Author's Note: Just a warning that this story is a lot different than my usual stuff. This is a fic I wrote for the Unusual Crossover Pairings Ficathon (ucp ficathon on LJ). I was assigned a SG-1/House Crossover with this prompt: "Het. Excellent diagnostician meets alien virus? General O'Neill is brought in to the New Jersey hospital. Don't want Ori, Rebel Jaffa or Tok'ra Spice." So I wrote angsty romance. Big surprise. And I focused on Daniel, because there was no way I was splitting up Jack and Sam to hook them up with someone from House. :) I hope you enjoy.
Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
Daniel can't explain it.
Which is bothersome on many levels, not the least of which is that it's sort of his job to explain things. Always has been. He is the why man to Sam's how.
A distinction that does nothing to change the fact that Jack is sick. Of all of them, Jack was supposed to be the safe one. He wasn't supposed to be the one waging a losing battle against a baffling disease halfway across the country from his friends. And Daniel wasn't supposed to have to do anymore all-night vigils after Jack moved away from the dangers of the SGC.
But that didn't stop it from happening.
Daniel had been in New York for a conference when he got the call that Jack had suddenly fallen ill on his way to a site visit of McGuire Air Force Base. His entourage had rushed him to the nearest hospital before anyone had taken a moment to consider things like clearance or classified. Or the possibility of alien.
By the time it became clear that this was no ordinary illness and the hospital was quarantined, Daniel had already rushed down to New Jersey and was pacing the hospital's halls with one crazy theory after another running through his head.
Daniel and the others may have tried to fool themselves into thinking that Jack was the safe one, but Daniel was forced to reevaluate the fact that Jack is in a prominent, high position in the government. Not to mention that Jack has more enemies in the political snake pit of Washington than most. Daniel can only imagine that Jack has been keeping up the tradition of annoying powerful people in his new job.
Was it possible that this illness is the result of some dark, nebulous force using alien biological warfare? Whether that was paranoia or common sense isn't clear.
Maybe it is something less insidious, though, even if no less dangerous. Who knew what the long term effects of Stargate travel were? This could even be an alien virus he'd picked up off-world years ago that had lain dormant until now.
Daniel had lots of theories and someone must have come to some of the same conclusions, because an escort was sent to the hospital a few hours later to remove Jack to a secure facility, quarantine be damned.
The resulting flashpoint of military versus hospital personnel was what finally drew out the elusive Dr. House. Daniel had heard all about him from the head of the hospital, but had never so much as caught a glimpse of the man until now.
Dr. House had charged down the hall in a quite an intimidating manner, made doubly impressive by the fact he was leaning heavily on a cane. Three other figures in white lab coats trailed behind him that Daniel recognized as the doctors who had been treating Jack.
Daniel was sure that drama was about to ensue, but House didn't get hysterical or start yelling about his patient. He didn't even try to dizzy them with medical jargon in an attempt to confuse them.
He just calmly surveyed the group of faces, mostly military, from Jack's aide to somebody Daniel suspected was a body guard of some sort (he'd be sure to mock Jack about that later when he got better). House's attention finally slid to a stop on Daniel, his alarmingly sharp blue eyes lasering in on Daniel's face.
"If you move him, he'll die," he said simply to Daniel.
For some reason, Daniel knew this was not hyperbole. He had blinked once and nodded permission, ignoring the sounds of protest from the people around him. House looked satisfied and not particularly perturbed by the growing argument as if he knew Daniel could handle it. And handle it he did. He's not a diplomat for nothing after all. He had them worn down in less than ten minutes while House lounged against a nearby wall, popping what looked suspiciously like prescription drugs out of a small brown bottle.
The military contingent had run out of steam eventually and Daniel caught House's eye again.
"Get them non-disclosure agreements to sign," Daniel said.
When the forms finally came, fresh off a fax machine, House signed the papers without even glancing at them and Daniel could tell that his mind was already off, looking past them, considering every angle of the puzzle. It was bizarrely comforting, dredging up memories of a powerhouse in heels and a white lab coat.
The other doctors signed as well, though Daniel noticed two of them grumbling slightly to each other. Apparently the case was exciting enough to raise interest in publishing it. Welcome to my world, Daniel wanted to say wryly, trying not to be annoyed by the seeming callousness of their concerns.
Before House wandered away again, Daniel reached out and stopped him, wanting to give him something, anything, to make it clear just how bizarre this case might be.
"Don't assume it's like anything you've ever seen before," Daniel offered, throwing him the only clue he could.
House took a moment, as if assessing Daniel once more and then nodded.
"I never do," he said impatiently, carefully extracting himself from Daniel's arm as if discomforted by the touch.
Daniel was a bit unsettled, and even all this time later he still can't honestly say he likes House, but Daniel is willing to believe he can save Jack.
That had been two days ago. Two days stuck in this hospital with nothing to do but wait. The soft muted colors of the hospital do nothing to soften Daniel's anxiety. For someone used to secret spaces and thick concrete walls, the open glass panes everywhere make Daniel feel absurdly exposed.
His only companion those long days is the trio of young doctors who stop by every once and a while for updates of some kind or another. They do little to help Daniel's feelings of displacement. He's not sure why, but the young Australian doctor's meaningless reassurances scrape against his skin.
Dr. Cameron is the one who simply said, "We'll do everything we can."
There had been a wealth of compassion in her eyes and a steely edge to the angle of her shoulders that made Daniel want her. Since then, he finds himself always turning to search Dr. Cameron's face, because even when he can read that she is doubtful about the latest Hail Mary explanation, he still finds a strange sort of comfort there. Maybe because, somehow, she seems a little more human that the others.
Daniel doesn't pretend to know what any of them are talking about when the three of them meet up with House at Jack's beside a few times a day. They shoot stats and explanations at each other in a rapid staccato. Dr. House is brutally truthful, not giving any of the younger doctors an inch to bend and Daniel is captivated by the ways they react to this. People, after all, have always fascinated Daniel and even analyzing strangers is better than simply sitting and watching Jack waste away.
The Australian, Dr. Chase, is quickly speculative; his boisterousness only thinly covering what Daniel suspects is a sort of grating petulance, while the other doctor, Foreman, is coolly confident and obviously cognizant of House's manipulations and quirks. Foreman reminds Daniel a lot more of House than he suspects the younger doctor would find comfortable.
Jack is the same way. Constantly rubbing off on people when they least expect it, Daniel thought with a smile.
It is Dr. Cameron, though, that Daniel finds most fascinating. He wonders if she knows that she almost becomes a different person when House is in the room. Her expansive compassion and firm determination seem to slip into the background in face of her desire to prove herself to the older man. And if he is not mistaken, there is the softest veneer of yearning there, too. It's different, though, than the subtle tension that Daniel has observed in Jack and Sam's relationship. Sam is often slightly guarded with Jack, but never insincere. Daniel guesses that maybe Dr. Cameron is trying to be what she thinks the other man wants.
At best, House seems indifferent to this and to her, but Daniel finds it an appealing puzzle, because the scruffy doctor is more inscrutable than Jack, and that's saying a lot.
Of their own accord, Daniel's eyes stray to Jack's form and he feels the familiar trail of cold fingers down his spine at the sight. He is pale and thinner than Daniel has ever seen and he's doubly horrified because he doesn't know how much of this is the disease and how much is Jack's new job. That's something Daniel should know.
Jack was supposed to be safe.
Daniel isn't supposed to have to watch him die.
"You should get some sleep."
Daniel's head snaps up to find that the room has emptied. Only Dr. Cameron remains, stranding next to Jack's bed, pushing some new drug into Jack's IV. For a moment Daniel stares at the soft flush of liquid and the calm rhythmic drip of the fluid.
Next thing he knows, she's crossed the room and is leaning casually against the wall near Daniel.
"It will take a while to see if the new treatment works," she says. "You might as well get some rest while you can."
Daniel automatically looks up to gauge her expression, to get a read on how probable this new solution to Jack's illness really is. But for the first time, her face is inscrutable and he doesn't know if that is a good or bad sign.
"Come on," she says, tilting her head towards the door.
Daniel pushes to his feet and obediently follows her from the room. She leads him to a small dark lounge, dropping a blanket on the nearest couch. He doesn't expect her to stay, but she does, curled up on a small armchair. She reads by a small table lamp that casts a soft halo of light around her, melting out of the surrounding darkness.
Daniel should sleep. It's been nearly three days with little more than cat naps after all. Instead, he finds himself inexplicably watching Dr. Cameron read. There is a scent hovering in the air, cutting across the harsh antiseptic smell of the hospital and Daniel assumes that its source is Dr. Cameron. He can't identify it and the puzzle occupies him as the hours slowly bleed by.
Of course, this obsession with her perfume could just be delirium setting in. Or his mind's way of trying to find anything to focus on other than Jack's seemingly inevitable death. Daniel can't really be sure.
Daniel continues to stare and Dr. Cameron has either chosen not to notice or, judging by the small row of lines on her forehead, is focusing too intently to pay him any attention. He thinks she should probably be sleeping too, and he has to bite back the urge to ask her if she drew the short straw to be given babysitting duty over her patient's troublesome friend.
Instead, he continues to breathe deeply and tries to latch on to that elusive scent.
Jack shouldn't be sick and Daniel shouldn't care that Dr. Cameron is keeping him company in the silence.
Daniel really can't explain it.
The illness or the woman.
"You've done this before,' she comments unexpectedly at some point, not looking up from her book.
Daniel shifts slightly, gaining himself a more direct view of her.
"Spent sleepless nights holding vigils like this," she clarifies.
"What makes you say that?" Daniel replies softly.
She looks up at him finally, holding his gaze. "You're far too calm," she observes. "Like some part of you is already resigned to this…ending."
Her eyes dart away then, like she is unsure if she has said too much. But Daniel continues to stare at her, silently cataloguing her features. He is more than a little surprised that she has read him so clearly, seen something he didn't even want to acknowledge himself and he realizes that maybe she has been watching and analyzing him as much as he has been evaluating her these last few days.
He finds that a bit disconcerting.
"Is this…an ending?" Daniel asks carefully.
Her eyes slide back to his across the darkness. "I don't know," she says honestly.
Daniel nods once at her. He appreciates that she didn't try to console him with empty promises, because she'd been right. He has done this before. Far too many times. And some small part of him is resigned to the fact that one time, things won't work out. Someday he might lose Jack this way. Or Sam. Or Teal'c.
Or maybe it will be him. Again.
"Do you think being hysterical might help?" Daniel asks wryly, trying not to think of his own death and the vigil his friends must have held as he slowly melted away from the inside.
Dr. Cameron smiles softly at his attempt at levity, oblivious to his dark thoughts. She opens her mouth to reply, but the door to the room suddenly slams open, drowning the soft intimacy of the room in harsh institutional light.
Dr. Chase is framed against the doorway. He glances questioningly between Dr. Cameron and Daniel before saying, "Allison, his stats are coming up."
The next few moments are filled with a flurry of medical jargon that means nothing to Daniel and he forces himself to sit calmly on the couch, watching Dr. Cameron's face as she asks question after question.
Dr. Chase then leaves as abruptly as he had arrived, the door swinging shut behind him with a muted click. Shrouded in dimness once more, Daniel fights with the question lodged in his throat.
But Dr. Cameron simply turns to him as if reading the question in his face and smiles. "Not an ending," she confirms softly.
It's almost cliché that one of House's theories finally paid off late on the fourth night while Daniel sat smelling Dr. Cameron's hair. He thinks Jack will appreciate the late night scramble to his bedside to hear his first incoherent mumbles in days and the way Daniel reaches out to touch him hesitantly, just reassure himself it isn't a dream.
Or at least he would be, if Daniel ever decided to tell him.
Daniel spends the rest of the long night sitting in the corner of Jack's room, listening to the steady beat of his monitors and watching the colors of the walls bleed towards dawn as nurses and doctors come in and out with encouraging smiles.
Even House himself stops by at the crack of dawn, looking over Jack's form and nodding firmly once to himself in satisfaction.
That is the moment Daniel finally lets himself believe. And if he had any lingering doubts, the fact that it is only a few hours later that Jack is awake and coherent and already giving the nurses hell is the final bit of satisfying proof.
"You look like hell," is Jack's fist comment aimed at Daniel and Daniel has to laugh, reaching out to touch Jack's foot through the blanket.
"You know, if you wanted me to visit, all you had to do was ask," Daniel shot back in response. "This whole almost dying from a bizarre illness is a little over the top."
Jack harrumphs grumpily and tries to look annoyed, but Daniel can tell he is glad to see him.
A noise in the doorway brings both of the men's attention to a newcomer and the jovial atmosphere abruptly leaks away.
The quarantine must have finally been lifted because Sam is now standing at the entrance to the room, looking like she hasn't slept in days herself. She spares a quick glance for Daniel, just to let him know that she will deal with him later for turning off his cell and refusing to take anymore of her calls after the first day. Daniel feels a little guilty, but it isn't his fault she had been locked out of the hospital and really, how many different ways could Daniel tell her that he didn't know what was going on any better than she did? Well, technically a lot, if he tried a different language each time, but that's not the point.
To be honest, though, he had stopped taking her calls because he hadn't needed to add her complex cocktail of guilt and anxiety to his own potent mix of emotions. This was between her and Jack.
Sam is still stuck at the doorframe, but she no longer spares any attention for Daniel. Her face really says it all. She's used her sleepless days to think. And now, as she stands there, staring at Jack, her face is telling Daniel that she is only now finally realizing that she can still lose him to random tricks of fate.
Her eyes methodically follow each tube and wire attached to Jack as they wind about his ravaged body and something in her façade finally cracks. Daniel has always known this moment would come, ever since he first suspected that there was more between Jack and Sam than met the eye, but to be honest, he hadn't thought he'd be there to witness it.
And he can't quite explain the feeling in his chest as he watches her cross the room, but it is overwhelming the simple relief that has been his companion these long early hours.
Jack has been watching her watch him and he must be able to read the same shift in her eyes, because he smiles openly at her in a way Daniel hasn't seen in years. She crosses the room to his bed, reaching out tentatively to touch his hand and Daniel has to look away. Every simple motion and touch between them is filled with such intimacy that Daniel doubts anyone watching could miss the connection.
He can't explain why he is filled with the unexpected feeling of loss.
A soft hand falls on his shoulder and Daniel looks up to see Dr. Cameron observing Jack and Sam as well. She looks down and meets his eyes and he feels for a moment that maybe she understands. That she somehow shares his feeling of being apart, separate from those around her.
Daniel pulls her smooth hand into his, examining her slender fingers as if he might somehow find answers there. He doesn't hesitate when she eventually leads him back to their quiet haven from the night before, leaving Jack and Sam to each other.
Daniel's first thought as her lips meet his and his hands begin to pull at the buttons of her blouse is that he's not the sort of person who does this. Sleeping with a woman he barely knows. In a semi-public place.
But part of his brain refuses to let that self-deluded thought lay unchallenged. This is exactly the sort of guy Daniel is, being swept into things and just merrily following along. He'd like to think that after Ke'ra, Shyla, and Melosha he would know better. Hell, even Hathor, because if a case could be made for why that wasn't his fault, it still had been him out of everyone and this perverse part of Daniel is too aware to think that's just a coincidence.
But that doesn't stop him from taking this moment. He doesn't ask her some snide question about whether or not this is a standard service provided by the hospital, sex in the face of overwhelming relief or grief as the case may be. He just lets himself think that maybe she needs this as much as he does.
He lets this be about comfort and loss and the fact that she tries so hard to get attention from a man who is little more than indifferent to her. He lets this be about neither of them wanting to be alone and the fact that she kept him company in the dark.
Because tomorrow, he will go back to Colorado and she will stay here. And all they will have is this one moment.
Six months later…
"We went on a date once."
It might seem weird to most people that Daniel is lying naked in the middle of the day with a woman draped across his chest, listening to her discuss her feelings for another man.
But that's not really the weird part. What's inexplicable in this scenario is that Daniel has been succumbing to the compulsion to fly all the way to New Jersey almost every three weeks or so. After the first few times he found it harder and harder to find random conferences as an excuse. Now he doesn't even bother. He just finds himself at the airport sometimes, looking at flights. The thought of downtime sitting alone in his house just doesn't hold much appeal these days. So he flies to New Jersey and ambushes Allison at work. She never looks too surprised after the first time, and Daniel just sits and waits in the same bland waiting rooms for her to find the time to sneak him back to her apartment.
He knows it's just about sex.
Allison discussing House in the moment of afterglow is just one more notch of evidence towards that conclusion. She is reminding them both that what they have is purely physical. He tells himself that he doesn't care, because at the very least, it makes honesty between them easy. No hidden expectations or demands. Even if Daniel is having a harder time justifying these trips to New Jersey each new time. Is there really such a thing as a transcontinental booty call?
Daniel thinks Jack would get a kick out of that. Not that he has any intention of ever telling him, even if Daniel suspects the other man has been doing his own fair share of long distance sex visits lately.
"He said that I am only interested in him because he's damaged," Allison continues conversationally as Daniel slides his fingers absently along the cooling sheen of her back.
"He's wrong," Daniel says after long moments, his eyes still half shut.
Daniel's actually thought about this quite a bit in the months since he first met Allison, since those long days spent watching her at work. He knows that for Allison her feelings have never been about House's helplessness, his gruff good looks or his arrogant brilliance. Her attraction has never even been based in the obvious hero worship of a younger associate; he suspects it is something much more insidious.
"You're attracted to him because on some level, you know you can never have him. You enjoy playing the martyr to him," Daniel says, a trace of bitterness leaking into his words that surprises both of them.
The raw words hover for long moments before she stiffens in his arms, pushing up and away from him and Daniel has to wonder if he misjudged the level of honesty between them. Or if he has crossed some invisible line they had drawn long ago.
But this was just about sex, right?
With tight, jerky motions she slips back into her carefully tailored suit and lab coat and Daniel thinks about commenting on her wardrobe and how exactly that fits into her supposed hatred of her good looks. Why does she go so far out of her way to accentuate that which she despises? But Daniel bites the observation back, deciding he has already stepped too far.
"I thought you were an archaeologist, Dr. Jackson, not a psychologist," she bites out as she buttons her shirt.
Daniel assumes it's a rhetorical statement and doesn't bother answering, too busy sitting back and watching her reaction. He must have hit a bit closer to home than he'd thought. Or maybe these 'spontaneous' meetings are loosing a bit of their luster.
"Why did you choose me?" Daniel finds himself asking, wondering suddenly how he keeps ending up in her bed. It's a question that he has held back since the first time so many months ago, but it seems that today all bets are off, so why not ask?
She stops to turn and stare at him in dismay. "What are you talking about?"
Her confusion throws Daniel for a moment. Doesn't she understand? Daniel Jackson doesn't choose women. They choose him. That has always been the way of it.
He'd loved Sha're, he really had. And still does in some ways, he supposes. But Daniel hadn't picked her out of the crowd; he hadn't slowly wooed her or fallen gently in love. She had been given to him, if he were brutally honest.
For all she had been an obedient daughter, she had led them in their life together. Her passion drove them and Daniel sometimes felt like he was caught up in a whirlwind. Improbably, they had worked together. He didn't like to think that part of it was because she was raised with a different view of marriage so that Daniel's scattered attention for weeks on end wasn't that much of an affront. She had been bred on indifference.
Sarah had been different. She may have pursued him from the get-go, but she hadn't been able to maintain it. And they'd had more in common than anyone.
So maybe Daniel just never chooses women because it makes it so much easier when they inevitably walk away.
Or maybe Daniel Jackson just isn't as kind as most people want to believe.
"Why are you here?" she finally asks, her back to him as she sits on the edge of her bed, shoes dangling from now motionless fingers. "Why do you keep coming back?"
It's a valid question, because all of their original excuses have already bled away. It's become too premeditated to be the result of a moment of weakness. Daniel knows this. So why does he keep coming back here?
There are too many reasons for him to choose from. Because he likes the idea that he is broken, and that maybe she can fix him. Because he finds her fascinating and he honestly enjoys peeling away her layers like a leering psychologist. He secretly suspects that this obsession will fade as soon as he has her figured out. There is also the obvious reason that she is beautiful and lithe and just as giving in bed as she is about everything.
Daniel tells himself she is just a good substitute, just like he is for her, but he's beginning to wonder if that's just a rationalization. She's beautiful and brilliant and kind, even if she is unreachable. But when they are together she is concrete and here in a way none of the other women in his life ever could be.
He doesn't want to think that this is still really about the fact that Teal'c has the Jaffa Nation to build and Sam and Jack have each other. For a brief shining moment, Daniel had had Atlantis, but even that had slipped away. He suppresses the burning shame that maybe this has always just been about jealousy and loss.
Maybe he is here because he wants something that is his. Even if it is just sex with a woman who thinks she's in love with another man. Maybe that just makes her a safer bet.
Allison is still sitting with her back to him, waiting, but Daniel doesn't know how to put any of that into words.
She sighs softly, something going out of her and she drops her shoes carelessly to the floor, jabbing her feet into them. It's time for her to go back to work before someone notices she's missing again.
He'll be gone by the time she returns.
And this time, they both know he won't be coming back.
Daniel pretty much stops taking downtime. Whenever SG-1 doesn't have a mission and his teammates each take off for their own activities, Daniel just works at the SGC on back-logged research or offers to accompany other teams. Anything to smother the lingering urge to look up flight information. He has the absurd thought that this feels a bit like detox. He's just breaking a different sort of addiction.
He reminds himself that he could just as easily get laid somewhere locally.
Not that he ever tries.
He doesn't let himself miss her or wonder if she even noticed that he had slipped out of her life just as easily as he had snuck into it. Was she even now sitting in the dark holding silent vigil with another patient's loved one?
That thought hurts more than it should.
Daniel can't quite distinguish if he is satisfied or disappointed that she eventually comes to him.
She doesn't say anything, standing on his stoop long after the sun has set with a pathetically small bag in one hand.
Daniel doesn't ask, just lets her in.
They sit next to eat other on the couch for nearly three hours, watching god awful infomercials and even more mindless sitcoms. Her head slowly lowers towards Daniel's shoulder and somewhere between the wonders of the Juiceman and the inanity of Full House her tears finally come.
The story comes out slowly in stuttered bursts. A patient that couldn't be saved, something they should have caught in time. She should have caught. Raging, painful arguments and blame tossed about and all Daniel can think of is House's aloof, cool gaze.
Daniel holds her tightly and lets her cry. He's both saddened and honored that she had to come hundreds of miles to find someone she could cry in front of. He can't think of any other reason for her to come so far, especially that she might have missed him. Not when he hadn't let himself miss her.
He wakes the next morning to find her curled up against his side, still fully dressed and part of him is surprised that she didn't slip away while he slept. She's paler than he remembers and not for the first time, he wonders if it is really good for her to be in that hospital, or if she is ruining herself chasing phantoms.
Glancing over at the clock, Daniel grabs the phone by the bed and calls Sam, telling her he is sick and needs a couple days. She pauses just long enough to make it clear that she knows he is lying, but gives him the days anyway. He knows it is only a matter of time until she calls him on his recent behavior. But not today.
He hangs up the phone and he can feel Allison watching him. He rolls slowly over so they are facing each other, faces half hidden by the softness of pillows. She looks like she is waiting for something, so Daniel reaches out and tucks a strand of long auburn hair behind her ear, trying not to enjoy the feel of it between his fingers.
"Do you like pancakes?" he asks.
Her weary, red-rimmed eyes widen for a moment and then her face softens with relief. She looks so heartbreakingly grateful that Daniel has to look away.
He makes her breakfast and they spend the day talking about things that have nothing to do with diagnostics or Stargates, which, considering how little else either of them have in their lives, is a bit of a feat in itself.
There had never been much time for talk before, but Daniel finds that he enjoys hearing about her escapades as a scrappy kid growing up in the Midwest. He shares a bit about his bohemian life with his parents before he can think to hold back and he has the disconcerting notion that now she is the one analyzing him.
They pull out silly games that Daniel has tucked around from when Cassie was a kid and after hours of arguing the existence of very obscure words on a Scrabble board, Daniel pulls out a dusty copy of Operation on a whim. Janet had given it to him years before as a gag gift. He's never quite been able to get rid of it.
Allison looks more than a little dubious at first, but once they have managed to set up rules that evolve haphazardly into a drinking game of sorts, she is laughing helplessly while Daniel accuses her of cheating. With her nose wrinkled in concentration and her bottom lip between her teeth, she is the picture of steady hands and absorption and Daniel has the sharp wish that she could have known Janet. Or maybe that Janet could have known Allison.
He's not sure what that means.
Allison stays for two days and Daniel isn't completely sure what they filled all that time with. He knows what they didn't do and it throws his transcontinental booty call theory out the window.
But he finds he doesn't mind so much, especially when on the third morning as a cab inelegantly honks its horn from his driveway, she leans in to kiss him tenderly, whispering 'Thank you,' roughly against his ear before disappearing from his life once more, leaving nothing behind but her scent.
They've spoken on the phone at least once a week for the last few months, when Daniel is not stuck off world and Allison is not working against the clock to save another life. He thinks their new ritual is because neither of them has any idea what this thing between them really is anymore. They just know that it's no longer about sex.
As for Daniel, he is almost ready to admit that maybe he had chosen her and not the other way around.
Maybe he is allowed to miss her.
Allison can sometimes be aggravating in her naiveté and her self destructive behavior. But she also makes Daniel laugh and she is just so…nice. Normally that word has a sort of stigma attached to it. Nice girls are boring and not necessarily attractive with bland, stable personalities. Allison is none of those things. But she is nice.
Her compassion is what initially caught his attention and her kindness is just so integral to who she is that he sometimes catches himself wondering how anyone can be that nice.
There was a time people had said that about him, too, he remembers. And if he is still looking for a reason, something to explain everything, maybe that is it. Her kindness and willingness to believe in people reminds him of what he used to be, back before deaths, questionable actions and ascensions. Before he had gotten into the business of using his curiosity to get people and planets killed. It's good to have a reminder, because even the aching discomfort of it helps him stay grounded. Gives him hope that maybe he isn't too far gone.
That maybe he isn't as lost as he feels.
He's listening to her laugh echo down hundreds of miles of wire when the words suddenly tumble out.
"I miss you, Allison."
All sound abruptly stops and Daniel can imagine her stillness, the way she becomes completely motionless when something unexpected or unsettling happens.
Daniel is pretty sure he has broken another one of their unspoken rules, but everyday he is having a harder time carrying on their charade.
She surprises him by saying, "Yeah. Me, too."
It's absurdly comforting that she sounds just as hesitant as he feels. The silence stretches long between them and all Daniel can think is that if he was lost off world tomorrow, no one would even know to call her.
That thought keeps him awake at night, staring at his ceiling. But he doesn't go to see her and she never comes.
And Daniel's still not sure what they're missing.
Daniel doesn't even notice he's stopped walking until Sam orders Teal'c and Mitchell to continue on without them.
Sam's standing quietly next to him, calmly scanning their surroundings and Daniel is uncomfortably reminded that he is standing in the middle of an alien planet…doing what?
His eyes focus on the object at his feet and he realizes he has stopped to stare at a purplish plant. Kneeling down, he swipes his thumb across the broad tacky leaves before bringing his hand back up to his nose, breathing in deeply.
"Plumeria," Daniel mumbles absently.
Sam doesn't ask what that is supposed to mean, she'd stop asking him anything months ago. Right after Daniel had stopped answering. She is now splitting her attention equally between him and the landscape, leveling a concerned, but patient look at him and Daniel has to wonder why he'd ever felt the need to stop talking to her.
"Are you happy, Sam?" he asks, sitting back on his heels and rising one hand to shade his eyes as he gazes up at her.
Sam isn't thrown by the seemingly out of nowhere question, nor does she pretend not to know what he means. Her eyes slip out of focus for a second as if she is seeing something far away from both of them before they latch back onto Daniel, serious and steady once more.
"Yes," she says simply, both unequivocal and unapologetic all at once.
She doesn't blink or flush or get a sappy grin on her face and Daniel just nods and holds up a hand for her to help him to his feet.
She heaves him up and he doesn't immediately drop her hand, rather squeezing it gently. "I'm glad," he says, meaning it.
"I know," she replies, even though Daniel knows she couldn't have. Because he'd never bothered to say it. But then again, maybe she just knows him better than he knows himself. Maybe she understands that sometimes Daniel gets so caught up identifying the tree that it takes him a while to see the forest.
"It didn't make me sneeze," he comments.
Now Sam looks amused, a small smile playing at her lips. "Excuse me?"
Daniel nods at the plant. "It didn't make me sneeze," he repeats.
"Well, then," Sam says, still amused, "sounds like it's worth taking a sample home."
"Yeah," Daniel agrees, watching Sam take out a sample kit after checking in with Teal'c and Mitchell.
And when they finally get home, Daniel has some phone calls to make.
Because he's just solved one puzzle that has been bothering him for ages: Allison's hair smells like plumeria. And, coincidentally, a bizarre plant on P4T-957.
It's strange how one errant little fact can make everything else seem so clear.
Allison is waiting for him when Daniel steps back through the wormhole. She's wearing a white lab coat over loose teal scrubs, with her hair pulled back into a simple ponytail. Sam is standing next to her, the two women talking casually.
"Welcome back, Dr. Jackson," General Landry calls out from the control room above.
Daniel ignores the greeting and continues to stare at Allison, who is now staring back. He'd known she might be here when he returned, but he is still surprised. The image of her standing there with the wormhole casting soft blue light across her features is not one he'd ever imagined.
Daniel's been away from the SGC for six weeks on special assignment with the Tok'ra. On a mission he had personally requested, right after he asked a huge favor of Jack.
"The SGC is always on the look out for exceptional doctors, right?" Daniel had said to Jack as they lounged in Sam's backyard one weekend.
"Is that a hypothetical question?" Jack asked mildly.
Daniel resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Jack should know better than playing dumb with him. "She saved your life, Jack."
"I assume we are talking about Allison Cameron."
Daniel sighed and leaned back in his chair. "I know it's a lot to ask…"
Jack spun his beer bottle casually between his palms, staring contemplatively out over the yard. "I'm not sure it is," he said eventually.
Daniel was a little surprised by the answer, but Jack had changed a lot over the last year, just like they all had. He was a little less likely to ignore things, like he was done with letting life pass him by. Like he was done sacrificing.
"Considering how many times we've saved the world," Jack rationalized, "I think we're entitled to bend the rules every once and while. Don't you think?"
Daniel felt relief flow through him at Jack's words. "So you'll do this for me?"
"You don't want to ask her yourself?" Jack asked with surprise.
Daniel shook his head. "I need this to not be about me."
Jack studied Daniel's face before nodding in understanding.
Two days later, Daniel had stepped through the gate, leaving Allison to make her own choices.
Judging by the fact that she is here waiting for him, looking at ease in the severe, grey room, she had made her choice.
The wormhole snaps off behind Daniel and he slowly makes his way down the ramp, handing his side arm and zat to the munitions officer. He vaguely hears Sam welcome him back before leaving the room. And then it is just Allison and him, and a couple of guards.
"I take it this wasn't quite the career path you imagined when you were running around dusty dig sites as a kid," Allison remarks lightly, taking in his green fatigues and off-world gear.
Daniel shakes his head slightly, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that she is here. "No, not exactly."
"You're surprised to see me," she notes, canting her head slightly.
"I just wasn't sure," Daniel says.
Something akin to discomfort flashes across Allison's face and Daniel takes a moment to admire that she took the chance on coming here. He's been so caught up in his confusion that he never really considered hers, never considered that maybe he doesn't fit into any of her equations any better than she does into his. But she'd taken this step forward.
"I'm glad you're here," Daniel clarifies, wanting to erase the worry from her eyes. He gives in to the urge to touch her face, his thumb gently running along the soft curve of her jaw.
"Daniel," she says lowly and her eyes are bright with a strange mix of desire and fear.
"I want this, Allison," he says with simply sincerity, not bothering to beat around the bush. She leans slightly into the touch, but Daniel pulls back, just a fraction of an inch.
"I just…don't want to be a substitute," Daniel clarifies, unwilling to leave the words unspoken.
Allison closes her eyes for a second, breathing deeply. "You never were, Daniel," she replies steadily. "I think it just took me a while to realize it."
Daniel smiles at her as something eases in his chest. "I know the feeling."
They've both been mixed up and running from things in all the wrong directions, but neither of them had ever been substitutes. That had never been more than an excuse to keep each other at a distance.
Daniel tugs on Allison's hand, pulling her up against his body. She smiles warmly at him, her eyes lighting up just the way he remembered and it's like everything finally slides into place. For a guy who's never really belonged anywhere, she feels a bit like home.
He has a vision of her sitting by the side, the sun in her wind-blown hair as they race down a desert road. He thinks he'd like to see where she grew up and take the time to show her Egypt. Or maybe take her to the planet that smells just like her hair.
Heedless of their audience, Daniel leans in and covers her lips with his, inhaling gently to breathe in her scent. Her hands tangle in his hair, a forgotten folder falling carelessly to the ground.
He doesn't know what brought them together, or whether or not they are meant to be in the grander cosmic sense. All he knows is this moment and he thinks that maybe neither of them needs to be fixed after all. They just needed to stop running.
She's not what he was looking for and she is never what he expects, but somehow they keep coming back to each other.
Daniel can't explain it, but he doesn't have to.
He's just content to let it be.