Samantha had spent a week wondering where she would go, and she always came back to Colorado. While she couldn't return to the Stargate program, the state had fond memories for her. And the weather was a marked improvement on Washington.
She would be quite happy never to see the town, or the entire state of West Virginia, ever again. But Colorado was the perfect place for her to be by herself and contemplate what she would do with her life.
She wasn't going to keep Daniel away from his son, or his unborn child. She had seen him with Jacob, knew how devastated he still was that he didn't get to see the boy grow up. He had betrayed her, but she wouldn't do that to him again. There was nothing Daniel could do that would deserve that kind of treatment.
But still… her heart ached every time she thought about Daniel's betrayal, and she thought about it a lot. She couldn't help it – she hadn't realised how much Daniel had meant to her until she was forced to look at life without him.
Jacob noticed how unhappy his mother was and figured it had something to do with his father. " When are we going back home? " he asked her daily.
To which Samantha would smile as best as she could – which wasn't very convincingly, even to his nine-year-old eyes – and say, " Soon. "
She would give herself a month on their own, she decided, and then Daniel had to be told. She needed to decide how they would handle this pregnancy, and she needed time to get over Daniel and get used to living without him. She was frightened she would fall back into his arms the minute she saw him.
Oh, God, how badly she wanted to fall back in his arms. She and Daniel should be embracing this pregnancy together, not on opposites sides of the globe. Right now, she was torn between wanting Daniel by her side, playing with her stomach like she was sure he would do, he was such a doting father, and revulsion at having him touch her after betraying her with that woman who pretended to be her friend.
Daniel, Samantha thought sorrowfully, tears filling her eyes for the umpteenth time. Why couldn't you resist a little longer?
Daniel hadn't spoken to Samantha in over two weeks. She usually called him, when she was able to, so it took him a while to think about calling her. After two weeks without speaking, Daniel began to grow concerned. He didn't trust Peter Richmond as far as he could throw him, and wouldn't put it past the Congressman to do something to Samantha.
He had the number to the Richmond estate, and he called it, getting a butler who informed him that 'Mrs. Richmond' had taken her son and left the mansion a week ago.
" There must be some mistake, " Daniel insisted. " Sam wouldn't leave without telling me. And she would be back here by now. Is Mr. Richmond available? "
" Congressman Richmond, " the Butler corrected pompously, but transferred him to Peter's private number. Daniel was surprised Peter would have an audience with him ; he wondered if the man had a hidden agenda.
" Mr. Jackson, " Peter said smoothly, knowing it annoyed Daniel to have the 'Doctor' title dropped from his name. It wasn't that he was pretentious, just that he expected to be taken as seriously as a medical doctor. Well, Peter didn't take him seriously at all so saw no reason to call him Doctor Jackson. " How can I help you? " He was as glib as the Senator and President he hoped to be, Daniel thought.
" You can start by telling me where Sam is, " Daniel demanded rudely. He was in no mood to be polite to the man that was depriving him of Samantha and Jacob.
" She left a week ago, " Peter said. " I don't know where she went. " That was one of the few truths he had told in his career. He had seen no reason to interest himself in Samantha's life, so why should he have started with where she was going? All that mattered was that she was gone, taking that phone heir of his brother's with her. The Richmond legacy was all his.
" If has had left, she would have told me, and she would be here by now, " Daniel said through gritted teeth, wishing it was possible to strangle someone thousands of kilometres away through a telephone connection. Peter Richmond was a snake, and Daniel would be glad to see the last of him.
" I'm not surprised that after she witnessed your little performance she'd leave without telling you, " Peter said smugly.
" What are you talking about? What performance? " Daniel asked irritably.
" The one with that gorgeous ex of yours, " Peter answered smugly. " And might I add, you have excellent taste in women. What I wouldn't give for a piece of ass like that… "
Daniel's blood went cold. How the hell did Samantha find out about that? " What the hell have you done, Richmond? " he demanded.
Peter laughed softly to hear the rising anger in Daniel's voice. Anger – and fear. He was afraid of losing Samantha. Well, now he knew what it had been like to be his brother. " Let's just say she knows the value of the dollar – well, a hundred thousand of then, anyway. "
For a moment, Daniel could have sworn his heart stopped beating. His throat dried up, and sweat began forming on his face. Ashly would never do such a thing. Richmond had to be lying.
Well, there was one way to find out. He trusted Ashly's words a lot more then he trusted those of Peter Richmond.
Hanging up on the Congressman, Daniel went to find his beautiful subordinate. Their relationship had been professional since their last night together. As promised, she had made no demands on him, but he still felt funny around her. This wasn't like all the previous times they'd been together. He may not have made any promises to Ashly, but he had made one to Samantha, and not having to face Ashly made it a little easier to face himself over his infidelity.
He found her easily enough. She was in her caravan, going over some notes. She looked up at him and smiled. He couldn't help but be aware of how strikingly beautiful she was. He had no desire for her, his guilt was too heavy just at the sight of her, but he imagined what Samantha must have felt, if she had seem them together. Samantha was beautiful to him, far more beautiful then any other woman, but he was man enough to know that she wasn't as physically attractive as Ashly was. He could only imagine how she must feel, to compare herself to Ashly in such a base way.
" Can I help you with anything, Daniel? " she asked politely. He had set the boundaries with his aloof behaviour after their passionate night together, and she had too much pride to challenge them. She had secretly hoped something more might have come of it, but if he was determined to wait for Samantha – there was nothing more she could do about it.
Daniel leaned against the door frame, feeling very embarrassed. " I, uh – I don't know how to say this – it seems – that – Samantha – Samantha – might know about us… " he trailed off helplessly, feeling a combination of embarrassment at having to bring this up and worry that Samantha did know about him and Ashly. She would never understand it had been a one-night things. " I, um, thought you might, um, know something about that. "
Tentatively, he looked Ashly in the eye, expecting to see shock and embarrassment in her face. Instead… guilt. Like she knew already. She had been anticipating this day since she had posted the tape. She had known that it would come back to haunt her. When she thought of her mother, getting better now thanks to the Richmond money, she was convinced she had done the right things. But now, with Daniel's searching gaze on her, she was consumed with guilt. And it showed as clearly as if her actions were written on her face.
The truth dawned on Daniel. He had been set up. " You knew, " he said accusingly. " You came to me and acted like you wanted me but you only anted – what did he give you? "
" A hundred thousand dollars, " Ashly admitted. There was no point in lying now.
A hundred thousand dollars. Peter Richmond was a twisted as his brother if he would pay that much just to turn Samantha again him. For a brief moment Daniel considered the possibility that Richmond was planning to flog the tape on the Internet, then decided the Richmond name meant more to him then petty revenge.
" What was so important to your greedy little heart that you made a deal with the devil? " Daniel asked scathingly of Ashly. He had never thought of her as the type to sell out her integrity, although a hundred grand was a lot of money.
Ashley's entire being stung under the sharpness of Daniel's words. He had loved her as a friend and now he looked at her… with hate. For the part she had played in turning Samantha against him. She had been a fool to think she could ever make him forget her. " I had to, " she said desperately. " My mother was so sick – "
Daniel remembered a few comments Ashly had made about her mother. She had made her health problems out to be minor ones, nothing that couldn't be cured with some R&R. " If you needed money that badly, I would have given it to you, " he spat. " I thought we were friends. "
" We were – we are, " Ashley said desperately. " Please, I never meant to – "
In a moment, Daniel was by her side, his strong hands yanking her up out of her chair so she was standing and facing him. She saw the anguish in his eyes as he comprehended how much Samantha must hate him right now. " You never meant to what? " he demanded harshly. " You never meant to seduce me? You never meant to take advantage of my loneliness? You never meant to wreck my relationship with Samantha? You know, there's a word for women who take money for sex – they're called prostitutes. "
The word was a slap in the face for Ashly. She wasn't a prostitute! But Daniel's comparison haunted her. She had taken money for sex – albeit not directly – and not for her own use. She hated that Daniel thought so low of her. It wasn't like she had forced him. He had wanted it. Five times. And if Samantha would leave him over one indiscretion – " If she doesn't understand then she doesn't deserve you, " she said tearfully.
Daniel had never hit a woman in his life but now he struck Ashly's face, hard, reflecting the force of his emotions. He knew he couldn't entirely blame Ashly for the sorry state of affairs, as easy as it was – she had seduced him, not raped him – but his mind was a tumult of emotions and there was only so much he could blame himself for.
And that was a lot of blame. He could only imagine how much it must have upset Samantha – what a slap in the face to their declarations of love before she had left. He wasn't about to forget that she too was to blame for being away so long but he knew that wouldn't do much to mitigate her sense of betrayal.
He had to find her. He had to explain himself. He had to get her, and their son, back. Daniel's heart constricted when he thought about Jacob. He had already missed so much of the boy's life, he wouldn't miss any more of it.
The next day, he informed his sponsors he was taking indefinite leave. There wasn't much they could do about it. He was archaeology's wonder boy, he had found them this site. He was under no contract so all they could do was hope he came back. And that was just fine by Daniel.
Richmond had been no help when he'd said he had no idea where Samantha had gone. Daniel had tried calling Mark, who also had no idea. Mark and Samantha had never been on the best of terms, and her marriage to John had only exacerbated that.
Damn you, Daniel thought of Samantha one day when he reached another dead end, another friend who had long ago lost contact and had absolutely no idea where she had gone. She had certainly wanted to disappear – and had taken his son with her. She was doing it all over again. Was this her idea of revenge? He cheated on her, so she took his son away – again? He couldn't have known that Samantha had no intention of keeping Jacob from Daniel indefinitely – just long enough to get over him, if she ever could.
Finally, a month after he started looking for her, he found her through some shady dealings a friend in a credit card pulled for him. When he found it, he kicked himself for not having thought of it before. Of course she'd go to Colorado. It was the last place she'd been truly happy – before Jacob had died, before Jack had died, before she'd married Richmond.
Having located her, he wasted no time in going to see her. The month that had passed had only increased his longing for her, and his irritation. Had she been planning to just walk out of his life, again, taking their son with her, again? He had thought they were past that. Obviously, he had been wrong.
Part of him was relieved when he knocked on the door to be greeted by Jacob. Lord, he had missed the boy. Just when they had been getting close –
" DADDY! " Jacob shrieked with undiluted joy. He opened the door and bounded into his father's arms. Daniel embraced the boy in a tight bear hug. " You've been gone do long, " was Jacob's muffled complaint as he buried his head in his father's chest, glad that he was finally back. His mother was so sad without him. She had been sad ever since they'd left Egypt. " I thought you were never going back. " His fingers curled around the back of Daniel's neck, digging into his skin, reminding Daniel of the time Samantha had come to him, fleeing from his husband. He didn't mind now, either. He was happy just to have him son in his arms.
" Course I was coming back, I just had something to deal with, " Daniel said evasively. He was angry at Samantha for separating him and Jacob again, but not ready to lay the blame at her door. " But I'm here now and I'm not letting you go. "
Happy with this answer, Jacob held his father tighter, rubbing his face against Daniel's shirt, basking in his father's scent.
" Where's your mother? " Daniel asked after a few moments of silent father-son bonding.
" Sleeping. She sleeps a lot, " Jacob said. He thought weather or not he should tell his father of his mother's unhappiness, and decided he had nothing to lose. " She cries a lot too. I don't think she wanted to leave. I don't know why she did. "
How did you explain to a nine-year-old the politics of some adults? You couldn't. So Daniel just said, " She had her reasons. How about we let her sleep and we have some time to ourself. "
Jacob's eyes glittered with anticipation. He would like that very much.
An hour later, Samantha was woken up by the noise coming from her living room. She reached for her heavy nightgown and wrapped it around her pyjamaed body. She was so tired lately, more tired then she had been with Jacob. The doctor had said this was normal, part of having a child so late in life (and there were women twenty years older who had children!) but it made her feel so ineffectual.
Automatically she ran her hand down her stomach. She was only three months along, barely showing, but she could see the gentle swelling of her body and it filled her with a mix of happiness and confusion. A month on, the time she'd promised she would let Daniel know where she was, and she was no close to working out what she wanted.
No, she knew what she wanted. She wanted Daniel. But Daniel had cheated on her. And failing that, she had no idea what she wanted to do.
So she was completely floored when she entered her living room and saw Daniel, playing with their son. Her first thought was gratitude that she had thought to put on her nightgown ; the thick folds of the garment hid her bulk.
Daniel stood up when he saw Samantha. She was surprised, that was obvious. She had thought she had disappeared pretty well. She hadn't counted on Daniel's determination to see his son. She wondered if he'd had any determination to see her. She willed herself to stay strong in his presence.
" Surprise, " he said softly. There was a touch of menace to his voice. Samantha cringed. He was jacked off about Jacob.
" How did you find me? " she asked.
" I won't answer that on the grounds I could incriminate myself – and my friends, " Daniel said wryly. " How've you been, Sam? " God, she was beautiful. He wanted to take her in his arms and make love to her all night. After he'd shaken her silly for running off with his son.
" Fine, " Samantha replied. Well, fine enough at any rate. Her pregnancy was progressing as well as could be hoped, apart from the tiredness, and she was getting through each day.
" Jake says you've been sleeping a lot. "
Daniel noticed Samantha's hand drift to her stomach – it seemed to be an instinctive gesture – and his heart constricted. " I've just been… distracted, " she said lamely. Well, it was kind of true. She was distracted with thoughts of Daniel's infidelity and her burgeoning pregnancy.
Daniel turned to his son. " Jake, " he said pleasantly. " Why don't you go play outside? Your mother and I need to talk. " Obediently, Jake went outside, skulking around the side of the house, hoping to hear his parent's conversation.
As soon as he heard the back door click shut, Daniel closed to distance between him and Samantha. Determined not to let Daniel touch her, Samantha took a step backwards for every step he took towards her until he had manoeuvred her against a wall. Damn him. When had he learned strategy? She whimpered as she felt his hands on her robe, intoxicated by his closeness.
Parting her robe, Daniel's hands splayed across her abdomen. He knew every inch of her body by heart and knew her abdomen was swollen more then its usual size, even if no-one else but her could tell yet.
She was pregnant.
" Sam… " he growled the obvious question.
" It's your's, Daniel, " Samantha reassured him. " I checked how far along I am. But I can take a test if you don't believe me. "
Daniel refrained from verbally taking up that offer. After all, it wouldn't be the first time Samantha had lied about he paternity of her child. But he was far-sighted enough to know he'd get proof somewhere along the line. Even to look at her now, she couldn't be much more then three months on. She'd have to be closer to five for it to be Richmond's.
The joy that Samantha was carrying his child was tempered by the knowledge she had kept that from him as well as Jacob. " Were you ever going to tell me? " he asked coolly.
Samantha's eyes stung with tears. He had cheated on her, and he was being accusing? " I had every intention of calling you, " she said stiffly. " And unlike you, I follow through on my intentions. "
There, she'd got him, she thought, a trifle maliciously, when she saw the pain that flashed through his blue eyes. He felt guilty over Ashly, and so he should. " Sam – " he began helplessly.
Samantha ducked away from him. " I don't want to hear your excuses, " she said. " I came here to get away from you. I have no intention of keeping you from your children, but I want as little to do with you as humanly possibly. I want you to leave now. " She glared at him. Blue eyes met blue eyes in a battle of wills.
" I'm sorry about Ashly, OK? It was just one night, I swear. I hadn't seen you in two months and I had no idea when you were coming back. I was drunk and horny and pissed off. She came to me, I didn't pursue her. Richmond paid her a hundred grand to seduce me. And I've barely spoken to her since. "
Despite herself and her vows to stay strong in front of Daniel, Samantha found herself crying again. She couldn't stop thinking about him and Ashly together, how young and beautiful she was and how much more in common she had with Daniel –
Immediately Daniel was by her side, drawing her into his arms. She resisted him with all the strength she had, but Daniel held her firmly against him.
" Just… leave me alone… go back to her… I don't care about you! " she flung at him with all the vehemence she could manage through her tears, which wasn't much.
" If you don't care then why are you crying? " Daniel asked her.
" Because you broke my heart. "
Daniel pulled Samantha away from him slightly, tilting her head so she was looking up at him. " And you didn't break mine? " he asked softly, the emotion in his words penetrating to the depths of her soul. He was close to tears himself. " When you called out Jack's name, when you ignored all my attempts to get close to you, when you said you were marrying Richmond, when you married him after the night you spent with me, when you left me to go to Washington – " his voice broke when he recalled all the times he had lost Samantha. " I made one little mistake, Sam. You can't say you don't owe me a few. "
In her heart, Samantha knew Daniel had a point. From a point of reason, she could understand why he'd slipped up one time. If it had been just the knowledge, she probably could have gotten over that. But to be presented with the image of him and Ashly – she began to cry again. " I keep… seeing you with her, " she sobbed brokenly. " And I can't understand why you'd even want me. She's beautiful and young and an archaeologist and – "
" And I love you, " Daniel cut in. " Look at me, Sam. " Reluctantly, Samantha met his eyes with hers. " Ashly is – was – just someone I was attracted to. I slipped up once because everything was so messed up and I've regretted it ever since. I don't blame you for being angry. But I'm not going to let you go again – or our children. I'll wait for you to trust me again. But I won't let you go. "
Daniel's declaration of love succeeded in making Samantha burst into a fresh batch of tears. Damn these stupid hormones. But she knew it wasn't the hormones. They were just a handy excuse. " Please, " she cried desperately when she sensed Daniel was about to make another attempt at comforting words. " Just hold me tight. "
They were the words Daniel had been longing to hear. He wrapped his arms around her tighter and let her cry into her chest until gradually her sobs subsided. Then he picked her up and carried her to her bedroom to put her back to sleep. Even if she was in the mood for sex, it wasn't the right time. It wasn't his fault that she'd witnessed such damning images of him with another woman, but all the same she needed time to get over it – time with him by her side, patient, until she was ready.
He stayed with her until she fell asleep and then wandered through the house moodily, coming across Jacob in the kitchen, fixing himself a sandwich. He felt fear rise up in his throat when he thought about the possibility of losing his son and his unborn child.
Jacob looked at him warily. " Is mum sleeping again? " he asked.
Daniel nodded. " Did you know she's going to have a baby? " he asked his son.
Jacob shook his head. " Well, she is, you're going to have a new brother or sister. That's why she's so tired, because the baby takes up so much of her energy. So you and I are going to have to help her out a lot, and after the baby's born too. "
Many nine-year-olds would have been suspicious at the suggestion of more work, but Jacob picked up on the 'you and I'. " So you're staying? For good? " he asked his father.
It broke Daniel's heart to hear the wariness in Jacob's voice. Of course, he hadn't seen his father in three months, and until a few hours ago had probably doubted if he'd ever see him again. But still – well, that would be fixed in time. Like Samantha, Jacob just needed time with Daniel around to feel assured he wouldn't leave again. Although it hadn't been Daniel who had left in the first place – it had been Samantha.
But he couldn't be angry at her for it. He could kind of understand her reasons, even if it had caused him a lot of heartache.
He scooped Jacob up in his arms, sandwich and all. Jacob squirmed with secret happiness about being held with by his father again. " I'm staying here with you and your mother, " he assured his son. " And our new baby. We're going to be a real family. "
Jacob snuggled closer against his father's chest. " I love you, Daddy, " he said.
" I love you too, son. "
The months went by. While Samantha agreed it was best to go back to Egypt (Daniel had reassured her Ashly would be reassigned somewhere else once their sponsors were given the choice of him and her – he hated to do it to her, but she should have known what she was getting herself into) she wanted her child to be born in the United States. She had an ingrained mistrust about Middle Eastern doctors which was wrong, but Daniel decided to humour her.
He loved every moment of her pregnancy. He could amuse himself for hours, playing with his stomach, talking to his child in thirty different languages. It was only fair that since their first child was a maths-and-science whiz, their second would be a genius at history and languages.
Marriage was the obvious next step. Samantha didn't want a big wedding ; just a small ceremony,. She didn't even care that these days she looked like a baby elephant. She just wanted to be married to Daniel.
A few months after that and their baby was born, a perfectly-formed little girl who they agreed to call Janet. It had been a difficult labour but Samantha had gotten through it and when it was all over, she couldn't for the life of her remember the pain – the only thing that was on her mind was her beautiful baby girl. Hers and Daniel's.
Daniel had stayed with her during the labour, and sat with her for hours afterwards, admiring their new daughter. " She's beautiful, isn't she? " he asked.
" Beautiful, " Samantha agreed.
" And so are you, " Daniel added. " I love you, Sam. I never want to be separated from you again. " And he lowered his head to kiss her, knowing that though it had taken eleven years to get here, they were here, and that was all that counted.