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Sam sat curled on the couch, a pillow hugged to her chest.  It had been one day since Daniel's funeral, a day of grief and pain . . . and horrible, unrelenting guilt.  It was eating her alive from the inside.  Daniel was dead because of her.  If it had not been for what she'd told him that night, he wouldn't have felt the need to go off alone.  If she had done her duty and insisted on staying with him, she'd have been there when the natives attacked.

Sam ignored the knock on the door, not feeling up to talking to anyone.  She was surprised when it opened after a moment.  Looking up, she saw her father.

"Sammie," he said roughly.  "I didn't get the message until a few hours ago.  I came through as soon as I could."  He walked forward.  "Oh, sweetheart, I am so sorry."

Sam began to cry.  "Daddy."

Jacob hurried to her and gathered her into his arms, holding her tightly as she wept.  It was a very long time before Sam quieted.

"He told me that he loved me," she said in a tiny voice.

Surprised by the confession, the Tok'ra just looked at her.

"The . . . the night before h-he died, he came here.  He asked me on a date and told me that he had feelings for me.  Oh, God, Daddy.  I turned him down.  I told him that I didn't feel that way about him and never would.  I hurt him so much."

Jacob sighed silently, holding her tighter still.  For a long time now, he had hoped that, someday, Daniel and his daughter would get together.  In the archeologist he had seen a man who could give Sam everything she could ever want in a relationship.  After all these years, Daniel had at last taken the step that Jacob had hoped he would, but was met with rejection.  And, now, he was gone.

"On the mission, Daniel was so uncomfortable around me," Sam said.  "In the ruins, he . . . he told me that he wanted to be alone.  I know it was because he wanted to be away from me.  And so I let him go.  He was all alone without backup when the natives attacked.  Daniel is dead because of what I said and did.  It's all my fault."

Though Jacob tried to ease his daughter's guilt, nothing he said did any good.  It was after one a.m. before she finally went off to bed.

The next day was an especially bad one for Sam.  It was Thanksgiving, a day that the team usually shared over turkey and other traditional fare.  Sam spent the day mostly in tears.  Her father looked on, worried sick about her and not simply because of the tears.  She had cried for hours after Daniel ascended.  This was different and far worse.  It was as if the weight of her grief and guilt was crushing her spirit, and he didn't know what to do or say to help her.

Jacob stayed for two more days after Thanksgiving, becoming progressively more worried.  Sam barely ate, and there were ever-present circles under her eyes, made all the more obvious by her paleness.  He had to wonder how much sleep she was getting.  Last night, he'd gone to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and heard her crying.  The night before, she'd had a nightmare, calling out Daniel's name in anguish.

Jacob considered asking his daughter to speak to a therapist who specialized in grief counseling, but he knew that she would refuse.  Instead, he tried to cheer her up in every way he could think of, but he never managed to get even a ghost of a smile from her.

On the day Jacob had to return to the Tok'ra, he told Sam that he was going to go for a little walk.  He went to a convenience store a few blocks away and made a call on the pay phone.

"Jack, it's Jacob.  We need to meet."

"Um . . . okay.  Where are you calling from?  I didn't recognize the number."

"I'm at a pay phone at that little store near Sam's.  Meet me in the park that's across the street from here."

"All right.  I'll head right on over there."

Jack arrived at the park several minutes later.

"Okay, what's up, Jacob?" the colonel asked as the two men sat down at a picnic table.

"It's about Sam.  I'm worried sick about her.  Daniel's death has hit her really hard."

Jack's gaze fell to the top of the table.  "It's hit us all hard, Jacob.  There have been so many times when we thought we'd lost Daniel or were going to lose him, yet he always managed to make it through.  A big part of me still can't believe that he's really gone this time."

The Tok'ra shook his head.  "It's more than that, Jack."  He studied the man.  "I'm assuming you know that Daniel and Sam weren't together when the natives attacked."

Jack frowned and nodded.

Jacob noticed the frown.  "Did Sam tell you why?"

"She just said in the debriefing that she had thought it was safe."

"Well, I think you need to know why.  Sam will probably kill me for telling you, but I'll take my chances."

Jacob recounted what Sam had revealed.  The news shocked and dismayed the colonel.

"This is tearing her apart, Jack," Jacob told him, "and nothing I've done has helped.  I know that she'll refuse to speak to a professional if I ask her to, but you're her C.O."

"You're asking me to order her to go to a shrink?"

"Not exactly.  Tell her that she can't be cleared for full active duty until she's received some counseling.  To be honest, she really shouldn't be cleared for full duty.  She is not in the right frame of mind to go off-world.  You have a psychiatrist who treats the SGC personnel, don't you?"

"Yeah, but there ain't no damn way I'd send her to that quack MacKenzie, so it would have to be Doc Richardson.  He's the one who treats most of the personnel."

"Talk to George about it, Jack.  You need to get her to talk to someone."

After receiving a promise that the colonel would take care of it, Jacob studied the man sitting on the other side of the table.  "How are you doing, Jack?  And don't tell me that you're okay."

The colonel didn't reply for a long time.  "It hurts," he finally admitted in a low voice.  "Closing up his place was . . . hard.  It wasn't easy when we did it after he ascended, but this time. . . ."  Jack sighed softly.  "Sam doesn't know that Teal'c and I did it.  We didn't tell her.  We figured that she wasn't up to helping this time."

Jack looked off at the trees.  "There were so many times that Daniel and I didn't see eye-to-eye, a few times when I felt like strangling him.  I missed him when he was gone for that year, more than I was willing to admit even to myself.  But now. . . .  He's not coming back this time.  He really is dead, no reprieves, no second chances.  When he was dying from the radiation poisoning, I totally screwed up on telling him how much his friendship meant to me.  I don't think I'll ever forgive myself that I didn't take the opportunity to do it right."

Jacob understood that regret very well, being no stranger to it himself.  "When do you return to duty?" he asked after several seconds of silence.

"Tomorrow.  I'd have preferred to have been back to work already.  All I've done at home is sit in my recliner and drink beer.  You're lucky that you caught me early.  I'd probably have been drunk again by this afternoon."

There was a slight note of flippancy in Jack's voice, but Jacob saw the pain beyond.

He got to his feet.  "I want you to promise to look after my little girl, Jack."

The colonel also stood.  "For as long as I'm able, Jacob."

The next day came too soon for Sam.  She didn't want to go to work.  Work was where memories of Daniel would be so much stronger, where the weight of her guilt over her failure to protect a teammate would be so much heavier.

After arriving and changing out of her civvies, Sam went straight to her lab, ignoring every look, acknowledging every statement of condolence with just a nod of her head.  She shut her lab door once she got there, something she'd never done before.

For the next three hours, Sam worked with almost manic desperation, trying to drive out of her mind all thoughts of Daniel.  But it didn't work, and she ended up getting so little accomplished that she might as well not have been there.

The ringing of the phone startled her.  She answered the call and was told that Hammond wanted to see her in his office.  With a weary sigh, she went to see him.

"Sit down, Major," he instructed gently.  He studied her for several seconds, concerned by her appearance.  "Sam.  I know that you've been having a hard time dealing with what happened."

Sam frowned.  "Did you talk to my father?"

"He spoke to Colonel O'Neill, and the colonel spoke to me.  We know the whole story, Sam, and we're all worried about you.  I would like you to speak to Doctor Richardson about your feelings."

Sam was appalled that her father had told Jack something so private.  "With all due respect, sir, I don't see the point.  What can he possibly say to change things?  Daniel is dead, and I'm responsible.  Nothing will ever change that."

"Major, not a man or woman on this base hasn't made mistakes."

Sam started getting upset.  "And how many of those mistakes killed one of their friends, sir?  How many of their mistakes took away someone who . . . who loved them?  All he wanted was to go on a date, just a date, but I said no.  I rejected him.  I would give anything to take back the things I said to him.  I would give my life a thousand times to save him.  All Doctor Richardson will say is that I need to work through my guilt and grief, that I need to accept what happened and move on.  Well, I can't accept it.  I can't work through it.  One of the best friends I've ever had is dead, and I'm to blame.  How do I work through that?"

Hammond was silent for a long moment before replying.  "By taking things one day at a time, by getting up each morning, living your life, and cherishing the memories of the years you had with Daniel.  When we lose someone we love, that's all we really can do.  I'm no stranger to guilt, Sam.  I've made mistakes that resulted in bad things happening. But I didn't let it destroy me.  I carried on, and, in time, the guilt faded.  It never completely went away, but it became bearable."

Sam was now staring at her lap, trying not to cry.  The general got up and came around his desk.  He leaned over and took her shoulders.

"Talk to Richardson, Sam.  Maybe it won't help, but maybe something he says will.  You and I both know that you can't resume your duties as a member of SG-1 in your present state of mind."

Sam finally nodded, knowing that he was right.  If she couldn't even work effectively in her lab, she certainly couldn't go on a mission.  She got to her feet and, much to her surprise, received a long hug from the general.

"You'll get through this, Sam," he said after they parted.  "Right now, it may not seem like you will, but time does heal our wounds.  The scars may not completely go away, but we learn to live with them."

It was the next day that Sam had her first session with Richardson.  She tried to take in what he was saying, but it only succeeded in upsetting and angering her.  It wasn't much better during the next session on the following day, though she did manage to listen without getting mad.  But nothing he said helped at all.  The same was true for the third sessions on Friday.

That entire first week back at work was dreadful.  No matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried to work, thoughts of Daniel and his death would not leave her mind.  Several times, she had to escape to her quarters for a few minutes.  She figured that everyone had gotten used to seeing the evidence of tears on her face.

The lack of sleep didn't help either.  Sleeping was a struggle, even on the few nights that she didn't have a nightmare about Daniel's death.  She ended up drinking a whole lot of coffee during the day – which also made her think of Daniel.

Though she'd had very little appetite since it happened, Sam had been making an effort to eat.  She was entering the commissary at ten o'clock Monday morning for a late breakfast when she saw Jack sitting at a table, a pile of files beside him and a deep frown on his face.  Why it was that he usually chose to work in the commissary instead of his perfectly good office was something she'd never understood.

Deciding to say hi, she started over to him.  At that moment, he picked up one of the files and opened it.  It was a personnel file, and, all at once, Sam knew what he was doing.  He was searching for a replacement for Daniel.

Sam's appetite fled.  She turned quickly and escaped, heading straight to her quarters.  Sitting on the bed, her knees pulled up to her chin, she closed her eyes tightly as a wave of grief rose up over her.

How was she ever going to go on a mission with another person in Daniel's place?  When he ascended, she'd had to accept a new team member, ten of them, in fact, including Jonas Quinn.  But it was so different now.  Back then, Daniel had still been alive in some form, and she hadn't been carrying the guilt of his loss inside her.

Sitting there on the bed, thinking about all the months and years ahead, constantly surrounded by reminders of Daniel and her part in his death, Sam suddenly knew what she had to do.  An hour later, she was standing at the doorway of General Hammond's office, a file folder in her hand.

"Come in, Major," he instructed.

Sam came forward.  "Sir, I. . . ."  She reached into the folder, pulled out a white envelope and handed it to the base commander.  "General, I respectfully wish to resign my commission in the United States Air Force."

Shocked by the statement, Hammond stared at the envelope.  He then lifted his eyes to Sam.

"Major, I understand your emotions, how difficult it has been for you to resume work after what happened, but to resign. . . .  You've devoted so much of your life to the Air Force and to this program."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I just can't stay in the SGC anymore.  I can't stay on SG-1 and go through the gate with some new team member, knowing that he's there instead of Daniel because of my mistakes.  I failed Daniel, not just as a friend, but also as his teammate and the second in command of SG-1.  I don't deserve to wear the uniform."

"I disagree," Hammond said.  "Yes, you made a mistake, Major, but it was one caused by upsetting circumstances.  In your place, I'd wager that many others would have allowed Daniel to have that time alone.  If it hadn't been for those natives, he would have been perfectly all right."

"But he isn't perfectly all right, is he, sir.  He's dead, and I'm responsible."

The tone of her voice and the look in her eyes told the general that nothing he said would assuage Sam's guilt.  But he wasn't ready to give up quite yet.

"All right, Sam.  But I want you to consider reassignment instead of resignation.  Area 51's Research and Development department would benefit tremendously from your knowledge and abilities.  Or you could go back to the Pentagon.  I'm going to put you on an extended leave to think about it, two months.  If, at the end of that time, you still feel that you can no longer be a part of the Air Force, I will accept your resignation."

Accepting his condition, Sam nodded.  "Thank you, sir."

Hammond looked into her eyes.  "Before you go, I want you to think about something.  Daniel wouldn't want you to feel guilty over his death.  He wouldn't want you to give up something you love because of what happened.  Don't let his death destroy you, Sam.  It would break his heart to see that happen."

When the knock came that evening, Sam knew who it was, who it had to be.  Without a word she opened the door and let Jack in.

"Hammond told me about the resignation," he said.

Sam said nothing, only nodding.

Jack looked at her.  "So, you want to give it all up."

Sam turned away, walking back into the living room.  "I just can't do it anymore, Colonel.  Every moment I'm on base, I can't stop thinking about . . ." her voice quavered, "about him."

Jack closed his eyes briefly.  He, too, found his mind on Daniel during most of the time he was on base.  He hadn't dared set foot on Level 18.  He had a feeling he probably wouldn't be able to for a long time to come.

But the program needed Sam, needed her knowledge and skills.  SG-1 needed her.  He'd already lost his best friend and a member of his team.  He didn't want to lose another.

"Sam, I know how much you're hurting.  I'm hurting, too.  So is Teal'c.  Daniel was . . . he was special to all of us.  We all lov—"  Jack halted his words as his voice started to give out.

Sam turned to him, surprised by the open emotion in his words.  When Daniel ascended, Jack had been so closed off, never showing how he felt, never admitting that he was hurting.  But, this time, he wasn't hiding it.  She could see it in his eyes, the darkness of grief.  So lost in her own pain and guilt, she hadn't really thought much about how this was affecting her other teammates.  That made her feel selfish and self-centered now.

Sudden tears began rolling down her face.  Jack immediately came forward and pulled her into a gentle embrace.  This was the second time that he'd held her as she cried over the loss of a friend.  Like that time, he held her for as long as she let him, which turned out to be around a minute this time.  She then pulled away, going off to get a few tissues from the virtually empty box.

"I don't know how you can stand to be near me," she said.

"What the hell does that mean?"

Sam turned to him.  "He's dead because of me, because of what I said and because I allowed him to go off alone on a potentially dangerous, alien world."

"Dammit, Carter.  It was Daniel who chose to go off alone.  That was his decision.  He should have known that it wasn't wise.  But it's not like it's the first time he did that.  How many other times did he wander off without us when there was some fascinating archeological stuff to see?  More times than I can count.  And it wasn't just when he was playing archeologist.  Look at that stuff with the Enkarans when he decided to play Lone Ranger and talk to that robot Lotan guy.  Daniel did what he wanted to do, and I'm betting that, even if you had said no, he'd have figured out a way to get away from you for a while."

"But that's the whole point, isn't it," Sam said.  "He shouldn't have wanted to get away from me.  It's my fault that he did.  I hurt him, and I can never, ever forgive myself that he died with that hurt still inside him."  She started to cry again.  "He loved me, and I threw that love back in his face."  Sam turned her back to him again.  "Please, sir.  I really need to be alone."

Jack let out a tired sigh.  "All right, Sam.  But I want you to know that Teal'c and I are here for you.  All you need to do is call, and one of us will come right over . . . or both of us, if you want."

Sam nodded, wiping her face.  "Thank you, sir."

Jack headed for the door.  He paused before going out.  "You're not the one to blame for this, Sam . . . I am."

The statement made her turn to look at him.

"I chose to split up the team," he said.  "I should have kept us together."

Sam shook her head.  "But, sir, we've split into two groups lots of times."

"But we shouldn't have this time.  I made an error in judgment, and Daniel paid the price."

Saying nothing more, Jack walked out the door, shutting it behind him, leaving Sam to the realization that more than one of them was living with a burden of guilt.

The next day, Sam decided that she needed to get away for a few days.  She threw some clothes and other stuff in a suitcase, hopped in her car, and just drove, ending her journey at the Pacific Ocean.  She stayed on the coast for three days, walking on the beach every day, trying to find some peace inside herself.  She was only partly successful, her thoughts too often going to Daniel and wishing that he was there with her, wishing that she'd spent more time with him as a friend.

The night Sam got back home from her trip she had another dream about him.  But this one was not about his death.  He was alive . . . and he was kissing her, lying with her on a beach, his hands caressing her softly.  He whispered, "I love you," in her ear and smiled down at her, his eyes shining with love.  It felt so good, so perfect, more wonderful than anything Sam had ever known.  She said, "I love you," back to him.

And then she awoke, and the perfect, wonderful feelings vanished.  Tears flooding her eyes, Sam turned her face into the pillow.  Why did she have such a dream?  What twisted, dark corner of her subconscious had decided to torture her like that?  In reality, she wasn't in love with Daniel, but in that dream. . . .  Was this her subconscious mind's way of showing her what she could have had if she hadn't said no that night?  Was it telling her that, if she'd only given it chance, she could have come to love Daniel like that?

That dream proved to be only the first of many such dreams, ones of the two of them in a relationship, completely in love.  What was so heartbreaking about the dreams is how very happy she was in them.  She felt so joyful, so complete, like Daniel had taken all the empty places within her and filled them with love.  And then she awoke to the cruel reality of the real world, a world in which she would have none of those things with him, no kisses, no romantic dinners or evenings cuddling on the couch . . . no expression of love in his beautiful blue eyes.  Out of all the dreams, the worst were the ones in which the two of them made love, for waking up from those dreams made Sam feel so lonely and empty inside that she just curled up and cried.

When Sam arose from bed on the cold, clear morning of December 21, it was with a lighter mood.  It was a special day.  Cassie would be arriving to spend half the Christmas break with her.  Sam was looking forward to it.  In truth, it was the first thing she'd looked forward to since that horrible day.  She had considered going to her brother's for Christmas but decided that she just wasn't up to being around a lot of relatives chatting, singing Christmas carols and being merry.

Sam spent the early morning straightening up the house, then headed off to the Denver airport.  Cassie's flight was on time, and it wasn't long before Sam spotted the teenager.  She smiled and waved.

Cassie came forward, appalled at what she was seeing.  Sam looked terrible, so tired and pale.  She also looked like she'd lost quite a bit of weight.  Had she been ill?

"So, how's school?" Sam asked once they were on the road.

"All right.  Two of my professors are excruciatingly boring.  Half the class falls asleep."

Sam smiled.  "I didn't have that problem at the Academy, but when I was going for my doctorate . . . oh boy.  Professor Pemberton would put an insomniac to sleep."

They fell silent for a moment, then got into another conversation, which is how it went for the rest of the trip to Sam's.  Out of the corner of her eye, the astrophysicist saw Cassie glance at her repeatedly during every bout of silence.

At last, they were home.  After getting Cassie unpacked in the spare bedroom, Sam asked if the teen was hungry.  Cassie nodded, and they went to the kitchen to fix lunch.

Sam was cutting up an apple when Cassie abruptly asked, "Sam, are you all right?"

The astrophysicist paused briefly, then resumed what she was doing.  "Sure, I'm fine."

"No, you're not," the girl countered with an accusatory tone.  "You've lost a lot of weight, and you look like you've been sick.  Have you been sick?"

Sam shook her head.  "No, I haven't been sick."

Cassie studied her.  "It's because of Daniel, isn't it."

Sam froze in place, her hand clutching the knife spasmodically.  She then quickly finished cutting the apple and went to the refrigerator.

"What would you like to drink?"

Cassie didn't reply.  Instead, she said, "You loved him."

Sam closed her eyes and shut the refrigerator.

"Yes, I loved him, Cass.  He was my friend."

"No.  You were in love with him."

Sam shook her head and turned to the girl.  "No.  I didn't . . . I didn't feel that way about him."

"I think you did.  There's this senior named Patricia.  She and her boyfriend had been together since they were freshmen.  He was killed last month in a car accident, and she fell apart.  She just about starved herself and was barely sleeping.  She looked like you do, Sam."

The astrophysicist sat down across from her goddaughter.  "I'm not starving myself, Cassie.  I just haven't had much of an appetite.  I haven't lost as much weight as I look like I have."

"But you're not sleeping, are you."

Sam sighed.  "I've been having some trouble."  Her gaze went to tabletop.  "There are things about Daniel's death that you don't know, Cass.  It was . . . it was my fault."

The teen stared at her.  "How was it your fault?"

"I let him go off alone while on a mission when I shouldn't have.  He was all by himself when some natives attacked.  If I'd been there with him, we could have fought them off."

Cassie digested this news, certain that there was more to this than just guilt over not being with Daniel when he was attacked.

They ate their lunch in silence.  Afterwards, they talked in the living room.  Sam was very careful to keep the subject on Cassie, asking her all kinds of questions about school and how she liked college life.  The teenager recognized what Sam was doing.

"Are you going to have to work at all while I'm here?" she asked.

"Nope.  I'm on leave."

"For how long?"

Sam hesitated before replying.  "Two months."

Cassie frowned.  "Two months?  Why so long?"

Sam stared at her clasped hands.  "I'm considering resigning."

Cassie's mouth fell open.  "From the Air Force?"  She got a nod of confirmation.  "But you love the Air Force!"

"It's hard to explain, Cass.  I just . . . feel like I can't be at the SGC any longer.  I could transfer to another post, but, right now, I just don't know if I can stay in the Air Force at all."

"Because of Daniel."

Sam got up.  "Please, Cassie.  I really don't want to talk about it."

The teen began to cry.  "When Mom died, I didn't want to talk about how I felt, but you made me talk.  You told me that talking would make me feel better, and it did."

Against her will, tears began sliding down Sam's face.  For a long moment, she tried to keep it in, but it was a losing battle.

"I miss him," she whispered.  "I miss him so much."

Cassie got up and wrapped her arms around her godmother.  Sam held on as the two of them cried.  It was a long time before they returned to the couch.

"Ever since he died, I've been thinking about all the things we never did together," Sam admitted in a low voice.  "I thought of him as one of my very best friends, but we did so few things together outside of work.  And I never told him how much he really meant to me, how precious he was to me.  When he was dying from the radiation poisoning, I tried to tell him, but he was unconscious and never even heard me.  And now he's gone forever, and I'll never get the chance."

Sam had yet another dream that night.  It started out like the others, with her and Daniel together as a couple.  They were playing with a golden-haired little boy with eyes that were mirror images of Daniel's.  The archeologist was swinging the child around, making the boy giggle in delight as Sam looked on happily.

But then, suddenly, he put the boy down.  In the next instant, the child vanished, as if he'd never existed.

Daniel's sad blue eyes looked at Sam.  "I love you, Sam," he said.  Then he began moving away from her.  The sky started to darken, dense fog rolling in.  Sam fought to see Daniel as he got farther and farther away.

"Daniel!" she cried.  "Daniel, come back!  Please don't leave me!  Daniel!"

Sam awoke with a gasp, sitting straight up in bed, chest heaving.

"Oh, God," she whispered, covering her face with her hands.

After a while, she got up and went to the kitchen for some water.  She wondered if there would be any point in going back to bed.  In another hour it would be dawn.

As Sam's gaze wandered about the room, it came to a stop on the calendar.  December 22.

All at once it hit Sam, with enough force to knock the breath from her lungs.  It was the one-month anniversary of Daniel's death.

Sobs escaping from her lips, Sam slowly slid to the floor as a crushing weight of grief descended upon her.  She didn't know how long it was before she felt arms go around her.  She clung to Cassie like a devastated child.

"I loved him," she sobbed, finally seeing the truth that she had been blind to until now.

It felt like hours before the storm of emotions passed.  They were now sitting on the couch, Sam's eyes aching from all the tears she'd shed.

"I was so stupid," she said.  "Why didn't I see?  Why didn't I know?  If I hadn't been so blind, Daniel would still be alive."

Cassie didn't ask what Sam meant by that last sentence.  She was more interested in trying to find some way to comfort her godmother.  But what could she say to a woman who had just realized that she was in love with a man who was now dead?

That day was the worst one for Sam since the first week following Daniel's death.  She had rejected him because she couldn't see the truth of her own feelings for him.  Why didn't she see?  Why had she been so blind?  Why now, when it was so horribly too late, did she finally wake up to her feelings?

Now, all the dreams about her and Daniel made perfect sense.  Her subconscious had already known what her conscious mind had failed to recognize.  She could have had all those things with him, that happy, fulfilling life.

The next day, Sam had managed to mostly pull herself together, more for the sake of Cassie than anything else.  She knew that she had to do a whole lot better, though.  Jack and Teal'c would be coming over on Christmas Day to exchange presents.  That made her think of a certain present that sat on a shelf in her closet, a gift that would never be given.  She had been so looking forward to this Christmas, having decided to spend it with Daniel and the rest of her team since they had been without him the previous Christmas.  But there would be no Christmas with Daniel, and there never would be again.

Refusing to let herself get really down again, Sam forcefully pushed that thought out of her mind.

On Christmas morning, Sam put on extra makeup in an effort to mask the paleness of her skin and the darkness under her eyes, and she wore an oversized sweater to hide her weight loss.  She should have known that it wouldn't do any good.  By the look on the faces of the two men when they arrived, the makeup and baggy clothes didn't fool them a bit.  Neither men said anything, but their frowns spoke volumes.

After all the gifts had been given and received, Sam asked Jack if he would take the presents she'd gotten for a few people on base and give them out.

"You should do it yourself, Sam," he said.  "Everyone would love to see you."

"I just don't feel up to it, sir.  I'm sorry."

"Are you unwell, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked.

So, he'd finally said something about it.  "No, I'm not sick, Teal'c," she replied.

"You've lost weight," Jack said accusingly.

"I really haven't lost all that much.  Trust me.  I'm not in any danger of wasting away.  My appetite just hasn't been all that great lately."  She got up.  "Excuse me.  I need to go use the bathroom."

When Sam finished and opened the door, she was startled to see Jack standing a few feet away.

"It's all yours," she said, assuming he needed the bathroom.

"I don't need the bathroom, Carter.  You and I need to talk in private."

Sam noticed his use of her last name, which probably meant that he wasn't happy.  He'd been calling her "Sam" all morning.

Feeling more than a little uncomfortable, Sam led Jack to her bedroom and closed the door.

Jack searched her face.  "When is the last time you got a full night's sleep?"

Sam thought about it.  "I . . . I don't remember.  Before it happened, I think.  And before you say anything, sir, it's not unusual for people to have trouble sleeping after . . . after losing someone."

Jack knew all too well how true that was.  After Charlie's death, he barely slept for months.  Even so, he knew that he had to say what he'd gotten her alone to tell her.

He looked into her eyes.  "You have to get past what happened, Sam.  You have to forgive yourself."

Sam returned the look boldly.  "Did you ever forgive yourself for Charlie?"

Jack's expression closed off.  "That's different."

"Is it?  I don't see the difference.  Daniel died because of something I did and something I didn't do."

Jack shook his head.  "It isn't the same, Carter.  Charlie was a child whom it was my responsibility to keep safe.  He was my son."

"Daniel was a teammate, whom it was my responsibility to keep safe.  And he . . . he was the man that I love."

Startled by the declaration, Jack stared at her.

"For a smart woman I really am stupid," she said, looking across the room.  "I couldn't even see that I loved him.  I thought that all I felt was friendship, though I realize now that I should have known a long time ago that I felt more.  You know when I finally woke up to the truth?  The one-month anniversary of his death."

'Crap,' Jack cursed silently.  He could only imagine how Sam must be feeling.

"I don't even know when I fell for him.  I don't think that I actually 'fell'.  I think that I have been slowly coming to love him like this for years.  It happened so gradually that I didn't see it.  I wish I'd never seen it.  It makes everything so much worse."

Sam headed for the door.  "Teal'c and Cassie are probably wondering where we are."  She went back out into the living room, followed shortly by Jack.

The colonel and Teal'c stayed a little while longer, then left, both men wishing that they knew how to ease their teammate's sorrow and guilt.

Sam made an effort to be a lot more cheerful during the rest of Cassie's visit.  The day before she was due to leave, the teenager talked about canceling her other plans and staying with Sam the whole two weeks, but the astrophysicist would have none of it.

"You've planned that vacation with your friends for weeks, Cass.  You need to go on it and have fun."

"There will be other vacations with them," the girl protested.

Sam's eyes focused on her with stark intensity.  "Don't, Cassie.  Don't ever assume that you'll have other times with the people you love.  In an instant, something can happen to take them away."

Tears coming to her eyes, Cassie wrapped Sam in a tight hug.

The next day, Sam took her to the airport, and the two said goodbye, the girl promising to call often.  Then Sam returned to her empty house.

The days passed.  Jack called twice a week to check up on Sam, mentioning several times that they should all get together.  Cassie also called a few times, always asking how she was doing.  She told the teen that she was doing better, which was true.  The bad days were getting fewer and farther in between, though the two-month anniversary was especially bad.

On the morning of February 1, Sam lay in bed, thinking about her future.  She had only one more week of leave after today.  By the end of that week, her decision about her career would have to be made.  She couldn't put it off any longer.

Sam had just finished getting dressed when a sound made her freeze.  It had come from inside the house.  Going to the night stand, she slid one of the drawers open and pulled out her gun.  She crept to the door and opened it a crack, looking out.  Not seeing anyone, Sam opened the door further and entered the hall.  She knew that she should have called 911 instead of handling this herself, but what if it was Jack?  He might have knocked while she was in the shower.

But it was not Jack who was standing in her dining room.  The person's back was turned to Sam, so she couldn't see their face.

"Don't move," Sam ordered.  "I have a gun trained at your back, and, if you try anything funny, I will shoot."

A pair of hands went up, then the intruder slowly turned around.  Sam let out a gasp, staring in utter shock at the person's features.

"Hello, Sam," said a familiar voice.

"Who are you?" Sam breathed.

"I should think that would be obvious.  I'm you."

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