-- Chapter Eighteen --

Daniel awoke slowly, feeling better rested than he had in years. Something was different. Not wanting the feeling of complete comfort to end just yet, he kept his eyes closed. Gradually, he became aware of a warm weight next to him. Sam, he remembered with a smile. It hadn't been a dream.

Opening his eyes very slightly, he could see her sleeping form next to him. He had fallen asleep on the sofa with his right foot on the floor. His left leg was stretched out over the cushions. One of Sam's legs was draped rather possessively over his. Her hand lay on his stomach, under his shirt. Daniel's left hand rested comfortably on Sam's hip, his right cupped her face. He closed his eyes again and kissed her hair before resting his cheek on the top of her head.

This was nice.

The quiet sound of a throat clearing nearby made him lift his head. He looked over to find Jack sitting on the coffee table. He was leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees.

And he was staring at Daniel.

Quickly checking that Sam was still asleep, Daniel turned to his friend. "Jack," he said very softly. He wondered how long Jack had been watching them sleep.

"Daniel." Jack's voice was low and even.

Daniel licked his lips, trying to find the words to explain.

"So," Jack said quietly, waving his hands at Daniel and sleeping Sam on the sofa. "This is new." His eyes met Daniel's solidly. "I hope."

Daniel nodded slowly. "Very new, Jack."

His friend took a deep breath and just stared at him for a while. "You know, the four of us have been on a lot of overnight missions," he said finally.

Daniel frowned. He didn't really know where this was going, but he stayed silent.

"Granted, we're usually on other planets, but the fact remains that I've never seen either of you two sleep as soundly as you were just now." Jack paused, his eyes moving down to Sam's face. "You two have been like this all night, I assume?"

"Sam went outside. Neither of us could sleep. We had a little chat, and, um..." Daniel's voice trailed off. "Jack, how long have you been sitting there?"

"Long enough to know a good thing when I see it."

"Jack, I didn't..."

"I know. It's not like I... I never..."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Look at her."

Daniel looked down at the still sleeping Sam. Perfectly on cue, she shifted slightly, moving her hand higher under his shirt, and snuggled her face into Daniel's chest with a contented sigh. Then she stilled again, her lips curved in a small smile.

"Are you in love with her?"

Looking back at Jack, Daniel nodded solemnly. "I am."

"And does she..."

Without thinking, Daniel smiled, remembering Sam's confession from the night before. Jack dropped his head to look at the floor, and Daniel sobered.

"You deserve her, Daniel," Jack said quietly. He looked up at Daniel seriously. "But if you hurt her..."

"You don't have to worry about that, Jack."

Jack gave him a lopsided grin. "I didn't really think I would. You two will be good together. And I guess I need to stop thinking of you and Carter as siblings."

Daniel blinked, gaping at his friend.

"Yeah, I figured out that you two don't see each other that way all by myself. Just a couple hours ago when I woke up to find you like this." Jack waved his hands at them on the sofa.

"Hours?" Daniel sighed. "Jack."

Jack shrugged. "Was gonna go fishing. Ended up doing a lot of thinking instead." He looked back down at Sam, still sleeping next to Daniel. "You know they won't let her lead SG-1 anymore, right?"

Daniel frowned. He hadn't thought of that. "I can transfer to another team."

"Lot of changes in store for SG-1," said Jack, his eyes still on Sam. "But you know, if you make any decisions without talking to her about it, she'll kick your ass." Jack turned back to Daniel. "Besides, she's aware of the regs. I'm sure she knows what she's getting into."

Daniel nodded. "I hope so." Beside him, Sam stirred again, and this time, her eyes opened. Daniel felt her body tense against his as she abruptly pulled her hand out from under his shirt.

"General!" Sam sat up awkwardly, untangling her legs from Daniel's.

"Morning, Carter."

"Sir, I can explain," she said, as she ran a hand through her hair and straightened her t-shirt.

"No need, Colonel," said Jack, shaking his head and then nodding. "It was tough, but I think I figured things out myself. You guys might want to work on your subtlety."

Sam's eyes darted from Jack to Daniel and back again. "Sir, really—"

"Ah!" Jack raised a finger, silencing her. "When, exactly, were you going to tell me about this, Carter?"

"I tried, sir. At your house, more than a week ago."

Jack's eyebrows rose on his forehead. "Oh." With a sigh, he puffed out his cheeks. "Right," he said.

"I'll put in for reassignment just as soon as we're back to the base."

"Well," said Jack, looking back and forth between Sam and Daniel. "You two want to be on different teams?"

Sam glanced at Daniel. "We haven't really talked about it, sir. But what we want doesn't really matter with the frat regs."

"Well, you certainly can't lead the team, Carter. But the rules can be bent. If you'd like, I can get working on obtaining a special dispensation from the President for the two of you to keep working together on the same team."

Daniel turned to Sam. She was staring at her lap. With a deep breath, she looked up at Daniel. He gave her a slight nod, and she smiled.

"Thank you, sir," she said.

"Great!" Jack stood up and rubbed his hands together. "Now that's all settled, let's think about breakfast. How do you feel about omelettes?" He wandered off into the kitchen.

Daniel took Sam's hand in his. "You okay?"

"Yeah." She smiled and squeezed his hand. "It's just that Dad said something about bending the rules, too."

A loud clang from the kitchen made them both jump. Daniel laughed. "Maybe we should get in there and help Jack."

"Well," said Jack as Teal'c joined them in the kitchen a few minutes later. "If it isn't our noble Jaffa warrior! Nice of you to finally wake up, Teal'c."

Teal'c scowled at Jack.

"What?!"

Teal'c raised a hand, his earplugs dangling from his fingers. Wordlessly, he dropped them into the garbage can next to the counter. Sam clapped a hand over her mouth and turned around, her shoulders trembling with suppressed laughter.

"I take it you didn't sleep very well, Teal'c?" Daniel chuckled.

"Indeed I did not." He sent another scowl in Jack's direction.

"Yes, well," said Jack. "There was a perfectly good bed that went unused last night. Maybe tonight we'll have to adjust the sleeping arrangements. What do you think, kids?"

Daniel felt the heat of a blush rise up his neck. "Jack!" He gave his friend a pointed look and glanced at Sam. She was leaning on the counter, with one hand on her forehead, her back to them.

Teal'c looked at each of them, his eyebrow raised. When he caught Daniel's eye, a slow smile spread over the Jaffa's face. "I am most pleased. Daniel Jackson, Colonel Carter, I have long awaited the day when you would take this step."

Sam turned around, her eyes wide. "You—" She stopped, shaking her head. "Of course you knew." She smiled at Daniel as he took her hand. "Um," she looked at Jack. "We're gonna take things slow, sir."

Jack's face scrunched up in obvious confusion. "Why?!"

Sam opened her mouth to answer, then frowned and closed it again. "I, uh..." She turned to Daniel. "I don't really remember right now."

Daniel grinned at her and squeezed her hand. "We'll talk about it later," he whispered.

Sam ducked her head but failed to hide the blush that coloured her cheeks. She was clearly as uncomfortable talking about this in front of Jack and Teal'c as Daniel was.

"So," Daniel said loudly. "Omelettes!"

"Yes!" said Jack. "And I have the secret ingredient right here." He reached into his fridge and pulled out several bottles of beer.

"Jack?"

"Daniel?"

"Do you ever cook anything that doesn't include beer as an ingredient?"

Jack's eyes rolled to the ceiling in thought. After a moment, he looked back at Daniel and popped open the first bottle. "Nope."

Daniel nodded. "Good to know."

--------------------------------

"So," said Jack, as they finished the last of the dishes from breakfast. "What fun should we get into today?"

"I have brought the equipment necessary for an activity that should be most amusing," answered Teal'c. "May I have the keys to your vehicle, O'Neill?"

"Ah, the mysterious fifth duffel. Do tell!" Jack tossed the keys to Teal'c.

"Daniel Jackson can inform you while I retrieve my bag." Teal'c went outside, and everyone turned to Daniel.

"Teal'c brought water guns."

"Sweet! We can have a little two-on-two water hunt."

Sam grinned at Daniel. "That does sound like fun."

"I'm with Teal'c!" said Jack.

"Ex-black-ops and ex-First Prime on the same team?" asked Daniel. "Are we sure that's really fair?"

"Hey!" Sam turned to face him, her hands on her hips, and a playful scowl on her face.

Daniel laughed. "On second thought, I think I got the better deal anyway. Never mind, Jack."

Jack just rolled his eyes. Teal'c returned and the two of them began filling the water reservoirs at the kitchen tap.

"I think I should change my shirt before we get started," said Sam.

Daniel looked at her white t-shirt and grinned. With her wearing that, he'd be tempted to blast her with water himself. "If you insist..." he said slowly.

Sam raised her eyebrows and gave him a sly smile before disappearing into the second bedroom. Daniel moved back into the kitchen.

"Here's one for you, Danny-boy," said Jack as he held out a giant blue plastic water gun. "This is gonna be so much fun!"

Daniel took the toy and gave it several test pumps.

Jack tapped its barrel twice. "You point this end at the person you're aiming at."

"Oh? You mean like this?" Daniel squirted him.

"Hey! Not inside! What are you, some kind of animal?"

Sam reappeared in a black t-shirt and leaned between Jack and Teal'c, her hands on their backs, stretching to see over their shoulders into the sink. "Where's mine?" she asked.

"It's over there, Carter." Jack thrust his chin at the gun sitting on the counter next to Daniel. "How about we play best three out of five hunts? Both members of the opposing team have to be neutralized before the other team wins."

"Looks like you've already been wounded, sir."

"Yes, well." Jack glared at Daniel. "Some people don't yet seem to know that water guns are outside toys."

"Sorry," Daniel said, shrugging. "Guess I must have missed that lesson. I had a complicated childhood."

Jack winced. "I'm sorry, Da—" His apology was cut off as a stream of water blasted him in the face.

Daniel grinned. "You're right, Jack. This is fun!"

"Damn it!" Jack spluttered in mock outrage, pointing to the door. "Out!"

They all went outside, and Jack set the last of the ground rules. "We'll stay within a one kilometre radius of the cabin." He checked his watch. "The first five minutes of any hunt are a no-shoot period. Questions?"

"No, sir," said Sam, knocking off a sloppy salute.

Daniel couldn't help but laugh. He hadn't seen Sam this relaxed since... Actually, he wasn't sure he had ever seen Sam this relaxed.

"Alright! Let's go!" Jack gave a series of complicated hand gestures to Teal'c and then took off running around the pond. The Jaffa raised an amused eyebrow at Sam and Daniel before following Jack at a leisurely pace.

Sam and Daniel headed in the opposite direction. Taking cover behind some trees, Sam crouched to the ground and pulled a hand-held device with a large screen out of her pocket.

"What's that?" asked Daniel.

"Something I've been working on," she answered as she turned the device on. "I brought it up here hoping to have a chance to test it in a non-urban area. This is the perfect opportunity."

The screen lit up, displaying an image of the planet. She pressed a few buttons and the view zoomed in until it centred on a small body of water surrounded by forest. Two small red dots blinked steadily on the screen, slowly moving across the image.

Sam looked across the pond and pointed. "They're over there."

"You're tracking them? How?"

She grinned. "You remember a few months ago when The Trust stole our stargate?" Daniel nodded, and she continued. "Well, I've been working on creating our own version of the locator beacon that they used to tag the gate so they could beam it out of the mountain. I hope that someday, we'll be able to create a chip that could even be implanted subcutaneously." She looked at Daniel, her grin fading and sadness entering her eyes. "We could track people if anyone ever went missing."

Daniel squeezed her arm and smiled. His abduction by the Replicators had hardly been fun, but she really need to stop blaming herself for it. "So, Jack and Teal'c have these chips?"

"Oh, no." She shook her head, turning back to the screen. "We're not quite there yet. But we do have small, functional transmitters. I put one on Teal'c and another on the General as they were finishing filling the water guns."

The two red dots made their way around Jack's pond. "Isn't this cheating?" Daniel asked.

Sam turned to him, her eyes wide with innocence. "The transmitters have to be tested in a field combat situation."

Daniel cocked his head at her, eyebrow raised.

"Oh, come on!" she said. "You said yourself the teams aren't fair. You've seen Teal'c's tracking abilities. All this does is level the playing field! The General would want us to use all our skills in a combat situation. In fact, he'd expect nothing less."

Smirking, Daniel shrugged. "Fair enough." Jack and Teal'c were in for a surprise.

The transmitters worked beautifully, allowing Sam and Daniel to stage two perfect and completely successful attacks on their friends. One more and they'd win the tournament.

"They're on the dock," Sam whispered.

Daniel nodded and peeked around the side of the cabin. He leaned back against the wall, glancing at her. "Are you sure? I don't see them."

She checked the display on the tracker. "They're there."

Leaning around the corner again, Daniel looked for any indication of his friends near the dock. He shook his head. Still no Jack or Teal'c.

Sam grinned. "They must be in the water."

"How are we going to get them if they're underwater?"

She shrugged. "The game just became hide and go seek. We find them, we win. Let's move out."

Weapons primed, they crept along the wall of the cabin, alert for any sign of their friends. Daniel nudged Sam's shoulder and pointed. Two large reeds were sticking out from the surface of the water next to the dock.

Sam grinned again. "We've got 'em now." She scanned the area and gestured for Daniel to wait at the end of the dock while she went ahead.

Tiptoeing across the planks, Sam crouched and quickly tugged on one of the reeds. It seemed to come away easily in her hands. She frowned at it, and then peered into the water.

Daniel's eyes moved over the tree line. He had a bad feeling about this. He glanced back at Sam, who was tapping buttons on her tracker. She waved the device back and forth in front of her, and then bent to pick up something from the end of the dock.

"Oh God," she said.

"What?"

"Ambush!"

Suddenly, Jack and Teal'c appeared out of nowhere, blasting Sam and Daniel with ice cold water. Sam tried to escape to solid ground down the dock, but Teal'c caught her, scooping her up in his arms and lifting her into the air.

Sam struggled to free herself from the Jaffa's grip. "Okay, okay! You win!" she said, laughing.

Teal'c plucked the tracking device and water gun from her hands and tossed them to Jack, who caught them easily. "Using tracking technology to assist you in our battle is most dishonourable, Colonel Carter."

"It was a legitimate field test! Come on, put me down!" Sam squirmed again in his arms. Then, her eyes widened as Teal'c carried her to the end of the dock. "No! No, Teal'c, don't do it!"

"Price you pay for cheating, Carter," said Jack with a broad smile.

Daniel grinned, watching the scene unfold. He didn't really believe that Teal'c was going to throw Sam in the pond. At least, he didn't really believe it until Sam was actually airborne.

With a scream and a huge splash, she disappeared under the water. Seconds later, her blonde head popped up, and she glared at the three men standing on the dock. Teal'c was smiling triumphantly, Jack howling with glee. Daniel bit the inside of his cheek to keep from joining him.

"Okay, how is that funny?" Sam asked, swimming the short distance she had flown.

Daniel walked to the edge of the dock. "Oh, it isn't." He tried to keep a straight face, but a bubble of laughter burst forth, unannounced.

"Daniel!" She scowled up at him from the water.

Struggling to keep his amusement under control, Daniel reached out to help her back onto the dock. "I'm sorry, Sam. But it is funny."

She rolled her eyes and took his extended hand, muttering under her breath. Suddenly, she tugged hard, sending Daniel tumbling head over heels, over her and into the water.

He quickly reoriented himself and surfaced, gasping. His ears were greeted by a deep, guttural guffaw from Teal'c and quiet wheezes of laughter from Jack, who had fallen to his knees on the dock, clutching his stomach.

Sam grinned broadly at him. "You're right. It is funny."

"I can't believe you just did that!"

"I think you'll find I'm full of surprises, Doctor Jackson." She raised a seductive eyebrow, her lips curving into a sultry smile.

"Oh really?" Grinning, Daniel swam closer to her and placed his hands on her hips.

Her fingers danced up his arms to his shoulders, leaning closer. Then she pushed down, dunking him under the water again.

Breaking the surface yet again, Daniel splashed her. "You're not playing fair!"

She splashed him back. "All's fair in love and war."

"Yeah? Which one is this?"

"You tell me."

He splashed her again, pouting. "I can't tell."

Her grin turned mischievous again. "Maybe it's both." A raised eyebrow and slight nod in the direction of the dock told him what she had planned. Together, they sent a small tidal wave over the dock, soaking both Jack and Teal'c from head to toe.

Instantly sobering, Jack stood and glared at Sam and Daniel, his hands on his hips. "Alright! That does it!" With a quick run to the edge of the dock, he leaped over their heads and cannonballed into the water behind them. Jack burst to the surface with a whoop of excitement. "Come on in, T! The water's great!"

"Aren't you getting a little old for that kind of thing, Jack?" Daniel asked, deadpan. "You could have broken your hip or something!"

In response, Jack sent a flurry of water raining down on Daniel's position.

Teal'c quickly joined their impromptu swim, though with a much more dignified entrance, and the four friends began an all-out splashing war. Daniel couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun. It was great to spend this kind of quality time with his best friends. He didn't know when they'd get the chance again.

As the four of them played, Daniel looked around at his friends. Jack had accepted a reassignment to Homeworld Security, and Teal'c had been invited to join the High Council to help lead the newly formed Free Jaffa Nation. Daniel caught Sam's eye. She smiled broadly at him, and he returned the sentiment.

Daniel wasn't sure what the future might hold for him and Sam. But one thing he did know was that they were going to face it together.

THE END
Phew! My first novel-length story. Love it? Hate it? Let me know why.
Please read and review.

Author's note: Once more I'd like to thank Thraesja, the best beta in the world, for her enormous help with this story. I never would have finished writing it without her incredible patience, brilliant feedback, and never-ending support. The phrase "thank you" isn't enough, Thrae. But it's all I've got. So, thank you :)