SETTINGS: S2 BTVS. Post Becoming 12. SG-1 S5ish, after Rite of Passage. Janet is visited by a blast from the past who brings up some painful memories of a life she wanted to forget.
JANET – INADEQUATE DOCTORING
Doctor Janet Fraiser yawned tiredly as she slammed the door to her car shut. It was nearly four in the morning, and she was only just now getting home. The week had gone for far too long, and she still hadn't had a chance to sit down and think about exactly what had happened to herself and her daughter. Of course, she'd have all of tomorrow and Sunday to contemplate the fact that she'd knocked out an airman, drawn a gun on a Goa'uld and genuinely threatened to kill Nirtti without a second thought if she didn't get the help that she needed. But, she wasn't thinking about that tonight.
The only thing she knew was that her hands had started shaking, and she'd taken that as a sign that she was too tired and too stressed to continue on at the base. It was hours past her shift in any case, but she often stayed late to work on incoming teams who'd been injured off world.
Thankfully today it hadn't been anyone from SG-1, and she hadn't felt particularly compelled to remain on base. Plus, she knew that she would start being more of a hindrance than a help if she stayed much longer.
A creak from her front porch brought her to a stand still. She knew that Cassie wasn't at home tonight. It had been one of the reasons she hadn't particularly minded staying on base. Things had been fairly tense between herself and her adopted daughter, and Cassie had opted to spend several nights at friends houses to try and give her mother some space after the ordeal with Nirtti.
So, whoever was making noise on her front porch at four am, it definitely wasn't Cassie.
Janet reached into her pocket and opened up her fliptop cell phone. She unlocked the keypad and pressed one, ready to speed-dial Sam in case something nefarious was about to happen. She was unarmed and dead tired, and definitely not in the mood for a confrontation with a would-be burglar.
She crept forward slowly and was surprised to see a black shadow sitting curled up on the top step of her porch, shivering in the cool morning mountain air. The moonlight shone overhead, showing shoulder-length light coloured hair.
"Cass?" Janet questioned, wondering if her daughter had come home early without her keys for whatever reason.
The girl looked up, but instead of Cassie's blues eyes looking back at her, familiar hazel-green eyes locked onto her own.
"Oh my god….Buffy?"
Janet raced forward sitting herself down beside her niece, taking the trembling girl into her arms. Buffy just leant further into her aunt, letting herself be held tightly by someone who'd never judged her, and had always assured her that she was welcome.
"You must be freezing honey, come on, we'll get you inside," Janet murmured.
Buffy nodded and allowed herself to be pulled into a standing position and led inside.
Once Janet had her niece comfortably seated on the couch, a blanket draped over her shoulders and a warm mug of hot chocolate in her hands, Janet took a seat beside the girl, her eyes widening as Buffy lay her head in Janet's lap and closed her eyes, still shivering from the remaining cold.
Janet desperately wanted to know what had brought Buffy to Colorado Springs at four in the morning, but she couldn't bring herself to break the quiet calmness that had fallen. All she did was stroke Buffy's hair gently and watch as the blonde drifted into a fitful sleep. Mindless of the fact that she was going to be horribly sore from sleeping in an upright position, an exhausted Janet Fraiser eventually drifted off to sleep as well.
Cassandra Fraiser stood outside the front door to the house she'd lived in for the last three and a half years. There was no denying that she felt absolutely terrible about some of the things she'd said to Janet. Sam had read her the riot act, and her hero and mentor hadn't been wrong. Janet did deserve better from Cassie, especially seeing as how much the doctor had given up for the young girl.
She sighed and fit her key into the lock, creeping into the house. It was early, only nine o'clock, and she knew her mom liked to sleep in on weekends. It was the only time that Janet actually got to sleep properly, and Cassie knew that to disobey the first cardinal rule of the house 'Thou shalt not wake Janet on a Saturday morning' was just asking for trouble.
A lump on the couch caught her attention as she wandered past the living room. She sighed softly, as she saw her mother asleep on the couch. And then her attention was caught by a second lump that was lying with her head in Janet's lap.
Cassie scowled as only a teenager can. The lump in question had long blonde hair, so it obviously wasn't Sam or any of the guys from the SGC. And whoever it was looked to be about Cassie's age. Whoever she was, she was stealing Cassie's spot on the couch. She was meant to be the one curled up on the couch with her mother, and she was the one who liked having her hair stroked.
Cassie backed away slowly, trying to work out who this intruder in her home was. She'd never heard Janet talk about anyone her own age, and she'd never seen photos of this unknown girl either. And she'd eavesdropped on enough conversations between Janet and Sam to be fairly confident that Sam wouldn't know about this girl either.
The girl in question suddenly sat bolt upright, startling Janet into the waking world as well. Caught, Cassie could only stand and watch the resulting hug that Janet gave to the girl. Janet was rocking the blonde girl back and forth, murmuring soothing words to her that Cassie couldn't quite hear.
Cassie had been on the receiving end of the rocking hugs many times when she'd first moved in. She'd often woken up from nightmares about her own planet, and being left alone in the underground silo, and Janet had always been fantastic at calming her down.
The girl suddenly shook herself, regaining her composure. She gently pecked Janet's cheek and disentangled herself from Janet and stood. She glanced at Cassie for a moment before grinning.
"So, you're the infamous Cassie Fraiser," the girl greeted her. "Nice to finally meet you. Your mom's told me a lot about you."
"Interesting…cos she's told me squat about you," Cassie replied coldly.
Janet gave her daughter a slight scowl before standing up and taking a place beside her niece.
"Cass, be nice. This is Buffy Summers, my niece from California," Janet introduced them.
"Niece?" Cassie repeated. "Since when do you have a niece?"
"Since seventeen years ago, actually," Janet replied, trying not to sound too snippy. She hadn't slept properly, and it was obvious that Cassie was unhappy about something or other.
Cassie just rolled her eyes, gave a final glare at Buffy and stomped off to her room. Buffy whistled softly under her breath and looked at Janet.
"I don't think she likes me," the Slayer said quietly.
"She's just not really used to sharing," Janet replied softly. "I'll talk to her. I suppose it didn't really help that I haven't told her anything about…about my family."
Buffy nodded and gave her aunt a comforting hug. "I know you don't like thinking about…about her. But…I'm a big girl now…you can talk to me, you know. I loved her too."
Janet smiled and touched her niece's face with affection. "I know you did, hon. And you know that you can talk to me about anything as well. Like say…why you're here?"
Buffy paled slightly and sighed. "Mom and I had a fight," she summarised. And while it was far more complex than that, she couldn't' very well tell her medical doctor aunt that her vampiric boyfriend had gone insane and that she'd had to kill him. It would only get her institutionalised. Again.
"Oh sweetie," Janet replied sympathetically. "What happened?"
"She told me not to come back," Buffy admitted. "She was angry about something I'd told her, and she wanted me to explain it. I didn't have time to explain it fully to her, and…she told me that if I left, I shouldn't come back."
Janet almost couldn't believe what she was hearing. She knew that her sister had the mother of all tempers, but she couldn't imagine Joyce ever throwing her own daughter out of the house.
"She probably didn't even mean it," Janet murmured.
"I know…I just…I thought I'd give her some space. And…I thought maybe if you called her and told her that I'm not lying in a ditch or anything…"
Janet nodded, smiling slightly at her niece's colourful words. "I'll call her now if you want."
"Thanks Aunt J."
Janet had to smile at the familiar nickname. She swallowed down a pang of hurt that was trying to rise in her chest. She was tired, and exhaustion had never done much for her thought processes. Once she'd called her sister, she should be able to get some proper sleep with any luck.
Samantha Carter was surprised to get such an early morning phone call from Cassandra Fraiser. It wasn't all that odd to hear from the girl, but it wasn't often that she was up and out of bed much before eleven on a Saturday. But, Sam wasn't about to deny her favourite kid attention. Cassie had sounded somewhat upset on the phone, and Sam knew that she couldn't just abandon Cassie to her sadness.
Before she could get out of her Volvo, she saw O'Neill's black truck pull up behind her car, and she watched in surprise as her superior officer jumped out. She quickly jumped out of her car and walked over to meet Jack.
"Cassie called you too, sir?" she asked.
"Kid sounded pretty upset too," Jack replied, nodding. "Didn't say what happened though."
Sam nodded and they walked up the garden path towards the front door of Janet's house. Usually Sam would have walked right in, she'd been given a key to Janet's house long ago, but Jack rang the doorbell before she could start digging through her pockets.
They heard a quiet shuffling, and they were greeted by a tired looking Janet Fraiser who was clutching her mug of coffee like a lifeline.
"Late night?" Jack deadpanned.
"Something like that, Colonel," Janet replied. She stepped back to allow the two of them inside. "What brings you by so early on a Saturday?"
"Cassie called," Jack explained. "She asked Carter and I to come over and spend the day with her."
"She sounded a little upset on the phone," Sam said. "You two aren't still fighting are you?"
Janet sighed and took a sip of her coffee, feeling it was entirely too early to be thinking about anything too specific, especially when it was in relation to the moody teenager she was trying to raise.
"It's more of a passive aggressive cease-fire than anything," Janet replied wryly.
"Hey Aunt J, you don't mind if I wander around town today, do you?" a new voice asked.
Sam and Jack looked over at the newcomer, completely shocked at seeing someone outside their SGC circle within Janet's house.
"Aunt J?" Jack repeated.
"Oh, hey…guests. Sorry. Uh…I'll leave you guys to it," Buffy said, slightly awkward in the face of Janet's friends.
"No Buffy, it's okay. This is Major Samantha Carter and Colonel Jack O'Neill. Colonel, Sam, meet Buffy Summers, my niece," Janet said.
Both Sam and Jack looked surprised by the relationship between them. Sam considered herself one of Janet's best friends, and she'd thought she knew a lot about Janet. Obviously there were things about her friend that she hadn't been informed. Then again, come to think of it, there was very little that Sam actually knew about Janet's family.
"Nice to meet you guys," Buffy said politely.
Before anything more could be said, a whirlwind of energy in the form of Cassandra Fraiser came rushing down the stairs, airbrush still in hand.
"Seeya Janet, I'm spending the day with Sam'n'Jack, back by dinner, come on guys." The sentence was said almost without pause, and the teenager raced out the front door, hoping to escape any of her mother's questions. She had little to no desire to spend a day in the house with 'the intruder' as she'd dubbed Janet's niece, and spending the day watching Sam and Jack stumble over each other in an attempt to keep their hands off each other was always far more entertaining.
Janet winced, knowing that things were still far too strained between herself and Cassie. The only problem was, she had no idea what to do about it. Plus, it was obvious that Cassie disliked her 'cousin' for some unknown reason.
Jack O'Neill, despite all outward appearances, was not a stupid man. He could easily read the tension in the doctor's shoulders, and he could see that his 2IC was almost bouncing to offer to spend the day with Janet to help her resolve her stress. He knew that Sam wouldn't offer because she'd promised to spend the day with Cassie, but it was fairly obvious that the Doc needed to talk to someone, and Carter was the obvious choice.
"Y'know what…why don't I take the girls out and around town for the day, leave you two ladies to bond over…I dunno, ice cream and girlie movies or something," O'Neill offered. "At least this way Buffy gets to see the town, Cass gets to spend some time with her favourite uncle, and…well, I don't have to listen to Carter yammer on about things I don't have a chance in hell of understanding."
Carter looked at her CO with surprise in her eyes. It wasn't often that Jack O'Neill was sensitive, and when he was, it wasn't something to be taken lightly.
"I'm sure Cass'll understand once I explain it to her," Jack continued, seeing the hesitation in Carter's eyes. "So…Buffy, what'dya say? Wanna spend time with a complete stranger and your uh…cousin?"
Buffy had to admit that Colonel Jack O'Neill had a certain charm about him. This was how she imagined Xander Harris to be when he was older…if she was ever around to see that of course. And she had to admit, spending a day in the company of someone who had an obvious sense of humour might be good for her. It had been a while since she'd had anything to laugh about, and even though she wouldn't be able to completely forget about her problems, it would at least postpone her having to think about then too deeply.
"Alright Colonel, you're on."
"Wow," Sam said, looking at her friend in a completely new light. "You're an aunt."
Janet smiled tightly and moved back into the kitchen to refill her coffee mug. Sam followed her and watched as Janet silently filled her cup and handed a mug to Sam as well. Without a word, Janet moved back into the living room and took a seat in the spot that she'd slept the night before. Sam noticed the tension in her friends shoulders, and came to take a seat beside her on the couch.
"Janet…you can talk to me you know," Sam offered.
Janet swallowed hard and nodded, her eyes brimming with tears. She was too tired to have this conversation rationally and tearlessly. She was emotionally drained from the last week and everything was catching up with her. Seeing her niece again brought back memories she'd rather forget, and coupled with the fact that her medical skills had been so completely inadequate when it came to Cassandra's life, she was about ready to break down.
Just before Sam could move over to hug her friend, Janet quietly spoke up.
"Top shelf…third from the left."
Sam looked at her friend curiously before following her friends gaze to the bookshelf on the other side of the room. Sam stood and walked over, grabbing the book on the top shelf, the third from the left. Except it wasn't a book, it was a photo album.
Sam walked back to the couch and handed over the leather bound album, watching as Janet reverently ran her hands over the soft material. She took her seat and stayed silent as Janet breathed in deeply, trying to work up the courage to talk about something she'd tried to avoid even thinking about for the last eight years.
Sam watched curiously as Janet flipped through the photo album, skimming past several pages worth of wedding photos. Intellectually, Sam knew that Janet had once been married. She knew that Janet had married a man named Keith Wells, but that Janet had chosen to keep her maiden name because all of her medical degrees were in the name Fraiser.
But she'd never seen photos of the man. She'd never seen a photo of Janet dolled up in white. When Janet finally stopped flicking through the album and kept the book open to one particular page, sliding the book across to rest half on Sam's lap and half on her own, Sam felt her breath catch in her throat.
There, in full colour before her, was a picture of Janet grinning more widely than Sam had ever seen her smile. Her face was spotted with sweat, and her hair was matted to her forehead, but she looked radiant. And in her arms, quietly resting was a red-faced child with a shock of dark brown hair. Next to Janet was a man leaning across the bed, staring attentively down at the baby held so carefully in Janet's arms.
Before Janet had even said a word, Sam felt her heart breaking for her best friend. She could tell that this story was only going to end in tears, and she couldn't even begin to prepare herself for what she was going to hear.
"Celia," Janet whispered. "Celia Elyssia Fraiser-Wells. Born at two thirty-four in the morning on December fifteenth, 1981."
Janet's fingers trailed over the red face of the tiny child shown in the picture. Her eyes were already welling with tears, and when Sam reached over to give her hand a squeeze, she returned it, grateful for the comfort.
Janet began flicking through the album, showing Sam the collection of photos of the beautiful girl-child, and then stopped on a photo that showed two children, one who was only a little older than Celia.
"Buffy and Celia," Janet explained. "My sister and I didn't get on so well, but…we both went to a family funeral, and…well, the girls formed this amazing friendship that neither of us had the heart to keep them away from each other. It was because of the girls that Joyce and I actually started talking again."
"The girls visited each other whenever they could, and they absolutely adored each other. They'd build houses out of forts and play superheroes. Celia absolutely idolised her cousin, and she'd beg to be allowed to stay with her longer," Janet explained. "They had this way of wrapping Joyce and I around their fingers. Then they started calling Joyce and I 'Aunt J'."
Sam tightened her hold on Janet's hand, noticing that the usually unflappable doctor's hands were beginning to shake.
"What happened to her?" Sam prodded gently.
The first tear fell down Janet's cheek as she stared at a photo of her smiling daughter, a towel wrapped around her shoulders like a cape, her cousin standing beside her, an arm slung over her shoulder, a matching cape adorning her shoulders.
"She got sick," Janet whispered. "We were visiting Joyce in LA and she got sick, and…and I couldn't do anything for her. We took her to the hospital, but she just kept getting worse. I tried to do everything I could for her, but…I wasn't good enough. I wasn't enough for her…just like I wasn't enough for Cassie."
And Sam suddenly understood her best friend so much more. That one sentence had just explained absolutely everything she needed to know about Janet Fraiser. She had tried so very desperately to heal Cassie, that she'd gone so far as to stand up to a Goa'uld without so much as batting an eyelash, because she needed to make up for the daughter that she hadn't been able to save.
Janet flicked to the last page of the album, staring at the eight-year-old smiling back at her, the hazel-green eyes sparkling with delight, her impish grin immortalised behind a screen of plastic.
"She'd have been Cass's age by now," Janet whispered. "She'd be sixteen and a half."
Sam felt her own tears beginning to fall, and she reached across to drag her friend into a hug, embracing the petite woman tightly, allowing her to finally let out the grief she'd been holding onto for so long. Not just about the daughter she'd lost eight years ago, but at the fear she'd felt at watching Cassandra lay in the infirmary bed in the SGC, dying in front of her very eyes.
She hadn't been able to save Celia. But she had been able to get someone to help Cassie. She'd have sold her soul to the devil himself if it would have helped her new daughter, and she had a feeling that she almost had. But she wouldn't have done anything differently. Her daughter was alive, and even though her skills hadn't been enough to save her, Cassie was still safe and sound. All Janet had to do now was make Cassie believe that she loved her.
Cassie sat sullenly in the front seat, pouting deeply. It wasn't that she didn't love Jack, it was just that she'd been counting on Sam to be there as well to keep her entertained. And she definitely didn't like the tag-along in the back seat either.
"So…Buffy, where are you from?" Jack O'Neill asked, tired of the awkward silence that permeated the car. He was desperate to find something to break the ice between Buffy and Cassie and find out just why Cassie disliked the newcomer so much.
"California," Buffy replied. "Sunnydale."
"Nice," Jack replied. "Beaches, sun, Disneyland. So, you're just in town to visit the Doc?"
"Something like that," Buffy replied vaguely.
Jack nearly sighed in frustration. Surely there was something that would bring the two girls closer together, and to get Buffy out of her shell. He could tell by looking at her that she wasn't the shy type, she just seemed to be horribly depressed by something or other. He pulled the car into a parking space in the almost empty shopping mall carpark and pulled out his wallet.
"You two wanna hit the shops, do some damage to my credit card?" Jack offered, knowing that all women, even if they were miniature ones, loved to shop.
He saw Cassie's eyes gleam at the suggestion.
"Why don't you show Buffy the sights Cass?" Jack suggested. "I'm sure you can find something to spend my money on."
Cassie deliberated. Getting Jack's credit card was a rare opportunity. And as much as she didn't want to spend time with 'the intruder' she just couldn't say no to the offer.
"Thanks Uncle Jack," Cassie said with a smile, yanking the offered credit card out of his fingertips. She opened up the car door and jumped out, yelling a "come on," to Buffy before she slammed the door shut.
Buffy looked at the Colonel curiously. "You're sure about this?"
Jack smiled charmingly and nodded. "Sure kiddo…you're practically family after all."
Buffy nodded slowly, before jumping out of the car to follow Cassie. She had been wanting to meet the girl and get to know her. She wouldn't mind finding out why exactly Cassie didn't like her as well.
Cassie was already halfway inside a clothing store when Buffy caught up to her, and the Slayer watched her new cousin with interest as she hemmed and hawed her way through the aisles of the store. With the precision of an LA bred shopper, Buffy honed in on the items that she would actually consider purchasing and picked them off the racks. Shopping was definitely a way to stop thinking about everything she'd left behind in Sunnydale, and trying to think of a way in with Cassie was the perfect distraction.
She spotted a top that would be perfect for someone with Cassie's paler complexion and picked it up. Calling Cassie's name, she threw the shirt to her cousin, and watched as Cassie looked at it appreciatively. Cassie glanced up, her scowl slightly lessening as she slowly began to realise that this girl wasn't deliberately trying to usurp her place in Janet's life.
Twenty minutes later, Buffy and Cassie walked out of the store, a shopping bag each in their hands, heading towards a nearby ice cream stand. Cassie had protested that it was too early in the morning, but Buffy had calmly informed her that it was never too early for ice cream.
Sitting with their cones, Buffy finally decided to take the plunge. "You don't like me much, do you?"
Cassie froze slightly and stared up at the girl, a slight step up from thinking of her as 'the intruder'.
"I barely know you," Cassie replied defensively.
"Oh come on, Cass…it's pretty obvious."
Cassie sighed. This week hadn't been the best week of her life. She hated fighting with Janet, but she couldn't quite bring herself to apologise to her either. She'd nearly died from an experiment that Nirtti had performed on the people of her old planet, and she couldn't even tell her boyfriend why it was that she'd passed out when he'd kissed her. All in all, it hadn't been a spectacular week.
"Alright fine…I didn't like seeing you so chummy with my mom," Cassie replied. "Especially when I'd never even heard of you."
Buffy sighed, wondering what she could tell this girl without betraying Janet's confidence. She knew that her aunt must have had a good reason for not telling her adoptive daughter about Buffy or about Celia, and whatever it was, Janet's reasons were her own.
"Cassie, I swear, I'm not trying to steal your mom from you. I just…let's just say I've had the mother of all bad weeks," Buffy said.
Cassie could definitely relate to that. "Wanna compare?"
Buffy swallowed hard. She really didn't want to, but…she wanted to get to know her cousin, and trust had to start somewhere.
"You first," Buffy replied.
"Okay…well, I was stuck in hospital with…the flu for like three days," Cassie began.
"I visited two of my friends in hospital," Buffy continued.
"I passed out from…fever when my boyfriend kissed me," Cassie countered with a fierce blush.
Buffy grinned at the girl's innocence and hoped that her new cousin didn't become jaded or cynical.
"My boyfriend and I had this massive fight," Buffy said. It was technically true, she was just omitting the part where they had swords and they were fighting to the death. "It ended…well, it ended badly."
Cassie winced in sympathy.
"Mom and I are having a serious Cold War at the moment. I said some pretty harsh stuff to her," Cassie admitted.
"My mom told me not to come back to the house because of some of the stuff I said to her," Buffy said sadly.
Cassie frowned, feeling terrible for her cousin. No wonder she'd come to Janet for comfort. Cassie couldn't blame her for wanting some sort of maternal figure, and Cassie had to admit that Janet gave the best hugs, even better than Sam's, though she'd never admit that to the blonde woman. Deep down, Sam was incredibly fragile.
"I told her she wasn't really my mother," Cassie whispered, feeling a lump rise in her throat. She couldn't believe how terrible she'd been. And even though she'd been horribly stick, it still didn't give her an excuse for some of the things she'd said.
"I told my mom to just have another drink," Buffy replied, feeling uncomfortable. She knew that the night couldn't have gone very differently, for the sake of the world, but she could have respected her mother more than that.
The two girls stared at their melting ice cream for a moment before Buffy finally broke the silence between them.
"Moral of the story…we're terrible to our mom's, and we should apologise," Buffy said.
Cassie nodded and they stood up simultaneously.
"So…not hating me so much now?" Buffy asked.
Cassie laughed slightly and shook her head. "What can I say…it was probably just sibling rivalry."
And so concludes my four part series. I am tempted to write more on each of them, but I haven't been bothered, so…ideas and inspiration, send em my way please. Also, if anyone can think of a plausible way to have Buffy be related to Teal'c, I'd love to hear it.