This fic was inspired by a song by the band Heart (virtual cookies to those of you that can guess which one *g*), and I have wanted to write a fic - for any fandom! - based on it for a long, long time. Here's hoping I did the song justice... Enjoy, and be sure to let me know what you think!
Daniel Jackson stood staring at the receding taillights of Sarah Gardner's car as she drove away from the restaurant in the small town just outside the Chicago suburbs where they'd just had dinner. He'd assured her he could call a taxi; there was no need for her to give him a ride back to his apartment near the Oriental Institute. After the... discussion they'd shared over their meal, Daniel didn't think he could handle spending any more time with his now ex-girlfriend. He couldn't believe he'd missed their two month anniversary. The new Egyptian collection that had arrived at the institute was fascinating, yes, but still...
The brown-haired man sighed and ran a hand through his almost chin-length locks. Apparently Sarah had been silently fuming for the last week. He wished she hadn't chosen to break things off at this particular restaurant, though. It was where they'd gone for their first date. Although thinking about it, that was probably why she picked it. Sarah could be truly vindictive when she was angry.
Daniel shook his head. It wouldn't do any good to stand there and rehash everything. He glanced back at the front doors of the establishment behind him, contemplating going back inside to call for a cab. No, he thought, I just need to walk and think for a while. I can always stop at a motel along the way and call a cab in the morning. He double checked his wallet and headed out, glad for the warm September weather that was a holdover from the summer.
Two hours later Daniel wasn't nearly as grateful. Dark clouds had rolled in, blotting out the moon and stars that had been lighting his way ever since he had left the small town and releasing what promised to turn into a vicious rain storm. The back road he was walking along was the shortest route back to the city, but it was also not well-traveled, leaving him surrounded by pitch blackness not even broken up by the periodic passing of vehicles. At least the motel he was heading for was only a few more miles ahead. It was the only silver lining he could see to his night.
The argument he'd had with Sarah played over and over in his head with every step. She'd known what he was like when she'd started dating him. Over the two months they'd been together she'd pulled him away from his work he didn't know how many times. He tended to lose himself entirely when he was interested in something.
Then again, maybe that was his problem. He'd been shocked and surprised that the beautiful Sarah Gardner had been interested in a geek like him, that she had seen more to him than just his glasses, flannel shirts, and genius-level intellect. Daniel rolled his eyes at the last part of that thought. It always annoyed him when he heard himself described like that. Not because he didn't think he was intelligent, but because that was one more label that differentiated him from everyone else. And while he was growing up that was the last thing he'd needed.
But Sarah had wanted more. Daniel had been more than willing to provide it. She was a gorgeous, brilliant woman, and he had felt more than a little physical attraction on top of the friendship they'd formed working together under Doctor Jordan, first with Sarah as Daniel's assistant, then as his full-fledged colleague when she'd finally earned her doctorate in archaeology. It was a month after that when she'd asked him if he wanted to take their relationship further.
Daniel couldn't help but smile when he remembered the kiss that had settled his confusion. When he hadn't been able to answer her, Sarah had taken the initiative and brought her lips to his. That opened the floodgates to a night of passion he hadn't thought he'd been capable of reaching. Passion he apparently wasn't going to be reaching again any time soon. Daniel's smile faded.
Sarah had been high maintenance. She demanded most of his free time, going so far as to create some for him so he would spend it with her. She liked little love trinkets as signs of affection. She was very physical with her expression of her own affection, constantly touching or holding hands when they were together, although she was more than capable of standing on her own without any of that. It had never crossed the line into needy. She'd continually tried to change Daniel's wardrobe, buying him new shirts and slacks and getting offended when she'd see him in the same old things the next day on campus. He still had half a closet full of such gifts in his apartment.
But Daniel had known all this about Sarah before they'd started dating. They'd talked about their love lives in casual conversations over the year or so they'd known each other. Yet he'd still let himself get caught up in his work on a night that Sarah had made clear would be very important to her. Maybe he hadn't deserved her after all.
Just as that depressing thought crossed his mind a set of headlights lit up the night from the hill behind him. He turned his head slightly to the side as he drifted further onto the shoulder of the road, and was surprised when the car didn't speed past as he'd expected. It was pale blue, he noted, pausing in his journey as it came to a halt beside him and the driver leaned over to roll down the passenger side window.
"Isn't it a little wet to be walking?" the woman inside the car asked in a friendly tone.
Daniel shrugged, having long given up on even attempting to keep dry, although he had put his glasses into one of his pockets. "Probably, but that's the only way I'm going to get where I'm going."
The lady's eyes slowly appraised the man standing in the rain. "Why don't you let me give you a ride to this place you're heading to? I'd hate to see you get sick."
"Well..." the wet man said, considering the offer as his voice trailed off. He was tired and sore, both in body and spirit, and he didn't want to be either anymore. Shoving his problems to the back of his mind, he squarely met this friendly stranger's gaze. "Sure. Thanks." She smiled widely and straightened in the driver's seat, leaving room for Daniel to climb inside.
"So where are you headed?" the woman asked as Daniel rolled up the window and buckled his seat belt.
"The motel a few miles up the road," he replied, grateful she hadn't asked why. He didn't want to deal with that anymore that night.
His driver nodded and started the car moving again. "I was thinking of stopping somewhere myself. I'm a long way from home."
"Really?" Daniel asked neutrally. If she wanted to tell him anything, it would be entirely up to her.
"Yeah. I had some thinking to do." Her dark brown eyes darted to the side to check out Daniel once again.
He never noticed. "That's what I was doing too. Seems to be the night for it."
She sighed. "Maybe, but my thoughts are getting too dark."
Daniel found he couldn't think of anything to say to that.
It wasn't long before they'd pulled in to the motel's parking lot, both of them happy the vacancy sign was still lit. They went together into the manager's office and rang the bell on the desk, Daniel feeling a little guilty about dragging the man away from his bed at such a late hour. It was after midnight after all. "Hello, folks," an older gentleman said as he came out of a back room. "How can I help you?"
"We'd like two rooms, please," Daniel said politely, reaching for his wallet.
The other man's eyebrows rose as he took in Daniel's bedraggled appearance. "Wish I could, son, but I've only got one left." He ran his hand through his short white hair. "Don't know what to tell you."
"That's all right," the woman chimed in quickly. "We can share it." She looked at Daniel. "That's okay, isn't it?"
Daniel finally took the time to really look at the woman who'd taken such a chance to be kind to a complete stranger who had looked like he needed help. She was average height, had wavy, shoulder-length blonde hair and bright brown eyes, and wore an expensive dress and coat that showed off her slim, hourglass figure. Part of him really wanted to take her up on the offer, but his sense of honor ran too deep to just give in. "Are you sure? I could just sleep in the car..."
"I'm completely sure," she replied, cutting him off. She turned back to the manager and pulled her billfold out of her purse. "We'll take the room. How much is it?"
She worked out the details with the older man, refusing Daniel's offer to split the cost each of the three times he made it, signing the receipt after charging the expense on her credit card. She grabbed the flustered Daniel and dragged him away, pulling him finally to the last room that had been available. "Come on," she said once she'd opened the door. "It's getting colder."
Daniel stared off toward the neon sign that had greeted them upon their arrival, blinking when the word "no" began shining to clarify the establishment's status. "Okay," he whispered after a long moment, the tiny negative lingering in his sight even after the door to the room blocked the sign from view.
He was about to head for the bathroom to at least towel his hair dry when the blonde tossed her coat aside and gently grabbed his arm to stop him in his tracks. "Where are you going?" she asked in a breathless whisper, her eyes bright with something Daniel couldn't define.
"The bathroom. I..."
Daniel never got to finish his explanation. Before he knew it, the woman who had been so nice to him had thrown her arms around his neck and pressed her lips firmly onto his. He stood there in shock for about thirty seconds, then the same part of him that had wanted this opportunity in the first place took over, returning the kiss with equal passion. She peeled off his jacket and the blazer underneath, then began working on the buttons of his dress shirt, the tie he'd been wearing gone long before she'd pulled up along side of him on the road.
Suddenly Daniel's honor flared back to life, and he gripped her hands to still their actions. "Wait, wait, are you sure we should do this?" he asked, gasping for air.
"Yes, yes, please," she practically moaned. Panic flared in her eyes as she saw reluctance shape Daniel's features. "Oh, God, please. I hurt so much. This will take away the pain, I know it will. Make love to me, please."
It was the mention of taking away the pain that made Daniel's decision. No matter how far he had shoved his own issues aside, they were still there, and the wound was still raw and hurting. Combined with his feelings of worthlessness, it made for a desperate combination, one that drove him to seek any kind of balm to soothe his battered soul. He would again find the passion he'd shared with Sarah, and he would find it that very night. He let go of the small hands he'd taken hold of and returned his lips to hers. Greedily she accepted them, and they fell back onto the bed.
What followed was a night of absolutely incredible lovemaking, each taking the other to the heights of ecstasy and beyond over and over again, until they both collapsed in a sweaty heap on the bed, thoroughly entwined with each other. Daniel gave the woman in his arms one last gentle kiss on the forehead before sighing and falling into dreamless slumber. He never saw the tear-filled gaze she aimed back at him.
The sun was high in the sky the next time Daniel opened his eyes. He squeezed them shut again immediately after as he stretched, his arms to either side of him fully extended. A second later the same blue orbs snapped open again as he realized he'd felt nothing beside him. The rest of the bed was empty.
Daniel had almost been expecting it, really. Two strangers lost in their private miseries, finding themselves thrust together by fate to attempt to find some solace in the embrace of the other, hoping to lose themselves in the pleasures of the flesh so they could forget the hollowness of the soul. It was a temporary fix, Daniel knew, but it had worked, however fleetingly. He was not looking forward to returning to the Oriental Institute on Monday.
He found his clothes dry and neatly folded waiting for him in the bathroom he'd never made it to the night before. He changed into them before finger-combing his hair into some semblance of order, then returned to the main room to call for a taxi to take him the rest of the way back to Chicago. Once that was done, he looked around to see if there was anything he'd be forgetting.
His eyes fell onto a slip of paper lying on the table next to the television and across from the bed. Taking the few steps to cross the room, he picked it up and read the hand-written note. It was a short poem.
"I am the flower; you are the seed.
"We walked in the garden; we planted a tree.
"Don't try to find me; please don't you dare.
"Just live in my memory; you'll always be there."
Daniel sighed. As he set the page back down, the guilt that had begun to niggle at his heart retreated somewhat with the confirmation that she had no regrets. He would remember her as well. It was then that he realized that he had never asked for her name.
"Daniel. Daniel, wake up."
Daniel jerked awake as a hand on his shoulder gently shook him, his groggy mind eventually comprehending that the voice that had accompanied the motion belonged to his friend Jack O'Neill. "Jack, what is it?" he asked blearily, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. Moonlight filtered into the room through the drawn shades of the glass doors leading to the balcony connected to their hotel room, lending an eerie atmosphere to the space.
"Good question. You were tossing and turning, muttering something about flowers and seas. While I don't get the connection, it looked like you were about to start in on a nightmare."
Jack's somewhat amused gaze turned sympathetic. "Anything you want to talk about?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, that's okay, I'll be fine. Just an old memory." He looked around the darkened room. "Where's Teal'c?"
Jack gestured with his head toward the door next to the main one of the room. "Bathroom. I heard you just after he went inside."
The door in the middle of the wall opposite the two men opened at that point. "Sir? Daniel? Is everything okay? I thought I heard voices," Samantha Carter queried as she stuck her head into the room.
"Everything's fine, Sam," Daniel assured her. "Jack just caught me before a nightmare could start, that's all."
"A nightmare?" Sam repeated, slipping inside and shutting the door behind her. "What were you dreaming about?"
"Just an old memory, like I told Jack," the younger man said as the blonde seated herself on his bed. He was touched by his friends' concern, but he wanted to dispel it and let them get some sleep.
Jack snorted. "It may have just been a memory, but it was obviously bugging you." He stepped back and sat on his bed. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
Daniel nodded as Teal'c came out of the bathroom and silently joined them. They were sure he'd heard everything. "It's just something that happened a little while before I joined the Stargate Program. Seeing Sarah and Steven again probably triggered it, that's all. I'm not even sure it would have led to a nightmare." He looked at each of his friends, who continued to gaze at him with a touch of lingering worry. "Thank you for being concerned, but I'll be fine. Now, if we're going to do anything worthwhile on this mini-vacation Jack dragged us on, we'd better get some sleep. I don't want to be accused of spoiling his fun tomorrow when all we can do is yawn." His eyes sparkled with humor.
"I will not yawn tomorrow, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c declared in his usual stately tone. "My Kel'no'reem has been most refreshing, and I am sure the few hours left before O'Neill's requested call will only improve my condition." The Jaffa's dark brown eyes reflected Daniel's sentiment, and his dead-pan delivery cinched it.
The others chuckled. "Well, as long as you're sure," Sam said as she rose to her feet. "I'll see you in the morning." She leaned over and hugged the archaeologist, smiling when the embrace was heartily returned.
"Sweet dreams, Sam," Daniel murmured as she pulled away. She gave him a bright smile.
"Night, Carter," Jack said as the woman headed back to her own room through the interconnecting door.
"Good night, sir, Teal'c." The door shut behind her.
Jack climbed back under his covers as Daniel lay back down and Teal'c resumed his cross-legged position between the entertainment center and the dresser. "I guess I'll see you boys in the morning, too," the colonel said, snuggling into his pillow. "Sleep well, Daniel. And, T, happy Kel'no'reeming, or whatever." He rolled onto his side and let himself relax.
"Good night, Jack. You too, Teal'c."
"Pleasant dreams to both of you."
The rest of the night went by uneventfully.
The next morning found the members of SG-1 sitting in the hotel restaurant sipping their drinks after a filling breakfast and discussing what they were going to do with themselves in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the three days Jack had bartered for with General Hammond. It was Jack's plan to reconnect with his team after he and Teal'c had been incommunicado in Minnesota - by his call, not Teal'c's, as he constantly reminded himself - and Sam and Daniel had been left to deal with Daniel's ex-girlfriend Sarah and the Goa'uld Osiris who had taken her for a host. Actually, Jack felt guilty as hell for cutting Daniel off during the one phone call he'd received at the cabin. If he'd thought at all, he would have realized that Daniel never would have called him or Teal'c unless it was really important - especially since the archaeologist was supposed to have been in Chicago, not Cheyenne Mountain, for those three days. This trip was one small way of making it up to his friend.
The quartet started their day at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Daniel able to add a few odds and ends to the information on display, although he was generally satisfied to just look at the pieces along with the rest of his team. Sam and Teal'c were as fascinated as the archaeologist, asking him questions every now and again for extra clarification. Jack actually found himself entertained; he'd been sure he'd end up bored.
They had lunch at a small café not far from the museum before heading for the Santa Fe Climbing Gym. The building was filled with different climbing walls of varying degrees of difficulty, and they spent an hour challenging themselves. Daniel was surprised to find he enjoyed himself as much as the other three did. He had confined himself to the easier walls in deference to his uneasiness with heights, but the exercise was refreshing.
A quick stop back at their hotel room for showers preceded a trek to the New Mexico State Capitol. As they started their self-guided tour, each of them with a brochure in hand, a voice called out, "Doctor Jackson! What are you doing here?"
Daniel looked toward the source of the question and began to smile. "I could ask you the same thing, Kevin."
A younger man with short red hair walked up to the foursome, a wide grin on his freckled face. "I'm here working on the computer network. There were a couple of glitches they needed ironed out. Who are your friends?"
Daniel introduced them. "And this is Kevin Bartholomew," he said in return to his curious friends. "He lives in my apartment building a couple of floors down."
"We tend to run into each other in the laundry room. Since we both travel for our jobs, we pick the weirdest times to wash our clothes." Kevin grinned. "It's a pleasure to meet you. So, Daniel, you never did say why you were here. And what's this I hear about Mrs. McLinn throwing out her husband?"
Jack pulled the others back slightly as Daniel filled the man in on the apartment building gossip. "I don't really want to know about Daniel's neighbor. The woman always glares at me when I come over, like I'm going to try to steal Daniel's stuff or something."
"That's funny, sir," Sam said. "She's always been nice to me. Offers me cake and cookies whenever she's made them, things like that."
"She offers such items to me as well," Teal'c added. "She also regularly informs me when her husband is traveling on business trips away from their home and appears disappointed when I offer my condolences. When I inquired of Daniel Jackson the reason why, he came very near to choking on his coffee and told me I would not wish to know. He is incorrect. I do wish to know. Why would she act in such a manner?"
"Well, Teal'c," Sam began as she struggled not to laugh, "it's like this..."
Jack shuddered at the thought of Daniel's neighbor being interested in anyone he knew and tuned out Carter's explanation as he turned away. His eyes drifted over the different clumps of people, noting the growing number of families now that school was apparently out for the weekend. He was just about to turn back to his friends and interrupt the most-certainly embarrassing - for Sam at any rate - conversation when a woman's medium-length, blonde, curly hair caught his attention, and he peered closer. His eyes widened. "Carter, Teal'c, look over there," he whispered harshly, gesturing discreetly toward the woman he'd noticed. "Does she look familiar to either of you?"
His two friends looked where directed and considered it. "Yeah, she does look familiar. I can't put a name to her though," Sam said with a touch of frustration in her tone.
"I believe she resembles Ke'ra," Teal'c said calmly.
"Ke'ra?" Sam blurted, barely keeping her volume in check.
"Yeah, Ke'ra. You know, otherwise known as Linnea, Destroyer of Worlds." Jack cocked his head to the side and gazed the woman a little longer. "The resemblance is damn uncanny if you ask me."
Teal'c nodded his agreement. "Quite true, O'Neill. However, there are enough differences that one may confidently come to the conclusion that she is not the same woman."
"Who are you guys talking about?" Daniel asked. His neighbor had apparently left to return to work. He turned his gaze to where his friends' attention had just been. "Who isn't the same..." His voice trailed off as he saw their target.
Jack started to get worried for the younger man when he saw the color begin to drain out of his face. "Daniel?" he asked gently. "Is everything okay?"
Sam reached out and touched Daniel's arm when the man didn't answer. "Daniel, it's not Ke'ra," she reassured him.
Daniel jerked his head toward her, confused. "Ke'ra? You thought she was Ke'ra?" He shook his head and looked back toward the other blonde who was staring at one of the paintings on the wall apparently waiting for someone. "I need to talk to her." He abruptly walked off in the direction of the familiar-looking woman.
"It appears that Daniel Jackson knows this woman," Teal'c commented, eyebrow raised.
"But how?" Sam asked, staring after the man thoroughly shocked.
Jack crossed his arms over his chest, noting the woman's surprise as she apparently recognized Daniel as well. "Got me. I'd say Daniel's got some explaining to do."
The three of them watched as the woman turned to a tall, lean man who walked up behind her and had a brief conversation with him before starting to lead Daniel away. The brown-haired man flashed his teammates two hands with wide-spread fingers at them accompanied by an intense look. The trio just blinked as he disappeared with his companion. "Now I know Daniel owes us an explanation," Jack grumbled staring after the pair.
"Sir, I'm sure Daniel has a perfectly logical reason for not mentioning this woman to us. It's not like we know about every single person he's ever met. Look at Kevin. He lives two floors below Daniel and talks to him at least semi-regularly in the laundry room - and we never knew about him."
"I'm well aware of that, Carter. But he also wasn't so shocked to see Kevin that his complexion paled and he looked like he was going to pass out." Jack put up a hand to forestall the argument he could see waiting on Sam's lips. "I'm not saying he has to register anyone he's come into contact with since the day he was born, but I think we deserve to know the back story when he has that kind of reaction to somebody." He shrugged. "I'm just worried about him, that's all."
Sam relaxed. "I know, sir. So am I."
"There is a small child currently standing with the man the woman who left with Daniel Jackson spoke to before leaving. Do you believe he may be her son?" Teal'c asked in the silent lull that followed the exchange.
Jack and Sam looked. "Could be," the colonel replied. "He's got the blond hair for it."
"It's a bit darker than hers," Sam noted. "But you can see how brilliantly blue his eyes are even from over here. They're beautiful."
"He is an attractive child," the Jaffa agreed.
"How long has it been, Carter? I left my watch at the hotel after we showered."
Sam glanced at her left wrist. "It hasn't nearly been the ten minutes Daniel told us he'd be, sir. We've still got a bit of a wait."
Jack sighed. "Then let's do it sitting down, shall we? We've been doing a lot of walking today, and it's not over yet."
"Will we not be seated during the presentation at the planetarium this evening, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked as they moved over to a nearby bench and the two Tau'ri sat down.
"That's not the point," Jack said haughtily, and the trio settled in to wait for their missing friend.
Fifteen minutes later, Daniel silently rejoined his teammates. "Let's go," he said quietly, his eyes on the woman he'd just been speaking with as she rejoined the man and child waiting for her. "And no, I don't want to talk about it right now."
Jack and Sam started slightly - Daniel had come up from behind them - then practically jumped to their feet. "Fine, you don't have to go into details, I suppose, Daniel, but who is she?" Jack asked, the concern he'd been feeling while his friend had been gone going up another notch.
"Someone I met before Catherine recruited me. I needed to settle something with her."
"But what..." Sam started.
"Please, Sam, not now," Daniel pleaded, finally tearing his gaze away from the small family as he interrupted her. "I just want to go back to the hotel. You guys can stay if you want, but I need to get out of here."
The others gave him a long look. "Daniel, if it's bothering you this much, you should probably talk about it. Maybe back at the hotel?" Sam offered.
Daniel shook his head. "You could be right, but I'm not ready yet. I need to get my mind around it first. Look, you guys go ahead and finish the tour. I'll go back to our rooms and pull myself together before we go to dinner tonight. We still have tickets for the show at the planetarium, right?"
"Yes, Daniel, but..."
"Great," Daniel said quickly, cutting Jack off. "Something like that is just what I need. Come get me when it's time for dinner, okay?" He walked away without waiting for a response.
The three of them were a little too stunned to do anything but watch as Daniel disappeared from view. "Sure, Daniel, that's fine," Jack finally said to the empty spot where the younger man had been standing. "I enjoy helping you avoid dealing with the things that bother you and shove them to the back of your mind where you tend to think about them until your head practically bursts. That's my idea of a good time."
Sam sighed. "Sir, that's not fair."
"Indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c agreed. "You have been known to use such tactics when dealing with distressful situations as well. It is something I have noticed you share in common with Daniel Jackson."
Jack's brown eyes darted back and forth between the two of them. "I'm not nearly that bad." Sam and Teal'c just looked at him. "I am? Really?"
"I believe we should proceed to the restaurant earlier than we originally planned," Teal'c said, ignoring the question.
"Yeah, you may be right." Sam looked at her watch. "It's almost four o'clock now. I say we give Daniel an hour, hour and a half tops before we get him for supper."
"That'll work," Jack said, letting his minor irritation at being ignored slip away. "For now, why don't we do as Daniel asked and finish the self-guided tour? I'm sure he'll ask about it." The three of them proceeded to do just that.
Now that they'd stumbled across this woman, she was like a bad penny, turning up almost everywhere SG-1 did. She and her family ended up sitting in the row ahead of them at the planetarium, putting an end to the good mood Daniel had managed to get himself into during dinner. He'd improved by morning, but was still quiet and introspective as they went to the Palace of the Governors, the museum intriguing Teal'c and Jack by being the site of the only successful Native American uprising in 1680, Sam and Daniel with the natives and their wares out in front, and Jack, Sam, and Teal'c by housing a few Central American artifacts accredited with being found by one Doctor Daniel Jackson. "I told you I had been part of a dig in the Yucatan," he said modestly, a slight flush to his cheeks.
Daniel finally lightened up and a spark of life returned to his eyes as he spoke with a few of the merchants after they'd finished their tour. He was in an animated discussion with a woman about the blankets she had made when Jack noticed Daniel's bad luck charm walking toward the building with only her little boy in tow. "Hey, Carter," he said in low tones as he pulled her away from the archaeologist. "Why don't you cut off our little Ke'ra clone before Daniel sees her? Maybe see if you can find out what's up with her while you're at it."
"Me? Why me, sir?" She glanced over at the other blonde. "Not that I wouldn't mind a few answers, but..."
"That's the spirit, Carter," Jack said cheerfully, patting her on the back a bit roughly. "I'd do it myself, but I've been told I can be rather menacing when I'm upset, and I don't want to scare her away. Besides, she might relate better to a woman, no offense."
Sam sighed. "None taken, sir. I'll be right back. Keep Daniel distracted."
"Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem." Jack looked back over at Daniel who was still more than caught up in his talk with the older Indian woman. "Good luck." He stepped back over to Daniel, recruiting Teal'c's help along the way.
The blonde physicist watched him go then took a deep breath and headed over to where she could see the woman who had caused Daniel so many problems drifting closer and closer to where her friend was. With each step Sam found she needed to put a tighter and tighter lid on a burgeoning anger. She didn't know what this stranger had done to Daniel, but it was obviously something that had lingered in the back of his mind for the past five years or so.
"Excuse me," Sam said, catching the woman's attention without attracting Daniel's. "Could I speak with you a moment?"
The woman gave her a long, appraising look. "Jonathon, honey," she said to the little boy with the bright blue eyes and honey-blond hair, "why don't you go over by the lady with the wooden puppets? I'll come and get you when I'm done here."
Jonathon smiled. "Okay, Mommy." He ran off.
"You were at the capitol with Daniel, weren't you?" Jonathon's mother said once she and Sam were alone.
"Yes, I was, and I'm with him here. I'm sorry, I never got your name. Daniel hasn't talked about you with us yet." Sam's blue eyes were flinty above an almost overly-polite smile.
"Jessica Lindenmeyer. I suppose it doesn't surprise me he hasn't told you about me. He was a little upset when we spoke in the garden."
Sam's smile faded altogether. "And why would he be upset, Mrs. Lindenmeyer?"
Jessica's eyebrows rose. "I told him things he didn't want to hear about the time we... kept each other company on a rainy night just outside of Chicago." She paused and gave Sam a false smile, even more stiffly polite than the one she had recently received. "I'm afraid I never got your name either."
"Major Samantha Carter, United States Air Force. I work with Daniel."
"Daniel's in the Air Force? He doesn't seem the type."
Sam gritted her teeth at the blasé tone. "He's a civilian consultant at the command where I'm stationed. But that's not the issue here. What did you say to him that's made him so upset whenever you're around?"
"I'm not sure that's any of your business if Daniel hasn't told you himself. But sufficed to say he had some lingering doubts about our motivations that night, and my confessions weren't to his liking. It's not my fault he got involved in something he couldn't deal with afterward."
My, she sounded defensive. Sam narrowed her eyes. "Mrs. Lindenmeyer, while I am somewhat willing to believe that you and Daniel shared some time together that he felt guilty about afterward, Daniel isn't someone who would let that punch him in the gut over five years later, whether he ran into you again unexpectedly or not. My guess is you told him something he didn't know five years ago, and whatever that was hurt him. Now, Mrs. Lindenmeyer, something you need to understand is that I care about Daniel very much, and I don't take kindly to people hurting him. You don't have to tell me what you told him, but it would be much appreciated if you would do what you could to avoid Daniel in the future. I can guarantee that my friends and I will do our part on Daniel's end." Her urge to protect Daniel had completely overwhelmed her, and she was at a loss to explain why, but something about this woman just hit her the wrong way.
"Well, Major Carter, you can hardly force me to do anything, especially in public," Jessica retorted, sounding offended. "It doesn't matter what kind of consulting he's doing for you," she finished suggestively.
The Air Force officer had to thrust her balled fists into her pockets to keep herself from knocking the other woman into the next week. "I'm not trying to force you into anything. I'm not even trying to tell you where you can and can't go. All I'm asking is that if you see Daniel you do what you can to keep away from him, even if that just means you stay out of his line of sight. You obviously don't care for him, and seeing you hurts him, so this way we'll keep everyone happy." Her voice lowered in tone and volume. "And if you ever suggest that kind of impropriety between myself and another one of my teammates again, I will be more than happy to show you your error in judgment up close and personal."
The other woman took a half step back and gave her opponent a nervous smile. "I certainly didn't mean anything by what I said, I'm sure. And it's not that I don't care for Daniel. My feelings toward him are actually quite neutral. It's been just over five years, as you said." Her confident mask began to slide back into place. "I'll do what I can to stay out of his way, as long as you'll do the same for me. I suppose we don't need any more incidents."
"If they happen, they won't be Daniel's fault," Sam muttered under her breath before replying at a normal volume. "Then I guess we're agreed. Thank you for your cooperation." She silently watched as Jessica just nodded and walked away to collect her son, then moved to go back to the rest of her team. "That's that, sir," she said to Jack, her face carefully bland as Daniel had noted her approach and kept shooting looks at her over his shoulder. "I just have to go to the bathroom and we can get going whenever Daniel's done here."
"I'll be done in just a few minutes, Sam," Daniel said, facing her briefly. "I'll be ready by the time you get back." He gave her a bright smile.
She somehow managed to return it, avoiding Jack's knowing yet curious gaze. "I won't be too long then."
Jack followed her. "So how did it go?" he asked once they were out of earshot.
"Let's just say I wouldn't suggest letting me talk to her again. I won't be held responsible if you do."
Jack flinched. "Ouch. That bad, huh?"
"You wouldn't believe it." Sam looked at her commanding officer out of the corner of her eye. "Then again, maybe you would. One way or the other, she's agreed to keep out of Daniel's way, and we're supposed to do our part in keeping them separated."
"What exactly did she say that's still got you all up in arms?" Jack asked curiously.
"Other than hinting at the fact that I might be sleeping with Daniel, nothing specific. It was more her attitude that this is all Daniel's fault for not taking whatever she said very well, and that she couldn't care less that Daniel's so bothered by her. Oh, but it's not that she doesn't care for Daniel. Wouldn't want you to think that." Sam rolled her eyes and found herself gritting her teeth again.
"Carter, calm down. This woman..."
"This woman isn't worth this. Yeah, it sucks that she's done or said something to Daniel that's hurt him, proving yet again Daniel Jackson is the galaxy's whipping boy, but you losing it isn't going to make anything better. We just have to be there for Daniel."
Sam took a deep breath and released it, willing herself to relax as much as she could. "You're right, sir. She's not worth this. I'll just go splash some water on my face and we can get going. My stomach tells me it's time for lunch."
Jack grinned. "So does mine. We'll be over by the lady with the blankets. The famous Jackson charm has worked again."
Sam watched him go before continuing on to her destination. The other woman's attitude was something that would have set her off at the best of times no matter who it was aimed at. But for some reason she was about ready to go on the war path. She frowned as she considered it. She had to admit to always feeling a little more protective toward Daniel, ever since she had stayed with him in the dungeon cell on that first mission to Chulak while the colonel and Skaara looked for a way out. That still didn't explain how overboard she was going. It was almost like this woman's previous experience with Daniel - and the fact that something about that experience was still affecting him - was making her jealous.
She blinked, drawing up short just as she was going to enter the public bathroom. Was she jealous of what Daniel had shared with this woman? She'd never really been all that jealous of Sha're, or even Sarah when she'd found out about that. Why would she be? Daniel was just her friend, right? But if that was so, why did thoughts of Shyla and Ke'ra make her insides start to boil? Why did she find herself wishing it could have been her in their place?
Okay, that was enough. Sam shook her head to clear it, making quick work of her face and heading back out. But for all that she managed to push the startling thoughts aside as she made her way back to the others, in the back of her mind she continued to ponder the riddle.
The four of them had an early lunch and spent the end of the morning and the beginning of the afternoon walking through the Bataan Memorial Military Museum. The sobering tribute to the New Mexican soldiers taken captive on the island of Bataan by the Japanese in 1942 struck a chord with them all, and they took everything in with sympathetic eyes that couldn't help but see a correlation with their own experiences. What conversation they shared was quiet and subdued, and they all walked away with a greater sense of purpose that they knew they would be taking home for their own continued fight against the Goa'uld.
From there they went to the Randall Davey Audubon Center to let the beauty of the winding trails lighten their spirits, and to show Teal'c more of the world that had become his adopted home. The quartet hiked around the nature sanctuary, the three Tau'ri pointing out different things to their alien friend as they went and all of them enjoying the gorgeous weather. They had one close call when Jack noticed Jessica and her family walking along another path that stretched parallel to their own for a short way, only managing to deflect Daniel's attention with a quick question about the metalwork on a bench that happened to stand to the opposite side of the trail. Sam placed herself directly behind Daniel, between him and Jessica if her friend should happen to turn around. She never realized the reason for the startled look the other woman gave her was the vicious scowl etched into the physicist's features that disappeared almost magically as soon as the other blonde was out of sight.
Clouds rolled in as the members of SG-1 left for dinner at a restaurant close to their hotel. Rain threatened, but there was a temporary respite as they left the Santa Fe Depot and prepared to board the Santa Fe Southern Railway to take the sunset ride along the spur between Santa Fe and Lamy. They ensconced themselves in the aged mahogany and faded velvet seats of a four-seat section inside the restored coach, and looked out onto the beginnings of a beautiful sunset artfully striped with bands of clouds that didn't want to let go of their hold on the sky completely.
"This is absolutely gorgeous," Sam breathed, her eyes wide as she took in the picturesque vision.
"I'd heard lots of good things about this ride," Daniel commented from the seat to her right as he looked past her and out the window. "That's why I insisted we take it."
"Good call, Danny," Jack murmured from his seat across from Sam. It was scenes like this and the remembered visages from the Audubon Center that reminded the hardened soldier what he fought for.
Daniel gave Jack a small smile, taking in Teal'c's nod of agreement before a short laugh from across the aisle caught his attention. He turned to face the distraction and his smile faded. Seated in the section across from him were Jessica Lindenmeyer and her family. Her husband sat directly across from him, and was currently leaning over to point out something to the small blond boy in the seat to his right. He followed up his comment with a kiss to the forehead, and received a huge grin as a reward. Jessica looked on lovingly.
The train finally began to move, and Daniel's attention was torn between the two groups on either side of the aisle. Fantasy and reality, each pulling at his heartstrings in different ways. Across the way was what he could have had; maybe not with that particular woman, but with Sha're... Next to him was the team that served as his family. They cared about him so much, and he them. He'd noticed the way they'd tried to distract him when Jessica and her family had walked by on the other trail at the nature sanctuary and had allowed it by answering Jack's question about the bench. He had to wonder what kind of look Sam had given the other woman, though. He could have sworn he saw fear flash across Jessica's features.
Daniel took one last long look at the little boy eagerly watching the scenery go by and abruptly rose to his feet. "I need to get some air," he said shortly and headed for the last car and the railed platform at the end of it. There he stood, leaning against the metal railing as the train worked at picking up speed, staring out at the desert landscape, and letting the wind cool his flushed cheeks. He was sad to note that the clouds were beginning to roll back in.
It wasn't too long before he realized he was no longer alone. "I'm going to be fine," he said to whoever was behind him, figuring it had to be one of his friends.
"I don't doubt you will, but you aren't now," Sam retorted, coming up to lean on the rail next to him. "We saw the Lindenmeyers."
"Don't be mad at them. I don't think they realized I was sitting there."
Sam shrugged. "Maybe not, but they still upset you." She paused, unsure of how he'd react to her next query. "What I don't understand is why."
Daniel sighed. He knew he was going to have to explain this sooner or later. At least he was alone with Sam to do it. "I don't know if you'd figured this out or not, but a little over five years ago I slept with Jessica. Sarah had just broken up with me, and I was on my way to a motel when Jessica came along and offered me a ride. It was raining by the time she came across me walking along the highway, and she seemed so nice..."
"Are you saying she took advantage of you when you were feeling emotionally vulnerable?" Sam asked incredulously. She was beginning to regret not giving in to the impulse to pound the other woman into the ground.
"If she did, I took advantage of her right back," Daniel replied with a humorless laugh. "We were both vulnerable, but neither of us shared the reasons why. Hell, we didn't even share our names. When I woke up in the morning I found a note that pretty much said we'd had something beautiful, but don't try to find her and she'd always remember me. I guess I should have been suspicious of the planting a tree comment though."
"What do you mean?"
"Have you really looked at her son Jonathon? His eyes are like looking in a mirror. I saw him just before we went out into the gardens at the capitol to talk."
Sam's eyes widened as realization began to dawn. "Do you mean to say that her son is..." Her voice trailed off as Daniel met her gaze with a tortured one of his own.
"Jessica was so distraught that night because her doctor had told her the reason she and her husband hadn't been able to get pregnant was because he was sterile. He had refused to talk to the doctor and had insisted that Jessica find out and tell him what the results of the tests were, and she couldn't bring herself to do it. They had been trying for three years, and the specialist in Chicago she'd visited was their last hope."
Daniel turned away and looked back out at the darkening sky, a low rumble of thunder underscoring the sound of the deep breath he took before continuing. "She was driving around aimlessly, dreading going back home to Iowa and sharing the horrible news, when she saw me walking along the side of the road in the rain. She said I looked so alone and miserable she felt like she just had to offer me a ride. Once I got in she looked me over, and I guess she liked what she saw." Even through her shock and outrage, Sam saw the blush that rose slightly on Daniel's cheeks at the suggestion. "The fact that there was only one room left at the motel we stopped at for the night gave her an idea... and we slept together." Daniel shrugged. "I didn't see her again until yesterday."
Sam's heart shattered as she took in his dejected, heartbroken form even as her anger flared up again. "She used you to get pregnant and claimed the child was her husband's?" she asked, outraged. "How dare she do something like that? How can she live a lie like that? How is that fair to you or her husband?"
"Oh, God, Sam, don't you think I've been asking myself those questions since I found out? You know, I had been so worried that the reason Sha're and I hadn't been able to have a child was because of me. I mean, she was able to have Apophis' child after all, so it was me, right? Now I find out we were both fine. So what happened?" The archaeologist's voice was close to cracking.
"Oh, Daniel," Sam murmured, reaching out a hand and gripping his shoulder gently. "Sometimes when it comes to things like that you can want it too much, try too hard. There are lots of documented cases of couples who gave up on getting pregnant and adopted a child who suddenly found themselves expecting. It's as though they finally let themselves relax and nature took over once the pressure was off." She laughed a bit at herself. "Janet could explain it better."
Daniel covered the hand on his shoulder with his own and gave the blonde a brief, small smile. "I understand. Knowing that actually does help."
"So what are you going to do now?" Sam asked gently, a little surprised at how good she realized Daniel's hand felt on hers.
"Learn to live with it, I guess. What else can I do?"
Sam's jaw practically hit the ground. "You can't be serious. That little boy in there is your son, and you're just going to walk away?"
Daniel spent a moment looking deep into the blue eyes so close to his own. It always startled him when any of his friends would get so upset on his behalf, but it meant more when it came from Sam for some reason. He'd been afraid to examine those feelings too closely. However, he was starting to think it might be about time he did. For now, he needed to explain himself. "Sam, it's been five years," he began, letting his arm drop back to the railing before pushing himself completely upright. "The only father Jonathon knows is the man sitting with him in that railroad car. I've watched those two together. I don't think Jonathon could be loved any more if they were biologically related. And if I were to barge into their lives now, what would that accomplish? Jessica's husband would end up finding out his wife had been unfaithful and purposefully gotten herself pregnant to avoid telling him he was sterile. The little boy he's loved for all these years wasn't really his; he'd been fooled into thinking he was. Jessica loves them both, loves them to the point of living a lie. If you haven't seen the looks she gives them, you should. There's nothing but love there. I can't be the cause of that falling apart. Besides, it's not automatically a given that Jonathon would end up loving me like he already does his father. And when would I have time to spend with him? It wouldn't be fair to traipse into his life, say I'm his father, and then disappear into the sunset because duty calls. All I'd be leaving behind is a broken household and broken hearts."
Sam thought about it for a long moment. "I think I understand," she murmured finally. "So why did she tell you about Jonathon in the first place? She was taking a huge chance, not to mention how unfair it is to you."
"I confronted her about it. I'd seen Jonathon before we went into the gardens, so I asked about him. His eyes were disturbingly familiar. She tried to deny it at first, but since she'd admitted why she'd slept with me in the first place it didn't last long. And then she got defensive and told me in no uncertain terms that she wouldn't be telling her husband, and she expected me to do the same. When I tried to tell her how unfair she was being, she turned and walked away. I'm pretty sure you can fill in the blanks from there." Daniel turned back to the railing and resumed his former position.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Sam said softly as she took up the same position next to him, letting her arm press against his. "I wish I knew what else to say."
Daniel was silent for a long moment as the storm broke and the rain that had threatened earlier finally started to fall. "You don't have to say anything, Sam," he eventually said as he stared out into the falling drops that glittered in the lights from the train. "Thank you for being here." He took a deep breath and released it. "It's looking more and more like rainy nights and broken hearts go hand in hand for me."
Sam watched as her friend struggled to keep his emotions in check then rested her head against his shoulder in an attempt to hold her own tears at bay. "I would do anything if it meant I could just fix it for you," she murmured, the truth of the statement striking a chord deep in her soul and leaving her slightly breathless.
Daniel blinked as the comment stirred something inside him as well. "I know, Sam, and that means everything to me." He leaned his head to rest on the blonde one so close, and the pair stared silently, solemnly out into the rain. Neither of them noticed Jessica Lindenmeyer slip back into the rail car and out of sight.
The four members of SG-1 gathered in the men's hotel room once the train ride was over and Sam and Daniel had changed into dry clothes. Daniel had promised to tell both Jack and Teal'c what was going on, and once he did he sat back and waited for their reactions. It didn't take long.
"She did what?" Jack practically shouted. "How could she even think of doing something like that?"
Teal'c's face was a stony mask. "What Jessica Lindenmeyer has done is without honor," he said in a low, menacing tone.
Daniel sighed. "I'm not saying it isn't," he replied to the Jaffa's comment before shifting his gaze to Jack. "And she was extremely desperate. I'm not saying it was right," he added hurriedly, seeing his friend about to explode again. "I don't appreciate being used as an involuntary sperm donor any more than you appreciate hearing about it."
Jack scowled and jumped to his feet from where he sat beside Teal'c on his bed. "This is just nuts!" He began to pace. "So what happens now?"
"Nothing," Daniel said simply, sharing a look with Sam who sat beside him on the other bed.
"I'm sorry," Jack said, stopping in his tracks. "I could have sworn I heard you say nothing. Is that what you said, Daniel?"
"Yes, Jack." His blue eyes traveled between the two outraged men in front of him, trying to make them understand. "What good would it do to force the issue?"
Teal'c's eyebrow rose. "We are speaking of your son, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel nodded. "I know."
"So what's the problem? With the kinds of connections we have, your paternity can be established and her ass can be strung up before she ever knew what hit her." Jack's intense look bore into his younger friend's.
"What good would it do?" the archaeologist repeated firmly. "That boy is nearly five years old. The only parents he has ever known have been Jessica and Christopher Lindenmeyer - and they both love him very much. If I came barging into their lives now, demanding my rights as Jonathon's biological father and making sure everyone knew the whole sordid tale, all it would do is make everyone miserable. Like I told Sam, that knowledge could very well alienate all three members of that family, not to mention any extended family they might have, and it's not like I have time to be a full-time dad - or a part-time one for that matter. I can't do that to Jonathon." Pain shone clear and bright from Daniel's watery eyes.
Sam took one look at Daniel and turned to face her superior officer. "Daniel's right, sir. It wouldn't be fair to the boy."
Jack stared at them both helplessly. "I just don't want you to lose out on a chance with your child, Daniel. I... I'm speaking as a father here."
Teal'c bowed his head briefly in agreement. "As do I, Daniel Jackson. My greatest joys have come from my son Rya'c. Such an act as was taken by Jessica Lindenmeyer would never be condoned on Chulak."
Sam looked from one stricken father to the other and instinctually reached out for Daniel's hand. He returned her grip almost desperately. "It's not condoned here either, Teal'c. It's just not as firmly ingrained in some people that it's completely wrong."
"Thank you," Daniel whispered, one lone tear making its way down his cheek. "Thank you both for being so willing to share your pain to try to lessen mine. But I can't claim Jonathon as my own. It just wouldn't be right. I'll make sure Jessica knows how to get a hold of me in case there's ever a medical problem she'd need my history for and leave it at that."
Jack looked at him long and hard. "Are you sure, Daniel? Are you one hundred percent, absolutely sure about this?"
Daniel nodded, using his free hand to wipe away the moisture on his face. "Yes, Jack. It's the way it has to be. I just have to accept it and move on." He tried to give his friends a shaky smile. "Besides, it's not like it can never happen again, right? I'm young." The smile faded. "There's always the future."
"Always the future, Daniel," Sam repeated, squeezing his hand and causing his gaze to drop to their intertwined fingers.
Jack gave them an indecipherable look then cleared his throat. Everyone's attention turned to him. "Since this seems to be settled, I suggest we get some sleep. Our vacation's not over yet, and I refuse to leave here on a negative note." Although his tone matched his usual rallying optimism, his eyes, locked with Daniel's, conveyed his deep sympathy and understanding of his friend's sacrifice. Daniel's half of the unspoken dialogue expressed his gratitude for that understanding and a reassurance that he would recover, along with an appreciation for the attempt to cheer him up. Jack knew that Daniel would give it his best effort to be positive on their last day in Santa Fe.
With that the foursome headed for their beds - or equivalent thereof - and went to sleep hoping for better luck for the days ahead.
SG-1 took their time with their morning rituals the next morning, finally heading out to spend a few hours at the El Rancho de las Golondrinas. A smile seemed to come naturally to Daniel's face as they wandered around the living 18th and 19th century Spanish village, his love of history and anthropology coming to the fore. The other three did what they could to nurture the feeling, asking numerous questions, making humorous observations - that was mainly Jack - and letting Daniel drag them around to the next fascinating sight that caught his eye. The younger man realized what his friends were doing quite early in the tour, and was extremely grateful for having such people in his life.
They came back to the Santa Fe Plaza for a late lunch, then headed over to Canyon Road and the two miles of shops and galleries to be found there. Once confronted with the stretch of commercialism - and culture, Daniel insisted - the quartet agreed to separate to get their individual souvenir shopping done then meet up and have dinner at the restaurant closest to where Jack had parked. Jack hadn't been sure if it was the right thing to do considering what had happened over the past two days, but Daniel hadn't seemed bothered by the prospect and had, in fact, been in relatively good spirits all day.
Sam lingered outside of one of the art galleries an hour and a half later, her eyes riveted to a small print of a young Navaho girl staring off into a colorful sunset. She had just completed her purchase of it when she heard someone clear their throat behind her and hesitantly speak. "Um, excuse me, Major Carter. Can I talk with you for a moment?"
The blonde woman turned around sharply to find Jessica Lindenmeyer standing there alone. The slightly shorter woman appeared to be nervous, her weight shifting from foot to foot and her hands playing with the hem of the light, white, short-sleeved jacket she wore over a blue floral-patterned sundress. "Why?" Sam asked bluntly, causing the other woman to flinch. "What could you possibly have to say that I would have any desire to listen to?" Again that Daniel-centric protective streak flared up, only this time it was much less confusing. She merely accepted its presence and waited for the response to her questions.
"I want to apologize," Jessica said simply. "And I want to offer you an explanation."
"I'm sure Daniel's already made a pretty good guess as to your motivations," Sam shot back, fervently hoping that her friend hadn't seen this reminder of the sacrifice his honor and heart were forcing him to make. "Besides, I'm not the one you should be saying this to."
"You're not the only one I should be saying this to," the other blonde corrected. "You're right about that. Please, let me explain."
Sam considered it for a long moment. The other woman's attitude was greatly changed from the day before, and she seemed sincere. A quick glance at her watch told Sam she still had about an hour and a half before she was supposed to meet the guys at the restaurant, so a brief talk most likely wouldn't keep her from anything important. And if Jessica was talking to her, she wouldn't be messing with Daniel. It was that last point more than anything that made up her mind. "Fine. Let's go somewhere out of the way and talk." She led the way to another gallery just a short walk up the street that she had seen Daniel exiting a half hour ago. She figured that it was unlikely he'd come back.
The art gallery the two women entered was quite upscale - yet another factor Sam had been counting on. There was a small lounge in the ladies' bathroom with cushioned seats that would allow for a decent amount of privacy. "So let's hear your explanation," the Air Force major said after they'd seated themselves.
"First, I want to apologize for my attitude yesterday," Jessica began after a deep breath to settle herself, her hands tightly clenched together in her lap. "I had no right to blow off your concerns the way I did, and even less of a right to insinuate that anything improper was going on between you and Daniel. The only explanation I have is that I was afraid. I was afraid when I recognized Daniel at the capitol on Friday, and I was afraid when you came up to me yesterday."
"You were afraid you'd been caught," Sam said neutrally, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Deathly afraid," Jessica agreed. "When Daniel asked about Jonathon I knew he'd pretty much figured it out. Since any test he might insist on would more than prove his claim of paternity if he made it, I wanted to drive him away so he wouldn't make the claim. I love my husband and my son very much, Major Carter. The last thing I want is to hurt them."
Sam closed her eyes for a moment as she sighed. That was exactly what Daniel had told her. But she didn't want to feel sympathy for this woman who was so willing to use someone like Daniel for her own selfish ends. "I can understand that," she said finally as she lifted her eyelids and refocused her gaze, "but it doesn't excuse how you used Daniel."
Tears welled up in the other blonde's eyes. "No, it doesn't. There is no excuse for that. I was heartbroken and dreading having to tell my husband about his test results. I could tell Daniel had been hurt by somebody; I couldn't think of any other reason someone would be walking in the pouring rain like that when I hadn't seen any sign of a broken down car. I gave in to the easy solution, knowing I had the advantage of the fertility drugs I'd been taking up to that point. It was wrong... but Jonathon was the result." Jessica shook her head slightly as she couldn't find any more words.
"What did you tell your husband?" Sam asked, curious despite herself.
"I told him what the doctors had told me. And when I found out I was pregnant, it was considered a miracle that most likely couldn't be repeated. I never thought I'd see Daniel again - I didn't even know his name until two days ago."
Sam frowned in thought. "So why did you want to tell me all this? We're leaving tomorrow morning; you most likely never would have seen any of us again."
Sad brown eyes met confused blue ones. "I noticed Daniel watching us on the train yesterday. When he got up so suddenly and walked away I could guess why. Then you got up to follow him, and the look on your face was such a mixture of sympathy and determination that I knew you'd get him to tell you what was going on whether he wanted to or not. So I followed you. I wanted to know what he was thinking, and if I still had something to be afraid of."
Jessica took a deep breath before continuing. "I had no idea anyone could be so selfless. Especially after hearing about what had happened with who I presume was his wife," Sam nodded at the inquisitive glance she was given, "he was able to walk away from a child who is biologically his. His first concern was my family, and he certainly had no obligation to do so. Not after the way I treated him."
"That's Daniel," Sam said softly. "He always thinks of everyone else before himself."
"You care about him so very much, don't you?" Jessica asked in barely a whisper.
"I almost lost him recently - working for the military is anything but safe," Sam qualified with a tiny smile that quickly faded, "and it spotlighted how much he means to me. This whole mess happening so soon after that... let's just say Daniel isn't the only one whose life has been turned upside down."
Jessica sighed, her eyes dropping to her intertwined fingers. "I want to apologize to Daniel, but I don't think he wants anything to do with me. I don't blame him, don't get me wrong, but it makes it difficult to make things... better."
Sam just looked at her, finally letting herself feel a little something for this woman who lived with her lie every single day, every single time she gazed at the son she loved so much. "I hope you realize that there really isn't any way to make things better. I'm not saying this to be mean or to hurt you. That's just how it is."
"I suppose you're right," the other blonde murmured. She took a deep breath and reached for her purse, pulling out a pen and small notebook before writing something on a page and ripping it out. "Give this to Daniel, would you? It's where we're staying for the next week. Tell him I'd like to apologize and whatever else you'd like about what we've talked about, and if he thinks it's worth it he can come see me before he leaves. If he doesn't I'll completely understand. But I want him to have the option. I underestimated his character so badly."
"Yes, you did," Sam agreed as she took the slip of paper and put it in her pocket. "But Daniel's pretty unique, so it's understandable. I'll give him the choice; it's his to make."
Jessica finished putting her things back in her handbag and rose to her feet. "That's all I can ask." She paused when she reached the door and looked back at the still-seated major. "Now that I've gotten to know something about Daniel and the kind of person he is, I have to say that I hope Jonathon follows in his footsteps. If he ends up half the man Daniel is..." She smiled. "Let's just say a mother couldn't ask for anything more."
And then there was one. Sam watched as the door swung shut behind the woman who had caused such havoc in her friend's life, and pondered the discovery she'd made during the conversation. It hadn't been so much a revelation as an elucidation of the feelings she'd struggled with pretty much since she'd met Daniel, feelings that had come to the fore thanks to the life-threatening confrontation with Osiris in Egypt followed by the emotional storm that had descended on Daniel during this short vacation, and indirectly on the rest of the team. It had taken the simple comment from an outside observer about how much she cared to really make her see it.
Sam wasn't sure what the new realization would mean for her and her relationship with Daniel. She didn't think he thought of her as any more than a friend. But she could hope that she'd have the opportunity to explore the possibilities. Until then, she'd wait. And unless she hurried, she thought with a look at her watch, she'd never get all her shopping done before she met the others for supper. One slightly mad scramble later the ladies' bathroom was empty.
Just as they had the night before, clouds rolled in around sunset threatening another storm. Sam looked up as she left the hotel where Jessica and her family were staying, missing the sight of sparkling stars but thinking the impending storm was more appropriate for the situation. She'd slipped out of her own hotel after she and the rest of SG-1 had returned after dinner, one last errand she needed to accomplish before she headed back to Colorado Springs the next day.
The blonde astrophysicist frowned as a wind began to pick up. She hadn't brought a jacket, the temperature not having dropped yet when she left and believing she'd be able to get back before it did. She hadn't counted on the rain. Now she was caught in a light, pale blue short-sleeved blouse, thin khaki capris, and brown leather sandals. She considered hailing a taxi, but it was still warm, and she didn't think the four-block walk would take that long. Getting a little wet on the way wouldn't kill her.
Just then she saw a figure walking toward her, head down and hands in the pockets. Her eyes widened as she realized who she was looking at. She had just started contemplating where she could hide when he brought his head up and caught sight of her.
"Sam? What are you doing here?"
Sam straightened to her full height and met her friend's blue gaze head on. "I... dropped off a gift for Jonathon. Like I told you, Teal'c, and the colonel at dinner, she said she hoped he'd grow up to be like you. I just thought I'd give him a nudge in the right direction." Her cheeks blazed pink.
Daniel's eyebrows rose above the top edge of his wire-rimmed glasses. "What did you give him?"
"One of those child's first archaeology kits, whatever they're called. I told her to give it to him whenever she thought he'd be ready for it." Her blush deepened.
"They have children's first archaeology kits?" he asked, surprise mingling with what was left of his confusion. "What's in it?"
Sam shrugged, the heat in her cheeks not abating in the least. "From what I could tell there are some fake fossils you can bury and instructions on how to use the tools they give you to safely excavate them. I thought it'd be interesting." She shrugged again.
Daniel gave a short laugh. "I didn't know they made those; that sounds really neat." His smile faded. "Thank you, Sam."
"Not holding a grudge. It's not worth it, and it'll make things easier in the long run for me to put in perspective. Besides," he continued, the corners of his mouth twitching upward again, "he just might like it."
"I think he will," Sam said softly, reaching out to give Daniel's arm a squeeze. "So you decided to hear Jessica out?"
Daniel nodded. "I need to give her my information anyway, just in case something comes up. And it'll help her find some peace. Maybe it'll help me, too."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Sam offered, any thought of embarrassment shoved to the back of her mind.
He shook his head. "No, that's okay, Sam. I can handle it. But thanks for the offer."
Sam smiled. "No problem. I'll just wait for you then, and we can walk back to the hotel together. I don't think you should be alone after this."
Blue met blue as Daniel gazed at her for a long moment. "Probably not," he finally agreed. "I shouldn't be too long."
Sam then watched as he disappeared into the hotel, letting herself catch her breath once he was gone. Oh, what those intense baby blues did to her insides! She fanned herself, almost hoping for the storm to break to give her a reprieve. She was definitely in need of a cold shower.
Daniel fingered the picture that rested in his pocket as he waited for the elevator to make its way down to the lobby a half hour later. Jessica's apology had seemed sincere; it hadn't taken much for the archaeologist to give her his forgiveness - for the past few days at the very least. He was still working on the rest of it. Jessica had accepted that, had been expecting it in fact.
She'd been surprised when Daniel gave her his contact information just before he got up to leave. Apparently she hadn't thought about the same issues that had prompted Daniel's gesture in the first place. Jessica thanked him, then caught his arm and slipped him the picture he was now fidgeting with in his pocket. It was a photo of Jonathon, the professional sitting done approximately two months before. The boy wore a wide smile, and his bright blue eyes sparkled with an innate happiness. While a reminder of what he was walking away from, Daniel was still happy to have the physical proof that he was making the right choice.
The elevator doors opened to reveal the large lobby, and just as Daniel stepped out a loud crash of thunder echoed through the space. The linguist's eyes were drawn upward even as one hand pulled out the picture and the other pulled out his wallet. He glanced around the lobby as he tucked away the photo and replaced his billfold. Where was Sam? It had to be pouring outside. She hadn't left without him, had she? No, she'd told him she'd walk back with him.
Pushing his doubts aside, Daniel followed his instincts and went to the front doors. What he saw had his jaw dropping to the floor, his eyes nearly bugging out of his head, and his pulse racing. There, under the lit streetlamp on the corner in the midst of a massive downpour, was Samantha Carter, dancing with abandon and laughing as she spun with her arms spread wide. The rain had plastered her thin shirt to her torso and her capris to her sculptured rear end and thighs. Suddenly, all those feelings Daniel had refused to examine closely came surging to the fore, and everything from his physical reaction to her beauty as she danced in the rain to the fact that she was still there to be there for him knowing he'd be reeling after what promised to be the last contact he'd ever have with the child he'd helped conceive so long ago to all the things they'd shared since the day they met combined to create a picture in his mind's eye that was crystal clear. And with that in mind, Daniel didn't think, he acted, throwing open the doors and moving forward, taking no heed of the water falling from the sky.
Sam was partway through a twirl when Daniel came up behind her and caught her in his arms, letting her finish her spin there so she ended up facing him. The shock in her expression was almost amusing. "God, Sam," he whispered unevenly, his breath quick and shallow. "You are so beautiful."
Sam swallowed nervously at the boiling emotions she saw churning in her best friend's eyes. "You surprised me," she murmured in return.
"I saw you dancing in the rain and I couldn't help myself." Daniel's eyes darted around Sam's features, cataloging them like he'd never seen them before. "Should I let you go?"
"No," Sam said immediately, finally wrapping her arms around his neck. "I'm happy right where I am."
The archaeologist's eyes settled on the physicist's lips. "I finally realized how I really feel for you, Sam. The way you've been there for me from the very beginning, supporting me, being my friend. The way you've been there for me through this whole mess. That's what it took to make me see the truth."
Sam smiled. "Me too," she breathed.
Daniel's eyes darted back up to Sam's. "What, really?" he asked incredulously. "You mean there's a chance..."
"More than a chance, Daniel. Much more than a chance." She closed the distance between them and pressed her lips to his. After only a second of shock, Daniel responded.
The kiss began sweet and tender, but moved quickly to deep and passionate. Daniel's tongue touched Sam's lips in a silent entreaty to enter, and Sam immediately allowed him access. The connection caused them both to groan with pleasure. Their hands swiftly joined the dance, the touch nearly searing their flesh even through the soaked material of their clothing.
Daniel began trailing kisses down the soft expanse of Sam's neck, and she threw back her head to allow him room for his ministrations. One hand slid up her side and brushed against her breast through her shirt and bra, his thumb gently kneading the tender, sensitive flesh. Sam shifted her stance to straddle one of Daniel's legs just as her partner reached her nipple, the already hard nub sending jolts of pleasure throughout her body.
Just before she could begin rocking against the firm muscles of his thigh, Daniel pulled his hand away from her chest, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close, his head resting against the top of hers. Sam blinked at the sudden stop, still reeling from the hormonal surge that had yet to fade. "Daniel, what's wrong?" she somehow managed to ask.
"I won't do this to you in public," he said, panting. "I want this, I want this very much, but I'm not making this cheap and tawdry. You're worth so much more than that... and once is enough in my lifetime." He pulled back to arm's length, and his intense, sincere gaze pierced through Sam's. "You deserve something special, something wonderful. And we need to talk."
"Okay, Daniel," Sam said, still a bit out of breath. "You're right, we should." She stuffed down her disappointment at the lack of completion. One part of her was happy Daniel had come to his senses before they went too far; the other wanted to shove him to the ground where they stood and finish what they started. "How about we walk and talk? We should get back to the hotel before the colonel and Teal'c start to worry."
"It's a little late for that," Daniel murmured with a small smile, then took her hand and started them off in the direction they needed to go. "I... I think that kiss answered a bunch of questions about our feelings for each other, at least on a physical level." Daniel paused and glanced over at the woman walking beside him. "Do you want to see if there's anything more?"
Sam took an extra step then turned to face the brown-haired man. "Yes, Daniel," she said with a small smile. "I would like that very much."
Daniel returned the expression and started walking once again. "Then we're going to do this right," he declared, wiping some of the water from his face. "Would you be willing to go on a date with me, Samantha Carter?"
Sam couldn't help but laugh at the slightly impish tone of the archaeologist's voice. "Who could turn down such an invitation?" she answered, giving him a bright smile. "When and where did you want to go?"
"That I'm not sure of yet," Daniel said. "It might be best to work all of that out once we're back in Colorado Springs." He paused until they'd crossed the street and reached the front of their hotel. "You're sure about this, Sam? This isn't about pity, or..."
"This has absolutely nothing to do with pity, Daniel, I promise," Sam interrupted to reassure him, happy that they were now standing under the canopy that covered the main entrance. She ran her free hand through her hair to push the matted down locks off her forehead. "I felt an amazing connection with you from the first moment I laid eyes on you on Abydos. It's only gotten stronger since then as our friendship grew. And the more I got to know you the more... other feelings grew, even though I tried to push them aside. I mean, there was Sha're..." She let her words trail off, somehow knowing Daniel would understand what she was trying to say.
And he did. "I know," he said softly. "I loved her very much. I still love her, and part of me always will. But you're not the only one who felt a connection between us from the beginning. I focused on the friendship aspect as intently as I could, even feeling guilty when... other... feelings came up. And then, she was gone, and there was the hunt to find her child, and finding Kheb..." Daniel sighed. "I suppose that's another reason we should take things slowly."
Sam squeezed the hand holding hers. "You're still grieving," she said simply.
Daniel nodded. "Somewhat. But at the same time, I can't deny these feelings for you. You are so very special, and I don't want to miss this chance to find out where this can go."
"I don't either," Sam agreed. "I'm in no hurry. We have time."
Daniel didn't respond in words. He merely pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly, Sam returning the embrace with as much passion as she was receiving.
And from the lobby behind them, their teammates watched and smiled, happy to see that rainy nights didn't always lead to broken hearts.