Series: Reflections. Yet another mirror universe for the SGC
Pairings: Only hints… I love subtext!
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions. But I think we all knew that, hmm? Art, Cooper and Karen are mine.
Notes: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, mostly Greek.
Spoilers: References aplenty to the majority of the third season here, consider yourselves warned…
Summary: Art gets to know her new surroundings better, as well as her companions. Not to mention the wonders of alien technology…
++ Goldston ++
Being hospitalized for more than two months, I had grown used to sleeping when I was tired. Thankfully no one at the SGC seemed to be the beat-on-the-door-get-up-you-lazy-SOB type. So I woke gradually and gently to my new environment. For long moments I stared at my concrete ceiling and felt sorry for myself. The omnipresent pain nagged at me, sharper and deeper today than it had been in more than two weeks. Obviously, the last dose of heavy-duty painkillers I had taken before the plane trip had finally worn off. My groan brought Cooper over to lay his head on my chest. “I think I… overextended myself… yesterday.”
Could I get up without hurting myself? When I tensed my stomach muscles to sit up, they shrieked in protest. This was not good. All I could hope for was that Doctor Fraiser was on duty. Understanding me like he always did, Cooper went to the door and wrestled it open with nimble paws. That trick had driven the nurses at the Army hospital crazy. There was not been a standard door yet my partner cannot figure out. While he was out hunting, I faded in and out of a pain-induced stupor.
++ Doctor Fraiser ++
“What the hell…”
Just as I looked up to see what had made Betty mutter that, something poked me hard in the ribs. I jerked away from the microscope to see that Cooper’s nose was the culprit. “Goodness Cooper, you scared me.” Immediately, he whined and pawed at my skirt urgently. “What’s wrong?” The whining took on a desperate edge and he grabbed my lab coat sleeve in his teeth. Tugging gently, he urged me towards the door, prancing anxiously from foot to foot. “Wait, wait, I need my kit.”
Surprisingly, he seemed to understand and paced by the door until I appeared again. With no prompting from me, he trotted off to the barracks area with me hot on his heels. We probably looked pretty silly, but I was far too concerned about my new patient to care. If the dog was this upset, something must be terribly wrong. Nosing open a half-open door, Cooper sat beside his Handler’s bedside and looked at me with desperate eyes. Goldston was moaning softly under her breath, eyes slitted, and her whole body shuddering lightly beneath the wool blanket. When I knelt to touch her arm, she jerked and moaned more loudly.
“Shh… I’ve got you,” I murmured softly and pulled away the blanket to examine her. Cooper did not interfere, though it was obvious he wanted to. The dusky skin had taken on an ashen tone that worried me and tremors echoed through her muscles. Both hands were clenched into the bed linens as she tried not to move. I went for the syringe and gave her enough morphine to deaden the agonized death throes of a small elephant. Gradually, her pallor lessened and her death grip relaxed. Both Cooper and I began to calm. This time she only muttered something incomprehensible when I tugged at her shirt. It only took me a few minutes to go over her vitals and confirm that her system was coming down from the shock of the pain it had woken to. When I looked up, a pair of deep-water blue eyes held mine. It once again occurred to me what an attractive woman she was and I wrestled the thought into submission. This was neither the time nor place for it. “Feeling better?”
“Uhhnn… much. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I should have expected something like this after seeing your bloodwork from yesterday.”
“I’m still pretty doped up, huh?”
“There are indications of prolonged use of some serious painkillers, yes.”
There was a questioning undercurrent in my tone and I watched the symphony of emotions flash across her face. As though trying to hide, she tossed an arm over her eyes and sighed heavily. So I settled myself into the desk chair to wait her out. When she did finally speak, her deep voice was brittle and strained. “I’m so tired of being weak and fragile and pathetic. Of seeing the look in people’s eyes when I hobble by. I hate having to be taken care of and not being able to do what I’m meant to do.”
There was a long moment where neither of us spoke and Cooper rested his head on her upper chest. I propped my elbows on my knees and studied my hands. Suddenly, I wished with a fierce ache that there were something, anything I could do for her. There was something appealing about her strength of spirit that called out to me.
“I became a doctor for people like you,” I heard myself say in a voice strained by long-dormant emotions. “For the chance to take away your pain, to piece you back together inside and out. I don’t always succeed, but I’ll keep trying.” Resolutely, I forced myself to meet her eyes and was rocked by the emotions mirrored there. Trying to keep some kind of distance from her magnetism, I reached out to give her upper arm a quick squeeze. “I’m not about to give up on you, so don’t give up on me,” I managed to add around the lump in my throat. Reluctantly, she nodded and covered my fingers with her hand. The mingled warmth of our skins made my heart race, my breath catch and with a conscious act of willpower, I moved away a bit to force myself back to business. “Good, that’s settled then. I’ll have a comfortable workspace set up in Daniel’s office where you can spend some time. That way SG1 can help us both out. Agreed?”
“Agreed. Just send someone to collect me when they’re ready.”
“I’ll send Sam in case you need any help with a shower or change of uniform. Luckily for you it’s in the middle of the four hours a day we girls get the locker room. I need to get back to the Infirmary, but call for an officer if you need anything.”
Something flashed across her dark eyes, something frightened and needy, and I felt that same something flare to life deep inside my own soul. Then she smiled tremulously and the intense moment shifted yet again. “I will. Thanks… for everything.”
Grinning foolishly at her warm tone, I found myself feeling much better about the whole incident. With a fond pat for Cooper, I walked out and left all the roiling emotions behind me. Or so I believed.
++ Goldston ++
Steadily, the pain was strangled beneath the weight of the morphine and I was able to get to my feet. The strange and oddly emotional encounter with Doctor Fraiser had left me feeling unnerved. A hot shower sounded incredibly appealing and much to my amusement, Cooper had already pulled out socks, underwear and the shower bag to set them on the desk. Whoever had brought my gear to the room earlier had hung up my uniforms and set my boots neatly on the bottom of the upright metal closet.
“Well, since I’m being taken such good care of, care to join me?” Cooper wagged his tail and gave a short happy bark at my smile. In the hallway outside there was inconveniently no one around. “Okay Cooper, find the locker room.”
Nose to the cement, he trotted off with me on his heels. The locker room was empty when we entered and I parked myself on a bench and methodically began to strip. I then removed Cooper’s leather collar, leaving us both wearing only our metal chains and dog tags.
“Sorry I can’t scrub you,” I laughed as my partner pranced happily to the shower stall. “Maybe we’ll have to ask your new girlfriend.”
Barking playfully, he stood patiently by my feet while I showered, and enjoyed the water cascading over him. Why Cooper loved water so much was beyond me, but it gave me a chance to regularly hose him down. Normally, I would bring in the dog shampoo and really clean him, but that had been impossible since the accident. It was murderously hard just to get my own chin-length mane relatively clean. Once scrubbed and relaxed, I stepped out and yanked the shower curtain closed behind me. That had been one of the first tricks I had taught him myself, since getting soaked when he shook his heavy fur out defeated the purpose of a shower. So he waited until I stepped out and then shook himself to his heart’s content. Chuckling at the loud jingling of his tags, I returned to my things and toweled myself dry. The first layer and pants went on with some difficulty, but I managed better than I would have believed that morning. When the door whooshed open I glanced over, expecting to see Carter. Instead it was a dirty, disheveled figure in BDUs that looked as though she had seen better days. Taller than many men, with flaming red hair that was pulled back severely, she glanced up to reveal startling emerald eyes. Despite being half-dressed, I smiled and earned the same in response. She looked as though she had been rolling around in the mud and exhaustion pulled at her handsome face.
“Captain,” I said politely and she opened her mouth to respond but stopped with a brief look of shock. Cooper’s toenails clicked up beside me and he panted happily next to my gear.
“Ah, you must be the K9 unit everyone is buzzing about,” she mused in a soft contralto voice. Good humor danced in her bright eyes as they shifted between Cooper and me. She stepped over to offer me an open hand and I willing took it. “Captain Karen Taylor, SG7.”
“Sergeant Artemis Goldston, pleased to meet you ma’am. This is Cooper.”
“Pleased to meet both of you.” A quick glance at her watch earned a wince. “Gotta go, see you around Sergeant.”
I let my eyes follow the Captain and inwardly lamented that this damn base had more than its fair share of attractive women. Oh well, abstinence was supposed to be good for the soul. I was struggling with all the blasted buttons on my uniform when a short laugh caught my attention. Carter stepped in to pat Cooper and grab my damp towels. “What’d he do? Get in with you?”
“Yeah, he loves water and showering with me keeps him clean.” She knelt to briskly towel off Cooper’s spiky fur and he wriggled in ecstasy. “Keep flirting with him Major, and he’ll start following you back to quarters instead of me.”
She just chuckled and let him lick her face. It had been quite some time since my naturally gregarious partner had been quite so taken with a virtual stranger. But considering how bizarrely our first meeting had gone, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at the impression she had made on him.
“I came to collect you so that Daniel and I could fill your brain up again today. Have you eaten?”
“No. I was going to head there next. Hopefully Cooper’s food came in overnight.”
“We’ll find out,” she stated and eyed me closely. Now that I was buttoned up, I was not looking forward to wrestling with the boots or brushing out my hair. Unexpectedly, Carter grabbed my socks and reversed the process she had done in the Infirmary yesterday. Seeing my expression, she grinned and set one foot on her bent leg to pull a sock on. “Relax, we’re under medical orders to not let you strain yourself and Janet Fraiser is not someone you disobey. Besides, how often do you get senior officers catering to you?”
What a peculiar situation this was. But hey, if she wanted to crack jokes about it, I could keep up. “I’m sure I’m the envy of the whole base.”
That made her chortle again. What Captain Taylor thought about the scene when she stepped out of the shower was anybody’s guess.
“Mornin’ Major,” Taylor said and Carter flashed the taller woman an engaging grin. I had to wonder if Carter knew what an outrageous flirt she could be…
“Mornin’ Captain. How did PRX-457 go?”
“Mostly uneventful except for the flora and fauna being far too enthusiastic about adding us to the local food chain.”
“Yeah, I know that feeling. No signs of habitation?”
“Nothing younger than the U. S of A.”
“Oh well, better deserted than hostile.”
“Amen to that.”
At last the laces were snug around my ankles and Carter ducked under an arm to help me to my feet. “You’re moving around better than Janet thought you’d be.”
“Morphine is great stuff,” I drawled and earned a grimace.
“Jeez, you think you can keep up with me and Daniel on that stuff?”
“Trust me Major, I’d have no chance without it.”
That made Taylor snort with humor and Carter to outright laugh. The green eyes looked at me closely, no doubt trying to figure out why I would be on such hard-core medication. I sighed and turned away as she began to dress. The last thing I needed was one more well developed female body tempting me. Cane in hand, I bid Taylor an absent farewell and followed Carter and Cooper out of the locker room. Her response was soft and thoughtful, but I refused think anything of it. “See you around Sergeant. Major.”
In the hallway outside, Carter chattered happily at me. She seemed to be really excited to have a new set of ears to listen to everything she knew about this place. It was obvious that she truly loved her work and it inspired me to stretch my limits. “We’ll collect Daniel and let you ask questions.”
“Is Colonel O’Neill anywhere around? I haven’t had the chance to interact with him and I think it’s important that I do.”
“Umm, sure. He should be around somewhere. Daniel will know; he always seems to know.”
“Thanks. Then all I have to do is figure out what to do about Teal’c.”
“We’ll all put our heads together.”
++ Daniel ++
When the tread of boots and the click of toenails caught my attention, I lit up with delight at my visitors. “Sam, Art, Cooper, good morning. The troops have already converted my space to accommodate you.”
There was a comfy chair with a computer terminal that had a fairly clear view of the whole room. A brilliant smile spread over Art’s face. Her Mediterranean good looks made my heart ache with bittersweet loneliness for the people of Abydos. I would always remember that first alien world the Stargate had taken us to. Just as I would remember the love of my life… my Shar’e. Those short years with her before Jack retrieved me had been bliss.
“Great,” Art enthused and jerked me from my musings. “Now all we need is breakfast.”
Cooper barked excitedly and pranced about at the women’s feet at the mention of food, so I wrapped up what I was doing before joining them. It was obvious word had been delivered to the commissary about Art’s medical needs as the cook handed her a tray with very different foods on it than Sam’s or mine.
“No greasy eggs for me,” she laughed and warily eyed our trays. The cook chuckled and added a glass bottle of some kind of juice beside the bowls of warm cereal and fresh fruit.
“And no coffee either, I know better than to cross Doc Fraiser. Now scram.”
Still amused by the commentary, we did as ordered. An Airman cook brought out a bowl of dog kibble and a dish of water. He was rewarded with a friendly lick and Cooper attacked his food. While we ate, Sam and I regaled our new companion with tales of our exploits in the Stargate Project. Those stories segued into more serious lessons of science and technology and anthropology. Eventually, we returned to my lab where visual aid was added to the rambling monologues.
At some point, Sam leaned over to flirt with Cooper and I was left with Art’s attention. Her piercing blue gaze was both flattering and unnerving. Clearing my throat, I forced myself to ask a question. Any question. “I’ve been meaning to ask about that little display last night in the briefing room.” There was that head-cocked gesture of curiosity that was becoming so familiar. “When you rubbed your head under Sam’s chin.”
That made her flush faintly, but Sam only grinned when she straightened up suddenly. “I got the general idea,” Sam teased lightly. “But it’s a good question.”
“Well, Cooper was freaked and he needed a gesture of trust.”
“Right, that’s been established.”
“So I thought a canine gesture of submission would work and I’m in no condition to roll over on my back and show my throat.”
That made both of us laugh, and Art smiled through her embarrassment.
“Poor Jack,” I mockingly lamented. “He’s no longer pack alpha!”
A tapping at the doorframe drew our gazes over. A curious Jack stood there and we all swallowed our humor. “Pack alpha?”
I almost held in my hilarity at his questioning expression. Then Sam had to go and snort with her own suppressed mirth. Both Art and Jack eyed the two of us oddly while we laughed and laughed and laughed.
“Not bad Goldston,” Jack complimented. “These two don’t laugh nearly enough.” He smiled and gave Sam and I a long-suffering look before turning his sharp stare on Art. “They chewed your ears long enough?” She shrugged noncommittally and he huffed in amusement before stepping into the room. “Would you like a better look at the Stargate? SG6 is due in any minute.”
“Would I? Right behind you sir.”
++ Goldston ++
We five entered the Gateroom and they allowed me to simply stare at the artifact for long moments. It was enormous and exotic looking among the Spartan lines of human technology surrounding it. A vast ring some twenty feet in diameter with a smaller ring set within the larger housing. Slowly, I moved to look at it in profile while Cooper sniffed to his heart’s content. Great brackets held the Gate aloft and a shallow metal ramp led through the center of the circle. While Carter’s actual numbers ran through my head like a sieve, I remembered that it took huge quantities of energy to power the thing.
“Incoming wormhole,” a disembodied voice suddenly rang over the speaker system.
“Cooper, come,” I called out and was relieved when his leash was in my hand. A beckoning gesture brought me to O’Neill’s side.
Beneath my feet, the ground trembled lightly in concert to the Stargate grinding to life. Being a southern California native, the tremors brought back memories better left alone. So I concentrated on what was happening in front of me and not under my feet. The inner ring of the Gate spun about like a great combination lock, whirring and hissing noisily. Abruptly, it would halt and one of the seven red chevrons would snap open and glow. There were geometric symbols there, the stellar coordinates of Earth if I remembered Carter and Daniel’s lectures correctly. The disembodied voice chanted along with the activating Gate. “Chevron five encoded… chevron six encoded… chevron seven encoded.”
A hazy blue light gathered within the circle, taking on an oddly solid appearance. Both Cooper and I flinched away as the surface exploded out toward us like billowing water only to collapse back into itself. The surface shimmered like water, but had the appearance of solid light. It was extraordinary.
“Wow,” I breathed and Cooper growled softly. Then the damnest thing happened. Human figures stepped out of the watery-looking surface with an odd sucking noise and clomped down the ramp. They quickly headed out the massive blast door to report to General Hammond as the Gate glowed brighter for a moment. Then it simply went dormant, the impressive lightshow disintegrating in a burst of sparkles. Quiet settled over the huge room. Without realizing I had moved, I found myself standing on the ramp within the soaring arch of the Stargate.
O’Neill’s gentle question finally chased off my mental paralysis. As he came to stand beside me, I reached out to hesitantly touch the inner ring. It was textured and felt more like stone than metal. “It was so fast. And looked so effortless. Damn.”
“Yeah. I hope you get a chance to go through someday, it’s a wild ride. C’mon, dinner awaits.”
Altered Point of View
When they had warned me that things got weird around here, I really hadn’t believed them. I had only been here for two days and things were shaping up to be just as bizarre as they had claimed. We all stared at the image on the screen and gawked. It was Carter… sort of. She was different, this alternate universe version of my new teammate. Between the two versions of the blonde woman, the basics of temporal mechanics and the Quantum Mirror that made dimensional travel possible were explained. But all of that technobabble faded away when three figures filed into the room to face us. I noted the longhaired double of Carter and the angry man following her, but the woman behind them made me gawk. She wore the same look of surprise that I was quite certain was on my own features and I perversely wondered what she was thinking. Then the strange man they called Kowalski tried to attack Teal’c and the plot thickened.
They had lost the fight with the Goa’uld in their reality. The defeat hung on them like a palpable thing as Doctor Carter pleaded amnesty from the SGC. My double just stood there in silence and watched all of us with a brooding gaze. The darkness and rage flickering like fire in the eerily familiar eyes disturbed me in a deep, fundamental way. I had a really bad feeling about this…
As soon as I was able to, I snuck away from SG1 and the disturbing doubles. Watching her world nearly destroyed by the Goa’uld had obviously pushed that other Art to a place I prayed I would never see. But what had made her glower at O’Neill with such naked hatred in her eyes? I feared finding out, but had a sneaking suspicion I would anyway.
Cooper made a small sound of confusion and alarm as his head snapped up. Our eyes met where she lounged arrogantly in the doorway, a humorless smile on her lips. “K9?” She questioned sardonically and I felt my hackles rise at the subtle challenge in her tone.
“Air Force?” I drawled back and her feral grin deepened. I had taken note of General Hammond mentioning that in the earlier meeting, but had not really thought about it until now. This version of me had joined another branch of military service, had never been paired up with Cooper, had never suffered the accident…
Now I stared in shock, utterly thrown by the harsh question spoken in Greek. What the hell was she talking about? Again that humorless grin quirked at me and she strolled over. Those mad eyes burned into mine; searching for an answer to a question I didn’t understand. Then she huffed and leaned out of my personal space. Cooper whined uncertainly and I automatically reached down to reassure him.
“She doesn’t mean anything to you then.”
“Peeoh?” I couldn’t resist asking. But she just smirked and walked out, confident that I would not follow. And, damn her, I didn’t.
Two days passed in the surreal parody of normal life around the SGC. Every time I was forced to interact with my double, it became more and more uncomfortable. Then Doctor Carter began to suffer from the wrenching cascade tremors caused by her temporal displacement. It looked as though she were being pulled apart like multiple reels of film, the proximity to her temporal twin too much for reality to accept. After that, it was mere hours before my own double began to experience the same. All I could do was sit with them in the Infirmary while the others scrambled desperately for a solution.
Once my evil twin Skippy slept, I wearily limped over to Doctor Carter’s bedside to perch quietly. It was a bit of a shock when the pale blue eyes opened to regard me. “Try not to be to hard on her,” she said quietly and I cocked my head. A quick gesture at the other Art was accompanied by a bittersweet smile. “She’s been through a lot. Much of it courtesy of me. At least now with us so ill, she won’t try and kill Jack.”
Oh boy… I was figuring out where this was going and desperately tried to stop it. “I… I only met Major Carter a few days ago. I don’t really know anything about her.” No wonder my double had glowered so balefully at O’Neill. The man had it bad for his second in command, but it was only obvious if one knew what to look for… In the other reality O’Neill had obviously won Sam’s affections away from my double. Ouch.
“I gathered that,” Doctor Carter chuckled humorlessly. “My guess is that you’ll like her just fine. My Art and I shared something very special for a long time.”
Aw crap, that was more than I needed to know about Samantha Carter, I didn’t care which version. There were memories in her fathomless gaze that disturbed me and made my heart ache in sympathy. This woman had been through so much… Without thinking about possible consequences, I reached out and brushed my hand over her forehead. Those crystalline eyes drifted shut and she willingly allowed the gesture. It seemed to ease her turmoil and I watched a single tear slip from under pale lashes as she drifted into sleep.
“Leep-ahmay…” She breathed out on a broken sob as she slipped into unconsciousness and I left my hand on her warm skin for comfort. My own heart ached as I fully realized what these temporal doubles once had before something involving O’Neill drove them apart. Part of me was curious to know more and part of me dreaded how that information might affect this reality.
Later, the two Carters pulled off some technological and logistical miracle I doubt I would ever understand. Major Carter was left standing beside me as the rest of SG1 passed through the Quantum Mirror with the temporally displaced. They had said very little to us towards the end, our alternate doubles, and walked away without looking back.
“Well,” I said quietly and Carter flashed me a sideways glance. “On a scale of one to ten, that was about a twelve on my weird-shit-o-meter.”
Her bittersweet smirk was response enough.
Life Goes On
Two days later, SG1 was unexpectedly called off for diplomacy duty. General Hammond was kind enough to allow me stand in the Control Room and see them off. They stepped through the shimmering Gate, first O’Neill and Teal’c, followed by Daniel and Carter bringing up the rear. With a quick wave from the last two, SG1 was gone. I couldn’t help but miss them.
At a loss of what to do with myself, I found myself in Daniel’s lab. He had been kind enough to give me run of the place while he was gone. There were books here, hundreds of them, and each with a fascinating title stamped across their spine. Languages, anthropology, archeology, mythology and a dozen subjects I couldn’t even comprehend shared space with artifacts and bits of technology from other worlds as well as this one. There were even a half-dozen books in one corner of a shelf relating to Carter’s field. I was half-hoping to find an ‘Idiot’s Guide to Astrophysics’. With a handful of Daniel’s collection and three books on astrophysics in hand, I curled up in my comfy chair and lost track of time.
I noticed Cooper’s head and ears perk up at the same moment there was a light knock in the doorway.
“He-ey,” Doctor Fraiser said quietly and I felt myself grin in response. It was cute the way she turned the short word into two syllables, and it was said in such a way that I figured she used it often. She looked uncharacteristically tired and approachable. It was a very fetching look on her.
“Hey,” I responded automatically and humor lightened her expression as Cooper ambled over to say hello. I expected her to get on my case about being in here and not resting. The ache of stiff muscles told me she would be completely justified in doing so. Instead, she patted Cooper and stepped into the room.
“Want some company?” She asked softly and surprise must have shown in my face because she winced and moved to turn away. Without thinking about consequences, I lashed out to grab a wrist.
“I’d love your company, grab Daniel’s chair. Maybe you can help me comprehend all this stuff.”
“I doubt it.”
The self-deprecating tone deepened my smile. Her lab coat was gone and I was surprised by how delicate she really was. The semi-formal uniform was worn easily by her and I suspected she wore little else. It was a good look on her, leaving her slender lower legs bare and allowing her to wear heels for some height. Jerking away my attention, I asked the first question that came to mind. “How are you doing?”
Brown eyes regarded me quizzically and she finally smiled. “I thought I was the one who was supposed to ask you that.”
“Can’t I be concerned for your health too? You look tired. Course, I haven’t known a truly dedicated doctor who doesn’t push themselves too hard.”
“Mmm… comes with the job.”
“Maybe, but I think it’s more than that.” While Doctor Fraiser made herself at home in the quiet lab/office, I let my mind drift back into memories. “There was this one doctor back at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, where I was sent to recover after the grenade. His name was Lieutenant Colonel Murphy Gladly and he was a crusty old bastard. I miss him. Every time I thought I couldn’t bear one more night of agony or one more surgery, he’d be right there, kicking me in the ass to pull together whatever reserves I had left and keep going. And when he wasn’t there, his staff kept on me.”
“Are you telling me I’m being too easy on you?”
That dry comment earned her a laugh and I ignored the ripples of pain in my middle. “No. As many doctors as I’ve seen in the last two months, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading what kind of physician they are. You’re a very different person than Colonel Gladly. Thank God.”
Now she laughed with me and I was warmed by the sound. Like most physicians, she kept herself aloof, but the moments of warmth I had seen made it obvious why the staff of the SGC adored her so. It would be easy to misinterpret her sudden friendliness and I was determined not to do so. An awkward moment passed while that last thought passed through my head.
“So, what are you reading?” She finally asked and shook me out of my musings.
“Hmm? Oh, let’s see… ‘Palace of the Gods, an in-depth study of Egyptian mythology’. ‘Dances with Crocodiles, one woman’s odyssey through ancient Egypt’. This one is the most interesting; it’s called, ‘The Links Between Us, a comparative study of the mythologies of ancient peoples’. The others are science books. Despite myself, I’m curious about Major Carter’s specialty. Give me a year or two and I might even know what she’s talking about.”
“Oh, I think you’re smarter than that Sergeant. We don’t understand how you interact with Cooper any better than you understand what we do. In a few weeks you’ll see that I’m right. As for Sam Carter, she’s gifted. Don’t take it personally that she’s over your head. After three years, I’ve only picked up the basics of what she does, but she knows the research end of my job as well as I do.”
“So in a few weeks I can let her take Cooper home?”
How I adored making her laugh, as it was obvious she didn’t do it nearly often enough. “Exactly. But he’d like that, wouldn’t you Cooper?”
Wagging his tail, Cooper butted up against the woman looking for attention. Carefully, I sat up and set the books aside. The stiff pain in my guts was tolerable and I gingerly twisted a bit to loosen the taut muscles.
“You’re moving easier,” Fraiser noted idly.
“I think the mild exercise is actually doing me good. In fact, I think me and Coop here are going to go for a walk. Care to join us?”
“Sure, let me get my things so I don’t need to come back down below later.”
“Are you done for the day?”
When we approached the elevator, Cooper began to prance with excitement. “Down Fuzzy, we’re going,” I admonished him fondly. “I think being trapped underground isn’t sitting well with him. From now on I need to take him above ground every day.”
Once we cleared the massive concrete arch that led into the Cheyenne Mountain facility, I took as deep a breath as I was capable of and gestured for Cooper that he could explore. After a moment hesitation, he loped off to sniff the edges of the compound fence. He constantly wove back and forth between the various fascinating smells and me.
“I think your partner might not be the only one to benefit from the sunshine. You look happier than I’ve seen you yet.”
An embarrassed grin accompanied my flush at her words. Did the small woman have any idea how alluring she was? I needed to rebuild my ability to shove my attractions away and I needed to do it fast. Sensing my discomfort, Doctor Fraiser called Cooper over and began to tease him. Barking madly, he danced and spun around while she laughed and egged him on. How I wished I could play with him again…
I was disappointed and relieved that Fraiser kept her distance after that afternoon. My time was spent attending various briefings with SG teams and reading voraciously in Daniel’s office. Each time the klaxons went off from an incoming wormhole, I toddled off to the Control Room to watch. The spectacle of the Stargate in action had yet to wear off. Honestly, I hoped it never did. At the end of my first full week in Cheyenne Mountain, I witnessed the dark side of Stargate travel. When SG4 stumbled through the shimmering event horizon, half the team could not move under their own power. Hostile natives had attacked them, I found out later. While patiently going through my light exercise routine later that night, I obsessed over what I had seen. No one had been surprised by the wounded. They had scrambled to assist and then gone about their business. It must happen a lot then. That realization worried me immensely. Was SG1 safe, wherever they were? Was I brave enough to step into the unknown with them when the time came? Disheartened by that thought, I slept poorly that night and decided to spend my first weekend on the base. It was a good thing too. Halfway through my first day off, the klaxons went off and I limped out. As I wearily crested the stairs, I heard the technician address the room at large.
“It’s SG1. Open the iris.”
With the scrape of metal-on-metal, the titanium iris collapsed back into its housing along the back edge of the Stargate and we waited impatiently. First were the two Air Force officers with Teal’c’s bulk stumbling out right behind them. Daniel dangled limply from the big man’s arms and we all immediately worried.
“Medical team to Gate room. Stat,” General Hammond called into the microphone and headed downstairs.
++ Fraiser ++
Inside the Gateroom, I saw Daniel’s bloody frame hanging from Teal’c and scowled at the younger man with doctorly concern. “What have you gone and done now?”
“Biggest damn rabbits I ever saw. Nearly took his leg off,” O’Neill growled irritably and Sam jumped in with a sassy comment.
“I told you they weren’t cute.”
“They seemed harmless enough,” Daniel defended himself wearily.
While O’Neill explained to me what had happened and handed one of the nurses a specimen bag, I heard Sam address someone behind me. “Hey, how have you two been?”
Cooper wagged his tail and sniffed at the alien scents rolling off them in waves. Each team that they had managed to catch after returning to Earth had expanded his canine perceptions of the universe. But he still bristled at Teal’c, though not with the violence he had displayed during that first meeting. I prayed he would remain at Goldston’s side and returned my attention to my patient.
“Just trying to catch up. Death bunnies, Daniel?” Goldston teased lightly and he rolled his eyes at the comment. Daniel hissed in pain as I peeled away the torn cloth from his wounds. They looked to be mostly shallow and the blood had clotted up normally. His color was typical and he seemed more resigned than anything about the wounds. So I flashed him a reassuring smile and addressed the rest of the gurney team. “Let’s get you to the Infirmary, I don’t want any surprises. The rest of you report for your post-mission physicals as soon as the General is done with you.”
They murmured agreement and I smiled at their reluctant tones. I had a thankless job and we all knew it. Once I was certain my staff had Daniel well in hand, I went to the biology lab to see what they had discovered about the creature that had attacked him. Half a meter tall with long arms, the beast looked like a blue-gray jackrabbit with vicious teeth and claws. Fortunately, there was no evidence of contaminants in what was left of it. Several gunshot wounds had torn the carcass up pretty badly. When I entered the briefing room, they all instantly gave me their attention. “Daniel will be fine. There are no signs of toxins in the specimen you brought back and all of the lacerations should heal cleanly. But he’s going to be off of active duty for the time being.”
“Thank you doctor,” Hammond responded and ignored the relieved and dismayed responses of the rest of SG1. Then he suddenly turned his intensity onto Goldston and she stiffened reflexively. “How much of those books have you absorbed Sergeant? Enough to be useful?”
“Yes, I believe so sir.”
“Good. As of this meeting, SG1 is assigned to you while on base.” His smile confirmed the unexpected joke. “You’re now under Colonel O’Neill’s immediate command. Don’t get excited until you’ve had to work with him for awhile.”
We all grinned at that and Goldston swallowed the humor dancing in her eyes. “Thank you sir, but I still haven’t figured out what to do about Cooper and Teal’c.”
“Then that would probably be a good first order of business. Are we done here?”
After a round of affirmative nods, we were dismissed. O’Neill gave Goldston a hearty handshake and a mocking glower. “Assigned to you, huh? Good, I’ve been needing someone new to torture, Carter’s getting boring. Welcome aboard. You too, Cooper. Come see me later tonight at, oh let’s say, 1800 and we’ll go from there.”
“Thank you sir. I’ll see you then.”
Teal’c gave us all a gracious nod before following the Colonel out and I felt bad for the big man. It was obvious that Goldston wanted to change the relationship between her dog and Teal’c, but wasn’t sure how. I doubt they covered alien diplomacy in K9 training. Shaking of my worries, I followed the men out and returned to the Infirmary to catch up on my paperwork. Not five minutes later, I heard Sam’s voice outside my door. “Hey Janet? Are you here? I need to try something.”
“In my office, Sam.”
A moment later, the tall blonde appeared with a vaguely unnerved-looking Goldston in tow. “I need the Healing Device.” Instantly, I understood the hope in the pale blue eyes and gave her a questioning look.
“What brought this on? That thing is difficult for you to use.”
“I got to thinking in the briefing that I think I can help Goldston here. At least this time I can use it on someone I actually like. Not some damn Goa’uld that…” Sam’s voice trailed off and her eyes were stormy. Memories of saving Cronos’ life for the safety of Earth obviously still bothered her. Then she looked over to Goldston and the younger woman stiffened under the intent stare. Sam turned to grab one of Goldston’s forearms and stare intently into the dark eyes. “That first day you asked me to trust you. Now I’m asking you to do the same in return.”
“Okay,” Goldston managed to reply unsteadily. “But could you explain what’s going on?”
“No, because if this doesn’t work I’m going to feel awful.”
“Wait, wait Major,” Goldston pleaded and set her free hand over the taut knuckles gripping her arm. “I do trust you, but you’re freaking me out.”
In all honesty, Sam was obviously just nervous, but it was understandable that Goldston was a bit unnerved. I was suddenly fascinated by the contrast of their skin, strawberries and cream against café au lait. What an amazing, erotic distraction… It took real effort and a quick shake of my head to suppress my runaway imagination. Too many years of fantasizing about Sam and too many days of being in this new woman’s magnetic presence. “Come with me, both of you,” I quietly instructed and they obeyed with no hesitation. In a secured storage room, I went to a cabinet and efficiently worked my way through its locks. Once it was opened, I slid out the drawer inside to reveal the Healing Device and the Hand Device. For a random moment, I had to wonder how odd these alien constructs must appear to Goldston. One looked like a flat flashlight with an opaque red lens and the other an incomprehensible jumble of wire and rigid gold curls with a glittering ruby stone set in the center. Picking up the former, I leveled a sober stare at the two of them. “This is a Goa’uld Healing Device. I have no idea how it works, but believe me it does. But…”
“But,” Sam jumped in. “Only a Goa’uld can make it work. Or me. But it’s very hard to activate.”
Now Goldston understood the case of nerves as Sam took the small object from me. A reluctant hope began to ignite in the dark blue gaze. To be free of the constant pain and weakness was quite an offer. “Major, if that thing can do what you’re implying it can do, I’ll trust you with my life.”
That earned a shaky smile and Cooper pawed Sam’s leg with a short bark. “Given the circumstances, you can call me Sam.”
++ Art ++
My grin chased away the last traces of her nervous jitters. It surprised me how delighted I was to receive the gift of her first name. When I offered a hand, she grasped it and I thanked whatever was listening for her unexpected friendship. It was even more heartening to see the sentiment reflected back from her pale gaze.
“Thank you… Sam,” I said to her quietly and her fondness deepened. Smiling warmly from our emotional display, Doctor Fraiser led the two of us into a quiet corner of the ward.
“Are you certain you’re up to this?”
While I made myself comfortable on the bed, Sam nodded in response to Fraiser’s question and slipped the Device over her right hand. Without thinking, I grabbed that wrist and our eyes met. “I really do trust you.”
“Call me Art. It’s perversely amusing that both our names shorten down into boy’s names.”
That earned a chuckle and she took a relaxed stance next to the bed. “I’m sure that’s not what our folks intended when they named us. Why did they name you Artemis anyway? It’s unusual.”
Since she was so obviously trying to distract me from whatever it was she was going to do to me, I obliged. “My paternal grandmother was born in Greece, and immigrated here after World War two. I was her first girl grandchild and she bullied my dad into naming me Artemis.”
“Wasn’t she one of the Greek Goddesses?”
The hand with the Healing Device turned over so the red lens faced my trembling stomach. When Fraiser unexpectedly slipped a hand into mine, I gratefully squeezed her fingers and kept my eyes on the Device. “Uh yeah, she was the moon Goddess and protector of unmarried girls and animals. She was also the Huntress.”
It began to glow, and Sam’s attention became utterly focused. Tendrils of smoky, yellow energy began to undulate out and drift down. Before I could panic, they touched my body and the most incredible sensation fired through my nervous system. Like thick honey and warm water it flowed over the pain, slithered among the hasty reconstruction of my tattered insides and coiled into every nook and cranny. Doctor Fraiser was speaking soothingly, but I couldn’t tell if it was aimed at Sam or myself. Then as abruptly as the strange energy had appeared, it was gone. Sam wavered unsteadily on her feet before grabbing the bedrail and blinking back to herself. “How do you feel?”
“Good. Polee kahlo,” I giggled happily at the euphoric sensations still buzzing along my nerves. Without thinking, I let my body work itself into the luxurious cat stretch it so desperately wanted to do… and froze. It was the most astonishing sensation I had ever experienced. For almost two and half months I had been under the influence of painkillers or crippled by twisting agonies. And even on the best days I could not stretch. There was simply too mush scar tissue and nerve damage to allow it. They began to smile at the incredulous expression on my face. Still in a state of shock, arms comfortably above my head, I took a deep breath. A wonderful, lung-expanding chest-full of air that made my head swim with too much oxygen.
“Well?” Sam asked warmly and I responded in the only way that seemed appropriate.
A deep, rich sound that echoed off the Infirmary’s uncaring walls and made the observing women smile wider. It felt wonderful to let my feelings have free rein without worrying about being doubled over in agony at any second. There was some pain radiating out from my middle body, but it was a dull, distant ache. So I did something else I had been desperate to do for a long time and sat up under my own power. Tears of happiness on my cheeks, I twisted to pounce on a grinning Sam and squeezed her with all my strength.
“You’re welcome,” she whispered and hugged me back.
It took awhile for me to calm down long enough to be coherent. When Fraiser checked my scars they looked the same. We surmised that the Device must have healed the nerve damage and the most traumatic of the internal injuries. Cooper seemed confused by my sudden ease of movement, especially when I knelt to lovingly rough up his big head. But he whined and wriggled happily while licking my face and ears. Once we calmed down it was time for a more thorough examination, which I happily submitted too. It was the most amazing sensation to suddenly be able to move freely again. Sam left the room to visit Daniel and give Fraiser room to work. As the good doctor closely scrutinized my scars, I realized how much sensation had been masked by pain and damaged nerves. Her touch tickled like mad and I kept giggling irreverently. Finally she swatted me across the hip and I laughed and laughed and laughed. My joy was so infectious that she was soon carrying on with me and Cooper barked along with the chorus. After that, she shooed me off to see Daniel and returned to her day. But the smile lingering around her mouth would not go away.
“Hey! I’d tell you congratulations, but you haven’t had to actually work with Jack yet,” Daniel enthused at me when I stepped into his room. Both he and Sam smiled at me as I hooked a stool to join them. There were tears lingering in the corners of my eyes and I absently brushed them away. “What was so funny? We could hear you laughing all the way in here. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard Janet laugh on duty before.”
“Nothing in particular Daniel, I just feel so damn good it’s making me a little giddy.”
He flashed Sam a look and she smiled faintly. “So the Healing Device really did the trick? Shame it’s so exhausting for Sam,” he teased and grinned warmly at his flustered teammate.
“I never thought I’d get this kind of freedom of movement back again. Especially not this soon. Now I can really be an asset to SG1.”
“Great. It’ll be nice to have some new blood in the group. So what did you learn while we were away?”
By the time my meeting with O’Neill approached, I had impressed them both with what I had absorbed from their library. They wished me goodnight when I left with a happy bounce in my step. It was amazing how good I felt. In fact, I was so euphoric that it took far too long for an important fact to make its way through the haze.
Where the hell was I supposed to find the Colonel?
There was only one figure within my field of vision, a tall man in fatigues with silver glinting on his shoulders.
“Sir?” I called out and he turned around to flash me a curious eyebrow. In a glance, I took in the Marine Corps markings on his chest and the silver birds on his epaulets. It only took a moment for him to return my crisp salute. “Sergeant Artemis Goldston sir.”
“Colonel Robert Makepeace.” His eyes flickered to my side where Cooper stood and the faint smile lingering on his face deepened almost imperceptibly. “What can I do for you Sergeant?”
“I was wondering if you knew where I could locate Colonel O’Neill sir?”
“No problem, I’m headed down that way anyway. C’mon.”
It had been very infrequently that I had dealt with Marines and this one seemed far more laid back and approachable than most.
“He’s a real handsome animal,” Colonel Makepeace drawled softly and I gave him my best grin. Anyone who complimented Cooper was good in my book.
“Cooper’s the best.”
“SG1 taking good care of you?”
“Yes sir, they’ve been terrific.”
“Good. If they don’t, you come see me.”
The comment was accompanied by a wry grin that made me smile with real warmth. “Absolutely sir.”
He chuckled softly and gestured to a half-open door. “He should be in there. See you around Sergeant Goldston. You too Cooper.” With an unhurried stride, Makepeace continued on his way deeper into the SGC complex.
“Thank you sir,” I said only just loud enough to be heard and could sense his smile. A quick rap on the doorframe got me called into O’Neill’s office. I came to attention at the edge of his desk and saluted. “Reporting as ordered sir.”
For a long minute, O’Neill leaned back in his chair and regarded me with a sardonic expression. I was beginning to sweat as he withheld the return salute. He knew perfectly well that it was against protocol for me to drop a salute to an officer without getting one in return. What was he waiting for? It seemed an eternity before he halfheartedly returned the salute and waved negligently at a chair. “Park it Goldston. As much as I appreciate you adherence to duty, if I have to salute you back every damn time I deal with you, it’s gonna drive me nuts.”
That earned him a puzzled look. “Sir?”
“Look, I know you’re supposed to salute officers and all that, but trust me, Carter and I don’t care for the formalities unless we’re under the microscope. That pretty much goes for everyone around here. If you see a stranger, by all means, go into formal mode, but other than that, forget it. Got it?”
“Uh, yes sir.”
“Good. Here’s some paperwork and reports that will get you started on day to day life here.” Abruptly, his attention sharpened. “Hey, why are you moving so easily all of the sudden?”
My temporarily forgotten euphoria flooded back along with my idiotic grin. “Major Carter introduced me to the Goa’uld Healing Device, sir. I haven’t felt this great in a very long time.”
Now he grinned with sincere warmth. “Excellent, now you can be one of the Scooby gang. Be careful not to overdo it for awhile or the Doc will have your hide.”
We talked for awhile and he offered me some valuable information about my surroundings. When I was dismissed, I habitually saluted, and chuckled uncomfortably when he only glowered back in response. There was no venom in it and I decided not to take it personally. His quick grin reassured me and he shooed me out.
Far too wired to sleep, I went in search of the gym. I was discouraged by my weakness of body during my workout, but was determined to get my earlier peak condition back as much as I could. Pleasantly tired, I headed back to Daniel’s lab to try to unwind from my busy day. Unfortunately, I couldn’t concentrate and found myself staring absently into space. My behavior in the Infirmary earlier had been uncharacteristic and I could still remember Janet Fraiser’s laughter. Not to mention those incredible velvet eyes and her gentle touch. I was obviously in the throes of a full-blown crush.
“Great, just what I need,” I muttered into the empty lab and
held Cooper’s comforting bulk against my chest. This was going to be
difficult to say the least.
“So Art,” Sam’s familiar voice jolted me out of sleep. “Are you in the habit of falling asleep sitting up?”
“I’ve slept under worse circumstances,” I mumbled and rubbed my eyes.
“So have I, but not when I have a perfectly comfortable bed only a few hundred yards away. Are you trying to undo all my work from yesterday?”
Grumbling, I uncoiled from the chair and let my stiff muscles relax. Even with the abuse of the uncomfortable position I had left them in all night, they still felt great. Then I fired Sam a dirty look and was surprised to see she was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. “You’re in civvies.”
“Yep. SG1 is on stand down for a few days. Nice thing about having a hazardous job is that you get lots of downtime. Care to join me for a quiet day on the town? I already asked Colonel O’Neill to let you off the hook for the day.”
“Sure, that’d be great. Let me grab a quick shower and change of clothes.”
“I’ll be in the Infirmary with Daniel.”
My footlocker hadn’t arrived yet, so I was forced to stick with the uniform, but I left the green fatigue shirt on its hanger. The only jacket I had was a lightweight standard issue with the K9 corps patches stitched into the shoulders. As I looked at them, I longed for patches to match my new position. When I walked into the Infirmary, Sam gave me a long-suffering look. “I’ll take it your footlocker hasn’t arrived yet.”
“Nope. I haven’t worn anything but a uniform or hospital issue in so long I don’t even remember what my civilian clothes look like. Remember that I was in Bosnia for a year before that grenade. Not much call for civvies in a war zone. How are you feeling Daniel?”
“Decent. I’ll be back on my feet in a few days. None of the lacerations were as bad as they looked.”
“Glad to hear it, ‘cause when there’s time, I have a million questions about those books I’ve had my nose buried in.”
“Can’t wait. Have fun today you guys. Bye Cooper.”
While we said goodbye, Cooper licked Daniel’s hand and let the man stroke his pointed ears. Once above ground, Sam led me to a battered Jeep that had been some indeterminable shade of green in another life.
“Nice wheels,” I mocked her and she laughed.
“It gets me around when the weather’s too iffy for the Harley. Get in.”
Thankfully, my new freedom of movement allowed me to half climb into the back seat after Cooper and slip the seatbelt into the special loop on his body harness. Assured of my partner’s relative safety, I flopped down into the passenger’s seat and settled in. We spent a pleasant day wandering around the nearby city of Colorado Springs. Lunch was in a funky little café at the foot of a steep mountain cliff where I had to persuade the staff to let in my dog. Once they had been assured he was a trained military police animal, they were okay with it. Since I had forgotten to bring him food, a hot dog from a street vendor sufficed. I made him perform a series of tricks before feeding him, and both Sam and the small crowd that gathered cheered the performance. It was the most fun I had experienced in far too long. We shopped like bored housewives and I bought a change of clothes that let me dress casually at last. By the time dusk gathered, I was pleasantly tired and it was growing chilly as we watched the sunset. Sam sank down beside me with two cups of coffee and a smile. “This was fun. You make a decent date Goldston.”
I was so shocked that I spluttered into the coffee and sent half of the cup down my shirt. Sam, damn her, laughed until she fell over onto her side and sent Cooper off into a fit of barking. Mildly irritated at her unexpected humor, I smacked her across the shoulder and scowled at the hot liquid rapidly growing cold on my once-white shirt. Even as we laughed over her comment, it made me think. Despite my dirty little secret, I didn’t feel that way about her. Sam Carter was rapidly becoming the best friend I had made in years and she was smart and funny and good-looking. But I guess she just didn’t tweak me the way cute little Doctor Fraiser did. It would be far easier to just be a friend, anyway. There were too many complications about being closeted and in the military. But the memories of our alternate reality doubles nagged at me…
++ Teal’c ++
A sudden shift in perception alerted me that I was no longer alone. “How may I assist you Sergeant Goldston?”
It was early enough that I had expected at least another half an hour before having any companionship for the duration of the day. Tension was drawn in every line of her body like a wary huntress walking into unknown territory. “I’m in need your assistance.”
The hesitant tone of her statement intrigued me and I nodded. So she entered the room we of SG1 use for informal briefings and sat in the chair most often occupied by Daniel Jackson. With refreshing directness, she stared into my eyes as though taking the measure of me. Then her dark curls canted to the left in mimicry of Cooper. It was only then that I realized that he had not accompanied her inside.
“You are without your canine partner, Sergeant Goldston.”
“Yes. I left him with Doctor Fraiser to guard the Infirmary.”
Instantly, I was alarmed. “Is there a danger to the medical facility?”
“No, no,” she quickly placated and raised both hands. “It was merely a convenient distraction for him. There’s no danger. Somehow you and I need to figure out how to build a working relationship. I believe that it will require only time and patience.”
Offhandedly, I noticed that she had slipped into a more formal speech pattern. The respectful gesture warmed me. “Very well, what do you propose?”
In the end, it was a simple matter of spending time in her presence. Firstly, we traveled to the Infirmary where she nonchalantly acted as though there were nothing unusual about my presence at her side. The animal’s amber eyes stared at me in equal part wariness and curiosity. Perhaps there would be a chance to build a rapport with them after all…
We developed a routine from that initial conversation. Each morning she would join me in the informal briefing room before the base was busy. We would discuss various subjects in a clear, straightforward manner that was a considerable relief from the other members of SG1. While those much-loved Tau’ri may have become my new family, they had made little attempt to accommodate me in this way. After only the third day, Cooper appeared to have forgotten completely that he had once been full of distrust for me. Only then did Sergeant Goldston smile easily.
To be continued…