Disclaimer: The usual stuff; I own nothing you recognise, and all that.

Feedback: Much appreciated, believe me

AN: This begins about a month or so after the events of 'Talion', and ignores anything else that might take place afterwards

AN 2: I've got so many other stories on the go at the moment that it may take a while for me to update this, but I wanted to get this chapter up now before the next episode of SG-1 airs and I need to alter the story to accomodate events that take place in that episode as well

Death, Love and Time

As he sat in his office, casually studying the last pieces of paperwork for Earth's own proposals regarding the treaty between the Milky Way galaxy and the former Ori forces, Daniel couldn't stop himself from smiling slightly at the prospect of what awaited them.

It was over.

Almost a year after they'd originally made contact with the Ori (Albeit by accident), they'd finally ended the Ori threat once and for all. It hadn't been a perfect victory, true- they, and their allies, had lost several ships and hundreds of thousands of men in the holy war for the Milky Way- but they'd pulled it off.

As they'd eventually discovered during a confrontation with an Ori Prior on a distant planet, a couple of months after Daniel had reverted back to normal after his own transformation into a Prior, the Sangraal that he and Merlin had sent through the Supergate had succeeded in doing its work. As soon as it had reached the other side of the Supergate, the Sangraal had activated, eliminating the Ori back in their home galaxy… and, according to all information they'd managed to acquire, killing Adria in the process, the energy requirements of the Sangraal draining the Ori battlecruiser so seriously that life support was shut down.

With the Ori gone, the Priors and the battlecruisers still remaining in the Milky Way had only had access to a certain amount of power before they ran out of it. As it turned out, the Ori gave the Priors their advanced powers by forming a simplistic 'link' with them, allowing the Priors to channel basic variations of the Ori's powers without them having to deal with any repercussions from the Ancients; with the Ori 'dead', the Priors and the battlecruisers were eventually left drifting in space or trapped on nearby planets.

With no other way of survival available to them- even the most devoted followers of Origin began to question it when it became clear that even the Priors weren't going to be 'saved' by the Ori-, the Ori's former armies had eventually agreed to surrender to the combined forces of Earth, the Asgard, and the Jaffa. After much debate among the heads of the various races- Generals Landry, Hammond and Jack O'Neill representing Earth, Bra'tac, Rak'nor and Teal'c representing the Jaffa and Thor, Heimdall and Ksavir for the Asgard-, it had been decided to allow the former Ori followers to settle on various planets, although the exact conditions of their settlement would have to wait until the time came for an official peace conference.

The time and location having been settled upon to everybody's satisfaction- they'd eventually chosen to hold the meeting at Earth's Gamma Site, due to begin in a couple of hours from now- and currently, Daniel was just going over Earth's own proposals for the treaty with the former Ori army before he set off for the conference himself. As one of Earth's resident 'experts' on the Ori- Vala, as the 'mother' of the Orici, was naturally the other- his presence at the conference, had apparently been specifically requested by Thor himself, and Daniel wasn't going to let one of SG-1's oldest alien allies down without good reason…

"Daniel?" a voice said from outside his office, breaking into his train of thought.

"Oh, hi, Sam," Daniel said, blinking slightly in surprise as he looked up to see his old friend standing in his door, a casual smile on her face as she studied him at his desk.

"What?" he asked, indicating the small smile on her face, a similar grin on his own. "Something happen that I should know about?"

"Oh, nothing," Sam replied, smiling slightly wider at him as she walked into the office, indicating his desk currently covered in papers as he studied them. "It's just that this seems to be the first time I've seen you looking that intently at something that wasn't written at least a thousand years ago; it's kind of an interesting change."

She shrugged slightly as she sat down opposite him, that same smile on her face as she looked at him. "Plus… well, it's nice to see you looking like that again, really; it seems like it's been a while since you had something to really occupy your time like that."

Glancing down at the papers before him, Daniel chuckled slightly as he realised that Sam had a valid point; normally, when he looked at something as intently as he'd been studying the treaty before him, it normally hadn't been written particularly recently.

"Well," he said, shrugging nonchalantly as he looked back at her, "After all I went through to put an end to the Ori crisis once and for all, I guess I feel an obligation to make sure that everything works out well for everybody now that the situation's over and done with."

Sam laughed slightly at that.

"Same old Daniel," she said, casually glancing down at his desk. "Always wanting to save everybody, aren't you?"

Daniel shrugged again at that, an equally casual smile on his face.

"You know me, Sam; always willing to help, and sometimes refusing to give up even if I'm dead," he said, as he pushed the paper he was currently studying off to one side and looked back at Sam. "By the way, has the President come to any decision regarding the publicity situation?"

"Oh, you mean that whole thing about whether or not to make the Stargate Program public?" Sam asked. With the Ori no longer a threat, the President was at last contemplating making the existence of the Stargate Program public to the rest of the world, given that there was no longer a specific danger out in the galaxy that would merit the secret being kept to prevent possible panic. So far, however, neither the President or the joint chiefs had managed to come to a fixed conclusion about the matter at hand; if nothing else, Sam's trip a couple of months back into a parallel universe where the program had been public since the battle with Anubis at the Antarctic outpost had put a completely new angle on the whole problem.

The smile fell slightly from Sam's face as she leaned forward, resting her head in her hand as she looked at him.

"Well… it's getting complicated," she sighed, a mixed look of frustration and apprehension on her face as she spoke. "I've been discussing it with General O'Neill, General Hammond, and the President for the last few days over the phone and via e-mail every chance I had, and… well it's getting complicated, to say the least."

"In what way?" Daniel asked, anxiously putting the treaty aside; if there was something going on regarding the decision of whether or not to make the existence of the Stargate Program public, Daniel was particularly interested to know.

"Well… with the Ori threat gone, the President's been thinking about ways of averting the problems that arose in that other world when the Stargate went public," Sam explained, as she looked back at Daniel once again. "In that other reality, the main issue was the fact that the American military was in sole control of the Stargate, thus giving us unique access to the military technology that we'd acquired by travelling to other worlds, the rest of the world was- rather understandably, of course- afraid of the technological advantage we had over them. The President was thinking that, if we maybe put a civilian in overall charge of the Stargate Program, with a military commander as second-in-command in case we run into any more trouble with the Lucian Alliance or something like that, we'd manage to avoid some of the worst of the international backlash that occurred in that world. If nothing else, we're not on a war footing here like we were over there, so having a civilian in charge could actually work."

Turning over what Sam had just told him in his mind, Daniel nodded thoughtfully.

"It makes… sense," he said, before he looked inquiringly over at Sam. "But who would they select to take that job? I mean, commanding the SGC isn't exactly something you can just pick a person off the street for; how would they even go about picking the new commander?"

Sam smiled slightly at him.

"Actually, that's part of the reason I came here to talk to you," she said. "You see, the President asked General Hammond, General O'Neill and myself for who we thought would be a good candidate for that position, and, well…"

Her smile grew even brighter as she looked at him. "We all nominated you."

Daniel's eyes widened in surprise. For a moment, he was unable to do much more than stare at her incredulously

"M-me?" he said at last, mentally cursing himself for being unable to do much more than continue to stare at her, but still totally shocked at the whole thing. "But… but…"

"Daniel," Sam said, smiling casually at her friend as she reached out to place a hand on his shoulder, "if you're about to protest that you don't deserve something like that, don't; you really shouldn't think so little of yourself. You've been here longer than almost anybody, you opened the Stargate after two weeks when everybody else took two years to do nothing, you've helped us to form alliances with races that may have otherwise rejected us completely…"

Her smile became a little broader as she continued to look at him. "Quite frankly, I can't think of a better person to command the SGC if it has to get a new commander."

For a moment, as he stared at her as she sat on his desk, her words of praise still ringing in his ears, Daniel was once again tempted to throw protocol out of the window, forget all the rules and restrictions he'd imposed on himself ever since he'd returned from Ascension after the destruction of Abydos, and just grab Sam and kiss her, finally taking the chance to express what he'd been trying to deny for the last four years…

But he couldn't.

She was in love with his best friend, and, no matter how much it hurt, he had to respect that.

"Well… uh… thanks," he said at last, looking at Sam with a small smile on his face. "I… I really appreciate that."

"You're welcome," Sam replied, casually smiling at him once again before she glanced at the clock on his wall and sighed. "Sorry, but I have to go; we're working on that portable version of Merlin's device, and I think we're making some progress with it."

"Uh… yeah, sure thing," Daniel said, looking back at her, trying to avoid showing his still-present shock at what had just taken place. "I'll… uh, I'll join you for lunch in an hour, OK? I'd just like to take a last check over this…"

"Sure thing," Sam said, smiling back at him as she stood up. "I'll be in my office by then; you know where to find me."

As she walked out of the office, Daniel sighed slightly at himself as he turned his attention back to the treaty papers before him.

Like everything awkward in his life- his discoveries in the Stargate Program tainted by the knowledge that he couldn't share them with anyone, what he remembered of his time Ascended versus his inability to do anything with the power he'd possessed back then- when it came to his feelings for Sam, there were good days and bad days. On the good days, like today, when their friendship was comfortable and relaxed, and it was just the two of them talking about general details in their lives, Daniel could almost pretend that they were together, that his feelings were reciprocated, that she really did love him as much as he loved her…

Then there were the bad days, when he remembered that she was in love with Jack, and he felt like somebody had cut out his heart with a rusty knife.

God, Daniel, will you just get over it? he scolded himself, as he picked up his pen and turned back to the treaty. You knew from the beginning that the chances of her seeing you as more than a friend were remote; you should just be satisfied with what you've got and leave it at that.

It was what he'd always told himself when the good days became so good that Daniel almost found himself believing that his wishes had come true.

Maybe one day, he'd actually convince himself to listen to it.

An hour later, having looked over the majority of the treaty to his satisfaction- he'd had to make a couple of minor recommendations, but overall the terms seemed to be fair on all concerned parties- Daniel was heading down the corridor towards Sam's office for their lunch meeting, feeling better than he had in a long while.

True, the Sam issue was still prominent in his thoughts- indeed, it was only ever during a crisis situation that he'd felt as though it wasn't on his mind- but, that aside, he felt things were going pretty well. In a matter of hours or so the final treaty with the former Ori armies would be signed, the galaxy would be at peace at last, and, after that…

Well, who knew? Maybe Daniel would finally have the chance to pay a proper visit to Atlantis…

Reaching Sam's lab, Daniel reached out for the handle, opened the door…

Then, at the sight before him, Daniel's blood ran cold from fear.

Samantha Carter- his closest friend, the woman he'd worked alongside for the past ten years, the woman he'd felt more for than he'd ever felt for even Sha're (Not that he liked to think much about that even to himself)- was lying in her chair, hands desperately clutching her throat, gasping for air, her skin turning increasingly pale as she stared around herself, uncomprehending terror on her face as a faint trickle of blood leaked from a faint cut on her head.

"SAM!" Daniel yelled in horror, tearing into the room and grabbing the phone from her desk.

"I need a medical team in Colonel Carter's office!" he yelled at the phone, desperately staring at Sam as she shook desperately in her chair.

As soon as he heard a vague confirmation on the other end of the line- he wasn't interested in paying attention to the specifics of what was being said, only in knowing that the medical team would be coming as soon as possible- Daniel slammed the phone down and dashed towards Sam, grabbing her in his arms and holding her close to him.

"Hold on, Sam…" he whispered, staring anxiously at her face as her eyes began to glaze over; Daniel was starting to become increasingly concerned that blindness would be one of the side-effects of whatever was happening to her. "It's OK… I've called a medical team… they'll figure out what's wrong with you… you'll be fine… you have to be fine…"

"D… Daniel?" Sam gasped weakly. For a moment, Daniel's heart swelled with hope, then his eyes fell on Sam's face once more and that hope died a little; her eyes were still blank and unseeing, only the faintest gasps to breath indicating that she wasn't gone already.

"I'm here, Sam…" he said, reaching up to tenderly stroke her face, trying to hold back the tears he felt prickling his eyes as he stared at her.

"Cold…" Sam gasped, reaching up to clutch desperately at his shoulder with one hand. "Hurts… can't see… help me…"

"I know…" Daniel replied, desperately trying to control his tears. This couldn't be happening to him… Sam couldn't be dying, not after they'd won, for God's sake! "Just hold on… you'll be fine… I've got a medical team coming… I've done what I can for the moment… you'll be fine… just stay with me…"

For a moment, Daniel turned away to glance anxiously at the door, praying that it would just burst open and reveal Doctor Lam standing there with her team, ready to cure Sam of whatever was wrong with her…

But there was nobody there.

"Daniel…" Sam gasped, her grip on his shoulder tightening as she stared blankly in his direction.

"What?" Daniel replied, looking anxiously back at her; quite frankly, in this state, anything that helped

"You have to know…" Sam gasped, her voice becoming ever more strained with pain, but clearly unable to shake her resolution to keep talking. "Whatever you think… I love you… never Jack… always you…"

Up until that point, Daniel hadn't thought he could be in more pain.

Then Sam gasped out those three little words he'd been wanting to hear from her more than he'd ever wanted to hear anything else, and he felt like someone had replaced his blood with acid.

No… he thought to himself, staring in increasingly growing horror at the trembling form in his arms. There's no way… no way… that life can be that unfair to me…

But he knew what he'd heard.

His most impossible dream had been fulfilled at the same moment as his greatest nightmare had been realised.

He knew now that Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter loved him… just as he knew that Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter was soon going to die.

Before he could even try to respond, Sam let out one last, shuddering, painful gasp, and then slumped in his arms.

Daniel's eyes, already damp from tears, became even wetter as he realised what had just taken place.

She was dead.

Samantha Carter, the woman he loved, who'd just fulfilled his most impossible desire by revealing that she loved him too… was dead.

When the medical team that he'd called upon his arrival finally reached the office, moments too late to even try and do anything, they found Daniel Jackson, a man who'd endured everything from losing his wife to actually dying without much more than a few tears, crouched in the chair behind the desk, Sam's dead body cradled in his arms, his head pressed into the crook between her neck and head, crying harder than the human body should have been capable of.

"I love you too…" he was whispering, tears streaming uncontrollably down his face as he held the body in his arms, apparently unaware or uncaring about the people who'd just arrived. "I love you too…"