Daniel was a little disappointed that he didn't see Sam at lunchtime. He'd considered going to her lab to see if she wanted to join him, but by the time he'd actually gone to lunch, it was nearly two o'clock, and he figured that she had probably already eaten.
Though Sam wasn't there, Jack was, enjoying a piece of cherry pie, so Daniel joined him.
As he ate, the archeologist's thoughts kept going to Sam and what they'd shared these past few days.
"So, what's up?" Jack suddenly asked.
Startled out of his pleasant reverie, Daniel looked at him. "What do you mean what's up?"
"Just wondering why you keep smiling and look so happy. Did you win the lottery or something? It's up to sixty-five million, isn't it?"
"Sorry, Jack. I haven't suddenly become a millionaire."
"Too bad. So, if it's not the lottery, what's the reason for the good mood."
Daniel didn't answer for several seconds. He knew that, sooner or later, Jack was going to have to be told. This, however, was not the place to tell him.
"Come to my office later," he said.
Jack paused, then said, "Okay."
"Later" turned out to be five minutes after Daniel got back to his office.
"Okay, I'm all ears," Jack stated.
Daniel hesitated, wondering what would be the best way to make the announcement. He decided that just coming right out and saying it would be best.
"Sam and I have started dating."
Jack's mouth fell open. "You . . . you're dating?"
"Uh huh, three dates so far, and we spent all Christmas Day together. I know what you're thinking, Jack, and I'm as surprised as you are. I really didn't think that Sam would ever be interested in me like that, but it turns out that I was wrong." Daniel smiled. "These dates have been fantastic, the best."
Jealousy speared right through Jack's heart. He quickly turned away, hoping to hide it, but he was too late.
Stunned, Daniel stared at the older man. There was no mistaking what he'd just seen. That had been jealousy in Jack's eyes, jealousy and pain. The realization of what that meant hit Daniel like a sledgehammer.
"My God. You love her, too," he whispered.
Jack started toying with a statue on one of the bookcases, saying nothing.
"How . . . how long?"
Jack let out a soft sigh. There really was no sense in denying this.
"I'm not really sure," he replied. "A while, I think. I didn't realize it until that whole thing with those armbands. When Carter got trapped behind that force field, and I couldn't get her out, I . . . I couldn't leave her. I knew that I'd rather die than leave without her."
Daniel's mind was reeling with shock. He'd had no idea that Jack felt that way about Sam. Did she know?
"Does Sam know?"
There was a long pause before Jack replied. "Yes, she knows."
Daniel was trying to come to grips with this. Sam had known all this time that Jack loved her. She had gone out with Daniel knowing the possible impact it might have on his friendship with Jack. She should have told him. She. . . .
All at once, Daniel remembered something. It was a couple of days after the attempt to kill the president and High Councillor Per'sus. Sam was still hurting deeply over having to kill Martouf. He'd gone to her lab and found her crying. Jack was with her. Neither of them noticed Daniel. Jack had laid a comforting hand on Sam's shoulder, and their eyes met. For a brief moment, Daniel had seen something pass between them. When they became aware of his presence, they sprang apart. At the time, Daniel hadn't thought much about it, but now. . . .
A horrible, sick feeling made Daniel's stomach tighten. "She loves you, too," he whispered hoarsely.
"Obviously not anymore," Jack responded, "not if she's dating you."
When Daniel didn't say anything, Jack finally turned to look at the archeologist. What he saw shook him. The expression in Daniel's eyes was something you'd see in the eyes of a man who had just lost all hope in life. Jack immediately figured out what Daniel was thinking and cursed himself for his big mouth. What was he thinking saying that?
"Daniel, look. Okay, so Carter and I did . . . feel things for each other, but we knew we couldn't do anything about it, not as long as we were both in the same chain of command. We never even talked about it. A lot of things have changed since then. I know that my feelings have changed, and, obviously, Carter's have, too. Even if we could be together, I doubt that we'd go for it. It would probably be a disaster."
Daniel heard only a portion of what Jack was saying. Sam was in love with Jack. Sam had dated him only because she and Jack couldn't be together. She would never love him.
Daniel felt himself spiraling down into a bottomless pit. Unable to remain in that room for a moment longer, he sprang to his feet and rushed out, blowing right past Jack. He aimed for the elevator, needing to escape. The blood pounding in his head blotted out the sound of Jack calling his name.
He was at the elevator when Jack grabbed his arm. The colonel spun him around, dismayed to see tears on Daniel's face.
"Leave me alone, Jack," Daniel said, jerking his arm out of Jack's grasp. "Just leave me alone."
"Daniel, listen to me." Jack looked about to see if anyone was around. He saw one of the civilian scientists come around the corner. Forcing his face into a pleasant expression, he nodded as the man walked toward them. The guy greeted him, then went into one of the offices, shutting the door behind him.
Jack turned back to Daniel only to discover that the archeologist had managed to slip away, probably down the stairs.
"Dammit," Jack cursed under his breath. He punched the button for the elevator. He suspected that Daniel was intending to go home, but he couldn't go anywhere until he got his car keys and wallet from his locker.
By the time the elevator arrived, Jack was about ready to take the stairs instead. He headed straight to the locker room. Not seeing Daniel there, he opened the man's locker and saw his friend's keys and wallet sitting on the shelf. Okay, so if Daniel hadn't left the base, then where was he?
That's when Jack remembered something. After the second time Daniel locked himself out of his car, Jack had told him to get a spare key and hide it under the car in one of those magnetic key holders. For once, Daniel actually followed his advice.
Jack went to a phone and called the main guard station at the entrance to the complex.
"This is Colonel O'Neill. Has Doctor Jackson left the base?"
"Yes, sir. He left just a few minutes ago."
Making an effort not to slam the receiver down, Jack hung up. Now what was he going to do? Calling Daniel would be a waste of time since it was a safe bet that he wouldn't answer.
Jack sat on a bench and ran his hands through his hair.
'Well, you really screwed up this time, didn't you.'
At this very moment, Daniel was probably out there somewhere thinking that Sam was dating him only because she couldn't be with Jack. Even if he could get Daniel to listen to him, he didn't know what he could say to change the man's mind.
Could Daniel be right? Jack really didn't think that Sam would do something like that, but he couldn't be a hundred percent sure . . . unless he asked.
Damn. This was so not something he wanted to do. But, for Daniel's sake, he had to.
He returned to the elevator and went to Level 19. Sam was typing something on her computer when he came in.
"Hello, sir," she greeted with a smile.
"Carter, we have to talk."
Her smile vanished, replaced by an expression of trepidation.
"About . . . about what, sir?"
"Meet me on Level 17. This needs to be done in private, with no interruptions."
Jack turned on his heels and walked out, leaving a worried Sam in his wake. After several seconds, she left the lab and headed to Level 17, which contained mostly storage areas and empty rooms that were occasionally used for a variety of purposes. It was unlikely that anyone else would be there.
Sam found Jack in one of the empty rooms, pacing back and forth.
"Sir, what is this about?" she asked, afraid that it had something to do with hers and Daniel's relationship.
Jack stared at her searchingly. "I know that you and Daniel are dating."
Sam blushed and dropped her gaze to the floor.
"Do you love him?"
The blunt question had Sam's head jerking back up. "Sir! That's a very personal question."
"Yes, it is, and, normally, I wouldn't be asking it, but . . . circumstances have made it necessary."
Sam frowned. "What kind of circumstances?"
Jack suddenly looked very uncomfortable. "Daniel and I had a conversation, and certain . . . things were unintentionally revealed . . . by me."
'Oh no. Please don't let him be saying what I think he's saying.'
"Dammit, Carter, I spilled the beans," Jack blurted out. "When he told me that you guys were dating, I reacted, and he figured out what was going on between me and you. I couldn't deny it without lying to him, so I had to tell him."
Tightness was building inside Sam's chest. "W-what did he say?"
"Actually, he really didn't say anything, but it was pretty clear what he was thinking." Jack paused. "I'd guess that you're smart enough to figure out what he was thinking, too."
Sam was now starting to feel sick. Yes, she did know. Daniel was thinking that she was dating him because she couldn't have the man she really loved.
"I-I-I have to talk to him," she stammered. "I have to tell him it's not true."
Jack gazed at her intently. "You do love him."
"Yes," Sam whispered. "I love him."
Jack accepted the admission, clamping down on the twinge of pain in his heart.
"You and I never actually talked about this thing," he said, "not after that Zatarc stuff."
Sam's gaze fell back to the floor. "I, um . . . I do care about you, sir. It's just that, what with regulations and everything, nothing could come of it, so I just tried to put it out of my mind."
Sam was feeling more uncomfortable by the second. "I eventually realized that what I felt wasn't . . . wasn't exactly what I thought it was."
Jack realized that she was telling him she wasn't really in love with him. That hurt.
"And then you fell in love with Daniel," he said.
"No. I-I mean, this thing with Daniel didn't really start happening until this last weekend. Before then. . . ." Sam didn't continue, not wanting to admit to her C.O. what she'd come to realize about her feelings for Daniel.
Jack took in what she was saying. So, these feelings Sam had for Daniel were brand new. It didn't really matter, though, did it. The point was that she loved Daniel . . . and didn't love him. This was something he had to accept and live with.
Jack took a good look inside himself. Though it hurt to know that Sam now loved someone else, it wasn't tearing him apart, not like it did when he came home from that first mission to Abydos only to discover that Sara was gone. Maybe these feelings for Sam really were going away.
This really was for the best. Sam could have the life with Daniel that she could never have had with him. And she deserved that. So did Daniel.
"I'm okay with this, Sam," he said.
She looked at him.
"Yeah, it bothered me when I found out that you and Daniel were dating, but let's face it. The two of us would never have worked out, even if the regs weren't in the way. You're way better off with Daniel, who actually doesn't mind listening to your technobabble. And he'll never drag you off to go fishing or to a hockey game."
Sam almost smiled at the comment.
"Go talk to him, Sam. Tell him that you love him. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that he is completely head over heels in love with you."
"Is he still here?"
"No, he left. I tried to stop him, but . . . he was upset."
Sam turned and hurried out of the room. She went straight to the locker room and got changed. A while later, she was in her car and heading down the mountain. She had a feeling that Daniel was not going to want to see or talk to her, so she was going to have to get tough.
When she got to his apartment, she saw that his car wasn't there. Where was he? Where would he go?
Knowing that he had to come home eventually, Sam parked her car where he wouldn't see it, then went up to his apartment. She let herself in with the key he gave her so that she could feed his fish whenever he was stuck in the infirmary.
Sam wandered around the apartment for a while, studying the artifacts and pieces of art that he'd collected. Then she looked at his books. After that, she paced. An hour crawled by. It was now dark outside.
Picking a book, Sam curled up on the couch and tried to read, but her eyes spent more time looking at the clock than at the pages of the book. Yet another hour passed. She was starting to get worried. She went back to the window and saw that it had begun to snow. That made her even more worried. It was dangerous enough driving in snow, but for someone to do so when they were upset and probably not paying a lot of attention to the road was far worse.
Sam got her cell phone and called Daniel's. The call went straight to voice mail, meaning that the phone was either turned off or not working.
"Where are you, Daniel?" she asked aloud. "Please come home."
With a weary sigh Daniel approached the door of his apartment. His need to escape had put him on the highway, where he drove blindly, paying no attention to where he was going, ignoring the little voice that told him he shouldn't be doing this without his wallet and wearing BDUs. At least he'd had the presence of mind to take the patches off.
By the time he stopped, he'd gone over forty miles. He then just sat in his car, trying to deal with the terrible pain inside his heart. Sam would never love him. She loved Jack. Had she chosen to date him only because she couldn't have the man she really wanted? Daniel didn't want to believe that. He wanted to believe that she'd dated him because she thought she might get over her feelings for Jack and come to care about him instead.
He should have known this happiness wouldn't last. He'd let himself hope, and, now, he'd paid the price. He didn't know what he was going to do now. How could he stay when every time he looked at Sam, it would be like a knife going through his heart?
Daniel opened his door, frowning when he saw that the light was on. And then he saw Sam. For a moment, he had the urge to turn and run away. Instead, he stepped inside and closed the door.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, his voice already trembling. "God, Sam. You knew I loved you, yet you let me hope that you could love me back when, all this time, you've been in love with Jack." Tears filled his eyes. "How could you do that?"
"Daniel, no!" Sam cried, hurrying forward. "It wasn't like that at all! Yes, I did have feelings for Jack, but I recently started questioning what I really felt for him. I finally realized that it wasn't nearly as strong as I'd thought it was. Maybe it was more than just an infatuation, but it was never the true love I believed it to be."
Daniel turned and walked over to stare out the French doors leading onto the balcony.
"Please tell me the truth, Sam," he whispered. "Did you agree to date me because you couldn't be with Jack?"
Sam came up to him. "No. Please believe me, Daniel. Dating you had nothing to do with Jack. I chose to date you because I wanted to, because I believed that we might be able to have something good together. And now I know that we can." She took the final step between them. "Daniel, I love you."
Daniel's heart skipped a beat, his breath freezing in his lungs. For several seconds, he couldn't move, afraid that if he moved even one muscle, this moment would shatter, and the words Sam just spoke would disappear.
At last, he turned his face to her. There were tears in her eyes, eyes that were pleading for him to believe her. He gazed long into those eyes, seeking the truth of her words.
In the end, it was not her eyes that showed him but her lips, when she crossed the distance between them, cupped his face in her hands, and brought her mouth to his. Daniel engulfed her in an embrace and let himself go.
The kiss was like two atoms fusing. Sam soon had Daniel pressed against the glass of the French doors, one of her hands already under his shirt, their mouths locked in a kiss of insatiable hunger. Daniel's right hand left its spot on her back and descended to grasp her hip. He pressed his hips hard against hers, making her moan with need. She ripped her lips from his, took his hand, and pulled him toward the bedroom.
Daniel's heart was threatening to come flying right out of his chest. The blood was pounding through his veins like a drum. And when, upon reaching the bedroom, Sam turned to him and proceeded to strip off her top, revealing her beautiful upper body clad in nothing but a white bra, he was afraid that he was going to pass out. Managing to remain conscious, he covered the distance between them in a single stride, lifted her up, and laid down upon her on the bed.
The weight of Daniel on top of her, his mouth hot and demanding on hers, sent the desire inside Sam spiraling completely out of control. She fisted her hands in his shirt and dragged it up over his head, his glasses coming off in the process. One of her bra straps had slipped off her shoulder, the cup it was attached to sliding down a little. Feeling the soft, smooth skin beneath it come into contact with his own skin, Daniel lifted a hand and pulled the material down the rest of the way.
Sam gasped as his hand covered her breast, his fingers stroking her. She managed to reach behind her back and unfasten the bra. It soon lay forgotten somewhere on the floor.
How they managed to get the rest of their clothing off without separating was something they didn't know. They only knew that the press of their fully naked bodies against each other had both of them trembling with the need to take the final step of consummation.
Daniel sat upright, his legs folded beneath him, pulling Sam up with him. His mouth fell upon her neck, kissing down its length, his tongue tasting her skin as he descended to the valley between her breasts. One of his hands rose back to her right breast, the touch of his fingers wrenching another gasp from Sam's throat. His hands were soon replaced by his lips, his body inflamed with desire.
"God, Daniel," Sam gasped. "I want. . . ." Her voice trailed off in a moan as his lips grew bolder.
Daniel's head lifted, and his eyes met hers. Sam saw passion in the brilliant blue depths, but also tenderness and so much love that it made her breath catch in her throat. His hand rose, fingers gently caressing her cheek, her jaw, her lips.
"I love you," he whispered.
Sam cupped his cheek and smiled into his eyes. "And I love you."
With his eyes locked upon hers in an intense gaze, Daniel took that final step of consummation. A shuddering sigh issued from their lips at the feeling of their bodies uniting for the first time. For Daniel, it was a union more than just of him and Sam. It was as if the souls of Lantash and Martouf still lived within him and were at last experiencing the joy that they had so dearly wanted for so long.
Eyes closing in pleasure, the lovers began to move, slowly, gently, feeling like nothing could ever feel better than this. Daniel's mouth returned to Sam's throat. She tangled her hand in his hair as she let herself get utterly lost in the lovemaking. It had never felt so good, so perfect, like this was how it was always supposed to be between them.
Daniel's emotions were nearly overpowering him, his love for Sam combining with the love that Lantash and Martouf had felt for her into something so strong that he was almost crying. He grasped her more tightly, wanting to be here with her like this forever.
As they rose on the tide of passion, their movements gradually grew faster. Small cries rose from their throats, their senses swirling in a haze of rapture. Daniel was so close to going over, hanging on the edge of an ecstasy he had not experienced in five long years. And then Sam began to shudder in his arms as she reached climax. With a cry to match her own, he hurled over the precipice with her in a powerful rush that overwhelmed his senses.
Sam's cry was close to a scream as her whole body was overcome by the exquisite ecstasy, her mind nearly blacking out from the force of it. She was distantly aware of Daniel finding his own release, but so lost was she in the fire that conscious thought was impossible.
By the time their climaxes reached their conclusion, all Daniel and Sam could do was cling to each other, the sound of their blood pounding fiercely in their ears. As soon as he felt strong enough to move, Daniel laid down with Sam upon the bed, coming to rest upon her. He began placing soft kisses on her face, his fingers sweeping back sweat-dampened tendrils of hair. At last he looked at her. There was no need for either of them to say anything. It was all in their eyes. Sam pulled Daniel's lips down to hers in a long, slow kiss that said "I love you" more completely than any spoken words ever could.
The emotional impact of what she'd just experienced with Daniel was threatening to overwhelm Sam. Never before had she cried after lovemaking, but she was so close to it now. She didn't want to cry, thinking it would make her appear weak and silly. But then Daniel gently cupped her cheek and turned her gaze to his, and she saw the brightness of tears in his eyes. Sam's own tears welled up and spilled over. As Daniel kissed them away, she tasted the salty wetness of his tears fall upon her lips. When he at last lifted his head, she wiped the wetness from his cheeks, smiling up at him.
"I wish there were words to tell you how much I love you," he said.
"You don't need words, Daniel. I already know. It's the same way I feel about you."
The new lovers got under the covers. Daniel drew Sam down to lie snuggled beneath his chin, his hand softly stroking her back. He heard her sigh contentedly.
"If things had happened differently on Revanna, if Lantash hadn't gone into me, do you think that we'd ever have gotten together?"
Sam gave serious thought to the question. "I honestly don't know. Before that happened, I really didn't think of you this way."
"Me too. To be honest, I had no desire to be with any woman. I was still hurting too much over losing Sha're."
The mention of Daniel's dead wife made Sam's thoughts go off in that direction. He had loved Sha're so much, and it had been less than a year and a half since she died. Could Daniel truly—
"Don't, Sam," Daniel commanded quietly.
Sam lifted her head and looked down at him. "Don't what?"
"Don't start wondering if my feelings for Sha're are going to affect how I feel for you."
Shocked that he'd known what she was thinking, she stared at him. "Daniel, are you psychic?"
"No, but I could feel you tensing up, and it wasn't much of a stretch to figure out what you were thinking." Daniel's eyes caught hers. "I loved Sha're very much. Before you, she was the only woman I ever truly loved. I think that a part of me will never stop loving her and missing her." He touched Sam's face. "But what I feel for you, Sam, it's . . . it's like all my life I've been waiting for the one woman who could be everything to me, more than just a lover and life companion, a woman with whom I could share every facet of my life, someone I felt both an emotional and mental bond with. With Sarah I had the mental bond, but, though I cared about her a lot, I never really loved her."
Daniel paused for a moment. "Sha're was very excited about learning the history of her people and expanding her reading and language skills. She wanted to know all about Earth and my people. But, beyond that, she was content to just be my wife. When I started searching Abydos for more archeological sites, it wasn't Sha're who came with me, it was Tobay and some of the other boys. I don't like to admit it, but it disappointed me sometimes that Sha're lacked that spark of desire to learn all there is to learn, to explore and see what's out there." His gaze returned to Sam's eyes. "And then I met you. When you and I had our . . . epiphany in the cartouche room, I realized how much I'd missed sharing that kind of intellectual connection with someone."
Daniel stroked Sam's cheek. "You are everything I could possibly want, Sam." He smiled. "You're perfect."
A grin formed on Sam's face. "Boy, are you ever in for a letdown, Daniel, if you think I'm perfect."
Daniel laughed softly. "Okay, then you're perfect for me. How's that?"
"Better." Sam gave him a kiss. "I feel the same way about you. Actually, I feel really stupid that I didn't see it before. You are perfect for me. Before I met Jonas Hanson, the men I was attracted to the most were guys like you, brilliant and compassionate. Narim and Martouf had those qualities." She looked closely at Daniel. "I know what you're wondering. What about the colonel? We both know he's a lot smarter than he pretends to be, but he really isn't at all like you in most ways."
"You can say that again," Daniel responded in amusement.
"I think the thing with Jack was a whole lot like my relationship with Jonas, although Jack is ten times the man Jonas ever was."
Daniel smiled. "And not exactly what I'd describe as the lunatic fringe."
Sam laughed. "I forgot that I told you that about Jonas. Yes, I admit that I was attracted to that air of danger about him. But it was more than just that. Jonas was charismatic, had a fun sense of humor, and was loaded with charm. There was a quality about him that appealed to the side of me that admires a strong, take charge kind of guy. He was a natural-born leader, just like Jack. The problem was that he was also egotistical and a control freak, something I blinded myself to until I couldn't anymore. But, even if that hadn't been the case, the relationship with Jonas would have eventually ended because he would never have been able to give me what I really needed to be happy. We just weren't compatible enough. I guess I didn't learn my lesson because I went and fell for the colonel even though common sense should have told me that he and I were no more compatible than Jonas and I had been." Sam smiled at Daniel and brushed a finger over his lips. "But I got it right this time."
Sam's smile faded. "There's something you should know. After I figured out that I was in love with you, I thought back on these years, and I realized that, although I thought that all I felt for you was friendship all that time, I now know that it was more, right from that first day I met you. But, in the beginning, you were married, and then I started developing the feelings for Jack. I blinded myself to the truth about how much you really meant to me."
Daniel accepted Sam's words, understanding how a person could fail to see what was right before their eyes. He'd done the very same thing, failing to see even after Sha're's death what Sam could really be to him.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see," he murmured.
"No truer words were ever spoken."
"But I really do think that, if we had met before I went on the mission to Abydos, I'd have fallen head over heels for you right off."
Sam smiled. "Really?"
"Absolutely. Then, after the mission was over, I'd have come back to you, and, by now, we'd probably be married and have a kid or two."
Sam's smile widened into a grin. She really liked that thought.
Daniel pulled her mouth to his. "I suppose we should go back to the base," he said when their lips separated. "We are supposed to be working today."
"Well, technically, I had permission from my C.O. to leave, and you being a civilian, they can't arrest you for being AWOL."
"No, they'll just dock my pay," Daniel responded, smiling.
"With the hours you normally put in? Not hardly. How often do you actually take off the days you're supposed to have off?"
"Um . . . not often."
"I rest my case."
Daniel lifted an eyebrow. "You know, the same is true about you, Sam."
"Yes, I know. We both work too much."
Daniel brushed a hand across Sam's body. "Not anymore. From now on, I plan to take advantage of every day off."
Sam began to smile. "You do, huh?"
"Uh huh." One of his fingers began drawing patterns on her breast, making her respiration speed up. "There are certain things I can do on my days off that I can't while at work."
Sam's breath caught in her throat as Daniel's fingers grew bolder. "What . . . what sort of things," she breathed.
"I think you can figure that one out for yourself, Sam," Daniel replied just before taking her mouth in a passionate kiss.
What followed was Sam being pleasured like never before. Daniel devoted all of his energy to driving Sam wild with ecstasy. He brought her to a crashing climax using just his mouth and hands. After it was over, she lay panting, her whole body still vibrating with sensations. Once she'd recovered, she decided that it was only fair to return the favor and sent Daniel on a rapturous journey into the stratosphere. He came crying her name. In the aftermath, he lay in silent recovery for several moments.
"I'd almost forgotten how good it feels to have this with someone," he finally said.
"There's been no one since Sha're?"
"No." 'Not willingly,' he added silently. Refusing to think about Hathor, he continued. "I'm not the kind of guy who's into casual sex, so going out and finding some woman to . . . satisfy those needs was not appealing to me. In case you're wondering, Shyla and I never had sex. The laws of her people required that she remain a virgin until her wedding night."
"There hasn't been anyone for me either, not since before I became a part of SG-1. I've . . . been lonely sometimes. I tried to pretend that I was fine, that I didn't need that in my life, but I was just fooling myself."
Daniel pulled her close. "I've been lonely, too, Sam." He gazed at her. "But not anymore. Neither of us will ever have to be lonely again."
Sam brought her lips to his. "I don't want to go back to the base. I want to stay with you for the rest of the day."
"Could you call and say that you're not coming back, that something personal has come up?"
"I'm sure I probably could."
Sam made the call and got through to General Hammond's aide. She told the man that something off-base required her attention and that, if it was all right with the general, she'd be back at work first thing in the morning. The aide told her to hold on while he talked to Hammond. He came back on the line a few moments later and passed on the message that the general said that was fine.
Sam hung up the phone and went back into Daniel's arms. "All taken care of. I'm all yours for the rest of the day."
Daniel smiled. "That's good, because I have a whole lot planned for you."
"Mmm. I can't wait to find out what."
The remainder of the daylight hours were spent mostly in bed, the new lovers coming to know each other's bodies in intimate detail. In between time, they talked, sharing still more intimate things. For the first time since Sha're's death, Daniel really opened up to someone about it, confessing the terrible depths of his grief and pain. Sam held him as he cried over the death of the woman who had been his first true love. In turn, Sam talked about the sorrows of her own life, culminating with her mother's death. Then it was Daniel who held her as she cried.
At six o'clock, they finally got up, showered and got dressed. They were both starving and decided to go out to dinner.
"I'd like to go home and change into something a little nicer," Sam said.
"Okay. How about if we meet at the restaurant? Say 7:30?"
They decided on a restaurant, one that didn't need a reservation, then Daniel walked Sam out to her car. The couple shared a long kiss.
"See you in an hour," Daniel said. He watched as Sam got in her car and drove away.
Back in his apartment, Daniel went through his closet to decide on what to wear. He pulled out the beautiful suede jacket that had been Sam's Christmas present, deciding that, this time, he was going to take the chance and wear it. He turned back to the closet, and his eyes fell upon something, an empty box sitting on the floor. The box had contained Jack's present to him. That made Daniel think about his friend and the feelings the man had for the woman who was now Daniel's lover.
Daniel worried about what this might mean for his friendship with Jack. Things had not been the greatest in the world between them these past couple of years, but Daniel still considered Jack to be one of his best friends. He didn't want to lose that friendship. But would Jack be able to handle seeing him and Sam together?
Daniel decided that he needed to talk to Jack and that it couldn't wait until tomorrow.
Changing into the clothes he'd wear for his date with Sam, Daniel drove over to Jack's house. He sat in the car for a couple of minutes, trying to formulate the words he was going to say. He then got out and went to the door.
Jack was a little surprised when he answered the door to find Daniel on the other side. He studied the man's features, trying to gauge the archeologist's mood. What he saw answered the question in his mind.
"You and Carter got everything straightened out."
"Yeah. Yeah, we did."
"Good. I'm glad." Jack stepped back from the door. "Come on in."
Daniel entered the house, searching the older man's eyes. "I'm sorry, Jack."
"Don't be. I told Carter that I was okay with this, so now I'll tell you the same thing."
"But is it really true? Are you really okay? Please tell me the truth, Jack."
"All right." Jack walked further into the room, Daniel following him. "I'm not gonna lie and say it doesn't hurt at all, because it does. I still care about her in ways that I shouldn't, but just caring about someone isn't enough." He looked straight into Daniel's eyes. "I have never been the smartest guy around, but I'm smart enough to see that the thing between Sam and I could never have been more than a brief romance. It wouldn't have survived the long haul. All the love in the world isn't going keep a relationship going forever if two people don't have much of anything else to build a foundation on. Sara and I were good together. We had a lot in common. But me and Sam. . . . I'd lay odds that we'd have been at each other's throats within a few months. What you and she have is different, till death do us part kind of stuff."
"I don't want this to affect our friendship, Jack."
Daniel's gaze sharpened even more. "And what about the team? Are you going to be able to see me and Sam together on missions and not be bothered by it? I know that, in your position, I would be. In fact, I don't know if I could have handled it."
"Well, you see, Daniel. That's one of the ways that our situations are different. As much as I cared about Sam, my job always took precedence. If it hadn't, I'd have resigned so that I could be with her. But you would walk away from the program and never look back if it was the only way you could be with her."
"Yes, I would," Daniel confirmed. He'd been considering leaving the program when he thought he couldn't have her. He'd quit in a heartbeat if it was the only way they could be together.
"Don't worry about me, Daniel. This is the way it should be. You and Carter are the ones who belong together. So, I don't want you guys feeling uncomfortable around me. Got it?"
After a moment, Daniel nodded his head. "Got it." There was a brief pause. "Well, um . . . I need to go. Sam and I have a date."
"Sure. Go have fun. Don't forget, though, that we have a mission in the morning, so don't stay up all night."
Embarrassed by what Jack was implying, Daniel simply nodded. He went to the door, Jack coming with him.
"Daniel, there's something I want you to know," the older man said. "When I thought that you might decide to quit the SGC and go back to being an archeologist, it . . . bothered me. You told me that you had begun to question your place on the team, wondering what purpose you really had. Well, I'll tell you what that purpose is. It's being who you are, a guy who's way too smart for his own good, who's so stubborn that his skull might as well be made from titanium, and who will fight every single time for what he knows is right. You are still a pain in the ass, and you probably always will be, but . . ." Jack paused a moment, then uttered words he should have said a long time ago, "but I admire you, Daniel, and the kind of man that you are."
Stunned, Daniel didn't know what to say. How long had it been since Jack had said anything like that to him? A very long time.
"Thank you," he finally said. "It . . . it means a lot to hear you say that."
Jack nodded once in reply.
"You don't have to worry about me quitting, Jack. There's no longer any reason for me to leave. I now have everything I could possibly want right here."
A little smile came to Jack's lips. "I think I can say, Daniel, that that's the best news I've had in quite a while." His eyes met Daniel's. "Welcome home, Danny."
Hearing Jack call him 'Danny' for the first time in years made Daniel smile, a weight that had been upon his heart lifting at last.
As he made his way to his car, the archeologist sent a silent word of thanks to Lantash. In taking Daniel as his host, the Tok'ra had forever altered the course of Daniel's life, ultimately resulting in him finding a level of peace and happiness that he might never have found otherwise. He didn't know what the road ahead might bring, but he did know that he would never again feel like he didn't belong. He knew where he belonged: right here with his friends and the woman he'd love for the rest of his life. No place else could compare to that.
"Mail call," Adam Fenway said as he stuck his head into Mick's tent. "Looks like you're a popular man this time around." He entered and handed the New Yorker some letters. "You got five."
"Ah, no doubt from all the lovely ladies back home pining away for me."
Adam smiled. "Maybe the other four, but one of those is definitely not from a lady."
Wondering from whom the mysterious fifth letter could be, Mick turned his attention to the mail as Adam left. He smiled when he got to the third envelope in the pile.
"Ah, Daniel. About time we heard from you, my boy," he murmured.
It had been almost three weeks since Daniel left for home, and Mick had been wondering what was going on. Would the contents of this letter be the news that the archeologist was coming back or that he'd chosen to stay? Mick hoped that it was the former. He missed having Daniel around here. There was just something about that young man that made you care about him.
Truth be told, what Mick really wanted to read in this letter was that Daniel wasn't coming back because the woman who'd captured his heart had decided to stop being an idiot and return his affections, but the Irishman didn't hold out much hope for that.
Sitting down on his cot, Mick tore the envelope open.
Two minutes later, the rest of the camp heard the sound of a very loud outcry, an exceedingly enthusiastic exclamation of a single word: