Keys & Friends

#5 of "Special Things" Series

Category: Romance/Angst/Friendship

Spoilers: Desperate Measures

Season: Five

Pairings: Sam and Jack

Rating: PG (Older Kids)

Warnings: None

Summary: Jack likes to share special things with special people. This time it serves an important purpose.

Author's Note: Thank you to my beta, Buddy, for keeping up despite her busy schedule.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are not my property. I have written this story for the enjoyment of Stargate SG-1 fans all over the world. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary gain is expected.

Sam walked into her house after almost a week of being unexpectedly gone, and she was mortified to realize that she'd left the dishes from last Saturday's breakfast in the kitchen sink. Being the methodical, impeccable person she was, she felt embarrassed by her sloppiness and quickly started to rinse them off and put them inside the dishwasher.

Her three teammates just looked at each other in silent bafflement but allowed her to tidy up her kitchen without making a sound, having just followed her in and standing circumspect in her kitchen.

Jack watched her warily, still afraid that she would suddenly break down and react to the distressing experiences she'd suffered during the past week. She'd been abducted, held prisoner, experimented on, and almost killed by people that had treated her no better than they would a lab rat. But she still had not said a word to express how disturbingly horrible that must have been.

On their way to the SGC infirmary, where they'd both spent the past three days convalescing, she'd been more concerned about him and his bullet wound than about her own recent ordeal. She'd brushed the medics off impatiently as they had tried to assess her condition until Jack had ordered her to allow them to check her up. She'd also been in no hurry to be released until he'd been allowed to leave as well, and Janet had been delighted at the opportunity to keep her friend under observation and even more thrilled at not having to argue with her to force her to stay.

Now Daniel and Teal'c had dutifully volunteered to drive their two friends home, first Sam, next himself. But Jack was in no rush to leave Carter alone in her house. If given a choice, he'd rather just stay here and keep her company for a few days. But he knew that he could never do that without it looking suspicious and probably creating a problem for both of them. He also knew that Sam would never allow it. She would not admit that she was afraid and feeling vulnerable. But Jack knew that she was.

Part of the reason she had remained in the infirmary under Janet's tender care was fear. He knew it, even if Carter herself didn't. He'd been watching her carefully, and she'd been jumpy and irritable, sullen and slightly depressed. He'd commented as much to Janet — and she had agreed — but the doctor had assured him that, the sooner Sam could return to her home and normality the sooner she'd be able to recover. She had also promised Jack that she'd be checking on her friend regularly.

Sam's current behavior was a little eerie. She compulsively cleaned her countertop with a soapy sponge as her three friends just stood against it and stared at her. She was oblivious, obviously distracted and anxious.

Just as he was about to say something, and as if summoned by his thoughts, their little doctor friend walked into the house. "Hello?" she called musically.

"Janet! We're in the kitchen," Sam promptly responded, snapping out of her reverie, and everyone turned to greet the smiling physician, who carried a large box containing a huge pizza and a bag with what Jack suspected were sodas.

"Hi, guys! I brought dinner. I didn't think Sam would feel like cooking tonight," she greeted with a smile.

"Carter never feels like cooking. That's why we eat so much pizza!" Jack joked, making his major glare at him with hands akimbo.

"And why is it that I'm the one expected to cook?" she challenged.

"Hey! I do my fair share of coo… grilling. Teal'c does, too! And we all prefer Daniel not to cook because he likes weird food. You're the one that always suggests carry-out because you don't like the kitchen," he argued playfully.

Sam opened her mouth to argue, but then she turned back to the sink she'd been washing and mumbled something.

"What was that, Carter?" Jack wickedly prodded.

"I said… I don't dislike the kitchen, I'm just… notverygoodatit," she muttered again, not looking at anyone.

The four friends smiled at the major's admission, but no one disagreed with her. They just got comfortable around her table and dug in, chatting away as they ate. An hour later, however, Janet excused herself.

"Well, Cassie will probably be coming back from her outing soon, so I'd better get home. I'll stop by tomorrow morning for coffee, Sam. Try to get a good night's sleep, and call me if you need anything," the doctor instructed as she picked up her purse and got ready to depart.

"I will. Don't worry, I'll be fine," Sam answered. Then she hugged Janet and let her friend go with a wistful look on her face.

"Jack, do you feel like heading out?" Daniel asked.

The colonel couldn't quite find another excuse to linger, so he reluctantly nodded as he started to painfully stand up, his arm sore from the bullet wound. "Carter, will you be all right if we…" he started to ask, but his major irritably interrupted him.

"I'll be fine!" she snapped. Then she looked immediately contrite. "I'm sorry," she quietly said, "I'm just tired. I'm fine, really."

"Well, I'm glad you are, but I'm not," Jack admitted petulantly, sitting back down and eliciting surprised looks from everyone.

"Think about it, guys. We're all at risk. Any of us could be a target for different reasons. We're never completely safe, not even here on Earth. We gotta have a system… something… to make sure we cover each other. We don't want what happened to Carter to happen again… to any of us," he argued. Both Teal'c and Daniel nodded. Sam stared at him for a few moments, but she finally responded.

"What are you suggesting?" she asked, honestly intrigued.

"Well, for starters, we check up on each other every day we are not on duty. Since Teal'c is always the first one up in the morning and is the only one that lives on base, he can make the first phone call. He can call my cell phone to make sure I'm alive. Then I'll call you, Carter. And since Daniel is the one that likes to sleep late, you call him last. Then we'll do the same before we go to bed at night."

Sam looked at Daniel and Teal'c, who seemed to have no problem with the idea. Then she met the expectant eyes of her CO. "Isn't that a little… extreme?" she finally suggested.

"I don't think so," Jack quickly responded. "What about you guys?" he asked his other two teammates, and they both nodded agreeably.

"I think that's a great idea. I know I'd sleep better knowing that we've checked up on each other. I don't ever want to spend another week like this one," Daniel admitted, looking at Sam with fondness.

"I believe this system will ensure our safety at almost all times. Even if one of you is abducted again, we would be able to react in a much more timely fashion than we did with Major Carter's abduction." Teal'c, as usual, made his point clearly and firmly.

"Carter?" Jack asked, waiting for his major's agreement.

She sighed and nodded, and he suspected that she was secretly relieved. "Okay. We'll call each other up."

"One more thing," Jack informed them.

"What?" Daniel asked.

"We're exchanging house keys. I only have one extra copy on me, but I'll make a couple more for you two. This one I'm leaving with Carter," he announced, pulling out his key chain and removing a key. He handed it to his major, who automatically took it with a stunned look on her face.

"I'll make three copies of my apartment's key and give it to you all tomorrow," Daniel easily agreed. Then he looked at Sam, who still held her CO's house key in her extended hand. "Sam?"

"I… I think I have a couple of copies," she absentmindedly agreed. She then headed to her bedroom and reappeared within seconds with two keys in her hand. Handing one over to Jack and the other one to Daniel, she addressed her Jaffa friend. "I'll make one for you, Teal'c."

The large man just bowed his head in agreement, and Jack finally stood to leave. "I hope you all realize how very special you are!" the colonel jokingly informed them, heading to the front door.

"Oh? And why should we realize that?" Daniel asked as he trailed him.

"I have never given my house key to anyone! So you should feel very, very special," he responded, but instead of looking at Daniel, his gaze was directed at his major.

Sam smiled at him, acknowledging his message. "Then you are special, too! Not even my father has a key to my house!" she countered.

"Okay, we're all very special! Let's go, Jack! It's getting late and I still have that translation to get to." Daniel rushed them out the door, smirking at Sam, who stood just inside watching them go with increasing trepidation.

"Bye, guys," she softly called, which made them all turn to her and wave. Teal'c was quick to reassure her.

"I will be calling O'Neill by 2200 hours tonight, Major Carter."

"Okay, Teal'c. Thanks for everything," she forced herself to smile as she responded.

Sam watched them all go as her heart steadily picked up pace inside her chest. When Daniel's sporty coupe left, she nervously glanced around to peer into the shadows surrounding her house and quickly locked her front door. She then methodically checked all the windows and other doors to make sure they were securely locked as well. 'I should probably install an alarm system,' she thought, but immediately dismissed the idea. They were worthless when dealing with the kind of threats they were dealing with.

She left her porch, hallway and patio lights on, drawing all the curtains closed. Then she went into her bedroom and locked the door. Feeling pathetically weak and vulnerable, she finally sat on her bed and covered her face with her hands, allowing herself to admit that she was afraid of being alone. And she'd probably be nervous for a long time, looking over her shoulder and overreacting every time a stranger came near. But she hoped that, eventually, this would also pass, and that she'd be able to function normally again.

She didn't know how long she'd been sitting on her bed, just thinking, when the ringing of her cell phone made her jump three feet high and stand by her bed, looking around frantically. She shook herself out of her sudden panic and reached for her cell phone. "Carter!"

"Hi, it's me. Just calling to check up on you," her CO's voice informed her.

"Sir? It's not time for bed yet," she answered in bewilderment, sounding alarmed.

"I know, but I can call you at other times, too. Can't I?" he asked, sounding offended. But Sam knew he was just playing.

"Of course, Sir," she smiled. Sam willed her voice to sound steady and calm, and she thought she managed to do so when she added, "I'm fine, Sir. Thanks for checking."

"I'll be calling again later, when Teal'c makes the first evening call," he reminded her.

"Okay," she nodded, grateful for the calling system, for the keys, for his voice keeping her company, for her special friends being part of her life.

"Are you sure you're okay? I can come over," he softly suggested.

"Sir, you can't drive yet," she argued with a smile, tempted to agree.

"Taxis, Carter. That's what they're for," Jack teased.

Sam remained silent for a few moments, dying to say yes, but she knew that it would be too risky. "Thank you, Sir, but I'll be okay. You can't baby-sit me forever, you know."

"I'll baby-sit you as long as you need me to. You know that. If you want me over, I can be there in minutes," he insisted.

Sam closed her eyes and willed herself to be strong. "I really appreciate that, and I'll call you if I really need someone with me, I promise. But I have to try to go back to normal. I can't live in fear, Sir." She knew she wasn't fooling him for a second. He knew how she felt.

"I know. But there's nothing wrong with easing yourself into it," he argued. She could swear he sounded eager to come back, and her heart skipped a beat, thinking of what could happen with the two of them alone in her house if she allowed him to come over. But this same thought confirmed that she had to remain firm in her resolve.

"I know. But this is the way it is, and I'll be okay. I promise. Knowing that you'll be checking up on me and that you have my house key makes me feel safer. Thank you for suggesting that."

"Just remember how special you are having Jack O'Neill's house key in your possession," he joked.

"I do feel special, Sir," she smiled, rolling her eyes and already feeling much more relaxed than she'd been before his phone call.

"That's because you are, Carter. Don't you ever forget that," he quietly responded. "Don't let the bedbugs bite," he playfully said.

"Good night, Sir." 'I love you,' she wanted to say, but of course she couldn't.

Hanging up, she put her cell phone back inside her purse, and then she pulled out Jack's house key from her pocket. Inserting it in her key chain, she smiled as she visualized his handsome, dear features.

Special, indeed. He had no idea how special he truly was to her. But maybe someday she'd be able to show him just how much.

The End