Daniel awoke from a deep sleep with his fists clutching at his pillow and tears streaming down his face. He had never had a dream like that before. It had been so vivid, and had lasted so long. It was almost like he had lived an alternate version of the past three years all in one night. He was exhausted.
He looked over at the empty pillow beside him and sighed. The dream had seemed so real, and he had hoped Sha're would be there to comfort him and tell him that everything was alright. He ran his hand over the place where she should be laying. It was cold.
With a heavy sigh, he dragged himself out of bed and plodded through to the bathroom. He stood at the sink for quite a while, splashing water on his face and staring at himself in the mirror as he reflected on the events of the past few years and the way his dream had twisted them all around. Images of Sha're's Goa'uld possession and death floated around in his mind along with the faces of their children, making him question for a moment which was the truth and which was the dream.
"This is ridiculous," he chided himself as he dried his face and left the room. "It was just a damn dream."
He went through to the kitchen and turned the coffee maker on. It was only 0500, but he knew he wasn't likely to fall asleep again even though he didn't have to get up until 0700 today. He was too afraid of falling back into that dream.
Five minutes passed before it occurred to him just how quiet the little house was. He walked slowly back down the hall, pausing as he came to the door of the first bedroom. His dream was still so fresh in his mind that he wasn't sure what he would find when he opened that door, but he gave himself a little shake and turned the handle.
He smiled as he looked into the darkened room. Sha're was sitting there in the rocking chair, fast asleep with the baby in her arms.
After standing there gazing at her for a minute or two, Daniel tiptoed over to his wife and brushed a kiss against her forehead. He knelt down beside her as she slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. "Good morning," he whispered.
Sha're smiled. "Good morning," she said. "What is the time?"
"Just after five," Daniel replied. "Did you fall asleep feeding her?"
"No, she would not settle so I tried rocking her to sleep. I guess I rocked us both to sleep."
Daniel grinned. "Want me to take over?"
Sha're shook her head. "I am fine," she said. "Why are you awake so early?"
Daniel sighed and stroked her arm absently as he answered. "I had a bad dream and couldn't get back to sleep."
"What was it about?"
"You, for the most part." Daniel winced as he remembered the gory details of his dream. "It was like a completely different version of the past three years, where just one thing happened differently and caused everything to change."
"What was the one thing?"
Daniel swallowed hard past the lump that was rising in his throat, and he reached out his hand to stroke his sleeping daughter's face. "You had a miscarriage while we were on Abydos," he answered. "Cate was never born. Because you weren't pregnant the day Apophis came through the gate, you were there in the temple when it happened. You were taken as his queen and had his child."
Sha're's eyes widened at these words. "How terrible," she breathed.
"It was. It was all so vivid, like it was really happening. And that wasn't the worst part... you ended up being killed when the Goa'uld that possessed you tried to kill me. It was awful, Sha're. I woke up crying. It just felt so real."
Sha're wrapped her arm around his shoulders and brought his head to rest on her chest. "It was only a dream, my Daniel," she soothed. "Nothing so horrible as this really happened. Even Skaara has now been returned to us, and we have two beautiful children. It was all just a dream."
Daniel took a deep breath, savouring the scent that always lingered in the air wherever Elisa went - a mixture of sweet milk, baby powder, and that indefinable baby smell that he could never quite put his finger on. "I don't know how I'd live without the three of you," he murmured as Sha're stroked his hair. He hoped with all of his might that he would never find out.
"Daddy?" came a tired little voice from across the room.
Daniel lifted his head to look over at Cate, who was rubbing her eyes and trying to sit up in her little bed. "Hey, sweetie," he said as he stood up and went over to her. "I'm sorry for waking you up."
Cate didn't say another word, just held her arms out to him.
Daniel sat down on the edge of her bed and gathered her into his arms. It suddenly hit him how big she was getting as she wrapped her arms around his neck and promptly fell asleep with her head on his shoulder. She was two and a half now, and no longer looked and acted like a baby. It was a heartbreaking thing to realize, but at the same time it warmed his heart to see his little family growing healthy and strong.
He found that he couldn't bring himself to put her down again, so he stretched out on her bed with his feet dangling over the end and laid her down beside him with their arms still fastened securely around each other. He lay there in silence for quite a while, until he heard Elisa stirring and Sha're begin to feed her.
"We're lucky, aren't we?" he said quietly to his wife when she looked over at him and saw that he was watching her.
Sha're smiled. "We are."
Daniel returned the smile and gave Cate a gentle kiss. He loved his family, he loved his life... he loved being home.