Warning – Not an S/J story
Colonel Samantha Carter heard a throat being cleared and looked up from the journal article that had so totally engrossed her that she hadn't realized she wasn't alone. She was delighted to discover Dr. Daniel Jackson standing just inside her open office door. "You have a minute?" he asked. He sounded tentative and it almost seemed he was hoping the answer would be no.
"Of course, any time," Sam said. She had seen so little of Daniel since he had left SG-1 in order to limit the amount of time he spent off planet. It had been worse, in a way, than when she had been in Washington with Cassie for a few months. They'd talked on the phone then more then than they talked in person now. He was right here in close physical proximity, but there just never seemed to be opportunities to get together. "Have a seat," she invited, looking forward to some time with her old friend.
Daniel looked at the chair dubiously, as if afraid of committing himself to that long of a stay, but then sat down. He instantly went boneless and sagged back in the chair. "Tired?" Sam asked.
"Very," he replied. "Catherine and Mitch both had retro virus for over a week. I didn't know the universe contained that much vomit."
"You should ask for help," Sam said, concerned by how truly depleted Daniel seemed to be.
"Really?" Daniel asked. He pulled himself together and more or less sat up straight. "That's the thing, Sam. You blow so hot and cold about my kids. One week you act like they've got nothing to do with you and the next week you're offering to help."
Sam felt immediately defensive. She felt guilty on some level about Daniel's kids all the time. "They really aren't mine," she said.
"So that's the mode I've caught you in," he said. "That makes this easier. Look Sam, all four of them are confused and in pain, but the two little ones have focused on wanting a mother. Mitch and Catherine look at you and they almost see one and sometimes you almost act like one and then," he blew out a long breath, "I don't know, Jack throws a hissy because you're involved with my kids instead of totally focused on him or your own issues rise up and bite you in the ass and you back off. They don't understand that." He raked his hand through hair grown shaggier in the past year. "I came to ask you to stay away from them, just resist the temptation when you're in motherly mood and stay away. It's messing with them."
"Oh, really," Sam said. Her eyes stung. She cared about the kids. She just wasn't ready to take the fallout in her relationship with Jack if she let them become any more important to her. She took a wild potshot. "Is it really the kids or is it you that's having trouble with the competing demands on my time?"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he asked. "You are with Jack. There has never been anything between us. Have you persuaded yourself that I'm carrying a torch for you or something?"
Sam couldn't believe how fast this had gotten ugly. What had happened to the comfortable friendship that had sustained her for years? Ever since she'd told Daniel that she and Jack were finally together, he'd become more and more distant. Then the children had come into his life and he never had time for anything but his work and his family. Was her wild accusation really a realization that had been at the back of her mind for awhile? She chose to pretend she hadn't heard him. "I think you have stated your position quite clearly. I will be more than happy to stay away from you and your little family. Now if you wouldn't mind, I have work to do."
That weekend, she was still fuming over the exchange and over Cameron Mitchell's subsequent siding with Daniel. Jack was becoming seriously annoyed at the number of times she had brought the subject up. He had, indeed, grown increasingly jealous over her relationship with Daniel ever since Daniel had taken the kids in. Finally he exploded. "Look, Sam. My job is just full of people yammering on about problems. You're my lover. Being with you is supposed to be a respite from my job, not more of the same."
"That's lovely Jack," she said. "I'm supposed to be-what?-a tension relief service? That's not what a relationship is about." Irritated with herself, she thought, to think that I've been a little depressed all afternoon because Jack is still being vague about when we're actually going to get married. Jack was only the third man she'd had any kind of ongoing sexual relationship with and she'd been engaged to the other two. It felt wrong and it was starting to make her feel like she'd sold herself cheap.
"I don't suppose we're going to do anything FUN for hours, are we?" he asked, jerking his head toward the stairs to upstairs and the bedroom to underscore what he meant by fun.
"Maybe not at all," Sam said, her voice full of icicles. This was turning into quite the week so far, featuring hideous arguments with all the men prominent in her life except Teal'c.
Jack glared at her, grabbed the remote, and turned on a hockey game. He cranked the volume up and tuned her out. She decided to go take a nice long bath. She was naked and about to get into the Jacuzzi when the phone rang. And rang. And rang. Jack wouldn't answer it, she knew, because there was little or no chance it would be for him and he was still preserving the fiction that their relationship was some sort of secret from the general public. She sighed and walked out into the bedroom, feeling curiously vulnerable, although she was alone and the curtains were drawn.
"Sam, is he there?" It was Daniel's voice, so distraught as to be almost unrecognizable.
"Is who here?" she asked.
"What would Mitch be doing here?" Sam asked. Surely Daniel wasn't accusing her of kidnapping.
"Catherine got all weepy and started crying for her mother," Daniel said, only a shade calmer. "I think Mitch decided he had to do something about it and he's on his way to demand that you be her mother."
"How can you be sure?"
"I just make stuff like this up for fun," he said with a real bite to his words. "He told her to stop crying and that he would take care of it."
"So what you're saying is that he's run away, right?" Sam said. "When did he leave home?"
"About two hours ago. Jake and Mary Clare didn't call me right away because they thought they could take care of it. They expected to find him within blocks of the house. When I got home around 3:00, he was still missing. I called the police and Jake and I have been driving up and down ever possible route between our house and yours without luck. Catherine is tremendously upset and Mary Clare's with her."
"You want me to go out and look?"
"You need to stay put in case he comes there."
"Jack's here. He could hold down the home front."
Daniel made some sort of low, inarticulate sound, but then said, "Fine. That's good. Thanks, Sam."
Sam hurriedly pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater and jammed her feet in a pair of boots. She ran lightly down the stairs and found Jack in the kitchen taking a beer out of the refrigerator. "Daniel just called. Mitch's run away and he thinks he is heading here. Can you please stay here in case he shows up while I go and look for him?"
Jack looked serious right away. He loved kids, even if he didn't want any, and he never took a threat to a child lightly. If only that translated to a willingness to have children again or to accepting the unique children that Daniel was raising with their special connection to her. "I think you should stay here. The odds are much better of him finding the house than me finding him, given all the possible ways he could be coming," Jack said.
"I'm positive." He kissed her on the forehead, grabbed his keys and his jacket and was out the door.
She sat and looked moodily into the fire. She dreaded dealing with Mitch in full cry. The little boy was the most like Daniel of the four children in several respects. He was arguably the most brilliant and spoke very seriously in adult tones as if he was years older. He cared about everyone and was the most tenderhearted for his little sister Catherine. It was hard looking into that young face, so earnestly pleading, not for himself but for someone else, and finding the strength to say no.
An hour went by, in many ways an eternity. She only had a good fix on the length of time from the way the fire was burning down. Every little sound had her on edge and she yanked open the door several times to see nothing but snowflakes. She thought about getting a glass of wine or a beer but she wanted to be alert if he showed up. At last, she heard the doorbell. She raced to the door and opened it to find Daniel, not Mitch.
He looked surprised. "You were expecting Jack?" she asked.
"I guess I was."
"He thought it would be better if I stayed put. He's out looking."
"That's good of him," Daniel said. He stamped off snow and came in. "It's getting colder out there. Why did that kid have to pick when it was snowing? I tried to call and the phone was busy and your cell didn't answer. I was hoping…"
Sam realized she had probably put the phone on the cradle crookedly in her haste earlier to be gone looking. What bad timing to do that at the same time she apparently had her cell on vibrate instead of the ringer and stuck it in her purse. "He's not here. I'm sorry about the phone. Let me go fix it. You need to warm up a little. Let me make you a cup of coffee before you go back out."
A little later, Daniel sat studying the light brown liquid in his cup. "Sam I owe you an apology. I got rather nasty the last time we spoke. It's just…I look at those kids and they make me wonder at times if you and I could have taken a different turn. I get mad at myself for even speculating about it idly when there's my good friend Jack and you're with him."
He hadn't said he was carrying a torch but it was an admission of caring. Sam felt a rush of happiness, instantly followed by an even greater wash of guilt. Was she such an egotist that she wanted men falling for her right and left, even men for whom there was no chance of ever returning the favor? She simply looked at him and admitted softly, "They make me wonder a little too." She didn't really know that to be true until she heard it come out of her mouth.
Five minutes later, the doorbell sounded again and Sam opened it to find Mitch. She immediately engulfed him in a fierce hug. "Come right in here and warm up," she commanded. "Do you have any idea how worried we've been about you?"
"I'm sorry," he said "but no one would bring me to see you and I just knew you'd have more trouble saying no to my face."
Sam closed the door and immediately set to helping Mitch divest himself of his coat. "Your dad's here. Come into the kitchen and let me make you some hot chocolate."
"Dad Daniel is here?" he said, dismayed. "I need time to talk to you."
Daniel had appeared, having heard the voices. He immediately scooped Mitch up and held the 8-year old tight. "Don't ever do that to me again Mitch. I'm too old."
Sam was holding out the hot chocolate and Daniel deposited the boy on one of the bar stools at the counter between the kitchen and the great room. He leaned over to be at eye level. "You get one shot to say whatever you have to say to Colonel Sam but you've got to promise me if we give you time for that, you'll not bring it up to her again." Mitch looked mulish. "The alternative is I take you home right now. Well?"
"Okay," the child said reluctantly. "I will only tell her once."
"Then let me call your brother first and tell him to go home and let me call Mary Clare and Catherine so they won't worry any more." Daniel pulled out his cell phone and walked off to the other end of the room to make his calls.
Sam sat down across from Mitch. Her knees felt weak in reaction. This was another reason she had shied away from tearing down her emotional barriers. Worrying about children was so much worse than facing danger yourself. This could be Cassie times four and then some. She put one hand over his left hand. "Drink your hot chocolate," she said. "You need to get warm."
"So do you," he said, very seriously.
The door to the garage opened and Jack came in, interrupting whatever Mitch was planning on saying next. They all turned to look at him. "You found him. That's great. It's getting cold out there." He walked into the room and smiled at Mitch. "Hi, Mitch."
The little boy looked at him unhappily. "Hello General O'Neill." His voice sounded very disappointed.
Jack looked at him quizzically. "What's up?"
Daniel started to say something polite, but he wasn't fast enough. "My sisters and my brother and I need Colonel Sam and so does my dad. We need her more than you do," the boy announced matter of factly. "She would be happier with us. People need lots of people to love."
Jack raised an eyebrow. He looked at Daniel and there was cold fire in his eyes. "You put your kid up to this, Danny Boy?"
Daniel shook his head. "You know better than that Jack."
Jack still looked angry, but he backed down. Mitch struck again. "This was my idea. My dad doesn't do things for himself. He doesn't take care of himself because he's always taking care of us. That's why I came because he would never tell Colonel Sam to come and be with us. He told Catherine that Colonel Sam belonged to his friend and Catherine asked him if that would be like taking toys away from another kid. The thing is, General O'Neill, she isn't a toy. She gets to make decisions for herself."
Sam looked at the little boy, stunned and could tell that Jack was equally dazed. Daniel's mouth had dropped open. He struggled to pull himself together and finally said, "Okay, Mitch. We told you that you could tell Colonel Sam what you thought one time. I think we should leave now."
"I'm not done, Dad."
"I think you are. Go and get your coat." Mitch looked like he might argue with him. Daniel dropped his voice to a gentler tone. "Surely you can see, son, that this isn't the time or place."
"Because of him," Mitch said, pointing at Jack. "General O'Neill, I don't want to be mean or rude or make my dad mad, but I got to say this." He sounded desperate now. "If you don't want to have a family, then you should let Colonel Sam be a mother with us. I can tell when people are happy and she isn't happy, are you Colonel Sam?"
Sam was caught flat-footed. Rather than answer the question, she said, "Mitch, you can't just arrange people's lives because you want them to be a certain way. I love General O'Neill. Your dad and I are not in love." Why did it hurt to say that? She wondered. Why was it was squeezing her heart to look at Daniel and his son right now?
Jack raised his hands in a sort of mock surrender, but to the extent you could read an expression on his face, he wasn't amused. "I think this might be a really good time for me to go buy some more beer."
Sam reached out her hand. "Jack, he's just a kid." Jack was already to the door.
"I'll be back in a few minutes. See yah, Daniel, Mitch."
The door shut and Daniel said, "I would say that is our cue to be gone in less than a few minutes." He looked at Mitch. "I mean it buddy. Go and get your coat."
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Oh, really?" Daniel said. He clearly wasn't buying the delaying tactic.
"Dad, when a boy has to go, a boy has to go."
"Be quick about it," Daniel said. "And we'll be having a talk on the way home about being rude to people."
Mitch hopped off the stool and climbed the stairs. "So, naturally, he has to use the bathroom upstairs, the one farthest away," Daniel said, shaking his head. He looked at Sam. "That has to be one of the top ten most awkward moments of my life. I am really sorry, Sam."
He looked so overwhelmingly sad. It was beyond contrition for the awkward moment. Sam thought it was the burden he carried going from being a bachelor to the father of four children who were confused and hurting from the loss of just about everything except each other. Sam said very quietly, "There's nothing to be sorry about." She felt overwhelmed with tenderness for him, her dear friend with his big heart who couldn't turn away the children when they had nowhere else to go.
Without making a conscious decision, she kissed him. It was meant to just be a gentle brushing of the lips, a comforting kiss of long time friends, not cheating on Jack. His lips were warm and she lingered there a moment longer than intended. His lips parted and the kiss started to become real. Hers parted in answer and for a few precious moments, they were sharing their first real kiss. Their tongues slid over each other and at that precise moment, they heard the toilet flush. They broke apart and stared at each other. Sam's hand went to her mouth. She couldn't believe the red hot tide of desire that was sweeping her. Kissing Daniel had been a revelation. She saw the lust in his eyes and knew that it had affected him too.
"Sam, I… I was way out of line. I'm sorry. I-" Daniel stammered.
Mindful that Mitch was almost back, Sam just said, very softly. "I kissed you not the other way around. You have nothing for which to apologize but, obviously, we have something to think about."
"I don't understand what just happened," he said. "Do you?"
She bit her lip. What HAD just happened? She didn't know but she did know that she had never cheated on a boy friend in her life and didn't want to start now. If she was with Jack and able to feel right here and now like she wanted to drag Daniel to the nearest bedroom, there was obviously something to think about.
"No," she responded, "but I think we need to."
When Jack returned fifteen minutes later, he found her with a Scotch, a totally uncharacteristic drink for her. He put the beer in the refrigerator and hung up his coat without saying a word to her. At last he came to her side and put his arms around her. He kissed her very thoroughly. Sam felt a little like he was marking territory. With his arms around her and his face buried in her neck, where she couldn't see it, he asked, "Are you happy Sam?"