Something Old, Something New
Part 23
By: Victoria May

"Well? Where to now?" Jack stood with his hands pushed deep into his pockets and eyed the young doctor speculatively as he walked out of the lounge.

John paused for a second, biting his lip as he thought. Finally he shook his head. "I'm not ready to see Gamma and Grandfather quite yet. I'd like to see Chase though."

"Chase-your cousin, right?" Sam asked as she approached her friend.

Smiling as Sam laid her hand on his arm, John nodded. "I haven't seen him in so long. I know the family doesn't visit him often. He's an embarrassment to them." Dropping his head, he shrugged his shoulders. "Guess it runs in the family."

John didn't hear the immediate protestations of his friends as an intense wave of rage washed through him.

"Be silent child! Your pity is wasted bemoaning your misfortune. You must release what you have lost and look ahead. Only then can you fully heal."

"Doc? You all right?" Jack grasped John's arm, supporting the doctor until he looked steady.

Shaking his head, John smiled sheepishly at his concerned CO. "Yeah, sorry. Just got a little dizzy there for a second." At Jack's quirked eyebrow and disbelieving look, he mouthed "Kenric" and explained, "Just feeling sorry for myself."

Jack nodded at the nurses manning the desk, and hurried his group towards the elevators. "Gave you a piece of his mind, did he?" Jack finally asked in the privacy of the small cubicle.

John grinned and nodded. "Listen," he began. "You don't have to come with me. You can go see the sights, or whatever," he added at Daniel's grimace.

"I'll come with you, if you don't mind," Daniel said. Chicago didn't hold much appeal to him any longer. Not like it had when he'd studied there. He'd enjoyed the museums, the clubs, strolling along Michigan Avenue and stopping at the pier for a little fun. But that was before he'd been shunned-outcast by his peers. He knew his old mentor and a few of his colleagues were still at the University, enjoying the limelight that had burned Daniel in its glare. His skin crawled just knowing how close he was to such an important piece of his past.

Sam shot Daniel a knowing smile and slipped her arm around his waist. To John she said, "I'll come with you too. I want to meet your cousin. I know he's important to you."

"Thanks," John answered. He looked at Jack and Teal'c. "I can give you directions to whatever interests you. Teal'c might enjoy the aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry."

Jack shook his head. "Been there, done that. I am pretty familiar with Chicago myself," he explained, shrugging. "I'll just tag along too."

"Teal'c?" John said, turning to the silent jaffa.

The large man cocked his head to the side and answered, "I too wish to meet your 'brother'. I shall accompany you."

The many well-wishers at the hospital continued to stop John and the group finally made it to the rental car. It only took ten minutes to reach the hospice where Chase was staying. As they parked, Sam whistled.

"Wow. This is really nice."

"Only the best for the Carter's," John said, barely paying attention to the marble stairs and molded doorway as he passed through.

John checked in at the front desk in the lobby before leading his friends to a room on the first floor. The room was brightly lit by the early afternoon sunshine pouring through the large French windows. A blond man sat in an overstuffed armchair, staring at a color television. On the screen, a cartoon played and the man laughed at the antics of a fat, yellow bald man.

"Hey, the Simpsons!" Jack's voice boomed, as he threw himself on the bed to watch.

The man in the chair jerked his head towards the doorway and John rushed towards him. "It's okay Chase. It's just me," he reassured the frightened man.

"John!" the man cried out, wrapping his arms clumsily around his cousin. As John stroked his back, he suddenly tensed and pulled back. His head was turned, and he refused to meet John's eyes.

John could feel a twinge of sympathy come from within. Kenric's interest in his cousin was strong and John could tell that the Tok'ra was 'remembering' Chase and their childhood together. He too experienced the memories and saw flashes of Chase as he was as a boy-exuberant and happy. He remembered the pictures his cousin had gifted him with as children, full of color and motion. For a second, he saw Chase and Bobbie, huddled together, conspiring-probably to pull some prank on John.

The image was past but he was left with a feeling of guilt. He'd forgotten how close his brother and cousin had been. How they'd often team up and terrorize him in the fashion of older brothers pitted against the baby of the family. They'd been inseparable. They'd been best friends.

John was stunned that he had forgotten such an important fact. But when Bobbie had died, he'd been so upset. His cousin's sudden presence in his own life was welcomed and unquestioned. But now he realized that Chase had stepped in where Bobbie had once been; that without realizing it, he'd taken Bobbie's place in Chase's life as well.

The images in his mind became morose and dark. Chase, no longer full of vitality, skulking around the mansion when the family gathered together. Chase, dressed in black, his hair in disarray, like he'd lost his comb and didn't care to buy another. The dark pictures, depicting images of death. And finally, the photos, black and white, seeming to see into the soul, revealing the secrets of their subjects.

His cousin had never recovered from Bobbie's death. He'd suffered then, and had been suffering ever since.

"Poor, poor child," Kenric's voice rang in John's head. John's arm reached out, as if to touch-to comfort the still form in the chair. It was only when John saw his arm extended that he realized Kenric was in control. Kenric too, realized his mistake and the arm fell lifelessly to John's side.

John glanced around, but no one seemed to notice the momentary loss of control. Sighing deeply, John dropped to his knees beside his cousin.

"Hey Chase, I missed you. I'm sorry I was gone so long." John sighed as his cousin continued to ignore him. Nudging Chase's knee, he said, "Hey, I brought you something." He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small green frog. Wiggling the frog in front of Chase's turned away face, he said, "His name's Smoochy, but you can call him whatever you want."

Chase turned his head slightly to the right and gazed at the frog. Sliding his eyes towards John, he reached out his hand and snatched the frog. "It's a beanie baby," he muttered reproachfully. He then turned away and continued to ignore his cousin.

Jack watched the scene from his spot on the bed and quickly gazed around the room. Sam had taken a step into the room and looked ready to rush to John's aid. Teal'c had taken position in the doorway, guarding the occupants from whatever dangers lay lurking in the heavily secured hospice. Daniel stood near the door, leaning awkwardly on the wall, trying not to watch the uncomfortable interplay of the cousins.

Sighing, Jack scooted to the end of the bed, close to the man in the chair. "Hey, Chase. I'm Jack. Good to meet ya," he said, sticking his hand out towards the younger man. Chase looked at him wearily for a second before turning quickly to John.

"It's okay. He's a friend," John said, relaxing now that Chase was no longer ignoring him. He watched as his cousin nervously shook Jack's hand and smiled when Chase began to make his new frog dance.

"Hey, cool frog. Can I?" Jack held out his hand for the frog and Chase slowly handed it over. Jack wiggled the frog this way and that, finally twisting its little arms and legs so grotesquely he even had Daniel smothering laughter in his safe corner of the room.

"You didn't come." The ice broken, Chase's voice cut through the laughter and he was now glaring at his cousin.

John leaned closer and patted Chase's leg. "I know. I'm sorry. I don't live in Chicago any more. Remember? I told you I was moving. Far away, so I can't come see you anymore."

"Not so far," Chase protested.

"Yeah buddy, too far." John quickly looked away, blinking rapidly before turning back. "Gamma comes and visits though, right? And your mom?"

Chase's lip quivered and John pulled him into a tight hug. "Hey, it's okay buddy."

Pulling away, Chase lowered his head into his hand, hiding his face. "Tired," he muttered.

"Chase-I have to leave again buddy. I love you. I won't be able to see you for a long time Chase."

Chase took his new frog that Jack had finally surrendered and stared in its eyes. "Guess it's just Kermit and me then," he said matter-of-factly.

"Kermit, huh?" John mused. He hugged his cousin one more time before taking a throw blanket off the bed and wrapping it around his cousin. "Love you."

Chase smiled. "Love you John." He settled back in his chair and closed his eyes.

John stroked his hair away from Chase's face before kissing his forehead. "See you buddy."

The small group was uncommonly quiet as they drove away from the hospice. John tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and glanced at the small digital clock on the dashboard.

"Guess we should head back to County for lunch," he said, breaking the silence.

"John, I'm really sorry about your cousin," Sam began.

"No! Please, I don't think I could stand an ounce of sympathy right now. I know it's not my fault that Chase is in that place, a fraction of the man he used to be. But I still blame myself for not trying harder to get him into a treatment center. I never told you guys this, but before Chase overdosed, he came to me and begged me to help. So I convinced a friend-a good friend, to help me and we detoxed him ourselves. He promised he would get help-that he wouldn't use again." John was silent for a moment. "I was stupid to believe that he would be able to do it on his own. And now, knowing how strong the cravings can be, I know I was wrong."

"Hey! You're only human. Cut yourself a break," Jack snapped irritably back.

"I was playing God! I'm a doctor-I knew better! He wasn't seeing a therapist, and he had no support from the family. Of course he was going to use again. It was his only way of coping. I know that sounds like an excuse, but he was using since we were kids. I don't think he ever learned a healthy way of coping with all the demands that were put on us. He just said 'Yes Sir', majored in economics, joined the family business and got high in his spare time. He was an artist but he put that aside to be what the family wanted him to be. I really don't know how I ever managed to do anything different."

"You're not Chase," Daniel said.

John sighed. "No, I'm not. And my family life was different. My family was torn apart when my brother died. My parents fought constantly, and my grandfather and father fought just as much. I don't think anyone really noticed until it was too late that I wasn't following the 'Carter family plan'."

"So why are they so angry with you now?" Sam asked, daring to ask what had been on her mind since first meeting John.

"They think I'm throwing my life away. While they never supported my becoming a doctor, they tolerated it. But after I got hurt, they practically ordered me to quit. Gamma offered to pay for a private practice so I could leave County."

"Gee, I wonder why," Jack commented idly, rubbing his thumb across a streak of dirt on the window.

Scowling, John continued. "I was challenged at County. I wasn't the rich kid with the powerful family backing me. I had to prove myself. I was successful-I proved myself. I was-am a good doctor. No one cared that I came from money. No, that's not true, but for once instead of being an asset, it made me work harder to be accepted. Having a trust fund doesn't save lives."

"I still don't understand why your family turned their backs on you now," Sam pressed.

"I don't either really. But I think it's because they finally realized I was never coming home. After the stabbing, even after I became addicted, they still thought I would come home and join the business. But instead, I did something even more extreme than working at County. I moved across the country and hooked up with the military."

"Maybe they're just worried about you," Daniel offered.

John shrugged. "Maybe," he conceded quietly. He slowed the car and pulled into a vacant spot on the grimy street. "Enough of the family memoirs, let's eat."

The team clambered out of the car, each stretching and breathing in the fresh air. Jack grimaced and said,

"Well, I for one can't wait to get back to clean mountain air."

"Don't you mean, musty, recycled air?" Daniel quipped.

John chuckled at the men's antics and led the group to the small diner across from the hospital.

"Welcome to Doc Magoo's, Cook County Hospital's favorite noontime excursion," he said, opening the door for his friends.

The group waiting for them was larger than the original three people he'd invited to lunch. Haleh and Chuny were lounging at the back of a large corner booth and Yosh was perched precariously on the edge of the bench next to Jing Mei. Mark sat next to Kerry; both on chairs pulled up to the table.

John grinned broadly as he approached the boisterous group. He called out "Don't you people have lives to save?"

Dave jumped, spilling cola down the front of his tee shirt. He grabbed a handful of napkins and mopped up the sticky brown liquid before twisting around to glare at John. "Shit Carter, give a little warning next time, will ya?" he growled over the sniggers and chuckles from the others at the table.

Mark smiled and stood, offering his hand. "Carter, it's good to see you."

"John," Kerry greeted, nodding her head toward him.

Chuny and Haleh urged Dave out of the booth and took turns hugging John.

"You look great Carter," Haleh said.

John jumped as nimble fingers pinched his butt cheek.

"Yeah, lookin' good Carter," Chuny agreed, flashing him a cheeky grin.

John chuckled and turned as a hushed voice said behind him, "You'd better watch it Daniel, the Doc's going to steal your thunder soon if this little display is anything to go by."

Motioning his team closer, he started the introductions. "Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Murray, this is Mark Greene, Kerry Weaver, Yosh Takata, Jing Mei Chen, Haleh Adams, Chuny Marquez, and Dr. Dave," he said, pointing to each in turn.

After a bit of shuffling, another table was pulled up and the new arrivals were seated and sipping on drinks.

There was a glint in Chuny's eyes as she leaned forward and smiled at Daniel. "Do you're a doctor too?" she asked.

Daniel flushed and cleared his throat. "Ah, yes, but not a medical doctor," he explained.

"Don't be shy Dr. Jackson," Jack chided. Grinning, he clamped his hand down on Daniel's shoulder. "Daniel's a doctor of archeology and linguistics."

Chuny looked impressed and giggled as she sipped at her straw. Haleh rolled her eyes. Turning her attention to John, she asked, "Are they treating you well Carter? You can always come back to County. We miss you around here."

John couldn't fight the grin that spread quickly over his face. His blush rivaled Daniel's. "I'm good, really. But thanks for the offer," he added.

"Come on Carter, what's the dirt? What's the military really doing at those secret bases?" Dave urged. "They've got aliens don't they? Are they doing secret experiments? Dissecting little green men like they showed on 'Alien Autopsy'?"

Jack and Teal'c exchanged looks and Jack nodded almost imperceptibly. Teal'c stood and towered over Dave.

"Well, you guessed it. Unfortunately, that's top secret information, so if you'll just accompany Murray here . . .." Jack's voice trailed off as the group broke out in laughter at the terrified, wide-eyed look on Dave's face.

"Relax Dave, they're only joking. But you were close. They specialize in deep space radar telemetry at NORAD, but I don't think they've had any little green men radio them yet."

"So what do they need you for?" Dave asked, keeping one eye on the threatening man next to him.

"It's a military base Dave. All bases have a medical center. Normally military personnel staff those centers, but the head doctor recommended me and they sort of bent the rules. I did have to sign a non-disclosure form, so don't ask what sorts of things I treat there. Although with all the equipment they've got there, think electrical," John hinted.

"Pfft. Sounds boring," Dave huffed.

John shrugged. "Well, it's not as glamorous as County, but it has it's benefits."

Dave cocked an eyebrow and leered at Sam. "Yeah, I can see what you mean."

Before Sam could retort, Jing Mei snapped, "Don't be a pig Dave."

"So, what's the news around County? Deb, when's the little one due?" John asked.

It was Jing Mei's turn to blush as she crumpled the napkin in her hands. "I've got a little less than two weeks left."

"I'm sorry I won't be here, but congratulations," he said with a soft smile for his friend.

Deb's eyes were glued to her lap as she sucked in a deep breath. "I'm going to give it up for adoption," she said quickly.

"Oh." John couldn't think of what to say. What do you tell someone who's about to have a baby but is giving it away?

"I'm just not ready for this responsibility yet," she explained.

John reached across the table and squeezed her hand. "You don't have to explain. It's your decision."

Her quick smile said it all and she leaned back in the booth, looking more relaxed.

"You know that Doctor Benton's nephew died," Haleh probed and John nodded.

"I heard Benton took in the girlfriend and Finch is pissed," Chuny added.

"His nephew's girlfriend. She showed up at the hospital-she'd been beaten by the same bastards who killed his nephew." John stared openly at Kerry. He knew she and Doctor Benton didn't get along and to hear the vehemence in her voice was startling.

A throat clearing drew everyone's attention. "Carter, I have something I'd like you to know, before you hear it through the grape vine." The group exchanged guilty looks as Mark continued. "I have cancer. Glioblastoma Multiforme."

John was stunned. Of all the news he expected to hear, this didn't even come close. Shaking his head a little to clear the sudden roaring, he mumbled, "Are, are you treating it?"

Mark clenched his hands. "I'm looking into a new treatment by a physician in New York."

"How's Doctor Corday handling . . . everything?"

Mark managed a small smile. "She's . . . Elizabeth. She's my strength."

John nodded and blew out a breath. "Well, that's not what I was expecting," he commented.

"Well, I'm not giving up," Mark said. "Anyway, I didn't mean to bring the mood down, I just thought you should know."

"Thank you. For telling me, that is," John replied.

The mood was ruined but John stayed and visited, exchanging stories with his friends, until the pounding in his head grew too strong to ignore. He rubbed his eyes before leaning forward, his hands on his knees.

"It was great to see everyone again. I'm not going to be in town long and I still have to see my grandparents."

After numerous hugs and handshakes were exchanged, John led his team out of the loud restaurant. He cast one mournful look back towards the people who had been his family, until his own tragedy tore him away. Now they too were wrapped in tragedies of their own. It was like some curse had befallen County Hospital and all who dared work within her walls.

"You okay?" A hand gently squeezed his shoulder.

John looked up into his CO's concerned eyes. He nodded and sighed. "Headache."

"That was some bombshell. Finding out your friend has cancer. What type cancer is that-'glib-oma-form'?"

"Glioblastoma Multiforme", John corrected. "Brain cancer. It's usually lethal."

"I'm sorry." The two men walked to the car in silence. "You need to talk, you find me," Jack ordered quietly. John nodded, and satisfied, Jack climbed into the rental car.

As John climbed back behind the wheel, Kenric's voice resounded through his head, "So much pain little one. Be aware of your friends-your comrades and do not turn away from what they offer. Be aware, little one, of those who are alone. Who have no one to see them through the pain." And in his mind, he saw once again, his cousin's bright, smiling face from long ago.

TBC