Colorado Springs, CO
November 15, 1999
The store was big. Bigger than he remembered from the last time he'd done this. He pulled off his sunglasses and looked around. Had there been so much stuff all those years ago? As usual, the memory of his family – his son – was accompanied by that all too familiar ache and he sighed, turning to his friend. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
"Why not, Jack?" Daniel made a vague gesture with his hand to encompass the store, "Sam's going need most of this for the baby."
"But there's… so much."
Daniel took another good look around and made a face. "Yeah. I'm not even sure where to begin."
Jack held up his hands at his questioning look. "Hey, what are you looking at me for? This was your idea."
"Well, sort of. I just said that Sam would need a lot of basic things for the baby," he replied. "You're the one that wanted to go buy them."
"She's still in quarantine – it's not like she can go out and buy them herself."
"Did you ask Sam?"
He shook his head. "Nah, I checked in after our post-mission exam but then Hammond came to visit, so I gave them some privacy. I think he wanted to tell her about her dad."
"Oh. Well, maybe we should have waited and get Janet to do it or something."
"But she needs this stuff now, not days later or whenever the Doc will lift the quarantine."
Sighing, Daniel indicated the first aisle. "Where do we start? You've done this before."
Jack narrowed his eyes at him and briefly wondered why he'd taken him along again. Oh right, appearances. He'd thought it might look strange if he bought Sam and Ife things, so he figured he'd make it a team thing. Except Teal'c was in the infirmary, still recovering from their mission to Bedrosia, and Daniel was the only other teammate he currently had. "That was more than a decade ago," he reminded him. "Besides, I was little bit preoccupied behind enemy lines at the time. Sara did it pretty much on her own."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"It's fine," he said, dismissing the apology. "Diapers, she's gonna need diapers."
Daniel got them a shopping cart and found the right aisle. "What kind?"
Jack eyed the high stacks of colorful packaging and noticed the numerous brands. "Haven't got a clue."
"There are different sizes."
Daniel rolled his eyes and gestured at a brand that used a cheeky baby on the front. "What size do you think she needs? Maybe we should have waited for Janet..."
Jack stepped closer and eyed the labels, while thinking back to three days ago when he found Sam and her little girl on Utcha. "Fraiser is still trying to figure out how old she is and couldn't have shared any medical information with us anyway," he said. But he'd held Ife, however briefly. "I'd say she didn't weigh more than twenty pounds."
"This one then?"
"No, she's at least a year old, that much I could tell," he said and lifted the one for fifteen months and up.
Daniel watched as he put the diapers in the cart. "Are you sure?"
He shrugged, "She's probably underweight, but I'd think bigger is preferable over too small. And any diapers is better than none. Um, we're gonna need more than one of these, Daniel."
"Do you have any idea how many diapers a toddler uses? Make it four. We can always get more later."
After lifting them in the cart, Daniel looked around. "What else?"
"Some basic onesies, socks, and a soft blanket," Jack said. The poor kid had still been wearing a cut-off infirmary gown earlier that morning. "Diaper cream, baby shampoo, baby lotion… A stuffed toy or two, maybe a pacifier-"
"Um," he stopped walking. "I don't know. I think she breastfeeds."
Daniel frowned and waved his hand in front of his chest, "But wouldn't she need to, you know, use one of those things to express milk?"
"We should let Fraiser handle that."
They continued moving around the store, tossing everything that looked remotely useful in the cart. "We should get one of those baby carriers too."
"Oh, I think I saw one that doubles as a car seat over there," Daniel said.
Colorado Springs, CO
Sam let out a sigh of contentment as the water turned off. One of the things she'd missed most about Earth, were the showers. Of course, the one in the infirmary wasn't the same as the fantastic shower she'd had in her apartment in DC, but it was a shower with hot water regardless.
Reaching for the towels she'd laid out, she patted her hair dry before wrapping a towel around it and used the other one to towel herself dry. She smiled when she caught sight of Ife – fast asleep – in her makeshift bed in the corner of the small bathroom. Her daughter was suffering from some rashes on her body and the steam from the bathroom always calmed her down, probably because it softened the skin and lessened the itching. Still, even without that benefit, Sam wouldn't have left Ife alone.
Sam slipped on the dreaded scrubs she'd been given to wear and pushed Ife's makeshift bed out of the bathroom. She suspected the 'bed' was actually a drawer from one of the large filing cabinets in the infirmary, but it fit – and Sergeant Siler had put wheels on it, so Sam could easily move it around the plastic bubble and ensuite bathroom.
She looked up at the sound of her name and it took her a moment to identify the woman in the scrubs and mask. "Catherine!"
Catherine Langford entered the bubble and came up to hug her. "Oh, it is so good to see you, my dear."
"You too," she replied, awkwardly returning the embrace.
"I had a hard time believing the news… and I still can't believe you're actually here!"
Sam shifted uncomfortably as Catherine continued to stare at her. "Well… I am."
Although her mouth was hidden behind the mask, it was obvious Catherine was smiling, her eyes shining warmly. "Wonderful, Samantha."
"Who told you I was back?"
"I heard rumors through the grapevine when I came in to work on Friday, so I asked Daniel and Jack and they confirmed it. It took some wrangling to get permission to visit you, but here I am."
Sam nodded in understanding, still a bit overwhelmed by it all. It was only her third day back, but so much had changed… "You're, um, still working at the Pentagon?"
"Oh heavens no," Catherine said, chuckling. "After you went missing, the SGC asked for my help in rewriting some of the dialing computer's protocols."
"They knew you were the only one familiar with my work…"
"Yes, I was able to make the changes post haste, but soon after Gary transferred here too and he became my right-hand man."
Sam smiled at the mention of Doctor Gary Meyers, a civilian contractor with PhDs in computer science and math, with whom they'd worked together at the Pentagon. "His family must have been happy to move out here."
Catherine nodded and gestured towards the plastic foldup chairs that some orderlies brought in this morning before General Hammond visited Sam. "Oh yes, you remember his wife didn't like Washington DC? They have a lovely house not far from the base now, with plenty of space for their two children."
"That's, um, nice."
"I spoke to him this morning and he said he'd try to visit you later this week. Doctor Fraiser is keeping the daily visitors to a minimum."
"I know, I asked her to," Sam confessed, as she took a seat on one of the chairs. "It feels… strange. To have people walking in and out of here at all hours. It makes me feel like I'm on display, or something."
Catherine leaned over and gently patted Sam's hand with her gloved one in a comforting gesture. "I understand. I hope you don't mind her letting me through, though."
"Of course not, Catherine. You're always welcome."
"Good. Gary also informed John and Robert about your return and they were so happy to hear you're home! I'm sure they'll be in touch soon."
John Friesen was one of the engineers at the Xenophysics Department and Major Robert Bennet was specialized in applied physics. Sam hadn't thought about them in over two years and it was strange to suddenly be reminded of the life she used to live, before… everything. "That's, um, nice."
The look in Catherine's eyes turned more serious and sympathetic, "I know, you probably have a lot of other things on your mind." She fell silent for a moment, before she spoke again, hesitantly. "General Hammond told me he spoke to you this morning."
"Yeah." Sam looked down at her hands and swallowed hard, the grief still raw. "My dad… he died. Just a few weeks ago. Lymphoma," she added, tears burning her eyes. "I didn't even know he had cancer."
"Oh, I am so sorry, dear," Catherine said, leaning over to embrace her.
Sam returned the hug awkwardly, trying to take comfort from the gesture but finding it difficult to lower her defenses. Instead, she sniffled and forced the tears away, before pulling back. "Thank you, Catherine."
The older woman patted her knee and was about to say something, when Ife made a noise as she yawned loudly. "Oh my."
"She's probably hungry."
"I wasn't sure whether to believe the stories…"
Sam looked up at the comment as she lifted Ife. "About my daughter?"
Catherine watched them as Sam made her way back to her chair. "Quite frankly, yes."
"Well, I don't know what rumors are floating around, but she's mine."
"She's beautiful, Samantha." Catherine chuckled as Ife grabbed her outstretched hand. "What's her name?"
Sam smiled when Ife giggled and held her tight. "Ife."
"You have your mommy's eyes, Ife."
"She's shy," Sam said when Ife turned away and pressed her face against Sam's side.
Catherine leaned back in her chair, a grandmotherly look in her eyes. "No wonder, after everything you two must have gone through."
She shrugged. "I think it's just all the new impressions."
"It took Ernest quite some time to adjust, although it had been much longer for him of course."
"How is Ernest doing?" Sam asked, latching onto the new subject. Anything to avoid more questions about what had happened off-world and how they were handling it.
"He is doing well. Much better than when he first came back. He still doesn't like to go to crowded areas and can sometimes retreat into himself at home, but his progress is one of the reasons I stayed at the SGC and stopped my work at the Pentagon," she explained. "He would've come with me but he doesn't like being underground."
"I'm glad to hear he's doing better."
Catherine reached out again and trailed a finger down Ife's arm. "Is that a rash?"
Sam nodded and let out a deep sigh, eyeing the bed. "Yes, Doctor Fraiser doesn't think it's an infection, but more likely from the laundry detergent or maybe the body wash I used the other day."
"Oh, yes, Ernest suffered from a lot of irritated skin too after he returned."
"The Doctor thinks it started because I washed the dirt from Ife's skin."
Catherine seemed to understand, "It was a natural protective barrier and now her skin is vulnerable, both to irritants and infection."
Sam felt bad about causing her daughter such discomfort. At least she hadn't taken Ife into the shower and washed her from head to toe; she'd only used the washcloth on her little girl's arms before noticing the rash. "The steam from the shower seems to lessen the itching for a while."
"You're not experiencing the same rash?"
"No, I wanted to wash up Ife first. Doctor Fraiser told me to only use water and no body wash to clean myself up after that. So far, I'm fine, although the sheets are kind of itchy."
Catherine suddenly stood up. "That reminds me! I brought you something." She walked over to the entrance of the bubble where something colorful was lying on the tray that was normally used to place meals on. "I made a lot of these for Ernest and when I heard you were coming home, I made you one, too."
Sam watched as she unfolded a colorful quilt. "A quilt?"
"I only work part-time and have hobbies other than doing research, Samantha," she said, chuckling. "Ernest likes the quiet, so some days he just reads a book or tells me about his time on Heliopolis while I quilt."
"And you made one for me?"
She nodded. "I only use organic cotton with natural dyes because of Ernest's skin sensitivity. I can make one for Ife, too."
Sam got up, placing Ife on one hip, and walked up to Catherine. "Thank you. That's very sweet of you."
"It's the least I can do, dear."
Catherine looked pleased and moved over to the bed, placing the quilt on it. "I hope it'll feel better than those scratchy infirmary sheets. Goodness knows how much industrial detergent they use to clean those."
It was cool in the infirmary and Ife was only wearing a thin cut-off paper gown, so Sam walked over to the bed and wrapped Ife in the quilt. It turned out Ife wasn't hungry yet and since Catherine showed no signs of leaving, Sam desperately searched for a topic. She'd always been terrible at small talk but it was preferable over talking about what she'd been through. "So, Catherine, tell me about all the gossip I've missed while I was gone."
Colorado Springs, CO
Jack watched as Sam dug into the bowl of jello he'd smuggled into the plastic bubble, pleased to see a smile, however small, on her face. "Good?"
"Oh yeah," she said, in between bites. "God, I've missed Earth food."
"I don't think jello qualifies as actual food."
She rolled her eyes but the smile still tugged at her lips. "How did you know I liked blue jello? Most people seem to go for red."
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with red jello," he said.
He shrugged, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his BDU pants. "I have my sources."
Sam stopped, spoon halfway to her mouth, a small frown on her forehead. "Catherine?"
Jack didn't say anything when she continued to look at him. After a minute or two she just shook her head and went back to eating the dessert he'd brought her. She was clearly enjoying the treat and it was good to see such a small gesture lift her spirits. Mission accomplished. He hated seeing her behind the plastic, especially in light of what she'd already gone through at the hands of the Goa'uld. It might not be a prison cell, but her movements were still restricted and this far underground there was no daylight, either.
He looked up at her question and couldn't hold back a smile at the curiosity on her face. It reminded him of the day they first met, when he'd challenged her to a game of pool. He figured she didn't really want to know what had been on his mind, though. "Nothin'. Was just wondering where the munchkin is."
Setting down the empty bowl, Sam gestured towards the bed. "She's asleep."
"Ah." The curtain around the bed was drawn so he couldn't see the baby.
"Thank you, by the way."
Sam gave him a slightly exasperated look, as if she could see right through his act. "Doctor Fraiser told me you went out and bought those things for Ife."
He shrugged, "It was Daniel's idea."
"Still, you didn't have to."
"Well, you weren't going anywhere and I figured you could use some of those things."
She smiled gratefully and looked away, presumably to watch her daughter. "That was very thoughtful of you, Jack."
The door opening and sound of clicking heels announced the CMO's arrival and it made him bite his tongue. Looking over his shoulder, he gave her a nod. "Doc."
"Sir," Fraiser said, stopping at his side. "Captain."
The Doc looked from him to Sam and back, as if wondering if she'd interrupted something. When no one said anything else, she sighed. "It's time for our meeting with General Hammond, Sir."
Jack automatically checked his watch. He'd known there would only be a few minutes to see Sam but his visit still felt too short. "Right. Gotta go."
"Thank you… Colonel," Sam said. "For dropping by."
"Sure, anytime. Doc, lead the way."
Fraiser turned on her heel and exited the room with him, waiting until they were out in the corridor before she spoke again. "She's right, Sir. It was very thoughtful of you."
Uncomfortable with the implications, he shrugged. "Someone had to do it."
"Not everyone would have paid for it themselves."
She smirked, "Yes, Sir."
Damn that guy and his big mouth. "Well, we don't exactly have an emergency fund for this kind of situation, do we? It's not like Captain Carter could've handed me her credit card."
"I suppose not."
Jack knew she wasn't buying it. But what was she going to do or say about it? He'd do whatever the hell he damn well pleased with his own money. He made more than enough money considering his expenses; what else would he spend it on? At least this way, he could get Sam and her kid the bare essentials until Sam's finances had been handled. "So, the meeting with Hammond…"
Fraiser rolled her eyes but didn't comment on his change of subject. "In five minutes, Sir."
"You got all the test results back?"
She gave him a look that made lesser men cower as they waited for the elevator. "Colonel…"
"Fine, fine," he said, sighing. "I can wait."
She didn't look like she believed him but wisely kept quiet.
General Hammond was already waiting for them when they reached his office, beckoned them in and told them to take a seat. "I hope you can give us some answers about Captain Carter and her daughter's condition, Doctor Fraiser."
"I don't want anything what we discuss here to leave this room," Hammond said. "I will debrief Captain Carter about her ordeal myself once Doctor Fraiser gives the all-clear, but until then I don't want any of this to make it back to her or to the grapevine. Is that understood?"
"Why don't we start with the test results, Doctor?"
Fraiser opened the folder she'd been carrying with her and browsed through it until she found what she was looking for. "We've tested for all the likely candidates but we haven't found anything alarming yet, Sirs. Neither the Captain nor the child show any signs of an infection or disease, either."
"Do you have all the results?"
"We're still waiting for a few, Sir."
Hammond's face was etched with concern when he spoke again, "We've briefly discussed the possibility of the child being harsesis, like the son of Apophis and Doctor Jackson's wife. I am hoping you can put my mind at ease, Doctor."
"I'm sorry, Sir," Fraier said. "There's just no way to test for something like that. I wouldn't even know where to begin!"
Jack scrubbed a hand over his face and sighed. He hated sitting around and being unable to do anything to help. "Did you find any abnormalities?"
"In their bloodwork? Nothing unusual so far, except for naquadah in both their systems. But that was to be expected considering the Captain is a former host to a Goa'uld and she must have passed it on to her daughter through the placenta."
"What does that mean for their quarantine, Doctor?"
Fraiser sighed and shifted in her chair. "Honestly? I'd prefer to keep them in quarantine for a few weeks, maybe a month."
"But you just said there weren't any abnormalities in their bloodwork, Doc."
"We're still running some tests, Colonel. Not to mention that we can only test for what we know. From the few things Captain Carter told me, I'd say she's been to more planets than SG-1 and on quite a few of them, she lived among the outcasts where disease is prevalent."
General Hammond steepled his fingers and looked deep in thought as the CMO explained the dangers of letting Sam and Ife leave the base while being potential carriers of unknown infections. "How much longer until you can give us more definitive answers, Doctor?"
"The final blood results will be in in a few days, but that does not mean we've eliminated all risk. That is why I'd prefer a longer quarantine, Sir."
"What about the visitors? Didn't Doctor Langford enter the quarantine earlier today?"
Doctor Fraiser nodded, "With my permission, Sir. She is familiar with the protocols for such quarantines and took the appropriate safety measures per my instructions. Captain Carter and her daughter are quarantined and not in isolation, after all."
"I understand, Doctor," Hammond said, "but we're not set up for a month-long quarantine."
"Not to mention the little girl; an underground base is no place for a baby," Jack said.
"The Academy Hospital might be an option but it might be difficult to explain why the Captain and her daughter need to be quarantined for such a long period without arousing any suspicions or downright panic over mysterious infectious diseases, Sirs."
General Hammond let out a deep sigh. "And what would you say their overall health is, Doctor?"
Fraiser opened her folder again and seemed to be checking her notes. "Captain Carter's vitals are within an acceptable range but she is slightly malnourished and has a very low fat percentage. Her muscle tone is strong, though. I'd say that's probably due to the lifestyle she and Master Bra'tac have lived. She will need a personalized diet with some supplements. There doesn't appear to be any lasting damage from the interrogations she underwent or the attack from Colonel Grieves, most likely because of sarcophagus usage. Well, except for three missing molars, which confirm our theory that sarcophagi can speed up the healing process but not regenerate missing tissue."
"And the child?"
"Due to the treatment Captain Carter received upon capture – food, sleep and light deprivation – she lost the ability to keep track of time, which was not helped by traveling from planet to planet after she escaped. As she explained it, many planets have different rotations from Earth and even a trained Jaffa Master like Master Bra'tac seemed to have trouble keeping track of the days sometimes. That is why she had no idea how much time had passed since her mission to P3X-425 and when exactly she gave birth to her daughter.
"Now, keep in mind that I'm not a pediatrician, but from what I can tell is that the girl is underdeveloped. She definitely needs more nutrition, including solid food and possibly supplements, because she is too small. There is no typical chubbiness for someone her age, for example. In my estimation, she is maybe fourteen or fifteen months old, but her size and weight put her at barely a year old for the average child."
Jack had told Daniel as much when they were out buying baby stuff, but to hear it come from Doc Fraiser was still a bit of a shock. He wondered if Sam realized her daughter was underdeveloped and if so, if she felt guilty about it. "What do you think is the cause, Doc?"
"The lifestyle and lack of nutrition during pregnancy and after birth, Sir. Captain Carter couldn't tell me if the girl was born prematurely for sure, although she did say that Bra'tac had expected her to have another month or so to go at the time she delivered. But there were no complications during childbirth and the baby had seemed fine, too."
"I guess that means we will need to get clearance for a specialized pediatrician," General Hammond mused aloud.
Doctor Fraiser nodded and handed him a sheet of paper with a list of names on it. "Interestingly, Captain Carter told me the child has never been ill. Not even as much as a cold. The same goes for the Captain, by the way, with the exception of one bad reaction to contaminated water shortly after the Goa'uld Herit had been killed. I suspect their naquadah might be responsible for this, which is another reason I would like to keep them quarantined for a little longer than normal, Sir."
Jack ran a hand through his hair in frustration as the Doc and Hammond continued to discuss the pros and cons of quarantining Sam and Ife for an extended period of time. When they went back to the location, he cut in, "Um, Doc, is it necessary to keep them in quarantine for that long or would a controlled environment be enough?"
"What are you thinking, son?"
"Well, they have minimal contact with the medical staff here in the bubble and the occasional visitor like Catherine today," he said. "The SG teams are all exposed to alien environments on their missions and they're barely quarantined for a day, unless there are obvious signs of infection."
Doctor Fraiser looked at him, indecisiveness showing on her face. "Are you suggesting that keeping them in a location off-base with a controlled environment would suffice, Colonel?"
He shrugged, "Well, yeah. It works for the SG teams."
"But the SG teams don't live off-world for more than two years at the time," she reminded him. "The longest is weeks to a month or two."
"And the SG teams undergo regular medical exams, shots and medical treatment," Hammond said.
Jack couldn't deny that was true and he knew he wasn't the one specialized in infectious diseases, but he still felt it was worth a mention. "But wouldn't a quarantine worsen their condition? I mean, you said the girl was underdeveloped Doc, how much opportunity would she have to move, explore and develop in quarantine? Last I checked, there wasn't a hell of a lot of space in that room."
The General exchanged glances with him before looking to the CMO. "The man has a point, Doctor Fraiser."