Title: Even Though Refined by Fire

Season: Season 7, immediately after Lost City. Very vague references to Season 8's New Order.

Category: Angst

A/N: I've been holding on to this one for a while, because I thought it was going to be just a part of a larger Daniel-centric piece. I've since discovered that that's untrue, but I like this scene for itself, so up it goes. Too long for a drabble, not really a ficlet.

Daniel watched Sam as she stood in front of Jack almost as though she were the representative of all of their grief. It had hurt Daniel, physically hurt him to say it. This wasn't the Lost City, and there wouldn't be any further answers for them here. They would have to walk away, the battle won for earth but lost for their strange little family almost in a single instant.

"Hey," Daniel exclaimed, as Sam abruptly stumbled backwards. Teal'c reached out and grasped her arms from behind. Daniel swung around in front of her, grabbing her shoulders.

"Daniel," she said, uncertain, as though looking to him for guidance. She was clearly lightheaded, and in a lesser woman he'd have called it a swoon, but Sam deserved better. He knew that if this was excruciating for him, for Teal'c, it was infinitely worse for her.

She looked like a child, lost, and Daniel suspected that it wasn't the soldier who was in charge of her head right now, but the girl who'd lost her mother so long ago. He understood only too well the ways a loss like that stayed with you always.

"Sam," he said, grabbing her face and looking into her eyes. "It's not over. He's safe, for now. You know that. You know that, Sam. Even if it isn't here, the answer's out there somewhere. We just have to find it."

She stared at him, and he watched the struggle for control play out across her face. Looking back, later, he would know that this was the moment when it started. We just have to find it. He and Teal'c would watch, helpless, inevitably drawn into that which she used to burn off the chaff of honor, duty, sense of self – all in pursuit of that single goal. Later, Daniel would realize the miracle it was that this ended in anything but tragedy for all of them. But for now, he watched her, willing her to find herself again, holding her up while she beat back demons of words unsaid, of life unfinished and of love and loss both consuming and hopeless. He watched her, saw the instant when she was victorious, and rejoiced.

Sam reached up and gently but firmly removed Daniel's hands from her face; stood straighter so that Teal'c dropped his hands from her arms. "Okay," she said. "Then let's go."

Daniel watched her as she walked to the ring platform; if she left without a single backward glance, he knew it was the only way she could preserve the fragile victory that she'd won. He turned to Teal'c, who returned Daniel's gaze silently for a moment before following Sam. Daniel, standing alone, looked up at Jack, at the face of a friend now trapped silently in a prison of all their making. Daniel nodded, once, and then he left to join the others.