Stargate isn't mine.

oo00oo00oo00oo00oo

One ring.

Two rings.

A third ring began, but was cut off with a click and an irritable, "O'Neill. Who is it?"

Daniel swallowed, then returned the receiver to its cradle. Jack would be pissed.

"God," he muttered, sitting down heavily on a workstool. He ran a hand through his hair, looked away from the phone, tried to pretend that everything was all right - that nothing had changed.

Christ. How was he supposed to do this? Why had he volunteered to call Jack?

Why...

Why had she done it? Why had she taken the blast for him? Why...she wasn't supposed to die. That was his gig. She wasn't supposed to die - not when she had a husband, not when she had a child, not when she was finally happy.

It hurt more than he'd expected. He'd seen her on her death bed, before - the incident with the Entity sprang immediately to mind - but even then...there had been a sense of unreality, as if he knew she was going to be okay, that things would work out. His mind simply hadn't accepted her imminent demise.

But this...

He'd watched her die. He'd seen her take her last breath; he'd seen the blood bubble up from her lips, watched her eyes film over.

She was dead.

Sam was dead.

He was starting to understand why everyone had been so glad to see him return. If it felt like this - if she'd hurt this much after losing him...

Daniel took a deep breath and reached for the phone again. Dialed the number, listened as it rang.

"What?"

"Jack," Daniel said, his mouth going dry. "Jack. It's me."

"Daniel? Is there a reason you're calling me in the middle of the night? You woke Grace up."

Grace. Oh God, he'd almost forgotten...what would this do to her? She was only two years old, and now her mother was gone.

Gone. Dead.

For real this time, and forever.

"Daniel?"

He could hear it in Jack's voice - the growing fear, the intuitive understanding that something wasn't right.

"Jack..." Daniel trailed off. "There...we had a mission-"

"Get to the point, Daniel," Jack snapped. Daniel could almost picture him in his Washington DC flat, standing in the kitchen, holding his phone in a white-knuckled grasp.

"We had a mission," Daniel repeated after a few strained moments. "Jack, Sam..."

Silence.

"She...it was meant for me, the shot. She pushed me out of the way, and it hit her."

The ticking of the clock sounded excruciatingly loud in the silence of Daniel's lab.

"She's dead, Jack."

He could hear the general's breathing over the phone - deep and carefully controlled, as if he was running on automatic.

"I see," Jack said quietly - too calmly, too softly.

Daniel blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the tears gathering in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said raggedly, tearing off his glasses and wiping his sleeve across his face. "I didn't even see...she yelled and then she was on the ground, bleeding, and she told me to get to the Gate... Teal'c picked her up, but he slipped and she fell in the mud...we rolled her over and her eyes, oh God her eyes were so wide, and there was blood - she died, Jack, right in front of us, and we left her there."

Now the other man's breaths sounded shallower, coming in short gasps. "No."

It was a simple, forceful denial, and God, how Daniel wished he could agree.

"Jack...she's...we saw it, Jack. She's gone." He squeezed his eyes shut, but the tears still escaped.

"No! No."

Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it with a click of his teeth. What could he say to that? There was nothing left to say.

She was dead.

She was gone and she'd never come back; she'd never be there to watch Grace grow up, never be there smiling as they all grew older, never be there ever again.

And it was all his fault.

And it should have been him.

"She's gone," Daniel repeated, his throat tight and his lips quivering. Saying it made it real, made it urgent and pressing and suffocatingly undeniable.

But it had to be said, and he was the one to say it, because it should have been him.

The dial tone was his only answer.