This story was written strictly for the purpose of entertainment. No attempt has been made to copyright any characters which may not have been originally created by the author, and no profit is made from this work of fiction. Any original characters and the stories themselves are the property of the author.

WARNING: S/D fic. Be warned that it is not very favorable to Jack.


Samantha vacillated between disgusted and disturbed watching Jack's behavior. Daniel, in a torn t-shirt and faded jeans, was in full force, rapidly laying out months of thought and research represented by the diagrams and plans spread out on the scarred table in front of him. His eyes were alive with excitement over the ideas tumbling out, one after another. Jack was almost ignoring him, fiddling with an empty coffee cup, tilting his chair back and looking at the ceiling, and making small paper wads that he lobbed at the trash can. He didn't even care enough to aim carefully; the floor around the trash can was littered with his failures.

She shot a glance over at Tealk. The big man was nearly impassive but there was a slight smile playing around his mouth, making it clear he was doing more than paying polite attention. He was not only big, he was smart, and he recognized that Daniel and Samantha had, once again, come up with a winner. Since he had child support payments for four children by four different women, he liked winners. He loved his kids and it was important to him to keep those checks in the mail.

Cam drew her attention to his side of the table when he snorted derisively. Daniel barely hesitated. Cam was glaring at Jack and it was clear where the snort was aimed. Cam looked pointedly at her and then back at Jack. Then he went through the same routine with Tealk, making eye contact and then jerking his head toward Jack. He even looked at Jonas significantly. All too often, the rest of them ignored Jonas. He'd been with them for a year, the year Daniel had been in jail in Thailand. Daniel came back; he was out. He only joined them again for their last job.

Cam was so determined to make sure the rest of them were taking in Jack's dereliction of attention because Cam wanted Jack's job. They all knew it. He had stopped being subtle. He'd joined them as the transportation guy about a year ago. He could fly or drive anything and keep it running, but he wanted to be the leader. He didn't remember Jack the way the rest of them did, when Jack was at the top of his game, and could not understand their willingness to let Jack have a large cut for performances like this. Samantha was beginning to ask herself the same question.

Enough. She walked toward the front of the room, pausing to lay a hand on Daniel's muscular arm and stop him for just a moment. She continued to the front of the room where Jack had given absolutely no sign that he had noticed that anything had changed. She kicked the two legs of the chair still making contact with the ground and the older man went sprawling. She was ready for him, as he scrambled to his feet, agile for a man in his 50s but no match for the kind of streetfighter she was.

He stood, giving her the eye of death, and Samantha faced him without flinching. "Sam, you bitch," he bit out.

"Whatever. The thing is I'm over you disrespecting our work. We come up with the ideas, we put our butts on the line to carry them out, and you can't even listen and give us the benefits of your admittedly brilliant criminal instincts. So you've never even been indicted, much less convicted. Maybe it's because you're so damn good at letting everyone else take the risk."

"Lady's got a point," Cam drawled.

"Shut up biscuit brain," Jack snapped. "You haven't been part of this operation long enough to have an opinion."

"Are we already in the team building phase?" Vala purred the question, strolling into the room, late as always.

"The only thing you ever knew how to do with a team is sleep with all of them," Jack snarled.

"That was just the Packer's defensive line, NOT the entire team. And it actually stopped at making out with a couple of them."

"I can't imagine why," Jack returned.

"We were still married at the time, darling. My vows meant something to me."

Daniel cleared his throat. "Jack, sit down, okay? Vala sit at the opposite end of the tab from Jack and as far away from me as possible." Vala had started hitting on Daniel before she and Jack got divorced. Since then, it had become an annoying constant of their lives. "I promised Doc I'd be at the shelter by 7:00 and I would really like to finish this briefing first."

Jack stole to buy land and more land in Minnesota. God knew what he was going to do with it. Jonas, in a rare moment of humor, said Jack was founding a clone farm. Since Jack rarely changed his expression or showed much feeling, it would be extremely easy to swap Jack 1 for Jack 2 for Jack 3. Cam stole to buy collector's cars and small planes and take care of his granny. The last job had netted him enough to buy one of James Dean's cars. Tealk stole to support all his kids and ship guns home to the rebels in the hills of his African country. Jonas stole to finance his experiments. Vala appeared to steal to buy jewelry and designer leather clothes. Samantha stole to feel safe. The more she had in the bank, the farther away the street was and the nightmares of what had had happened to her there. Daniel was the amazing one. He stole to help fund Doc Frazier's mission to street people, to make contributions to the children's hospital Dr. Carolyn Lam ran in Belize, and several other charities. He was Robin Hood in the flesh. Janet Frazier was the only one who knew who her benefactor was. The other donations were always anonymous.

Jack made a visible effort to stay on task for the rest of what Daniel had to say. When Daniel finished, there was silence in the room as they all watched Jack to see what his judgment would be. "You kids have done it again," he finally said. "Only one thing. I think you should spread this between multiple fences."

"George Hammond's always done right by us," Sam protested.

"He still will, but he's slowing down, talking retirement. That might mean he's paying less attention."

"Anything else?" Daniel asked.

"I want to go in with you."

"No way," Cam said. "You're too old. You'll slow us down."

"Really," Jack said, his voice cold. "Whereas you will be parked in a nice cozy get away helio. I don't see your little legs doing much moving."

Daniel pulled a couple of papers toward himself, made a few notations and looked at Samantha. She reviewed his modifications and nodded. "We can make it work," Daniel agreed. He looked at Jack, "Can I ask why?"

"No, Danny boy, you can't." Samantha hated when Jack did that, called Daniel, Danny. She alone knew why he hated that name so much, just as he was the only one who knew why being called Sam was anathema to her.

At 6:45, Samantha followed Daniel out into the cool night air. "Want me to tag along?" she asked.

"That would be great," he said and gave her one of his true smiles. He saved the smiles like that, the ones that reached his eyes, for the kids and the befuddled, and the other innocents he tried to help and for her. Even Doc Frazier got a very guarded Daniel. Samantha and Daniel had been together since their early teens. They had survived on the street together, by watching each other's backs, stealing for each other, and each of them, before they had turned 18, had killed a predator to save the other.

She slipped an arm through his and they walked down the street in the quiet evening. "Why do you think Jack wants to go with us this time?" she broke the silence to ask as they got into his battered van.

"I've got a lot of ideas about that and most of them aren't good. I seriously considered that he's ratted us all out and he wants to be there to make sure he delivers us to the FBI."

"Why would he want to make a deal like that? They don't even know who he is. He's been untouchable through his entire career."

"You tell me why, then?"

She shook her head. "Do you trust anyone besides me?"

"No. Well, maybe Tealk. Jonas and Cam, I don't have enough history with. Vala, only a fool would trust her. Jack…" His voice trailed away and he looked profoundly sad for a moment. "When he took us off the street, helped us learn the ropes all those years ago, I thought he was like a minor deity. Be careful what you worship, Samantha. It can come to define you."

"What went wrong between you?" she asked. It had never made sense to her.

"You did."

"Oh." Why had she never seen it before? She and Jack had been on the edge of something for years when Keri appeared. Samantha had never understood why it had never gone beyond flirtation and why Keri had broken through his walls when she couldn't. One day, all Jack could see was Keri and it was as if Samantha had suddenly gone invisible. It had been slim comfort to Samantha that within months Vala appeared and Keri was out on her ass just as Samantha had been. Of course Daniel, with years of looking out after Samantha, had taken Jack's act as a personal betrayal.

She looked over at Daniel. He was staring straight ahead at the road. "Daniel, it hurt. It hurt like an amputation. Then even after I had learned to get by without that part of me there was ghost pain for a long time. Then one day, he was acting like he was today while you were being brilliant and so alive. I felt as if I had escaped a life sentence."

He suddenly pulled the car over to the curb and braked sharply. "What?"

"I'm perfectly happy that I'm not with Jack."

"Then why haven't you found someone else?" His voice was intense. The answer was important to him.

"Why hasn't there been anyone else for you since Sherry died?" she countered.

He relaxed and closed his eyes for a moment and then pulled back onto the street and resumed driving. "Okay," she thought, "once again, he's not going to tell even me what's he's feeling."

"There's an envelope under the seat," Daniel said. "It's the biggest job, the most important job I've ever planned. Take a look."

Samantha couldn't believe he would be planning something that big and this was the first she heard about it. She fished around and found the envelope and pulled out a few sheets of paper. Good. He wasn't that far along. Maybe that's why she hadn't heard about it yet. There was what looked like house plans. It was a big house, not really the kind of house that you robbed though. There was a large play room indicated and a lot of detail given to an elaborate children's wooden playground extravaganza in the back. There was a picture of a beautiful Egyptianesque ring. Daniel had retained a fondness for things Egypptian from his early childhood with his late archeologist parents. They were stealing this ring from this house? She didn't get it. There was a menu that had seen some editing. They were all her favorite foods. The fourth and fifth sheets were poetry, beautiful blank verse a world away from trite. It was excellent and it seemed to be about her. "Daniel… what?"

He pulled into a parking space next to the mission and turned to her. "I thought your heart was all locked up, that I was going to have to steal it from Jack. I was starting to plan how I could woo you, what I would do to propose to you, what sort of a future I could offer you that you would like -- one where we quit this and had kids, lived like decent people, like we would have if we hadn't ended up on the streets and I'd turned out to be, I don't know, an archeologist and maybe you were an astrophysicist."

"Wait a minute. You want to marry me?"

"I want to marry you. The question is-" His voice was hoarse. He stopped talking for a moment and then said in a rush. "One of the things you and I've always had is timing. We just know in our gut when we plan a job when the right time is. Everything in my head is telling me that I'm rushing it, the plans aren't far enough along, but what Jack always called my golden gut is telling me now's the time." He looked at her anxiously.

"Jack's famous for his criminal instincts. How could I make a liar out of him?" she asked softly, reaching toward him.

Daniel was late to help Doc Frazier in perhaps the first time anyone could remember, but one of the street kids came in and told her that "Dan and Blondie are making out in his van" and she didn't mind a bit.