those closest to the women knew they were a couple, and that with Cassie they were a family. However, nobody said anything. After all, the first part of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” was “don’t ask.”
Spotting the house, Janet reached over and patted Sam’s leg. “Time to wake up, Sam.”
Sam sat up straight, rubbing both hands over her face. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize, honey. I know you’re tired. You and the guys didn’t get back from P2X-243 until late last night.
“It’ll be good to see your parents again,” she said with a smile.
The next morning, Janet and Sam were walking out of the barn after having helped feed the horses, when they saw a well-built man about six-foot-four approaching. Like them, he was clad in jeans and a t-shirt.
“Stan!” Janet practically threw herself into the man’s arms, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding onto him tightly. As always, his arms held her gently. She felt her eyes sting with unshed tears. Seeing this dear man brought up so many emotions, with love and regret fighting for dominance.
“Janet, it’s so good to see you. How are you?”
She had to swallow past the sudden lump in her throat, as she pulled out of his arms to answer. “I’m good.”
“Your folks said you were hurt,” Stan said with obvious concern.
She nodded. “I was, but as you can you can see,” she twirled in front of him, “I’m just fine. Just like I tried to explain to my parents, it was all a lot of to-do about a minor incident, really.”
Janet chose to ignore the look of incredulity that momentarily flashed across Sam’s face. After all, it wasn’t like they could tell anyone the truth. Janet had taken a devastating staff weapon blast to her chest which should have been fatal while on P3X-666. Sam nearly killed herself using the Goa’uld healing device to bring Janet back from the brink of death. Both of them well knew just how close it had been. They were both grateful for the second chance life had given them.
“Well, I’m so glad to see you’re doing well.” Stan paused for a moment. “You look happy, Janet.”
“I am.” Janet held her hand out to Sam, who walked over and took it. “And a big part of the reason for it is Sam here. Stan, this is Major Samantha Carter, my partner. Sam, this is Stanley Jackson, a very dear friend from high school.” She paused half a beat before adding, “Stan’s the first person I ever told that I might like girls more than boys.”
He chuckled. “And broke my heart in the process, but she became one of my best friends.” He shook Sam’s hand. “It’s good to meet you, Sam.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Stan. It’s always nice to meet friends of Janet who can tell me stories of what she was like when she was younger,” she replied with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Stan grinned and let out a laugh. “You want stories? Have I got stories.”
“Oh, no! There’ll be no telling of stories without express prior approval. You know far too many damaging tales about me, Stan.”
“That’s kind of the point, honey,” Sam pointed out.
“Nope. Not going to happen. Besides, I need to talk to Stan about something.” Janet gave Sam’s hand a squeeze, hoping she would pick up on her signal that she wanted some time alone with her old friend. She needn’t have worried.
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to go pester Kate for more of her stories.”
“That’s fine; Mom knows which stories are off limits.”
With a loving smile, Sam kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand, and headed for the house.
Janet turned back to Stan. “Walk?” He held out his arm, and she slipped her hand into crook of his elbow.
“So what do you want to talk about?”
“I owe you an apology.”
“What on earth for?”
“All those years ago… I should have been a better friend to you. I should have—”
“No. You have nothing to apologize for, Janet.”
“I should have been by your side through everything that happened. I should have been in court with you.”
Stan stopped, faced Janet, and took her shoulders in his hands. Shaking his head, he said, “No. You had a scholarship to college, a way out of here. You had your future ahead of you, Janet. You didn’t need to let me sidetrack you from everything you were going to do.”
She let out a huff of frustration. “But it was an accident. You didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
He gave he a small smile. “Of course it was, which is why I was convicted of manslaughter and not murder.”
“I still should have been there for you, Stan. It shouldn’t have mattered what my parents said. I let you down. I’ve always regretted not being there for you, Stan. Always. Dad said he didn’t trust you… not for me to be around you after you shot John…”
Stan lowered his gaze to the ground, giving a small shake of his head. “I never knew my dad had been in my room, that he had loaded my rifle. I always kept it unloaded.” He looked up and met her eyes again. “Your dad was right to keep you away.”
“No, he wasn’t. It was just an accident. A terrible accident, but an accident nonetheless.”
“Don’t you see? It could have just as easily been you! I could have been showing off my rifle to you, Janet. I could have killed you instead of John. I thank God every day that it wasn’t you.” Stan pulled her into a tight hug. “Just look at everything you’ve accomplished. Not only did you go to college on that scholarship, you went on to medical school and became a doctor in the air force. You’re the Chief Medical Officer of your base, you’re a great mother to Cassie, who’s earned her own scholarship to Stanford, and you have a brilliant and beautiful girlfriend. You’ve made quite a nice life for yourself. Grab it with both hands and hold on to it tight, Janet, because you deserve it all… you always have. You never did or said anything that required my forgiveness, but if you really feel you need it, you have it, Janet.”
When he finally let her go, Janet pulled back and looked up at him as she wiped her tears away, along with the weight of the guilt she had carried for so long. She noticed his eyes were also suspiciously shiny. Then something occurred to her.
“Hey, wait a minute. How do you know that I’m the CMO at my base and that Cassie’s at Stanford on a scholarship?”
He gave her a grin. “Your dad brags a lot. And I’ve met Cassie during a couple of her visits here with Kate and Jim. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you gave birth to her – she’s so much like you.”
“So you’ve been here before.”
“Quite frequently. I bought the old Miller place several years ago, with your dad’s help.”
“With my— Why? I mean why did Dad help you buy the old Miller place considering how he felt about you?”
Stan slipped his arm around her shoulders and turned to walk back toward the Fraiser house. “Um, about that… your dad has always stood by me, even when I went to court and pled guilty. It was his testimony that convinced the judge to give me the minimum sentence. And he was the one to pick me up the day I got out. Gave me a job, too.”
“I don’t understand, Stan. Dad told me you couldn’t be trusted. He said I couldn’t—”
“He did what I asked him to do – to say whatever was necessary to keep you away and on track. You needed not to worry about me, and you needed to take that college scholarship, get the hell out of here, and get on with your life.”
“I can’t believe he did that, or that you asked it of him.”
“The only reason he did as I asked was because we agreed it was best for you. Your dad is a good man, Janet, a fair man. He’s always looked out for me, which is more than I could ever say for my old man.”
Janet nodded knowingly. There were few secrets in a small, rural town. Everyone knew Lester Jackson was the town drunk, and a mean one, too.
“Anyway, I’d say everything turned out the way it was supposed to. You’ve accomplished so much, and my life has turned out pretty well, too. I married Penny Thompson about twelve years ago.”
“You mean Penny Thompson the head cheerleader? That Penny Thompson?”
He smiled “Yep. It’s Penny Jackson now, and we have two kids, Jimmy and Carol. They’re ten and eight.”
“That’s fantastic, Stan. I’m so happy for you! Am I going to get the chance to meet your family?”
“As a matter of fact, I came over to invite you and Sam over for dinner this evening.”
“We’ll be there.”
They arrived at the porch of the Fraiser house.
“See you tonight, Janet.”
He kissed her cheek, and she watched him walk in the direction of the old Miller place before she turned and went inside.