Okay, it was just fighting to get the heck out of my head!!  It's been in there for YEARS, but since I started writing fanfic for Stargate, and since this fabulous show was my favorite before Stargate came into my life, and it's on SciFi every day, I just got inspired…

PLEASE, please, please let me know what you think – for E:FC fans, I'm new to fanfic where this show is concerned so I'd really like to know what you think!

If you're reading this because you've liked some of my Stargate fics – THANK YOU!!  J  This has helped me to "swiffer" my brain so I can return to that version of the universe….


Ronald Sandoval smiled as she entered the café, like she did most mornings.  She was about his age, and a bit rounded, but she kept herself well.  She reminded him of what Siobhan might have looked like, if she had lived; reallylived, he thought.

He had first seen her speaking to a homeless man as he walked through one of the seedier allies in New Province, where he himself felt safe; since then he had seen her regularly in the streets, and at the health club, and having coffee in the morning, reading the paper.   She seemed to enjoy life for life's sake in a way he had not for many years, not since Dee Dee, really.  He envied her the relaxed comfort with which she seemed to embrace the insane, fractured world around her.

He'd been watching her for a while, this amazed him; anyone else in this day and age might eventually have felt nervous or suspicious that they were being watched, it seemed that everyone these days had picked some side in some ideological debate that left them vulnerable to dislike by someone, and they all reacted accordingly, looking furtively over their shoulders as if they were about to be attacked.

But she was different; if she knew, she didn't seem to care.  He knew through his connections that she had come up before the Great Collapse, as it had come to be known, taking advantage of distant familial connections to insert herself in the society of New Province.

Sandoval knew, too, that almost everyone she had ever known in the Old Great Nation had either died in the Conflicts or fled to another side of the world, and when her husband had died, another victim of the failed Kriss experiments, she had eventually lost contact with what remained of his family also, even though they were all up here.  She was as alone in this world as he was, and he felt something of an anonymous kinship with her on this level.

Her work was her life, as was his, but her chosen path of assisting the underprivileged of New Province seemed to him much richer than his own line of employment, dutifully catering to the various whims of a powermongering Taelon.  That he had ulterior motives which essentially matched her own was small comfort most days, when Zo'Or's grating voice was viciously dictating to him.

He still held firm to the belief that what he was doing was for the good of the planet, but sometimes it seemed futile; the Taelons almost seemed to be toying with them, like a cat with a mouse that is simply waiting for the pathetic creature to die, watching it desperately try to escape its clutches as it slowly hunkers down and accepts its manifest destiny in the paws of the cat.

He pushed these defeating thoughts aside with an effort; looking up he noticed with the sense of comfort that comes from familiarity that she had been seated at the same small table in the corner.  She liked to watch the world around her, he knew, not to assess it for threats, but to revel in the life force of it, he thought.

She was like a secret that he kept only for himself, the only one he had any more that seemed worth having, the only semblance of a personal life that he felt he could safely engage in, and he had not so much as ever spoken a word to her.  He wasn't sure if it was her attractive red hair or her pretty light eyes that had him so spellbound; maybe it was the way in which she carried herself with such assurance.

But today was going to be the day.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a late June morning, just after sunrise, and he had decided that he would not sit idly by while one more seemingly perfect day passed without at least speaking to her.  He was nervous, and he chided himself at this: Ronald Sandoval, International Security Director and premier Taelon ambassador, nervous about talking to a woman.

He pushed the thought from the forefront of his mind, straightened his shoulders and strode over to the café; his confidence spurred on by the awe and respect that the wait staff gave him as he entered.

From the flurry of activity at the front door, she sensed that he had entered, and smiled.  About damn time,she thought to herself; neither one of us is getting any younger.

"Hello," his smooth, mellifluous voice intoned.  She detected the slightest hint of anxiety underneath the dulcet tones; it charmed her.

She looked up; he was standing right by the table.  Up close, he was better looking than she had thought from afar, with his jet-black hair and equally dark eyes; his dark olive skin was smooth and toned.  He was older than she was, she realized, feeling an odd sense of relief at this; for a change she wouldn't feel like she was robbing the cradle.

"Hello," she replied with a knowing smile; her tone of voice indicating that she'd been expecting someone – him.

He was momentarily taken aback by this, but regained himself quickly, encouraged by the warmth of her genuine smile.  There was nothing sinister or foreboding, no oneupsmanship; she had simply been expecting him.

"Is this seat taken?"

She found herself immensely charmed by the innocuous question with which he opened the conversation.  She smiled at him again. 

"It will be if you want it," she said playfully, pushing it away from the table with her foot, seemingly waving him into it with a small, delicate flourish of her hand. 

He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but her confident, playful attitude unnerved him.  He sat down and pulled the chair close to the table.  He was more nervous than he thought he would be.  He looked up and signaled for the waiter, ordering another round of coffees.

"I've seen you around, what do you do?"

She smiled at him.  "Whatever I want, pretty much; not a bad gig if you can get it," she said with a wry grin, a merry look in her eyes.  This was the closest he'd ever been to her; she was even more attractive at this level of proximity than from the distance he normally kept.

She leaned forward on the table now, a mischievous gleam appearing in her light blue-green eyes.  "But you know that," she said, with a sly smile.  It was not the look of an enemy, simply the look of someone who is intrigued at the discovery of a secret, Sandoval surmised.  He smiled somewhat shyly.

"What do you mean, I know that," he said, playfully but not convincingly.

She looked at him, a wise, knowing look.  "You've been watching me for some time; I wondered when you'd finally get around to saying hello," she said in a matter of fact tone of voice.

Sandoval was struck again by the innocence of the words, her lack of suspicion and her keen observation.  He smiled again, the smile of someone who's been caught at something.

"Well, I'm here now," he said with a bit of false bravado, not sure where this was going.

She smiled, sitting back in her chair.  "So you are," she said, sipping from her coffee mug.  "I'm glad you finally decided to stop by," she said seriously.

She looked past him then, another carefree, tender smile crossing her lips at the sight of some children playfully skipping down the street with their mother behind them.  He turned and looked.

"You like children," he said, realizing that this was an unnecessary observation, but at least it was conversational.

A wistful shadow crept onto her face now.  "Yes, I do," she said quietly, looking away.  When she returned her gaze to his face it was with a pained look.  "Never got a chance to have any of my own," she said, her voice masking a sense of loss behind its matter of fact tone.  "Now I just try to tend to those that someone else left behind," she finished.

"That's too bad," he said sincerely.  "I'll bet they would have been beautiful children," he said with a smile.

She smiled back, obviously touched by the compliment.  "What about you?" she asked.

Now it was his turn to look down.  "No, none of my own, either," he said; he was surprised at the note of regret that crept into his voice as the words came out.

The sudden sound of his global broke into the conversation; she did not miss the look of heavy disappointment on his face.

"Duty calls, eh, G-man?" she said in a jovial fashion.

He stopped in his tracks; he hadn't heard that term in years.  It was an ancient one, coming from centuries ago in the Old Great Nation, when spies and others who worked for the government were labeled that:  G-men.

He had heard the term as a very young child; his grandparents used it in reference to his great grandfather.  But how did she know to apply it to him?  He looked at her quizzically.  "How did you know?"

She chuckled, a deep, throaty sound.  "I guessed; you just confirmed it," she said with a superior grin.  "But very few people show up in a suit & tie as often as you do," she said.  "And don't think I haven't noticed how the people here treat you; I get the part about you being some VIP," she said in a matter of fact tone of voice.

The perfect opportunity has just dropped into your lap, Melissa, use it or lose it.  She sat up suddenly, another gleam in her eye.  "Why don't you come for dinner some time?" she asked casually.  She smiled that sly smile again.  "I know you know where I live," she said, low in her throat; almost seductively, he thought.

"I'd like that," he said.

"Are you available tomorrow night?"

He hesitated momentarily, taken aback at her bold offer, a current of paranoia zipping quickly through him.  He shook it off.

"As a matter of fact, I am," he heard himself say.

"Wonderful; shall we say 7:30, then?" she asked confidently.

He smiled at her.  "7:30 it is.  See you then."  He gave her another smile as he got up and left the café.  It was only just after 8:00 and it had already been an eventful day.

Sandoval looked through the selection in his cavernous closet.  He started to reach for one of his many Armani suits; remembering her comment about the suit and tie, he reached past it for a more casual camel colored corduroy sport jacket.

Digging in the bottom drawer of his dresser, he pulled out a long forgotten pair of blue jeans, noticing with a sense of nostalgia that they still fit him well.  He found a white collarless dress shirt with dark brown buttons among the oxfords and decided the final combination was a good one.

He'd almost forgotten how this worked, and he felt a certain sense of nervousness.  More than once the thought struck him to just forget it; he could easily blow her off and she would never be the wiser.  But suddenly, he was in front of her door, with one hand raised.

His fear urged him one last time to turn and walk away; another side of him urged his hand forward.  The image of the cat and mouse came back to him, along with the face of Zo'Or; mentally steeling himself, he pushed it aside.  There was still a chance that Earth would win this game, he thought, picturing the mouse springing free of the cat's clawed grasp, a scene he had encountered once back in the islands as a child.  He knocked on the door.

She greeted him in a black fitted tank top, displaying her toned arms and denim shorts; her legs were shapely and well defined.  He knew she was something of an endorphin junkie, working out almost every day and doing a fair bit of hiking and biking in what little wilderness was left around New Province; it was obvious that she kept herself in excellent shape.  A wonderful tangy aroma was wafting into the hallway.

"Hi," he said, smiling at her in a way he hadn't smiled in years, not since Siobhan.

"Hi," she smiled back, a warm, knowing smile.  She looked at the simple bouquet of daisies he had picked up at the florist just outside her building.  "Thank you, I do love flowers," she said quietly.  "Please, come in," she said, motioning him into the neat, modernistic apartment.  He thought he detected just the slightest hint of nervousness in her voice; it charmed him to think that this confident woman might be as nervous as he was.

She smiled as she arranged the flowers in a simple cut glass vase she procured from the cupboard.  "I don't even know your name yet, and you've already brought me flowers," she said, the obvious question in her voice.

She looked squarely at him now, folding her arms.  "I have a feeling that you know mine, though."

He smiled softly at her.  "You're Melissa," he said quietly, a gleam in his eyes.

"And you're…???" she said, looking at him with a questioning look, gesturing with her hands, waiting for him to fill in the blank.

He looked down at the polished wooden floor; he didn't know how to explain that for her protection it was best if she didn't know.  He yearned to be honest with her; wasn't that what this whole thing was really all about, he asked himself, the ability to find one person on the planet with whom he could be completely and honestly himself, but his fear came rallying back; thoughts of DeeDee and Siobhan encroached on his chaotic thoughts.

When he looked up, the look in his eyes must have told her what he could not say in words.  Her face softened.

"I like 'G-man' anyway," she said.  A mischievous sparkle crept into her eyes.  "It's sort of fun, not knowing," she said with a seductive smile and a throaty chuckle, the combination aroused him.

Her face got serious for a moment.  "I'm probably safer this way, aren't I?" she said in a matter of fact tone of voice.

He looked at her, intrigued by her ability to perfectly comprehend the situation.

"Yeah, you are," he said softly.

She turned back to the tasks she was about in the kitchen.  "I hope you like barbecue," she said, stirring something on the stove and efficiently setting about putting the simple meal together.

The kitchenette area was right near the patio door, which stood open, revealing a view of the busy, tree-lined, life-filled street below, with the rest of the ivy covered brick buildings on the street as a backdrop.  She had set the glass vase with the daisies off to one side of the small, tastefully set table.

"Have a seat," she said.  "Would you like something to drink?"

He looked at her, a quizzical look on his face.  It had been so long since someone had asked him that simple question in a friendly fashion; he was at a loss as to how to answer it.  He felt another urge to turn and run; a cynical part of him tried to point out how common this all was compared to what he was used to, what he could get wherever and whenever he wanted.

He put his hands in the pockets of his jacket then, and felt the long forgotten stone.  Siobhan's face appeared briefly, and he realized that for all the material things he could easily attain, his humanity might only be regained here.

She smiled softly, sensing his discomfort.  For all his VIP status, G-man hadn't dated very much in recent years, she decided; no doubt his current employment ruled out the concept of friends.  She had already determined that he was probably involved with the Taelons somehow, but whatever portion of his humanity remained was what interested her at this point.

"Normally I serve pop or milk with barbecue; I'm not much of a beer drinker and it seems a shame to waste a good wine on spicy meals," she said.

He smiled back, his relief obvious.  "Pop would be fine, then," he said, a more confident note returning to his voice.  Long forgotten sensibilities were returning.  "Can I help?" he asked.         

She smiled.  "No, no, just sit," she said gently.  "I've got a rhythm going here."

She produced a tray of ice and two cans of pop; diet cola and a root beer.  Sandoval grinned somewhat shyly; he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a can of root beer, not since he was a child back in the islands.  He struggled to push away the ensuing memory of the destruction wrought by Zo'Or on the one where he had been born.

He poured them each one of the sodas as she put the serving bowls with red beans and rice and the barbecue beef on the table.  A large wooden bowl of salad with a selection of half used dressings was on the counter.

She sat down across from him, a mischievous grin on her face.  "So you knew the diet cola was for me," she said with a teasing note in her voice.

He chuckled in response, returning her grin.  "Well, it's not as if you need it, but I didn't want to be greedy, although I amwatching my figure," he said in a deadpan tone.

She giggled at his joke.  "Oh, yeah, G-man, as if you're really in need of help with your physique," she said, returning his deadpan tone; they both chuckled at this.  Her appreciative words struck another chord in his senses; Sandoval no longer thought much about his level of attractiveness to women; he simply paid for what he needed.

He hadn't heard that she was an excellent cook, but the food was wonderful, and he ate heartily.  She watched him, obviously pleased that he liked it.

"So, you like it," she said, again in a deadpan tone, as he took a large second helping.

"This is great stuff," he said enthusiastically.  Though he ate regularly in all of the best restaurants in New Province, their fare was always geared toward new and different items, and appearance; no one ever made hearty meals like this.  "Reminds me of stuff my mother used to make," he said sincerely.

She laughed.  "Well, that's always a good way to start out, being able to cook like Mom.  And I guess it's good to hear that you hada Mom at some point," she said, looking at him with that questioning look again.

He smiled at her now; it couldn't hurt to tell her some things about himself.  "Yeah, and a Dad, too, surprisingly enough."

She giggled, then her face turned serious.  "Not too many of my family left any more," she said softly, with a hint of pain.  "Scattered to the far corners of the planet now, it's probably safer that way," she said matter of factly.

"What about a husband?" he asked, trying to sound innocent.

She wasn't fooled.  She fixed him with a serious gaze.  "I'll bet you already know what happened to him, G-man," she said quietly.

He looked at her.  "Yes, I do," he said softly.  "I'm sorry," he added.

She was still gazing at him.  "Sorry that it happened, or sorry that you know?" she said, a hard edge creeping into her voice, her bright eyes never leaving his face.

He returned her gaze.  "Sorry that it causes you pain," he replied gently.  He wasn't prepared for the sudden moistness that appeared in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, too; that wasn't a fair question," she said thickly.

He smiled softly at her.  "It's a fair question; I do know a bit about you," he said.  "What interests me is that you seem to know that I know, yet you don't seem bothered by it," he said curiously.

"I have nothing to hide," she said, returning his smile.  "And I'm not afraid of much," she stated firmly.

He gazed at her.  "No, I don't imagine that you are," he said with a note of respect in his voice.

"What about you, G-man?  No woman ever successfully tied you down?" she said jovially.  Or up, a part of her wondered suddenly; she banished the inappropriate thought.

He looked at her.  "I was married once," he said quietly.  "Work sort of got in the way," he finished, smiling gently at her.

She smiled back.  "Yeah, that'll happen."  Noticing that he had finished, she stood up to clear the table.  "I hope you saved room for dessert.  Can I offer you some coffee?" she asked as she efficiently cleared away the dishes.

"Coffee sounds great.  If dessert is as good as dinner was, bring it on," he said with a smile, leaning back in the chair, relaxing.  She smiled as she finished clearing the table; as she leaned over, he noticed the gentle heave of her breasts through the top of her shirt.  The sight intrigued him; he suspected that they were very real, unlike the offerings of the ladies down at the club.

She brought the dessert plates over with the apple pie she had made earlier.  "Now, I hope you have seconds of this, too; I really don't need leftovers of this hanging around," she said firmly as she served him a large slice topped with vanilla ice cream and a steaming mug of the French roast she'd made.

Sandoval was impressed; it had been many years since he'd experienced home made anything, he realized, probably not since the early days of his and Dee Dee's marriage.  He dug in, savoring every mouthful; his senses were working overtime, relishing the peaceful feeling he was getting just sharing a simple meal with this kind, gentle woman. Up close, she really was beautiful, he thought, not just in body but in soul.

After Dee Dee, and after Siobhan died, he never thought he could feel like this again.  That Siobhan had died, saving him from that ultimate question, was little comfort knowing that he probably would have obeyed his Companion instead of his soul. Soul, he thought sardonically to himself.  It helps if you have one.

She watched him, a heartfelt sense of sympathy coming over her as she suspected he'd seen happier days.  In some ways, he seemed no better off than the homeless men she dealt with on a daily basis; at least many of them still had their dignity and self-respect.  G-man probably had little left of either, she thought understandingly.

But then again, hadn't they all seen happier days, before the Conflicts and the Great Collapse?  Before the Taelons, really?  Though, hadn't the Taelons also delivered several wonderful inventions and cures for disease to them as well?  Her instincts told her that Da'an was a benevolent and kind creature, wanting only the best for their planet and their race, but she knew that Da'an did not act alone.

It was this conundrum that kept her from taking a side in the debate; when she came across the sick children in the hospital, she was grateful for their compassion and their cures.  But when she tended to the wild-eyed homeless men, who insisted that they had seen the darker sides of the aliens, she wondered.

She herself owed her ability to function strictly as philanthropist to their generous settlement offer after the incident with the Kriss experiments; it was hush money, she knew, but in the last days of the Old Great Nation, pragmatism quickly won out over idealism.  Now she continually sought redemption for violating her principles by serving the less fortunate here in New Province.  Briefly it occurred to her that G-man was simply another opportunity for her to redeem her soul.

She sat across from this mysterious man at her table, sipping her own coffee, looking out the patio window; the summer night sun was just going down.  She smiled impishly at him.  "Hey, I want to show you something," she said excitedly.  She got up with her coffee cup and inclined her head towards the door.  "Follow me."

He dutifully got up and followed, carrying his own mug.  She led him to the stairwell and up to the rooftop; opening the door, she kicked a big rock into the doorway to keep the door from locking behind them.

At the doorway, he hesitated, looking up into the sky.  He knew that Taelon technology could track him via his CVI, if he were out on the roof with her; it could put her in danger if Zo'Or were to see.

She noticed that he had stopped, watching him scan the skies.  She smiled softly.

"Whatever demons you've got, G-man, you can't run from the sunlight forever," she said.  "Otherwise, what sort of life do you really have?" she asked him.  She put out her hand to him, as if she would guide him.

He looked at her then.  Wasn't this what he was really after?  Wasn't that what this whole adventure with her had really been all about?

Taking a deep breath, he took her strong, warm hand and walked out on to the cinder covered cement with her; there was a pair of lawn chairs and a matching patio table set in the corner of the roof, facing the west.  The sun was setting on the river, pleasantly visible just beyond the edge of Old City, the capital of New Province.  She settled herself into one of the chairs; Sandoval took the other one and set his mug on the table.

They watched the sunset until the edges of the sky got dark, enjoying their coffee.  He relaxed a bit as the dark settled in; it would be harder to detect them if anyone were trying.

She sighed deeply.  "Without a doubt, that is the best part of life," she said contentedly.  She got up from her chair.

Sandoval chuckled.  "Oh, I don't know, I'd say your cooking runs a close second," he said firmly, as he got up from his own chair.

She was standing close to him now.  "I'm really glad you liked it," she said demurely, smiling as she looked up at him.

A light summer breeze was playing her red hair around her face.  Sandoval suddenly leaned down and kissed her; her lips were soft and warm.  It had been a long time since he had kissed a woman; there was no kissing at the club, not least because patrons didn't know what other activities the ladies engaged in.

He looked at her fondly now; slowly he reached for her and kissed her again.  Her arms went around him as their kiss deepened; the feel of her strong embrace was warm and welcoming. He pulled her close; in that moment he felt as if he'd never held another woman.  She tasted wonderfully of the dark coffee they had been drinking.

They parted finally, a bit breathless, smiling almost shyly at each other, still in their embrace.  Melissa looked up at the sky and grinned.

"Take that, you demons," she said playfully.

As if on cue, his global went off.  Sandoval stepped back, startled.   Melissa looked sympathetically at him, and walked over to the door of the rooftop, leaving him to take the call in private.  He turned so Zo'or would only see the next building over and his face.

When he finished, he looked over.  The door was still propped open, but she was gone.

Coming back downstairs, he noticed that she had left the door to her apartment open for him.  As he entered, she was finishing the cleanup.

"I have to go," he said, a wistful note in his voice.

She smiled at him.  "I understand.  I'm glad you could come for dinner," she said sincerely.

Sandoval took another deep breath.  "I'd like to come again some time, if you'll have me," he said quietly.

She detected the slightest note of hesitation in his otherwise earnest voice.  She smiled warmly at him.

"Well, G-man, you know where to find me…" she said with a note of irony.  "Stop by whenever it suits you," she said with a shrug.  "But if you want dinner, you'll have to give me some advance warning; I don't cook like this every day," she said, grinning.

As she stood there, beautiful to him in ways that so many other women were not, Sandoval had a sudden thought that he'd like to discover some of her other talents, outside of the kitchen.  He pushed the thought aside; it seemed almost disrespectful with her at this moment.

He touched her face gently and kissed her again, his hand coming down to clasp hers.  He squeezed it lightly, then turned to go, pulling the door closed behind him as he left.

He smiled confidently as she took her place at the corner table again.  He was leaning against the car, watching her from across the square, as per his usual.  As the delicate white rose was delivered with his handwritten thank you note, signed simply "G-man," he thought that he would carry the look of sheer, childlike delight on her face to his grave.

But he wasn't prepared for the way she now looked directly across at him, as if she knew exactly where he was.  She locked eyes with him; he felt his breath catch in his throat; his smile fading at this direct response to his surreptitious surveillance of her.  Then she smiled at him, the sly, knowing smile with innocent warmth behind it; he smiled back.

Picking up his coffee off the counter of the deli cart, Liam Kincaid watched with disgust as Sandoval engaged in his stalker game again.  He wondered who she was this time and how long it would be before she became terrified for her life and Sandoval moved on to other prey.

He strode towards the car, preparing to deliver his standard speech about the inappropriateness of his actions when he noticed it; it stopped him in his tracks.  Sandoval was smiling; a real smile.

He looked across the square; following Sandoval's line of sight, he instantly recognized the woman.  She was in charge of the mission of New Province, and she was smiling directly at Sandoval.

Liam was taken aback; he never would have thought this hardworking, charitable woman would have any use for a man like Sandoval.  He smiled to himself; he knew well enough that she was no wilting flower, and if she had been the one he had been playing his game with most recently, Liam believed Sandoval was in for one hell of a surprise.

Or maybe Iam,he thought to himself, as it suddenly occurred to him that maybe they really did like each other.  The look being exchanged between them was unmistakable.  But he couldn't let on to Sandoval that he had any consideration for any remnant of humanity he might be harboring.

"She has no use for your kind, Sandoval," he said, his voice dripping with contempt.  Sandoval looked up sharply as the brooding young man approached the car.

"Y'know, Kincaid, maybe I'm just a bit more complicated than you realize," he said with an air of annoyance.  The young man was an excellent security officer, but cocky and secretive; Sandoval found himself repeatedly irritated at the realization of how much alike they were.

"Yeah, tell it to the girls at the club," Liam intoned sarcastically.  He swung open the passenger door and slid inside.  He noticed Sandoval looking over one more time, but she was head down in the paper now.

Sandoval smiled as he saw that she had put the rose behind her ear, tucked into the headband by which she held back most of her hair.  He got in the car and drove away, already thinking about when he would be able to see her again.