Disclaimer: I need money for Christmas - if so, then obviously, writing fanfiction stories is not what I should be doing...

'Threads' of Vision

by Linda Bindner

A/N A brief synopsis so far: The 'Threads' Communication Series:

story one - Mark and Carter have a conversation on the phone

story two - Mark and Jack have a conversation on the phone

story three - an email conversation with very unusual consequences

story four - Carter receives a concussion when she interrupts a

  meeting between Jack and the VP (Kinsey). She then spends

  time in ICU while Jack anxiously waits for her to wake up

This story is Part Five in 'The 'Threads' Communication Series'

A/N 2: Thanks to Pauline for story ideas

Sam slowly awoke the next morning, completely alone, and didn't have a clue as to where she was. The fact that she saw two rooms wherever she looked, due to the double vision that she was suffering from along with the headache to beat all headaches, didn't help. She was busy trying to remember if the images that kept flashing through her mind of her slurring 'Love ya' to General O'Neill, and him saying basically the same thing back to her was a bazaar dream that she'd had during the night, or a very fuzzy reality. As she pondered, a female nurse bustled into the room. Or at least it was a person dressed in medical scrubs, so Sam assumed she was staring at one... or two... nurse(s).

Sam hoped that she might get some answers out of the nurse since there was no one else in the room - if General O'Neill had indeed been there earlier, he was gone now. (Though Sam thought she occasionally caught the slightest whiff of his special scent still clinging to the air)

Still sniffing appreciatively, she turned to quizzically stare at the nurse. Where... am... I? she asked, having to speak slowly, as it felt as if her mouth was full of cotton.

The nurse smiled. You're at County General Hospital in Washington DC, on the Neurology floor. You've been in the Intensive Care Unit for a day, but late yesterday afternoon, the doctor let you move here. She grinned again. You have quite a concussion, Lieutenant Colonel Carter. You're really very lucky that you didn't suffer worse.

Sam's hands rose to her aching head, as if that would help her hold the pain at bay for a minute, and she slowly asked her next question. Wh..? What... happened? She searched her mind for her own answer, but only came up with a memory of the sensation of something heavy slamming into her from behind.

The nurse's smile turned wry. You had a close encounter with a conference room table, and the table won. If it hadn't been for the quick thinking of your husband, you might not be in the relatively good shape that you now are.

Sam was slow to react to the nurse's explanation. Husband? What husband? Was she speaking of General O'Neill? Suddenly Sam took in a gasped breath - had she gotten married lately, and her head injury somehow kept her from remembering it? My what? she choked, blinking.

But the strange nurse was already checking her vital statistics, and Sam's hushed message didn't penetrate her concentration.

Do you feel up to eating breakfast? the nurse next asked Sam, still not responding to her previous question.

Uh... no, Sam said, easily distracted from her question as to having a husband suddenly thrust on her. The idea... of eating... is gross. The most she could say at any one time, apparently, was just a few words. She assumed that it was some residual side effect of the concussion that she had. Yet she was too distracted to ask about it just now.

The nurse smiled again. Your appetite will slowly return as soon as the headache begins to dissipate, which should be in just a few hours. Your eyesight will return to normal as well.

Yeah, Sam agreed. I've been... through this... before.

You've had a concussion before? the nurse politely inquired.

Immediately images of her time spent on The Prometheus came to mind, and Sam grimaced. Oh yeah, she said with a sense of finality.

The nurse smiled again (Did she ever do anything but smile, for crying out loud?) Then she patted Sam on her leg underneath the blanket. I brought a painkiller with me, just in case you'd need it - it's obvious that your head hurts you quite a bit. With that, she carefully inserted a needle into Sam's IV line, squirted some medicine into the IV, and smiled encouragingly at Sam the entire time. (Sam, in the meantime, saw two nurses smiling at her, and winced). She removed the needle, then calmly walked out the door, leaving Sam alone to her questions, her headache, and two of everything that she looked at.

Sam must have fallen asleep again, for the next thing that she knew, it was 1100 hours, and the tentative knock on her door that woke her once more also alerted her to the start of visiting hours.

Halloo, called a male voice, and suddenly Daniel stuck his head around the edge of her room's door.

Daniel! Sam cried, a bit on the surprised side. Actually, she was just as surprised that there seemed to be two of him, in spite of the obvious lessening of her headache. What are you doing... in DC? She was pleased to note that her speech had broadened until she was able to vocalize several more words before she had to take a breath. (Had she, perhaps, also cracked or broken some of her ribs when she was getting cozy with that table, too? Broken ribs would easily account for her difficult time with her breathing. But it was difficult to tell if her ribs hurt - everything hurt!)

Unaware of Sam's mental wanderings, Daniel answered her earlier question with an accompanying hint of embarrassment. Actually, Sam, us being here in DC is a bit of a funny story.

Sam gave Daniel a quizzical stare. Us?

But now there seemed to be four of Daniel, not just two, as the archaeologist sauntered into Sam's room. She blinked, and the four Daniels suddenly morphed into two Daniels and two... Mark! What the..? The 'us' that Daniel had mentioned?

Hey, Sampster! Mark enthusiastically but quietly exclaimed. Thought we'd drop by to see you while we're in the area.

Sam willed them to explain their presence in her room with just her expression.

Mark instantly pointed out her irritation and said, Now, that's the look that she used to give me right before Dad always made me wax the car as punishment for something I'd done... you know, 'Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off. And he did swishing motions with his hand as he spoke. Then he continued. Sam had the 'exasperated' look down so much better than Dad. In fact...

How ya feeling, Sam? Daniel guiltily inquired next, cutting Mark's reminiscences off while he was still in mid thought.

Guilty? Why should Daniel be feeling guilty? But Sam answered, My head hurts. Take a breath. Go on, I see two of each... of you. Breath. The idea of... eating makes... me sick. Then she shrugged. Otherwise, I feel alright.

Mark grimaced this time as well. Um... Well, we have a confession to make.

Yeah, Daniel quickly seconded.

Sam wasn't really in the mood for sudden bedside confessions - she'd rather sleep... Okay... what? she grumbled, already beginning to succumb to the lure of her drooping eyelids.

The next thing that Daniel said woke her up again, however. We faked that last e-mail that you thought you got from Jack. He never proposed.

He hadn't? Then, what..? Sam gave a jerk, and stared at Daniel, all too aware of a sudden engulfing disappointment that shot through her chest. She abruptly felt about 100 pounds heavier. What... do you... mean? she asked with a furrowed brow.

Mark went on with the confession. We never thought that this would happen, though! he protested with a general wave in her direction.

No, we didn't, not in a million years! Daniel continued. We had no idea about the Vice President being in a meeting with Jack, honest! His voice sounded slightly panicked now. His Secret Service guys even being there was a total wild card!

Totally! Mark emphatically agreed.

We had no idea one of them would attack you! Daniel went on.

Sam held up her hand in the 'wait' command. They were talking too fast for her to keep up. Both men ceased speaking as she gathered her thoughts in complete silence. Finally Sam was able to ask, You did... what?

We faked your last e-mail message, Daniel apologetically said again, more slowly and distinctly. Jack never proposed.

Sam's heart again swooped to her toes at those words before she could properly ponder what her friend had confessed. But this time, her reaction to his news left her angry rather than distressed, and she lifted her eyes to glare at him. I checked that e-mail, she argued. That part, I... remember quite well.

Daniel seemed to squirm at the side of her bed. Yyyyyyeah, he hesitantly agreed. But you only checked the first command level, he told her, still in that same guilty tone.

There is only... one level, Sam said to him.

Nnnnnnot.... exactly, Daniel then replied. Not when someone reprograms the computer to create another, hidden level of command code.

Again Sam turned her glare on him. What do you... mean?

It was Mark who replied this time. It means that we called up my department's computer expert... and 'expert' is the right word for him - Honestly, Sam, he's at least as good as you are. And he... he... sort of... helped us to...

Daniel finished Mark's comment by saying, He helped us to sabotage you.

Sam stared, uncomprehending. Sabotage?

Now Daniel looked sheepish as well as guilty. Yeah... I wrote that last paragraph about the marriage proposal.

Mark added his two cent's worth. And my computer guy helped me to help him... And he pointed to Daniel. Help him to bury where the mail was really coming from, and to send it.

Sam continued to stare at the two contrite men standing before her bed, her mind not quite grasping on to what Mark was saying. No ... e-mail? she was finally able to verbalize.

Daniel shook his head. No, not from Jack, he specified. I wrote it. Then his eyes widened in horror. I mean, we said that it head been sent from Jack... 'cause we both think that Jack and you should talk. I just wrote that e-mail...

Mark added, And I sent it... sort of.

No..? Sam struggled not to show the disappointment that she still felt as she began to get a better picture of what had transpired. So... no e-mail... no proposal... Then she felt like such a pathetic nerd when she inquiringly asked Daniel to confirm her suspicions of this situation, all the while hoping that he would tell her the opposite. Then... no Jack?

Daniel was quick to assure, Oh, there's a Jack alright. His voice was firm for the first time since entering the room, as if he were finally certain of some information that he was imparting.

Sam sent her critical, and confused, gaze over Daniel again. Jack... the General... was here?

Daniel nodded. All day yesterday. And half of last night. He told us that he wouldn't even go when they tried to kick him out.

Mark added, He said that he was scared that you would wake up alone this morning.

Which is exactly what had happened anyway. She hadn't even known where she was. She only knew that she had flown heedlessly to DC, waited for Jack at his office for an hour, got tired of waiting, saw his paranoid numbering system for where his meetings were located written in the secretary's day calendar when she was busy at the copy machine, unscrambled his code, walked to the correct conference meeting room, interrupted the meeting, caught a fleeting glimpse of the Vice President, and just as the thought Crap, that's the VP had flashed through her mind, she was hit from behind, pitched forward... and woke up here in the hospital.

The VP... the VP had been there... How much trouble... am I in? Sam next demanded to know.

Daniel shrugged. None, that I know of. Jack might be able to tell you more later today - he went to his office to work this morning, but he'll be back for lunch, Daniel explained.

Sam took a sudden deep breath... or tried to... as she remembered something else. That reminds me... She wriggled on her bed. The nurse... this morning said... something about... me having a... husband?

Yeah, Jack, Daniel said matter-of-factly.

Sam's eyebrows shot up to meet her hair. Jack's my... what? she faintly asked. She didn't recall getting married sometime along with her headfirst plunge into the conference room table. Was she forgetting something as crucial as her own wedding?

Daniel and Mark laughed the same chuckle at the same time as a horrified look consumed Sam's face. But they were assuming that her look was horrified at the thought of gaining a husband, not at the thought that she had forgotten her own wedding.

Are you wetting yourself yet? Mark ribbed as he patted her leg through the blanket. Jack said that you would when you found out.

Sam's eyebrows were still up. So Jack... Then her attention momentarily turned inward. Last night... It wasn't... a dream? Or was it? She continued to mumble as she frantically searched her memory. Her eyes widened, throwing all the doubles that she was seeing into sharp relief.

Daniel was the confused one now. Was what a dream? he bluntly asked.

Sam still searched inwardly. Then she hesitantly said, Jack and I... talked last... But I was so... drugged up that I... thought it wasn't real.

Talked? Daniel then quizzed. What did you say?

Sam instantly replied, None of your... business.

That statement made Daniel's eyebrows raise this time. I see, he softly said.

Mark instantly wheedled, Come on, Sampster, you're only here because of us - you can tell us.

Sam shot him a thoroughly disgusted look. 'None of your... business' means none... of your... business.

Mark looked at her decisively. You know, he thoughtfully said after studying her for a moment. It's amazing how much irritation, and downright...

Annoyance, Daniel firmly said.

Mark continued without a pause, ... that Sam can communicate through just one look.

Suddenly Sam was moving that concentration that Mark was pseudo complimenting from the external world of her brother and Daniel's comments to an internal world, where she was abruptly finding it far more difficult to breathe. She would have smiled in thanks to Mark for illuminating her personality as precisely as he'd been able to do, but it was getting so hard just to draw a breath, and a smile was a gesture that took energy away from her concentration on breathing to produce. Quite suddenly, even as she thought she was getting better at breathing with each breathe she drew, her chest now grew tight just as quickly.

I've never had trouble breathing with a concussion before, she puzzled. For a second, she considered that this concussion-by-table was different than her other concussions had been before, but that nurse who had stopped in her room just that morning hadn't said that she had any particularly special kind of concussion. She'd only said that Sam had a concussion. End of story. Nothing special about it.

But now there was definitely something 'special about it.' Sam would have taken the time to examine the way her chest felt pained, as if the depression she had felt ever since Daniel and Mark had confessed their part in Jack's bogus proposal had reached up its oily claw to enveloped her lungs as well as her heart, but she just didn't have the time. She could feel the thump of blood rushing passed her ear with each beat of her heart, but she was also aware that that beat was becoming slower, more sluggish with each passing second.

As suddenly as her attention had moved inward, now she looked at Daniel with a distressed expression, watching as he continued to speak to her and to Mark, yet unable to make out just what he was saying.

Then Daniel suddenly turned his head towards the door, as if someone had knocked on the wood and the archaeologist was waiting for someone to poke a head into the room a second later. And right on cue, the door opened, and Jack stuck the right half of his body into the room, looking as if he wanted to visit, but didn't have the time to stay. Sam watched him glance at Mark, then at Daniel, say something, laugh, then throw his gaze her way. She saw his mouth move, saying words that she couldn't hear any longer, and she struggled to draw one more breath into her heaving chest. What was wrong with her? She had hit her head - she shouldn't be having such trouble with her breathing.

Sam was aware enough to see Jack's expression quickly drop from his laughing, sardonic gesture to one more serious and concerned. The thump of her labored heart beat sounded again in her ears instead of his sudden yell for help into the corridor that she could see, but couldn't hear.

Breathe! Dammit, breath! Either those words actually ran through her mind, or Sam physically heard someone say them: she wasn't sure. Darkness began to beckon to her, encroaching slowly but steadily towards her. She fought it off, screamed against it in her mind, forcing the suffocating darkness away from her with a mighty shove. She looked towards Jack as he turned back into the room, her mind begging for help, for anything.

But it wasn't her fate just then to remain conscious. She gave one last desperate gasp, pushed once more, but had to concede defeat. A second later, the world receded to the comfort of the encroaching black. The last thing she was aware of was Jack's anxious face.

* * *

She was also suddenly aware that she was alive and breathing. Well, this was a surprise.

Sam took a sweet, deep breath, feeling her lungs swell with air, and she reveled in the sensation for a moment, thrilled that she could once again do something as simple, as taken for granted, as draw a deep breath of air.

When she woke up, she woke slowly. First, she let her eyelids flutter just a bit. Next, she squirmed a tiny amount in her bed, letting herself feel the smooth sheets beneath her. Next, she felt the weight of the sheets and blankets on her toes. She wanted to give in to that pull of weight, but it was not to be... at least, not right now.

She's coming round, Sam heard a voice say, one that unmistakably belonged to her team mate, Daniel. He sounded slightly worried, and relieved at the same time. The odd combination made his voice crack.

A growl came from her left, close to her ear. You've said that two times already. General O'Neill, without a doubt.

Jack was here? The cloying darkness wasn't such an attractive thing all of a sudden.

Sam heard a third male voice inquire, You guys are so calm - does this sort of thing happen often?

Sam heard someone chuckle, then answer, With Carter, not so often. With Daniel? All the time.

Hey! came the outraged reply. That's not true!

Jack snorted. The fact that it's Carter lying here on this bed and not you is really an unusual miracle.

Another snort followed this statement, and Sam imagined that she heard a huff come from Daniel's general direction. But he didn't respond in any other way, leaving her free to concentrate again on waking up more fully.

A second later, Daniel broke the silence one more time. Did you see that? Tell me you saw that this time, or...

Daniel's voice trailed off as Jack teased, Or what, Daniel? Or you'll actually marry the next unknown girl who declares her undying love for you?

Daniel, when he spoke, sounded far less certain of himself than he had before. Well... I'll... be more willing to marry her, he said at last. I know what I saw, though: fluttering lids. I don't think there's a wedding in my immediate future.

Not yet, came the ominous caveat from Jack.

Sam heard another breath expelled from the archaeologist's direction, and she debated with herself whether or not to wake and save Daniel from an uncertain future with his unknown, but inevitable, girl, or should she slip once again back into unconsciousness?

But then she felt it - the feather light touch of a finger that had the definite smell attached to it that let her irrevocably know who it belonged to: Jack was just barely running his finger alongside her face. Most of his touch landed on her pillow, but at least some of it soothed the nerves in her cheek. Come on, wakey, wakey, Carter, he ordered in a short, almost bedroom, whisper.

Sam moaned - this isn't playing fair, she thought. With an internal grimace directed to him and to her, Sam's eyelids fluttered a second time, her lashes scraping her cheeks.

Then the soft second was over. This time, Daniel inelegantly reached over and bodily lifted her eyelids with his mission-roughened fingertips. You're not fooling us, Sam, he stated. You're wide awake and pretending to be asleep while listening to us make fools of ourselves. And he let her lids drop again.

But it's so much fun, Sam groused to herself.

Let her have her fun, Daniel, came Jack's voice again, gently remonstrating their friend.

But Daniel would have none of it. Come on, guys, we know she's awake; she knows she's awake. He whispered to Sam, Open up your blue eyes for me, Sam, come on.

Then, in her left ear, Sam just barely caught the even softer whispered words, Do it for me, as Jack leaned over her.

Not waiting a second longer, Sam opened her eyes, blinked twice, focused... and saw two of each man anxiously peering down at her like she was going to explode at any moment.

Hi, she said, sleep still coloring her voice.

Hi, Jack said back to her, his face now displaying one of his rare smiles given just for her.

With waking came a multitude of questions tumbling through her mind. What had happened? Why was she here, in bed? Why had she been unable to breath before, and why could she breath now?

What..? she croaked, raising her hand unencumbered by the IV line to her aching forehead.

She didn't finish her question, but Jack seemed to know what she was asking anyway. Your lung had collapsed, he explained. Your other lung couldn't keep up with the amount of oxygen that you needed, and that caused a panic attack, which caused your lung even more distress, which caused even more panic, which caused... You would call it two 'exponential medical events,' he nonchalantly said. I just call it all a collapsed lung. The room was a beehive of activity for awhile. The white coats threw us all out.

And boy, did Jack not like that! Daniel informed.

Jack still acted as if he didn't like what was happening in the hospital room. Who's telling this story? he crankily asked Daniel.

Daniel made a gesture that Jack should continue, and Sam giggled at her friend's teasing motions.

Thank you, Jack growled, still slightly put out at Daniel. Now, where was I?

Mark responded, Her lung had collapsed, and the other one had partially collapsed. He gave a grin that indicated that he thought the antics of the two men he was with were amusing, even if he had a hard time following those same antics.

Right, Jack instantly said.

Sam's brow furrowed. Shouldn't have that showed up on an x-ray from yesterday... or something? she queried.

You'd think so, Mark stated before anyone else could say something first.

Jack now jumped back into the conversation. There was no x-ray from yesterday. Then he corrected himself, Well, there was, but it was of your head, not your... and he gestured at her lungs via her chest area. Then he continued, attempting to alleviate his obvious discomfort at indicating Carter's chest. We were all worried about your head injury, if it was permanent, if there was extraneous damage, and what that could be. He sighed. They ran MRIs... CAT scans... palpated your irises every ten minutes. No one thought to look to see what other damage Mr. Not-so-tiny gave to you, beyond the first examination the EMTs gave you.

Sam tried to imagine what kind of concern Jack must have been dealing with the day before, when Daniel suddenly spoke again. Someone should shoot Kinsey, he helpfully suggested.

I'll second that, Jack happily agreed. But you could probably predict that I might say that.

Does he have a thing for you? Mark next flippantly asked of Jack.

But it was Daniel who replied, Kinsey has always had a 'thing' for Jack.

Sam now piped up for the first time since this conversation began, Yeah, a bad 'thing.

You might say he would be pleased to see me booted into orbit, Jack casually agreed, then he just as casually continued, But my boots are bigger than his are, and I'll make sure that I beat him to that 'booting,' if it ever comes about.

Maybe we can just give him my headache and be done with it. Sam was still trying not to be so thrilled that she could now breathe. She wasn't succeeding very well.

Jack grinned again, this time in affectionate appreciation. Head hurt that bad? he softly asked of her.

Wow, she loved it when he grinned! Sam felt her insides slosh together in spite of her headache. Yes, was all she said as she rubbed dispiritedly at her forehead and temples.

Jack turned to Mark and Daniel. Hey guys, since Carter's awake again and everything, why don't you two head to the cafeteria for lunch, but tell the nurse to bring in some painkillers for Carter on your way out. I'll sit here until she falls asleep or throws up, whichever comes first.

Instead of looking grateful for Jack's magnanimous suggestion, Daniel frowned. He rose, but frowned even more as he went. You just want to be alone with Sam... we know when we're being dismissed.

And I'll put you on report if you don't get out of here, Jack seconded. I have something that I want to say to Carter, and I don't want you two lovebirds to comment on it just yet.

Daniel's frown increased. Jack, I'm a civilian - you can't put me 'on report.'

Won't stop me from trying, Jack shot back at him in a less than friendly tone. Now get out of here before you also feel the powers of my boots. He looked down at the dress shoes he was wearing that matched his dress uniform, and winced. He changed his comment to say, Er... my shoes will have to do the booting. Now go.

Daniel gestured Mark to follow him. Come on, Mark, we can think of ways to bore Jack to death next time that we see him.

Jack immediately riposted, You two have done enough damage for one trip!

Next trip, came Daniel's glib response.

Sam giggled again, but giggling made her head hurt, so she instantly stopped.

Mark patted her on her leg in a rare brotherly show of affection. Glad that you're awake and okay, he simply said, then followed Daniel out of the room in search of the floor nurse and a request for a painkiller for Sam.

Silence settled onto the room the second the door closed behind them. Jack sighed in the sudden quiet.

Sam wondered why he sounded so... sad. It wasn't as if his head hurt!

Jack... all two of him... turned to her with that sense of sadness now becoming more like determination. Here, he softly said first, and reached out to rub at her temples.

Sam moaned her appreciation as his fingers touched her skin. Wow, she groaned. Why does that feel so much better when you do it than when I do? she rhetorically asked.

Jack continued to rub, but murmured, I don't know how much time we have until Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide return. Sam helplessly giggled again, but Jack went on, So I'll just come right out and ask. He took a steadying breath, then in a fashion that was very unlike his more normal method of avoiding emotional subjects like the bubonic plague, blurted out, How much do remember from last night, Carter?

Surprised at his brusque inquiry, Sam tried to order her thoughts. Well, that depends, she quantified.

Oh? He sounded nervous now. On what?

Sam hesitated. On... She drew the word out as she thought. Finally she turned to stare at his concerned face. Was it a dream? she quietly asked.

But Jack wanted to make sure of just what she was asking. Was what a dream?

Sam drew her own deep breath, and shyly said, The part where I... She grimaced. But this was why she was even in DC, she reminded herself. She'd been in such a hurry to get here that she hadn't thought much about what it would be like to be sitting next to him, having 'the conversation' that had been avoided at all costs for eight years.

But it was as if so much had happened to both of them by now that Sam grew tired of all that waiting in one nanosecond. Did I... say... that I...? she began to hesitantly ask.

Yes, you did, Jack rapidly replied, not giving her time to complete her inquisition, as if he instinctively knew what she was asking. Did you mean it? he blurted.

Yes, she blurted right back, her heart once again doing the Rumba in her chest.

Jack's rubbing paused, just for a few seconds as another smile slowly blossomed across his face. Good, he finally stated, being happily vague, as was typical for him. Sam wished that she could focus on the expression in his eyes, but it was too difficult for her to focus on four eyes all at once. In any event, Jack's rubbing continued, but so did his smile... s. In fact, it... they... increased. Very good!

Sam blushed at his blatant remark, and had something to say poised on the tip of her tongue, but was cut off when a knock suddenly sounded on the door.

Jack frowned. It's too early for the guys to be back already.

Sam frowned as well, mentally thinking that he was correct, and trying hard not to get too annoyed with this interruption of their conversation... yet again. In as even a voice as she could manage when she was actually busy smelling Jack's skin, she called, Come in! in the direction of the still closed door.

A nurse popped her head through the partially opened door. I'm not disturbing you, am I? she asked, smiling at the way that Jack was leaning so close to Carter in her bed that he had to back up or risk falling over in order to crane his neck around to see her.

No, you're not interrupting - come on in, Sam said, painstakingly aware that hers and Jack's conversation wasn't really over, but determined to be polite.

The nurse bounced in, the name tag she was wearing on a string around her neck bounding with her. She crossed to the bed, all the while holding what Sam recognized as a medical file folder in her hand. As she studied it intently, she said, Miss... Colonel... Carter, I was hoping that you could explain for me a few of the things in here that we've all been discussing on the floor, and none of us can come to a consensus on what we're looking at. Perhaps there's some sort of medical history going on here that we're not aware of. Then she pulled a piece of paper from the file, and handed it to Sam. You're looking at your original hematology report... fancy words for 'blood test,' she informed. Maybe you can tell us what... this anomaly is. And she pointed to the chemical makeup for...

Crap, thought Sam, that's naqueda.

That's classified, Jack said as he leaned over Carter on her bed and stared at the report in her hand, instantly recognizing the formula.

The nurse pierced Jack with her narrowed eyes. How can blood be classified?

Well, Sam tried to answer her question and sound intelligent at the same time. We have strange jobs - that sometimes makes us come in contact with classified agents.

That infiltrate your entire system through your blood? the nurse asked - Matilda Ferril, according to her nametag. How is that possible? And she grimaced in the direction of her patient and the man whom she knew as Sam's husband.

Sam blanched. You have no idea, she muttered in the nurse's general direction.

Matilda Ferril then pulled another page out of the file in her hand. I suppose this is classified, too? she sarcastically inquired, and handed the page on to Sam.

Sam took it, but her heart sank as soon as she looked at it. This is from...? She wasn't sure what she was staring at... all two pieces of paper.

That's today's hematology report, Matilda Ferril responded. And here's that weird stuff that you say is classified, and she pointed to the naqueda formula, then added, and here we have another strange little bugger who's trying to hitch a ride on regular red blood cells, but your classified stuff is stopping it, whatever it is, making it change just slightly... She stared at the two before her. Normally we wouldn't be asking questions like this to a patient, but we decided that since we can't figure this out, we'd ask the source, see what you can tell us. She continued to stare at Sam and Jack, waiting for them to say something. Finally she prodded them. Any ideas?

Slowly, Sam shook her head, but before she could say anything, Jack stared at the nequeda formula, and again at the newer formula, then snatched the phone receiver from her bedside table and dialed a number, his expression turning serious and severe in seconds, so fast that it would have been amusing if Sam had known what was going on.

At last someone at the other end of Jack's phone call picked up the receiver, for Sam heard a man say, Hello, this is General O...

Jack cut the man off to bark, Terry, this is General O'Neill at County General Hospital - I want you to have two guards put on room 420, pronto. I don't want any questions, and I don't give a crap about any excuses, just get those guards here ASAP! That's an order!

Matilda Ferril screwed up her eyes in an endearing look that asked the question, 'huh?'

'Jack' had previously leaned over the hematology report, and 'General O'Neill' hung up the phone with a decisive clatter. Then he rose. Sam had to blink at him twice - Damn this double vision! - but he refused to meet her gaze. He only gestured towards Matilda Ferril with his arm, and smoothly said, Nurse... Ferril... we have a situation here that needs your special brand of... And just like that, the door closed on his and her conversation, and Sam didn't hear anything more of what he said.

Sam stared at the report again, trying to decipher what had set the General off like that. But it was difficult to make out anything that she was staring at because she saw two of everything. And if whatever the General was concerned about was relatively unfamiliar to her...

Jack appeared back through the door, and he crossed to her bed in three long strides that fairly bristled with authority. Sam wasn't certain who she was staring at, Jack or the General, but whoever it was gazed back at her with an expression of grim intent on his face. Did you see that? he abruptly asked.

Sam tried to clear her eyes of the annoying doubles that she was seeing, but her clearing attempts only made her head ache all the more. My head hurts too much for puzzles, Sir, she said, and concentrated on not getting sick all over his shoes.

Jack immediately lost his authoritative expression and grew instantly solicitous. Should I remind them about that pain killer? he inquired.

Sam sighed, not able to make a decision whether she wanted another painkiller so close to the one she'd just been given, or not. Jack didn't know what he was asking of her, she ruefully admitted to herself.

Sam rubbed her temples in a dispirited show of sudden exhaustion. Tell me what I was supposed to see, then I'll just take a nap.

You have been awake for an awfully long time for someone with a severe concussion, he noted, then hurried to say, The first blood test showed the naqueda in your blood, of course.

Sam blinked again. Was she seeing double, or triple now? And the second?

Jack didn't hesitate. Nequadria.

Sam momentarily stopped in midrub. How is that possible?

Jack shrugged. Doesn't it have something to do with some particle bonding to naqueda? He shrugged again. I'm no scientist, so I'm not sure. I do know that something was introduced to your system that made nequadria, and that means the person who stopped in this morning who you thought was a nurse...

Sam understood what he was saying, and even as she finished, a chill wormed down her spine. She injected something into my IV line. She said it was a painkiller...

But it was clearly something much more than that, Jack said. More to the point, no one besides SG-1, Weir, and Hammond know about the naqueda, which means that whoever came in here this morning was actually trying to...

To what? Sam asked in fear as she prodded him to continue.

So Jack continued, but with a sigh. It means that since no one knows about the nequeda, which saved you by changing the agent introduced into your blood into nequadria... His stare grew grimmer yet. And who knows what that agent was originally supposed to do. He grimaced. It means that someone out there is trying to make sure that you don't come out of here the same as you went in here, or even alive. That's why I ordered guards be placed outside your room. He could see the effort it was for her to keep her eyes open, in spite of his words, and hastened to say, I'll stay here with you, even after you fall asleep, until the guards get here, so you don't have to worry about someone dangerous sneaking in.

But the aura of sleepiness that had fallen over her made her brazen and willing to do things that she would never normally do. It was like the night before, when she had been too drugged up to know what she was doing. Now she placed a soothing hand on his arm, just above his wrist, where her fingers met his skin above the cuff of his shirt that he wore with his dress uniform.

The strange bubble of braveness continued as his hand shot out to cover hers. You know the drill, Carter - go to sleep, and your head will feel better when you wake up, and you'll be able to see better, too. Don't worry - I'll be here.

And that was when her eyes drifted closed of their own accord, in spite of feeling like she should be worried about something. The next minute, she was asleep. Jack's caring expression was the last thing she saw.

* * *

But once again Jack wasn't there when she woke up. Neither was Daniel nor Mark. Her head really did hurt less - Jack had been right about that - but her double vision wasn't any better.

And it continued to stay as bad as it had ever been since the beginning of her concussion. Through the sad farewells said to Daniel and Mark half way through the week, to the nurses coming and going (after eyeing the guards with the wariness of people who were unused to having the need to protect their patients from the outside world) to the intermittent visits Jack was able to give, the double vision remained consistent.

On the seventh day of Sam's visit, her doctor sighed in aggravation, staring at the newest scans of her optical nerves. I just don't understand why you haven't been able to overcome your diplopia, he muttered, and kept staring. It should have cleared up long before this.

Sam was thinking that it was a good thing that Jack wasn't there, or he would have shuddered at the doctor's use of the medical term. Isn't there anything that you can do? she asked in a plaintive voice. This double stuff always makes me want to lose my latest meal all over the floor.

The doctor sighed one last time. I'll see what my friend, Dr. Thompson, has to say. he looked at her. She's an ophthalmologist who might have some ideas. He smiled then. If you have any other complaints...

Nothing a good whack on the head won't fix, Sam complained in a soft, cranky tone. She was tired of the hospital at this point, and really just wanted to go home. But she knew that she couldn't even do that, as she was several hundred miles from her own home. Even being allowed to get dressed on a daily basis after her headache had disappeared hadn't done much to cheer her up. She was more than ready for this to be over.

But it would never be over as long as her eyesight didn't clear up. Her transfer, and the beginning of her job at Area 51 had come and gone, and she had missed it. Since she hadn't been cleared for duty, and it didn't appear that status would change any time soon, she had been declared on medical leave, and the spot had gone to someone else. Now she was cranky, jobless, homeless (sort of), and getting more and more peeved on a daily basis.

There were a few things to distract Sam from her woes, however: at the very moment that the doctor was talking to her in her room, the door flew aside so that Jack could stride into the room, his confident steps making his usual impression on the medical staff - they were all slightly in awe of him. When Jack had noted this to Sam earlier in her hospital stay, she had told him what the uniform did for him, and left it at that. If the man couldn't conceive how completely dashing he looked in his dress uniform, then she wasn't going to be the one to stir up his ego... too much.

Now Jack's jocular tones rang across the room. How is she, Doc?

The doctor sighed once more. Still complaining about diplopia.

Jack's eyebrows drew down in a frown. Her what? he asked.

Sam just knew that he wouldn't understand the medical jargon!

Her double vision, the doctor said in thoughtful distraction.

Oh, that, Jack said as he dropped the paperwork that he had wanted to take home that day onto the end of her bed after making certain that nothing classified was showing so the doctor could read it.

The doctor went on, Though I can't treat whatever's causing this, I could make her more comfortable, by affixing a prism to her glasses. He smiled at their twin looks of confusion at the unknown term. A prism is just a clear piece of plastic with lines that refract light so that double vision turns into single vision. Then he frowned in deeper thought as he negated his own idea. But she doesn't wear glasses, so... so much for the prism idea. He sighed one more time. Perhaps my friend Dr. Thompson will have some other ideas. Then he smiled, looking more fully at Jack. She's an ophthalmologist, he said.

A what? Jack asked for clarification.

Big word for eye doctor, Sam tiredly explained to him.

Jack was aware of Carter's deteriorating mood the moment that she opened her mouth. But all he said now was, Ah.

The doctor grabbed his own file, and after a tap on Sam's bedside table, prepared to leave. I'll call my friend as soon as my rounds are finished, he promised, then left, eyeing the guards as he went.

Sam heaved a huge sigh the moment he vanished through the door. He's getting frustrated - I can tell.

Jack stared at her, then carefully noted, Not as frustrated as you're getting, I bet.

Sam groaned this time. I'm trying not to let it show, but really, Sir, I hate hospitals almost as much as you do.

I think I'm flattered, Jack said in a teasing voice, trying to lighten the mood that had descended on the room.

Sam sighed, her mood darker yet. I know that I shouldn't complain, at least not about being so bored, she grumbled, complaining anyway. You've been really great, coming in here all the time. Then she sighed again. But I can't help being bored anyway.

Bored?! Jack tried to joke, I can't let my best 2IC get bored, now, can I?

Medical leave echoed in Sam's head as she proved his last words wrong by saying, I'm not your 2IC anymore - I can't be anybody's 2IC right now! And boy, is it ever pissing me off!

Sam felt sorry for her outburst with her next breath of air, but Jack didn't seem to be affronted by her juvenile behavior. I wondered how long your long-suffering-but-suck-it-up attitude would last before you would completely lose it, he said and crossed his arms.

Sam gazed at him in abject astonishment. You mean that you knew this would happen?

Jack bit his cheek at her accusatory tone. No, he told her. But your 'good little soldier' act would have to crumble eventually. No one's a saint, Carter. Then he amended, Except the dead... saints.

But Sam was too put out at his words to be amused. I am certainly no saint! she expostulated now.

Jack's sigh reverberated around the otherwise empty room. Thank goodness, he dryly said. I was beginning to think that you aren't real.

His sarcasm only pissed her off even more. Of course I'm real, she grumped, falling back to her half raised bed. She then crossed her arms in a show of petulance. If I weren't real, then this stupid diplo... whatever... wouldn't be bothering me so much, or I wouldn't even have it because I would just wave the dumb double stuff away!

Jack knew what she meant, but chose to take her words at their face value anyhow. I didn't think that visiting me was so bad, Carter, but...

Sam's loud groan sounded throughout the room right on time. You know what I mean, she interrupted with an eye roll.

Jack could feel the anger and frustration emenating off of her in waves at this point, and argued. Listen, Carter, no one could have known what was going to happen, and as awful as the reason behind the visit of yours is, I'm glad to have you in DC.

She knew that she shouldn't be taking her bad mood out on Jack, but she couldn't resist occasionally giving in to her sense of helplessness in this situation. Now new shame at her angry words engulfed her, and she closed her eyes against her own misery. Stop being such a jerk! she ordered herself, then tried to blink her vision back to normal once again. The blinking didn't work.

Jack then pulled the visitor chair as close to the bed as he could get it, and swung it around so that he would face her in the upcoming conversation that he wanted to have. He sat. You've already tried everything that you can think of to deal with this di... dipl... whatever is wrong with your eyes... the double vision?

Sam sighed in supreme aggravation. We've tried me wearing a patch, but that gave me a headache. I tried winking all the time, but that gave me a headache. We tried medicine. We tried no medicine - nothing works! It just won't go away on its own! And I know that this isn't normal for a concussion at all! Then she voiced one of her greatest present concerns, I'm worried that this double vision thing will never clear up on its own and I'll be stuck in this hospital forever!

Jack had to laugh at that dramatic interpretation of the future. That will never happen, Carter!

Sam glared at him. How do you know?

Jack shifted uncomfortably in his chair, but forced himself to continue. First of all, there has to be something that can be done for you.

Sam protested, But we've already tried everything!

Jack hesitated, then at last said in a soft voice, Not everything.

Sam stared at him with as much care as the doctor had earlier stared at her room guards. What does that mean? she asked, now sounding careful instead of petulant.

Jack pursed his lips and continued to gaze at her in a thoughtful manner. He looked like he was trying to gauge her reaction to something.

So Sam prodded him when he didn't say anything. Sir, if you know..!

No 'Sir,' he remonstrated in a firm tone. General O'Neill would never tell this to his former 2IC, but Jack can tell it to his friend, Samantha.

Instead of getting into the name debate with him, Sam gave him a questioning look. Tell me what? she asked.

Jack gauged her one last time, then said, If you were anybody else, I wouldn't say anything, or would at least make you sign a Nondisclosure Agreement before I said another word. He eyed her in a critical way again, then went on, But this is you, and I know that you won't say anything - in fact, I'd stake my life on it.

Jack's trust in her boosted her flagging spirits more than he could ever know. What is it? she again prodded.

Now that Jack had broached (sort of) the topic that was on his mind, he couldn't take her into his confidence fast enough. What I'm going to tell you isn't well known at all. In fact, only Hammond, Weir, myself, and Daniel know about this.

Sam was taken aback. Daniel! The archaeologist hadn't said a word to her about knowing secret things. And what did her team mate have to do with her having double vision? What's Daniel have to do with my trouble with double...

Jack cut her off. Nothing, really, he explained. But it's the deal with Daniel that gave me the idea of what to do for your double vision, since no one can cure it for now.

Sam looked at him in rising curiosity.

Not a word, to anyone, right? he ascertained. Not that I don't trust you - you already know that I trust you with my life.

Not a word, Sam said anyway. You have my promise. What was he talking about?

Okay, Jack agreed with a nod of his head. Then he went on to say, You know how Daniel always wears those glasses of his, right?

Sam wasn't sure where this was heading, but agreed, Um... right.

And do you remember that Shyla planet? he asked, his forehead furrowed.

Do you mean...

Ack! If you remember that planetary designation after all the different planets that we've been to for how many years, I'll..!

Sam huffed a breath. I can't help it if I see the numbers in my head, Sir!

Jack leaned forward and placed his hands on her head then. No 'Sir,' remember?

Sam stared into his eyes... all four of them... then with a sigh, agreed. Okay... Jack.

Jack could tell by the expression of complete agreement that was in her eyes that she was being honest. He let his hands slowly fall away. Okay... the Shyla planet... Jack reminded them.

Slaves in the naqueda mine while Daniel lived it up big on the surface.

Jack finished the narrative for her, And his bout with sarcophagus withdrawal.

Wow, that was years ago! Sam told him an amazement. I barely remember that incident, in spite of remembering the number of the planet!

Jack nodded again instead of responding to her comment. Okay, just making sure that we're on the same page...

But Sam cut him off again in her confusion. What does that have to do with..? she asked once more, and waved at her eyes.

Jack gazed at her with his intense brown stare. Daniel was put into a sarcophagus over and over, he pointed out. Then added his own quantifier, And he still needs to wear glasses?

Sam just stared at him in the silence of the fully amazed. When she was finally able to speak, she spoke slowly. So... what... does Daniel do... about all that?

Jack replied equally as hesitantly. You agree that he shouldn't have eyesight problems after all that time in a sarcophagus? he wanted to ascertain.

Sam nodded. Yes, that makes sense, she said. But then why does he wear..?

Jack didn't let her finish asking her question before he answered it, Because he went to Hammond all those years ago and mentioned that it might be seen as a weakness for him to wear glasses, and that if he were ever captured, the Goa'uld would be sure to take his glasses from him, thinking that he can't see without them, and that it would be detrimental for him as a captive to be without his glasses.

Sam narrowed her eyes in understanding. As a sort of punishment? she asked.

The Goa'uld would see it that way, Jack told her. Except Daniel can see just fine without his glasses. Jack continued to eye Sam in a most judgmental way. Hammond told this to Dr. Weir when she took command of the SGC for those few months, and she told me when I took command. Other than that, no one else knows... except you.

Sam's forehead puckered even more than it already was. So you're saying that Daniel has never needed his glasses? She paused. And no one knows... except me?

Jack sighed. This was a good example of what was called, 'the burden of command' if he was one of only five people to know of this. Um... no, no one else knows, he stated.

Sam gave another jerk back. And... you knew of this... for all those years?

Jack grimaced. I didn't learn anything about any of this until I took command of the SGC. Elizabeth Weir told me.

Sam sat still for a moment, absorbing what he was telling her. Finally she had to ask, But I still don't see what..?

Jack explained to her as if he were explaining the situation to a small child. Daniel wears vanity glasses. When she still didn't say anything, he added, Vanity glasses... that can be fixed up with a prism. And when she still didn't say anything, went on, So that you can see, like the doc said, even though you don't normally wear glasses. Then he added for good measure, So that we'll have the time we need to figure out what to do about the naqueda/nequadria problem and your collapsed lungs... He was gazing straight into her eye when he knew that she finally understood what he was trying to suggest.

Sam hissed in a deep breath. I can wear vanity glasses!

Why not? Jack rhetorically asked. Daniel does.

Sam was getting excited now. And that solves the whole prism thing...

Which solves the double vision... we hope.

I can return to duty! Sam added.

Let's not 'claim the weapon before it is ours,' as Teal'c would say, Jack cautioned. But yes, you might be able to return to light duty.

Sam's eyes sparkled as she told him, Then let's tell the doctor about this idea... right now!

The End Sequel: Coded 'Threads'

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