Please be sure you really want to read this. Daniel may end up with Sam and he might not. It is a Daniel-centric story and Daniel, not Sam/Daniel is the focus. As a further warning, this is NOT a story for those who think Jack is close to perfect.
Daniel watched the two beautiful blondes in BDUs. They sat together at a table at the back of the cafeteria, speaking about something very privately, their heads together. One of them gestured gracefully and his mother's sapphire and diamond ring flashed in the light. Then they laughed and gave each other a quick hug. They hadn't noticed him come in and he was glad. He loved both of them and watching them, unobserved, was a pure pleasure.
It was the curse of his nature that he was quite capable of loving two women at the same time and had, in fact, made a habit of it. He was married to one of them and dear friends with the other. Everyone was happy with their lives. No one knew that at times, despite his love for his wife, there was a sharp twinge of longing deep down for his friend.
They looked up and saw him. They waved at him and he started back toward them, basking in the warmth of their smiles. He was a happy man and he regretted nothing.
The painful twists and turns that were price of his happiness started out with more alcohol than he could handle.
Ooooh booooy, am I drunk, Daniel told himself. How many brain cells have I killed in the last two hours? Can't remember how to figure that out. I should know which proves I've killed a whole lot already. This is so stupid. Why didn't I just buy a bottle of something and take it home where I'm not likely to get mugged or give in to the come hither looks from that woman at the other end of the bar who probably has an STD? No glasses. What the hell did I do with them? Need to be sure that's not a man at the end of the bar coming on to me. Wouldn't be the first time. That would show Sam if she drove me straight into the arms of my own sex. Nope – it wouldn't be me. Bad plan.
"Let me have another," he said to the bartender.
"Sir, I think you've had enough. Would you like me to call you a cab?"
Too damn many lawsuits, he groused silently. These guys are afraid of their own shadow. If Jack was sitting on this bar stool, the guy would have already sold him twice the amount of alcohol he's served me. It's discrimination. You're shouldn't be cut off if you could still say discrimination and use it in a sentence, should you? I guess I didn't say it out loud so it doesn't count. I should get a class action lawsuit going for archeologists or maybe guys with glasses 'cept I don't have any at the moment."
Out loud, Daniel responded belligerently, "No I do not want a cab and I do not think I've had enough. I demand you give me another drink or…" He bogged down without any idea of what an appropriate threat would be.
"Hey, it's good to see another face from Cheyenne Mountain," a female voice said behind him. Strong, slim fingers tapped the emblem on the sleeve of his camo jacket. An athletic looking blonde slid onto the stool next to his.
He tore his eyes off the bartender and looked up to see … well, Sam. She was strangely out of focus. It was more than the result of his missing glasses, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly why. She was fresher faced, more energetic somehow. My God, how can I resent her going hot and heavy with Jack if it's this good for her? he wondered remorsefully.
"You know, I was about to leave and I overheard the bartender offering to call you a cab. We're working for the same command." She pointed at her own sleeve. "Let me give you a lift." Her voice was a little off too, a shade deep. Maybe she has a cold, he speculated.
"Carter, I don't think your boy friend would like it," he said. Given the state of their relationship at the moment, Carter seemed far more appropriate than her first name. His elbow slid almost flat on the bar, but it was too hard to hold his head up any more. She seemed surprised by his statement. Something egged him on to say, "Don't tell me he's one of those 'open relationship' guys. I would never have thought."
"We broke up," she said, rather abruptly. "Come on now, you need to get in bed."
"Why haven't we ever gotten in bed?" Daniel lamented. "I'm such a frigging coward. I should have made a move."
"How about because we don't REALLY know each other?" she asked, sliding an arm under him and showing surprising strength in getting him to his feet.She felt soft but firm under his arm and she smelled wonderful. He didn't remember Sam smelling quite so lemony, but he really liked it.
"Do we really any of us everknow each other?" Daniel had segued into the philosophical phase of drunkenness. She didn't respond, focused as she was in getting him through the door.
They were out the door now and negotiating the sidewalk to the parking lot. He tripped over a slightly raised cement paving block and fell heavily against her. His mouth ended up inches from hers and he thought, What the hell? and kissed her. She made a token push at him, but then got into the kiss. He gave it everything he had learned from Sha're and every other woman he'd known, some with centuries of experience.
"That was rather amazing," she said. "I don't think I've ever been turned on by an almost falling down drunk man before. Of course the fact that you are extremely handsome and buff and have the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen doesn't hurt. If I wasn't an officer and a gentlewoman, I'd take you home and take advantage of you while you were too drunk to fight me off."
Daniel couldn't believe it was this easy. He'd wanted her forever without any hope. All he had to do was get drunk?
She got them walking again until they reached a cute little red RSX-Type S. When did she get that car? She held him up while she fumbled with the keys and got the door open. The cool air had sobered him up a little. She didn't have that much trouble loading him in. "Okay, what's your address?" she asked after she got into the driver's seat.
That's right, he'd moved after he'd given up his lease because he thought he was going to Atlantis and she hadn't been to his place since then. He told her and she pulled out into traffic. He quickly found himself hanging onto the seat. The affair with Jack had certainly rubbed off on her in one way. She'd always been a fairly conservative driver. Now, she was driving with Jack's 'I'm secretly pretending I'm in a NASCAR event' flair.
They reached his condo and she got him out of the car and up to his door. He tried without success to get the key in the lock. She took over the job, shoved the key in her pocket to free up her hand, and guided him over the threshold and into the living room where she pushed him down on the couch. He grabbed her and pulled him down with him as he dropped. They kissed again then and it was even better.
She won her way free and said, "I really meant what I said about not taking advantage. How about if I come back tomorrow early afternoon, say 1300 hours, and drive you over to your car? We can see how we like each other in daylight and sober."
"Honey, I've seen you in daylight when I was cold sober. You were spectacular," Daniel said, reaching for her futilely.
"Probably not, but just the same, that's how we're going to play it," she said. She darted back into arm's reach quickly enough to give him a quick, sweet, closed mouth kiss and then she was gone.
Daniel slid down the back of the couch until he was slumped over and immediately went to sleep. When he woke up, his mouth tasted foul, his head was pounding, and he felt like a pretzel. "You are too old for sleeping in your clothes on a couch," he said to the room in general. "Man that was a hell of a dream."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew it hadn't been a dream. There were blonde hairs on his sleeve and the memories were almost as tangible. Sam had broken up with Jack? When? She had just told him over the phone yesterday afternoon that she and Jack were together, confirming suspicions he had been entertaining for weeks. That had been the occasion for leaving the Mountain in his BDU and going straight to a bar to get drunk without passing Go or collecting $200. How had Sam gotten back from her trip to DC that fast?
There had been something about 1300 hours. Cripes. She was coming over at 1:00. He wasn't at all sure his wristwatch would still be on his wrist, but there it was. He fumbled it around so he could read it. 12:30. He looked down at himself and smelled the stale alcohol. He was going to have to move it. Daniel realized that the whole tipsy thing might have been vaguely quixotic in the dark but it would simply be off putting in a street person kind of way in broad daylight.
He stood up quickly and immediately grabbed his head. Ouch. Throbbing like a damn tom-tom. The thing to do is go upstairs, get in the shower, clear your head, and try to remember what really happened, he ordered himself. He shucked off the jacket and only then noticed it wasn't his. I was so damn upset I walked out of the mountain with Colonel Dalton's jacket on, he realized. He didn't have the energy to try to even reconstruct how that had happened. He did notice that the missing glasses were in the pocket, but he left them there since he was heading up to the shower.
At just moments before 1:00, he was back downstairs and peering at himself in the front hall mirror. He had on the soft blue v-neck sweater Sam had given him for Christmas the year before last and a pair of jeans. Looking good but not trying too hard, he hoped. He still couldn't figure out what had happened to him the night before, but he wanted to keep all his options open.
There was a light rap on the door. He pulled it open to see not Sam, but almost Sam on his front doorstep. She was in jeans and a close fitting royal blue knit top under a brown suede jacket. Her blonde hair was tousled and her face was innocent of make up, innocent in general because she was young. This is Sam morphed back to her mid to late-twenties, a fraction of an inch taller, he thought. Maybe innocent is the wrong word. Why am I thinking Kitten with a Whip?
He was staring at her without speaking. "Oh dear, I don't look as good to you in daylight as I did in that parking lot," she said, sounding a little embarrassed.
"You look wonderful," Daniel said because she did. His final thought was that Sam should hope to be this hot without any help from cosmetics.
"Oh good. You clean up really well yourself." She thrust out a Starbucks and said, "I thought you could probably use some coffee. Do you want to go straight over and get your car or do you want to drink the coffee first?"
"This is just lovely," he said and accepted the coffee gratefully. Always a coffee fiend, he was now a coffee fiend with a hangover. "Come on in. I guess I think I need to drink this before I go outside."
He sat down on the couch and she sat down next to him. They sipped their coffees together in silence for a moment. "So your last name is Dalton," she said, "from your jacket pocket last night. What's the first name?"
"Daniel," he said and started to explain about the last name, but she had started up again. "I'm Rain, Rain Carter."
He looked her in disbelief at her last name, but she misunderstood. "Yeah I know – Rain and the middle name is Sunflower. My mother was a hippy who grew into a crackhead. I'm just lucky she had me before the crack. God knows what the name would have been then." He shook his head as if to clear it. "I know that I laid the heavy stuff on you right away, but I'd rather know now, before I get involved with you, if you are going to get weird because I was illegitimate and the state took me after Mamma got sent to jail."
"Foster homes?" Daniel croaked.
"For a year or so until they tracked down my bio father. He adopted me legally so that's why it's Rain Carter, not Rain Fisher."
Daniel looked down at his cup. It had betrayed him by turning out to have a bottom. "I need more of this," he said sadly.
"Let's go get your car then. We can stop at the Starbucks on the way and get refueled. If you still want to go with me?"
"I'm a foster homes vet myself," Daniel said. "Lead on."
They stood. He started to grab the camo jacket and then realized he wasn't in uniform. He wasn't military, but he wore the uniform for work as if he was. Real military didn't wear parts of the uniform without the whole uniform. He grabbed his own soft brown leather jacket from the front hall closet. Rain held up his keys, "If you're looking for these, I walked off with them without intending to last night." He accepted them gratefully.
As they started to go out the door, she stopped and said, "Can you do one thing for me? If last night was a mirage, I like to know about it as soon as possible and not waste either of our time."
Daniel thought, she is something else. She looks like Sam, she's got the same last name, but the resemblance stops there. This woman is as frank about her feelings with herself and everyone else as anyone I've ever met.
She was looking at him hopefully, "Okay?" she asked.
He was pretty sure he knew what she had in mind, but it was all so crazy he had to ask, "You want me to kiss you?"
"Do you want to?"
Did he ever. He had no idea who she was beyond her name and her job locale or why she looked like Sam or had Sam's last name. That would all have to be solved, but right now he wanted to know just as much as she did if kissing her would feel like he'd always imagined kissing Sam would feel, like it had felt last night. He ran his fingers lightly over her cheek and then cupped it and rubbed his thumb over her lips. She closed her eyes and smiled slightly. He put his other arm around her waist and pulled her against him. He moved his hand from her check and into her soft hair. Her arms were twined around him. At last he lowered his mouth to hers and they kissed. At first, it was a very nice closed mouth kiss. That went so well that they both parted their lips and made it into something deliciously coffee flavored. It was a long kiss that neither of them wanted to end. A car drove by outside and some kids honked their horn at the couple framed in a kiss in the doorway and yelled something. Daniel and Rain broke apart and laughed.
"I've got my whole day free," she said.
Daniel found himself saying, "I'm good for the entire weekend."
Daniel leaned back comfortably in her little car and watched the pleasant streets go by. "So what do you do at the Mountain?" he asked.
"Tell you what, Daniel," she said. "Let's not talk about the Mountain or our jobs this weekend. Jobs define people too much, define our reaction to them. So do life circumstances. 'Oh, you've been divorced. You must be x and y.' Let's talk about ideas and things that interest us."
"Okay," he said. With all the opening gambits he had learned over the years taken off the table, he was stumped for anything to say.
"Tell me what the most interesting thing is to you in the entire world that's not classified," she challenged him.
The answer was inevitable. He began to talk about ancient Egypt. By the third sentence, she was grinning widely and lit up like a Christmas tree. "Am I that interesting or is this something you really like too?" he asked, not sure how to interpret her response.
"Daniel, I could listen to you talk about watching paint dry and it would probably draw me in," she said, "but, yeah, Egypt is near and dear to my heart." She reached over and pushed the knob to turn on the CD player. Her Boise sound system treated them to a recording by an Egyptian artist. She gestured to the CD player and said, "Voila. Are you familiar with Dr. Mavis Fisher's work? What did you think of her theories on Egyptian religion?"
His mouth was hanging open. Dr. Fisher had been very well respected in her day, if controversial. She had been one of the few to reference him without a heavy dose of sneering. However, she was the sort of archeologist known only to other archeologists. She had never written anything in the popular vein. Rain was looking increasingly too perfect for him. He realized with a start that he hadn't felt any pain over Sam the whole time he'd been with her. Maybe he was actually asleep. He'd passed out in the bar, drinking to forget Sam, and this whole thing was a dream.
"I never thought a fish could look cute before," she said, cocking her head at him and smiling in such a way that the comment was implausibly flirtatious.
He blushed slightly and closed his mouth. He considered her question carefully for a second and then gave her his opinion to which she listened attentively. As they went into Starbucks, she was attempting to refute one of his points. The girl behind the counter eavesdropped. When they ordered, she said, "What I want to know is did they really wear as much eye makeup as they always show you in the movies like 'The Mummy' and how do you think they put it on?" Looking at her heavily made up face, it was clear that the whole topic was of great importance to her. Daniel patiently tried to give her the executive summary on Egyptian make up. Rain chimed in with a couple of points that hadn't occurred to him.
This was entirely too much for the man waiting in line behind him, "Maybe you have all day, but I have some place to be," he snarled at them, ending the discussion.
The man with a schedule bided his time and then jostled Rain, accidentally on purpose, as she walked to a table in the back with her cappuccino. She smiled pleasantly at him and, in a very polite tone of voice, called him hideous things in Greek and Egyptian-accented Arabic. Daniel sniggered and then added some choice epithets in the same languages. They continued to speak in Arabic, enjoying the absolute privacy of a conversation in a language that none of the white-bread suburbanites around them were likely to know.
The first thing Daniel said after they sat down was "You're related to Mavis Fisher, aren't you?"
"She was my grandmother," Rain said. "I grew up on digs with her all over the world. My mom drifted in and out. It was my grandmother who raised me until she died when I was 9." She gestured at him with her spoon. "That, sir, was a personal detail which means I get to ask how you learned to speak Arabic and Greek so well."
"You aren't going to believe the coincidence. My parents were also archeologists. I grew up on digs too until they died when I was a little younger than you were when you lost your grandmother."
Rain shocked him by responding to his statement by reaching up and clutching the small gold cross that hung at her neck. She took his reaction in and said, ruefully, "Being a hooker's daughter doesn't bother you, but you've got problems with me being a Catholic?"
Daniel bit his lip. "I'm an agnostic at best. Your religious faith doesn't bother me as long as you don't try to convert me. I do have to ask why you reacted like that."
"You're going to regret asking me but here goes. I just had a toxic break up with a guy I thought I loved. One of the main things wrong with the relationship was that we had nothing in common and he resented the fact that I was smarter than he was -- I guess when I was putting warning labels all over myself I should have told you that I was technically on the rebound. Anyway, here's where the cross grabbing part comes in. I didn't start to heal until I spent an hour in a church praying that God would help me meet a guy who could satisfy me mentally, someone, oh, spookily like you." She looked pointedly at his feet. "Hiking boots? That's too bad. You could run a lot better in Nikes."
Daniel took her hand in both of his. "Rain, I'm not running." She rose slightly, leaned over, and kissed him. He had to take one hand back to finish his coffee but the other stayed possessively over hers. They left, hand in hand, with an afternoon and a whole new relationship to explore spread out before them.