A/N A great heartfelt thanks to everyone that has stuck with this story. This is the final chapter and I hope that you have all enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
As always let me know what you think.
On a more serious note. I am going to be taking a bit of a break from writing or I should say posting to this site. I doubt I could stop writing, there is just too much Sam and Daniel in me to put the quill down for good, but real life is too hectic at the moment and I find that I have little time to spare for sitting down to write.
I know I have a couple of stories still unfinished and I hate leaving them that way, so I will endeavour to finish them, but it might be a while between chapters.
Anyway I hope you all enjoy the finale to this story!
' Dear Doctor Jackson,
It is with great pleasure that we write to you confirming your re-instatement as a fellow of the Archaeological and Anthropological Society.
Furthermore we hereby enclose your revised and updated credentials and hope that you will take the opportunity to join us in our forthcoming Annual General Meeting, which will convene on the morning of 2nd July at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chicago.
We look forward to once again making your acquaintance and hope that you find the enclosed arrangements for your stay to be satisfactory.'
Daniel stared at the gilt edged invitation with wide eyed disbelief.
The invitation had arrived that morning and judging by Walter's rather erratic scrawl on the post it note, he hadn't quite known what to do with it.
Daniel wasn't too sure what to do with it either.
He fingered the invitation for a few seconds longer before placing it back down on the almost empty workbench before him.
He had to admit that Pritchard's timing was impeccable.
For the invitation and the seemingly seamless reinstatement of his archaeological credentials had arrived on the very day that he was about to begin his new life in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Daniel took a moment to slowly look around the familiar surroundings of the lab that had been his second home for more than a decade. Gone were the detritus of his normal everyday working life, most of it boxed up for shipment on the Daedalus or put into storage until such a time as it were needed again.
The artefacts that he had inherited from Catherine Langford's estate were now on their way to various museums as donations. All in all the once over flowing bookcases and work benches now looked uncharacteristically bare and Daniel couldn't help feeling a small pang of sadness.
He tried to calculate how many nights he had spent secreted away in this lab diligently working through the night in order to decipher the meaning behind some archaic stone tablet or hunched over some perplexing and unintelligible alien trade agreement.
A small smile played across his lips as he remembered just how many of those nights had been spent ensconced in this room with Sam.
Back then they had been fellow conspirators each of them defying Jack's explicit orders to rest so that they could indulge in their shared curiosity over whatever latest mystery was at hand.
Over mugs of strong coffee a mutual respect for one another had solidified into a deep abiding friendship. Their love of science had bound them together in a way that no other team building exercise could ever have come close to achieving.
The foundations of their complex relationship had been laid down in this room and the thought of his lab being used by someone else, by some other member of Stargate Command somehow felt wrong.
Daniel sighed softly.
He had to keep reminding himself that this was not the end of his journey, but the start of a new and exciting chapter in his life.
Shaking himself out of his melancholic stupor he crossed to where a large cardboard box sat on the edge of the workbench and began loading it with his extensive collection of field journals.
Picking up one of the journals, he began to leaf through it, his words bringing to life in vivid detail the last mission that he and SG-1 had undertaken. Abruptly he stopped reading and closed the journal, his hands clenching around the soft leather.
God... he was going to miss this place.
"Finding it hard to say goodbye?"
He turned to find Sam standing in his doorway. She had changed her clothing from earlier, the BDU's she had been wearing now replaced by her dress uniform.
"You could say that...," Daniel confessed somewhat sheepishly, "... I guess I didn't realise until now just how much this place means to me."
Sam crossed the room and stopped in front of him, a soft smile playing across her lips.
"If it's any consolation I had a tough time too." Slipping her arms around Daniel's shoulders, she leaned into his personal space. "You're not getting second thoughts, are you?"
"As if..." Daniel took a moment to settle the journal on the counter top, then slipped both of his arms around her waist. "Who in their right mind would turn down the chance to explore all the wonders of the Pegasus Galaxy? What fool would give up the right to learn all the knowledge of the Ancients that's held within the Atlantis base?"
Sam gave him a pout.
"There was me thinking that I was the one that held all the allure, but when it comes right down to it, you're more interested in some mouldy old archives."
Daniel cocked his head to one side and frowned at her.
"Mouldy old archives... ?"
"You know what I mean..."
He lifted a hand and ran it tenderly through her hair, brushing a couple of loose strands from her forehead. She had let it grow a little longer and she had already told him that the less strict regulations on Atlantis meant that she would be able to grow it out completely.
He was kind of looking forward to seeing her with long hair.
"Trust me, Sam, mouldy old archives, have nothing on you."
He ran his hand down her left arm and caught her hand in his, bringing it up so that he could scrutinize the sparkling engagement ring and bright gold wedding band that adorned her third finger.
He bent his head forward and brushed a soft kiss across them.
"What we have means more to me than all the knowledge of the Ancients and the wonders of Atlantis combined."
Dropping her hand, he pulled her against him for a long and languid kiss.
For a few brief seconds Sam seemed to lose herself in the moment, her hands travelling over his back and up across his neck and into his hair. Then with what sounded light a moan of disappointment, she forced herself to step back and away from him.
"Time out, Doctor Jackson, I can't take command of the Atlantis Expedition with a creased and dishevelled uniform."
"Have I ever told you how sexy you look in dress blues?"
Sam rolled her eyes.
"So I've been told." His smile faltered as a rather unsettling thought occurred to him. "Sam, has Atlantis been informed of our changed status? I mean they do know that we're married right and that we should be assigned married quarters?"
"I've been led to believe that they have, why?"
"It's just you know..." he shrugged his shoulders, " I've kinda become accustomed to us..."
"Amongst other things..."
Sam shook her head at him in amusement and muttered something under her breath that he didn't quite catch.
"Hey, what's this?" Noticing the invitation on the workbench, she sidestepped around him and picked it up.
"Proof that leopards can change their spots."
Sam looked at him for a moment, her eyes full of puzzlement before looking away toward the gilt edged invitation.
Her lips formed upon a soft whistle.
"Wow! He actually came through for you."
"In a way I guess."
She frowned at him.
"What do you mean?"
"I would prefer to say that the status quo has been re-established. The archaeological society are none the wiser and as long as the Stargate Programme remains a secret it's going to stay that way. The only difference now is that Pritchard knows the truth, but he is now bound by the same secrecy rules as we are, so in a way it makes no difference, things haven't progressed at all."
"He did apologise to you on the planet."
Daniel huffed out a laugh.
"That was more down to the fact that I stopped him being infested with a larval Goa'uld than anything else."
"Still... it was an apology... of sorts."
"Yeah I guess."
Sam stared at the invitation for a moment longer then replaced it back on the workbench.
She glanced down at her watch.
"We're due to embark in ten minutes, you better finish up."
"Ordering me around, Colonel?"
"Since when do you ever listen to orders, Daniel."
He gave her a mischievous look.
"Oh, I can think of one or two I've been known to obey."
Sam's face turned a interesting shade of scarlet.
Chuckling to himself he turned back to the pile of half packed journals and began to load them more hastily into the box. Pulling the flaps closed, he ran the tape gun across it.
"It's kinda funny how all I have to show for over a decade of my life is a few cardboard boxes."
His packing for his new life was done, now all he had to do was say goodbye to his old one.
"I guess Mitchell and the others are waiting for us in the gate room, huh?"
When he didn't receive the expected reply he turned to find Sam staring at him tears streaming down her face.
"Sam, what is it? What's wrong?"
He crossed to her, his arms instinctively going around her in comfort.
"It's nothing... I'm just being silly."
Daniel cradled her face in his hands, gently wiping away her tears with his fingers.
"Silly or not, why don't you tell me."
"What you just said reminded me of when you were gone." She hitched a faltering breath. "After you left I came in here wanting to find some kind of closure. Your things were here just as you had left them before we went on the mission to Kelowna. I couldn't stop myself from picking them up, your journals, your glasses, everything I touched reminded me of you and I'd hoped that in some way they would re-establish the link between us that had been broken by your... by your..."
"Ascension," Daniel finished for her.
"I guess a part of me was in denial. I was still coming to terms with the epiphany I had had at your bedside regarding my feelings for you."
"Did you find your closure?"
She shook her head.
"It just re-enforced the enormity of all that I had lost."
Daniel's hands slipped from her face to settle on her shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Sam. I'm sorry I caused you so much pain."
"I got lucky, Daniel, you came back, not a lot of people get to have a second chance and I'm going to make sure that we embrace every second of the one that we've been given."
She placed a tender kiss upon his lips.
"I love you, Daniel Jackson."
He kissed her softly on the cheek, wiping away the single errant tear that had slipped down her face.
"I love you too,"
Sam's hand entwined with his.
"Are you ready?" she asked, "Or do you need a little more time?"
He shook his head.
"I'm ready, Sam."
Daniel let go of her hand so that he could scoop up the cardboard box from the workbench. He turned and began to make his way toward the exit of his lab for the last time, Sam close at his side. Then abruptly he stopped and turned around, crossing the short distance back to his workbench.
Picking up the invitation, he proceeded back toward the doorway, but just as he was about to cross out into the corridor, he dropped the invitation into the trashcan.
The Society of Archaeologists knew what they could do with their invitation.
He had a whole new galaxy to explore.
A whole new life.
And a woman to love.