Chapter Two

Samantha got herself transferred into SG-9 after a brief explanation to Landry as to why. When she explained that Jack had dumped her and she needed to transfer because of her tentative involvement with Daniel, it sounded like a clear case of a rebound relationship, but she knew in her gut that it was more then that. She was confident she didn't do too bad a job of convincing Landry of it.

Landry was good enough to coordinate Samantha and Daniel's offworld schedules so they were on Earth mostly at the same time. They weren't 'together' per se – something Landry asked about constantly – but they did spend a lot of time together, more then they had even before she'd hooked up with Jack.

But they weren't together – and that was mostly because of Daniel's restraint. He was terrified of making his move too soon and having her call him Jack – he could live with just about anything but that, including spending so much time with a beautiful, intelligent woman and not making a move.

So, in the meantime, they spent a lot of time together – as friends. They got to know each other all over again. When it became clear Daniel wasn't going to do anything about the obvious attraction between them until he truly understood her relationship with Jack, she opened up to him about it.

"There was always something there," she admitted one day, "from the first time I met him. So obvious… but we couldn't do anything about it because of the military thing, so it just went on for years. I guess when you have something like that you can't have just out of reach, you idealise it, because that's what I did with Jack. When we finally got together, I thought all my dreams had come true."

"The thing with dreams," Daniel said dryly, "is that when they become reality, you realise they obey all the rules of reality – and it's never quite the same."

Samantha winced. It had been exactly like that with her and Jack. At first, it had been terrific. He'd been attentive and affectionate, not the greatest in bed, but she'd overlooked that because she was so in love with him.

The first sign of trouble had been when SG-1 had gotten back from a mission. He'd been obviously distracted – and when she pursued the matter, he'd admitted to cheating on her while she'd been away. He just couldn't handle being separated so long without some kind of release. He had told her quite blankly that while she wanted to go out and save the universe – and be separated from him for weeks at a time – she couldn't expect him to be faithful to her.

She'd been devastated. All her dreams of Jack had instantly dissipated. Jack had no intention of being faithful, at least not in the current situation. And she'd had no intention of giving up her work with SG-1. So they'd been at a stalemate. The resolution had been their open relationship – they could both 'indulge' when they were separated, although Jack had added a condition that it couldn't involve Stargate personnel in anyway, to prevent it from becoming fodder for gossip. At first, this had made sense to Samantha, but in the weeks following her break-up with Jack, she began to think maybe he'd added that condition because he knew it put him in a much better position then she was.

"I don't understand – why McKay?" Daniel asked. "You hate him, you complained about him at every opportunity you got."

Samantha looked sheepish and ashamed. "He came over to my place the night before he was to go to Atlantis," she explained. "He was drunk and full of declarations of love. There was this look in his eyes – like he absolutely worshipped me. I have to admit, it made me feel good. It had been a while since Jack looked at me like that."

Sighing, Daniel wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed her. Jack had been a complete fool. He hoped he wouldn't make the same mistake with her. "I let him come in and he was… attentive. He wanted to please me. And he did," she added.

Daniel winced. "I didn't need to hear that," he said. The thought of her and Jack in bed was bad enough, the thought of her and McKay – he shuddered. He was very aware of the chemistry he shared with Samantha and he had every intention of acting on it eventually. To hear her talk about the men she'd previously slept with grated on his nerves – but it was important for her to open up to him, especially about why she'd accepted Jack's conditions – and spent the night with McKay. He didn't want to get involved with her – at least not more then he already was – until he felt sure she was over Jack and her issues.

She kissed him on the cheek. "You've been very understanding about this," she said, "Especially in light of how people are talking."

He groaned when she reminded him of that. When word had filtered out about Samantha's transferral to SG-9 because of her 'involvement' with Daniel Jackson (that was the most polite euphemism used), the gossip mill went into overdrive. Everyone knew she'd been deeply involved with General O'Neill, even if it was the worst kept secret ever, until the relationship had abruptly ended a few weeks ago. Rumours had abounded as to what exactly had caused the breakup and increased in volume and salaciousness when it became very apparent she and Daniel were spending a lot of time together.

Of course, it didn't take people long to start sniggering about Daniel's acceptance of 'sloppy seconds'. To hear the gossip, one would assume it was patently obvious Daniel had been waiting patiently in the wings for eight years for Jack to tire of Samantha and pass her onto someone else. It annoyed the crap out of him, but there wasn't much he could do to clear his name without telling the whole sorry story and he wasn't going to throw mud at Samantha's good name like that.

Although word was already leaking out about her night with McKay. Daniel was very, very glad he had found out from Samantha herself, because the rumours starting to circle were very graphic and sometimes very vicious. He supposed it was to be expected. People had been looking for a way to topple Samantha from her position of grace for a while now, but it still annoyed Daniel. Why couldn't people mind their own damn business?

"It was my own fault," Samantha was finally able to admit one day. "I went all the way over there to confront him and didn't even think to shut the door when I yelled at him."

"Confront him over what?" Daniel asked.

Samantha sighed and explained why the situation with McKay had come to a head. "He got a whole bunch of tests done after he got to Atlantis, every STD you could think of. Someone saw fit to send me a copy of the results to let me know what he thought of me. It was too brilliantly mean to have been him – do you remember a doctor who went on the Daedalus a few months ago, Katie Brown?"

"The Katie Brown who had a go at me because Sha're was given to me?" Daniel asked. She certainly had been a feisty woman.

"I don't know, but that sounds like something she'd do. I figured they were together and he'd told her about us so I went over there to give him a piece of my mind. Honestly… I didn't like that he'd found someone else. It was good for my ego to know he had this crush on me. It's selfish, I know, but I didn't like that he had someone else. Typical 'you only want what you can't have' thing I suppose. I, um…" she trailled off and Daniel threaded his fingers through hers, holding her tightly as a way of saying there was nothing she could say to him that would make him think less of her. "I tried to seduce him. He threw me off him and the next day he came to tell me he wanted me to leave. We got in a fight about it and I said some stuff that was overheard… it was all over Atlantis by the end of the day and the Daedalus crew knew about it. They told people and…" Samantha sighed. "How can I have been so stupid?" she asked.

Daniel took his time answering. There was no denying it had been a stupid thing to do – but he saw deeper then what she was telling him. He understood that she must have felt fearful McKay had blabbed about them, fearful that she could lose Jack now that there was a line of communication between Earth and Atlantis, and more then a little miffed that McKay, who had been following her around like a puppy dog for three years, had suddenly hooked up with someone else. She must have a pretty low sense of self-worth which he suspected was caused by Jack's cavalier treatment of her.

"It was pretty stupid," Daniel admitted. There was no other way to put it. Privately, he thought there was more to it then what she was letting on, probably more then she was aware of herself. She might have appeared to have been happy with Jack, but she must have been pretty miserable with such an arrangement. Maybe her misery had driven her to extreme lengths to expose herself – Danielknew only that she hadn't exactly been acting her usual, reasoned self and that something had to be seriously wrong with her sense of self-worth. "But maybe things will work out for the best." He squeezed her hand tightly.

She looked up at him, a grateful smile on her face. "Maybe they will," she said. She leaned up to kiss him. He pulled away before their lips met.

"I told you…" he said in a low voice. He didn't want to elaborate on the reasons he'd already given. He didn't want to be forced to reject her quite explicitly once more.

She backed off without saying anything else. Daniel had made it clear he wasn't going to do anything until he was confident she had moved on from Jack – and McKay for that matter – and he would rebuff any move she made on him. He would do a lot for her, but he would not give her the opportunity to call him Jack. Or Rodney. She supposed she should be grateful that he was determined not to take advantage of her rebound state, but it could be frustrating at times.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, still holding hands, before she said, "I feel bad for the way I treated him."

"Treated who?"

"Rodney." She must be thinking reflectively to call him Rodney. He had to admit, he got a little jealous when she referred to the scientist by his first name. "I should have at least told him about Jack. I let everyone give him crap because of his crush on me when I slept with him. I'm a hypocrite – and I deserve to have people talking about me."

He kissed her on the forehead. "You don't deserve any such thing," he said reassuringly.

"Don't be nice, Daniel, when you know it's true." Daniel could sense Samantha really wanted to unburden her guilty conscience so he let her talk. "I remember at the embarkation, everyone was saying he was sulking because he wasn't going to see me for a while I knew it was because he was jacked off at me, but I didn't say anything. I just… let it reflect poorly on him."

"He was an ass, Sam, and the only reason people thought that was because he'd followed you around for two years, trying to get into your pants. It was a boy crying wolf thing."

"Maybe," Samantha said, unconvinced. "But you should have seen the way he was that night… I mean, he was drunk but he was sweet and attentive… and he told me he loved me. I'm sure it was only something he meant at the time – he certainly wasn't going to not go to Atlantis for me, but, still, I believe he meant it at the time… and I threw it back in his face in the morning. Then when I got the medical results, I was so pissed off, first that he'd told someone and second that he'd found someone else, like I had a right to dictate who he saw after the way I treated him. I know he comes across as a jerk, but he's a nice enough guy once you get down to it, and Katie seems to have mellowed him."

Daniel smirked. "If it's the same woman I remember, McKay'll have hell trying to keep her in line," he said. The Katie Brown he remembered had really gotten stuck into him for 'accepting' a bride.

"I don't know. I never saw them together, but Elizabeth Weir refused to let me see him again after our fight. She said Rodney and Katie's relationship was keeping him happy and she wasn't letting anything disrupt that." She didn't add that she'd talked to Radek Zelenka about it, figuring Rodney's 2IC would know the most about it, and the Czech scientist had been quick to sing Katie's praises, if only for the fact Rodney was much more pleasant to work with – even if he wasn't around quite as much -- which everyone agreed was a fair trade-off.

Daniel released a low whistle, trying to appreciate Rodney McKay as less then an arrogant chauvinist. It wasn't coming. That, and he really didn't want to think about Rodney McKay being sweet and attentive and a good lover with Samantha. But he realised it was good for her to talk about it. It relieved her guilty conscience. If McKay was as different from his reputation as she said he was, then no wonder she felt bad about using him. If she'd treated him like that, he wouldn't be quick to forgive her over it, but still…

"If it's all the same to you," he murmured in a low voice, the one he used just for Samantha, even though they weren't together exactly, "I'd rather not talk about McKay anymore."

She smiled mischievously at him. "Jealous, are we?" she asked. Secretly she had a huge amount of respect for him because he was able to listen to her talk about Rodney without storming off in a jealous rage - instead, he listened just because it was therapeutic for her to talk about it. That took maturity – maturity that she knew Jack didn't possess.

"A little," Daniel admitted and he ended the conversation by kissing her on the forehead. It was the closest she could get him to kiss her for real, but she supposed, for the time being, it was good enough. After all, she was just as scared as Daniel that they might blow this by getting too involved too soon.

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A few more weeks passed and Daniel, one day, found his peace interrupted when Jack stormed into his office. He'd last seen Jack a few weeks ago and not since then, not since the breakup, come to think of it. He took it from the dark look on Jack's face that this wasn't a social call.

"Damn right it's not a social call," Jack growled when Daniel said so out loud. "I hear you're having it off with Sam."

"Don't beat around the bush, Jack," Daniel said dryly. "You, of all people, should known not to trust the gossips. I heard some pretty interesting stuff about you and Sam when you were both part of SG-1."

Jack looked flushed – and Daniel suspected he had hit on a nerve. Had he just resigned from SG-1 and replaced Hammond just so his relationship with Samantha wouldn't be so frowned upon? Daniel cringed thinking about such a possibility" – Jack and Samantha having steamy sex offworld somewhere while he was asleep or investigating something. "Fine," Jack said, "then you tell me yourself – are you having it off with Sam?"

He looked decided jealous, Daniel thought – well, that was too bad and certainly too late. He was confident Samantha was over Jack. In fact, he'd been thinking of asking her out on a proper date soon. "Why don't you ask her?" Daniel asked evenly.

"She wouldn't tell me," Jack admitted. More likely, Daniel thought, she had told him to mind his own business. He had seen fit to dump her, he had forfeited any claim on her life. Good for her.

"If Sam thinks it's none of your business, I don't see why I should tell you," he said.

Jack responded by yanking Daniel out from behind his desk and shoving him up against the door in a display of pure testosterone. This is how Daniel would have ended up if he'd taken Jack on over the whole open relationship thing. "Tell me what's going on between the two of you!" he demanded.

"Nothing, at the moment!" Daniel matched Jack's angry tone. "Not that it's any of your damn business – you dumped her. But we're taking it slow." He didn't add their reasons. If it wasn't obvious to Jack, he wasn't giving the man more ammunition.

"You know she slept with Rodney McKay, don't you?" Jack asked smugly, assuming she wouldn't have told Daniel such a thing and that it would come as a big surprise to him. He had been pretty disgusted himself when he'd found out, primarily because she'd been so stupid as top draw attention to their arrangement – and secondarily because it was an insult to him to have her lowering herself to McKay for a replacement. It had especially enraged him when she'd thrown it in his face that McKay was much better in bed then he was. She'd asked him if he remembered that month when she'd been disinterested in sex? That had been the month following her earth-moving night with the scientist. God, it was as bad as being shown up by Daniel. He'd had no choice but to dump her stupid ass, but that didn't mean that gave her the right to see whoever she wanted.

"Of course I know. She told me as soon as you dumped her," Daniel said. "Let me go, Jack." He was very aware Jack could kill him here and now – and he hoped the older man wasn't that pissed off.

Jack let Daniel go. "She's only on the rebound. She'd never go for someone like you," he said spitefully.

"When she can have an open relationship with you, you mean?" Daniel corrected, his eyes blazing when he thought of how shabbily Jack had treated Samantha. "You're a prize fool, Jack."

"And you're blind, if you think she's with you for any reason other then she can't have me," Jack replied. When had Daniel developed such a spine? He used to respect him – now he was looking at him with pity and contempt. It made Jack uncomfortable.

"Oh, yeah, Jack, the universe just revolves round you," Daniel said sarcastically. "You dumped her, Jack. You have no right to say what she does now. And just for the record, why do you think we're taking things slow? I'm not going to rush into a relationship with her until I know she wants to be with me."

"You've been after her from day one, haven't you?" Jack asked childishly. He recalled the time they'd all been under the influence of that contagion that made them all act like animals. There had been something developing between him and Samantha – and he'd gotten into a fight with Daniel about it when he thought Daniel was sniffing around his 'turf'. He'd never quite gotten over the feeling that Daniel was waiting in the wings for him to leave the picture so he could stake his claim on Samantha.

"I have not," Daniel said. "At least, I always respected that she was your girl. You gave her up, Jack. Let her go."

Jack glared at him menacingly. He decided talking to Daniel wasn't achieving anything; instead, he decided to go and talk to Samantha.

He was waiting on her doorstep until she got home. Needless to say, she was surprised to see him. Surprised – and a little indifferent. It had been over a month since she and Jack had split u – and since then, she'd become very emotionally involved with Daniel, even if he was putting up romantic and sexual barriers. "Jack!" she said. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you," he said, a charming smile on his face that had always worked before. "It's been a while."

It wasn't working now. All she could think of was how insincere his smile was – and how she loved the way Daniel smiled at her, that special, intimate smile he reserved for her when they were alone. "That's 'coz you dumped me," she reminded him.

Immediately he bristled. "You slept with McKay," he reminded her.

"Because you were Mr. Faithful?" she retorted. If he'd come over to trade insults she was calling the police.

"Hey," he reminded her, sounding hurt, "you agreed that arrangement was for the best."

"No, you agreed – I just went along with it," Samantha reminded him. "You didn't give me much choice when you told me you couldn't do fidelity. Unfortunately I was too blinded by love to see what a crappy deal I was getting."

"C'mon Sam, don't be like that," Jack said. "We had some great times, didn't we?"

"Yes," Samantha admitted. "But that's over, Jack. Really, you did me a favour. I wasn't very happy in our relationship. I think that's why I slept with Rodney." It was certainly why she had gone all the way to Atlantis to yell at him – and try to seduce him. Her conscience still burned at that memory. She wondered if either he or Katie would ever forgive her.

"You can't seriously wanna be with Daniel?" Jack asked incredulously.

"Is that what this is about?" Samantha asked, just as incredulously. "You don't want me, but you don't want anyone else to have me?"

"I do want you," Jack said sullenly. Sullen was not a good look for a man in his fifties.

Samantha looked at him with clarity and a little pity. There had been a time when she would have killed to hear Jack say those words. And now… the hurtful things he had said when he'd found out about her and Rodney, the conditions he'd put on their relationship… there was so much water under the bridge there was no bridge anymore. It had completely been washed away.

And that was only the half of it. She suddenly realised that much of her indifference to Jack had been caused by Daniel. She had spent the last six weeks with a man who adored her and respected her and with whom she shared an obvious chemistry. Daniel had made her forget about Jack. "Jack, I have to go," she said suddenly.

"You just got here," Jack pointed out.

"I know but I, uh, just thought of something I need to do," Samantha said vaguely.

Jack's eyes narrowed. "You're going to see Daniel, aren't you?" he asked. Samantha didn't bother to deny it. She knew her body language was giving her away. "What do you possibly see in him?"

"You mean apart from the fact he adores me and respects me and wouldn't play around on me?" Samantha asked icily. "Oh, forget it Jack. I don't want to fight with you. If you came over for a reconciliation, you've wasted your time."

"You can't just leave like this!" Jack yelled at her retreating back.

"You left it like this," Samantha said, delivering her final words before getting in her heart to head to Daniel's apartment. She felt such a feeling of relief, like she finally knew where her heart lay. She had never felt this way with Jack. She'd just thought she had.

Daniel was surprised to see her. If he'd had any idea she was coming, he would have cleaned up a little. Samantha didn't give him the chance to say anything – she just threw herself into his arms and began kissing his passionately, fusing her mouth and her body to his hungrily, possessively.

Daniel disentangled himself from her. "Sam," he chided her, "We've talked about this."

"I'm sick of talking. I know what I want. I want you."

He looked her dead in the eye. "Have you spoken to Jack?" he asked.

Damn, he knew her too well. But then, that was why she wanted to be with him. "Yes," she admitted. "He came over this afternoon. I just left from talking to him. He wanted to get back together. At least, I think that's what he was getting at."

"Makes sense," Daniel said. "He was in my office earlier today, basically warning me to stay away from you, that you were only on the rebound. He asked why you would want me when you could have had him." He struggled to keep the bitterness out of these last words. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd lost the girl to the tough guy.

Samantha rolled her eyes. "He is such an ass," she complained. "He dumped me, he didn't want me, but he doesn't want anyone else to have me." Her eyes flashed angrily for a few seconds, then softened. "But that's not what I came over for. I came over because when I was talking to him I realised there was nothing between us, that I was completely indifferent to him. I'm sure if I'd hung around a little longer, I could have gotten him to say he wanted to get back together… but all I could think about was wanting to be with you."

Daniel leaned against the wall, closing his eyes. "I really want to believe you, Sam," he said. "But I'm scared."

She pressed herself against him, taking his hands and wrapping them around her waist. She smiled encouragingly when he held her properly. "You don't have to be scared, Daniel," she said. "I'm not going to call out Jack's name, I promise."

He looked into her eyes and could see she meant every word she said. "I hope I don't regret this," he muttered, and he kissed Samantha hard.

He really hadn't meant for them to end up in bed together, but it had felt so natural, a continuation of their passion for each other that had started with that kiss. An hour later, they lay together, tangled up in the sheets. "I told you," she murmured playfully, her voice hoarse from screaming his name.

He laughed and kissed the top of her head. "I stand corrected," he said. He paused for a few moments and said, "I wasn't sure how to tell you this but… the Daedalus is doing a run to Atlantis next week and I'll be on board. I've been wanting to see it for myself for some time now and… well, I figured you ought to know."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Samantha offered.

Daniel laughed. "I already asked about that. Elizabeth sent instructions from the last run – the one you were on – that you were not to be allowed back to Atlantis, something about disturbing the peace."

"Daniel, that's not funny," she complained.

"I thought it was, just a little," he admitted. He assumed 'disturbing the peace' meant putting McKay in a bad mood. It made him wonder just how badly she'd stomped on his ego that Weir saw fit to keep them at opposite ends of the universe. "I actually meant – well, I know how bad you feel about him, I thought you might want to write a letter or something."

Samantha squirmed. "I don't write letters – they're too easy to be used against you," she said.

"What, like if you were to tell me you loved me, you could easily deny it at a later point?" Daniel teased.

She smiled at him mischievously. "Exactly," she said. Daniel didn't bring it up again, but Samantha thought about his proposal. She really did want to apologise to Rodney – and maybe Katie, too, if she was in a magnanimous enough mood – and the longer she left it, the bigger an issue it would become. They wouldn't stay in Atlantis forever. Eventually she would have to see them again.

So when Daniel left, he took a letter with him from her. She had agonised over it for several days, writing and rewriting until she thought she had something that was neither too indifferent or too apologetic.

She realised when she saw Daniel off how deeply she was going to miss him. He would be gone for almost two weeks. She and Jack had been separated for periods that long, but it didn't feel like the same thing. She knew she was going to miss Daniel a hell of a lot more. She seriously considered stowing away on the Daedalus – there wasn't much Elizabeth Weir could do once she was there. OK, be an adult about this, she ordered himself. It was acting like a child that had gotten her into this situation in the first place.

Daniel realised as they headed into space that he was going to miss Samantha a lot more then he'd thought he would. There had been longer periods of time where they hadn't seen each other, of course, but this was different. He was half tempted to bribe someone to get her on board. There wouldn't be much Elizabeth could do about it after she was in Atlantis. OK, stop acting like a child, he told himself. If Samantha could stand to be separated from him for almost two weeks, then he could stand it too.

Atlantis was its usual hive of activity, Daniel saw. The reinforcements and the less-pressing danger of the Wraith had galvanised everyone into action, exploring and settling the city which had previously been left undiscovered for the sake of more pressing matters.

"Doctor Jackson," Elizabeth welcomed him warmly. "It's good to see you again."

"Daniel," he corrected her, just as warmly. He had always liked the diplomat and had been sorry to hear she'd been replaced as leader of Atlantis – although it was obvious a good proportion of the people here had ignored that particular order and still reported to Elizabeth. "You all seem well."

"It helps, not having the Wraith as such an imminent threat," she admitted. "That, and Doctor McKay has a girlfriend so he's a whole lot nicer these days. Just as arrogant, but not so mean." 'Mean', she reflected, was something of an understatement ; Rodney could be absolutely terrifying when he was in a bad mood. It was why she had given orders not to let Samantha Carter back. She didn't want anyone to put him in a bad mood, and Carter had managed to in a day.

"I heard about that," Daniel said wryly. "I'm having trouble imagining him as anything but –"

"The arrogant chauvinist, I know," Elizabeth said. Her eyes narrowed suddenly. "Have you come about Colonel Carter? Because if you're going to upset him, I don't want to hear about it."

Daniel looked sheepish. "I have, kinda," he said. "That wasn't my main reason for coming, but I mentioned it to Sam and she feels really bad about the way she treated him. She and Jack have broken up," he added.

"I didn't know that," Elizabeth said, although there was no way she could have known. "Are you and she–?"

"Involved?" Daniel offered diplomatically. It was certainly a better alternative to 'in a rebound relationship'. "Yes," he said, "she wanted to come with me until I told her you'd had her banned."

Elizabeth's eyes narrowed again. "I hope you're not here to stir up trouble on her behalf," she said, immediately prepared to confine Daniel to the ship if need be.

Daniel held up his hands defensively. "I'm here to do no such thing," he said, a little indignantly. "OK, so she gave me a letter to give to him, but I've read it and there's nothing that'll upset him – or Katie. She does feel bad and she wanted to apologise."

Elizabeth looked at him suspiciously, then decided he was telling the truth. She trusted his judgement more then anything else – and knew, despite what people must be saying about him, that he would neither become involved with Colonel Carter if she was still hung up on General O'Neill or deliver a message that would upset Rodney. "He's in his office," she said after a long pause. She gave him instructions on how to get there.

Daniel smiled brightly. He was relieved Elizabeth trusted him. He made his way to Rodney's office and knocked on the door. "Doctor McKay?" he called through the door. There was no answer. Pushing the door open, he poked his head around to see what had the scientist so distracted – he was lost in his own little world with Katie on the couch, which had previously only been used for crashing when he'd worked through the night and was too lazy to go to his own room.

At least he hadn't interrupted anything too steamy. Daniel cleared his throat to draw attention to his presence. With obvious reluctance, the two of them separated. Rodney knew he shouldn't have gotten carried away, but if it was damn Zelenka, who always picked the most inopportune moments to drop into 'their' office, he would be reverting back to his mean, sarcastic self very quickly. "Doctor Jackson," he said, remembering someone say something about the SG-1 archaeologist coming to Atlantis on the next Daedalus, but he hadn't paid much attention. He'd always connected Daniel with Samantha and the less he thought about her, the better. "It's a surprise to see you. What are you doing here?"

It's a surprise to see you with a woman who seems quite happy to have you in her personal space, Daniel was sorely tempted to say, but he held his tongue. If Samantha could see fit to see the good in him, then he should make an effort to as well. "I came to check the place out, finally," Daniel said wryly, recalling his many attempts to visit Atlantis, most of them thwarted Vala. "And, uh, I've got a letter from Sam."

He didn't miss the way Katie stiffened at the mention of Samantha's name. Rodney didn't seem that happy to hear about her, either. "She feels really badly about the way she treated you," Daniel blurted out. "She was really messed up at the time. She wasn't very happy with Jack."

"Really, and I thought it was the norm for people in happy relationships to screw around," Rodney said with characteristic sarcasm. Clearly, there were some things too ingrained in his personality to be erased by love.

"She wrote you a letter," Daniel said, putting it on Rodney's cluttered desk. "It explains everything. I think you should read it."

"Why is it so important to you?" Katie asked suspiciously. "Are you two together?"

"You're in no position to talk about being in a rebound relationship," Daniel retorted. The wife-as-a-gift thing was one thing, but Katie was in no position to lecture him about that.

Katie looked contrite. "Sorry," she said. "But it'll take a lot to convince me she's a nice person. She tried to seduce Rodney." And got thrown on her ass, she thought to herself, still savouring the incident.

Rodney wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed the side of her head. She relaxed slightly at this display of affection, the way a person only does when they feel truly comfortable in a relationship. You didn't act that way when you had lingering doubts that part of your lover's mind was always elsewhere – he should know. Rodney really seemed to care about her, Daniel realised. Maybe Samantha had been onto something after all. "It's all in the letter," he said, "but if it means anything, I think she was far more miserable herself then she made either of you."

Katie didn't look convinced – it would take her a while to forgive Samantha for trying to steal her man – but there was a look of understanding in Rodney's eyes. He had never said anything as such to Katie – her forgiveness of Samantha would come in her own time and he couldn't certainly understand her reasons for disliking the woman – but privately he had come to the conclusion that Samantha had been unhappy in her relationship with Jack. People in happy relationships simply did not trek to the other side of the universe to confront – and attempt to seduce – former lovers. He harboured no animosity towards Samantha. As Daniel had said, she had been pretty unhappy herself and even if she'd screwed with his life, no lasting harm had been done. As his more considerate side developed, he found it impossible to resent her.

He stepped forward. "No harm done," he said magnanimously, which surprised Daniel to say the least. And then he added in a quieter, almost embarrassed voice, "I hope you make her happy."

He smiled at Rodney. Things had turned out pretty well. No wonder Rodney was able to be magnanimous. "Yeah," he said, looking a little modest. "I think I make her happy." No, he knew he made her happy. And he knew she made him happy. That was really all that mattered.

THE END