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Invisibling

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"As you are aware, the creation of this device is to reduce the invisibling culture-."

"Did you say invisibling?" Nathan asked, both bemused and confused at hearing this particular made-up word coming from such an eminent scientist as Doctor Lei Tang-Fielding, even if her specialism was one of the soft sciences.

"Yes. Invisibling. A process that encourages self-deceit to make the awareness of a social issue invisible to the-."

"Invisibling." Nathan stated again because, seriously, he expected a firmer control of English even if it wasn't Tang-Fielding's first language.

Tang-Fielding looked back at him in confusion. "I do not understand. Is my usage of the word incorrect?" Her eyes widened. "Ah! Perhaps you confuse this with its similar but alternate scientific meaning, to render invisible physically rather than metaphysically."

Nathan opened his mouth to say, 'There is no such word as invisibling,' but caught a shifty look on Fargo's face.

"Fargo?"

That fake, cheesy grin sent up warning flags, and Nathan narrowed his eyes.

"Doctor Stark? Is there a problem?" Tang-Fielding asked.

"My apologies. Please continue."

He tried not to wince or twitch whenever the word came up, which was frequently, determined to wait until after she had finished her presentation and had left his office before he gave into the urge to shake the truth out of Fargo. As the door closed silently behind her, he turned his attention to his assistant.

"Invisibling?"

"It's such a pretty word! I might have used it once." His eyes shifted, "Or maybe a few times around Doctor Tang-Fielding, who is so hot--"

"Fargo," Nathan growled in warning.

"And it... sort-of-caught-on," he ended in a rush. "I have to..." He thumbed at the door and made his escape before Nathan could order him to stay.

Frowning, Nathan typed the word Invisibling into the search engine, scowling when dozens of published articles came up using the term in both sociological papers and hard physics. He recalled the rest of Carter's garbled accusation to Anderson.

'A wormholing, time-bending, invisibling device, that shields you from the mind.'

His fingers curled away from his interactive desktop but he forced them to tap in wormholing.

Nathan closed his eyes as a description of the word came back.

Wormholing: an unrealistic mental scenario, to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

Again, he found a dozen psychology papers written in the past year from eminent scientists, with both of Carter's made-up words picking up momentum as they were introduced into the terminology of those disciplines and spread across the globe.

Unbelievable, he thought, gritting his teeth.

Nathan also recalled how Carter had crowed, "I outsmarted you," to Anderson in the weapons testing laboratory. Except Carter hadn't bested just Anderson, he'd bested every scientist and organization that had employed Anderson over the past two decades. He'd outsmarted Kim Anderson, Henry, and, yes, he'd outsmarted him too because Nathan had believed in the legendary Jason Anderson. He had stood there and ridiculed Carter during that confrontation outside Global, scoffing at his accusation of foul play, though for personal reasons rather than professional. He'd wanted to see Carter looking stupid in front of Allison, wanting to put her off any pursuit of the handsome new sheriff. Yet the accusation should have set off alarms inside his own head, especially as Nathan knew he had an oversized ego that bristled at someone like Jason Anderson having this exceptional problem-solving skill set when the man came over as only averagely intelligent during conversations.

A sickening thought crossed his mind. Maybe he had confronted Anderson too, and had his short term memory wiped in response.

He pushed aside the unease, aware he had no means of finding out or proving this without interrogating Anderson, and this was something he didn't want to do. He couldn't even formally discredit the man without causing a shit-storm throughout the academic world, even though Anderson must have stolen all those patents and breakthroughs from other scientists - and from Kim most of all as many of those triumphs were in her specialist fields. All he could do was ensure Jason Anderson cashed his last pay check, and make certain the D.O.D. transferred all those patents into Kim's name in recompense for the life Anderson had stolen from her.

It was unfortunate but those other scientists would never gain the credit for their work.

Thinking of giving credit where it was due, he thought back to the weapons testing laboratory. He hadn't even offered a simple thanks or 'good job' to Jack Carter for uncovering such a heinous crime. He suspected Carter would have brushed it off anyway, saying he was just doing his job, but that didn't excuse Nathan's lack of acknowledgment. Again, he hadn't wanted to highlight Carter's victory in front of Allison, and in light of yet another triumph, in proving Global had a speed drug problem, maybe his reticence was fortunate after all.

Nathan had seen the way Allison was looking at Carter, and he'd seen the way Carter was looking back at her. Admittedly, their looks were sending mixed messages. He knew Allison was looking for a way to be vindictive towards him, to make him pay for being the one who walked away from their disaster of a marriage first. He would have thought serving him the Divorce papers would have assuaged her anger but she was still looking for ways to hurt him.

The only reason why she hadn't pounced on the poor Sheriff already, just to rile him, was because Carter was simply too nice. Taking advantage of him would be like kicking a puppy, and as most of Eureka was already enamored with their intellectually challenged Sheriff - as displayed so effectively following the incident with Beverly's Virtual Reality device when half the town turned up at Global to sit vigil - Allison didn't want to look like the bad guy. Even Carter's ex-wife had backed down in the face of all those townspeople looking out for Carter and Zoe.

Nathan was ashamed to admit - even in the privacy of his own office - that he was as enamored with the Sheriff as the rest of the town.

Perhaps Carter wasn't his intellectual equal but he'd shown he had more common sense than most of his best scientists put together. Plus he had that uncanny ability to say just the right thing at the right time to spark an idea in Henry or in himself. Of course, then Carter took it upon himself to implement that solution, often at risk to his own safety.

As for Carter? One moment he seemed smitten with Allison, and the next his eyes were following him across the floor. If the Sheriff claimed to be one hundred percent heterosexual then he was living in complete denial, something his psychologist ex-wife should have spotted. Or maybe she had noticed and that's why their marriage had failed. There was nothing concrete in Carter's heavily redacted file though, and Nathan had clearance to read every single line of it, except for one report that implied Carter had abandonment, intimacy, and entitlement issues. Beverly's device had confirmed that, and if Beverly was still the town's psychotherapist rather than a fugitive on the run, Carter would have been forced to deal with those issues under her care.

Nathan smiled wickedly. He'd be more than happy to help Carter get over his intimacy issues.

Physically, Carter was beautiful, and Nathan had seen him naked enough times to store more than a few mental images away to enjoy later at his leisure. He had access to the surveillance too, and had jerked off once or twice to a slow motion view of Jack stripping to take a decon shower. Of course that had almost backfired on him as he watched Carter's very public shower after the recent toxic waste incident. Nathan was so relieved his physical reaction was concealed by the bulky hazmat suit, but he had a feeling Allison had noticed nonetheless.

Mentally he replayed those images now, startling when the object of those fantasies walked right into his office without knocking.

Perhaps he needed to curb those entitlement issues too.

"Fargo!"

Fargo appeared at the door. "Sheriff Carter's here to see you about Carmichael's off-site lab."

"And if you'd announced his presence before allowing him to enter my office, I would have told you to ask Sheriff Carter to come back later. I'm busy."

"Doing what?" Carter demanded.

"Thinking. Something you probably don't know much about."

"You really want to go there?"

Nathan grinned because he loved rattling Carter's cage and getting him all fired up. Apparently he was one of the few in Eureka who had that affect on the Sheriff. Admittedly Fargo was one of the others on that list but then Fargo could try the patience of a saint.

"O-kay. What's so important about Carmichael's lab?"

Carter widened his eyes, as if surprised he had to spell it out. "How about the obnoxious gases."

"Obnoxious, yes, but not toxic."

"Yeah? And let's see how you'd feel if you were living just downwind of that stench. There are people with families, who'd like to be able to sit outside in the fresh air once in a while."

Nathan sighed because he had a point. "So what do you need from me?"

"You could tell him stop making obnoxious gases." Nathan raised an eyebrow. "Or build him an air fresh...ifier."

"An air... freshifier?" Nathan couldn't stop his lips twitching at this latest abuse of the English language. "You do realize that's not a real word."

Carter's blue eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. "Don't push me."

Nathan bit back on another smirk. "Fine. I'll get Fargo on it."

"Really? That's all you're going to do? Palm it off on Fargo? What? Afraid to get your hands dirty?"

The challenge had been issued and although anyone in his position with a modicum of common sense would have simply brushed it off, Nathan bristled, cursing himself ten minutes later when found himself over halfway to Carmichael's lab, following behind Carter's Cherokee. He might be able to push Carter's buttons, but Carter gave back as good as he got. As he turned the final corner into Newton Lane, the stench filling the car almost made him gag. Quickly he switched off the air intake but realized he'd have to step out of the car once they arrived, instantly regretting he hadn't brought one of the invisible electrostatic filter masks with him.

Carter took a left turn just before reaching Carmichael's lab and Nathan was tempted to simply carry on, smirking as he wondered if Carter was lost. Still, it would give him more ammunition to ridicule Carter so he followed, bemused by yet another left turn further on. When Carter indicated yet another left, Nathan realized Carter had circled the lab, coming in from the opposite side - upwind.

The stench was still bad but not quite as overpowering as it had been when they were downwind of it. Following Carter towards the main entrance, he frowned as the chimney belched out green-yellow smoke that dissipated quickly, caught by the slight breeze, and swept back along Newton towards the town center.

Nathan pressed the buzzer.

"Who is it?"

"Doctor Stark... and Sheriff Carter."

Silence followed for a moment before the door opened a begrudging few inches. A small, heavily bespectacled lady peered out at them.

"Doctor Carmichael, I'm afraid we have a small problem with your research." He hid a smirk at Carter's reaction in discovering Carmichael was actually a little old lady.

"Doctor King signed off on it last year. He seemed most excited."

"Yeah, well Doctor King doesn't have to live with the smell," Carter stated.

"Smell? What smell?"

Carter had his hands on his hips, and he looked to Nathan, headed tilted in disbelief. Perhaps Nathan ought to mention Doctor Carmichael had no sense of smell since an accident ten years earlier. She moved aside to allow them to enter, babbling on about her latest experiments, and how she was having difficulty with her new formula.

Later Nathan would put it down to a moment of distraction on Carmichael's part, unused to having anyone knocking on her lab door. That and her failing eyesight, which accounted for the expulsion of those obnoxious gases drifting over this part of the town. She had misread the chemical compositions and quantities used in her formulas.

The resulting explosion ripped through the laboratory taking them all off their feet. Nathan had been further back by the door with Doctor Carmichael, but Carter had moved in closer, his curiosity getting the better of him once again.

Nathan managed to gain his feet, staggering a little as he reached down for Carmichael, who was struggling to stand. He set her upright and pushed her gently towards the still open door before turning back.

"Carter!"

Nathan coughed, pressing his jacket sleeve across his mouth and nose to try to filter some of the obnoxious smoke as he searched for Jack. He spotted a beige-clad arm and rushed across, forcing aside the debris covering the man. Kneeling down, he pressed his fingers against the pulse point.

Nothing.

The acrid smoke was heavy in the room, stinging his eyes, and flames were licking the far side of the bench. Soon those flames would engulf the whole building so Nathan realized he had no choice but to move Jack even though he had no idea what other injuries Jack might have sustained. He hefted Jack over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, staggering slightly under the weight, and headed for the door before the smoke made it impossible for him to see. He didn't stop until he was at what he hoped was a safe distance, carefully lowering Jack to the ground and checking for a pulse again.

Still nothing.

His medical training took over, and he started chest compressions, stopping periodically to breathe into the lax mouth, forcing precious air into oxygen-starved lungs. Looking up as he started the next set of compressions, Nathan yelled to Carmichael.

"Call for a medical emergency."

Nathan tipped back Jack's head and sealed his lips over Jack's, forcing another breath into him slowly, watching the rise of his chest as his lungs inflated.

"Come on, Jack," he murmured. "Don't die on me."

He finished the next set of compressions, breathing into Jack, and started again. Over and over, refusing to give up because he couldn't bear the thought of never getting Carter all flustered in annoyance or confusion again, or seeing that infectious smile, or hearing another of those stupid, made up words.

"Please... don't die on me, Jack," he begged, taking another deep breath, sealing his mouth over Jack's, and releasing the breath into Jack.

Sirens drew closer but all his attention was focused on Jack, arms shaking as he tired far too soon. The shock of being pushed aside stunned him momentarily, and he scrabbled to get back until his brain recognized the Global Dynamics paramedics. Sinking back he watched as they took over, using a bag valve mask to force air into Jack's lungs. Determining his place, he took over from one paramedic, keeping the mask sealed over Jack's mouth so the paramedic could squeeze the bag every 5-6 seconds, while the other continued with chest compressions.

"I have a pulse. Erratic."

Nathan watched as the paramedic ripped open Jack's uniform shirt and sliced through his undershirt with one of the new laser cutters, exposing his chest. Seconds later he had the defibrillator pads in place.

"CLEAR!"

Both Nathan and the other paramedic lifted their hands away, and Nathan watched as Jack's body gave a barely perceptible jerk as the electric current passed through his heart. Nathan saw Jack's chest rise and fall without manual assistance, sinking back in exhaustion as the paramedics confirmed his heart was now beating regularly. As they began a full body check for injuries, Nathan coughed a few times and was handed a small oxygen bottle and mask. He hadn't taken in much of the acrid smoke but breathing for Jack had taxed his slightly abused lungs.

"You need to get checked out too, Doctor Stark."

"I'll ride with you," he stated, knowing he could order someone to collect his and the Sheriff's cars later.

By now more of Global's emergency department had arrived to contain the fire, with Carmichael offering advice on the chemicals contained within. She had got off lightly but Nathan would make sure she was brought to the Global medical center for a health check anyway, as a safety precaution. He'd also make sure he revoked her clearance to continue with her research, pending a full investigation. He spent the ride back to Global watching the rise and fall of Jack's chest, hoping any injuries hadn't been worsened by moving him.

Two hours later, having headed back to his office after being released, Nathan looked up to find Allison hovering on the threshold.

"I thought you might like to know how he's doing."

"How who's doing?" he asked nonchalantly, gaining a soft, exasperated sigh from Allison.

"Nathan," she admonished.

He sighed too and closed the file he was trying to read, unsuccessfully. "Is it that obvious?"

This time she smiled wryly. "Only to me." She moved across the room, pausing on the other side of the desk. "Tell him, Nathan. Give both of you a chance."

Without another word she turned and walked away, and he was tempted to call her back because she hadn't told him how Jack was doing. Except he already knew as he'd been reading every update to Jack's medical file, and he suspected Allison knew that too. This was simply her way of offering her blessing, and a truce between them, leaving the next move up to Nathan.

He closed down his interactive desktop and made his way down to the medical center. He found Jack propped up in bed with a nasal cannula delivering pure oxygen. Nathan smiled when the nurse told Jack off for constantly playing with the cannula and scrunching up his nose to ease the irritation. Having experienced the necessity of a cannula several years back, Nathan could commiserate...slightly.

"Leave it alone, Carter," he ordered, announcing his presence to both nurse and patient, gaining approval from the nurse before he moved away to give them privacy, and stink-eye from Jack.

"Damn thing itches like crazy."

Mentally Nathan cataloged the visible injuries - scrapes mostly. Fortunately Jack hadn't broken anything more than his wrist during the explosion, which was healing nicely using the latest bone-knitting technology provided by Global. He also had a broken rib, courtesy of Nathan's resuscitation technique. The depth of compressions needed to force blood pumping through the heart sometimes caused a rib to snap away from the sternum, but Nathan figured a broken rib was a small price to pay under the circumstances. The rib would heal quickly enough under the same healing ray. The hard part would be getting Jack to take it easy for the next few weeks.

Jack was looking closely at him now, teeth gnawing on his lower lip as if he was debating internally.

"I guess I should thank you."

Nathan knew he could shrug it off the same way Jack would, and say it was just part of his job, keeping the people under his supervision alive, except Jack didn't work for him. Jack worked directly to the D.O.D., and the Town.

"I had an ulterior motive," he stated, smiling to hide his nervousness.

Sure enough, Jack frowned in confusion. "And that is?"

"This."

Before Nathan could find a perfectly good reason to back out, he leaned in and kissed Jack, feeling soft lips beneath his, and smooth plastic from the cannula. For a moment he thought he had misjudged Jack's attraction to him, and then he felt the first hesitating response as Jack began to kiss him back. Nathan pulled back when he heard the heart rate monitor speed up, knowing it would attract the attention of the nurse, and sure enough he came over, looking between an unrepentant Nathan and a flustered Jack. He fussed for a moment, giving Nathan a warning glance before heading back to one of his other patients.

"What was that for?" Jack whispered harshly.

Nathan cupped Jack's cheek, pouring everything he felt for Jack into his eyes. "You really need me to explain?"

The confusion faded, replaced by a shy smile. "No."

When he kissed Jack a second time, he felt Jack respond immediately, and as the heart rate monitor began to beep again, Nathan wondered if he could get around the regulations and make an invisibling device to shield him and Jack from the mind of the annoyed nurse stomping over towards them.

END