"Did you talk to Spike? Is he going to come and help?" she asked.
"Yes, I did talk to him Buffy. He's willing to come in three days."
Her eyes snapped open and she sat up. "Three days," she said indignantly. "We ask for urgent help and he's coming in three days?"
"Buffy," Giles said slowly, "we've been assuming that Spike is the way he was when we last saw him. But it's been years without any real contact. His feelings for you might not work as a motivator any more."
Buffy narrowed her eyes. "What exactly went on in this conversation?"
Giles seemed to still be having problems processing what he had heard over an hour before. "He said he couldn't come sooner because he was a groomsman at Jack and Sam's wedding. I am sure he said wedding and not commitment ceremony but you know some places in the States… Anyway, I asked if they wouldn't understand if he bowed out, given it was a crisis. He said that Daniel would have wanted him there and Daniel's memory was too important to him."
"Who's Daniel?" Buffy asked.
"I asked him that. He said that they were partners in the good fight."
"Partners? And you are thinking not like partners in bridge," she said unbelievingly.
"We're talking about a Jack and a Sam's wedding here," Giles said.
"Whoa," said Buffy.
"I really wish you'd have consulted me before you threw the cell phone in the lake," Sam said from the passenger seat.
Her new husband responded, "I think that is at least the fourth time you've brought that up in the last half an hour." He took his eyes off the road for a minute to glare at her. "It happened 3 friggin days ago, for crying out loud."
"It's just here we are coming back into town and I am acutely aware of all the things that could have happened that we should have known about except YOU threw the cell phone in the lake. Daniel and I…"
Jack pulled the car over on the shoulder abruptly and turned and faced her. "I thought we agreed to put the topic of your marriage to Daniel on the not to be discussed ever list. I hate that he's dead, Sam, but those are the facts and we need to focus on us."
Sam zeroed in on a point that wasn't the one Jack wanted to discuss. "We don't know that Daniel's dead. He's been missing over two years but we have never had conclusive evidence that he's dead. That's why I divorced him instead of having him declared legally dead when you wanted to get married. I pray every day that he's hiding somewhere on P3H789 still alive."
"Then WHY did you marry me?" Jack exploded. "Did you just need someone to drive CRAZY!"
They sat for at least a minute, each tense, a muscle jumping in Jack's jaw, and Sam's hands clenched in her lap. Sam won the contest, if there was one, with Jack the first to break eye contact. He accelerated back onto the road, gravel spitting out from under the wheels, the margin before the next car coming along in the outside lane so narrow it made Sam gasp.
They drove in silence past the first of the outlying suburbs. Jack glanced over at his bride and his face softened. "I'm sorry Sam. I'm just tired and I really don't like to dwell on things that are done and can't be undone." He took his right hand off the wheel and grasped one of hers. "I think this was our first real argument. Do you forgive me?"
She nodded and then realized that he was looking back at the road and really couldn't see the gesture. She squeezed his hand and said, "Sure Jack."
A moment later she asked, "Would you mind terribly going by my place before we go home? There's something I want to pick up." He readily agreed, wanting to make amends for blowing up at her.
In another ten minutes, they pulled up in front of the house Sam had lived in with Daniel. It was pretty place and, most people would have said, superior to Jack's. But the memories were still so painful that she didn't want to start a new life here in the middle of reminders of what she had lost. She didn't want to continually be making comparisons between Jack and Daniel.
There was no need to check for mail. Sam had had that stopped before the wedding. She immediately started up the walk. Jack called after her, "How long is this going to be?" hoping he could just wait in the car. He didn't much like being reminded of the fact that Daniel's death had been the price of his happiness with Sam.
She responded over her shoulder, "Five minutes tops." He had reached in the back seat and grabbed the paper and was about to start on the sports page when she called out to him urgently, "Jack, someone's been in here."
With a Herculean effort, he was able to stop himself from insulting a combat experienced soldier by telling her that she should wait for him before proceeding. Despite her capabilities in a fight, he still got out of the car and inside in record time.
At first he didn't get her problem. "It looks fine to me. You could write your name in the dust of course but I don't see any signs of burglary."
She pointed mutely at the credenza in the entryway. "Someone wrote something."
He saw two hieroglyphs in the dust then on the top of the piece of furniture. "Do you have any idea what they mean?"
"I don't know Jack. This is so weird. Would Douglas have done something like that, thinking it would be funny?" Her lost husband's best friend, Douglas, did have a key. He'd watered plants more than once for her when she was gone.
"I'm reserving judgment. Let's see if we find anything else."
Sam pointed at the wall over the fireplace. There was a picture missing. Everything else seemed intact though. "Do you notice that it smells like cigarette smoke and something else?"
"Stale beer," Jack supplied.
They went quietly into the bedroom, moving like they were on an off world mission, not in Sam's home. The closet doors stood open. Sam peered inside. "I had Daniel's clothes, his personal effects in boxes. They are all gone."
Jack was starting to get angry. This wasn't funny. He didn't want to believe Douglas would pull something like this but who else could be to blame? He didn't like how up upset Sam was beneath her controlled exterior.
They moved into the kitchen where they found the table in the breakfast nook completely covered with Guinness bottles. Several of them had cigarette butts and ashes in them. Douglas was now at the top of the list of suspects. He was a habitual Guinness drinker and the only one either of them knew at all well who still smoked
"He and Daniel were so close but he said he thought it was a good idea for us to get married. That I needed to move on. Why would he do this?" Sam asked plaintively.
Her foot struck something and it skittered across the floor. When it stopped rolling, she saw she had inadvertently kicked a broad gold band, a man's wedding ring. Her hand was shaking when she picked it up. Engraved inside were the words 'DJ and SC Love Forever.' When she read them, she was in shock. The ring slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor. Jack picked it up and read the same engraved message.
Sam sat down heavily in one of the oak kitchen chairs. "They've found his body and brought his effects. He really is dead." She wrapped her arms around herself.
"Sam, if they had Daniel's personal effects, they wouldn't come in here, drink a hell of lot of Guinness, smoke a pack or more of cigarettes and leave. Something else is going on."
Suddenly Sam noticed a tape recorder sitting on the edge of the counter. "I haven't used that thing in two or three years. I certainly didn't leave it in here in the kitchen."
Jack picked it up and hit rewind. "Let's see if there's anything on it." He punched play.
Douglas' voice, with its British accent, slightly slurred: "You don't really want to do that."
Daniel's voice, heavily slurred: "William Douglas Spike Atherton, who are you to tell me what I want to do? You're a drunken vampire."
Douglas' voice: "And you're not? Not drunk I mean?"
Sounds of some scuffling.
Daniel's voice: "Don't fool with that tape recorder. I have a poem to read."
Douglas' voice: "You have a limerick. That's not really poetry. It's not right. You are talking about pain here. You don't write about pain in a limerick."
Daniel's voice: "I will if I want to."
Sound of a glass breaking.
Douglas' voice: "You just broke a glass."
Daniel's voice: "Did not. You broke it. I'm going to read my limerickee."
Douglas' voice: "Byron didn't write limericks when he was being intense."
Daniel's voice: "Do you know that for a fact or are you just assuming?"
Sound of drunken laughter.
Daniel's voice, still laughing slightly: "Because whenever you assume something you make an ass of u and me."
Douglas' voice: "So lame. You really are drunk. We could call Corinne. She's a professor. A professor of literature. She would know about Byron."
Daniel's voice: "We are not calling Corinne. I'm reading this now."
Daniel's voice: "I am sorry I'm not dead There's no more room in your bed I really don't care if you're happy I actually hope things are crappy So I'm leaving town instead"
Douglas' voice: " Back in the day, someone once said that listening to my poetry was like getting a spike through your head. But that's worse than anything I ever wrote."
Sound of something falling on the floor.
That was the end of the tape. Sam was standing stock still, absolutely stunned. Jack said, searching for some explanation, "Was there a time when this could have been recorded before Daniel went MIA?"
Sam looked at him, her face alive with hope, and said, "No. No, Jack. It's got to be that Daniel's alive. Oh thank God!" She turned abruptly and went back into the living room to check the answering machine. There was a light flashing and 4 new messages. She pushed play. The very first message explained everything. It had a date stamp from their wedding day, three days before. "Sam, this is Teal'c. I can't get you on your cell phone. I left a message at Jack's house too. Daniel came through the gate this evening. He's okay physically but things are bad. Please contact Cheyenne Mountain immediately." The next 3 messages were in a similar vein.
Sam looked at Jack, tears rolling down her face. "If our wedding had been just 1 day later." She got a wild look on her face. "Where is he! If he was here and that drunk, where could he be now?" She closed her eyes and murmured, "Danny, Danny, don't do anything stupid."
She grabbed the phone up and called Teal'c. He didn't answer. She called Jack's adjutant who picked up immediately. "Hello, it's Colonel Carter."
Before she got any further, Jack reached out to take the phone. She handed it over and he said, "It's me. Bring me up to speed on Dr. Jackson."
Sam waited impatiently while Jack listened. "Why was he allowed to leave the Mountain so soon?" he asked. He nodded a couple of times during the answer. "Of course, you're right." He ended the call then with, "Obviously this is something my wife and I need some time to deal with. Please clear my calendar for tomorrow. I'm going to take one more day before I come back. While you're at it, please notify Sam's superior in DC and request one more day before she has to report back there."
"Well?" Sam asked, barely able to talk. She was overwhelmed with every emotion from joy to fear but, at the moment, dominated by the need just to find Daniel. Everything depended on that.
"There's a long story about how he survived. He came back through the gate with a young boy who had helped him. Right before they came through, he was shot." He saw the panic in his wife's face and corrected the ambiguity immediately. "The boy was shot. Daniel stayed at the Mountain for about four hours. That was when they lost the boy. Daniel was beside himself and they couldn't get him to stay there."
"When did he find out about…" Sam couldn't say it.
"Our marriage?" There was some a definite edge to the way Jack asked the question. He was getting increasingly uneasy about her reaction to all of this. "After he came through, he asked for me or you or Teal'c or Douglas and one of the soldiers, newly stationed here and ignorant, told we were all at the wedding, my wedding to you."
"Why weren't we notified immediately," she asked bewildered.
"The people dealing with it didn't even know you used to be married to him. All the long time staff was at our wedding. Daniel's been gone over two years and you haven't been at Cheyenne Mountain in a year. It's newsworthy that an MIA came through the gate but nothing you would interrupt the commanding officer's wedding for. He didn't ask to contact any of us."
"So when did Douglas and Teal'c get involved?" she asked still feeling completely at a loss about what had happened.
"Douglas lives at the Mountain, right? He came straight back after we left the reception and found Daniel. He tried to reach us but the cell phone…" No need to finish that statement. "Anyway, he called Teal'c and asked him to locate us and he left with Daniel."
Sam picked up the phone but before she could dial, Jack said, "If you're calling Douglas, remember he asked for a week's vacation. He might have gone out of town."
Sam said, "I have to try," and punched in Douglas' number from memory. It rang and rang but no one picked up. She pulled out an address book from the drawer beneath the phone, fumbling it to the floor in her haste. She found the number for Douglas' sort of girl friend, Corinne, and called it. "Corinne, thank God, you're there."
"Sam?" Corinne's disembodied voice said. "Sam, is everything okay?"
"No, it isn't. I have to find Douglas. Do you know where he is?" Sam pleaded twisting the phone cord around her finger hard enough to cut off circulation.
Corinne mused thoughtfully. "We went out Saturday, no it was actually Friday. Yeah, that's right, Friday, the day before your wedding. I was really sorry that I couldn't come by the way. Anyway, Douglas said he was going to go to London for a few days. Something about some old friends needing help."
"So you have no idea where he would be staying? Anything like that?"
"Actually I do. The thing is there is this rare book of poetry, self-published by a minor poet that I have been trying to find. He said that Rupert Giles, odd name so I remembered it, whom he would be seeing had a part interest in a bookstore in the East End and he'd ask him."
"Thanks Corinne. You've been a great help."
"Sure. And if you talk to Douglas, remind him about the book, huh? It would be really important to a paper I'm writing and he can be a major flake."
Jack looked on in disbelief as the next thing his bride of three days did was to call the airlines and book a flight to London for one passenger. "Are you really going to go after Daniel alone? He matters to me too and you shouldn't have to deal with this my yourself. You can't even be sure he's with Doug. Wouldn't Doug have left you a message?" he demanded.
"Oh he's with Doug or Doug is dead. Doug would never let him out of his sight at a time like this. They were closer than brothers. It changed everything for Douglas when he joined SG-1 and could go through the gate and walk in the sunlight on other worlds like a normal person, like he can't under this sun. And Daniel was the first one to completely accept him. You know that. Daniel may have asked him not to contact me." She tugged distractedly at her hair. "Look Jack. I have to make things right with Daniel. Explain what happened. He's isn't going to be ready to talk to you until after he talks to me." She looked at his stony face. "You have to trust me Jack." She started out the door. "I'm going to get my laptop out of your car. If only one of us had logged on at least once… We have to leave for the airport in an hour. I'll just take the luggage with me I already have. I need to use the time until I go to the airport working on the Internet trying to get some info on this Rupert Giles."
Jack put his fist through the wall at that point.
They had landed at Heathrow in the morning which meant some major strategizing to get Douglas out of the airport. Finally, Daniel rented a car, got it at close to the building as he could and Douglas used the umbrella he had in his suitcase to get in the car where he got on the floor with a coat over him. There was still a whiff of singed Douglas in the air.
Daniel then hunted around until he found a hotel with a covered portico for unloading passengers. They used the time in the hotel while they waited for the sun to go down to nap. Neither had been able to sleep on the plane. Daniel hadn't been able to get all the horrific images his mind kept conjuring up of Sam with Jack to quit replaying behind his eyes. Douglas alternated between worrying about Daniel and trying to figure out what exactly would cause Giles, who had absolutely no use for him, to go to such lengths to find him and ask for his help merely saying that he couldn't go into detail over the phone. The airline had played the movie "Blade 2" which had annoyed both of them, Douglas because of its inaccurate portrayal of vampires and Daniel because Douglas wouldn't quit talking about it.
Just after dusk they went to the bar where Douglas was supposed to meet Giles. There wasn't any Giles in sight but it was a pleasant place, reminiscent of their old haunt, Aggie's. They ordered Guinness and leaning up against the bar, chatted in a desultory fashion in Latin because it provided a measure of privacy and because Daniel, even in his distracted and crazed state, had resumed his campaign from before he had gone missing to renew Douglas' long lost classical education.
Giles arrived at the bar about an hour later and didn't at first see the vampire. He overheard snatches of Latin which was odd enough to be worth a second look. He saw two men at the end of the bar. Daniel, clearly American, was facing him, and he noted the beard, longish hair and memorable blue eyes. Douglas had his back to Giles so that all Giles could see was the slightly wavy medium brown hair on the long side and the jeans and fatigue jacket, the same outfit basically Daniel was wearing. Daniel took a long drink and Douglas started to say something. Giles knew that voice.
Amazed, he walked down the bar and said, "Spike?" The second man whipped around. One look at that face and Giles knew he was right. Still there were discordant notes. The Billy Idol look was gone. And Spike was tan, really tan. It didn't look like Mantan or the fruits of a tanning bed either. Not to mention the Latin.
"No one calls me that anymore. It's Douglas now," Douglas said.
Giles was at sea. "Douglas?"
"It's my middle name." Douglas turned slightly toward Daniel. "Daniel, this is Rupert Giles. Giles, this is Dr. Daniel Jackson."
Daniel nodded impassively at Giles. He hadn't liked anything Douglas had ever told him about Giles, Buffy, or Zander. Willow seemed a bit more palatable but it was only by a narrow margin. Daniel was fiercely loyal to Douglas and it appeared to him that all Douglas' old so-called friends had pretty used him without ever giving him any credit.
Giles looked at Daniel speculatively. "Pleased to meet you," he returned automatically but then immediately followed up to Spike, "I really wasn't expecting you to bring along a civilian and I thought you said he was dead Spike or," he paused and added in the tone of voice and with the expression people use when they are humoring a small child, "rather Douglas."
Douglas exchanged a brief 'what did I tell you' look with Daniel at Giles' tone of voice. "Danny WAS dead for all intents and purposes for a couple of years. He just turned up," Douglas said.
Giles looked at Daniel, reassessing his initial impression.
Daniel rolled his eyes and said, "I'm not a vampire, if that's what you're wondering. I was missing in action, that's all. I've been alive the whole time although my wife sure didn't act like it." The last part was said with such bitterness that Giles knew there was a real story there. He also decided that maybe he and Buffy had been a bit hasty in their interpretation of the implications of the Spike/Daniel partnership.
Douglas decided it was time to get past the whole Daniel thing and took command of the conversation. "We were an extremely effective team in a lot of nasty fights before he turned up missing. He's my best friend and he's along for the ride or we both toddle back to Colorado."
Daniel said "Or not."
Douglas amended, "Okay, we toddle off to somewhere else that is mainly not here. So, what's the national emergency Giles?" he said trying to move things along.
"It's Buffy and Angel," Giles started to explain.
"They got stuck together doing the nasty and need prying apart," Douglas interrupted indifferently. Not even Daniel could tell if the nonchalance was an act or not.
Giles shook his head and decided he wasn't going any further without something to drink. It was going to be an uphill struggle. When he had his single malt and water in hand, he suggested that they go and sit in a booth in the back. The two men sat down opposite him. Daniel look unhappy and a million miles away. Douglas was wearing a politely curious expression and finally said, "I'm all aquiver. Please do continue."
"Since I contacted you the situation has gotten much worse. Initially it was just Angel who was missing. Yesterday, they got Buffy too but at least she was able to tell us first where they were holding Angel. We think that some Gixhe demons have them both south of London in a location protected by a powerful Werum spell."
Daniel returned to engagement in the world around him and said, "Oh please."
Douglas said, "He doesn't believe in magic." He looked over at Daniel, very satisfied with the situation. "You're going to end up apologizing to me for doubting me before all this is over."
Giles said, "You're sitting here, apparently on very close terms with a vampire and you don't believe in magic."
Daniel said patiently, "There is a scientific explanation for everything. Take being a vampire. Nasty symbiotes of all stripes are very real. One of them took my first wife. That isn't magic."
Giles was thinking to himself that this Daniel Jackson was clearly a marital mess. How many wives and sad stories did the man have anyway? "You explain it any way you want but 'Douglas' here," the quotes were quite obvious in his voice, "is well aware of what it takes to break a Werum spell."
Douglas answered as if he was being subjected to an oral examination, "It requires a powerful witch and the blood of a dead in-souled being such as an in-souled vampire." He turned toward Daniel. "You know there are so many spells for which either Angel or I are the only possible way of fulfilling the terms that I could almost make a living at it. Of course most of them involve a lot of rather unpleasant situations, icky fluids, bad smells, random body parts of small animals, you know." He looked back at Giles. "I can see why you were so cagey about the details when you contacted me. I wouldn't even risk breaking a nail for the tall, broody one all by his little lonesome." He took a drink of his beer. "So I guess Red is on board?"
Giles nodded. "Right, she wants us to meet her at my bookstore. You didn't ask about Zander and Andrew but they are in the middle of something really hard to get out of. They're going to try to get here but it might not happen soon enough. Of course Dawn's at school and we decided it was best not to tell her."
Douglas drained his Guinness, stood up, and said, "Pull up your socks, campers, and let's head the wagons out." Daniel gave him a dirty look. He was not in the mood for Douglas to start channeling Jack.
The bookstore was about to close and Giles nodded to the clerk as they entered. The man was starting to tote up the receipts. "Really good business today, Mr. Giles," the man said happily as they passed. Giles smiled absently and said, "Right. Good work, Basil."
They went on into the stockroom where there was a cleared area with a round table and some chairs. A slender red-headed woman in a brightly colored outfit was sitting in one of the chairs, her foot hooked around its leg, reading a thick volume. She didn't immediately hear them come in but when Douglas said, "Hey Red," she jumped up, upsetting the chair, and threw her arms around Douglas.
Douglas seemed surprised but not displeased by the energetic hug. She pulled back and looked him over carefully. "You look like a whole new Spikey. It works for you. I like."
Giles beat him to the punch on the name thing. "He's going by 'Douglas' now."
Daniel looked at him disgustedly. "What is your problem that you can't seem to get over that?"
"And this would be….." she asked reminding them of their manners.
"This is my best friend, Dr. Daniel Jackson," Douglas said proudly. "He came along for a change of pace and to watch my back." He put his hand on Daniel's arm and nudged him forward slightly. At that moment an inspiration had been born. You could practically see the wheels turning. "Danny, this is lovely lady is Willow, possibly the smartest woman I have ever met."
Daniel was too unhappy about life in general to pick up on where Douglas was going the way he normally would have. But even in his fugue state, he couldn't help but notice the gentleness of the pixyish young woman's face and the keen but kind expression in her eyes. "Hi. I've heard so much about you. It's great to meet you." For a moment they locked onto each other and each saw something in the other they really liked.
"Well," said Douglas, well pleased with how everything was going so far. "How about we get to it." They all sat down and Giles pulled out the specs on the warehouse where the demons had stashed Buffy and Angel. After Giles had finished laying it all out, he and Willow were surprised at Douglas and Daniel. It was like a scene out of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie about soldiers of fortune. They got very military in their terminology, indulged in shorthand references to former conflicts, and started talking about plastique.
"Wait a sec," Willow said. "We got the magicks. What's with all the soldier guy stuff?"
"Is the magic 100 sure and comprehensive as far as dealing with all the enemy assets?" Daniel asked.
Giles mouthed, "Enemy assets."
Willow ignored Giles. "Of course not."
Daniel said, "Then, with no lack of faith in your abilities or Douglas' blood, I say we have a contingency plan." Everyone nodded at the wisdom of that. "I assume we move tomorrow?" he then inquired.
Willow grimaced. "I wish. The thing is, it takes three days from the time I get the blood and start the spell building until it can be used."
Douglas said, "Let's get the blood and get going then."
Willow went into a small room behind them which was apparently a sort of witch's laboratory and returned with a razor and a mortar and pestle. She nicked the end of his finger and squeezed several drops of blood into the marble receptacle. When she finished, he put the still oozing finger in his mouth and sucked it clean with obvious relish.
Daniel was fascinated to watch the ritual that ensued. He asked if he could take notes and Willow agreed willingly. Douglas was delighted to see Daniel forget Sam long enough to slip into his intense, scientist-on-the-prowl mode when he was oblivious to everything but the intellectual puzzle in front of him.
The spell took a lot of babysitting and two of them stayed in the bookstore back room all the time. Giles had an apartment above the store and they took turns sleeping up there.
Douglas maneuvered it so that he and Giles had the day time watch and Willow and Daniel the night time which left him free to leave the store and get reacquainted with London. Giles was clearly studying him like an exotic creature in a zoological garden and he got a huge charge out of coming up with ways to surprise Giles at how different he was from the man he had once known. It obviously intrigued Giles when Douglas remembered to ask Giles about the book his girlfriend, an Associate Professor of English asked him to find. This was an entire day before Daniel remembered to prompt him, a matter of some self-congratulation for Douglas.
The second day of the spell maturation, Giles asked him, "This matchmaking you're trying to do with Willow and your friend, you don't really expect anything of it, do you?"
"You mean because Willow turned out to like girls?"
"Small impediment to major romance with a bearded guy, you have to admit. And also, this guy's wife dumped him just, what, 3 days ago. That would be fairly fickle, wouldn't it?"
"Point one, before the interest in girls she was totally into Oz. We both remember how nuts she was about him. I'm thinking maybe she could go either way. And look, he's so torn up right now that I'm just trying to take his mind off it and maybe flatter his ego a little. To say, hey, there are other fish, or Colonels, as the case may be in the sea."
"Don't try to keep up, Giles. You'll just strain yourself."
Romantically and magically everything was proceeding smoothly. They just had to hope that nothing unexpected came up to derail what was looking like a clockwork perfect operation.
Sam had been to London twice before, most recently for a scientific conference. In her teens she had gotten to know it well when her father was stationed in England as a liaison with the British military. As the plane began to descend and the familiar landmarks became defined, she found herself straining her eyes, searching the ground as if one of the tiny dots on the streets would be Daniel and she would somehow know it.
She was extremely impatient to get out of the airplane so, of course, they were put in a holding pattern and landed 20 minutes late. The lack of an available gate kept them sitting on the tarmac for another 20. Her bag was literally the last to come down the conveyer belt. As she was descending on the escalator, somehow a piece of the fabric of the soft luggage got caught in the mechanism and the front ripped off, letting all of those in immediate vicinity see what sort of lingerie the average American woman takes on her honeymoon. Mortified, she begged some duct tape off a maintenance worker and jerry rigged the whole thing back together. She would have to cut her way into the bag at the hotel.
At least she was able to immediately get a taxi. Sam had the address of what she believed to be the correct bookstore and decided to start there. She was sitting forward so anxiously in the cab that the driver took offense and said, "I am a competent driver, Miss. Clean record. You can relax."
As Sam arrived at her destination, another cab rolled up behind hers and a tall, dark-haired young man in an unfortunate loud print shirt got out followed by a much shorter young man, tricked out like a B-movie version of an English gentleman. She unloaded her luggage but then decided to ask the cabby to wait. Rather than put it all back in the cab and trust the driver who had taken a distinct dislike to her, she trundled it into the store with her.
The two young men greeted the clerk like an old friend and a lively discussion started up about something that appeared to be very interesting to the three of them but was just getting in the way of Sam's single minded objective. After an impatient moment or two, she stepped between them and said, "I'm terribly sorry to interrupt but if I could ask a question?"
The clerk and the tall customer looked at her with great interest. The shorter man was more focused on being utterly appalled by the state of her suitcase. "I'm trying to locate a good friend of mine who I believe is here visiting the owner of this store. His name is Douglas Atherton."
She thought the clerk knew exactly who she meant but had some reason for being careful in sharing the information. "I might have heard that name." He reached out, took her hand, and shook it. "I'm Basil Derry by the way."
It seemed strange for him to decide introductions were needed and then Sam concluded it was a way to get her name without asking for it. "Dr. Samantha Carter," she said, deciding the military title she was entitled to might make him nervous and she sure wasn't going to call herself Samantha O'Neill.
Her hypothesis about his motivation seemed to be confirmed when he said, "Mr. Giles might be in the back. Let me see if he knows Mr. Atherton."
The taller of the two men said, "Since we're doing introductions, I'm Zander and this is Andrew. We're Americans like you and friends of Giles." She shook two more hands.
Basil returned then from the back room followed by Douglas. She was never gladder to see anyone in her whole life. She ran toward him and threw her arms around him. He hugged her back, lifting her off the floor for a minute.
She pulled back and looked anxiously in his eyes, "Doug, Danny's here isn't he? Please tell me, he's here. I've been out of my mind with worry."
Douglas brushed her hair back affectionately and instead of answering, asked his own question, "Where's Jack?"
Their tete a tete was interpreted by a two loud exclamations from behind her. Both customers said "Spike!" but there was exasperation and patent lack of enthusiasm in Zander's voice and boyish delight in Andrew's.
Douglas appeared to notice them for the first time. He smiled at the shorter man and said, "Hey Andrew. Snazzy duds. This is" but Sam interrupted him.
"We've met. Doug, please about Daniel," she said trying to refocus him but the conversational reins were out of her hands for the moment.
"I was really hoping you wouldn't come," Zander said flatly.
"I'm delighted to see you too, Harris," Douglas said. "Look I'm only around through tomorrow. We get Buffy and the Great Forehead out of lock up and I'm out of here."
"Like you're going to be able to tear yourself away from hitting on Buffy once you see her again," Zander snorted.
This continuing rudeness finally got through to Sam and she looked with disdain at Zander. "I remember hearing about you now."
Douglas took pity on her and, for privacy's sake, signed to her in the ASL that the SG-1 team had learned together as a handy way to communicate when verbal communication had one problem or another and because it was sort of fun. "Sam, he is here. I am not going to lie to you but I am asking you to stay away from him if all you plan on doing is telling him is that it is over with him and you are with Jack now. He is terribly hurt. He does not want to see you. It was at his request that I did not let you know where we were going."
There were tears in Sam's eyes but she managed to keep them from falling. "I don't know what I want or what I'm going to do. I love both of them and I feel married to both of them. I can't stand to hurt either one of them but right now, I feel like I've hurt Daniel much more. I'm just stuck at the point of needing to see him, to know that he is all right. And he needs to know that I didn't get over him, I didn't stop loving him but I decided to keep living. "
Douglas said, "He and Willow are upstairs asleep. Come on in the back and meet Giles. I'll go up and ask him if he wants to see you. You have to promise me though that if he says no, you'll leave."
Sam shook her head, "Don't ask that of me."
Douglas responded, "I have to. You are my friend and I really love you but he's my brother. I'll have to stop you."
Sam swallowed hard. "Okay. I promise."
Everyone but Basil trooped into the back room. Ever since the exchange with Sam, Zander had been staring at Douglas like he had beamed down from a space ship. Andrew was just looking at him as if he would like to eat him with a spoon. Even Sam noticed and thought it was a little embarrassing.
There was a middle aged man with glasses perched on the end of his nose studying a large tome at the round table. He stood up and greeted Zander and Andrew with obvious pleasure and looked pleasantly at Sam, awaiting an introduction. Douglas said, "This is Dr. Jackson's wife, Colonel Samantha Carter."
Andrew said to Sam, "I thought you said Dr."
"Ex-wife," she corrected Douglas. To Andrew she said, "I'm both. I'm a Colonel in the United States Air Force and I have a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Illinois." Andrew looked very impressed, Giles and Zander less so. Douglas looked like a proud parent at the description of her accomplishments.
Douglas said, "I'm going to go upstairs and fill Danny in. Please make her feel at home."
They sat down at the table and Sam felt a little like she was at a news conference or facing a panel of judges. Giles asked her about her combat experience. Zander followed up his more general questions with some very specific ones about hand to hand fighting. Maybe it was more like a job interview as they seemed to get increasingly excited about her abilities. Zander said, "She could be really handy tonight."
Giles nodded and said, "We've got to do something pretty dicey tonight. It's the reason Douglas is here. Two of our friends are being held prisoner and we have to go in and get them out."
"It sounds like the authorities aren't involved," she observed. "This is some of that weird magic stuff Doug talks about, isn't it?"
"You don't put any more credence in magic than your husband, er ex-husband, I take it?" Giles asked with the utter confidence of a true believer. Sam smiled politely wondering what sort of group of crazies she had to contend with on top of her personal situation. It was true though that Douglas believed all this and he wasn't crazy. She decided she was skeptical but willing to be surprised. After all she HAD been married to a man who had spent a year as a disembodied ascended being.
Douglas came back down the stairs to be told that Sam had signed up to the SWAT team. He grimaced. "That may be a little premature. Daniel may not want her to hang around."
Sam said, "Doug, please try to convince him."
Douglas shook his head, "I'm sorry. I've done all I'm comfortable doing."
Zander said, "Why does she keep calling Spikey Douglas. And," he said on a roll, "while we are on the inquiring minds portion of the program, who the hell is Daniel anyway and why do we care what he wants?
"That would be me," Daniel said entering the room behind Willow.
"Hey Will," Zander said enthusiastically and Andrew also greeted her happily. Willow's return greeting was subdued. It was clear that all her attention was focused on Daniel. She was looking at him with concern, biting her lower lip.
Sam was oblivious to anyone else. She was looking hungrily at her beloved Daniel's face. She came forward to stand just inches from him. Without consciously planning to, she reached up and touched his beard. Everyone in the room was quieted by the longing and the wonder in her face and voice. "You look so wonderful. Even better than I remembered," she said huskily. "I even like the beard."
Daniel was clearly fighting for control. For just a moment the same sort of longing and wonder appeared on his face at seeing her again. But just for a moment. Then it was replaced by pain and anger and terrible sadness. He captured her hand and lowered it. "It's been a long time Mrs. O'Neill," he said at last.
Willow shooed everyone out of the room. She had a little trouble with Douglas and almost had to drag him. She mumbled something about how they all had to go take care of something and closed the door behind them.
"Daniel, you have every right to be angry, to be hurt, to feel betrayed."
"I sort of think I do," he agreed, moving away from her.
"But I know Doug's told you how it was. How I was more dead than alive for months. If it hadn't been for Jack giving me something positive to live for so I could move forward, I honestly don't know what would have happened to me. It was more than two years Daniel. It just didn't seem possible that you would still be alive."
"Evidently not," was all Daniel said.
She went after him and grabbed his arm. "Daniel I never, NEVER stopped loving you. The problem is that I've also always loved Jack. He hasn't done anything wrong in this any more than you have. We're in this horrible box and I don't see a way out."
He looked at her for a very long time and finally he sighed deeply and folded her in his arms. "It's just easier for me to be angry with you than to face losing you. I had two years on that hellhole and the only thing that kept me going was thinking I had to get back to you." He stroked her hair. "It's like one of those horrible nightmares when you dream that you woke up but later realize that you are still trapped in the nightmare. "I love you and I don't want to lose you," he said brokenly, "but I want it resolved one way or the other almost as much."
He set her away from him and went toward the door to let the others back in. "Let's help Doug get through this business tonight. When we get through that, if you choose me I have to know then. Willow has shown me some amazing stuff in the last couple of days. She thinks it's magic. I don't but I do think it works. She says she has a spell that will make me forget my love for you for a long time. When the memory does come back, it will be the kind of memory you have years later when the sting is gone. That's where I'm going if I have to."
He opened the door then and everyone came filtering back. They sat around the big table and went over and over what was going to happen in around midnight. Sam was given the short course on demon fighting that Daniel had already taken.
They had two vans that they loaded up with an odd assortment of things from Sam and Daniel's stand point but there were also conventional weapons. Nestled in a Styrofoam cooler and carefully packed in was Willow's potion. Daniel and Sam rode with Douglas and Giles while Willow, Andrew, and Zander were in the other van.
About one-fourth mile from the warehouse, they pulled off into a vacant lot. They parked the vans so that it was unlikely that someone driving by would be able to see anything. Willow laid out a square of cloth and her potion and went methodically through a ritual that made no sense to Sam or Daniel. Daniel gamely took notes using the scant light from the two flickering candles that Willow used. When she finished there was a plume of smoke that rose from the potion and hung in the air. When Willow moved, it followed her.
Giles distributed the weapons. Sam was paired with Zander to come in from one point in the back and Daniel with Giles to come in from another point in the back. Their lack of demon fighting experience had led to Giles insisting on that. Willow was with Andrew directing the plume of smoke at the front and Douglas was going to go up to the roof alone. They walked the rest of the way to the warehouse and got on their ready marks.
With everyone in position, Willow appeared to make a simple casual gesture and the plume of smoke broadened and thickened and became an almost solid thing that hammered against the building. Something perceived in the mind although not with the eyes seemed to break. Suddenly the building seemed less dark, less impregnable.
At that moment, some really ugly beings came boiling out to engage them. Later Giles, Zander, and Andrew would wonder at the complete lack of surprise or dismay Sam and Daniel displayed at such opponents. They had no way of knowing that they had faced worse many times before on other worlds. The fighting was fierce but the good guys seemed to have the upper hand the entire time. When the last few demons decided discretion was the better part of valor and took themselves off, the little band took inventory and were pleased to discover that there no casualties and the worst wound was Andrew's split lip.
They made their way into the building, wary in case any of the demons were hiding somewhere inside even though Willow assured them that the spell should have driven them all out. It wasn't difficult to find Buffy and Angel. Douglas could smell her immediately. The two were trussed up like Christmas turkeys on opposite sides of a small office with noxious looking gags in their mouths.
Buffy's eyes widened when she saw Douglas but was calm compared to Angel. Angel was trying to say something through the gag and jerking around, clearly demanding to be untied immediately. Willow and Giles went to assist Buffy and Zander and Andrew worked on untying Angel. Daniel, Sam, and Douglas looked at each other and forgot about the rest of the group. It felt really good. All they needed was Teal'c to complete the SG-1 reunion. Sam laughed and they had a group hug. "It is so good to be fighting along side you two again," she said fondly.
"I would have appreciated a zat," Daniel said, "but it was like finally coming home."
Suddenly a small hand pulled on Douglas' arm. He turned and Buffy jumped up and hugged him hard. Then she kissed him. It was not a Disney movies kiss. "Thank you so much for coming to help me," she said to him.
Douglas gently removed her hands and said, "Robin and I,"
Daniel interrupted him to say, "Make that Batman and I. You're Robin."
Douglas laughed, "And Catwoman here," he indicated Sam, "we make it our business to travel the known universe righting wrongs and defending the defenseless." He made a mock bow. Suddenly adopting John Wayne's voice, he said, "All in a day's work Ma'am."
Angel was standing directly behind her and Douglas pushed Buffy toward him. Everyone except Sam and Daniel were staring at him speechless. Spike handing Buffy over Angel? Maybe Douglas just looked like Spike but it couldn't be the same guy. Buffy was dumbfounded and not at all amenable to be handing off to anyone.
Angel surprised himself and everyone else by saying, "Thanks Spike. I owe you and your friends a debt of gratitude."
Douglas laughed and said without rancor, "I bet that was hard to say." He looked around and said, "What say we get out of here?" That galvanized them all and they hurried back to the vans, eager to leave demon stink behind.
They returned to the bookstore and took turns using the shower. They all had post battle reaction and no one minded just sitting and waiting his turn. Daniel was upstairs and Sam was sitting quietly with Douglas. Very quietly she asked him, "I thought that woman was the absolute love of your life, like you went through horrible trials to get your soul back for her."
Douglas smiled lopsidedly at her. "Yeah she was, once. But it hurt too damn much. After I became corporal again when I was working with Angel, Andrew came out to take care of some business with us. We got to talking and he told me about a spell. I called Willow, called in all my brownie points and markers with her and just plain begged. She came to LA on the quiet and fixed me up. I didn't ask her to take it all away. Buffy's sort of my tragic muse, you know. I did ask her to turn it down. From gut wrenching and all consuming to something like a 6th grade crush. That was a few years ago. It's not any more intense now than any grade school crush would be once you got to university. My taste has evolved I guess. Hanging around you and Corinne has left me used to a level of intellectual endeavor above being really good at accessorizing."
Buffy came over at that point and looked at Sam, a request in her eyes. Sam chuckled and gave up her seat. Buffy had been staying close to Douglas since they had left the warehouse. Sam suspected she didn't really want him. Who could tell? For sure she did NOT like having lost his devotion to her.
Willow was out in the store proper browsing through the books. Sam went and leaned against the shelf next to her. "Willow, I've got to know something."
Willow glanced up and read the intensity on her face. She put her book down, took Sam by the hand and led her to a little sitting area. "Tell me."
Sam was twisting her hands together and found that she couldn't look at Willow. "I understand you have a spell, something that would make Daniel not love me any more."
Willow said, "I do. I would never use it without the full consent of the subject and actually this particular one is pretty hard to do without consent anyway. If you want Daniel to get over you…"
Sam said, "Daniel told me he was thinking of asking you to put the spell on him if I didn't choose to leave Jack and get back together with him."
Willow nodded her head, "Oh. I see. I'm guessing you want to know if it would hurt him. If it's dangerous."
Sam was relieved. "Yeah, that's what I'm trying to get at I guess."
Willow reassured her. "It's absolutely benign. I've done it for two others besides Spike with no problems reported. And his love will come back some day but only at the intensity of a very old memory. The kind of thing that you remember but it's so far in the past and unrelated to where you are now it feels like it happened to someone else."
Sam squeezed her hand. "I don't understand what you do at all. But I do know you are good people. Thanks."
When she went back into the other room, Douglas was gone and Daniel was sitting in his place. He had shaved off the beard and cut a couple of inches off his hair. He looked so incredibly handsome. Her heart swelled with love for him. He smiled at her but there was so much pain in his beautiful blue eyes.
Sam thought, "Except for one brief year, there's always been pain there because of me. I can't make them both happy but if he used Willow's spell, I could make Jack happy and there would be room for someone else to fulfill Daniel. Daniel and Jack don't have to lose their friendship either. If I choose Daniel, I wound Jack deeply. If Jack looses anyone else, he'll put up walls no one will ever tear down."
She said to Daniel softly, "Can we take a little walk outside?"
Daniel knew. She could tell he knew but he followed her out into the soft night. They walked awhile hand in hand, not talking. She stopped and faced him. "Kiss me will you my beloved Danny."
He looked at her so tenderly, accepting what was coming, maybe even understanding why she had made the decision and he kissed her. It was the most perfect kiss of her life. When it was over she said, "I love you Daniel but I love Jack too. Jack is my legal husband now and he has to be my future." Warm tears were running down her cheeks. "Please forgive me." Suddenly she had to get away before she changed her mind, lost her nerve, proposed a ménage a trois or tried some other way to hold on to both of them. She walked rapidly away, stumbling a little, turned a corner and leaned against the door of a shuttered store, crying. She thought about asking for Willow's potion for herself but she knew one of them had to remember their love. It was too beautiful to let go.
Three months later, Daniel returned to work at Cheyenne Mountain. He was somewhat distracted by his long distance romance with his new fiance. It was a cause of general rejoicing on several fronts when Willow and Daniel opted for a short engagement and ran off to Las Vegas one weekend.
Sam and Jack got together with Teal'c, Douglas, Willow, and Daniel about once a month. Usually Douglas was there with Corinne. That was an odd relationship that the rest of them observed with some amusement. It never got any more serious but it never ended and both of them seemed to be getting whatever it was they needed from it.
When she could, Sam watched Daniel, careful not to let Jack see her doing it. She and Jack were happy together and she never regretted her decision. There were times though when she could feel that perfect kiss like a phantom touch on her mouth. She remembered a song from an Ian and Sylvia record of her mothers, something about someone being bound to love someone who wasn't bound to love them. The answer was inescapably yes.