It wasn't the nightmares that shook her the most, although there were nights she woke shaking and drenched, wishing that she could find a way to scream. She could draw in a breath, but her throat constricted, and the sound couldn't force its way up through her fear and horror. The pressure would build, forcing her to swing her bare feet onto the icy floor and stand. Usually, the cold was enough to shock her into breathing again. Then she could walk for a while, and slowly the tremors would subside.
For a while, Daniel was there. He'd taken to sleeping in the chair beside her bed, a talisman against the images that she couldn't fight off in her sleep. He might have shared the bed with her, but he never did. Sarah hoped that someday she might be able to express the gratitude she felt for that, but at the moment, she was simply too close. So was he. Realizing that was what made the whole arrangement so unbearable.
In many ways, he was the Daniel Jackson that she remembered. He was thoughtful, considerate of her rather fragile emotional state, and stubbornly determined to help her despite the obvious inconvenience it caused him. He still tended to become absorbed in his work, and rather than actually sleep, he spent most of his nights reading or scribbling notes. He had changed, though; he'd grown, learned to value people and friendships enough that, when it really mattered, he could put his work aside. They talked quite a bit when she couldn't sleep, and she gradually learned about the people and events that had shaped the changes in him. She learned about Sha're, and that was when she made her decision.
About a week after he finally told her what had happened to his wife, she was ready. He arrived as usual that evening, packing an armful of books, notepads, and a couple of file folders. She met him at the door just as his things went clattering onto the floor outside her apartment.
"Hi," she bit her lip.
"Um," he replied, staring from her to the pile on the floor and back again. "Don't know how that…happened."
"Same old Daniel," she smiled, shaking her head as she bent to help him gather the books.
"Yeah," he chuckled. Then he squatted to help her, inadvertently reaching for one of the file folders just as her hand touched it. His fingers brushed the back of her hand, and they both froze.
Sarah's breath caught at the touch, and she jerked her head up. Suddenly, she was staring into his eyes--the same brilliant blue eyes that she remembered, still with the power to hold her the way that they had all those years ago in Chicago. Swallowing, she forced her gaze away, grateful that the mess on the floor provided a convenient focus.
She left the folder to him, and he stuffed its scattered contents back inside. Then, they hurriedly finished picking up his books and notes and fled inside, neither acknowledging what had just occurred.
"Um," she gestured toward the couch. "Would you sit down for a minute?"
"Sure," he nodded, moving toward it. He slid around the end of her coffee table and lowered himself onto the couch, depositing his books on the table as he did so.
She smiled, hoping that her sudden discomfort didn't show and slipped onto the cushion beside him. He frowned, quickly picking up her nervousness. She bit her lip again as the speech she had rehearsed all afternoon drained irretrievably from her mind.
"Sarah, um. I don't want us to get confused about…what's happening here," he said. "I know this is a very difficult time for you, and I wouldn't--"
"I know, Daniel," she nodded. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Okay," he said uncertainly.
"I've been thinking, and I've decided that it would be a good idea if you didn't stay tonight," she told him.
He blinked. "Are you sure?"
"I--yes," she nodded firmly. A bit too firmly.
He reached for her hand. "Sarah, I don't mind being here. For as long as you need me to be."
She glanced down and tucked a curl behind her ear with her free hand. "Daniel, I have to learn to get through the night without you in the chair next to my bed sooner or later. I know how difficult this is for you--"
"No," he shook his head.
She looked up sharply, tilting her head. "Daniel."
He closed his eyes and sighed. "All right. But I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be, Sarah. We--care about each other. Don't we?"
"Of course we do. But I still want you to go home tonight," she smiled.
"All right," he nodded slowly. "But--but, call me if you want me to come back."
She drew in a breath, unsure of how to answer. Her chest tightened with a mix of gratitude and trepidation. Part of her did want him to stay, but she knew that if she allowed those feelings to take control, he might well be spending his nights in her bedroom for a very long time to come. She also knew that calling him back might have its own set of consequences, which she wasn't sure that either of them were ready for. Finally, though, she nodded and offered him a smile.