Bits and Pieces: Mostly Painless
Captain Samantha Carter looked up as Colonel Jack O'Neill entered the mess, one eyebrow rising neatly as she noted the hinged braced wrapped around his right knee and the cane in his hand. His expression was twisted with angry frustration, something that wasn't exactly unusual in the two weeks since the death of his old friend, Major Charles Kawalsky. The man had been taken by a Goa'uld and tried to betray them all. O'Neill had been forced to kill him, though by then Kawalsky was no more, his personality overtaken by the creature in his brain. The colonel hadn't been the same since, despite his protestations to the contrary. O'Neill dropped into the seat across from her, unable to contain a pained grunt as his knee twisted uncomfortably.
Carter settled her fork back onto the tray as she eyed her superior. "Problem, sir?" she questioned and nodded toward his newly braced leg. He hadn't been wearing that the last time she'd seen him.
"I was kickboxing with a bag earlier," he growled unhappily. He'd been in a bad space and hoped the workout might burn off a little stress. It hadn't quite worked out that way.
"I gather the bag won?" Sam drawled and earned a glare for her wit.
"Something like that." His mouth pursed, but he continued, "Which means I'm grounded for the next few days." He saw her expression fall and his look became more pointed. "Yes, Carter, before you ask, that means we're all staying home."
She sighed, but didn't argue. They knew so little about the gate and the cultures on the other side that caution was to be expected. O'Neill had the most field experience on the team. It made sense if he was out of commission, that they'd all be on downtime, but there was still a part of her that instinctively wondered if not being put in charge was because of her rank, her inexperience, or her gender. The notion that the last option might be a contributor rankled, though she tried to ignore the thought. It wouldn't do her any good in the long run.
O'Neill saw the questions flit through the younger officer's brain and didn't bother to give any kind of answer -- especially since he wasn't quite sure of the answer himself. Was he hesitant to trust Carter because of her youth, the fact that he regarded her more as a pencil pusher than a line officer, or was it the soft curves that he couldn't help but look at, no matter how he tried not to? He couldn't decide, which made it a subject better left alone. "Met the new CMO they got in..." he said to change the subject. He shook his head. "Maybe all of twelve by the look of her."
Carter frowned, remembering a recent memo that had crossed her desk. "That would be Captain Fraiser--" The woman had an impressive resume, what little of it wasn't listed as Top Secret: Need to Know.
"I think that was the name," O'Neill allowed. "About this tall," he held out his hand, indicating someone only slightly taller than the table, "and pushy as hell." He didn't sound happy with that fact. But then O'Neill seldom valued pushiness in anyone other than himself. Or at least he seldom admitted to valuing pushiness in anyone other than himself, though Sam had a sneaky suspicion he actually respected it. He dropped a hand to scratch his thigh under the edge of the canvas brace and she suddenly understood. "It's not like I haven't been hurt ten times worse ... and in combat ... never even slowed down for it then."
"I'm sure you have, sir," she agreed, her tone placating, though she suspected the doctor had based the decision as much on his obvious exhaustion and raw emotions as the actual injury. "But better safe than sorry and things are quiet right now. Daniel could probably use the extra time to organize his notes and I know I could use it to do some additional tests on the gate."
He hrumphed, but didn't argue.
Sam glanced down and noted that her meal had cooled considerably, allowing things to congeal in ways she would have been better off not seeing. The joys of Air Force food. She crumpled her napkin and tossed it onto the tray. "Speaking of which, I should probably get back to work." She would have worked on the gate twenty-four hours a day if humanly possible. The endless scientific possibilities of its very existence excited her to a point that was almost sexual in its intensity. Actually more intense, if her previous encounters were anything to gauge such things by.
"Carter," O'Neill's rough voice broke into her musings as she rose, "before you go, the doc said I should drop this off with you. Apparently, her requests have gone ignored...." He handed her a call slip, one eyebrow lifting as he saw her flush with embarrassment. "Toldya she was pushy," he said a little triumphantly.
"I got the memo. I just haven't had time to set up an appointment yet," Sam muttered. She hated physicals; all that poking and prodding and feeling completely exposed in front of a stranger. She shuddered with dislike, then tried to cover the response as she realized O'Neill was smirking at her.
"Yeah, well, I suggest you make time," he said dryly. "I have a funny feeling she doesn't take no for an answer." Then he showed his first sign of humor in days. "Actually..." he started to drawl, his eyes glinting as he noted the way she stiffened in automatic disapproval. He grinned then to show he'd done it intentionally. "Nah, even I wouldn't touch that joke." His smile broadened a notch. "Besides, I'm not into children."
Sam sighed softly, annoyed by the teasing, but determined not to let him see how thoroughly.
"Run along now, Carter. You've got an appointment to make." He snickered at her irritation, then suddenly realized he'd forgotten to nag her into getting his lunch for him. Unfortunately, she was already halfway across the room by the time he remembered. "Aw, damn. Hey ... Airman," he called out to passing kid who looked painfully young to his eyes. "I need a favor...."
* * * * * * * * *
The Infirmary was a whirling dervish of activity when Sam arrived; doctors moving to and fro, nurses and medics shifting equipment, while a couple engineers were off in the corner clearly discussing some kind of alteration. Obviously, the rumors that the new CMO was insisting on upgrading the facilities were true.
And in the center of the havoc stood a woman who had to be Captain Fraiser. She was the only one who even remotely fit O'Neill's description, though she was taller than his Lilliputian account had indicated. Well, of course she is, Sam reminded herself. The colonel had just been mouthing off in his usual sarcastic style. From what little Sam could see she did, however, barely look old enough to be in the military, much less a captain in charge of the medical section of a project like the Stargate. Her head was downbent over a metal clipboard, her reddish brown hair borderline shaggy. From what little Sam could see of her hands and wrists, she was probably slightly built under the oversize labcoat, but she spun before Carter could get a look at her face, speaking to a passing medic and gesturing sharply. Judging by her body language, she was in an impatient mood.
"I ... uh ... Doctor Fraiser?" Sam said as she stepped forward, dodging a passing pair of medics pushing something out of a futuristic Frankenstein movie between them.
The woman in question spun around, but didn't look up from her clipboard. "Mmhm," she said distantly, then called out to no one in particular, "would someone please check the autoclave ... the timer should have gone off by now."
"I ... uh--"
The doctor looked up and, despite O'Neill's description, Sam found herself facing eyes that were anything but twelve; a dark, loamy brown, they trapped a person and held on, and for a moment, she was caught flat-footed and speechless.
"I'm assuming Colonel O'Neill caught up with you, Captain Carter," Fraiser said after a beat, surprising Sam. She hadn't expected to be recognized. "Hopefully, you're here about an appointment?"
Sam dodged another passing pair of techs moving equipment, her attention on them as she unintentionally stepped a pace closer to the smaller woman than was entirely appropriate. She realized her mistake as she looked back, her eyes dropping to the floor where she saw that they were standing almost toe to toe. As her gaze rose, she unintentionally got a good look at the body hidden by the shapeless labcoat. That too belonged to anything but a twelve year old and the details went by with astonishing clarity as Carter's focus lifted until she ran into those near-black eyes again, studying her with a tolerantly wry look now. Sam suddenly realized she'd been caught staring. She took a quick step back. Even more flustered now, she nodded. "I ... uh ... I was thinking maybe next week--"
"Ah huh," Fraiser murmured, one eyebrow ticking a notch upward, her tone and expression making it clear that she knew perfectly well she was being avoided. She glanced at her watch. "Actually, I'm free right now, if you've got the time."
Sam frowned, noting the flurry of activity going on on all sides. "I ... uh ... don't you need to ... oversee ... all of this?" she asked hopefully.
Fraiser shrugged, a smile playing about full lips. "Nah ... it's a controlled kind of chaos. Truthfully, I could use a little time away from it all."
"Well, it's just that I should probably ... um ... check in with Colonel O'Neill and the rest of SG-1"
"Oh, I think that can wait a few minutes." The doctor smiled rather wickedly. "After all, Colonel O'Neill isn't going anywhere for awhile."
Seeing the triumphant look in the other woman's eyes, Sam had a bad feeling O'Neill had been no more patient with her than he had been in the mess. Great. That should make her physical a lot more fun. She paused, hunting for another excuse to delay the checkup, only come up blank so that she was left standing there with her mouth open as the woman in front of her watched silently.
"So, tell me," Fraiser asked after a beat, "do you put this much effort into avoiding all doctors, or is it just me?"
Sam blinked and snapped her mouth shut as she realized the other woman was laughing at her. "I ... uh ... I didn't mean...."
Russet brows rose higher on Fraiser's forehead as she listened to Carter's stumbling efforts to explain. Finally, she shook her head and reached out, grabbing Sam's sleeve and tugging her along until she could get behind her and move her hand to the taller woman's center back. "Come on. Let's just get this over with."
Sam barely resisted the urge to whimper.
"Oh, and I assure you, Captain," Fraiser continued, her tone patiently annoyed but with a tinge of dark humor, as though she'd already fielded the question several times and was starting to find it funny, "I am old enough to have passed my medical boards, I really am a captain, and I do know what I'm doing." She pushed Sam into an examining room, not letting up the pressure until there was no way Carter could escape without going through her. "If you'll just change into this." She reached sideways, grabbing a paper gown off a nearby shelf and handing it to Carter. "I'll just go get your file and what I need, and we'll get this done." She didn't offer any time for argument, just smiled pertly and disappeared back out the door, closing it in her wake. Carter cocked her head to one side, half expecting to hear the telltale click of the lock being thrown.
O'Neill was right. She was pushy -- albeit in an perversely charming way -- cute too. Sam had a funny feeling several of the younger airmen were going to start looking forward to their checkups a lot more than they had under Warner.
She was still shrugging into the paper gown several minutes later when the doctor returned, a chart tucked under her arm, stethoscope slung around her neck and a tray of supplies that Sam noted contained several syringes as well as one or two devices whose purpose she didn't even care to guess at. Carter offered a watery smile and got a wry one in return.
"Relax," Fraiser said surprisingly gently. "I promise, Captain, I have no tools of torture and I don't bite...." She paused thoughtfully. "Well, not unless asked nicely."
Sam felt a blush crawl over her cheeks. She'd never been good at responding to jokes like that, especially when they came from women. With the guys, she'd learned to shoot back and cut them down a notch, but that was hard to do when every possible response she could think of had a sexual connotation she was more than a little uncomfortable expressing in public. She suddenly had the unbelievable need to study her toes and it only got worse as she heard a soft chuckle at her obvious embarrassment.
"And you work with Colonel O'Neill?" Fraiser mused out loud. "Dear God, if you can't take my jokes, how do you survive?"
Sam couldn't help it, she looked up then and shrugged as she attempted to sound blasť. "The colonel's not that bad."
Fraiser grinned triumphantly. "She speaks," she observed happily before adding, "No more of the silent treatment, okay? It's hell on my ego."
"God knows, we can't have that," Sam found herself saying before she could think better of it.
"Not only speaks, but ripostes," Fraiser responded. "Very good, Captain." Then she snapped her fingers sharply, and gestured to the examining table. "However, you're not getting out of your physical."
Carter rolled her eyes, but didn't argue, just levered herself onto the table, surprised to find herself more relaxed than usual about the prospect of a physical. The ongoing teasing was surprisingly successful at distracting her from her own fears. She was still considering that phenomenon when a thermometer was thrust in her mouth.
Her head down, Fraiser glanced at her chart, though Sam had the sense she wasn't looking at anything new. "You took some pretty hard hits from Kawalsky," she commented as her head came back up. "Still having any problems ... double vision, lightheadedness?" Sam shook her head firmly. "Any other problems?" Another quick head shake. "Okay, well, we'll just make sure all's okay."
Sam made a face. There for a moment, she'd hoped the doctor might be let her off easy. No such luck. After a moment, the thermometer was removed from her mouth and Fraiser jotted a note in her chart. "So, was the colonel really that bad?" she asked as she watched the doctor set the thermometer aside and reached for a stethoscope.
"You mean aside from making jokes about my height, my age, calling me 'Mussolini in a skirt,' and implying that I probably torture puppies for fun?"
Sam winced. Unfortunately, she knew O'Neill well enough to be comfortably certain that he'd said every last word of it. "He's had a really rough time lately," she said, feeling the need to defend her superior. "He lost an old friend on the project."
"I know," Fraiser said softly as she paced behind her patient. "General Hammond briefed me on what happened to Major Kawalsky." Considering O'Neill's less than friendly approach to the woman, Sam was a little surprised by the depth of sympathy in her voice, then she felt the cool metal of the stethoscope chestpiece against her back. A brief moment later, Fraiser's warm breath played over the strip of skin exposed where the gown split in the back, her voice low and soothing. "Breathe."
Carter inhaled and felt the chill metal move, then the same quiet command accompanied by the delicate brush of warm breath on her upper shoulders. The hair at the nape of her neck prickled with awareness and she tensed fractionally. "It's just that the sarcasm seems to be his primary way of dealing with things," she explained. They hadn't known each other that long, but she'd learned that much about the man.
"Shhh," the doctor hushed, the sound blowing another soft gust of warm air across Carter's back as she listened at another point. She rested her free hand lightly on Sam's upper back, listening carefully before moving the chestpiece and quietly commanding, "Breathe." She checked several more points on Carter's back with the same attention to detail, then stepped in front of Sam. Lifting the paper gown enough to slide her forearm underneath, she again rested her free hand lightly on Carter's shoulder as she moved the chestpiece from point to point, murmuring, "Breathe," each time she paused.
Blue eyes lifted to the ceiling as Sam concentrated on ignoring the sensation of having a stranger's hands so intimately close to her bare skin. As if sensing Carter's need to draw into herself during those moments, the doctor was silent except for the occasional command.
Finally, Fraiser pulled her hand back. "Your pulse is running a little fast," she murmured, "but I'm guessing that's just nerves."
Sam shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. "Nothing personal, but I've never been very good at physicals, Doctor Fraiser." She made a face. "Actually, I really hate them," she admitted in a surprising burst of honesty. Or at least it was surprising to her, if not the doctor.
Again that little smile. "No ... really. I'd never have guessed," the smaller woman teased as she jotted a note in her chart. "And it's Janet."
"Janet," Sam murmured, then smiled back at the other woman. "And, as for Colonel O'Neill," she added, unable to let the subject drop. It was a new project, still adding people and shaking things into place. Starting out on a bad foot with an important department head seemed foolish at best, especially since -- in purely practical terms -- this woman had the power to ground them all any time she wanted. Tempting her to do so just to annoy the colonel was something Sam wanted to avoid. Besides, she was finding she rather liked the doctor. "He's really not so bad and the sarcasm thing is actually sort of his version of respect ... it means he thinks you can take it."
Dark eyes rolled back, but the answering snort had an oddly affectionate quality to it. "I'm not sure I could stand much more respect, but...." Her eyes twinkled mischievously. "Since you're obviously worried about it, I'll let you in on a little secret." She closed the file and set it aside once more, her tone becoming more sympathetic. "He came in here looking for a fight, so I obliged." She shrugged. "It was really just a little sparring match, and he walked out of here with more bounce in his step -- cane, brace, and all -- than he walked in with."
Sam considered his tone in the mess. He'd sounded more like the man she'd come to know than he had for some time. "Sneaky," she said at last.
The doctor shrugged. "I have my moments, Captain."
Carter found herself liking this woman more and more with every new revelation. "I don't doubt it ... and it's Sam," she added, wanting the other woman to feel relaxed with being on a first name basis.
"Sam...." The brunette paused, head cocking to one side as she studied Sam. "So, now can I ask you a question?" she queried after a beat.
Sam nodded a little hesitantly. "All right." Answering questions about herself wasn't a favorite activity, particularly when it came to people who perhaps saw a little too much. Something she suspected was Fraiser's specialty.
"You seem very worried about Colonel O'Neill -- and that's admirable -- but I can't help but wonder if there's anything else going on." She didn't come out and ask the question, but it was there between the lines. As the CMO, it was something she had to do, though it was obvious from her expression that she was uncomfortable doing so.
Sam's eyes went round as the meaning behind the words sank in. "What?" she exhaled, then shook her head vehemently. "No," she insisted quickly. "That is ... I mean ... the colonel and I? No. Not even a little bit." She waved a hand in a negative motion. "Actually, it has more to do with you than him."
Russet brows rose high and the doctor seemed to have been struck dumb by that comment.
Sam skidded to a verbal halt as it occurred to her that hadn't come out quite the way she intended. "I just mean that I don't think it's good to have any ongoing feuds between the CMO and my team.... And besides," she added, "I'd just as soon not alienate one of the few women other than myself in this place."
At that, Janet's smile returned and she laughed softly. "Testosterone poisoning gets to you now and then, huh?" There was a wealth of knowledge in the comment. She'd been in the military long enough to know how it could be for a woman.
"Oh yeah," Sam admitted in a burst of honesty.
The doctor nodded understandingly. "Been there, done that," she sighed wryly, then reached out, resting a hand lightly on Carter's shoulder, urging her to lie down on the examining table. "But you needn't worry. No grudges here, and I'm sure Colonel O'Neill will forget all about it as soon as someone else annoys him even more than I did."
Sam couldn't contain a small laugh. "You have a point there. He does tend to focus on whoever's irritating him the most at any given point in time." She pushed up on one elbow. "I just wanted to make sure there wasn't a problem."
Full lips lifted in a pleased smile. "Don't worry. Everything's fine." That gentle hand landed on Sam's shoulder, lightly pressing her back down. "But you're still not getting out of your physical."
"Curses," Carter sighed dramatically, "foiled again."
That earned a small laugh before the doctor set back to work, her tone gentle and occasionally teasing, her touch light and professional. Sam was poked, prodded, hooked up to various monitors, donated enough blood to fill a good sized blood-bank, and subjected one or two tests that she didn't even begin to understand. Just as well, she decided at some point, there were some things she was better off not knowing.
Finally, Fraiser stepped back a pace. "I think that's it. We'll have the blood tests done in a day or two, but it looks to me like you're in perfect health." She wrote a last comment on Sam's chart. "With luck, you'll be able to avoid this place for awhile." She glanced at the chart again, brows rising thoughtfully, "Then again," she sighed as she looked up, gently teasing the blond, "you do appear to be a bit accident-prone."
Blue eyes rolled ceilingward. "Not normally ... just ... well ... lately." Sam shrugged a little helplessly. "And the others are even worse," she added, hoping to draw a little attention off herself.
Fraiser laughed softly. "I've noticed the files." She shook her head a little dazedly. "Lots of them ... already ... and probably many more to come...." A moment passed and then she shook off the brief bemusement. "However, we're at least done for now." She tucked Sam's chart back under her arm. "And now I should leave you to get dressed ... and also check and see if the lab is still in one piece." With that, she turned to leave.
Sam's voice caught her at the door. "See you around."
The doctor turned back, her hand still on the doorknob, a genuine smile lighting up her expression. "Oh, I think you can count on that...."
"Good," Sam murmured, her lips lifting in an answering smile. Arched brows rose ever so slightly and Fraiser nodded in acknowledgment.
"Careful, Captain ... Sam," she teased, her tone faintly challenging, "unless I'm mistaken, you're dangerously close to liking a member of the medical profession." She winked, slipping out before Sam could formulate a clever answer.
A moment passed and then Sam shook off her brief bemusement. "I think it's too late for the warning, Doctor," she exhaled to no one in particular, then corrected herself as she reached for her clothes, "Janet...."