Chapter 8

The morning after Jack's flight home found him once again traveling to Denver to tell Sam about his meeting with Hammond, and the latest developments. He figured that creating a dangerous situation by driving himself to the nursing home was hardly important when compared to the news he now had to tell Carter. Once at the home (and musing anew over the awful name), he signed himself onto the guest register, then proceeded to... UGH!... the room assigned to Samantha Shanahan.

Jack knocked lightly on room number 24. A room with good vibes, he was thinking. 24 is divisible by 12, and that's a good, even number. He'd had the thought before it hit him that the fact that he even cared what number was even or odd, or divisible by what other number illustrated how much influence Samantha Carter already had over him. Amused, he was grinning when he heard Sam call, “Come in.” His heart actually skipped a beat at just the sound of her voice.

As much as he would like to still think of her as a rodent beneath his boot that he would gladly squash, he knew that it was a hopeless endeavor. She hadn't said that most hurtful thing to him in the Gate Room. It had been her own special version of mini-me. Thanks to Ba'al, that malevolent maniac, she had lost her leg, her job, and her career. He tried not to feel guilty about the part that he had played in her multiple losses, both real and imagined, but knew that if it hadn't been for his connection to her, she could very well still have everything fully intact. But even those thoughts didn't still the thudding of his heart at just the sound of her voice uttering the banal words 'Come in.'

He stepped into the room, his insides a mess of guilt at seeing her again, and contrarily at the feeling of blazing joy at seeing her again after so long; he literally couldn't help himself. His gaze instantly swept over the room filled with two twin beds, two sitting areas, two attempts at making an antiseptic room appear more welcoming to quickly zero in on Carter sitting in an easy chair placed under the window at the far end of the room. His gaze was drawn to her like a magnet. “Hey Carter. I've got news.” And he sent her his characteristic smirk.

Relief immediately swept across her features the second her gaze settled on him, but was replaced so quickly by boiling anger that Jack fancied he was momentarily shoved off balance by the force of the emotion alone.

“You idiot!” she hissed at him as the door swung shut behind him.

“What?” Jack asked, thoroughly bemused at what he had apparently done this time.

But Carter couldn't speak; she was actually so mad that she was speechless. He'd seen her mad before, but never at him, and never this mad. As dumb as it sounded, she was trembling with fury, just like the books said, and utterly unable to speak.

Though that didn't stop her from trying. “I... You...” She took a breath, gathered her thoughts, then began again, managing this time to vocalize in complete sentences, though she spit her words at him, all the time keeping her voice modulated as low as she could and still be heard. “I called your cell - no answer. I called your house - no answer. Out of desperation, I called the base - no one knew anything! Where you were, or where you'd gone!” She slammed down whatever she was holding in her hands onto the small lamp table at her side. “Did it ever occur to you that it might have looked like you'd disappeared again?” She glared daggers. “Or had done worse?” By 'worse,' she was obviously referring to her concern that he had once again blown his brains out. “I would have gone looking for you myself, but after visiting you in the Infirmary without permission to be gone so long, I've been restricted to the grounds of the nursing home, and had to send Daniel over to your house to make sure nothing looked out of place, or that you weren't lying in your bathroom, dead!”

She glared her death glare again. “Do you know how humiliating that was? To have to ask him to do something for me because I couldn't?” The sound of tears invaded her lowered voice, a sound that only made her angrier. “If this is all the consideration you're going to give to your friends, I'm not sure I want to be party to it, or to you! So just go away!”

Angered himself at what she was saying, and at the way an arrow of dread shot through him when she told him to go away, Jack tried to poke both his hands into his pockets so that he wouldn't be tempted to hit the wall with an angry fist, but remembered his injured arm at the last minute when the cast tugged at the sling he wore slung around his neck. So he compromised by putting his right hand in his pocket and balling his one fist. In the calmest voice he could produce at the moment, he told her, “There was no need to be concerned - I was with Hammond.”

But his calmest tone wasn't calm enough. “Like I knew that!” she whisper yelled at him. “What do you think this is - 'Read Jack's Mind' day? You might have just mentioned what you were up to to somebody!”

Did she mean that she now expected him to tell her every time he had the urge to go somewhere, just to keep her informed? Samantha Carter didn't own him - no way was he going to become some kind of kept... With eyes narrowed to disbelieving slits, he let his own anger envelope him. “What's gotten into..?”

“Keep your voice down!” she ordered on another hiss. “They'll hear you!”

Jack's glare said that he didn't particularly care. “So! What's it to you?!”

Carter's glare turned hard as chipped ice. “They'll feel it's their 'duty' to throw you out for upsetting me, then I'll get the full sedation treatment, and so help me, Jack O'Neill, if I get the shot from Hell because of you and your stupid..!”

That cooled Jack's anger in an instant. “Wait a minute,” he barked, forgetting her directive to keep his voice down. “They what?”

And right on cue, the door opened, admitting a beefy male nurse into the room. He looked like he'd be more at home as a bouncer for a bar than a nurse in a nursing home filled with old people. His watchful gaze swept over the room, noticing that Jack and Sam weren't as close together as to denote they'd become an obvious danger to the other, as he'd clearly anticipated them being. He almost looked disappointed that nothing untoward seemed to be going on in the room. His disappointment was followed by a look of frank disgust aimed at Jack. Sneering now instead of throwing his weight around, he spent a long time perusing Jack from head to toe.

It was only seconds of being the object of that scrutinizing stare before Jack felt completely dirty, like he'd done something truly reprehensible. When neither him nor Carter spoke another word, the nurse stared darkly at him, then turned his gaze to Carter. But finding nothing amiss, he simply sent her a disapproving stare, then departed, saying as he went, “I'll be right outside, Mrs. Shanahan, if you need something. Just yell.” In other words, the room was being monitored, and if either Jack or Carter so much as sneezed, to say nothing of raising their voices, that male nurse would be in room 24 so fast that they would have to scrape the skid marks from his shoes off the floor.

Jack took the saying for what it really meant, and the minute the door swung shut behind him, turned back to Carter and lowered his voice accordingly before saying, “I ask again, they what?” He whispered the last word so that the emphasis he gave it wouldn't carry out to the hall and the heavyweight nurse who was surely listening.

Carter heaved a dispirited sigh, then rubbed at her forehead, as if she had a headache, or the very thought of this gave her a headache, or as if explaining this to him threatened to give her the feared headache.

Whatever the case, he didn't back down. “Carter?”

She cracked, and quickly. “Alright!” she unhappily hissed. “They sedate patients who cause anything that looks like a dustup. That way, they have time while the patient appears to just be sleeping to get rid of the perpetrator. Daniel's already been banned twice for a week at a time, just because I was a tad... upset those days.” She gazed at him meaningfully, and it wasn't a second before he understood that she had been upset both times because Daniel'd had to tell her something bad about him.

Jack blinked, surprised at what he was hearing. “But there have been times that even Doc Fraiser had to sedate patients in the Infirmary,” he argued, ignoring what she wasn't saying in favor of focusing on what she was saying. “This has to be nothing more than...”

“Don't say it!” she hissed, angry again. “I was never sedated in the Infirmary due to nightmares!”

Jack's brow lowered in confusion. “Nightmares? I thought we were talking about...”

Sam glared at him again. “I was talking about the two times that Daniel was banned, not how many times I've been sedated! I have nightmares - you know I do - Daniel knows I do - everyone on base knows I do! We all do! I can't help it if my recent visit to Ba'al brought me more than a permanently vanished leg!” She then collapsed into the back of her chair to stare moodily into the far corner of the room. “They say they do it so that I won't hurt myself thrashing around during my dreams, but it's really so they don't have to listen to me yelling. I know. They give me an extra strong dose, so that I'll sleep most of the next day. I keep missing meals, and they won't let patients keep food in their rooms, not even bags of chips. They say it's to avoid rodent problems.” Her lips curled into a partial sneer aimed at herself. “I think I've lost ten pounds already.”

So that was the reason why she looked thinner. Jack assumed that she hadn't exactly been fed well while she'd been Ba'al's prisoner, either, so she'd gone from Ba'al's non-food to the Infirmary's chicken food, to the home. “I bet they don't serve blue Jell-O here, either.”

Carter snorted. “I haven't had blue Jell-O for almost a year. I'm not even sure I would recognize it anymore.” Her sad gaze flipped to the corner near her roommate's bed. “What I wouldn't do for a hamburger.”

This he could take care of. “One order of a Big Mac, coming up.” Jack turned to leave, but Carter's second sardonic snort stopped him.

“They'll never let McDonald's in here - remember the rodents? And I can't go there - I've been restricted to the grounds.”

Jack thought for a moment. “What about that gazebo I saw out front? That's on the grounds. What if I met you out there in - say - twenty, thirty minutes? Would that be okay?”

Carter hesitated. Her gaze had flipped again to land on him. There was an obvious look of longing for food in her eyes, as well as something else. “Um...” She hesitated once more, but then timidly agreed. “Alright.”

Jack didn't waste time - the quicker he got her food, the quicker he'd get back to meet her, the quicker he could find out more hidden secrets to this nursing funeral parlor home. “Be back in a few.”

Chapter 9

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