Sam welcomed the pain. The fire in her side told her that the nerves weren't dead, told her that Cameron hadn't severed anything when he sewed her up. The blood told her that her heart was still beating. Still, the morphine was a godsend.
There had been times in her career at the SGC that she'd wondered about her death. Where it would happen, how it would happen. Lying on a makeshift cot in a library hadn't made it to the top ten. The room smelled like old parchment and leather, she could smell the dust of years hanging on every shelf. This was Daniel's kind of death.
No. Don't think that. Daniel was not dead. Missing never equaled dead, especially not when it came to Dr. Daniel Jackson. She smiled at the thought and winced as her laughter sent shockwaves through her wound. She turned her head and saw Cameron standing at the window, watching the Ori troops. His hand was tight on the butt of his weapon and she knew it was killing him to not do anything.
She wanted another hit of morphine, but it was best to space the injections out. Keep up their stockpile, keep her from becoming addicted to the buzz.
"Nice to know some of the things I taught you sunk in."
Sam groaned and nodded. "I tried."
"You're good at the medical stuff. You can rewire a Stargate if you set your mind to it. But hand you a casserole recipe and you turn into Jay Felger."
"Hey," Sam protested weakly. "I'm not that bad."
Cameron turned. "Sam? You say something?" He started around the worktable.
"Mm, no," Sam said. She shook her head and licked her lips. "Sorry."
"Need another dose?"
He nodded and said, "Just... shout if you need a hit."
"Count on it."
He returned to the window and Sam turned her head to the side. Janet was sitting in a chair that had been empty a few minutes before. She wore her usual Air Force uniform under a white lab jacket. Her hair was down, as it had been the last time Sam saw her. Her hands were folded in her lap, her legs crossed in a casual way. She smiled at Sam and said, "How are you feeling?"
Sam felt like a patient under the watchful gaze of a psychiatrist, laid out the way she was. "I've been better," she said.
Janet stood up and walked to her. She knelt on the stone floor next to the bed and brushed the hair out of Sam's face. "You remember all those times you woke up in the infirmary to find me standing over you, or hovering nearby?"
"That wasn't coincidence, Sam. There were times I honestly felt that if I left, I would be... cursing you. Or that you'd sense I didn't care enough." She tucked the blanket tighter around Sam. "So I created busywork. I slept in my office. And if your father or Colonel O'Neill wanted to be there... I know you knew I was right there, even if you couldn't see me."
"I always feel you," Sam whispered.
Janet smiled and cupped Sam's cheek. She turned her gaze down and said, "How is your side?"
"I'm coming," Cameron said. He hurried around the table and dropped to one knee, inadvertently placing himself opposite Janet. "What is it, what do you need?"
Sam frowned, "What?"
"You said 'Cam, help.' I'm here, Sam." He took her hand and squeezed it.
"Thank you. Sorry. I-I'm fine..."
He pushed the blanket aside and checked the bandages. He opened another packet and withdrew a shot of morphine. Sam hissed as he injected her, but didn't protest. The silver pleasure that rippled through her body didn't deserve protest. He curved his hand to her shoulder, stood and returned to the window to keep his vigil.
"He's a good one," Janet said, watching him.
"He's no you."
Cameron had covered her again when he'd left, but Janet pushed the blanket aside again. "Staff weapon blasts. Goa'uld or Ori, it can't feel good."
Sam whimpered and looked at the throat of Janet's blouse. Janet undid two buttons and revealed a mass of wrinkled scar tissue starting at her collarbone and traveling down. A tear rolled from Sam's eye and she said, "I'm so sorry, Janet."
"Shh," Janet whispered. She pushed Sam's shirt out of the way and cupped her hand to the wound. She raised her other hand and placed it on the burned tissue of her chest. Her eyes closed and she set her mouth in a firm line. "Mm. Ahhh..."
"Don't," Sam whispered. "I... I didn't think you could feel pain..."
"It's different," Janet strained. "It's not what you think of as pain... I can... manage it better." She smiled and said, "Trust me."
"It's not that I don't trust you. I don't want you to get hurt..."
"I'm beyond that," Janet said. "You're not. Just relax, Sam. Let me help."
Sam closed her eyes. It felt so good to have Janet's hands, Janet's healing, perfect hands, on her again. Just knowing Janet was beside her was enough to abate most of the pain. Finally, Janet pulled her hands back and quickly buttoned her blouse. She wasn't quick enough, however, and Sam saw spots of blood on her flesh.
Janet looked at Sam, saw that she'd seen the injuries, and said, "Trust me. I'm not in danger. It's like... carrying groceries. You have a bunch of bags with dog food and Pop Tarts and cereal. And all I did was take the carton of milk that was hanging off your fingers. It's not strain on me, believe me. But it will help you balance everything else."
Sam whispered, "Thank you."
Janet cupped her hand to Sam's forehead. The beads of sweat gathered there gathered on her palm and evaporated quickly. She frowned at the fever, closed her eyes and pictured a number just slightly above a hundred. She furrowed her brow and forced the number down... down to 99.9, past 99.5. She tightened her jaw and managed to keep it hovering near 99.1. Not normal, but only barely a fever. The back of her neck burned slightly, but it was worth it.
"If Colonel Mitchell tries to get you to the Gate, I'll make sure you get there alive."
Sam opened her eyes and looked up at her. "Janet. Are you really here?"
"I'm here enough," Janet said.
"No," Sam growled. "I... I need to know... part of you survived. That part of you continues." She gripped Janet's hand and squeezed. "I need to know there's something else. Just... just in case. Even though I probably won't make it in, I need to know you made it." A tear slipped free and rolled down her cheek. "Please, Janet. I feel your hand in mine, I see your face, but I have to know this is real."
Janet's face crumbled and immediately regained composure. She brought Sam's hand to her lips and kissed the knuckles gently. "I can't say anything," Janet whispered. "You remember the rules Daniel talked about? The one the Ancients had? Well, I'm under a lot stricter doctrine. I'm not even supposed to be appearing to you, but... the morphine helps."
"Plausible... deniability," Sam managed.
"As long as you can blame it on a hallucination..."
"I'll know," Sam promised. "I'll remember."
Janet smiled and smoothed down Sam's hair. "Rest a while, Sam. You're going to need all the strength you can muster soon."
Sam nodded and closed her eyes. Janet pressed her hand to Sam's forehead and closed her eyes. Tears accumulated on her lashes like dewdrops, her body trembling with the effort of what she was trying to do. As Sam fell asleep, Janet eased all the wrinkles away. She blocked nightmares, terrors, fears and pain from her friend. When she finished, her entire body was wracked with the chills. Her skin was pale and she felt a trickle of sweat rolling down her spine. The wound on her chest had opened again, but she knew it would fade eventually.
Sam would get a half hour of dreamless, painless sleep. It was worth it.
Janet put her thumb over Sam's lips, the tip nestled in Sam's philtrum. Where the angels erased knowledge of heaven, Janet thought as she brushed the pad of her thumb against the notch between Sam's nose and upper lip. She bent down, her lips next to Sam's ear.
"I will tell you this," she breathed. "Dying is not the end. It wasn't for me... and it won't be the end for you, when it finally comes. There is a place. There is existence. It is beautiful, it is peaceful, and Sam... oh, Sam, the lives you've saved. You are on the VIP list, my love."
She sat up and let her tears fall free. They flowed down her face and dripped from her chin to the wool blanket covering Sam's pained body. The droplets crystallized as soon as they touched the cloth and brushed away like so much dander. Janet said, "There are angels, Sam. Watching over all of us, every day, every hour. And if someone dies for... an extremely noble cause... if someone willingly gives her life to save another... well, then sometimes that person gets a really good assignment.
"Sometimes, that person gets to be a guardian angel."
She moved her thumb and bowed her head. She brushed her lips across Sam's and whispered, "And I will be waiting for you when you get here."
Cameron looked out the window and saw the villagers were still walking around in a daze. Vala and Teal'c had come and gone, escorting Sam's medical team from the Gate. He knew it was just his perception, but they seemed to be taking their own sweet time about getting back.
He moved to the bed and looked down at Sam. She was still where he'd left her, naturally, but the blanket looked like it had been moved. He sat next to her and pulled it back into place. He glanced at her face and saw wetness on her cheeks. Tears. He grabbed for the morphine and then noticed her expression.
Peaceful. Relaxed. Call him crazy, he thought she might actually have been smiling a little.
He let his hand fall and put it on Sam's shoulder. Might as well let her rest, if wherever she was might actually be peaceful. He looked down and saw something on the blanket. He frowned and brushed his fingers through it. They looked like snowflakes and evaporated quickly after coming in contact with his flesh. He looked at the ceiling and the books and said, "If this place has got asbestos, I'm going to kill somebody..."
And even though Sam was unconscious, even though he was alone in the room, he could've sworn he heard a woman laugh at his comment.