"Daniel," her breathless voice intruded on his deliberations. "I got all turned around trying to find the church." There was Sam, looking adorably mussed and out of breath, with some sort of a pad under one arm and a couple of pillows under the other, coming toward him quickly.
"No problem. They spend the first ten or fifteen minutes of things like this milling around. I'm sure nothing useful has happened yet," he reassured her. He held the door open and they went down the steps to the basement all purpose community room.
They were chagrinned to discover that this particular childbirth instructor ran a tight ship. The couples were already seated around the room on pads or blankets of various descriptions. The instructor, a petite woman with shoulder length straight blonde hair, turned to look at them, her expression friendly but firm. "You must be Samantha and Daniel. Welcome. We usually start class promptly at 7:00" she said, her warm smile taking some of the sting out of the rebuke. Their classmates chorused various versions of "Hi."
"Go ahead and choose a spot and sit," she directed. They went to the nearest open space which was next to a large, no-nonsense looking man with a military haircut and a thin scar barely missing his eye on one side of his face. Based on the dog tags hanging against his t-shirt, he was military. His partner was a young woman with a mass of dusky curls framing her face and falling down her back. She had an olive complexion and a heart shaped face. Daniel looked at her and felt a pang in his heart. She looked like Sha're's sister. "How many women are you going to be obsessing over at one time, anyway?" he chided himself.
The instructor said, "We were just telling a little about ourselves. Calvin and Rosa," she prompted, looking at the military guy next to them, "You're next."
The couple exchanged a look and the result apparently was to nominate Rosa as the spokesperson. She smiled shyly and began with a strong Puerto Rican accent, "Cal and I have been married for almost two years. We're due May 12 and we're expecting a girl. We're planning on unmedicated childbirth." She stopped for a moment. "Oh, we're naming the baby after Cal's mother, Sophia. Cal's stationed at Cheyenne Mountain with the Air Force and I work for a call center."
Daniel was absolutely bollixed to find that the guy next to him was at Cheyenne Mountain. While he was still processing this, the instructor smiled approvingly at the young couple and then shifted her gaze to Daniel and Sam. "Daniel? Samantha?"
Sam looked serenely at Daniel and he was caught between disbelief at her perfidy for pushing this off on him and complete stage fright. Finally he cleared his throat and said, "Sam and I have been close friends for years. She decided to have a baby and I, I," he ground to a halt. Did you tell a room full of strangers that you were an artificial insemination donor? "I contributed." Several people looked blank but others had an expression of dawning comprehension and they whispered to those who didn't get it so that, rather quickly, the whole group was on the same page. Daniel could have sworn the guy from Cheyenne Mountain chuckled but then maybe that was paranoia. In any case, Daniel just couldn't face explaining that he was the father of only one of the babies so he simply said, "Sam's expecting twins, both boys, and the babies are due May 20." And he tacked on since he was pretty sure the man next to him already knew, "Sam's stationed at Cheyenne Mountain and I'm a civilian employee."
"Thanks," the instructor said and then proceeded to show a video about childbirth. This was followed with an overview of the phases of labor, focusing on the early phases. Daniel gradually relaxed. If he did anything well, it was attend lectures and soak up information. All of the sudden, things got tense again. The instructor began to guide them through breathing exercises. Before he knew what was happening, he was listening to Enya, with the lights down low and Sam lying down, her head on a pillow on his lap. The instructor was urging them to maintain eye contact and he was drowning in Sam's beautiful blues. They were practicing what the instructor called "sniff ta's." Sam was to breathe through her nose, "sniffing," and "ta" out her mouth. Daniel was supposed to breathe with her but he could hardly breathe at all, period. While he was still grappling with that, the instructor, surely an expert torturer in another life, perhaps during the Inquisition, directed him to begin effleurage. He was supposed to run long strokes down Sam's back, run his hands across her hair. Of course, he complied. He began to imagine Janet standing there, watching all this, and knew he was going to be in deep trouble with her. He was in deep trouble anyway since he was rapidly being overcome with a desire to take Sam somewhere and kiss her breathless.
Daniel was almost staggering as they walked out. He insisted on carrying one of the pillows because he needed the camouflage until he got himself under control. As they exited the church and the cool evening air hit him in the face, he began to feel like he was getting on top of the situation. Sam, with exquisite timing, showed him how wrong he was about that when she leaned into him, kissed him on the check, and said, "Thanks, Daniel. Don't forget. The next class is same time, same place, next week."
She tried to take the pillow but he held on. "Hey, you shouldn't have to bring EVERYTHING," he demurred. "I'll schlep this back next week."
Saturday, as they parked behind Jack's SUV and Teal'c's GrandAm in Sam's driveway, Daniel's knuckles were white from his death grip on the wheel and he wished briefly he had used the pillow to suffocate himself instead of showing up for this disaster. Daniel had finally admitted to Janet on Friday that Sam had sandbagged him into going to a childbirth class with her. Knowing that Janet was a doctor, he was sure she had a vague outline in her mind of the breathing exercises in which he must have participated. She didn't say a word but he felt like he was on probation for the rest of the evening.
"Daniel, I don't know about this," Janet said apprehensively.
"Oh, come on, Mom, it isn't like Aunt Sam is pregnant with your boyfriend's baby or anything," came the droll comment from Janet's daughter, Cassie, in the backseat.
"Cassie," Daniel remonstrated softly and she instantly crumbled.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Daniel," she apologized. "It's just a little weird, don't you think?"
No one even felt it was necessary to respond. They clamored out of the car, Daniel grabbing a sack with some beer and Janet taking the dish with the seven layer dip from Cassie. They stood on the doorstep for a moment and no one moved to ring the doorbell. Finally, Cassie, rolling her eyes, reached around them and pushed the button. The door opened to reveal Sam looking incredible. Her hair was now feathered attractively around her face. Her eyes looked huge and so blue and her skin was glowing. The blue top she wore was undeniably sexy. Daniel was really embarrassed to realize that he had vocalized a sort of tiny groan.
Janet was looking too stunned to say anything. It was left to Cassie again. "Hi, Aunt Sam," she said cheerfully and hugged Sam.
Sam had thought she was prepared to meet Janet and Daniel as a couple but when she opened the door to find them there, food in their hands, like the stereotypical suburban neighbors, she almost slammed it in their face immediately. Thank God for Cassie's unaffected warm greeting. By the time she got done hugging Cassie, she was able to look calm on the outside although inside she was anything but.
Daniel mumbled a "Hi" and Janet also managed to choke something out. Sam led them into the living room where Sara and Jack were already seated along with Teal'c.
After everyone exchanged greetings, there was an awkward lull in the conversation until Sara suggested they play Texas Hold 'Em. Sam was chagrined to discover a mental image of strip poker springing into her mind with Daniel being the one who had lost the most hands. How had she gone from having trouble imaging anything sexual with respect to him to these X-rated scenarios? Her hormones were haywire and they were very naughty girls.
Sam was disappointed when it became apparent that Texas Hold 'Em had been a bad strategic move. Instead of noticing her as she bent over him to put a fresh drink in front of him and flashed a lot of goodies, Daniel was so deep into calculations of mathematical odds and statistics that he was barely social.
When Sam went out to the kitchen to get some dessert organized after they had been playing for a couple of hours, Janet followed right behind her and shut the swinging door behind her. Sam had her back turned but she knew Janet was there. Janet knew she knew and she knew that Janet knew. Sam steeled herself to take a hit right between the shoulder blades. "Sam, what's going on," Janet asked baldly.
Sam turned around and stammered, hoping she sounded innocent but feeling anything but, "What are you talking about?"
Janet said, "Sam, we were friends for a long time. I know you know exactly what I'm asking."
Sam felt defensive and close to tears. "Were friends?" she countered.
"Friends don't tell their friends one thing and mean another. I asked you if you cared if I dated Daniel. You gave me a green light, Sam. You basically told Daniel that you didn't want him when he asked you to marry him. You can understand why I'm feeling a little betrayed here," Janet said. Her voice was angry on the surface but Sam could hear the hurt underneath.
Sam put her hands to her face. "Janet, I meant what I said, when I said it. I didn't understand what I wanted."
Janet bit out, "But now you do?"
Sam looked up at Janet, right into her eyes. "Janet, I love Daniel and he's the father of one of my children. You know that he loves me. I don't want to hurt you but surely you can see how this has to come out."
Janet laughed and it wasn't a pleasant sound. "Sam, Daniel loves you all right. But the guy has a real capacity for that. He still loves Sha're and he loves me too. What's more, he's been very happy with me and that's something you've never given him. If you'd told me this in the beginning, I would never have gotten in the way. It's too late now. I love him. God, how I love him. I won't fight dirty, Sam, but I'm not promising to fight fair either." And she left Sam staring after her as she exited the kitchen.
A few moments later Sara appeared in the kitchen door, actually chortling. Sam thought to herself that she had never really seen an illustration of the word before. She came over to Sam and hugged her, saying, "It's working, Sam. It's really working. Before we started playing cards, he never took his eyes off you."
She pulled back and sobered when she saw Sam's face. "What's wrong, honey?" she asked, her own face falling to reflect the pain in Sam's.
"Janet was just in here. Basically it was a declaration of war," Sam explained.
"She wouldn't have been such a good friend of yours if she was a quitter," Sara said, with a false lightness to her voice. Sam shook her head, fighting off the tears. "Look, Sam, nothing worth having is easy but you have the home court advantage. He loved you first, he loved you longest, and you are carrying his child. If it's a contest, she's a middle school soccer team from Biloxi and you're Manchester United. Right?" she finished raising her voice as if she expected an affirmation. When she didn't get one, she repeated again, "Right?"
Sam smiled lopsidedly and agreed in a small voice, "Right."
"Okay then." A cat that ate the canary expression suddenly stole over her face. She leaned closer to Sam and whispered, "Daniel's at the door. I'm leaving." She patted Sam reassuringly and tripped lightly out with a breezy greeting to Daniel as she passed him in the doorway.
Daniel came a few steps into the room and stood looking at Sam uncertainly. She felt tears well up again and bit her lip hard, determined to stop them. Daniel knew her too well and could tell she was on the verge of meltdown. For a moment he seemed to forget everything and looked at her tenderly, so like the old Daniel who had always been there for her. Without conscious volition, her arms came up and she reached out to him as tears began to slip down her cheeks. He crossed the rest of the floor quickly and folded her close to him. "Whatever it is, it will be okay," he said soothingly.
"Promise?" she whispered.
"Promise," he said.
Her heart soared within her. This was the first real evidence she could believe in, forget the straws Sara had been content to grasp at, to prove that he still felt something. "Okay," she thought to the babies, "we're having a team meeting later this evening. Don't be late because we've got a fight on our hands but if we all work together, we just might be able to win."
She gave a wobbly laugh and received a befuddled expression from Daniel when she asked, "What chance do you think there is that David Beckham can be lured back to play for Manchester United again?"