Disclaimer: You know who owns them - not me - the amount of money in my bank account isn't high enough yet for me to own such great characters, as I got no money for this or any of my other SG-1 fanfics. No money, no ownership... I do have a great TV, though!
Back in Colorado Springs a few days later, Sam sat with Daniel in his car while Jack was at unplanned meetings at the SGC. She stared at the house she had shared with Pete for a year, contemplating all that had led her to staring at what used to be her home until just recently.
Carter twisted her lips into a grimace as she stared. “I always hated this house, right from the first time I saw it,” she announced in a flat voice.
Daniel slowly breathed the cooling Colorado air and gripped the wheel. He didn't know if he dared to ask her about that house, but he figured that he had nothing left to lose by speaking - besides her friendship, that is. Hoping that he wasn't about to do the stupidest thing in his entire life, he opened his mouth to let the words come out. “I have to ask - If you always hated this house so much, then why did you decide to accept it in the first place?”
Carter kept staring, and tried hard not to curl her lips in distaste at the sight before her. But she pensively responded, “That's a good question.” She heaved a sad sigh. “Wish I could tell you why. But I don't want to burden you with what's basically a simple story of typical Carter stupidity.”
Daniel breathed once more at the despondency oozing off of her, and he again gripped his hands so tightly around the steering wheel of his car that his knuckles turned white. His gentle tone belied the color of his hands. “Sam,” he carefully began, arguing with her, but trying not to sound like he was arguing with her. “I didn't question the way you and Jack suddenly turned up at my door last night at 0300. I didn't ask what you were doing, what you planned to do, where your absent husband was, or why you two needed a place to stay for a few days when you have a perfectly good house across town to stay in. I even let you and Jack sleep together in my guest room, without any questions,” he reminded, though his curiosity was still burning on that point. Instead of asking about it, he simply went on in the same tone, “But I am glad that you called me last week to tell me that you were safe at Jack's cabin - which was a load off my mind - and I remind you that I didn't even ask for an explanation then.” He turned on his seat to better face his friend and former team leader. “But now I think that I should know...”
Daniel didn't get the opportunity to finish before Carter blurted, “Daniel, I'm getting a divorce from Pete, and I'm living with Jack - 'living' as in living with Jack - which was unexpected,” she admitted in a soft tone. “I had an apartment for myself all lined up to move into this week - and now I don't need it. But I want my stuff now to be with Jack at his DC house - and I can't get it while Pete is there... I sooooo do not want to see him again! So I need to leave him a note to tell him to get out of the house while I box everything up and take it back to a storage place tomorrow to...”
“You can leave your stuff with me for awhile,” Daniel instantly invited.
Carter gave a small smile at his quick and friendly invitation. “Thanks, Daniel,” she added to her grin. She patted one of his hands on the steering wheel. “I appreciate that - you're a good friend to let us stay with you like this, and to not ask any questions. Have I told you that?”
Daniel warmed at the unexpected compliment. “No, you haven't said...”
But again Carter cut him off. “I promise to move it all to DC when I have more arrangements made,” she told him. “And as nice as your invite is, I can't keep my stuff at your place - there's barely room for me and Jack as it is,” she gently argued. “There's no way that we can fit my entire life - such as it is - in your spare closet.”
Daniel shrugged. “What can I say - I forgot about those boxes of artifacts that I was storing on the floor in there, or I would have kept your things indefinitely.”
Carter's grin grew to a genuine smile. “I know that, Daniel, and like I said, I appreciate the offer, but I don't want to put you out of your spare room just because I plan to get divorced.”
“Yeah,” Daniel quickly said, changing the topic in as kind a way as he knew how. “How come you never said anything about how unhappy you've been this last year?” Then he turned away, clearly pensive. “Or, at least, I assume that you've been unhappy - wanting a divorce usually stems from unhappiness,” he said, giving her a slightly guilty expression as he spoke. “Jack and I had a nice conversation while you were in the shower this morning about your... um... recent problems with Pete,” he explained. Then sheepishly added, “Or not-so-recent problems.” He then eyed her and explained, “But this all seems so sudden to me.” He pushed his glasses up his nose, and gave her an inquiring raise of his brows. “I always thought that I was your friend...”
Carter's smile slipped a bit. She heaved a sigh. “You are my friend, Daniel, one of my closest friends,” she assured.
Daniel's brows now framed the scowl that he had learned from being around Jack for so many years. “Then why..?”
Carter's third... fourth... sigh split through the tension permeating the car. “Because Pete didn't like it when I spoke to other men,” she at last told him. “Unless the other man was named 'Mark.'” She gave another wry grimace with her lips. “It was just easier not to say anything to you than to have you ask awkward questions that I couldn't answer unless you knew the whole story, which you didn't, and I...” Carter's voice abruptly halted, and she squarely faced Daniel, a guilty expression in her eyes. “I was a chicken shit to stay quiet, I know that now, and I'm sorry for that. If I had just talked to you about this, then you might have managed to dissuade me from making the dumbest...” She paused, grimacing heavily. “I wish I had told you everything right from the start. I might have saved myself a whole lot of heartache if I had.”
Daniel gave a brief grin when she said that. “I always thought that you marrying Pete was...” He halted as abruptly as Carter had halted. Finally he admitted, “Teal'c and I used to talk about what you were doing, and we both tried to get you to explain... at least, Teal'c did when he was still here... before he left to be with Rya'c and Bra'tac... and Ishta went with them... now that the Goa'uld are destroyed... But I thought you were happy and knew what you were doing,” he protested. “That's what Jack always said every time that I called him in DC... and I called him a lot... especially after Teal'c left... and I went to...”
Carter's soft smile again cut into Daniel's rambling words. “I'm glad that you were there for Jack last year,” she said to him. “I'm not trying to excuse what I did to him, or to the team,” she insisted. “But I never wanted him to be alone. Even then.” She turned to give a hard stare out the front window. “I never stopped caring about him, you know,” she confessed. “Even when I didn't know where he was or what...” But she couldn't go on, and her voice trailed off to nothingness.
Daniel sighed, and thoughtfully regarded Carter. “What's up with you and Jack?” he queried at last. Then at the fear that he saw in her eyes, instantly added, “You don't have to answer if you don't want to - I'm just curious.”
Carter's second soft smile calmed his jangling nerves after his comment. “Daniel,” she softly said. She turned her head so that she could stare straight at him. Still smiling, she bluntly said, “I'm done with hiding - it's brought me nothing but heartache - ever.” She faced forward again, an expression of steely determination in her eyes. Finally, she went on, “I love him, and I'm not ashamed of those feelings any more, or of admitting to them. I'm going to live with him in DC.” Then she hesitated, and gave a tremulous smile. “I don't know what will happen with that next - If we'll just keep living together, if he'll make me find my own place to live, if I'll retire from the Air Force, if we'll get married - I would love to have his children,” she even went so far as to admit. “But we haven't talked about that yet - there hasn't been time. I... I wish... you and Teal'c had kicked my butt many years ago... to tell me what I was missing.” She turned and gave him a penitent smile.
Daniel shrugged, admittedly charmed by her smile. “Hey, we tried a time or two to kick...”
“My butt was needing two... or more... good swift kicks, I know,” she said, interrupting him. “I'm sorry about being so thick,” she then apologized for her previous behavior. “Especially after Jack left for DC,” she added. “Not letting you even mention his name was the only way that I could handle what I thought was... was his... not caring for...” She trailed off again, and those damned tears were back in her eyes. She'd thought that she had cried herself out by now, as she had sobbed on Jack's shoulder several times recently, but apparently there were more tears to cry, more pain to feel. She tried not to feel too guilty that this situation was her fault, but it was hard.
Daniel instantly absolved, “I was always there if you needed a good talking partner... or a good ass-kicker.” And he grinned. “You know that.”
Carter's sigh of regret filled the car. “Thanks, Daniel,” she now said. “But I never asked for it, did I?,” she said. “Wish you had given me one anyway.”
Daniel quietly regarded her through his rounded glasses. “It would have surely taken two,” he said at last.
Which made Carter suddenly burst out laughing. It helped her keep things in perspective when she was forced to acknowledge the humorous side of this situation. “Daniel, you're great!” she said when she could speak again.
“I know,” the archaeologist said back to her. “But I won't let it go to my head, promise,” he said. “Jack would just give me a good, swift kick if I did, so what's the point?” He gave her a questioning look. “But why are we here at yours and Pete's house if you don't plan to go in or talk to him today, or..?”
“I don't want to talk to him,” Carter announced one more time in a very firm voice. “Now or ever again.” She pulled out the notebook that she had borrowed from Jack and brought along. Now she ripped out a page, leaving its ragged edges intact as she got out of the car. “I'm going to just slip this note under the door. I'll be right back,” she promised. “Then we can go to the SGC, pick Jack up from his meetings with General Landry, and then we can have lunch - my treat for having such great friends.”
Daniel smiled. His day was looking up! “Alright! I missed breakfast, because Jack and I were talking so much. So lunch sounds perfect!”
“One minute,” Carter said, then headed up to the front door, where she made one last read through of what she had scribbled that morning before she and Daniel had left his house. Then, satisfied, she tucked it into the space between the doorknob and the house siding when she found that she couldn't just slip it under the door itself.
The note was short and direct.Pete,
I'll be by tomorrow (the 16th) at 1300 hours (1:00 to you civilians) to box up and take my things. Sell the house - it's yours. I don't want it.Sam
What she didn't actually say, but was inferred by her terse words, was that she didn't want the husband who came with the house any more than she wanted the house. But again, she hadn't written that. She didn't see the point of being cruel.
As soon as she stuffed the note by the door, she was done at that house. Smiling to herself, she returned to Daniel's car to pick up Jack for an unplanned lunch.
* * *
The next day at 1300, however, she wasn't smiling.
She stood with Daniel just inside the front door of the house she had unfortunately shared with Pete for a year, and stared around her in complete shock.
The house was empty. There were no 'things' for Sam and Daniel to box up. There was no Pete to avoid. The note that she had left in the space between the doorknob and the house siding the day before was still there, untouched.
Seeing the note had made her heart skip a beat, but the sight of the empty rooms now froze the organ in her chest.
Completely befuddled, they both looked around the empty front room that greeted them one more time. “Uh... uh... uh...” Daniel's stuttering was covered up by the groan that gurgled up from the back of Carter's throat.
It was all gone: the furniture, the kitchen implements, her DVD collection, her books... When Carter was finally able to collect herself to peak into the bedroom, she noticed the bed was missing, his and her dressers were gone, the closet was empty... everything, whether it had been his or hers - it was all gone, along with Pete.
Stunned, a scream sounding inside her head, but not making an outward sound, Carter shivered her way back to Daniel's side. She stared wide-eyed at the emptiness surrounding them. “This wasn't...” Her voice broke, and she began again after clearing her throat. “This wasn't...” Her voice broke a second time. She gave up on talking, and only looked disbelievingly at the gaping windows that lacked curtains, at the indentations in the carpet where the heavier furniture pieces had sat. Finally she was able to say, “This... wasn't... supposed... to... happen.”
That was when Jack vaulted through the door, joining them after performing some unexpected errands. “Let me tell you, campers, the line at the bank was...” Then he stopped talking as he got his first look at the house that he had promised to help clean up. “Whoa!” he exclaimed as he took in the space that had once been Carter's living room... or so he guessed, since he'd never set foot in this house before. “You two work fast!”
But his exclamation fell on deaf ears. Neither Sam nor Daniel uttered a word as they looked around with Jack. Their panting grunts finally clued Jack in that something wasn't right. “You didn't do this?” he eventually asked. When neither of them replied, he prompted, “Carter? Daniel?” He peered at the empty space before him, and wrinkled his forehead. “I don't understand,” he announced. “Why the long faces? We're just here to clean up Carter's things... aren't we?” he asked. The doubt was heavy in his voice as he went on, “How come you two started without me? And where's all the furniture?”
Carter gurgled when Jack said the word 'furniture.' “He... took it,” she said in a flat, dispassionate voice.
Jack still didn't quite understand. “Say again?” he asked. “Who took what?”
Carter groaned. “Pete... He said that I would regret... at the cabin... he took it all.”
Finally it was beginning to dawn on Jack that he was staring at a cleaned-out house. “He took it?” he asked in disbelief of his own. “As in, stole it?” he clarified in the same incredulous voice.
“All of it,” Daniel stated. But then he said, “We can't assume that Pete did this, though. He might have just taken his things, left Sam's stuff, then the house was burglarized...” Even he didn't sound like he believed what he was saying, though.
“All my things,” Carter said, sounding shocked, which she was.
Jack scrunched up his face. “He took it all?” Again he glanced around at the emptiness. “How?"
Daniel reminded, “We don't know that it was Pete. It isn't fair that we...”
But Jack interrupted him as he suddenly found a pile of papers laying in the middle of the kitchen floor. After thoroughly looking through the papers, said, “Uh... Daniel... I'm pretty sure that Pete took Carter's...” Finally, he gave up on his explanations and simply bid them to look.
Carter and Daniel both shuffled foreword to join Jack in staring down at what turned out to be divorce papers, nicely folded into thirds, sitting on the floor next to...
“Is that a wedding ring?” Daniel questioned.
Jack picked up what Carter was still too stunned to collect. He flipped the ring into his palm. “It sure looks like a wedding ring,” he told them as he stared at the smallish golden band sitting in his hand. “If it's really his, he has small fingers. Small and fat.”
Carter's face had gone a pasty white. “It's his,” she whispered. She knew, as it matched the one she pulled from the pocket of her jeans. “I was going to leave this here for him to sell,” she whispered. She then took another look around at the empty kitchen. “I guess that now I won't bother.”
Daniel was looking at the folded papers and didn't hear her. “Hey, these papers are dated the fourteenth, not today, which is the sixteenth,” he said. “If that's the case, and he took your things the day he got these papers... then he cleared out the house and your things days ago.”
Jack just glanced over Daniel's shoulder at the papers in his hands. “Well, at least these divorce papers are signed,” he declared a moment later. “After the way he left the house, I half expected him to 'forget' to sign these,” he stated.
Carter reached out and took the papers in her shaking hands. “I guess this is something,” she said as she looked through the papers. She noted the name of the divorce attorney that Pete had chosen to use. “Maybe the lawyer knows how to contact him, so I can go there and pound his ass... I mean,” she quickly corrected herself. “So that I can ask for my things back.”
“Stop being so nice, Carter,” Jack proclaimed. “If you don't pound his ass, then I will, and then we'll take back your stuff.” He sighed, and gave one last look around the house.
Carter morosely gave her wedding ring, along with the male mate to it, to Daniel. “Here... sell them... see how much we can get for them. I sure don't want to keep them for sentimental purposes.” She glanced around again, thinking now about her grandmother's China that she no longer possessed, and the wedding rings seemed insignificant to her. She grimaced, and thoughts of all the memorabilia she had lost floated through her mind.
The shock that was, and had been, numbing her was fast giving way to a blinding rage now that her first wave of suspended animation was beginning to wear off. She angrily stated, “I felt sorry about the divorce and all the things that I put Pete through this past year...”
“I don't,” Jack said with finality.
Carter had to agree with him. “Now I don't, either,” she firmly noted. “I'll find him. And when I do, I'll...”
“We'll send him through the 'Gate to...” Jack began to say, but Daniel broke in on him.
“What's the worst place that we can send him to?” he asked. It was unusual for the archaeologist to use such an unforgiving tone, but now his voice was as steely as the implacable look in his eyes. “Isn't there some kind of slave planet that we can send him to? Or a prison planet?”
“Hadante,” Carter immediately answered. “It'll have to be there, since the damned Tok'ra blew up Netu. I'd send him to Netu, otherwise.”
That comment made Daniel smile. “Well, Hadante isn't Netu, but... it was pretty close.”
Jack's wolfish grin matched Daniel's smile for fierceness. “One hell is as good as another when you're talking about off-world prisons.”
But Carter was shaking her head. “Even Hadante is too good for him.”
Jack regarded her. “You have someplace else in mind?”
Carter gave an evil smile that sent shivers down Jack's spine. He was glad her evil streak wasn't currently aimed at him. “I say we turn him loose on some destroyed planet, along with activated replicator blocks. Once the blocks turn into true replicators, they won't have anything else to consume except him.” She gave a lift of her shoulders that would have been a shrug except for the pleased expression on her face.
Daniel and Jack winced at the image she left them with. “As much as I want to strip the flesh from his bones and leave him for dead,” Jack conversationally told Carter, “I have a problem with activating replicator blocks. Can't authorize that.”
Carter heaved a sigh, as if she'd been expecting this. “Crap,” she muttered. “Guess it's back to the prison idea.” And she heaved yet another sigh.
Daniel shrugged. “Look at it this way,” he suggested. “At least you still have your money left over so you can buy new things to replace what Pete stole.” He gave a grunt. “You won't have to rely on me and Jack for everything while you hunt this guy down.” Personally, he hoped that Sam left something of Pete's ass after kicking it so that he could kick it, too. Though he suspected that he would have to get in line after Jack got his own boots ready for delivering a good ass kicking.
“Yeah, well...” Jack took one last look around at the empty house. “Let's take a look at the basement - he might have forgotten about cleaning that out - then let's head back to Daniel's place so we can plan how to handle searching for this...”
“Sleezebucket,” Carter interjected. “Ass-wipe. A-hole.”
“Swinebag,” Jack supplied when she paused to take a breath.
Daniel added, “Bugger brain.” He said it like he'd just called Pete the most insulting thing he could think of.
“'Bugger brain?'” Jack incredulously echoed as he regarded Daniel. “Is that the best that you can do?” he next asked. “This guy just made off with your good friend's entire life, and that's the worst thing you can call him?”
Daniel's smile was slow to creep over his face, but it was decidedly wicked once it got there. “I've been wanting to use that term again ever since I first used it in Mrs. Line's second grade class. I got my mouth washed out with soap for calling someone that.”
“And it's so bad because..?” Jack still didn't quite comprehend this thing of Daniel's.
But Daniel turned to stare at Jack. “Have you ever had your mouth washed out with institution soap?” he asked. “It tastes terrible!”
“Daniel, sell the rings,” Carter suddenly proclaimed. “Let's stop at my bank to withdraw some of my money for new clothes. I won't let him reduce me to borrowing clothes like some poor beggar!” She gave a decisive turn, then marched towards the still open front door. “Let's check the basement on the way out.”
And then she was gone.
* * *
The basement was as empty as the house above. Carter tried not to think of the boxes of school awards that she had stored down there because Pete had insisted many months ago that there was no place to display them in the house itself. It turns out that she had left them in their box, ready for him to just... take.
More anger rushed through her veins. She wasn't just going to kick Pete's ass when she found him: she was going to cut off his legs!
* * *
But the day just kept getting worse. When she talked to a teller at her bank, it was to find out that her accounts had been closed.
“But that's impossible,” Carter protested. “I never authorized something like closing my accounts!”
The teller then protested back. “Your signature isn't necessary for closing the accounts, Mrs. Shanahan. All we needed for closing these joint accounts was for one of you to request a closure in person.”
“Call me 'Miss Carter' not 'Mrs. Shanahan!'” Sam growled as she stared at the teller in astonishment. All it had taken for Pete to close their joint accounts had been..? Even though she'd had much of her personal pre-marriage money in CDs, Pete had insisted that 'her money' was now 'their money' after the wedding, and that she should retitle her accounts to include him, just as he retitled his accounts to include her. But the teller was now telling her that he had then been able to close all of those accounts, too, just as he'd closed their joint checking and savings accounts. He'd cleaned her out, monetarily, and it had been completely aboveboard and legal.
It had been completely rotten as well!
But now the teller seemed confused herself. “Well...” she uncertainly drawled and continued to look at Carter. “I suppose it could have been nonconsentual withdrawal on your part.”
“Of course it was nonconsentual!” Sam loudly insisted. All she could think was, Money... gone!
“It's not her fault,” Daniel reminded, speaking to Sam about the teller. Sam just got angrier and angrier by the minute even as he spoke. He knew it was pointless, but said, “Try not to take it out on her.”
Sam ignored what Daniel was saying as she muttered her thoughts aloud, “How did he do this?” She turned her glare on the hapless teller. “That was my life savings, and he took it all! I thought this bank was supposed to have security measures in place so this type of thing didn't happen!”
The teller cringed a bit at Sam's hollering, and Jack found himself reigning in his own anger in order to help Carter control hers. “Carter, this isn't the end... we'll find him.”
Carter huffed. “Not after that jerk spends every last dollar that I ever worked for!”
Suddenly noticing the noise that they were creating, a security guard arrived to stand beside Jack. “Is there a problem here?” he politely asked, but really wanted to just contain this scene before it ballooned out of control.
However, it was already out of control as far as Carter was concerned. “I'll tell you what's wrong!” she yelled at the guard. “My soon-to-be-ex-husband just stole my entire life savings, and you didn't stop him!” Continuing with her tide of fury, she yelled, “How was something like this even allowed to happen?!”
“You have proof of this theft?” the guard asked.
Carter gave an angry huff, and rolled her eyes. “I have empty accounts that I didn't authorize to be closed, that's what!”
The guard instantly tried to calm her down by holding his hands up in a placating gesture. “Maybe you should speak to our bank manager.”
Carter growled low in her throat. “Maybe I should yell at him instead!”
Keeping his voice calm and controlled, the guard went on “Mrs. Shanahan, if you'll just come...”
Carter's eyes blazed. “It's 'Carter,' not 'Shanahan!'” she yelled. “And do you think I would just let my husband take what had been twenty years worth of..? That I would just give it to some jerk who..?” She regarded both the guard and the teller with obvious animosity. “Just because we're getting divorced so that..?” She couldn't go on without cursing, so she stopped speaking. Her hands flew up to land on her hips in a show of stubborn honesty. “I'm not that nice!” she divulged.
“Stay calm, Mrs. Shanahan...” the guard began, aiming for a sound of nonchalance to purposely lower the energy level of this exchange.
“It's Miss Carter!” Sam yelled in aggravation.
Jack knew what the guard was doing, and was going to assist him in helping Carter hold in her emotions, when Daniel spoke to Sam, cutting him off. “Maybe you're looking at this the wrong way.”
That idea brought Carter up short. “What do you mean?” she demanded.
Daniel shrugged. “Well, we just came from your house, which Pete probably cleaned out without your permission,” he pointed out. “Though we don't know for sure it was...”
Carter's eyes snapped fire. “Get to the point, Daniel!” she encouraged.
Daniel quickly said, “We have the suspicions that he's less than an exemplary human; is it possible that he meant to do this?”
Carter was so stunned at that thought that she couldn't say anything.
At the same time, Jack sighed as Carter was trying to visualize what Daniel was suggesting. “I've heard of this type of divorce thing before...”
The guard chimed in with his own opinion of the matter. “You'd be surprised at how often something like this happens.”
Carter growled through her clenched teeth, “If this happens so often - partners stealing money and things from each other - then why doesn't this bank make it harder to close joint accounts?”
Still trying to waylay Carter's genuine anger from showing in a public place for all to see, Jack just as suddenly chimed in, “I didn't behave this way when I got divorced. Isn't it possible that this isn't the norm during a divorce proceeding?”
The guard winced. “It might not be the norm, but it's still more common that one might think.” The guard shrugged. “And if this guy's as untrustworthy as you say he is...” As Daniel made motions of saying again that it might not have been Pete who they'd had trouble with already that day, the guard went on to argue, “Even if it wasn't this soon-to-be-ex-husband of Mrs... Carter's...”
“Miss Carter!” Sam hissed, really irate now.
The guard held up his hand to ward off another one of her tirades. “To Miss Carter,” he obligingly corrected himself. “You say that he already cleaned out your house?”
“It's possible,” Daniel interjected before Sam could say anything.
“It's probable,” Sam growled her correction the second that Daniel finished speaking.
The guard sighed. “Perhaps it's time that we call the police.”
* * *
Lieutenant Albers stared across his notepad at Carter. “Don't worry, Ma'am, we'll find your ex-husband,” he assured.
Carter stood next to him in the bank lobby, a hand on her forehead. She was trying hard to stay in control and not lose her temper again. The hand that Jack continually kept on her lower back seemed to help. (How did he know to do that?) “Pete isn't exactly my ex-husband yet - I have some signed divorce papers, and I plan on signing them myself, and I'll take them to the lawyer that I've always used in the past to file the papers ASAP.” She heaved a disgruntled sigh. “As soon as the paperwork goes through, we'll be divorced - though it won't help in getting my stuff or my money back, will it?” Sam sent a disgruntled expression at the police officer who had been sent to the bank to take a statement from her and her friends.
Lieutenant Albers crossed a 't' and dotted an 'i' as he considered what to tell this irate woman standing before him. He finally decided to say, “I have to tell you, Ma'am, that this isn't the first time that I've heard of something like this happening.”
Carter's eyes shot daggers at him. “That's what the security guard said,” she informed in a low grunt. “Do you both mean that this sort of thing is..?”
“Standard procedure for exes,” Jack flatly remarked.
Albers shot a look at this older man who seemed to be with his client, but wasn't her 'husband' who was soon to be her 'ex-husband.' He sighed and set aside his notebook as he answered his client. “Not exactly standard procedure, no,” he told them. “But I've seen a lot of stuff over the years - been a cop for thirty or so - and the ex thing...” He gave a sad shake of his head.
Carter instantly grew more guarded. “What are you not telling me?” she demanded to know.
Albers went on, “I've seen it so many times... A couple gets married, one partner handles all the financial stuff - usually the male partner - and the female... I mean, the other partner... does what he or she is told to do concerning the financial end of the marriage... They get joint accounts... and the next thing you know, the minute he... or she... hears the word 'divorce,' he... or she... makes off with all the money in the joint accounts... any joint account... stocks, bonds, checking account, savings account, money CDs... You name it - he or she takes all the money, and since it happens before the actual divorce goes through... it's legal. He or she gets away Scott free.”
Carter's face went the white of shock, then the red of fury again crept over it. Both Jack and Daniel knew that this meant that she was going to blow like a lit cigarette thrown on a pile of keroseen-soaked material, and automatically put the appropriate distance between them and the combustive woman.
Yet, the following explosion was relatively mild... considering. “You're saying that he planned to do this?” Carter asked in a hiss through her teeth. “Just like Daniel mentioned before - Pete planned this.”
Albers didn't know the signs of an infuriated Samantha Carter as well as the others did, and just stood where he was and said, “More than likely, yes, this has been planned for awhile, Ma'am.”
Noticing the positions that Jack and Daniel had taken - away from her and her temper - Carter swallowed hard, and reigned in the natural temper tantrum she wanted to throw to come out instead as only a growl set low in her throat. But there was no mistaking the signs of her fury, either.
Albers was going on. “You say that he cleaned out your house, too?”
Carter had to swallow again before she could respond, “We don't know for sure that it was him, but it sure looks like it, if we can go by the fact that he just stole every last dime I've spent twenty years working in the military to earn!” No wonder Pete had insisted on joint accounts for everything if this was what he'd been planning from the beginning. And the cleaned out house she had just come from certainly pointed a finger to the fact that he'd been planning all of this for quite some time. And now he'd disappeared... with her stuff! It was beyond infuriating! Sam growled again at her thoughts.
Albers clearly didn't know what to say to help in calming this irate woman. He settled on snapping his tiny notebook closed, and assuring, “We'll find him, Ma'am.”
* * *
It was on the way back to Daniel's place that Carter suddenly remembered the fact that the dog Pete had gotten was also gone. Though she had never truly been overly fond of that animal - he tended to track mud throughout the house - and to slobber on the carpet - and to beg through every meal, then act affronted when he didn't get as much as he thought he deserved - she didn't want him to be abandoned at the same time. Even that dog didn't deserve that.
But a call to the local pound told Sam that the young dog known as 'Pugs' had been brought in on the fourteenth... and was in the process of being adopted by another family... but since she was the previous owner, did she want to reclaim him? It would cost a twenty dollar fee for the paperwork...
But as Sam had no money now... thanks to that %*#@^%!... and she'd never really liked that dog anyway... and it was in the process of going to a new home with normal kids and normal parents who had normal lives...
Sam gave a rueful grunt - the dog was better off than she was!
* * *
The sound of quiet weeping woke Jack later that night (or the next morning, depending on how you wanted to look at it). He followed the sound through Daniel's darkened house, already noting that Carter had not been beside him in bed like she had when they turned in for the night. As he expected, he found Carter sitting in Daniel's still-darkened living room on his sofa, softly crying her eyes out all by herself.
Without a word, Jack plopped down on the other end of the sofa from Carter, and he waited.
The quiet of the house in the middle of the night continued, broken only by Carter's occasional muffled sobs.
It took about fifteen more minutes, but Carter got herself enough under control to ask Jack in a slightly broken whisper, “Aren't you going to tell me... that Carters don't... cry?”
“Nope,” Jack answered after a beat had gone by. He began to feel the coldness of night, and wished that he'd thought to put on a t-shirt before leaving the bed, but he hadn't, and now he regretted that choice. But he'd been more intent on finding Carter at the time than on his own comfort.
So now shirtless and freezing because of it, but reluctant to return to the bedroom to look after his wardrobe, Jack regarded Carter in the sliver of moonlight that filtered in through the drawn living room window drapes. Before now, it had always driven him nuts that Daniel drew the drapes across the windows, but now that he was sitting here without a shirt and only in his underwear, he was rather glad of the archaeologist's 'no light at night' policy.
“Carter,” Jack now said. “It's freezing - I'm freezing - and I miss you in bed. What are you doing out here all by yourself?”
Carter's answer was prompt, “I'm sitting here crying because that jerk I'm still unfortunately married to just stole everything I've ever worked for, my brother still supports him, even though I called him, like you suggested, and gave him the heads up, and I now have nothing..."
“Not true,” Jack informed her. He turned his head to stare directly at her face as he softly said, “You have me. And I have you... even though I don't officially have you yet... and Shanahan can't steel that...”
Another sob tore out of the typically together Samantha Carter. She placed her hand on Jack's arm, but didn't throw herself into his arms, as he wanted her to do. “I reaaaally appreciate you telling me that, Jack,” she said. “Though I hate to take charity from you and Daniel... you know that about me... the taking charity part...”
Jack interrupted her hesitant speech. “Did you ever consider that, first and foremost, you're our friend? We like helping you when you're down?”
Carter sobbed again.
But Jack went on. “I want to think that...” His voice sounded as if he were uncomfortable, but he forged on. “You would do the same if I was in your position.” Then he considered, “Though I wasn't in your position when I got divorced... and I didn't do to Sara what that bugger brain...” His voice trailed away, and he didn't have to finish his comment.
“I'll find him,” Carter said in a firm, determined voice.
“I know you will,” Jack said as if her finding Pete was a foregone conclusion. “All I ask is that you don't kill him when you find him.” His eyes grew cloudy with his own simmering anger at what Pete had done to his Carter. “Leave some of him alive for when me and Daniel get to him after you do.”
Carter grinned in spite of her tears. “You guys are the best, do you know that?”
Jack had to say a nonchalant, “Yeah, we know.”
Again Carter laughed through her tears.
Jack grabbed a tissue from the box sitting at the side of the sofa, and wiped at her tears. He followed his fingertips with his lips as he kissed her salty tear tracks left behind in spite of his ministrations. “Are you ready to come back to bed and save a General from freezing to death?”
Carter's breath hitched as he kissed her cheeks. “I thought that we already froze in Antarctica, Sir?” she said.
Jack sent her a warm grin. “I thought we could share body heat again, and you can save me from the cold,” he said.
With no further prompting, Sam slid against his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around him. They were quiet for a moment, then she chuckled. “Is that your 'side arm,' Sir?” she cheekily asked, but the sniffle that followed ruined her joke.
Jack replied anyway, “I hope it isn't my side arm in reality.” He shot a critical glance at the boxer shorts he was wearing. “Where would I put it?”
Carter laughed, but when she didn't say anything more for several minutes, Jack finally kissed her on her lips, and the passion that was quick to blossom between them soon had them well heated in even Daniel's cold house. “Can I rip your clothes off now, Carter?” Jack whispered in between kisses.
Samantha Carter, PhD, was reduced to a giggling mass. “I sure hope you do,” she responded with another kiss that just about blew his mind.
They both stood up, Carter's tears forgotten as other, more pressing needs, took her attention. They stumbled to Daniel's spare bedroom as quietly as they could, still kissing those mind-blowing kisses.
“This is so much better than Antarctica!” Jack murmured, softly closing the bedroom door behind them.
* * *
“We'll find him,” Daniel firmly said the next morning to Sam as they ate breakfast at his kitchen table.
Just as the archaeologist spoke, the phone on the dividing wall between his kitchen and his living room rang. Daniel answered it, still chewing his Cheerios. “Daniel Jackson.”
Jack spooned more cereal into his mouth, then made a disgusted face. He played with the Cheerios in his bowl. “Don't you have any real food, Daniel?”
But Daniel wasn't listening to Jack. “Lieutenant Albers... how can I..?”
In the next instant, Daniel excitedly regarded Sam and Jack sitting at the table, watching him speak to the police man. Now, he gushed, “Pete..! They found him!”
* * *
It was a day later when Sam and Vala entered the police station in the town of Utica, New York, the last residence of the man known as 'Pete Shanahan.' As Sam pulled back the second door leading into the building, she turned to her companion and said, “Now you get to see a more seamy side of Earth American culture - that of catching the moronic, double dealing, slimy..!” She stopped herself at the look of surprise on Vala's face. “What?”
Vala shrugged. “Nothing,” she insisted as she caught the door and entered behind her teammate. “It's just that I've never seen this side of you before - this vindictive, angry...
Sam appeared completely unrepentant. “If it bothers you, you can head back to Colorado as soon as...”
Vala smiled her lazy smile. “Sam, Sam, lighten up! I never said that it bothered me. In fact...” And she looked around to make sure that she wasn't being overheard, then lowered her voice anyway. “I'm a bit glad that you have it in you,” she admitted. “I was beginning to think that the tales Daniel has always told about you were true - that you're this genius saint person - it was depressing me to even think of it.”
Vala's comment managed to momentarily make Sam pause in her quest. “He told you that I'm a saint?” she curiously asked.
Vala smiled and tossed her head. “Actually, he said that you're the nicest girl on the whole planet, that you really are a genius, as well as a saint, that you're...” Then she sighed, twirling her hair around her finger. “To be honest, I thought you were one of those girls who are too good to be true.” Then she gave a disarming grin. “It's good to find out that I was wrong.”
Sam let out a strangled, “Oh,” as Vala bounced up to the first desk she came to and requested to speak to a Lieutenant Bakerstone. The man at the desk just pointed towards an office to his back and right. Vala gathered Sam's arm through hers and together, they walked back to the lieutenant's office. (Well, Sam walked - Vala bounced) Once an office door blocked any further movement on their parts, Sam gave the paneled wood an authoritative knock with her right knuckles.
At the yell of, “Come!” that was issued through the door, the two woman entered.
A man peering at the mess on his desk met their immediate entrance into the office. The man's desk reminded Sam somewhat of Pete's desk in his home 'office.' It had been so messy, she didn't know how he ever found anything on it. But he seemed to instinctively know where everything was, and so it seemed did this man. “Lieutenant Bakerstone?” Sam inquired, and when the man nodded, hurried to explain, “I'm Samantha Carter, and this is Vala Mal Doran. We're here from...”
She didn't get any further in her explanation, for the lieutenant finally glanced up from his reading, only to cut her off. “Ah yes, you're from Colorado Springs, here to find a...” He consulted the file before him again, then went on. “A Mr. Pete Shanahan.” At Sam's raised eyebrow at his apparent familiarity with her case, he gave a small shrug, and a grin. “Your Detective Albers just called me fifteen minutes ago, and gave me the heads-up on your case.” Sam at least had to concede that Albers was taking her complaints seriously and being thorough. “So,” Lieutenant Bakerstone went on, “You're looking for a missing husband?”
Sam added, her voice unmistakably acrimonious. “I want to find him so that I can kick his butt - before divorcing him...”
And Vala finished for her. “That's before she gets back all the stuff that he stole from her.” She leaned conspiratorially on the desk towards Bakerstone. “That's the part I'm interested in watching. I want to see how something like this is done on...”
Sam quickly elbowed Vala in her ribs, not being careful about how she did it, either. “Ow!” Vala exclaimed. Then she gave another simpering smile at the lieutenant, who was watching them both with suddenly avid interest. “I'm from... Iceland,” Vala explained, grasping onto the first name of a country that she recalled seeing on the large map hanging in Daniel's SGC lab. “I've always wanted to see an American... divorce... confrontation. We do it so differently where I'm from. It's much less... civilized.”
Sam growled, giving the indication that this coming confrontation was going to be anything BUT civilized. Yet she wisely chose to remain silent, wishing for the hundredth time that Jack had been free to come with her on this trip instead of Vala. He always had a way of calming her that was so instinctive, it was eerie. But Jack had needed to return to DC, and left Sam to follow the lead they had received only the day before from Detective Albers on the one condition that she take a team member along with her on this trip to New York State. As Vala had been the only pseudo-team member available at the time, Sam had reluctantly told the woman what she was about to do, then invited her along 'for moral support.' (Actually, Jack wanted someone along to keep Carter from hurting that weasel Shanahan too badly - he figured that the professed cop would holler 'law suit!' the minute she touched him, and he didn't figure that Carter would appreciate the added burden of defending herself against law hounds just now. He had fully briefed Vala by phone the minute he heard that the alien woman planned to accompany Carter. It was only luck that Carter hadn't discovered even this small interference into her life, or he was sure she would strangle him before wiping the universe with his remains for butting in. But he decided that his worry about Carter superseded his need to remain bodily intact at the moment.)
Vala had jumped at this chance that Sam was offering her to see American justice, domestic style, up close and personal like this. Still, Sam grouchily admitted to herself that she already missed Jack's calming good sense and surprising emotional control during this jaunt out East.
Completely unaware of the thoughts going through Sam's mind, Lieutenant Bakerstone smiled at them both, showing what turned out to be his rather grim take on his client's impending... confrontation. “So this Shanahan... He's a bad seed, I take it?” he asked Sam.
Sam grimaced, then honestly told him, “You may need to handcuff me in order to keep me from cutting him up into tiny pieces when we find him.”
Bakerstone actually let out a loud guffaw when he heard Sam's statement. “That's what I love about this job,” he said. “Real, lowdown, gritty justice to the seamiest of the seamy - the EX!”
Sam's grimace deepened as she clarified, “My soon-to-be ex who also happens to have stolen my entire life.” Her voice was conversational, but the firmness in her tone belied the calm sound, reminding her listeners that she fully intended to cut Pete down to size the minute she saw him.
Bakerstone rose from his chair, grabbing his suit jacket as he headed for the door. “Ah, yes... Albers warned me that I might want to handle this case with some care,” he informed, also conversational. Then he looked back at Sam and Vala, and grinned. “But I've been through the divorce ringer myself - and I have to tell you that this is one of my secret thrills.”
Sam and Vala shared a grim smile, then followed the lieutenant out of his office so that he could take them to the work place just rented by a Pete Shanahan.
* * *
Sam climbed out of the patrol car that Lieutenant Bakerstone had used to drive them to the offices of, ironically enough, the Carter and Shanahan Law Practice. Sam let her gaze slowly peruse the front of the single-level brick building that was near the interstate, but hidden from the noisy nearby highway by a clump of Sycamore trees. Sam took a deep breath, trying to calm the surge of anger that she felt course through her at the sight of the snug building. So this is what my money was for? she thought to herself. She let her gaze roam over the new looking red bricks, the carefully sculpted bushes near the front door, the artfully arranged trees that sublimely shaded the lawn that wound down a slope towards the parking lot.
As Sam gazed, her grimness grew until her face was dropping into a frown. Law my ass, she thought to herself in a sudden blaze of fury at the man's audaciousness at having her money on display in a perfect facade meant to lend him credibility. Though she had to admit that the law, the office building, everything... It was all the perfect cover for him - who would expect someone who was running from the law to embrace that same sense of justice in order to 'help' other individuals fight their own law battles? Seemingly helping other people was just low-key enough for Pete to actually get away with the hiding that he was currently doing.
Though (and Sam's brow wrinkled for just a minute at this thought) it had been surprisingly simple for a CS Detective to track him down. A shiver of doubt crawled up Sam's spine when she thought of that argument, but she refused to let it settle into her mind. They had simply gotten a break, she resolutely told herself. Pete had been overconfident after the way had had successfully bamboozled Samantha Carter, and he had gotten careless - that's why they found him. It wasn't her fault that the detective assigned to her case was just as good, if not better, at detective work than her slimy, no good, rotten..!
With that, Sam slammed the car door shut, ready to confront this lawyer with every iota of hurt anger that she could dredge up. She would show him! That..!
Mindful of General O'Neill's 'orders,' Vala grabbed hold of Sam's arm in a silent reminder to stay in control of herself as they followed Bakerstone into the air-conditioned building.
A pleasant waiting room greeted them. There were two loveseats done in warm material waiting for them, the obvious 'new furniture' smell permeating the room. Fake plants sat in two of the room's four corners, and the rest of the room was furnished with a low coffee table stained in a deep welcoming mahogany finish, as well as a side table that matched the coffee table. The antique armoire that filled up the opposite corner offered either magazines or hot beverages on its shiny, dust-free, surface. All that new or antique furniture fairly oozed a wealthy welcome.
As did the secretary seated behind a ridiculously large mahogany computer desk. File cabinets rested within easy reach of the secretary's rolling chair, and more fake greenery decorated the area directly behind the desk. The 'fake' status of the office plants was denied as the woman turned towards them, watering can in hand, as soon as Sam cleared her throat in order to get the woman's attention.
The secretary smiled a smile so big that it should have been immortalized on TV. “Can I help you?” she simpered, her gaze mostly on the lieutenant as she smiled. She set down her watering can to pay him even closer attention.
Following the woman's sight, Sam quickly sized up this woman's gameplan - make the man of the party happy, and everyone is happy. It was all Sam could do not to flatten the woman where she sat. Instead, she roughly cleared her throat a second time, this gesture more harshly grating on the ears of her listeners than even the one before had been. Successful in her bid to 'persuade' the woman that it would be more beneficial to her to pay attention to the entire group before her rather than just the law man, Carter replied, “We're here to see...” She swallowed a sudden impulse to curse. “To see... Mr. Shanahan,” she managed to grind out without saying anything more.
“Of course,” the woman said to them, her simpering smile still firmly in place. “Do you have an appointment?”
Sam's only response was to lean onto the woman's desk rather than simply answering her question, her intent clearly hostile. Her patience level already severely tested, she said in her best 'Don't screw with me!' voice, “Lady, get Mr. Shanahan out here in two seconds, or this nice friendly police man will be seeing a lot of you as we cart your bony ass off to prison.”
The secretary's eyes widened. She was clearly thinking that Sam was one of 'those' clients. “Name please?” she requested, her eyes now riveted to Sam.
But by then, Vala had yanked Sam back and whispered into her ear, “General O'Neill will kill me if I let you kill anyone here... although I liked the 'bony ass' comment. Very 'butch.'” For a moment, she looked like she wondered just what that word meant. But then she brightened, smiled, and patted Sam confidently on the arm. “Just let me handle things.”
She unceremoniously pushed Sam even farther back to stand with Bakerstone, then smiled winningly at the secretary. “Thank you so much,” she gushed, still smiling. “Please forgive my friend... she's a little too likely to say anything that comes to her clever little mind.” Then she grew secretive as she confidently leaned towards the secretary to explain, “She's a little high right now... it's why we have the nice police person here... to make sure she behaves... We just need a moment of Mr. Shanahan's time.”
The secretary seemed much more complacent at Vala's words, while at the same time, much more confused. But it was as if now that she knew things weren't going to escalate out of control, she enjoyed playing the role of submissive underling in this law office drama. (It must have been a boring work day so far Vala surmised).
“Of course,” the secretary gushed after Vala's spoken query. “A little... high.” She eyed Sam as she said it. Sam simply glared back. The secretary went on, “I'll page Mr. Shanahan now - I believe he's right in between his many appointments today...” Her finger went to a button on the phone in front of her, but she was cut off from completing her task when a man perfunctorily stepped out of an office behind her and strode towards them across the expanse of carpet. He didn't look up, but continued to bend his head over the file in his hands as he avidly read through it.
“Miss Travers, I need you to get the Carlos deposition for me, and the wristwatch, number 2214, for me from the evidence room, so that we can hand it over to the police when they get here.” He gave the file he was holding to the woman behind the desk, glancing up as he did so, spotting the three visitors standing in his waiting room, eyeing mostly the man bearing the police badge on his jacket. “Wow - here already? That was fast.”
“Oh, Mr Shanahan, I'm glad you came out just now,” the secretary expostulated. “These people need just a moment of your time, and I know that you're busy, but...”
The man gave them all the once over with his gaze. “So... not here for the evidence?”
Bakerstone shook his head. “No.”
“No,” the lawyer repeated after him in a voice of finality. He then turned his abrupt smile on them all, and shoved his hand artfully in his suit coat pocket, a move that seemed planned from the first (as a show of setting them at ease- Sam figured.) If so, it only succeeded in irritating Sam even more. She almost growled.
Oblivious, he continued to smile. “Then, how can I help you?” he pleasantly inquired.
Bakerstone asked his own question. “Are you... “ He consulted his ever-present file again. “... a Mr... Pete Shanahan?”
The man in the suit nodded and removed his hand from his suit pocket in order to shake the lieutenant's. “What can I do for you?” His shake of Sam and Vala's hands was surprisingly firm.
Sam looked onto his black curly haired form with widened eyes. “You're Pete Shanahan?” she disbelievingly asked, her eyes widening.
The lawyer nodded once. “Sure I'm Pete Shanahan,” the man said in a friendly voice. “I just moved here from Oregon. This is our first week in operation. Welcome.” He threw his arms out in a gesture that encompassed the entire office building.
As shivers of astonishment rippled across Carter's face, Bakerstone kept his cool, and simply eyed the man in the dark suit standing before them. “Can I see some identification?” he asked, and when the lawyer complied to show them the Oregon driver's license in his wallet, turned to Sam Carter and asked,
“Is this the same guy you know?”
Sam's eyes widened as she stared. “No,” she whispered in shock. “This isn't... isn't the... man... I...” Her voice trailed away for a moment as Sam looked horrified, and the real Pete Shanahan simply stared.
Bakerstone struggled to remain in control of this collapsing situation. “Are you sure this isn't him?” he softly asked Sam in a composed voice.
Sam stared again at the curly-haired man who spoke with an twanging accent in complete astonishment. This wasn't Pete... not her Pete...
Numbness overtook her in spite of the way she was trying with all her might to hold it back. Swallowing, still trying to fight off the vertigo that also washed over her body in waves, Sam tried to grasp at what this revelation truly meant.
It meant... Sam could barely think of what it meant. It meant that Pete wasn't Pete. He had set her up. Right from the beginning, from the moment they'd met. He had set Mark up. He'd had to - she had a hard time believing that Mark had introduced his sister to... what did she call her Pete?... to a con artist.
A con artist who had calmly gone about the business of courting her in a way that he had somehow known she'd instantly respond to, had married her, and eventually had stolen her entire life, all for... Sam didn't know what it was for.
But Sam did know in one instant that she had been played. She - the genius behind the fact that Earth was even able to dial the Stargate to other worlds (even if she hadn't exactly figured out how the Stargate worked in the first place) she had fallen for Pete's extended line of... for years...
This purposely stealing somebody's identity was something that she hadn't bargained for. As a reaction, her stomach started roiling like a boat in a wild storm at sea, the bile in her throat threatening to cause her to lose her breakfast. She quickly swallowed a second time, then definitively whispered, “No, he's not the right man - at all.” She blinked through a fog of amazement. “I've never seen this man before in my life.”
At her words, a lull settled over those standing in the waiting room. Sam continued to gaze at the new Pete Shanahan in morbid fascination. Bakerstone blinked his own eyes, his gaze swinging wildly from Shanahan to Sam and back again.
It was Vala who broke through the pall of shock that mantled those in the waiting room. Confused, she turned to Sam and said, “If this isn't Pete Shanahan...” Then she corrected herself, “The Pete Shanahan that you knew...” She turned to regard her two companions. “Then who was he?”
TBC in: Carter's Goose is REALLY Cooked
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