Rating: PG. Beware of serious mush here.
Pairings: Art & Janet.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions. But I think we all knew that, hmm? Art and Cooper and Lucky are mine.
Spoilers: References aplenty to the majority of the third season here, consider yourselves warned…
Summary: Have you ever made a foolish mistake that turned out for the best?
“Should I congratulate you?”
The words ran through my head like a skipping CD, his hesitant grin frozen in my mind's eye.
That was impossible…
Hysteria was threatening to short circuit my brain and Warner's small grin crumpled like tissue paper in the rain.
“Janet?” He questioned gently. “Are you okay?”
Okay? Okay?!?! What kind of stupid question was that? Of course I wasn't okay….
Waitaminute… how in the hell could I be pregnant?
At last a problem my stunned logical brain could grab onto while my lizard brain ran in panicked circles. Pregnant… but being pregnant would require a male…
Again my eyes rounded and Warner actually took a step forward as though concerned I would collapse.
“Bandito! Here! Sit. Stay.” It had been a long session, and he was just not paying attention. A small whine escaped the dog and Manny fired me a sharp look that made me glare right back. “Fine you two, call it a day. Dismissed.”
“You okay?” Manny questioned as he gestured Bandito back to his side.
“I'm just tired. Sorry to be short with him.”
“De nada, he's a big boy. You need a break homie.”
“You're right. See you tomorrow. Bye Bandito.”
A few minutes passed while I sat at my little desk and stared blankly at my paperwork. Then Lucky's head came up and drew my eye to the door. “Doctor Warner, good evening. What can I do for you?”
Then his expression registered and a fluttery, panicked feeling stirred to life. “I need you to come with me Sergeant. Now.”
“Is there something wrong?”
But he wouldn't answer, merely walking out and leaving me to hurry after him. Even in the elevator he just stared at the doors with a pensive look on his face and I held my tongue. At the Infirmary, Warner pointed to a closed door and spoke to me very quietly. His eyes were deadly serious and not a little stunned. “Janet's in there, she asked for you.”
And with that tight comment, he shoved me through the door and closed it firmly behind him.
In a glance, I took in Janet's teary, shell-shocked face and the way she hugged herself tightly in distress. Praying there were no cameras, I leapt over to wrap her in a crushing embrace. She clung to my neck with the strength of a drowning woman and all I could do was stroke and soothe her while I waited for an explanation to assuage my worry.
I didn't hear her the first time, just the whisper of her voice on my skin. “What is it love?” I queried softly and she trembled in my hold.
Those two words froze the universe around me. How the hell…
Janet must have felt the sudden tension in my body and soul as the shock and fear blasted through me. I didn't want to imagine Janet with some man, but my own fear dredged up insecurities that made me feel queasy. Then her fingers were on my chin, tilting my face down until our panicked gazes met.
“It's yours.” Now I was just plain confused, but pleasantly soothed by her gentle touch on my cheeks. “It somehow has to be yours. You're the only lover I've had since coming to this mountain Art. I would never cheat on you, I swear.”
Could she have read all that in just my expression alone? Stupid question… “But how?”
“I don't know, but I'll bet it has something to do with the Healing Device.”
There was a long pause and she smiled in response to the gleam of perverse humor in my eye. “So this is all Sam's fault?”
Our mingled laughter was a much-needed relief and Lucky's soft whining changed from worried to relieved. After patting my partner reassuringly, I flopped into a chair and held Janet close. When we calmed there was another pause while we gathered our thoughts.
“I'm scared, Art. They'll find out about us and…” Janet couldn't finish the thought.
“So am I, but they'd be idiots to let you go,” I reassured. “And you know it.”
“No buts,” I cut her off gently and placed a finger over her lips. “We're in this together. Period. There's nothing in this world or any others with a damn Stargate that will keep me from your side.” Janet threw herself around me with a suffocating grip, and I happily squeezed back. “We'll get through this Jan, I love you and I'll stick by your side no matter what, I swear.”
It felt profoundly strange to hold her with the lab coat between us, but I studiously ignored the feeling. We talked quietly about what had happened until we were fairly certain we had the progression of events correct. Again, I assured her I would stick with her, she was more important to me than anything had meant to me in longer than I could think of. Somehow we would work around Lucky and Cassandra.
Then came a knock on the door and we froze. It was time to face the music and we knew it. Janet shook like a leaf against me and I dragged her into a kiss that reached so deep into my soul that I knew that we would never really be apart. We clung for long moments before coming up for air. Gently, with shaking hands, I wiped away the tear tracks and tried to fix her ruined makeup as her beloved healer's hands brushed away the lingering wet on my own cheeks. One last gentle kiss on her forehead and I pressed our clasped hands to her heart.
“I'll be right here. You understand that? My heart is yours,” I whispered fiercely and she nodded.
“You too my love. Right here.”
A quick brush of our hands over my sternum and she turned to walk with stiff dignity out the door. I was only a step behind her, painfully conscious of every lingering set of eyes. Sergeant Davis looked profoundly uncomfortable as he regarded us. “General Hammond sent me to get you, Captain. Sergeant.”
“Lead the way,” Janet replied in what was almost a normal tone, except for that distinct quaver…
It was the longest walk of my life, the painfully familiar route between the Infirmary and the Control Room. My eyes touched everything, lingered on every familiar face and doorway and curve in the concrete halls. This must be how the condemned felt, forced to walk with feigned dignity to their fate. Everything I'd worked for… all these people I'd grown to care about. The lump in my throat threatened to choke me even as tears obliterated my vision.
I was shaking so hard that I nearly tripped climbing the stairs and only Art's quick hand on my lower back steadied me enough to continue. A gentle reminder that I wasn't alone. I hoped that one day I could adequately thank her for her love and dedication. The walk across the neutral carpet to Hammond's door was a thousand miles across a burning desert…
In all of this, one glaringly obvious thing had escaped me in those crazed minutes where my mind ran in screaming, panicked circles.
I was pregnant.
There was new life within me, created under the weirdest of circumstances by my dearest love and I. At the door, I stared at the woodgrain and really let that epiphany sink in.
A baby. With Art's black curls and my brown eyes. The thought was a sudden ray of powerful hope and I straightened up a bit with its strength. At Davis' knock, Hammond's voice roared out, “get in here Captain!”
And I stepped alone into the line of fire.
The look on the man's face made me tear up again, the pain in me like a knife. Good God, he looked so disappointed.
“Would you care to explain this to me? No, don't bother. By the looks of it, you were experimenting with one of your patients!” Suddenly, he was looming over me with anger and disappointment etched into every muscle of his body. I could only cower like a frightened animal while he ranted. “This is the kind of bullshit I expect from someone like Jack, but you Janet? You know better than this! What exactly am I supposed to tell my superiors? The Joint Chiefs of Staff? The President? Do you have any idea how bad of a position you've put all of us in?!”
There was more hurled my way, but my intellect shut down. There had been too many shocks to my system, and I crumpled to my knees to sob hysterically…
It was over. I had let everyone down and now there would be hell to pay.
I could hear his voice thunder through the heavy wood while every protective bone in my body was howling to break down that hateful slab of lumber and defend what was mine. Then abruptly Lucky was pressed against my hand. Some of the flood receded as I clutched her fine ruff in a death grip and she pressed, whimpering in sympathy, into my hip and thigh. Footsteps on the stairs brought Bob into my vision and I vaguely tried to scrub away the tears pooling in the corner of my eyes. There were no words, only the empathetic pain in his gaze. Then the door opened and I flinched to attention under the General's laser glare. “Get in here Sergeant. Somebody needs you.”
Then I heard the sobbing and snapped into instinctive mode. Janet was in my arms, clinging to me with the strength of a drowning woman. My heart was shattering as her pain and confusion washed over me, spilt wet over my skin. Strangling down my own emotions as best I could, I pet and soothed her; desperate to bring her back from the horrible place she had fled to. Lucky pressed into us both, whining and licking in reassurance… and slowly, achingly slowly, Janet began to return to sanity.
Gasping and panting, Janet began to respond to the nonsense reassurance I was murmuring into her hair. This wasn't over yet and I forced myself to gather up her shaking body into my arms and stand. There was something in my eyes that made both men back down for at least the moment. A nuzzle in the auburn hair focused her attention, even as she remained with her face buried in my neck. “Jan love, I need you to go with Bob and Lucky. Please. They'll take care of you, ahgahpee mou.”
The feral glower into Bob's startled gaze assured that he would, indeed, do just that. Janet's doe eyes rose to mine and I kissed her softly on the nose. Foreheads pressed together, we spent a long moment beneath the gazes of those who could ruin us before she found that poignant strength I so admired. When her small weight transferred to Bob's strong arms and he walked away, I felt my heart and soul follow.
“Lucky,” I whispered in a strangled tone. “Guard Janet. Go.”
For a long moment she stared at me with those fathomless eyes before turning and trotting after her other alpha. Only then did George Hammond speak, his voice low and rough. “Wait out here Sergeant, until I call for you.”
“Yes sir,” I breathed completely out of habit.
Consciousness returned with a start that took even Lucky off guard. I was halfway upright before a very startled Bob Makepeace grabbed me by the shoulders. “Hey! Whoa. Down girl.”
“Bob?” I rasped blankly.
“Yeah. You okay?”
“All things considered, I've been better.”
There was a long, uncomfortable silence while I stared at the door and wished Art was there with an ache that was actually painful. What was happening to her? Ahgahpee mou, my love. The familiar Greek endearment brought a bittersweet smile to my lips and tears to my eyes. Had I ever cried so much in my life?
“How long?” Bob asked in a gentle tone.
“Almost six months,” was my hollow response and he looked surprised.
“God, I had no clue…”
“That was the idea.”
“I'm sorry Janet. Really, truly sorry.”
There was a sudden ruckus outside, culminating in a wild-eyed Sam bursting through the door. It took only the briefest glance before she knew that we had been found out and the flood burst over me again. “Oh Janet,” she groaned and rushed over to hold me tight. Thank whatever forces watched over us that I had them while I waited for the ax to fall.
It was rare that Darya let me go without lecture or comment. This time it seemed as though my expression was enough to silence even her mothering tendencies. Sandwiched in her and Sam's strong arms, some of the suffocating emotions receded enough for me to breathe more easily. Neither spoke to me, for which I was grateful as my upper brain was currently out to lunch. Even so, it felt like an eternity passed before the door clicked open to reveal Art wearing that expression that people get when they've just dodged the proverbial bullet. Or the literal one. Much to my shock and relief, she immediately shouldered past Dare and Sam to greet me with a long, loving kiss that left me feeling much better about the universe in general.
“He-ey,” she breathed my traditional greeting across my lips and I was further shocked to find myself actually smiling. “This is gonna sound crazy, but I have good news.”
My voice ruined from so many tears, I could only shake my head in confusion. Our friends were staring open-mouthed at the unconcealed affection between us. When Hammond's voice spoke in that fatherly tone, I glanced at him in surprise. “It seems that President Bartlett was willing to make an exception to the rule for the sake of the child and the SGC.”
“Sir?” I squeaked in a strangled tone and sought out Art's soft gaze again.
“They know about us. Unfortunately, it seems like half of the people in the US government probably know by now. But they knew they had to keep you and so they pulled together this document.” There was a rustle of fax paper in her hand and she continued to ramble. “We have to be discrete of course, but we can stay and everything's gonna be okay with Cass and the dogs and SG1 and everything.”
It was just beginning to sink in and I lifted a shaking hand to press it to her lips. “Really?”
“Yes, ahgahpee mou.” Abruptly, she gave me a quick kiss and straightened briefly to shove the battered papers into Sam's hands. Then she dropped onto one knee and pulled a gold band I had never seen before from one finger. “Janet Fraiser, will you marry me? Spend the rest of our lives together with that child? Parakalo? Please?”
Some little part of my brain huffed in irritation as darkness danced around the corners of my vision. Really, how many of these emotional hurricanes could I weather in such a short time? They all jumped at me, Darya and Sam steadying me as deep breathing chased off the faint. “You mean it?”
If anyone in the room still doubted the relationship, the kiss Art seduced me with blew that out of the water. For eternal moments I forgot all about the supporting hands of my friends, the SGC, the universe in general, as I drank her in. Then I allowed only enough space between us to breathe out my adoration to her.
“Yes, my love. It's all I ever wanted.”
The startled and warm congratulations went in one ear and out the other, for my brain and heart were too full to pay any attention to anything but Janet's shaky smile. She had said yes! The earlier stresses of the day drained away, leaving me euphoric and grinning like a complete idiot. After a long, shocked minute, Darya imperiously shoved everyone out the door and suddenly I was alone with my darling. Janet gave a delighted giggle when I swept her into my arms and pressed butterfly kisses to her cute nose.
“Is this really happening?” She asked and I kissed her deeply again. How damn good it felt, to share affection while still in uniform.
“I hardly believe it myself, but I spoke to the President himself. I think once the shock of all this wears off, I'm going to have a nice nervous breakdown.”
“Mmm, please don't. If they lock you up, who'll keep me warm at night?”
That made me chuckle and flop down onto the hospital bed. We melted together, exhausted from our emotional afternoon and I watched her toy absently with the simple, etched gold band I had given her earlier. It was distinctly a woman's ring, but it was large enough that it only fit Janet's middle finger. “Where did you come up with this ring out of the blue?”
“Hmm? Oh. Believe it or not, Taylor caught the tail end of what was going on and pulled this off and shoved it into my hands with a 'good luck', so it's kind of from the whole SGC.”
“Absolutely. I thought it was a nice gesture.” She hummed quietly in agreement and snuggled up closer under my chin. When she spoke again, her words struck me like a thunderbolt.
“A baby,” came the whisper and my heart pounded. In all the excitement, I had almost begun to forget about that. With her safely pressed to my chest, real and reassuring and loving, I carefully examined that thought. A baby… with her depthless eyes and heart-shattering smile, and my curly hair and dark skin…
I was going to be a…
Weird. Wonderful, but weird.
There would be a child to call me babas, as I had once called my own father. I suddenly missed my family with a desperate ache only made worse with the knowledge that I could never tell my siblings the truth. My parents never had the chance to meet any of their grandkids, had seen only Cory reach full maturity. But balanced with that pain was the child. What a weird and wonderful thought.
“Wow,” I breathed and Janet kissed my throat lingeringly. “A baby. Wow.”
I knew I was repeating myself like an idiot, but honestly didn't care. A long while passed while we were content with one another's presence and this new reality between us.
“Jan?” I finally asked softly.
“I love you.”
Little woman or no little woman, she could dish out suffocating hugs like a 300-pound Marine. “I love you too.”
“This is worse than I felt before the Healing Device,” I grumbled pathetically and Bob just patted my shoulder.
“Sucks to be you. Now buck up. You beat the odds girl, broke the rules, thumbed your nose at the lawmakers. This is going to be a tough one to beat.”
“No kidding. I think I'd have to bring Apophis in on a little teeny leash and teach him to sit up and beg for his dinner to one up myself.”
Together we laughed and laughed, relieved to get rid of some of the tension. At last the antacids were kicking in and I braved standing up. I only weaved for a moment and Bob was kind enough not to mess with me. We quickly finished up with our military monkey suits and stood side by side at the full-length mirror.
“Well,” I commented. “At least it fits right.”
Having me in a man's uber-formal white mess uniform had started out as a joke, one that had stuck. How the hell someone had scared up the uniform on such short notice and get it tailored to me was a miracle. Though I had to admit I liked the snug white bolero-style jacket and black pants with their gold braiding. Hell, even my rank marks looked sharp on this getup. I could hardly wait to see Janet in her formal blues, lookin' sharp and sexy and competent. Bet Sam looked damn good too.
“You do realize that you look better than I do on my own damn wedding day, you bastard,” I groused half-heartedly at my Marine buddy in his pristine and distinctive formals.
“Artemis pal,” Bob grinned and slung an arm around my shoulders. “You look great.”
“You both look great,” said a voice I wasn't honestly expecting to hear. Asking for his presence had been a boon that I'd never thought I'd actually get. Whirling, I stared at the familiar blue eyes and the mirrored smile. “Me ehriazes, Artemis, kay eemay eh-doh.” There was no sensation of moving, I was just suddenly in his arms to be squeezed tightly.
“Fin! Ise eh-doh,” I sobbed and clung to him like a lifeline. It had been years since I'd spent any real time with my next-eldest sibling and was insanely glad he was here. The unreality of Phineas' presence in the top-secret SGC was easily ignored in my shock.
“Barely. But your General Hammond managed to pull off clearance for me. I can't imagine what Cory and Zo must be thinking about the rapid-fire background check into me. How are you holding up?”
“Stressed and so nervous I think I'm gonna puke, but I'm better now that you're here. I wish they could be too.”
“I know,” he soothed and stroked my hair gently. The life of a priest suited him so well, his kind and gentle nature a blessing to all that came in contact with him. “I can hardly wait to meet this Janet of yours. Major Davis gave me the basic rundown of what happened, and only skimmed over what you do here. I don't really need to know and that's fine with me. Though you'll have to see if you can try to explain how you're the father.”
That made Bob snort in repressed humor and I shot him a good-natured glare. “Fin, this is Colonel Robert Makepeace, a good pal of mine. Bob, this is my older brother, Father Phineas Goldston.”
Instantly, Bob was on his best behavior, striding over to shake Fin's hand warmly. “Pleased to meet you, Father.”
“Likewise Colonel. Now, I believe we have a wedding to attend?”
“Yeah,” Bob enthused and shoved me towards the door. “C'mon, your destiny awaits.”
On the familiar walk to the Gateroom, I passed up many of the personnel from the SGC. All of them had a smile or a good word. I tugged on the spotless white gloves and nervously fooled with the necktie. Bob's quick elbow in my ribs stopped the fiddling.
“Wow…” I breathed when I saw what they had done for us. The sterile, efficient Gateroom had been transformed with swathes of gauzy cloth and riots of flowers. “Oh yeah, Janet's gonna love this.”
Then I saw the incongruous sight of Daniel in military dress blues, or the jacket anyway. Seeing my expression, he adjusted his glasses and crept over. My eyes scanned the coat, seeing the ribbons and medals, the Colonel's birds on the shoulders… and the familiar brass name bar with 'O'Neill' carved into it. “I wanted him to be here,” Daniel explained quietly. “Even if it's only in spirit.” All I could do was hug him suffocating tight.
“It's perfect,” I told him, wrestling down my feelings so that I could get through this event with my sanity intact. Bob clapped Daniel on the shoulder, approval in his eyes.
Jacob had been talking quietly with Teal'c, and they both came over to us. “Well this is quite amazing,” Jacob deadpanned before smiling and pulling me into a hug.
“Thanks for coming.”
“Wouldn't miss it. I just hope next time it's Sam.”
I refrained from firing Bob an ironic glance until after the older man had turned away. Then I saw a vision in blue and gold step into the Gateroom and the assembly caught its collective breath. “Damn woman, you clean up nice. Maybe I should marry you instead.”
The embarrassed pink flush on Sam's cheeks was positively adorable. “I'm not your type, remember?” She joked wryly and I ducked around a gawking Bob to give my dearest pal a hug that wouldn't muss her. In the full-length skirt and formal blue jacket, decorated with the proof of her accomplishments and tastefully made up in true girlie fashion, Sam looked magnificent. When I told her that, she flushed a deeper red and fiddled with the lapels of my jacket. “Hard to believe this is really happening.”
“Try being in the middle of it from my perspective.”
“Oh, I have something for you from Janet,” Sam fussed suddenly and came up with a delicate little sprig of greenery and babysbreath in which nestled a perfect blood red rosebud. “Now hold still.”
I watched the competent hands carefully pin the boutonniere to my lapel and swallowed back happy tears. Gentle hands on my shoulders diverted my attention into grinning shakily up at Jacob. “It's time,” he soothed softly.
“Mom? You okay?” Cassandra asked quietly and I jerked my attention back to the present. A wan smile earned a grin as I tried to focus.
“Just thinking,” I mused as I stared at our reflections in the mirror. She hesitated only a moment before slipping both arms around my waist to hug me. “You're getting so tall,” I couldn't help but comment.
“My father was tall,” Cass said quietly, pain still threaded lightly in her tone. That pain would never leave her, was never far from her. When a child lost her family, her village, her entire world, it never went away. But I was ever so grateful that she had grown into, and was continuing to grow into, such a wonderful young woman. We made such an interesting contrast in the full-length mirror, me in my oh-so-serious formals and Cassie in her flowing white dress.
“I'm so glad you're here,” I whispered around the lump in my throat. “I don't know what I do without you hon.”
“Same here,” she smiled mistily and gave me a last squeeze before becoming businesslike once more. “You ready to do this?”
“Ready,” I replied, trying to sound less petrified than I really was.
At the door to the Gate Room, George Hammond awaited me. “You look radiant,” he soothed and kissed my cheek. “I'm very glad all of this worked out. Thank you for this honor Janet.”
I was too overwhelmed to speak. Yelling at me had broken his heart; the man was like a father to me. I couldn't remember feeling anyone's disapproval so keenly before. I was ever so glad that we were all good again. “I'm so glad you're doing this,” I smiled softly and he tucked my hand into the crook of his arm.
“My pleasure. Shall we?”
I felt better with Jo standing beside me, still grinning in delighted amusement at being the 'best man', and holding Lucky's leash. Daniel, Teal'c and Bob lined up beside her to stand with me. Fanned out along the other side of the ramp were Cassandra, with Cooper wedged in beside her, Darya, Betty and Mac. Anyone that meant anything to us were scattered at the base of the ramp. Karen in her new short cast, and Siler and SG17, 13, 3 and a few others I couldn't identify by sight. There was Major Davis from the Pentagon and my Stargate Dogs. Martouf of the Tok'ra had escorted Jacob in and he stuck close to the older man. There was something vaguely creepy about the intense blue eyes beneath his mop of shaggy blonde hair. Bra'tac, Teal'c's mentor, was standing with Kyle Rogers, the once-deluded young man from that first fateful mission of mine. Then Janet stepped in on Hammond's arm and I was lost all over again.
Even as she came to me, touched my arm, smiled adoringly at me, I was utterly unaware of my surroundings. Lost in her presence, only a stinging slap across my shoulder brought me around. “Pay attention,” Sam grinned and chuckles rolled through the assembly.
“Sorry,” I mumbled and could feel the burn of embarrassment on my cheeks and neck. Beside Sam, the Chaplin smiled and I was reassured by his presence. Reverend Gilbert's security clearance had come through only this morning, along with Fin's. I'd only met him briefly, but he'd made a wonderful first impression, warm and kind. He was standing with Sam and my brother as official witness.
“Family of the SGC, welcome to this historical event,” Sam spoke clearly, projecting in her best 'teacher's' voice. “We are gathered here today to celebrate a union both unexpected and uplifting. You fell in love in silence and darkness, hidden from us because of rules and regulations. You produced miracles from nothing more than love and chance. Friendship turned to adoration, which turned to family. I feel honored to be your friend and to do this for you.” There was a ripple of sentiment that ran through the small assembly while Sam collected her thoughts. When she smiled again, it was a warm and very personal expression. “I've known you for what seems like forever Janet, and I think we all take you so much for granted. If the project are the bones and the teams the heart, then you are the soul of this place. You've been the one thing that has pulled so many of us through so much and we'll never be able to thank you or adore you enough.” Again that ripple of sentiment stirred through the room, almost physical in its intensity and Janet sniffled softly. “And you,” Sam grinned evilly at me. “You are the sister I never had, the playmate I missed in childhood and the person I'd want most at my back in good times and bad. You and your dogs and your skills have made a huge contribution the SGC as well as personal friendships. I know you felt like an outsider at first, but we really do appreciate you as both a person and as a soldier.” I could only swallow hard and try not to cry.
As awkward as I felt doing this, it was all worth it. They both looked so overwhelmed that I wished there was a way to make it easier on them. Best to just forge ahead then. “We'll have to keep this short, since the damn Gate's liable to activate at any minute.” Laugher echoed in the room as I shuffled the notes I'd scrawled down. “Love conquers all is the old expression, and you two have certainly proven that. There will be rough times for you both, but you will be there for one another.” Again, I was blanking out and my notes were out of order, leaving me shuffling through them awkwardly. The quiet was interminable, Art and Janet's smiles growing amused at my fumbling. Then an elbow thumped hard enough into my ribs that I squeaked in surprise and nearly dropped the whole pile of small cards. That set the crowd into twitters and I stared at Art's brother in shock. He merely soothed serenely, “relax, we don't bite.”
“I'm not used to people paying such close attention,” I stammered, embarrassed at my behavior.
One of the Marines called out, “it's 'cause you're not talking about scientist stuff.” I gave Eric a dirty look, but the at least the tension was broken. Jo reached out to give my arm a squeeze while Karen grinned winningly and gave me a thumb up with her good hand.
“Is there anything I need to add?” I asked my pals curiously and they smiled even wider.
“You're the best Sam,” Art breathed out softly and turned her attention to Janet, drawing the small woman close. “I remember the day I laid eyes on you, the shock through my system at the kindness and intelligence in your beautiful eyes, how good you were to me and Cooper. I remember the day I saw more than that, the day I knew I would take any risk for you, any chance, any gamble. I never expected you, Janet, never dreamed I'd find anyone like you. And to have you love me back? You're a miracle I will treasure for the rest of my life. You and Cassandra and the dogs and our child together.”
Visibly shaking, Janet reached up to trace one dark cheekbone and swallowed hard. “I have no idea what to say,” she finally managed to say and we all huffed in gentle sympathy. “You're so much better with words than I am. You make me feel so precious, how could I not love you? You're so decent and loving and strong and loyal. I would have given up everything but Cassie for you, but I'm really glad it didn't come down to that.”
“Me too. S'ahgapoh Janet”
“S'ahgapoh polee Artemis.”
While I didn't understand the words, the sentiment was clear and Fin traded glances with the Chaplin before clearing his throat. “Artemis, Janet, you have come together with the intent of matrimony. Not only for the sake of the love between you but your children as well. This is a solemn and holy oath that binds you together this day. The rings?” It took another elbow to get me back on track
“Sorry,” I murmured and pulled the plain white-gold bands from my pocket. Fin took them with a grin and returned to his priestly duties. Art's hand was shaking as she took one of the bands and slipped it onto Janet's finger, before gripping that hand tightly between her own.
“Artemis, repeat after me. I, Artemis Goldston, take you, Janet Fraiser, for my wife.”
“I,” she strained hoarsely, tears thick on her inky lashes. “Artemis Goldston, take you, Janet Fraiser, for my wife.”
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” Art finally managed to whisper thickly and Janet repeated those same vows in much the same way. I was sniffling along with Jo and Darya and Daniel and various others in the assembly. There was a long, intimate moment after the rings were settled that we let the happy couple ignore all of us and stare into one another's eyes. Eventually, Fin cleared his throat pointedly and Art and Janet broke their lingering eye lock to look over to him.
“By the power invested in me by the Greek Orthodox Church and under witness of your family, friends and the Chaplain representative of the US Military, I pronounce you husband and wife. So kiss already, will ya?”
Art needed no more than the teasing prodding of her bother to crouch and crush Janet's smaller body to her and kiss her senseless. The wolf whistles and catcalls grew in intensity until they both came up for air, flushed and happy. Then, on cue, the Stargate began to hum to life.
After we'd all scurried out of the way of the activating Stargate, Art yanking her clueless brother after her, we'd retreated to one of the larger training rooms for an informal reception. SG7 had been quickly debriefed and sent in to join us.
It was almost more than my brain could fathom, but we were married. Legally, honestly, truly married. Sam and Fin had been so wonderful, officiating the ceremony with respect and irreverence. Not that I currently remembered a single word of it. It was just what Art and I had needed to cut through the bad case of nerves that we'd both been. The only thing we'd needed Reverend Gilbert for was actually overseeing the event and signing the marriage certificate below their names.
Art had told me the night after she'd proposed that President Bartlett had joked about marrying us in order to thumb his nose at the establishment. Unfortunately, he had some pressing congressional meeting he needed to attend. Imagine my surprise to find Major Davis standing among those attending the ceremony, camcorder in hand. I believe his exact words had been, “The President said if I didn't get this on tape for him, I'd be scrubbing toilets for the rest of my natural life…in Siberia.” It had given me a much-needed laugh, releasing a few of the thousand butterflies swarming in my stomach.
Fin had been brought in as cover for us, in addition to his capacity as Priest. The fabricated story was that I had been so fascinated by Art's unusual coloring that I'd asked her brother to donate the genetic material for a baby. As a man of the cloth, he hadn't done the deed of course, but it was amazing what modern medical science could perform these days. It was a flimsy cover, but it was doubtful any outsiders would see any need to dig very deep. There were details my brain was forgetting right now, but I would memorize completely at a later date.
“Um, Janet?” I heard from behind me. Turning, I saw Daniel standing there with a nervous smile on his face. The incongruity of his wearing O'Neill's ill-fitting dress jacket was so wonderfully appropriate to our missing man. Everyone was missing Jack, and events like this brought that into sharp focus. It was obvious that Daniel was holding something behind his back, and I quirked a curious eyebrow at him. “I, um, I have something for you.”
“Shouldn't Art be here for this?” I had indulged my love some time alone with Jacob and Sam. It wasn't often enough that Jacob was around, and I knew how much my love appreciated the older man's presence in her life. I'd been there when she had met Jacob and seen that he had basically adopted her after that first meeting. She needed Jacob and Sam's presence in her life, after losing her parents to that car accident years ago and since she so rarely saw her siblings. My hand rested over my still-flat stomach and I felt the foolish grin on my face. I was ecstatic that our child would know the love and devotion of both parents. The answering smile on Daniel's face brought me back to the moment
“So,” I said in a mocking version of my no-nonsense work tone and rubbed my hands together in child-like anticipation. “What kind of present do you have for me?”
“Well, with all the dogs in the house, I thought it was time you got your own pet. Not that the dogs aren't wonderful and all, but I thought maybe you'd like something in a more manageable size. So, um…here, I hope you like her,” he said, setting a package into my hands. It was a small box with holes in the sides and a simple purple bow stuck to the top. It didn't weigh all that much, probably not even a pound, and was warm to the touch where it rested on my palms. Curious, I pulled away the bow and lifted the lid.
“Oh, Daniel,” I breathed, delighted tears blurring my eyes yet again. “This is…. Does she have a name?” Carefully, I reached into the box to scoop out the smallest, most beautiful kitten I'd ever seen; with fur the color of burnished coppery gold. Lazy with sleep, she curled easily into a ball on the palm of my hand and didn't so much as brush a finger. As I stroked velvety fur, I could feel her vibrating with a purr at odds to her tiny size.
“No, I thought I'd leave that up to you. I know that naming a pet is a personal thing.”
“I adore her, she's gorgeous. The dogs are going to think she's a snack,” I chuckled lightly.
He felt around in the pockets of Jack's dress jacket, as if looking for something, before grinning sheepishly at me. “I left her papers in my jacket, but I'll get them to you later. She's a purebred Abyssinian.”
With my free arm, I tugged him into a half-crouch and pressed my lips to his cheek. “Thank you so much.”
A low chuckle took my attention from the man next to me. “Daniel, are you trying to seduce my wife away?”
I turned to grin broadly up at Art. “Look at what Daniel gave me, kar'dhoola mou,” I said, holding my hand toward her. It was then that I noticed Jacob, Sam, and Bob had followed her over. Art rolled the kitten carefully onto her hand and brought her closer to her face with a smile. All four tiny paws were now sticking up comically in the air and she blinked slowly.
“What will you name her, ahgahpee mou?” She asked and stepped around behind me to wrap both arms around me so that we could both study the newest addition to our family.
“I don't know,” I admitted softly. “My only pet was a lab rat I liberated back in medical school. My parents weren't big on animals.”
“I remember,” Art soothed in that exquisitely gentle, understanding tone that so often threatened to move me to tears. She had always been horrified that I had rarely known the undying adoration of companion animals.
“His name was Marbles,” I reminisced wistfully, the kitten's tiny, warm weight taking me back. “Because I think he was a little crazy.”
“And he was fixed,” Darya chuckled as she came to stand beside Sam and handed the blonde a glass of something bubbly. “I remember him clearly, the funny beast.” We joined her in gentle laughter and Art's smile deepened.
“Very clever,” Art approved.
“Now, I have three dogs in my life,” I smiled lovingly up at Art and stole a quick kiss. “And now a kitty.” The kitten suddenly rolled over in Art's hands to let loose a luxurious stretch and yawn that showed off her impressive collection of needle-sharp little teeth and claws. Utterly charmed, I stroked her delicate head and she rubbed up eagerly against my fingers.
“She looks kind of like those Egyptian statues,” Bob suddenly piped in.
Daniel distractedly answered the implied question. “The Abyssinians are descendants of the cats the ancient Egyptians once worshipped. When she's grown, she'll look just like those famous statues.”
Indeed, she had settled onto her haunches in a sloppy imitation of those elegant ancient artifacts.
“You know,” Jacob commented, “she does look like a tiny little gold carving. Or she will anyway.”
We all chuckled as he tacked on that last sentence due to the kitten tumbling ungracefully across Art's hand and flashing us all a bemused look. It reminded all of us of Sam's expression when forced to change mental gears too quickly.
A broad smirk crossed Art's face at that. “Thanks Dad. You just gave me a good idea.” She met my gaze as she let the kitten clamber back onto my hand, and I couldn't miss the devilish gleam in her dark blue eyes. “How does Kree sound?”
I laughed delightedly at her joke utilizing the frightening Goa'uld word, but shook my head. “No, that's not quite right,” I mused, and noted that Teal'c and Bra'tac had joined us as well. When my hand halted its distracted stroking of the kitten's scruff and ears, she boldly reached up to hook my wandering fingers with surprisingly agile paws and rasp her rough, tickly tongue over my skin. It tickled like few other things that had ever touched my sensitive fingertips, and her tiny claws lightly caught at the backs of my fingers.
“Momma's cat,” Art chuckled lovingly and nuzzled my ear. “Bold and flirtatious. I like her. She has good taste.”
We all laughed again and the kitten eyed us with friendly imperiousness. “I've got it,” I grinned. “How about Jaffa?'”
Teal'c's eyebrow rose in his usual manner of inquisitiveness, and Bra'tac stared first at Art, then at me, for a long moment before reaching out to glide a single fingertip across the kitten's spine. Her purring spiked up in volume and he chuckled. “She rumbles in the manner of a powerful engine, as if her size is no deterrent to her desires, like the fiercest of warriors for her cause. She resembles her owner in that respect.” I blushed at his compliment, unable to voice a thank you. “And I believe Jaffa would be a fitting name for such a noble beast.”
“Welcome to the family Jaffa,” I said softly as the kitten curled up tightly against my chest where our intertwined hands cradled her and purred softly. The others left us alone for a moment while Jaffa rumbled like a miniature jackhammer. Art nuzzled my throat and I squirmed delightedly.
“Since you're my goddess,” she hummed softly for my ears alone. “I guess having your own Jaffa is appropriate.”