Brain Power

by Linda Bindner

Part III

Twenty Questions, SG-1 style, Jack suggested when Sam asked him the next day how he wished to occupy his mind while he lay in his bed, patiently... or not so patiently... waiting for his first session with Vicki, his assigned Speech therapist. She hadn't been cleared yet to work with him in his SGC Infirmary room, but the guards at the main gate had already been alerted to her 1300 arrival, and were waiting for her with an unsigned Nondisclosure Agreement form. All she had to do was sign it. Then the hard part came when she had to meet and work with a surely General who didn't see the point of trying to make grunting noises and letter sounds when no one would be able to understand him anyway. Unbeknownst to her, Vicki had her work cut out for her.

But right now, Vicki had yet to arrive, and Sam was doing her best not to let Jack fall into morose contemplations of a life gone totally haywire, and whose last year he couldn't even remember. Keeping his mind occupied without telling him that was what she was doing was more challenging than she thought it would be. Jack, never the best patient, was difficult at the best of times to keep from growing bored. And this was hardly the best of times.

Sam drew another deep breath, this time for tenacity, and thought, All right, twenty questions it is. But with one stipulation.

And that would be..? Jack inquired with raised eyebrows.

You ask a question that I have to answer, then I ask a question that you have to answer, and back to you, and so forth. Deal? Sam knew she was playing with fire. One never knew how a deal made with Jack O'Neill might play out.

Jack gazed at her, studying her until she felt like a bug under a microscope... a dead bug. Finally, he came to some sort of a conclusion, because the cloudiness in his eyes cleared minutely. Okay, he said, deal.

That was a fast decision. Suddenly Sam got an uncomfortable feeling with how quickly he had agreed with her suggestion. This could grow very unpleasant for her very fast.

But she was distracted from her distraction. She gazed at him in amazement. You just moved your eyebrows, she announced, suddenly realizing just what he had done.

I did? Jack asked. When he looked at her face, he didn't know how to explain the involuntary movement to her satisfaction. So he just said, Well, good for me.

Sam gave him a sharp glance. You mean that you don't know how you did it?

Jack shrugged. Not a clue. Didn't even have to think about it.

Sam sat back, her amazement worming its way to irritation. She hated things that she or someone else couldn't explain. Okay, she said with an inpatient lilt to her voice. Now you just shrugged. How are you doing stuff like that?

Jack couldn't explain what was going on with him, so he simply shrugged again. Ya got me.

Sam looked at him, her gaze fierce, but she chose not to comment.

So Jack took matters that seemed more interesting to him into his own hands. Remember..? Twenty questions? he prodded her. When he was sure he had captured her quickly-getting-into-scientific-mode attention, he widened his eyes to show her that he was ready to begin their game. I go first, Jack announced. He was sitting up for the first time, supported by his tilted Infirmary bed, and he settled his head back against the pillows behind him. Okay... Question #1: Where did you go when you left here yesterday and I started cr... He himself grew quickly uncomfortable. Well, you know, what I did next, he said at last. With Cassie... Then he finished his question. What happened to you while you were gone?

Sam just knew she should have stayed in bed that morning instead of trying to entertain an unentertainable General. Jack... She snorted a laugh, trying desperately to downplay the importance of what had transpired the day before. That...

I know what you're trying to do, Jack thought at her, showing her no mercy. Don't forget, I can all but read your mind.

Sam sighed. You always could, she admitted at last, grumbling her reply.

Jack looked slightly surprised at her response, then shrugged again at the expression in her eyes. Yeah, well, on good days, so could you... read mine, I mean, he hesitantly said.

Yeah.., Sam vacantly responded. To be honest, most of her attention was on her memories of the what had happened the day before that, unbidden, accosted her.

Jack's eyes widenened. He did what?! A transmitter? Cop show-me equipment? What the hell..?

Sam let her head drop into her hands that were propped up on bent elbows on his bed. I knew you were gonna...

Sam..! Jack took a moment to collect his scattered wits. Doesn't that guy respect you and your things at all? How could he claim that he loves you and wants to marry you on one day, then end up living in your house, uninvited, the next? He gave Sam a penetrating stare. Are you sure this guy was the one?

Sam answered quicker than he had anticipated. No, she said with firmness in her tone. He wasn't the right one. He never was. The problem was convincing myself of that.

Jack gazed at her some more, too stunned to even think. You mean all that time... that time you told me you were... engaged. He had to swallow hard when he thought that term. That time that you told me about because I don't remember it... and I'm glad that I don't remember it, because it sounds highly unpleasant...

No more unpleasant than thinking that you and I were... Amazed at her insensitivity, Sam stopped herself from finishing her thought.

Jack instantly took on a haunted, sorrowful look. Yeah, well, he hesitantly replied. I try not to dwell.

Good, she responded. Then that's what I'll try to do... or not to do... too. She looked confused for a moment, then the moment passed, her eyes cleared, and she was beautiful Sam Carter again.

I would never do something like that... I mean, live in your house uninvited, Jack said next, his eyes cast down now and his fingers worrying the sheets for a second. I didn't do something like that, in fact.

Flashes of his divorce from Sara then slammed into her mind; a series of hotel rooms, packing his stuff in boxes, leaving his old house behind, building his new house, Charlie... pain... guilt... Sam ignored it all to stare at Jack in astonishment. You just moved your fingers.

Oh. Jack released the sheet.

That reminds me, Sam said. You squeezed my hand yesterday when I ran back in here... you remember.

Yeah... unfortunately I do, Jack replied. Not the 'you coming back' part, he hastily added. Just the... you know.

Sam stared at him, thinking that yeah, she did know. In an attempt to alleviate the severe sense of embarrassment that followed his thought, she at last declared, Now that you know what happened yesterday... My turn to ask. She gathered herself together, then plunged on, Question #2: How do you really feel about what I'm doing here...with... with you, she at last blurted.

You know how I feel, Jack jumped in, not letting her finish asking her question.

No, I don't, Sam quietly insisted.

Was this it? The moment that they had been secretly waiting for for... how long? The ticking of the clock on the wall seemed unnaturally loud as Jack watched her fidget under his stare. He met her eyes, but soon grew uncomfortable himself. Yet, he was undeniably excited at the same time. It was a confusing way to feel.

Sam could see the adrenaline rushing through the expression in his eyes. She made a request, then, saying it with her own eyes, but speaking nothing aloud.

Apparently Jack had no trouble interpreting the expression of her eyes. What? he asked then. You want me to say it with the whole damned base listening in on us through the security camera and..?

Dr. Brightman had the security camera in this room disabled, Sam explained. She didn't think that the security personnel needed to watch you losing it if you had lability. And after yesterday, I'd say her decision was right.

Jack suddenly sent her a glare. Oh, now you tell me! he gruffly said, though Sam knew he sounded a lot angrier than he really was. After I spent a whole day feeling practically embarrassed to death!. Then you don't even think to tell...

It slipped my mind, Sam defended herself. My mind did have a few other things on it, after all!

Jack sighed, half in aggravation, and half in defeat. Finally he much more quietly said, You need to delegate. If you don't, you'll go nuts in a week.

What? Where the hell did that come from?

Delegate, he repeated. It's the first rule of command. If you can't figure something out yourself, or can't do something yourself, give it to someone who can.

Sam stare at him in shock. How do you know that? she eventually asked.

Jack sat for a minute, staring out into the room in stunned surprise equal to Sam's. At last, he flatly admitted, I don't know how I know that, I just know.

I thought you only remembered leading SG-1, not the whole SGC, where you had a lot more opportunity to do things like delegate.

Jack continued to stare at the wall, surprise slowly glazing over his sight. Boy, he finally admitted. Ya got me where that came from. Then he looked at her again. But I suppose what I said makes sense. Ya gotta...

He's trying to distracting me again so h'll get out of answering my question, Sam thought. In answer to his distraction attempt, she didn't let him finish his thought. With no warning whatsoever, no prodding, not even a hint of the fact that she was planning anything, she softly said, Shut up for a minute. Then looking like it was the most natural thing to do in the entire world, she leaned toward where he rested against the pillows at his back and kissed him square on his mouth.

The action took Jack completely by surprise for just a second. He adjusted much faster than either of them anticipated that he would. He tightened the hold she had on his hand, squeezing it for all he was worth as a sudden lightening show went off behind his closed eyelids. A kaleidoscope of flashing color greeted him, and it instantly felt like he was falling. But he knew without a doubt that if he fell, Sam would be right there to pick him up.

Sam leaned back just slightly, and sent him a very satisfied half smile. Still so close that he could feel the heat poring off her skin, she huskily whispered, Well, at least that shut you up for a minute.

Oh yeah, Jack thought to her. That was a perfect way to catch my attention.

I plan to keep that attention now that I got it, Sam told him. Sounding far more confident than she was feeling at the moment, she leaned forward again, and the next thing Jack knew, he'd been transported to a world where amazingly soft kisses were the order of the day, and the smell of 'Sam' had worked its way to swirl and become one with all his senses in a matter of seconds. His heart sped up and seemed to be beating only one cadence, the one that proclaimed 'this is right.' When Sam deepened the kiss, he followed her lead without question, flying higher than any manmade plane had ever conveyed him. The kiss wore on...

... until the alarm for Jack's heart monitor pierced through the air with its insistent scream. Sam jumped back as if she'd been burned, or caught doing something very wrong, though it had felt very right at the time. Jack didn't have anywhere he could jump, so he simply let the sensation of 'Oh my God!' roll off him and tried not to look too ecstatic and give both him and Sam away as Dr. Brightman rushed into the room.

What's wrong? she fairly screeched at them. Where does it hurt?

Sam jumped towards her, her hands out to place on the woman's arms in a soothing gesture. It's all right! she insisted right back to Brightman. We just got a little too excited about our conversation, she smoothly lied. There's nothing to worry about.

Nice save, Maj... uh, Colonel, Jack thought to Sam, trying hard not to grin at the doctor, or at the excuse that Sam was giving her.

Brightman stared over Jack's head at the monitors that was flashing data across their screens, blinking out numbers almost as fast as she could read them. She wrinkled her brow, but said, If you're sure, Colonel... She didn't sound very convinced.

Sam did her best to sound much more sure of herself. It's nothing, really. We're sorry for scaring you like that. We certainly didn't mean to... Her voice trailed off as the need for her reassurance ended at the sound of an ill-timed knock on the door.

They all turned to the door in some surprise, and looked especially startled when a young woman dressed in loose jeans with holes in the knees, frayed hems, and a tight fitting white top stood just inside the still open door. Hi, she hesitantly called. I'm Vicki Lowenson... You know, the Speech therapist... I just got clearance... An expression of confused understanding settled on her face then. If this is a bad time, I can come back later. She gestured back out into the corridor with a thumb hooked over her shoulder.

Sam was just as quick to reassure, No, this is fine! She smiled her second most charming smile, which made her eyes flash. They sparkled almost as much as when she looked at Jack, but not quite. We were...

... having a medical moment, Dr. Brightman interrupted to include. She didn't give any more information than that, though. She smiled brightly. Well... if everything's okay in here..?

Yeah, Sam spluttered. Sure. It's as right as rain... Shut up, Sam, she thought to herself in warning. The less you say, the less chance you have to say too much. Aloud, she said to Vicki, Uh, I'm Samantha Carter, and this is Jack... General O'Neill. And you're the Speech therapist, right?

That's right, the young woman answered. I'm Vicki. Hi, Jack.

Jack... of course... remained silent as he waved, but gave a tiny smile to accompany his hand gesture.

Vicki glanced once at Sam, then at Dr. Brightman. You both are welcome to stay if you'd like, she invited.

Dr Brightman was the one to answer. Actually... She turned to Sam. I do have something to discuss with you, Colonel. Do you have a minute?

Sam gave a confused look at Brightman, then glanced at Jack, then back again. What could Dr. Brightman possibly have that she needed to discuss with her? Besides the obvious? But Sam was up for it if Jack was up for doing his first speech therapy session alone. Jack, are you sure..? She didn't get the chance to finish asking her question before Jack's voice was in her head, urging her to go, talk to the Doc, grab a cup of coffee in the Commissary, talk to their friends, to delegate...

Sam smiled at the humor in his last comment. Okay. You two have fun. Then she silently added in her mind, But not too much fun!

Sam, Jack's voice then gleefully said. If I didn't know better, I'd say you're worried, and feel that you should be jealous!

Jealous? Sam repeated. Me? She grinned, then evilly commented, You should now probably know better, Sam dryly responded as she moved to follow the doctor out of the room.

Jack was still grinning as he answered, I probably should, but that doesn't mean this doesn't please the heck out of me! His tone remained the teasing joyful sound he had employed before.

Sam rolled her eyes. Bye, Jack. See you in an hour or so.

But before she could completely exit the room, Jack sent a mental call after her, As long as I have a kiss to look forward to...

Sam didn't answer, only closed the door behind her as she left. However, Jack noted the slightly seductive look in her eyes as she closed the wooden portal.

Jack looked towards Vicki as she began by pulling the visitors chair further away so that she would have a good view of all of Jack still sitting in his bed. I can see that you're not as bad off I thought at first, she said, indicating his grin.

Jack could only blink silently at her.

Strong, silent type huh? Vicki teased. They should have warned me about that at the main gate.

That got a slight smile out of Jack as he considered that it was a good thing if she knew him as the strong, silent type, since silence was all he could produce at this point.

Getting down to business right away, Vicki announced with a smile of her own, Well, let's get started.

* * *

Sam followed Dr. Brightman into her office. Okay Dr. Brightman, what's going on?

The doctor didn't hesitate in giving her news just as Vicki wasn't beating around the bush in Jack's first speech session. Colonel, I've been reassigned. I'm leaving for North Carolina on Sunday.

Sam felt her world drop away as the doctor said those words. She immediately thought of Jack, and the care he was going to need in the future. It wasn't a sure thing that a new CMO would understand his condition, or give him what he needed in the months ahead. Oh God, you're kidding, Sam said. But she had little hope that her statement would get an affirmative reply. This was soooo not what she needed to hear right now!

I'm sorry, Brightman murmured in the quiet air of the office. I'm in the middle of writing up a detailed report for my successor on General O'Neill's condition, and I'm wondering if you have anything new to add?

Sam fought her emotional pull to freeze at Brightman's news, and forced herself to think over the last day she'd spent with Jack. Other than he seems to be more mobile than we expected him to be, I can't think of anything.

He's still not talking? Brightman asked. Then she added, Not that I expect him to be. I'm just making certain. Sam shook her head. And the neural link between the two of you? she asked. It's still intact?

It doesn't seem to be diminishing, Sam explained.

Brightman gave a thoughtful, Hmmm. She slid down into her desk chair. Dr. Jackson gave me the indication that it would only last for a short time.

Sam shrugged. Well, it doesn't seem to be wearing off yet. It might later...

Brightman gave another thoughtful hum. I'll make sure to include that in my report.

Is this a good time to ask if I can have a bed moved to Jack's room? Sam asked. And a lamp of some kind? She then explained, It would be nice to have someplace to rest once in a while, and I think all the light bothers Jack's eyes.

Photosensitivity isn't a typical side effect of stroke, but.., Brightman began.

Sam cut her off. Jack's always been a little sensitive to light.

Brightman shrugged. I don't see a problem moving a lamp to the room. As to a bed... Just make certain that the Infirmary staff can get to either side of his own bed in case an emergency happens. Otherwise, I don't have a problem with it. I can't speak for my successor, of course, but I can say that it's my experience that if some system is already established and in place, people tend to overlook protocol.

Do you know who your successor is? Sam asked then, thinking what a nightmare it would be to have to break in a new medical player at this point in the game of Jack's recovery, and hoped that she could name another doctor already ensconced in the SGC Infirmary.

I'm afraid that I don't have any knowledge of who it will be, Brightman confessed.

Sam's heart fell to her toes for the second time in as many minutes. Thank you for giving me some warning, she said at last. If you find out anything else...

I'll let you know, Brightman promised.

Sam figured that was just going to have to be good enough. Thank you, Dr. Brightman. With that, she slowly left the office.

Sam suddenly felt more tired than she'd felt for a good long time.

Wearily, she headed for Daniel's office to 'delegate,' then she was going to the Commissary, where she could hopefully get some very strong coffee. She had the feeling that she might need it.

* * *

Let me guess, Vicki said to Jack. You don't really see the point in me being here. She stared at Jack with eyes that seemed to see right into his mind. He wondered if maybe she had also touched the 429 machine. Blink once for 'yes,' twice for 'no.'

Jack was going to blink twice, but she stopped him.

Be honest, she warned him. And I promise that I won't tell... She did something that wasn't totally expected then. She blushed. I shouldn't assume she's your wife. She guessed then, Colleague?

One blink gave her the right impression as to his and Sam's relationship.

Okay, deal. Vicki patted the top of the bed. I wont ell your... your friend. She blushed again. Now, enough chit chat. She squeezed her eyes shut in thought. Language, she said. Communication. Then she stared at Jack. I bet it's very frustrating not to be able to say anything, she predicted.

Jack gave the hand movement that had always meant 'so-so' to him, and was glad that it appeared to mean the same thing to her. Strange as it seemed, he was having something of a conversation with her, and not uttering a word.

Vicki spoke her next statement with assurance in her voice, We're going to change the 'no talking' thing faster than you may think. All it takes is looking at the world in a different way. You already know how to say 'yes' and 'no,' after all. It's easier than one might think.

Jack hadn't realized it before now, but he understood that Vicki was right. He raised his brows as if to say 'Wow.'

Vicki laughed. I like the way you think. She switched into what Jack liked to think of as 'teacher mode' then. Language is really just sounds... letters... broken up to make words. Sometimes it's two or three letters put together - we call them blends. I'd first like to see if you can make any sounds at all, just to give us a place to start. We'll begin with something simple. She glanced at the door. Hey, how about we see if you can say the name of your... She paused, then went on, Your friend.

Jack nodded, but really didn't believe it would work.

Almost as if she could read his mind like a book, she said, And you have to believe that you can say her name, or this won't work.

Jack grimaced, but eventually blinked once, showing that he agreed with her assessment. Or at least, that he was willing to go along with her theory for now.

So, what do you call her? Vicki asked.

Just as Jack wondered how he was going to get the idea of 'Carter' across, he thought of more recent events.

Samantha? Vicki guessed.

Jack blinked twice.

Um... Vicki thought for a minute. How does one shorten Samantha? she asked herself. She finally asked him, Sam?

Jack blinked once.

Ah, Vicki said. Okay. The 'a' and the 'm' should be no problem. The 's' on the other hand, we'll have to work on. She settled more firmly in her chair. Now... First thing's first... Do you need a drink or anything?

Jack tried shaking his head that time, just to see if he could do it, and to his surprise, it actually worked.

Hey! Vicki called in pleasant surprise. Nice one!

Jack gave her a look of surprise as well.

But she was soon ready to get down to work. Okay. Think the letter 'a' in your head. Now think the short 'a' sound. 'Aaaaaa.' It's kind of like...

Very quietly, his voice rough from disuse, but it was a definite 'a' that came from Jack's general direction.

This surprised Vicki, too. Wow! she exclaimed. When you set your mind to something... Look out!

Jack tried not to look too pleased, but it was hard.

But Vicki was continuing. Now, you have to prove to me that that wasn't just a fluke, a lucky first try. Do it again.

Jack tried. It was obvious by the expression in his eyes that he was concentrating.

Don't try so hard, Vicki suggested. Just set a picture of Sam in your mind, pretend that you're going to tell her something, and...

Before Jack knew it, 'am' flew out of his mouth the minute he relaxed.

Good! Vicki enthused. Now...

Jack rolled his eyes good naturedly just as she instructed, Do it again!

* * *

Hi, Sam! Daniel said when she showed up at the door to his office. How's it going? he asked, then before she could answer, asked, How's Jack today?

He's fine, and in his first session with his speech therapist, Sam answered, then went on to talk about what was more firmly on her mind. Did you hear that Dr. Brightman's been reassigned? she quickly asked.

Daniel shook his head. Nooooo. I hadn't heard that.

She's leaving for the East coast on Sunday.

Daniel regarded Sam to see how his friend was taking the news. According to the glum look on her face, he guessed that she wasn't taking it well. It never rains but it pours, he said.

I don't know who her replacement is, Sam confided. But this changes things a little. Then she looked at him out of eyes that were clearly begging. I might need your help now.

Daniel was instantly agreeable. Sure, he said. Then he set down the artifact he had been studying so he could give her his full attention. What do you need?

I need to talk to you and Teal'c, Sam answered. And I might give Cassie a call too. Can you meet me in the Commissary in ten or fifteen minutes?

Sure, Daniel agreed. I'll see you then. Sam disappeared from standing in his doorway. Daniel continued to stare, however. He blinked. Now he thought he'd heard it all. Workaholic Sam Carter was actually asking for help. What's the world coming to? Daniel asked himself as he moved to close up his work and to call Teal'c.

* * *

I knew that PeteShanahan would ultimately prove to be less than the ideal human, Teal'c said when Sam finished unloading the story about the day before to her two friends.

Boy, I can't believe it, Daniel said as he nursed his cup of coffee.

Yeah, well, Sam said, already tired of talking about this, but determined to talk about it anyway. Do you guys have any suggestions?

The three team members sat still for a moment thinking. Finally, Teal'c said, I can remove him from the premises by force.

Sam smiled. The sentiment is appreciated, Teal'c, but what's to keep him from coming back?

If he chooses to do so, then I will be 'encouraged' to remove him again.

The rumble in Teal'c's voice scared even Sam. That's probably not a good idea, Sam said. I don't want anyone... meaning Pete... to get hurt, she went on. That would only give him cause to get all self-righteous... there could be law suits, and court actions, and who knows what else. I certainly wouldn't put it past him, she said, thinking now about that tiny transmitter he had taped to her shirt. There seemed to be little that Pete was beyond at a time when he didn't get something that he wanted.

You could change the locks on your house, Daniel suggested next.

Sam sighed. I already thought of that, she admitted. But Pete's a cop. He'd just pick any new lock I put on.

Right, Daniel grumbled in a thoughtful attitude.

Stumped, the three sat at the table, not speaking, but with minds racing.

Then they just started spewing out wild ideas in the hopes that one of them might hit on something.

You can burn your house down with Pete in it, Daniel suggested.

Like I want a murder charge on my head, Sam sardonically said. That's one bit of trouble I can do without.

Daniel shrugged, still thinking. You can... Sell all your furniture.

Teal'c suggested, You can move your furniture to O'Neill's house while waiting for this situation to settle down on its own.

Daniel's face brightened. Hey, that's not a bad idea. At Sam's disbelieving look, Daniel went on to explain, It's not like Jack's using his house right now, anyway.

It's not like he even can use it, she said, thinking of the stairs leading into his den, and wondering how he was going to navigate something like that if he had to use a wheelchair in the future. Maybe they could install a ramp...

I've got it! Daniel exclaimed. Why not just sell your house and move all your stuff to Jack's for now?

Sam sent him a withering look. Daniel, I like my house. I don't want to move.

Get a guard dog? Daniel next asked.

Pete loves dogs, Sam said next. With my luck, he would do that hypnotizing thing on it, you know, like in that movie Crocodile Dundee.

It's always something, Daniel mournfully said, shaking his head.

Yeah, Sam answered.

Teal'c then said, Perhaps CassandraFraiser will have a suggestion to make.

Yeah, Sam said, sipping her coffee. I guess it doesn't hurt to give her a call.

What else can we help you with, my lady? Daniel asked then, making Sam giggle.

When Sam had calmed down, she told them, Jack said that I should delegate stuff out to whoever can help. He thinks that if I don't delegate, I'll go nuts in a week.

Teal'c announced, O'Neill is a wise man if he can ask for help when he needs it. You should heed his advice.

Daniel almost choked on his coffee. Jack? Asking for help? He blinked his eyes behind his glasses. Now I really have heard everything.

Sam sent him a sarcastic look this time. Maybe we shouldn't tell him that, either, she suggested.

Daniel took a quick sip of his hot beverage. Just think about that idea of moving all your stuff to Jack's, he said then. Maybe you won't have to do anything at all. Maybe, as Jack's gonna be away from his house for awhile, he won't mind you using it as a storage facility. Or maybe Pete has already moved out of your place, so none of this will matter anyway.

Yeah, maybe, Sam said, sounding like she didn't agree with him, but she hoped he was right anyway.

* * *

Sam knew half an hour later that she and Daniel had been the victims of a lost hope, however, at least where Pete was concerned. She'd run home after she had met with her team mates in the Commissary, intent on getting more clothing this time, no matter what happened. Though the twenty-four hour time limit that she had given to Pete to move out of her place had come and gone, she still found his things spread all over the house, and his extra uniform still hung in her closet. Anger again assailed her, even though he was at work, and not at the house at the moment to offer an explanation to her unhappiness.

Sam had planned to stop by her own house when she was fairly certain that Pete would be at work, and unavailable. However, this was her house. She shouldn't have to work around his schedule in order to be at her own place when he was at work so that she could be sure to avoid him.

Still thinking about the situation that had arisen, Sam retrieved some clothes for herself from her bedroom, but found herself seriously considering Daniel's suggestion of selling her house and moving her things to Jack's house for the first time that day.

But first, she would have to ask Jack what he thought of this arrangement before she could continue considering the idea of moving her things. And who would she get to help her pack and move? She couldn't possibly be away from Jack for more than a day. Plus, there was always a chance that Jack didn't want to have someone else's furniture cluttering up his house.

Her head spun with all the things she had to decide on, and soon. By the time Sam had returned to base, she had decided only that it was time that she have a serious heart-to-heart talk with Jack about their futures. Only when she fully understood everything about how he felt about her could she then act according to what she learned. Until then, she firmly instructed herself not to worry about it, but found herself mentally composing the email she would need to send to all the base personnel, begging for help in packing up and moving her life the next day. Though moving everything was a big step for her, she found that it didn't bother her as much as she thought it would. She would finally be rid of Pete, she admitted to herself. Though that might have bothered her at one time, now that he had shown what an untrusting individual he was, she felt much better about the decision to sell her house, move her stuff to Jack's, or to use a storage facility, and to disappear into the base for awhile. And the more she thought about it, the better she felt about the decision all around.

But she needed to speak... er, think... to Jack first.

When Sam returned to his room after drpping her clothes off in her base quarters, it was to practically run headlong into a middle-aged man exiting the room at the same time. She told him her name when he smiled and introduced himself. Hi Samantha, I'm Kris-with-a-'K' Peterson, Jack's physical therapist. We just finished with our first session... stretching... and we talked about balance, and going to the gym tomorrow. Hope to see you there!

With that, he was gone.

'Whirlwind' came unbidden to Sam's mind as he left through the door, and his energy was almost palpable in the air he left behind.

Yeah, he's very interesting, Jack's voice said into her mind. He introduced himself as being a 'Kris' like Kris Kringle... you know, Santa Clause?... and I kept wanting to ask him about how his elves were doing, but it's kind of hard to get that concept across when you can't say much. Jack gazed at Sam as she came closer to his bed and fell instead of sat in the visitor's chair.

Suddenly, she looked tired to him. Exhausted, in fact. The circles under her eyes were so dark that they looked like bruises. He didn't think he had ever seen her so tired as she was acting now. Usually she did such a good job of covering up any exhaustion she was feeling that Jack had gotten used to pretending that he didn't see how tired she was, either.

How come he had never noticed this fatigue of hers before now? Had she hidden it from him, as was typical for her? Sam? he queried now with a concerned sound in his tone. Are you all right?

Sam sighed, then rubbed her forehead with a finger. She had just recalled that Dr. Brightman was leaving. That new concern piled on top of other, older anxieties. She still had to deal with Pete, with possibly moving all her stuff out of her house, with selling that house, with delegating her new 'Jack' responsibilities. And then there was the memory of how worried she had been about Jack during the time he was unconscious, fearing that he might never wake again, that she might never hear his voice again, see him again, that most people suffering from brainstem strokes died, and that the fact Jack had lived at all was something of a medical miracle. Then there was the fact that she hadn't slept well for days, that now she not only had to worry about informing a new CMO about Jack's case history, she also now had to deal with two new therapists, and...

The exhaustion suddenly settled into her mind, and it whirled again with all the decisions she would have to make soon. She tried to push the tired, dizzy feeling away so that she could ask for Jack's advice on the Pete situation, and what she should do, but she just couldn't push anything aside any longer. Kris's energetic demeanor seemed to be the last straw she could handle. She tried to form a thought in her head about her house, and Pete, and the transmitter he had used to track her location, as well as all the background checks he had ordered on her and on Jack...

But she couldn't even form a complete thought at this point to send to Jack. She couldn't even answer his question with her usual reply of, I'm fine. All she could do was slump forward on the edge of his bed as the dizziness she was feeling overwhelmed her in a matter of seconds. With only a sigh escaping her lips, Sam fainted dead away.

Alarmed, and frightened more than he had ever been frightened before, Jack frantically considered what he should do. He kept having scattered memories of that time she'd been captured on Osiris' ship, and he was supposed to order The Prometheus to destroy the Gao'uld vessel. The sense of fear and helplessness had been similar then. Now, instead of having thoughts and ideas that would be useful, Jack could only stare in abject terror at Sam as she fainted first onto his bed, then slowly slid to the floor. Luckily, her arm cushioned her head, and stopped it from cracking painfully against the hard surface. But that was all he felt was lucky in this scenario.

With a supreme effort, Jack ignored his pounding heart, and gathered together his wits. Quickly, he tried to decide what was best to do. He couldn't move to help Sam, he couldn't call for help, he couldn't even see if she was alive. What could he do? Despite his best efforts, panic began to set in.

Then he remembered. When Vicki had left his room, and before Kris had arrived, she had handed him the emergency call button for the nurse's station in the Infirmary so that he wouldn't be completely cut off from everyone who could help him in case he needed it. The button was attached to a plastic cylinder that was then attached to a long cord. The cylinder had then been placed in his hand. He'd laid it on the sheet beside him during his session with Kris. Grateful, he reached for it, but misjudged how high he needed to lift his fingers in order to wrap them around the plastic cylinder that the button had been attached to, and he knocked it straight off his bed to the floor, where it rolled a few feet, then stopped, mocking him in its innocent location. Since Vicki hadn't bothered to somehow wrap the long cord around one of his bedrails, it was not attached to his bed in any other way besides the way that the cord was imbedded in his bed's headboard, which he couldn't twist around to reach. He could see the call button where it lay on the floor with little trouble, but there was no way he could reach it now, not when he couldn't even climb out of bed.

Frustrated, Jack then considered his other options. He could bang as hard as he could against the rails raised on either side of his bed. But no one would ever hear any racket he chose to make on the panels. He could scream 'ah' as loud as he could, or 'help,' though he hadn't tried to say that yet. But to get Sam the assistance she needed, he was willing to try anything.

However, it was doubtful that he could yell loud enough for anyone to hear his cries through the closed door.

Frustrated, and irritated, and panicked, and beginning to get angry, he tried one last time to come up with any other solution. He couldn't even reach a phone in order to call anybody for help. An extension was sitting on his bedside table, but that table had been pushed out of the way during his therapy session with Kris.

Then he recalled how the monitors hooked up to him were directly linked to the Infirmary nurse's station. Those nurses would come, if only he could panic enough, and raise his heartbeat high enough to trick the heart monitor alarm into going off.

Jack then gave into his mounting sense of panic, trusting that emotion would be enough to make his heart race. He stared at Sam lying motionless on the floor, and thought Sam! as if she were in serious trouble. It wasn't much of a stretch of his imagination. Jack began to sweat as he thought of Sam lying dead on the floor of his room, and him only feet away, unable to help her.

It worked. The alarm to the heart monitor suddenly went off, screaming its cry into the quiet room, and bringing Dr. Brightman and three nurses running into his room in seconds.

Relief flooded through Jack when Brightman made a distressed cry of, Colonel Carter! as she burst into the room.

Jack let his head fall back against his pillows, his mouth dry, but his work done. After Jack once more calmed himself, one of the three nurses checked the heart monitor's data, saw that the numbers that spewed out of it were not something to be concerned over, and shut off the alarm. The lack of its loud wailing in the room was almost a blatantly absent living thing now that it was gone.

In another burst of motion, Daniel suddenly sprang into the room. Jack? he asked in confusion. Then he bellowed, Sam! as soon as he caught sight of her lying on the floor, surrounded by medical personnel. He again turned to the man lying in the bed, then to Sam, and yelled, Would someone please tell me what's going on here?

Dr. Jackson, called Brightman. Good, you received our phone call. She checked Sam's eyes with her penlight as she took a breather from her explanations. Well, she said then, going on. It looks like Colonel Carter fainted.

She fainted?!? Daniel exclaimed. What! Why?

Brightman ignored his inquiry but said, The General seems to be okay. We came in here when his monitor alarm went crazy again, but he seemed perfectly fine. It was Colonel Carter who was in trouble.

Daniel balked in surprise. And Jack called for you?

Brightman nodded again. Do you know of anything that Colonel Carter has eaten in the last few days that might not have agreed with her, or some stress that she's recently been under?

Daniel's face went from surprised to the white of realization then. Well, she is having some trouble with Pete... her former fiancÚ... living in her house against her wishes, and we talked a little about what she could do about that. And she spoke about needing to delegate more... Could this be stress related? Daniel inquired.

Possibly, Brightman replied. We'll move her to the Infirmary, and start running tests... We'll know more then. She directed her nurses to hoist the unconscious Colonel onto a gurney that had suddenly appeared in the room, then the medical staff wheeled her out, looking all business in their white lab coats, Brightman's shoes clicking the entire way.

The closing door shut out the sound of Brightman's shoes, leaving Daniel alone in the room with Jack. The quiet was so intense after so much noise and confusion that it was almost a thing in the air to be breathed.

Daniel shoved his hands in his pockets, and turned to Jack. Well, he said. His comment stopped there. He gazed at the door, then stared back at Jack again. Did you really call for their help by setting off your own heart monitor alarm?

Jack tried the 'blink once for 'yes' and twice for 'no' thing, but Daniel didn't seem to understand his gestures, or he didn't catch them with his wandering attention, so Jack tried to show his agreement by saying Yeah. He still couldn't say the 's' in 'yes,' so he opted for another version of the word.

Daniel gave a second jump of surprise. Jack! he yelled. You just spoke!

Jack then decided to show him what else he had worked on saying that afternoon in the half hour between his speech session and his PT session. Aammmaaanhhhaa Rrrraannnaaayyy Ggggaarrddeerr, he laboriously said the sound he had come up with that approximated 'Samantha Rynae Carter.' He still had trouble with a few of the letters, and definitely with the 'th' blend, but the right words were there... sort of.

Daniel gave a third start of surprise. Heeeey! he said, recognizing the name of his friend. That's very good for only having one speech session! Then a thoughtful expression overtook his face. Actually, that's amazingly good for only one speech therapy session. He looked at Jack in more thought. Can you say any other names?

Jack screwed up his brow in concentration, then clearly said, Aanniiaall Jjaaoonn. The 'd,' 'k,' and that dreadful 's' were still giving him problems. But he had obviously said Daniel's name.

At least, the approximation was close enough for Daniel to give yet another start. Wow! he stated then.

But Jack wasn't finished. He next said, Jjjjaaannneee.

Daniel stared at him. Was that supposed to be 'Janet?'

Yeah, Jack told him again.

You seem to be having a little trouble with the 't' sound.

Yeah!!!! Jack emphasized, happy that someone finally understood at least one of his problems.

'T' Daniel muttered to himself. Then his face brightened. I know! Let's dissect that sound. Your tongue touches the roof of your mouth, and air then kind of explodes through your tongue. He made the sound a few times. Now you try.

Jack tried, but he came up with something that sounded more like a 'd' than a 't.'

Well, Daniel said, You're getting the 'd' sound down, at any rate. He thought for a moment. Try making that push of air out of your mouth a little more explosive.

Jack concentrated again. This time when he made the sound, he pushed the air out of his mouth with his tongue as hard as he could. What he got sounded a lot more like a 't' than his first attempt.

Daniel was thrilled. Good! Now, say the word all together... 'Janet.'

Jjaanneett, Jack slowly spoke.

Good! Daniel said again. His expression grew dim. You do know about Janet, don't you?

Jack sent him a 'what?' expression with his eyes, then shook his head. Nnooooo, he said.

Daniel hesitated. Maybe I should wait for Sam to tell you. This might be another one of those things that could upset you.

Jack once again recalled what had happened to Sam. His eyes instantly took on a worried look. Am? he asked.

Daniel smiled a bit grimly. We're definitely going to have to work on our 's' sound, he mumbled.

Jack sent him a look that clearly told him to 'get on with it.'

Daniel sighed. I don't know what all is happening now, but I do know that plenty was happening to her before that could have overwhelmed her and caused her to faint.

Jack then clearly asked, 'Like what?' with another expression.

Daniel went on, She was worried to death, and in a horrible mood, the whole time you were unconscious. I don't think she slept for the entire three days except for that time right when you woke up. Then there was that whole fight with Pete, then breaking up with him, then finding some kind of tracking device taped to her shirt that he put there... Then finding him still living in her house like he owns the place... Plus the time she's been spending with you, and everything that's going on that's related to you... Daniel's brow furrowed as a sudden thought occurred to him. You know, I don't know a whole lot about brainstem strokes, but you're not really acting like all those brainstem cases I've read about on the Internet over the last couple days. He furrowed his brow even harder. I wonder if Dr. Brightman has noticed anything. At Jack's raised eyebrows, Daniel added, You know, I think I'll go talk to her. While I'm there, I'll see if I can learn any news about Sam's condition.

Jack enthusiastically agreed with his proposition, Yeah!

Sit tight, Daniel instructed. Then he thought to inquire, Uh, you need anything before I go?

Jack looked pointedly at the call button still lying on the floor.

Oh. Daniel grabbed the button for him, then made a point of wrapping the long cord around and around the bed rail so that it was more secure and within reach of Jack's hand. Anything else?

Jack looked around. Uh.... He wanted to write, but... How did one say that one needed paper and a pen? Uh... Nnootteebboo? He made writing motions with his fingers. At least, he hoped what he was doing was obvious, anyway.

Ah. Daniel moved to the other side of Jack's bed, where a notebook and fat round pen that Dr. Brightman had left on it a few days before rested on the bedside table. He moved the bed table back into its former close proximity to the bed before handing Jack the notebook and pen. That all? he asked.

Jack curled his lips up into a smile. He wanted to see if he could still write, since he could move his hands so well, and Daniel's imminent absence from the room seemed to be a perfect time to practice in private. If things didn't go well, his first attempts at writing could be very embarrassing, after all. He wasn't sure he wanted anyone to watch him. Yeah, he said, as content as he could be without Sam in his room.

Okay, Daniel intoned. Then I'll be right back. With that, he left.

Go on to Part IV


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