A/N: This is it! The final chapter. But I left it so there is a possiblity of a sequel - depends upon my flighty muse. She's so undependable!
Jack brought the Lear Jet down, one-handed, in a perfect three-point landing on Runway 12, adjoining Peterson Air Force Base. As he completed his landing check list, he glanced back into the passenger section to see all three people curled up as close as they could get and still be buckled in – sound asleep. What a sorry group they were; Jack and Rori each with an arm in a sling and Daniel back on crutches again. Jack chuckled, partly in relief that Connor had been found safe and partly in hope that Daniel had found what he had been looking for since Sha're's death.
"Rise and shine, people! We're home." Jack woke up the three sleepy people and watched, amused, as Daniel tried to extricate himself from under both Rori and Connor.
Jack groaned and grasped his left arm as he leaned over to grab his duffle bag. Now that he had safely landed back in Colorado Springs, he could finally take the pain pills the doctor in Laredo had given him yesterday. He knew that Fraiser would expect them all to check in with her some time today. She always had to check another doctor's work any time one of "her" people was injured or sick somewhere else before she felt comfortable with allowing them back on duty.
As soon as Fraiser let him go, Jack headed to his office and made a few phone calls to friends. He knew Jason would have to have his wound treated someplace, and he had friends who could trace him, even in Mexico. If the Mexican authorities caught him, it would be more difficult to extradite him, but it was possible. Jack hoped he rotted in a Mexican jail.
Later that afternoon, after all four of them had been checked by Dr. Fraiser and pronounced worthy of going home, Rori drove Jack and Daniel home; of the three, she was in the best shape. She just wanted to get Connor home and never go out the door again.
It was several days later before Daniel realized why he'd been feeling so restless. Partly, it was because Janet still wouldn't let him back on base, something about being able to walk without the crutches – again. But, when he poured himself a cup of coffee, he suddenly had a vision of Rori. He saw her in the sunlight, her hair swirling around her head like a blaze of fire, swinging Connor around in circles, laughing from the sheer joy of life.
My dreams have been filled with her, and now I can't even pour a cup of coffee without seeing her. Daniel wandered over to his piano, set the coffee mug down, and began poking at the keys. He remembered how excited his mother had been about finally having a place where she'd be able to keep a piano after they'd come back to New York. She taught him a few simple songs before the accident and Daniel continued to teach himself whenever he had access to a piano in a foster home or at school. Only Jack, who shared his love of music, was aware that the piano was an outlet for his bottled-up emotions.
He closed his eyes and began Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No.2 in A Minor." As always, his frantic thoughts melted away as his fingers chased each other over the keys. The minor chords of the concerto reflected his melancholy mood and his body quaked with power as the music crescendoed. He flowed from Rachmaninoff into Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No.14." He could hear the ebb and flow of ocean surf and the call of seagulls under the music as his fingers took him to another place.
He missed hearing the soft knock at the door. He missed seeing the doorknob turn and the door silently glide open on its hinges. He didn't hear the door click shut. He did feel her presence slide underneath the music when he shifted from Beethoven to Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 21." She stood several feet behind him, almost not daring to breathe. Her eyes closed, overpowered by his emotions as they poured from his fingers through the keyboard into her soul. As the final delicate notes drifted into the heavens, he turned and faced her.
She staggered, as if the music had been physically supporting her and she was weakened by its loss. He slid off the piano bench and took one tentative step in her direction. Her eyes opened and found their focus when they met his eyes. Her hair dripped with the rain from outside and the sight of the wet fire glowing around her face stopped his heart briefly. He closed the space between them and searched her eyes for permission. Her eyes flitted downward to his mouth and her tongue darted out in nervous reaction to lick her dry lips.
He watched her eyes when they deepened in color and became teal as desire flared in them. His left hand rose and his fingers pushed back the curls from her face. His right arm snaked behind her back and pulled her against him as his head lowered to …
His eyes snapped open and he discovered himself sitting alone on his piano bench. Okay… Time to get back to work whether Janet thinks so or not. I can't sit around here any longer or I'll go nuts!
Daniel grabbed his jacket, his keys and his crutches, then hobbled out the door to drive to the mountain where he hoped to lose himself in his work.
Daniel entered the infirmary and saw Rori there. He backed out the door and stood in the hallway for a few minutes, trying to decide if he was ready to see her yet. He finally straightened, took a deep breath, reentered Janet's territory and headed over to the bed where Rori sat.
"Hello, Rori." Daniel's voice was soft and unsure.
"Hey, Daniel! How are you?" Rori's eyes lit up when she saw him standing in front of her. His head was ducked down and he hugged himself, like a child who wasn't sure if he was wanted at the dinning table with the adults. Her heart sped up and her stomach seemed to flip upside down. She couldn't remember having that much of a physical reaction to the presence of a man since the crush she had on her 11th grade history teacher, Mr. Barnett.
"I'm here to try and get Janet to let me back into my office. I just know there's a stack of translations waiting for me." Daniel blinked several times at her. "I was bored to death at home."
"At least I have Connor to keep me busy, although, it is hard to keep up with an active two-year-old with only one hand." She pointed to her the new cast on her left arm. "Janet said the wound had healed enough to remove the stitches and put it in a cast. I'll actually have more mobility now that it's not bound to my chest."
Daniel grinned shyly at her. "Can I be the first to sign it?"
Laughter bubbled up from her throat. "Absolutely!"
Janet approached the pair, "Lt. O'Brien, you can go home now. You're healing very quickly – in spite of the little excursion you three took," she glared at Daniel, who shifted his eyes downward to count the cracks in the cement floor, "and you'll probably be able to return to work in about two weeks."
Rori slid off the bed. "Daniel, meet me in the commissary when you're done, okay?"
Daniel nodded at her and turned back to Janet as Rori left the room. Janet stood with her hands on her hips and glared up at him. "What are you doing back on base? I told you not to come back until you can walk without those crutches."
"Janet," Daniel began his plea, "I'm going stir crazy at home! Can't I at least come in for half a day? I'll sit at my desk and just do paperwork." Daniel's blue eyes batted several times in Janet's direction.
Janet continued to glare at him until she finally threw up her hands and sighed in defeat. "All right. But, and there is no room for argument here, only for four hours a day. Then you go straight home and stay off your feet. Understood?" She planted her left fist on her hip and waggled her right index finger under Daniel's nose. "Or, so help me, I'll come after you with the biggest needle I've got filled with knock-out juice!"
Daniel shuddered (he knew she'd do it, too) and nodded before he flashed a big smile and hobbled out as quickly as he could. "Thanks, Janet. I'll be good. I promise," he threw over his shoulder, not daring to stick around long enough for her to change her mind. He headed to the elevator and punched in level 22 for the commissary.
He stopped in the doorway and saw that Rori had already claimed a table and had a cup of coffee waiting for him. He picked his way carefully between chair legs and dropped unceremoniously into a chair facing her. He grunted with relief as he dropped the crutches behind him on the floor, taking care to be sure they weren't sticking out to trip any unsuspecting passers-by.
"How is Connor doing?" Daniel took a sip of the bitter liquid the commissary considered coffee and scrunched his nose in distaste.
"He seems to be doing okay, but Janet and I talked about having him evaluated by a child psychologist over at the Academy Hospital." She swirled a spoon around in her black coffee. "Physically, he's fine. At least Jason fed him and Connor told me that the Mexican lady at the last house gave him a bath when they showed up Tuesday night." She met Daniel's eyes and grinned over that.
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, until Rori began squirming in her seat. "Daniel, can we go somewhere private and talk? Connor's at his babysitter's for the next few hours."
"Sure. You want to go back to my place?" Daniel looked down, surprised to find that his coffee cup was empty. He looked back up into her eyes over the top of his glasses, unsure if she would be willing to go to his place.
She met his clear blue eyes with her blue-green gaze and nodded.
Daniel leaned against the railing next to his front door while he dug in his pocket for his door key. He unlocked his door, pushed it open and stood aside for her to enter. He gestured for her to have a seat while he hobbled over to the couch and sank into the soft, black leather, bringing his wounded leg up. "Sorry for taking the entire couch, but I just need to keep it stretched out for a while." He flashed her a tiny grin of apology.
She sank down onto the floor next to him, her gaze on her fingers as they nervously picked at her jeans. "Daniel, I wanted to talk to you about 'us.' We kind of skirted around the issue while we were gone, but I want you to know that my feelings haven't changed. I'm still interested in pursuing a relationship with you."
She raised her eyes up to find Daniel had leaned over and was eye level with her. He slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her up onto the couch so that she was sitting next to him. One arm rose behind her head and pulled her down until she was hovering just above his face.
"Are you sure about this? I don't want to stop this time." His eyes twinkled in amusement, "Although, it maybe be a bit awkward between my bum leg and your useless arm." He gave her a small half grin.
"I think we'll manage to figure something out." She closed the space between them and gently brushed his lips with hers while her hair created a curtained private world for just the two of them. Her tongue ran along the edge of his lips, provoking a low groan in him.
He pulled her down even closer as his tongue traced her lips and then begged entry. She parted her lips and allowed his explorations, squirming on the few inches of the couch his body allowed. When his hand began tugging at her shirt, seeking skin-to-skin contact, she backed away from him causing him to moan in protest.
She stood up while he blinked up at her in confusion. "Rori? Are you leaving?" All the losses he'd had in his life flashed through his mind so quickly they didn't register consciously, but his heart feared another loss.
She gazed down, "No. Of course not. Let's go to your room. We'll have more space there." She offered her hand to help him stand.
He took her hand, hauled himself off the couch with difficulty, and pulled her into a tight embrace. "God, Rori. I've waited years for you. The way your hair lights the room. How your eyes change color with your moods. Everything about you tempts me."
"Oh, Daniel. Are you sure you're not up to running yet? Because if we don't get to your bed quickly I'm just going to toss you on the floor and have my way with you right here on your Egyptian rug."
He grinned, took her hand and led to back to his room – no crutches.