Spoilers/Timeline: Takes place during Continuum.
A/N1: Written for tittamiire from her story prompt.
A/N2: Special thanks to ariestess for the fast beta.
– Francois de La Rochefoucauld
“They’re ready to board the aircraft,” Hank Landry bellowed.
Almost before they could register everything they’d been through, Col. Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and Col. Cameron Mitchell were flown out of Alaska and faced with starting their new lives… separately. They would be set up with new identities and receive a ‘suitable home, vehicle, and living allowance.’ They were not allowed to contact each other for any reason, nor were they allowed to seek employment in any of their respective specialties. And, they absolutely could not discuss the events that had brought them to this alternate timeline with anyone.
If they broke any of the rules, they would be taken into custody, never to see the light of day again.
She had only been in her new apartment for a month. She’d repainted all of the rooms, installed an extra showerhead in the shower, and retiled the kitchen counter. As Sam washed remnants of grout from her hands in the kitchen sink, she surveyed the results of her labors. The apartment was as about as homey as she could make it under the circumstances. She didn’t have any of her personal pictures or keepsakes, but she had done her best to make it her home even though her heart wasn’t in it.
Sam could understand why the President, and others, didn’t want her and her teammates to change the timeline back. From their point of view the current timeline was the correct one. But that didn’t change the ever constant and oppressive feeling that she was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
With a sigh she turned off the faucet and dried her hands on a clean hand towel before brushing back some loose hair from her face which had escaped from her ponytail. She glanced at the kitchen clock. It was only 3:30; she had plenty of time to clean up the mess and take a shower before going out to dinner… not that she was having dinner with anyone.
Sam cleaned up the detritus of her handiwork, putting away the leftover supplies, and then headed into the bathroom. After turning on the water in the shower, she stripped and tossed her clothes into the hamper in the corner of the bathroom. She stepped into the shower and turned on the second shower head, luxuriating in the cascading stream of water as it sluiced away the grime of her do-it-yourself home repairs.
Before she could think to halt the memories, she felt phantom hands slide up her back and gently squeeze her shoulders. A shiver ran through her body that had nothing to do with the temperature of the water. It had been five years since that terrible argument…
“I can’t go on living this way, Sam!”
“And I can’t live any other way!”
… five years since P3X-666.
The loss of Janet still haunted her. The defeat of the Ori, a year in the Pegasus galaxy, and even two or three short-lived affairs did nothing to ease Sam’s guilt and deep sense of loss.
Sam literally shook her head to derail the direction of her thoughts. She washed her hair and finished her shower. Wrapped in a towel, she combed and blow-dried her hair. The image in the mirror was that of a stranger – the dark brown hair changed her appearance enough that people had stopped saying she looked like her dead counterpart, the hero astronaut. It was just one more thing that made her feel out of place.
A brilliant mind like Sam’s needed stimulation, so Sam spent quite a bit of her stipend on books. While in the book store at the mall – browsing the astronomy section – she was surprised to hear a familiar voice. Despite the adrenaline that shot through her, she found herself unable to move… until it was too late. When she rounded the row of bookshelves there was no longer a customer at the checkout counter. She took a slow, steadying breath and approached the clerk.
“May I help you?”
“The person you just rang up… was it Janet Fraiser?”
“I don’t know. She paid cash.”
“Does she come in here often?”
“Um… I think I might have seen her in here before.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
Sam began spending most of her time at the mall, sitting and reading on one of the benches near the book store… waiting to catch a glimpse of one special person.
But she never saw the person she was hoping to see.
It happened four months later.
The city was painted white with fresh snow, and she was blindsided by a boy and his sled. She went down with a yelp and grimaced at the sharp pain in her ankle. When she couldn’t put any weight on it someone called an ambulance.
At the hospital she was taken into the ER where she was sent for x-rays. Sam was lying on the gurney with her eyes closed when the doctor pushed the curtain aside.
“Hello, Ms. Jacob, I’m Dr. Fraiser.”
Sam’s heart leapt up into her throat and prevented her from doing anything more than letting out a soft grunt.
“According to your x-rays, you’ve broken your ankle.” The doctor smiled. “But the good news is that it’s an avulsion fracture of the lateral malleolus of the fibula.”
“What?” she managed to ask.
“It means we can treat it like a severe sprain. We’ll put you in a splint and you’ll be on crutches for several days, but you’ll be just fine.”
It wasn’t until Sam was in the taxi on the way back to her apartment that her pounding heart had finally slowed and she could draw an easy breath.
Sam didn’t know what she should do. Should she go back to the hospital and try to talk to Janet? Should she call? Should she pretend she’d never seen Janet and try to forget about her? Of course, trying to forget about Janet hadn’t worked in five years, so Sam knew it futile to even try.
After three weeks, Sam decided to go to the hospital and try to talk to Janet when she got off her shift. But when she parked her car in the lot she couldn’t make herself get out of the car. Her grief and relentless guilt kept her immobile. She simply sat there for over two hours.
Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Janet exit the ER, get in her car, and drive off. It was ten minutes before Sam felt calm enough to drive back home.
After a month of spending her days waiting and watching in the ER parking lot, Sam knew quite a few things about Janet. She knew what Janet’s work schedule was. She knew Janet liked to come in an hour before shift change. She knew that Janet would often join a nurse named Abby during a smoke break even though Janet didn’t smoke. She knew if Janet had had a good day or a bad day from the way the doctor carried herself as she walked to her car at the end of her shift. She knew Janet liked to go out with some of the other doctors and nurses after work once a week. She knew that Janet smiled a lot and had a musical laugh. She knew Janet was alive and well and as a beautiful as ever.
And she knew she was still hopelessly in love with Janet… and always would be.
But it wasn’t until the day Sam followed Janet home from the hospital that she knew Janet was in love.
Sam watched as a second car arrived in the driveway only moments after Janet pulled in. A petite redhead got out of the car. Janet’s joyous smile was obvious as she and the redhead embraced before kissing. There was no mistaking the feelings between them. A small duffle bag was retrieved from the backseat of the redhead’s car and the two women walked into the house arm in arm.
Despite knowing Janet was in love with someone – or perhaps because of it – Sam could not let go of her desire to see Janet, to talk to her. She made her move when Janet went to the gym for her semiweekly workout. She accidentally-on-purpose bumped into Janet in the locker room.
“Oh! Excuse me,” Janet apologized.
“It was my fault,” Sam said. “I’m so sorry. Are you alright?”
“No harm, no foul,” Janet replied. She then paused as she took a good look at the tall woman. “I haven’t seen you here before; are you a member of this gym?”
“I am now. I just joined.”
“Don’t I know you?”
Sam couldn’t keep from smiling. “You treated my ankle in the ER about three months ago.”
Recognition dawned with a bright smile. “That’s right – an avulsion fracture. How’s your ankle doing? Any residual pain?”
“It’s just fine, thank you.”
“That’s good.” Janet glanced at her watch. “Sorry, but I’m running late. See you around.” Janet was gone in the blink of an eye.
Over the course of few weeks Sam and Janet started to get to know each other during their workouts. Eventually, Janet invited Sam to a party at her house. There were enough people present that Sam could sit back and quietly observe.
She watched Janet interact with her lover – Clare Winnick. The looks they shared, the casual but intimate touches, all spoke of a loving relationship. It was obvious they loved each other very much.
“You’ve hardly said a word all evening. I hope that doesn’t mean you’re not enjoying yourself.”
Sam startled. She turned and looked down into Janet’s brown eyes. “Not at all. I just find listening to other people more interesting than talking about myself,” she finished with a small smile. After a couple of moments she turned back and nodded at the redhead across the room. “Clare seems nice.”
A bright smile broke out on Janet’s face. “I think so.”
“How long have you been together?”
“Ten years next month. But we were married five years ago when it became legal.”
“You certainly seem happy.”
“I am, very much so.” Janet took a sip of her drink. “What about you? Anyone special in your life?”
Janet didn’t miss the obvious regret in the Sam’s voice. “What happened?” she asked gently.
“I messed up, made the biggest mistake of my life. I put my career ahead of our relationship and then she was… in an accident,” she managed around the lump in her throat.
“I’m so sorry. How long ago…”
“Obviously you’ll never forget someone that meant that much to you, but perhaps it’s time to let go.” Janet grabbed Sam’s hand and tugged. “Come on, I want you to meet some people.”
While not actually playing matchmaker, Janet made sure Sam was introduced to some of the single women at the party and facilitated the conversation to keep Sam engaged. Janet didn’t know precisely what burdens the tall brunette carried, but she sensed they were heavy ones. She hoped that by making some new friends Sam would open up and maybe let go of some the pain she carried around inside.
Over the course of the next month or so, Sam did agree to go out on a few of dates with a woman Janet had introduced her to – Jessica – but only because they were double dates with Janet and Clare. She wanted to hate Clare, but the more Sam got to know her the more she liked her. It was also very obvious that Clare loved Janet just as much as Janet loved Clare.
She’d never seen her Janet as happy and carefree as this Janet. But then, not having to worry about alien invasions or keeping a large part of her life secret, and being able to actually marry the woman she loved was bound to make anyone happier. In truth, she envied Janet and her carefree life in this timeline.
Sam was on her way to the gym for one of her semi-weekly workouts with Janet when she saw an al’kesh streak across the sky overhead. Time had run out. She opened her phone and hit the speed dial to her handler.
“Put me through to your commanding officer immediately. Tell him it’s Colonel Carter, and I need to speak to him now.”
It was good to finally see both Daniel and Cameron after a whole year, but the circumstances left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, President Hayes did lay out a possible plan to save Earth. But it involved having to retrieve a ZPM and hope they returned in time to power up the Ancient weapons platform in the Antarctic. Time was an issue.
Of course, no plan ever survived first contact with the enemy. The Goa’uld took out McMurdo where the stargate was located, and the Ancient weapons platform. So they were rerouted to Russia, since the Russians had apparently resurrected the stargate from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. It was a surprise to run into Teal’c at the Russian stargate facility, but at least he was able to power and activate the dormant stargate.
They all escaped through the stargate to the planet Praxion just before the facility was blown up per Qetesh’s orders. It was there they discovered Baal’s failsafe – a time machine. They were able to convince Teal’c to help them use the machine to change the timeline so that the Goa’uld would be gone and the Jaffa nation would be free. But it took some time for Sam to figure out how to use the machine and then to wait for an appropriate solar flare to send them back to the right time.
They killed several of Qetesh’s Jaffa. However, Daniel was killed in the firefight. Sam didn’t have time to mourn his loss because the fight was still going. Sam managed to dial the stargate, but she took a staff blast to the back immediately afterwards. Her last thoughts as she was dying were of Janet, and wishing she’d had the chance to–
“Begin the extraction process,” ordered the Tok’ra in charge.
Sam glanced to her left and saw her team, she then glanced to her right and saw General O’Neill. For some unknown reason she felt a sense of relief knowing that the general and SG-1 were standing at her side. The extraction ceremony ended and Sam and the others returned to the SGC.
It had been a long week so Sam headed home, stopping for a fast food dinner on the way. She turned on the TV to have some background noise as she sorted her laundry and started a load. Taking a beer out of the refrigerator, Sam sat on the couch and grabbed the remote. She had gone through every one of the 250 channels twice before she gave up on finding anything interesting to watch. Even a Discovery channel show about black holes failed to grab her attention.
She felt unsettled – like having an itch she couldn’t pin down, much less scratch. She decided to go for a ride on her bike to try to relax. Without conscious thought, she found herself pulling up to the curb outside Janet’s house… well, the house that had been Janet’s. She didn’t know the family that lived there now.
So many regrets…
Sam quickly brushed away the tears that had suddenly blurred her vision before gunning her bike and taking off down the street. She rode until she felt herself getting drowsy. Back at home, she stripped and collapsed onto her bed.
Janet practically glowed as she lovingly smiled at the redhead before they kissed.
Sam jerked awake. Her heart was pounding and tears were slowly trailing down her face. The dream had been so vivid. Seeing Janet alive and well was a punch to the gut, especially considering everything that had happened, but seeing her happy with someone else was rubbing salt in the wound of her broken heart.
She looked at the clock – 0534. There was no need to even try to get more sleep, so she got up. At 0630, she called the general from her car.
“Morning, sir. It’s Carter.”
“Yeah, I figured that out.”
“Out with it, Carter. What’s up?”
“I need some time off.”
“Is it important?”
“It is to me, sir.”
O’Neill hesitated as he considered her request. “Okay. You’ve got three days.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Several hours later, Sam pulled into the Second Chance Therapy Horse Ranch in eastern Wyoming. She parked her car in the gravel lot near the paddocks. She rolled down her window and watched, waiting.
Sam watched a number of physically and mentally challenged patients work with the physical/occupational therapists and the horses. It was impressive and made her smile. She saw someone exit the woods from one of the trails on a buckskin gelding. As the rider got closer, Sam got out of her car.
She watched as Janet directed her horse to a raised platform where she dismounted, slipped her arms into her crutches, and made her way down the platform’s ramp. Sam drew a steadying breath and approached as Janet let someone lead her horse to the stables.
The petite woman turned at the familiar voice. “Sam? What are you doing here?”
“We need– I need to talk, to tell you some things.” With her heart trip hammering and feeling unable to breathe, Sam waited to see if Janet would hear her out… or send her away.
Janet studied the woman who used to be her lover. She sensed something was different for Sam, but she didn’t know what. Finally she nodded. “Okay. Let’s go inside.”
Sam barely held back tears of relief as she followed Janet into the ranch house. Sam was going to get the chance to make her case, to show Janet she’d changed. And given a chance, Sam had proven many times she could pull off a miracle.