Originally published in The Seventh Chevron #5, 2002
Seasons: A Time to Refrain from Embracing
Includes Spoilers for Upgrades and Divide and Conquer
Carterís face had started out doubtful, but it had smoothed over into bland neutrality before Fraiser closed her office door and turned to face her.
"Whatís wrong, Janet?" Sam asked. "Is there a problem?"
"Iím not sure Ďproblemí would be the word Iíd choose. ĎSituationí, possibly, but I needed to share some information with you and the Colonel, and share it in private."
"Is Colonel OíNeill expected?" Carterís expression shifted again, this time to a carefully restrained discomfort.
"No, Iíve already spoken with him privately. Major, Iíve completed my studies of the Atoneikan armbands you, Colonel OíNeill, and Daniel tested for the Tokíra. I was uncomfortable with the results I got during the test process: the virus, the excessive adrenaline I detected in your system, the narcotic-like effect, the heightened hormonal activity. I was afraid there might possibly be deleterious long-term effects, especially since you were displaying early signs of organ failure."
"Thatís why weíve been grounded since the testing and why you prolonged it after the Zatarc incident, I know. I thought youíd reported to General Hammond that you gave us a clean bill of health. You said all lingering effects were gone from our systems. The Colonel and I were not Zatarc after all. We have our first real mission scheduled for the day after tomorrow."
"Yes, as you know, the tests have shown a steady but gradual return to normal in all your bodily responses since the armband tests. No permanent organ damage, thank goodness. I wanted to watch you most carefully because of your protein marker, which I think made the armbandís effects hit you the hardest. Daniel seemed somehow the least affected, although the difference in responses was minuscule. But you had the added complication of the death of Martouf." She saw Sam flinch and reached out to pat her arm. "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to remind you."
"He would have preferred that to the whole Zatarc thing," Sam said sadly to the floor.
"Yes, I agree. I am angry, not only at myself for failing to consider that possibility, but also for allowing Anise to continue with the armband experiment in the face of incomplete information. Even though General Hammond sanctioned it, I should have overridden him when I became convinced the test process was dangerous. You were still feeling its effects at the time of the Zatarc incident. And it...." She trailed off. The subject was a delicate one, and she needed to continue with exactly the correct words.
Sam didnít look up. "I did suppress--"
That made Sam raise her eyes. "No? We agreed to leave it in the room, Janet, and we have. I give you my word. Thereís been nothing...."
"I know there hasnít. Sam, this part is hard, but I have to say it. Iíve concluded my tests, and itís become apparent that one side-effect of the armbands was to create a heightened and intensified bonding between people who already had such a bond in existence. Thus, the teamwork and family unity that existed between you, Colonel OíNeill, and Daniel was heightened due to the armbandsí effects. You were most comfortable in each otherís presence, you seemed to understand each other with far greater depth and without explanation. You displayed erratic behavior; your hormone levels were all over the place. You lost the ability to make rational choices, and your emotions soared out of control. These were all side-effects of the armbands. When your bodies battled the virus induced in your systems and the armbands fell off, you were, in essence, entering a stage in recovery not unlike a drug withdrawal. Thatís why Iíve been monitoring you so carefully since that time. During the testing I expressed concern about the long-term effects of the use of the armbands. Fortunately, everything that happened proved that it would be extremely unwise to attempt to ever use them again on additional SGC personnel, and I will overrule the General on this if more armbands come to light."
Sam was frowning. "So what are you telling me, Doctor?" The formality of expression could have meant she was withdrawing from the personal out of discomfort, but it could also have simply meant sheíd switched mental gears and entered into a more professional mode. Of SG-1, Janet knew Sam best, but there was an almost aching discomfort in the Majorís body language that the Doctor found difficult to interpret.
"When you were trapped in the Goaíuld ship on PX9 757 and the Colonel couldnít get to you, both of you subconsciously perceived your emotional responses to be inappropriate, considering your rank and status."
"I have never acted on those feelings," Carter said stiffly. "or has Colonel OíNeill. We agreed to leave it in the room--and we have."
"I donít doubt you, Sam." Janet softened her voice. "As I told you, the armbands increased that sense of bonding and comradeship that already exists in SG-1. Although it would have been prudent for Daniel to return to the gate when it was apparent you and the Colonel were delayed, he, too, chose to wait for you even in the face of the impending explosion. He told me that Tealíc talked him into waiting, but Tealíc explained to me when I questioned him that Daniel had Ďconvinced himself to remainí. That, no matter what he might have said, Daniel would not have abandoned you and the Colonel."
"He did say that Tealíc talked him into it, when we were hurrying back to the gate," Sam remembered.
"And did you by any chance believe him?"
Sam smiled faintly. "That he had to be convinced to stay for our sake? Of course not. Thatís simply part of the way he and the Colonel interact. But what does that have to do with....with the Colonel and myself?"
"Itís more of the same thing. Colonel OíNeill is your commanding officer, and he has always been extremely protective of the people in his command. Under the dying effects of the armbands, with emotions heightened, with adrenaline out of control and hormone levels still over the top, his reactions translated in his subconscious into an entirely different interpretation. Our society appears unable to conceive of a male-female relationship that is comprised of teamwork, friendship, and respect--and not of sex and romance. People automatically assume that a male and female who are closely bonded are in love with each other. No less than the women who thrive on romance novels do men automatically buy into this concept. They donít think about it as much as women do, but the, er, societal programming, exists in them as it does in women. When OíNeill was given the choice of abandoning you to die when the ship was destroyed or remaining with you, since neither choice would affect the missionís success, it occurred at a moment when his hormones were out of control, his judgment was skewed, and his behavior erratic as a result of the narcotic-like effects of the armbands. You and the Colonel have always been close. The armbandís effects simply skewed his interpretation of his concern and frustration."
Samís fascination with the floor continued. "And me? Youíre saying the same thing applied to me?"
"To perhaps a heightened degree, Major. In spite of your long fight to overcome sexist attitudes in the military, you are still a woman, and there is societal conditioning in all of us. Weíve overcome a lot of it, but there is so much of it that remains within us. Your adrenaline was higher than the othersí as a result of your protein marker left over from Jolinar. You had just lost the armband and were in the midst of massive withdrawal. You were trapped and believed you were about to die, and the Colonel refused to leave you. I canít think of any woman I know who wouldnít have translated the emotions of that moment into belief that the two of you shared a great, if unspoken, love."
Sam was silent. One toe traced a pattern on the floor.
"That doesnít mean, of course, that there might not be feelings between you and the Colonel, simply that the events that led to the Zatarc situation may have been produced by the effects of the armbands, and that it was your interpretation of those emotional moments and the nature of military regulations that induced you to suppress those interpretations."
"So youíre saying that I donít have feelings for the Colonel, or he for me?"
"No, Iím not saying that. Iím saying that the armbands could have completely induced the reactions you felt at the time. If Iím incorrect, Iíll still leave it within the room. Iíve seen no conduct between you that was inappropriate from a military standpoint."
"And you wonít." Sam still hadnít raised her eyes. "I...Iíve been feeling like a....a heel. After...." Her voice trailed off. "After I had to shoot Martouf, I...." She swallowed hard. "I was always fond of Martouf. Part of that came from Jolinar, a sense that I had known Martouf for years, my ability to be comfortable with him from the beginning." She gave a sad little grimace. "I was never in love with Martouf, but a part of me, or perhaps a lingering part of Jolinar, did care for him. When I sat there in the gate room holding his body, I found myself realizing that those Ďfeelingsí I had for the Colonel were of the same type I felt for Martouf. Deeper, of course, because Iíve worked with the Colonel closely for a long time and share a history with him, but more as comrades in arms, even family. The whole of SG-1 is family to me. For a little while, I thought the Colonel was something more, but when Martouf was dying, I realized that I had misinterpreted my feelings."
"So what you feel for the Colonel...." Janet probed delicately.
"Is teamwork, friendship. Close companionship. All of SG-1 is close but Iím his 2IC. We have the Air Force in common, too. And the whole team bond. It didnít take me long to start thinking of the team as a family. Thatís all it is. Iíve known that since....since Martouf died, but I havenít been able to tell the Colonel. I was half afraid he didnít feel as I did, and it would have been even more uncomfortable than keeping it unspoken if he still...cared, and I didnít." She finally looked up. "You said youíd talked to him, Janet. What did he say?"
"The same thing as you did. That once the heightened emotions wore away, he saw it all a little differently."
"He doesnít love me." Samís face was unreadable.
"Yes, he does love you, very much. Simply not--romantically. Does that bother you?"
Sam hesitated, then she produced a dazzlingly wicked grin. "In a way, but not the way you mean. Thereís enough of this feminine programming in me that a part of me wants to make an impact--even if I know it would only be a blasted nuisance." She hesitated. "Does he know you were going to talk to me?"
"Yes, I told him."
"So he knows it was the same with me?"
"I told him I couldnít guarantee your feelings; no one can ever really tell what a person will suppress, which is why Aniseís Zatarc testing produced the results it did. But that in your case the virus hit perhaps slightly stronger due to the lingering protein marker. I said I couldnít second-guess you, but that I thought it was a result of induced bonding at the point of system failure. That your panic and helplessness at that moment affected the fading reactions in your body. But that the last tests Iíd made indicated all residual effects had left your systems. He was a little relieved." She suddenly grinned, woman to woman. "He was afraid heíd turned into a real cad."
"A cad?" Sam sputtered into laughter. "He actually used the word Ďcadí?" The two women giggled together.
"If you tell him I repeated that, Iíll find a way to ground you for three more weeks," Janet threatened.
"Donít worry, I wouldnít repeat it. Medical confidentiality, right?"
"It had better be." She rose. "Itís nearly time for your preliminary briefing. Iíll find a moment to reassure Tealíc that what he learned at the time of the testing was a result of the armbands. It will go no further."
OíNeill was waiting at the infirmary door. He cast one worried glance at Fraiser, who nodded, then he relaxed. "So, Carter, you ready to get back to work?"
"Yes, sir. Ready for a mission. Where are Daniel and Tealíc?"
"Near as I can figure weíre gonna have to go and pry Daniel out of his office. Heís been studying some ancient writing SG-11 brought back from their last mission. Iím gonna have to buy a giant, economy-sized shoehorn so we can pry him out better. Think the budgetíll cover it?"
"Sounds like a plan, sir."
"Knowing Tealíc, heís probably already in the briefing room, wondering why the rest of us arenít there. Ready?"
"Yes, sir," she said cheerfully, and the two of them fell into step together, adjusting their pace automatically. Teammates. Comrades in arms. Friends. As they walked out of earshot, bantering comfortably, Janet heaved an inelegant sigh of relief. Thank goodness she had been right. SG-1 was back to normal, and all was right with the world.