I'm talking to myself. This can't be a good sign.
I shake my head and hope that clears it, looking up at the world again. It's still raining – goddamn rain. Why won't it let up? It's certainly not doing anything good for our job…
Our job. Stopping a plague. You know, the usual. Saving the world and all. You'd be surprised how normal it gets. Still gives me a thrill every time I say it, though. Suppose it always will.
Janet's the one they really need here. To be honest, I'm not sure why we're still sticking around. I guess if the locals get rowdy, we could come in handy, but if there's five of them strong enough to even lift a gun, let alone aim and fire, I'll eat the colonel's boots. With the mud, that would not be pleasant, nor would what he'd do to me when he noticed.
Then again, he'd probably box me off to several weeks' leave, for purposes of recovering whatever semblance I used to have of sanity. While he might actually physically force me off base, I can always work from home, and even Colorado at this time of year is better than this place.
The colonel sulks by and I watch him go, suppressing a smile so he doesn't ask what I'm laughing at. No, I think, eating his boots would not be fun.
I'm huddled under the tarp outside the clinic, keeping half an eye on the villagers around us. Most of them aren't moving too fast, but none seem to be keeling over unexpectedly. All are wearing surgical masks.
I turn back down to the small notebook I'm guarding zealously against the rain. I didn't dare bring my laptop out of our tent, not in rain like this – while it's supposed to be weatherproof, I know better. I have experience. Whoever made it, clearly, did not.
The notebook contains my latest project – at least, all that I could write down on paper. It's in ink, which was a dumb move on my part, as I've since discovered that it runs in water. But, there are no pencils in sight, and it would definitely be seen as overkill if I Gated back just to grab the one I know is sitting on my desk.
Moving on from moping over a pencil, I look over the last few notes I've written. It's an upgrade for our naqahdah reactor, a small modification, but it comes with a lot of possibility for error. And with naqahdah, even the tiniest error leads to large explosions. "So," I say aloud, talking to myself yet again, and get back to work.
The sun's already halfway down. I get called in to lend a hand with the inoculations for a while, and when we've finally gotten through all the patients in the clinic, it's long past time for supper. The colonel comes in to call it a day, knowing well enough that we won't do it ourselves. With half-faked reluctance and hidden relief, we retire to the mess tent.
Most of our group have already eaten, the colonel included. He nabs a piece of my canned pineapple and disappears. I find myself alone with Janet and three of her med assistants. We eat largely in silence, all worn out and not in the best of moods. We've been here for five days now, working constantly to help the people. It's not a hard disease to control, thankfully, but it is contagious and, untreated, it's fatal. The locals had never seen anything like it before our arrival, so of course we blamed ourselves, and here we still are. None of us are sick, either, which is something to be thankful for, but watching people suffer around you isn't made much easier when you're feeling fine and dandy.
Just as well, then, that the weather's so awful. It quite literally douses whatever cheer we might have managed to keep, and we each eat slowly, barely looking around.
Janet, of course, knows this isn't healthy, and does her best to perk us up. "Only one more sector to go," she says, a smile plastered over her tired face.
I don't buy it, but she's trying, so for her sake I pretend I do. "Thirty households?"
"Something like that," she sighs, the cheer slipping a bit. Subtly, I brush my hand over hers as I load my fork with the remnants of my rice and offer her a replacement smile. She nods. "We should have it done by the end of the day. Right, guys?" She casts that perky smile of hers down the table, to her assistants. Like me, none of them are really buying into it, but that smile does have some sort of contagion in it and soon the rest of them are wearing it, too.
I raise my glass, making sure my grin doesn't fade. "To our doctor," I say, "without whom we'd be here all week and then some!"
"Here, here," the assistants agree. We all take brave swigs of our protein-imbued fruit juice and surprisingly, it doesn't taste quite so bad.
A few minutes later sees us clearing the table and saying our goodnights before making the mad dashes through the pouring rain to our sleep tents. I dive into mine, barely remembering not to combat roll for the sake of keeping the mud off the bedding. Scrambling out of the way of the entrance, I make room from Janet to scurry in after me, and we sit awkwardly, with our boots half out the door to take them off. That done, I retract my feet quickly to spare my socks any further soaking, and carefully set the dripping boots inside the plastic bag in the corner. Janet does the same, and we struggle to do the door flap up without getting the rain all over our arms.
At last secure and relatively dry, we sit back on the bedrolls and laugh. "What a day," Janet says. In the darkness, I can't see her smile, but I can hear it.
"What a week," I correct. With a sigh, I lean back on the mat. I know better than to stretch my arms out above my head – the tent wall's right there. Touching it means touching the cold and wet, and I've had quite enough of that already, thank-you-very-much.
While I wait for my eyes to adjust, I hear her moving about, probably changing. This has been one of the redeeming features of this assignment – sharing a tent with Janet. It makes me almost feel like a kid again, sleeping over with a friend. Granted, it's a lot less comfortable on the thin bedrolls and a little colder, but the company's just as good. I'm half surprised we haven't already poured out all our girly secrets and made some sort of feminine pact.
Not that either of us are really into that sort of thing.
I snort slightly at my own thoughts. Janet's faint silhouette pauses. "Sam?"
"Nothing," I say. "Just thinking."
"About what?" she asks, her outline moving again. She's… oh. She's taking her shirt off. More out of habit than anything else, I politely look away.
"Not much," I reply ambiguously. It'd be a little odd to say 'about us' while she's changing like that.
My eyes have adjusted enough, I decide. I want to get out of this soggy uniform. I sit up and slip my pants off, patting about in the dark for my sleep shorts. Finding them, I set them in my lap where I won't lose them again and unbutton my jacket. It goes over to the side – carefully not touching the wall – with my pants and, a moment later, my undershirt. My pyjama top, however, seems to have gone missing, and so I slip into my shorts. "Seen my shirt?" I ask.
"Your sleep shirt?" Janet clarifies. Her voice comes from behind me – she's already lying down. Vaguely, I wonder if she's watching me change.
"Um," she pauses, rustling around a bit. "This it?"
She holds something up, a dark blob. I take it, feel the fabric. "Yeah. Thanks."
I put it on and take my socks off, stretching them out to dry as best they can, then lie back and worm my way into my sleeping bag. It's damp inside and much too warm. I unzip it and shift around again, managing to get it both beneath me and above me, but open so I can stick a leg out. Not that the air in the tent is really any less humid than the inside of my sleeping bag, but it seems to help.
Janet sighs quietly, "What a day."
I reach out – it's not far – and find her shoulder. I squeeze gently. "It's almost over."
"I know," she says softly, rolling onto her back to look over at me. I can make out a small, resigned smile on her face. "I shouldn't complain. We brought this disease here; it's our duty to help them fight it."
I can't argue with that. "Just don't overdo it," I tell her gently. "You can't help anyone if you get sick too."
"I know," she snaps. "I can handle it, Sam." She pauses, and her voice softens. "Sorry. I just…" she shakes her head slightly.
"It's alright." I understand. "It's been a long day. Get some sleep. Morning comes around fast."
She nods and rolls back onto her side, facing away from me. A moment later, she shifts again, groaning quietly and rubbing at her neck. I wince sympathetically – it's impossible to spend as much time in a lab as I do without getting kinks somewhere. "Sore?"
She laughs humourlessly. "That's one word for it."
"Here," I volunteer, extending one arm to find her neck. I get my bearings for a moment, fingers wandering up to her hair and down to her shoulder, then take up residence in the middle and my thumb digs in.
It's a little awkward, using my left hand like this, but she sighs. "Thanks, Sam," she murmurs.
"No problem," I return easily.
We're friends, Janet and I. Close friends. I'm not really sure how that happened – we used to see each other strictly at work, then suddenly my memories jump to hanging around her house, watching TV with her and Cassie, going out for beers… For two female Air Force majors who spend more time off-planet than just about anyone else in the business, we're remarkably normal friends.
She's relaxing into my hand. I shift to get my other arm out from beneath me, managing to reach her neck with it as well. I go down to her shoulders and she doesn't protest. She probably needs this. I wonder when the last backrub she had was. If the knotted muscles under my hands are any indication, it's been a while.
For such a tiny little thing, she has surprisingly large muscles. I've noticed before, of course – this isn't the first time we've shared a tent, and it's not like I've never seen her out of uniform before. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. She is a major. Somehow, though, she manages to lose the burly exterior that seems to come with being in the military.
I envy her that, sometimes. Me, I'm burly.
Usually, I don't mind. It gets me the respect I want – the respect I need, really. To Colonel O'Neill, without my 'burliness', I'd just be a woman – useless in far too many ways. Teal'c wouldn't think of me as a warrior. I'd be a woman, plain and simple.
I wonder suddenly if the others see Janet as that; just a woman. I know I don't. I couldn't, even if I tried. She may not have that 'burliness', but she's strong, and she's capable, and she's so much more than just a woman.
Still, I have to admit there are times I wish I was… well, less burly. I compare myself to someone like Janet and I wonder…
I shake my head slightly. What's the use thinking like that? I'm not badly off on the love scene – at least, no worse than I'd want to be. I've got Colonel O'Neill, after a fashion. Eventually, maybe it'll happen. Maybe not. Who knows. Either way, I'm pretty happy.
I realize my hands have paused on Janet's back and I start up again, working down from her shoulders to her sides, fingers kneading the soft flesh over her ribs while my thumbs push in toward her spine. She's so small – I feel like I could just wrap my hands all the way around her.
I must be more tired than I think, because I actually try. Bridging my thumbs together in the centre of her back, I stretch my hands out and manage to find the curve of her side. I sigh a bit – I guess she's not that small.
Laughing slightly to myself, I slip my left arm under hers and wrap it around her, pulling her close. "Mm," I say. "You're warm."
She chuckles, her hand hooking onto my arm. "Okay," she agrees easily. "Thanks for the backrub."
"Anytime," I return, settling my head comfortably between her shoulder blades.
This is wonderful. Despite the humidity, I'm the perfect temperature, for once. Half out of my unzipped sleeping bag and half under hers, with one leg open to the air, I've got just enough ventilation. And I've got human contact, something I've been missing for a while now. Friendly human contact, too. She feels wonderful in my arms like this. I snuggle a bit closer.
But then she rolls over. I retract my arm partially, unsure what she's doing. She turns all the way onto her side, facing me now, and looks at me. A hand touches my face. "Janet?" I question.
She doesn't answer. Her fingers push my bangs off my forehead, gliding down over my temple and onto my cheek. Her thumb grazes the corner of my mouth. I am about to question again, but she moves suddenly closer – much closer.
When she kisses me, I'm surprised, but I don't pull away. This is new, and unexplored, and I've never been one to turn down an opportunity to explore something new.
Her lips are soft, much softer than I'm used to. I've never kissed a woman before. It should feel wrong. The Air Force says it should feel wrong – don't ask, don't tell. But it doesn't. It feels odd, but not wrong.
So I open my mouth. I invite her in. I even go so far as to meet her tongue when she offers it.
She's just as gentle inside as she is out, and just as sweet. It's different… but I can't say it's bad-different. Almost despite myself, I feel a familiar clench of heat in my belly, and I draw her closer.
She smiles. Clearly, this isn't new to her like it is to me. Distantly, I think back and try to remember how many men I've ever seen her with. Not many come to mind – just Jerry a few years back and then Rick before him. Hm, I think. It had certainly never occurred to me to think that she might be more interested in women.
Or in me.
But she is. It's obvious. She kisses like she means it; she's not shy. I have a feeling I'm being a little awkward, but I don't mean to be. I don't want to be. I'm beginning to want her, in all honesty. And as she moves down from my mouth to kiss at my neck, I wonder if I might just get her.
She nips lightly at my collarbone, then lifts her head. Somehow, in the darkness she finds my eyes. I stare back at her, knowing my cheeks are flushed and wondering if she can see it. I don't notice her hand as it moves, snaking below my shirt, but as she finds my breast, I start.
"No?" she asks quietly.
I consider briefly, my mind foggy but still rational. On one side, there's all my old ideas and prejudice, and on the other, the feelings this is stirring inside me. I decide quickly, and give her my answer by stretching forward to kiss her, albeit a little shyly. I feel her return my smile.
She's outstandingly patient. It takes me a long while to relax as she cups my breast and finds the nipple, but once I do, I'm all for it. I sit up to pull my shirt over my head and when I turn to lie back down, I find her up too. She catches my face between her hands and kisses me again, deeply. Her arms slide around me and mine echo the motion, easing her up onto her knees. She shifts forward, half on my lap, her hips pressing against mine. I send one hand down her back, feeling the dip of her spine and the gentle curve of her sides.
Kissing at her neck, I trace a small circle with the tip of my tongue. She sighs, fingers weaving into my hair. "You're beautiful," I whisper against her skin. I've always thought it. I've even said it a few times. But I've never meant it like I do now.
She pulls me back up and leans her forehead against mine. "Sam," she breathes. I smile. I like the way she says it.
And then she's kissing me again, and I'm falling back onto the bedroll, with her above me. I'm very aware of her hips straddling mine, one thigh on each side of me. She's in shorts and so am I – there's a lot of bare skin. Not to mention that I'm now shirtless. For that matter so is she, I notice as she comes closer, chest against mine.
She moves lower, mouth trailing down between my breasts. She pauses on my stomach, coming back up for a moment to catch one nipple in her mouth. I gasp, my back arching. I think I may mutter something along the lines of her name, but I'm not sure, because one of her hands has slipped down between my legs and my mind seems to cease functioning.
Somehow, my shorts have vanished, which gives her all the more opportunity. She's slow at first, letting me get used to the feeling, and she explores a bit, moving forwards and backwards, tracing circles and following the moist folds of skin. Then she pushes down, in exactly the right place, and I arch again, my head falling back. This time, I know I say her name.
"Sh," she says, leaning forward to kiss me. Her hand is still down there, beginning to move again, ever so gently. She knows just what to do and where to do it – which, I suppose, makes sense.
For a first time, it's incredibly sensual. There's no fumbling, not like with a man. I wonder if I'll be able to go back, after this. But then, there's still Colonel O'Neill…
He'll still have a special place. He'll just have to make a bit more room for Janet.
Her fingers are shifting now, carefully finding my entrance and pushing gently. She nudges my legs a little further apart and I comply willingly. She presses into me, slowly, just one finger. I catch my breath. Part of my mind says, This is Janet! This is your friend!But the rest of me disagrees. This is Janet, and she's much more than a friend.
A second finger joins the first and she sinks them deeper. My eyes slide closed, my hands clenching on the fabric of the sleeping bag. She knows where to press, and how to press, and with her thumb she manages to find my centre.
I can't think. It's blinding. I feel my hips rise, pressing back against her hand. My heart thuds in my ears and beneath her fingers. She brings her mouth down to my nipple, her tongue toying with it slowly, then faster. She moves to the other breast, her fingers between my thighs pick up their pace, and I arch against her again, and again. The muscles in my leg tense and my head falls back one last time with a low moan, despite my efforts for silence. She stretches up to kiss me, effectively catching whatever noise I might make, as she pushes me up over the edge. I come crashing down, feeling myself clench on her fingers. I grab at her, nails digging into her back for a moment before the climax passes. I relax and she withdraws, settling beside me with another kiss.
"Alright?" she asks softly.
I almost laugh. The aftershocks are still fading. "Alright?" I echo. "Amazing." I shake my head a bit, grinning, and roll toward her. "Why didn't we do this sooner?"
She laughs softly. "I wasn't sure you'd want it."
My hand goes downward, slipping easily beneath her panties. She gasps. "Sure now?" I whisper.
She nods a bit unsteadily, her hips already moving back against my hand. I wrap my other arm around her, shifting down a bit to get a better angle, and press my face into her chest. I find first one nipple, then the other, then stretch back up to kiss her neck. She writhes against me and I keep my grip on her back, steadying her. Her breath is hot on my hair, ragged and nearly a whimper. "Oh god," she pants, clutching at me, "Sam…"
I smile into her skin. This is still new, but it feels natural. I'm not fumbling – clearly she's enjoying it as much as I did. It's also incredibly easy, and natural, and more sensual than just about anything I've experienced over the past few years. We're going to have to do this again.
She comes hard, clenching around me in that unique rhythm – almost tidal. I kiss her gently, muffling the long moan that escapes her. Amazing, I think. I've felt this in myself so many times, but feeling it in someone else…
And that someone else is Janet. She's looking at me through half-closed eyes, her lips parted, her breathing still heavy. I pull out of her and shift back up. She kisses me briefly though not without feeling, then snuggles her head beneath mine. Her fingers trace absent little lines down my arm and back, pausing on the swell of my hip.
"We need to share a tent more often," she says.
I smile. I couldn't agree more.