Rating: R / PG-13
Content Warning: Adult Themes, Mild Profanity, Nudity, Strong Sexual Content
Spoilers: Emancipation, Gamekeeper, Past and Present, The Other Side, Entity, Double Jeopardy, Meridian, Fallen, Revisions, Evolution
Author's Notes: This story takes place shortly after Evolution.
Sam glanced up to see Daniel ascending a staircase off in the distance. He was right at home amongst the ruins they'd discovered on this planet. She had to admit that she was pretty excited, too. There were remnants of advanced technology amidst the ancient city, and she was busily searching through the crumbling structures like a kid on a giant Easter egg hunt. She'd already found several objects that she was eager to take back to her lab and tear into. She just wished that they were going to be here longer than two days. Sometimes, like Daniel, she'd be happy if they were the ones who got to stay on a planet rather than having to step aside and let other teams take over after they'd done the initial survey. But they were a first contact team. That was their function. Go to a new planet, check it out, make contact with the natives, and, if there was anything of interest and the natives were friendly, let the SGC know so that the archeological and/or science units could come in and do their jobs.
Sam's thoughts were interrupted by a loud rumble and a brief cry. She snapped her head around to see a cloud of dust arise from where Daniel had been standing only moments ago.
"Daniel!" Sam cried, scrambling to her feet and dashing full speed toward her teammate. She skidded to a halt when she saw that a portion of the courtyard at the top of the stairs had crumbled, leaving a gaping hole.
"Daniel!" Sam yelled again, trying to see through the dust swirling about. Just then, she heard a cough.
"Yeah, I'm okay, Sam," Daniel called, then coughed again.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm fine. I didn't fall far, only a few feet." Another cough. "I can't see a thing down here with all this dust."
"You want me to call the colonel?"
"No, just wait. The dust will settle."
They grew silent, waiting for the air to clear. At last, the cloud settled back upon the ground, and Sam looked down at Daniel. He was about seven feet down, covered from head to toe in dust. After the fear she'd felt a moment ago, the relief of seeing him unharmed and in such a state made her giggle.
"You wouldn't find it so amusing if you were the one down here," Daniel grumbled. He then let out an enormous sneeze, which stirred back up some of the dust.
"Can you get out of there?" Sam asked, squashing another smile.
"Well, since I'm not especially fond of the place, I certainly hope so." He ran a hand along the edge of the hole and watched as bits of stone fell. "This is too unstable for me to try pulling myself up."
"I could always go back to camp and get some rope."
"No, let me look around first. There has to be an exit. This looks like some kind of storage area. There are some remains of wooden crates." Daniel pulled out his flashlight. "I'm going to go take a look."
The archeologist disappeared from view, his footsteps fading away. Sam stood there and waited. After a few minutes, she began to grow concerned.
"Daniel? Daniel, can you hear me?"
"Yes, I can hear you," replied Daniel – from right behind her. Sam gave a little squeak of surprise and spun around, almost losing her balance. Daniel leapt forward and steadied her.
"Careful, Sam. It's bad enough that I look like I just went through a dust storm, we don't need you falling down there, too."
Stepping away from her, Daniel tried to dust off his clothes, with limited success.
"Well, it looks like I'm going to be taking a bath in that lake we passed on the way here," he muttered.
"Yes, I'd say so," Sam agreed with a smile. She then grew serious. "Are you sure you're okay? It may have been only seven feet, but it was still a nasty fall."
"Yeah, I'm fine, Sam, though I may end up with a bruise here or there."
At that moment, Jack's voice came over the radio. "Carter, come in."
"Carter here, sir," Sam responded.
"Daniel with you?"
"Yes, sir, he's right here."
"Good. The sun's going to be setting soon. Time to call it quits for the day. Get on back to where we decided to set up camp."
"Yes, sir." Sam looked at her dusty teammate. "Come on, Daniel. The sooner we set up camp, the sooner you can take your bath."
Jack and Teal'c were already there when Sam and Daniel arrived at the place they'd chosen for their camp. One of the Jaffa's eyebrows lifted dramatically upon seeing Daniel. Jack just stared at him.
"What happened to you?" the colonel asked.
"I had a sudden and unexpected descent into a very dusty storage room," Daniel replied.
"I'm fine. Just very eager to get cleaned up. I'm going to wash up in that lake we saw once we get camp set up."
Jack's lips twitched into a tiny smile. "Okay, let's get cracking, then."
Moving with the speed and ease of many years of practice, SG-1 set up their tents and gathered wood for a fire. The fire would be for light rather than heat since the weather was quite warm and would probably not cool down much that night.
As soon as everything was finished, Daniel got some clean clothes out of his pack and the hand towel that he always carried along on missions.
"You want me or Teal'c to go with you?" Jack asked.
"I think I can handle it on my own, Jack," Daniel replied. "I'll give your regards to any fish I see."
Jack watched Daniel leave, tempted to tag along. He knew that he had no good reason for being concerned about the archeologist going off alone. This world was determined to be completely safe, no signs of any intelligent life and no really nasty wildlife, at least not any that the MALP or UAV had seen. But Jack couldn't help but think of what happened the last time Daniel went off without his team. The archeologist had come a hair's breadth away from being killed by those Honduran rebels. If Jack hadn't shown up when he did. . . . It was not something he liked to think about, just as he didn't like to think about the way the rebels had tortured Daniel.
Wanting to keep his mind off those thoughts, Jack asked Sam about what she'd found. Ten minutes later, he was heartily wishing that he'd kept his mouth shut.
Forty minutes after Daniel had left, Jack started to get a little antsy. The time periods between checking his watch grew shorter and shorter until he was looking at it every few seconds.
"What's taking him so long?" he muttered. "It wouldn't take more than twenty minutes to get to the lake and back. How long does he need to wash the dust off?"
"Perhaps he's enjoying a swim while he's there, sir," Sam suggested. "It is a pretty warm day, and the lake did look rather inviting."
Jack got to his feet. "Well, I'm going to go see what's keeping him."
Seeing that Jack wasn't going to let Daniel return in his own good time, Sam said, "Sir, perhaps I should go."
Jack frowned. "Why you?"
"Because, sir, Daniel is just going to get irritated if you go to the lake." Sam paused a moment, then decided to go ahead and say what she was thinking. "Colonel, he is an adult and is quite capable of taking care of himself."
Jack sighed, knowing she was right. Daniel would be pissed off if Jack showed up at the lake like a father fretting over where his teenaged son had gone off to, and that was the last thing Jack wanted. Things had been going well between him and Daniel since the archeologist's return from ascension. They hadn't achieved the level of closeness that they'd shared during those first couple of years on SG-1 and probably never would, but they were doing better than they had been the last two years before Daniel's "death" and ascension, especially that final year when the distance between them had grown so vast that there was hardly a visible trace left of their friendship. Though the year without Daniel had been hell for Jack, it had succeeded in partially mending the broken links of their friendship.
"Okay, Carter. We'll wait another ten minutes, then you go check up on Daniel. If you see that he's okay, don't disturb him, just come on back."
When the ten minutes passed with no sign of Daniel, Sam left for the lake. She was sure that Daniel was okay. In fact, he was probably enjoying the time alone. Ever since the incident in Central America, Jack had been hovering, sticking close to him. She knew that it was because the colonel was worried about his friend and what he had gone through, but she could imagine that it was still a bit aggravating to Daniel. It would be to her.
Seeing the glimmer of the lake ahead, Sam slowed down. She was planning on just taking a peek, keeping out of sight as much as possible. If she saw that Daniel was all right, she'd leave without letting him know that she was there. Then she could report to the colonel that Daniel was fine, and everyone would be happy.
Staying partially hidden by the trees, Sam approached the small clear area on the west side of the lake that they had seen while passing the body of water yesterday morning. Once she was in full sight of the lake, her eyes scanned it for Daniel, but failed to see him. Then a splash in the water drew her eyes to a spot about a hundred feet out. There, she saw someone surface out of the water and knew that it must be Daniel. She watched as he swam toward shore, admiring his smooth breast stroke.
Seeing that he was fine, Sam was just about to turn and leave when Daniel abruptly stood up, and Sam froze, her jaw dropping open – for standing there before her was a completely, utterly, gloriously naked Daniel Jackson.
In the six and a half years that she'd known Daniel, Sam had seen him in various states of undress, including a few times in just his boxers, but she'd never gotten the opportunity to look upon him in all his glory. And, now, she was struck dumb by the sight of him. The setting sun was shining full upon him, making his skin appear to glow golden, the water on him glistening as he slowly walked out of the lake like a demigod from some Greek myth.
"Holy Hannah," Sam said in a long, drawn out, breathy whisper.
The major knew that what she was doing was wrong, that the right thing to do would be to act like a lady and leave, but she couldn't. She was stuck in place, eyes glued to the incredibly gorgeous man before her.
To hell with being a lady.
Almost hungrily, Sam's gaze ran over the form of the man she thought of as her best friend. Daniel had always had a pretty good build, surprisingly so for a man who'd spent his life in academic pursuits and on archeological digs rather than in a gym or playing sports. As the years passed, however, and Daniel grew older, his body had gradually filled out even more. The shoulders seemed to get broader, the chest deeper, the muscles in his arms bigger. Sam knew this was because of the regular exercise regime and hand-to-hand combat training sessions that Daniel was pretty much forced to undergo by Jack. After Sha're's death, Jack didn't have to force Daniel anymore, the archeologist using strenuous exercise as one of the ways that he kept his mind off his wife.
But it had been after Daniel's return from ascension that things really started to change. Daniel suddenly began spending a lot more time in the gym, the weights he lifted getting heavier and heavier until he was bench pressing as much weight as most of the Marines – more than quite a few of them – and it had been very evident in the appearance of his body.
Sam had already known this, been aware of how Daniel was "bulking up", but it was not until this moment that the full realization hit her. Daniel was a total hunk, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, which she couldn't see right now since he was not fully out of the water yet. But what she could see was making her respiration speed up and a little flush spread through her body, certain parts of her anatomy a lot warmer than others. Choosing not to analyze the feelings that were racing through her right now, Sam shamelessly ogled Daniel's body.
His shoulders were broad and strong, leading down to biceps and triceps that had thickened substantially over the years. Though the muscles in his arms were mostly at rest now, the strength in them was still evident. She had seen those same muscles bulging prominently while he lifted weights in the gym and at various times on missions. How would it feel to have the strength of those arms holding her against his naked body?
Descending from his upper arms were strong forearms and the large, beautiful, long-fingered hands that she had so often watched gently touch some artifact. How would those hands feel caressing her body instead?
Like his shoulders, Daniel's chest was broad and strong, the pectorals well-defined, but not overly so, the skin smooth and hairless. Would that skin feels as soft and smooth beneath her lips as it appeared?
From the impressive breadth of his shoulders and chest, Daniel's body gently tapered down to hips that were narrow but not too skinny and a flat, well-toned abdomen. At this distance, she could not see the appendectomy scar, nor did she even know if it still existed. Had Daniel returned to human form without his scars? She had never asked Janet, and the doctor had never volunteered the information. Sam knew, though, that Daniel had collected at least one new scar since his return, the one courtesy of a bullet in his thigh, put there by the murderous Honduran rebels.
Sam's perusal of Daniel's body came to a screeching halt at just below hip level. 'Wow. Oh, my, my, my, Daniel. No wonder all of Janet's nurses fight over who gets to give you a sponge bath whenever you're stuck in the infirmary.'
Somewhat embarrassed by that thought and extremely flustered by the other thoughts and images that were starting to rampage through her mind, Sam dragged her eyes away from that part of Daniel's anatomy and slid down the long length of his slim legs, which were now almost completely out of the water as Daniel continued his walk toward shore.
At last, his feet were on dry land, and Sam took a look at them as well, though she'd seen them unshod many times before. A lot of men had ugly feet, but not so Daniel. Slender and well-formed, they were neither too big nor too small. A brief imagine came to Sam's mind of those feet sliding up and down the length of her bare calves.
That thought was put on hold when, after standing there a moment, Daniel turned away and walked over to the boulder where his clothing lay, affording Sam with a view of his very nice, tight butt. How would it feel to run her hands over those gently rounded curves?
Realizing that Daniel was about to get dressed, Sam quietly – and very reluctantly – left.
On the way back to camp, Sam began to analyze the thoughts and feelings that she'd been experiencing since the start of her little peepshow. There was no doubt that she was embarrassed. It had been a very long time since she'd had that kind of physical reaction to a man, and the fact that it had been caused by a teammate and someone that she had once thought of like a brother made it doubly embarrassing. The power of those physical sensations had really surprised her, leaving her feeling a little shaky, as did the thoughts she'd had and the images that had flashed through her mind. Of course she was also feeling guilty for having spied on Daniel like that, and she was wondering how she was going to be able to look him in the eye when he got back to camp.
But stronger than the embarrassment, the guilt and the surprise was the fear that was trembling through her, for the feelings that had arisen in Sam at the sight of Daniel were not fading but increasing, and the images kept bombarding her mind, erotic fantasies of her and Daniel, their bodies tangled together, joined in wild lovemaking. She was not supposed to be feeling these things, thinking these things. Daniel was her friend and her teammate. These thoughts and emotions were dangerous and wrong . . . or were they? Oh, there was no doubt that they were dangerous, but were they really wrong? Neither one of them was married, and, since Daniel was a civilian and she was not his C.O., there was nothing in the regs against them being a couple, though it was not something that their superiors would be happy about and could result in one of them being reassigned off SG-1.
The sexual desire for Daniel that had ignited in Sam's body was frightening, but the thing that absolutely terrified her was the other emotion that was fully awakening in her, an emotion that she had successfully repressed for years and, more recently, not so successfully. She didn't want these feelings, this emotion that had made her heart quiver on more than one occasion and broken it in two on so many more. It was this emotion that had made her feel like she was dying right along with him when she watched Daniel succumb to a horrible, agonizing death and then made her feel like her heart was soaring when she looked upon the form of a living, breathing Daniel after over a year without him. They were the feelings that had been betraying her in her sleep in recent months by bringing dreams of her and Daniel together, laughing and loving, only to wake up in the morning with a cold, lonely ache in her soul.
'Dammit, Sam. You were doing okay. You were managing to ignore these feelings, put them out of your mind, and then you go and do this. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You should have turned around and left the second you realized he was naked.'
But, God, he was so beautiful. To see him like that would be a memory she'd treasure for the rest of her life.
Sam continued her trek to camp, wondering what she was going to do now.
Daniel dried himself off the best that he could with the hand towel he'd brought, then donned his clean clothing. The swim in the lake had been very refreshing, the water wonderfully cool and clear. It had been soothing and relaxing . . . right up until the moment he realized that he had an audience.
He'd just gotten out the water when he thought he saw someone standing in the shadows of the trees. The sun being in his eyes, it had taken a couple of seconds to identify the figure. Having expected it to be Jack, it had been a shock to realize it was Sam. She appeared to be staring down at his legs or feet and was apparently oblivious to the fact that he was aware of her presence. The expression on her face had been . . . something that was not safe for him to think about while standing there in the nude. He had quickly turned away from her and headed for his clothes, feeling her eyes still upon him. A faint rustling in the undergrowth had announced Sam's departure shortly after Daniel reached the boulder he'd left his clothes on.
So, why hadn't he said anything the second he became aware of her presence? Why hadn't he covered himself and jumped back into the water instead of pretending he didn't know she was there? Because he had felt a thrill that Sam was looking at him like that and seemed to like what she saw, which was a bit strange since he was normally rather shy about exposing his body. Even in the locker room he often went to the shower with a towel wrapped around his hips. Jack had certainly teased him about that enough over the years. But then, that shyness had lessened a great deal since his return to a flesh and blood body. Having no physical form for over a year had given him a new attitude toward the human body, which was one of the reasons why he'd been making a concerted effort to make sure that his was as physically fit as it could be.
Once he was dressed, Daniel headed for camp, knowing that, by now, Jack was probably just about ready to start a search party. In fact, that's probably why Sam had come, to ease the colonel's mind that he was okay. Considering what happened the last time he went off somewhere without his team, Daniel couldn't blame Jack for his bout of overprotectiveness. Ever since Central America, the colonel had been constantly hanging around Daniel, asking almost every day if he would like to come over to Jack's place after work. Daniel had suffered through the mother hen act patiently. It had felt good to know that Jack cared, especially after how bad things got between them before Daniel's ascension.
Daniel knew that one of the reasons why Jack had been hovering over him was because of the torture he'd suffered at the hands of Rafael and his men. Jack knew firsthand the pain and horror of being tortured and was worried about how he was coping. Daniel, as usual, told Jack and everyone else that he was fine, never saying a word about the nightmares that plagued him for the first couple of weeks or the flashbacks that he experienced several times. The nightmares had now faded, and he hadn't had a flashback in quite a while. He had completely healed physically and was almost healed mentally and emotionally. But Jack was still hovering.
When Daniel got to camp, Jack's eyes scanned his body up and down, as if making sure it was all in one piece.
"Enjoy your little bath, Daniel?" he asked in a deceptively casual voice.
"As a matter of fact, I did, Jack. It was very pleasant, and it feels good to be clean. You should consider doing the same."
Jack frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing," Daniel replied, a faint smile on his face. He turned away and put his dirty clothes in his pack.
Jack's frown deepened, and he sniffed his own shoulder. "It's not that bad," he muttered under his breath.
Daniel looked over at Sam, who was busily fixing the MRE's, a little too busily, it would seem. She appeared to be deliberately avoiding looking at him, and there was a bit more color in her cheeks than there normally was. Daniel hid the spark of amusement that lit inside him, knowing that she was now embarrassed and ashamed about having watched him. So, should he say something or let her continue to think that he didn't know. He wasn't angry at her for what she did. On the contrary, he was extremely flattered. He'd always believed that Sam looked upon him as a brother, and it felt good to know that she apparently had a womanly awareness of him as a man. A woman certainly wouldn't look at her brother like that.
But why did it make him feel so good that Sam seemed to like how he looked? 'You know why, Daniel,' he said to himself. 'Stop trying to pretend that you don't. It isn't working anymore.'
Faking a search through his pack for something, Daniel thought about his feelings for Sam. He could no longer deny that he felt a lot more than friendship toward her. He had been fighting these feelings for a long time, trying to ignore them, pretend they didn't exist. It had been relatively easy the year or so before his ascension, but, since his return to human form, it had been getting progressively harder.
Daniel didn't know when his feelings for Sam had really begun to change. He knew that when she was possessed by the entity from P9C-372 and Jack had to zat her twice, the grief he'd felt was almost crippling, nearly as powerful as he'd experienced after Sha're's death. But he had chalked those feelings up to being nothing more than a natural reaction to losing one of the best friends he'd ever had, especially so soon after losing his wife.
The problem was that, in the months that followed, he gradually became increasingly more aware of Sam as a woman than he was in previous years. Not that he hadn't always been aware of her beauty. On the contrary, he was left speechless when he saw her in that dress that the Shavadai on Simarka made her wear, thinking that she looked stunningly beautiful.
His growing feelings for Sam had angered and upset Daniel. Still suffering from the grief of losing Sha're, he had felt like he was betraying his wife. He believed that he shouldn't be having those kinds of feelings for another woman, especially not a teammate. But at least he never made a complete fool of himself with Sam like he did with Ke'ra, the woman who was actually Linea, Destroyer of Worlds. To this day he was still terribly ashamed of the kiss he'd shared with the woman and the feelings that he'd fooled himself into thinking he was experiencing.
Daniel's anger over his growing feelings toward Sam resulted in him drawing further away from her. They no longer got together in her lab like they used to. The two of them no longer had lunch together as they discussed some new discovery or theory. They stopped seeing each other during off-duty hours, except for the very rare occasions when all of SG-1 got together. It wasn't hard, really, not when Sam appeared not to even notice. In truth, by then, a distance had grown between him and all of his teammates, especially the miles-wide gulf that had opened up between him and Jack.
After being returned to human form and regaining his memory, Daniel cursed himself for having pulled away from Sam, knowing that all he accomplished by doing so was make himself feel even more miserable and lonely. He started spending time with her again, getting together for chats, doing his workouts with her in the gym. One of his fondest memories in recent history was when he and Sam were staying with Pallan and Evalla on P3X-289, the world where the surviving inhabitants of the planet were living in a rapidly shrinking dome. After their hosts retired for the night, Daniel and Sam chatted for hours in the guest bedroom. By that time, Daniel had regained virtually all of his memories of his life before his ascension, and they spent most of the time reminiscing. It had been great.
The problem was that the increased time spent with Sam made it all the harder for Daniel to ignore what he was feeling for her. But he had felt that he had no choice. Nothing could come of these feelings. Sam could never look at him that way.
Now, however, he was beginning to wonder if he'd been wrong.
Dinner was a lot quieter than usual, and Jack found himself studying the two youngest members of his team, who had spoken barely a word in the last half-hour, which was quite a change from how it had been earlier in the day. They'd been chatting companionably about the ruins and the culture that had built them. Now, they both appeared lost in thought, distracted. The colonel couldn't help but wonder if something had happened between them when Sam went to check on Daniel. All Sam had said when she returned was that Daniel was fine and would probably be back soon. Had they argued? About what? Daniel and Sam never argued. Oh, they disagreed on occasion, debated every now and then, but argue? That was something Jack had never seen, though he did know that the two had gotten into a rather heated discussion about the Eurondans.
As Jack continued to watch Daniel and Sam, he caught each of them giving the other occasional surreptitious glances when the other wasn't looking. Okay, something was definitely up between those two. The question is, should he ask them about it or let them work it out between themselves? Jack decided that he'd let them try working it out on their own. If things didn't change soon, then he'd step in.
The following day, they all continued exploring the ruins, Daniel focusing most of his attention on translating the samples of the language they'd found there. Today, he had been paired off with Jack instead of Sam, which was a relief. He'd gotten very little sleep last night, his mind filled with thoughts of his female teammate. He could only hope that things would gradually return to the way they were before, then he could go back to trying to pretend that he didn't want Sam in his life as more than a friend and teammate.
Jack called a halt later in the day than he did yesterday since this was their last day there, and he decided to be nice and give Daniel and Sam a bit more time to "play". Daniel, being in the middle of a tricky translation at that moment, said he'd be along in a few minutes. Jack opened his mouth to argue, but, instead, told the archeologist not to be too long.
Sam walked into the camp, looking almost as bad as Daniel had yesterday. The places she'd been searching today were a lot dustier, and the temperature had increased several degrees, leaving her feelings sticky and grimy.
"I think that, after dinner, I'm going to follow Daniel's example and wash off in the lake," she said to Jack. "There is no way that I'm going to be able to go to sleep like this." She brushed at her hair and watched dust go flying. She looked at her C.O. "What about you, sir?"
"Taking a swim in a frigid lake on an alien planet is not my idea of fun," he replied. "I'll wait until we get back to base, where I can take a nice hot shower."
"The water isn't that cold, sir. It couldn't be, not considering that Danie—" Sam abruptly broke off, and Jack was surprised to see her blush crimson.
"Daniel what, Carter?" Jack asked, watching her closely.
"Um . . . i-it's just that Daniel said he enjoyed his swim, and he wouldn't have if the water was really cold," she said, a little stammer in her voice. She scrambled to her feet. "I'd better get the MRE's started."
Jack watched Sam as she rather quickly departed. Now, what had that been all about? He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that he'd seen Sam that flustered.
Jack thought about that and about how she and Daniel had been acting since yesterday evening. Everything had changed after Sam went to check on Daniel at the lake. Before then, they'd been fine.
All of a sudden, the answer came to Jack, and he had to fight to squash the smile that was threatening to split his face in two. Though he had no proof, he was certain that he was right. Sam had stumbled upon Daniel in the nude, and both teammates were embarrassed and uncomfortable about it. That explained everything, including what Sam had just said . . . and almost said. Jack lost his battle not to smile and hid it by turning away. Sam must have gotten a real eyeful of Daniel and noticed that the temperature of the water had not adversely affected a certain portion of his anatomy.
The colonel relaxed. This was nothing to worry about. It wouldn't take long for the two of them to get over their embarrassment and discomfort, then everything would be fine.
Daniel got back to camp before the MRE's finished heating up, which pleased Jack. He could remember a time when "a few minutes" to Daniel generally meant a few hours when he was caught up in a translation or some archeological wonder.
That evening's meal wasn't quite as quiet as the previous day, Daniel and Sam talking a bit about what they'd done. Jack did notice, however, that they kept a few feet between them at all times. He wasn't worried, though. He was confident that, within another day or two, everything would be smoothed out.
After eating, Daniel got his personal journal and started recording his thoughts on the events of the day. He got so caught up in it that he was not aware of anything else until Teal'c sat down across the fire from him. Daniel glanced up at the Jaffa and was surprised to see that neither Jack nor Sam were there.
"Where are Jack and Sam?" he asked.
"I believe that O'Neill had gone to relieve himself," Teal'c replied. "I do not know where Major Carter is. I was in my tent for a moment, and when I emerged, she was gone. O'Neill most likely knows where she has gone."
"Oh. Um, okay." He looked at the darkened forest. The first of the planet's two moons was rising, but it was still pretty dark. It was not normal for a lone team member to go wandering off at night on a mission, even if the planet had been determined to be safe. Sam probably just went for a walk, but it was still odd that Jack had let her go alone.
Daniel got to his feet. "I think I'm going to take a walk, Teal'c."
"Do you wish to find Major Carter?"
The archeologist paused. "Uh . . . yeah, sort of. Maybe she'd like a little company."
"You are concerned that she will come to harm?"
"No . . . well, a little bit. I'd just feel better if she wasn't alone. We can't be a hundred percent certain that there are no large predators here, and many predators hunt at night."
Teal'c's expression grew slightly amused. "You remind me greatly of O'Neill during our early years as a team."
Daniel stared at him. "Huh?"
"O'Neill always became concerned when you would, as he said, go wandering off alone. He feared that you would come to harm."
Daniel made a face, remembering how Jack had been back then, especially during their first few months together. "Well, I never went wandering off by myself at night." He got up. "I'm going to see if I can find her."
Grabbing a flashlight, Daniel headed off into the woods. A few seconds later, Jack returned. He paused when he saw that Daniel was missing.
"Where'd Daniel go?" he asked Teal'c.
"He went in search of Major Carter. He was concerned that she might come to harm."
"What?! Didn't he know where she went?"
"He did not, O'Neill, and neither did I."
"Oh, crap," Jack muttered. He reached for his radio, planning to call Daniel, then paused when he caught sight of the archeologist's jacket on the ground beside the fire, the radio still in the pocket. 'Dammit, Daniel. You're falling back into your old habits.'
"What is wrong, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
"Daniel left his radio, so I can't get him back here. Damn. I really hope he doesn't find Carter."
"Why is that?"
"Well, because if he finds her at the wrong moment, things are just going to get all awkward between them again." Jack paused, a small smile lifting the corners of his mouth. "On second thought, I guess it's only fair that Daniel gets his turn." His smile grew. "This is going to be interesting."
Daniel headed for the lake, thinking that, if Sam went for a walk, she'd likely go there. He didn't know why he was worried about her. It was ridiculous, really. Sam was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She most likely had her sidearm, as well as her radio, so, if she did get into trouble, she had a means to defend herself and could call for help.
That's when Daniel remembered that he'd forgotten to bring his radio. Idiot! He hadn't done something like that in years.
Daniel admitted to himself that he was still distracted by his thoughts about Sam and what happened yesterday. He'd reached the point where he didn't know if he could hide his feelings for her anymore. Stripping away all the fear and excuses, all the reasons why this was not a good thing had left Daniel with the naked truth that he was in love with Sam. Pretending to himself that he wasn't was no longer an option. Should he talk to her about it? Perhaps if he confessed that he saw her at the lake, he could find out why she'd watched him rather than turning her back. Maybe he'd find out if the expression he'd seen on her face was what he thought it was. And if it was? Well then, they'd just have to decide what they were going to do about it.
Daniel arrived at the place where he'd gone swimming yesterday. The lake looked different in the moonlight, mysterious and almost magical.
As he stepped out of the trees, Daniel froze, a gasp escaping his lips. Sam was in the lake, her back turned to him, and she was as naked as he had been yesterday. She was hip-deep in the water, the upper curve of her buttocks visible above the moonlit surface.
Almost against his will, Daniel's eyes slid over the slender, graceful curves of her body. He shouldn't be doing this. It was wrong. He should turn right around and go back to camp.
That thought went flying right out of Daniel's head when Sam turned around. In awe of her beauty, Daniel let his gaze feast upon her, her slender shoulders, the perfect contours of her creamy white breasts, her tiny waist, the gentle flare of her hips. The water just barely hid from his view the place at the apex of her thighs, and Daniel was suddenly hit with an almost uncontrollable urge to pull her out of the lake so that he could see her in her entirety.
She was breathtaking. Standing there in the lake, the moonlight turning her golden hair and pale skin to silver, she looked like some lovely, mythical creature, an Elemental or perhaps one of the Fair Folk of Celtic legends.
As he watched, spellbound, Sam dove backwards and swam out into the lake. She made her way over to a boulder and climbed partway up onto it, her lower half still in the water. Daniel smiled at the thought that she now looked like a mermaid.
His smile faded as he continued to stand there and watch her. A thought came into his mind, an idea that he did not know if he had the courage to follow through on. It could ruin everything, drive a wedge between him and Sam . . . or it could be the beginning of something wonderful.
Daniel decided suddenly that he needed to know. He had to know if there could ever be anything more than friendship between him and Sam.
Slowly, Daniel stripped off his clothes and waded out into the water. Sam was still on the boulder, her head resting against its surface, eyes closed. Daniel waded until the water was up to his shoulders, then, as quietly as possible, swam to where Sam was. Not wanting to scare the daylights out of her, he stopped a few feet away and began treading water.
"Sam," he said softly.
The major's eyes popped open. "Daniel!" she exclaimed, immediately covering her breasts, then sinking down into the water. "W-w-what are you doing here?"
Daniel covered the distance between them, halting almost within touching distance. He moved over to the boulder where he could stand on the submerged portion. Sam was watching him nervously.
"I came looking for you because I was worried about you being out here alone at night. And, before you say anything, yes, I know that you're very capable of taking care of yourself. I was just concerned. And then when I saw you. . . ." Daniel took a deep breath. "I need to ask you a question, Sam, and I need you to answer with the truth."
Sam's nervousness increased. "W-what question?"
"Why were you watching me here at the lake yesterday?"
Sam gasped. "Oh my God. You know?"
Daniel nodded. "I saw you."
Sam covered her face with her hands. "Daniel, I'm so sorry. I know I shouldn't have done that. I know it was wrong."
"No more wrong than the fact that I was just now watching you. But I don't care about that, Sam. I don't care that you saw me with not a stitch on. What I do care about is the reason why you didn't turn away. Was it just because you were surprised? Was it because," he blushed a little, "because you . . . liked the view? Or was it something more? Please tell me, Sam. I need to know."
Sam looked at Daniel, seeing the need for an answer in his gaze. He wanted the whole truth, but how could she possibly tell him? She didn't know if she was brave enough.
God, this was pathetic. She'd faced down System Lords, armies of Jaffa and more horrors and dangers than most people could imagine, yet, here she was, terrified to tell her best friend that she'd fallen in love with him. And she had fallen in love with him. There was no denying it anymore. The truth stood naked before her . . . both figuratively and literally.
Gathering her courage, Sam drew in a steadying breath. "I admit that I did watch because I, uh, enjoyed the view," she said, her face flaming. "You're, um . . . pretty easy on the eyes, you know. Speaking as a woman, Daniel, you're a real hunk."
Now, it was Daniel's turn to blush. His eyes fell away from hers.
"I knew that I shouldn't be watching you, but I couldn't help myself," Sam continued.
"So . . . that's all there was to it, then," Daniel said in a low voice, his eyes still not meeting hers, trying to hide how much he was hurting.
Daniel's head came up, and he met Sam's eyes. "No?"
"T-then what else was there?"
"I felt . . . things, sensations in my body that I haven't felt for a man in a very long time."
Daniel's breath caught. "Y-you were . . . aroused?"
"Yes," Sam whispered.
"Did you feel anything else?"
"I imagined us together as . . . as lovers. I saw these images in my mind of us making love."
"Oh, God," Daniel gasped, feeling his heart rate double.
Sam swallowed. "And I wanted it, Daniel. I still want it."
Daniel's eyes met hers with heart-stopping intensity, a flame burning inside them that made her gasp and sent her heart racing.
In the next instant, Daniel had stepped up to her and pulled her into his arms. His mouth came crashing down on hers, sending heat lightning flashing through her body. With a whimpering moan, Sam wrapped her arms around him and surrendered her body and soul to him.
They kissed with wild passion, devouring each other's mouths, tongues seeking deeply. Daniel lost all awareness of their surroundings. There was nothing but the taste of Sam's mouth and the feeling of her nakedness against his. For a brief moment, the thought that they shouldn't be going this fast entered his mind, but the thought died a quick death, immolated in the fire raging through him. One of his hands slid down to her bottom and crushed her hips against his. They both let out a groan and began rubbing against each other.
Feeling himself start to lose his footing, Daniel twisted around and pressed Sam up against the boulder, lifting both of them partway out of the water. A moment later, Sam wrapped her legs around Daniel's waist. Feeling the passionate arousal of his body, she pressed herself even more tightly against him, making Daniel groan low in his throat.
Their lips parted, and Daniel began a search of her neck with his mouth, gently nibbling the tender flesh, then soothing it with his tongue. At the same time, his hands roamed Sam's body, touching her in all the places he'd gazed upon only minutes ago and in some places he had yet to see.
Yesterday, Sam had wondered what Daniel's hands would feel like caressing her, how it would feel to have his arms holding her to his naked body. Now, she knew, and it was more incredible than she could have imagined. Remembering something else she had wondered about, Sam lowered her mouth to Daniel's chest and began kissing it. Yes, it was as soft and smooth as it appeared. Finding a nipple, she wrapped her lips around it. Daniel let out a choked cry and clutched at her.
"God, Sam," he cried hoarsely. "W-we shouldn't be doing this. We're going so fast. But I want you so badly. For so long I've wanted you. Sam, I love you."
Sam stilled, her breath halting in her lungs. She raised her head and gazed into Daniel's eyes, seeking the truth of his words.
Looking without fear into her eyes, Daniel repeated, "I love you."
A brilliant smile lit Sam's face. "I love you, Daniel."
Daniel looked at her in wonder. "You do?"
"Yes, more than anything. And I don't care if we're moving too fast. I need you now."
Smiling joyfully, Daniel took her mouth with his again. This time the kiss was slow, but oh so deep as they lovingly expressed with their lips and tongues their feelings for each other. Then Daniel's mouth moved down Sam's body until he reached her breasts. Sam shuddered in ecstasy as he took her right nipple into his mouth and began to suckle upon it as his fingers caressed the other one.
The sound of Sam uttering his name in a low, husky moan made Daniel's arousal go up yet another notch. He lifted his head and met her gaze. Seeing there what she wanted, he shifted their position and slid fully into her body.
Gasping at the feeling of becoming one, the new lovers held still for a long moment, foreheads pressed together.
"This feels so good, Sam," Daniel whispered. "It feels so right."
"Perfect," Sam murmured.
Lifting his head away from hers, Daniel caught Sam's eyes and held onto them as he started to move. Sam immediately joined in the rhythm, their movements in perfect sync, as if they had been lovers for years. As their tempo increased, the rapture within their bodies built to a fever pitch.
Head flung back, upper body lying back against the rock behind her, Sam clutched at Daniel's arms tightly, the sensation of him moving within her sending her into orbit. Daniel picked up the pace even more, the joy and ecstasy of being inside Sam's body almost more than he could handle.
Sam felt herself fast approaching her climax. Not wanting their lovemaking to end so soon, she tried to hold it off, but she'd just as easily have held back the tide. With overwhelming suddenness, it exploded within her, sending liquid fire throughout her entire body.
Desperately holding back his release, Daniel suddenly felt Sam stiffen in his arms then begin to shudder, a cry rising out of her throat. Feeling her reach culmination, Daniel gave up the fight and joined her, letting loose a cry to match hers as he was drowned in the exquisitely indescribable ecstasy.
Losing all track of time, Daniel and Sam clung to each other as their bodies shook with the power of their climax. When it was finally over, they lay limply, Daniel's body draped forward over Sam's. He was thankful for the buoyancy of the water, for he didn't think he'd have been able to stay on his feet otherwise. As it was, his legs were trembling.
It took a while before either one of them could speak.
"That was. . . ." Daniel finally gasped.
"Yeah," Sam agreed, knowing what he was going to say.
Daniel met her eyes. His hand gently caressed her cheek. "This almost doesn't seem real. I'm half afraid that it's a dream or that we're stuck back in the Gamekeeper's virtual reality machine."
Sam shook her head. "No. This can't be a dream or a trick."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because what I just felt was too incredible to not be real."
Daniel smiled. "Yeah."
Their lips came together in a long, slow kiss. Daniel held Sam tightly, deliriously happy to be with her like this.
A few minutes later, they reluctantly separated their bodies. Daniel sat down on the same spot Sam had been earlier and pulled her onto his lap. He brushed a wet tendril of hair from her face.
"Sam, I have an apology to make to you," he said.
"Yeah. I've been wanting to say this for a while now, but I couldn't. Back before I ascended, during that last year or so, I . . . pulled away from you. Actually, I pulled away from all of you, but the reason why was a lot more complicated with you. A big part of it was because of how I felt about you. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't. It made me angry and ashamed because of Sha're. I loved her so much, and I didn't think that I should be feeling those kinds of things for you, for anyone, really, but especially for you since we were teammates. So, idiot that I am, I distanced myself from you, thinking that it would go away if I didn't spend time with you outside of missions. When you didn't say anything about it and didn't seem to mind, I figured it was for the best."
"Oh, Daniel," Sam sighed sadly. "There's a reason why I didn't seem to mind. I was doing the same thing."
Daniel's eyebrows rose. "You were?"
"Yeah. I've had feelings for you for a long time, Daniel. I honestly don't know when they started. They snuck up on me gradually, caught me unawares. I just know that, somewhere along the line, I started looking at you differently, thinking and feeling things that you don't experience toward someone who is just a friend. It drove me crazy because I knew that it was a bad idea, you being a teammate, and because I thought that you were still so much in love with Sha're that you could never look at another woman."
"You mean other than my stupidity with Ke'ra?"
Sam smiled. "Yeah, well, that surprised me at the time, but I understood it later. You were hurting, and Ke'ra just happened to come along when you were really weak and vulnerable and desperately needing to find some joy in your life. I bet she was the one who made the first move, wasn't she."
"Yeah, but I was already feeling things for her by then. Afterwards, though, I realized that none of it was real. You're right. I was really vulnerable then, and Ke'ra was beautiful, compassionate and intelligent, the kind of woman I'd always been most attracted to. For a little while, she made me forget about how much I was hurting. But, after we found out that she was Linea, I realized how much of a fool I'd been."
Sam's smile grew. "I was jealous, you know."
Daniel grinned broadly. "You were?"
"Uh huh. At the time, I refused to acknowledge that it was jealousy, but that's what it was." Her smiled faded. "Once I finally woke up to the fact that I was feeling things for you that were beyond friendship, I backed away from you, my reasoning being pretty much the same as yours. It scared me because it wasn't safe to feel those kinds of things for you."
Daniel focused on a spot just below her neck. "I always thought that you were interested in Jack."
"To be honest, there was a time when I was, but it was just a foolish crush. I care about him a lot, and there was more than a little physical attraction. I fooled myself into thinking that there was more to it than that. Actually, I was a real idiot back then. I had all these mixed up feelings for Martouf because of Jolinar, and I also cared a lot about Narim."
Daniel grinned, his eyes twinkling. "Three guys at the same time, Sam? And there was poor little me, out in the cold."
Sam slapped him lightly on the arm. "Well, you didn't stay out in the cold for all that long. It took less than a year for me to come to my senses regarding the colonel. Martouf was dead, and Narim was out of reach on Tollana. It wasn't all that long after I'd gotten all those things straightened out in my head that I started becoming aware of my feelings for you. I never told you this but, when we found out what had happened to the robot Daniel, the first thought that went through my mind was, 'God, what if that had been our Daniel?' That thought absolutely terrified me. And when I saw his head. . . ." She swallowed, closing her eyes for a moment. "I really thought I was going to throw up. It was like it was your head sitting there. When we saw you for the first time after we got back from Juna, it took every bit of will power I had not to hug you till your eyes popped out."
Daniel smiled in remembrance. "The hug you did give me kind of took me by surprise."
"Yeah. I just had to touch you, assure myself that you were real and alive."
Daniel took her hand and entwined his fingers with hers. "We've both been fools for a long time, haven't we, Sam," he said quietly.
"Yes, we have. But no more."
"So, what are we going to do about this?" He looked into her eyes. "I don't want to hide how I feel about you, Sam. I've been hiding it for far too long."
"I feel the same way. I guess we both need to think about the ramifications, though."
"Would one of us have to leave SG-1?"
"I don't know. I guess that would all depend on the colonel and General Hammond. If they thought that we couldn't keep our relationship from affecting our performance on missions, they'd have no choice but to reassign one of us."
"Well, if it does come to that, I'll take the reassignment."
"No buts, Sam. Between the two of us, you're needed on SG-1 a lot more than I am."
"Well, I could disagree with you on that, but there's no sense arguing about it unless we have to."
They fell silent. Sam laid her head on Daniel's chest and gave a sigh of contentment.
"We should get back to camp, I suppose," Daniel said with reluctance. "I'm surprised that Jack hasn't come to find out what's going on."
"Yeah, I guess you're right, though I really hate to leave. I'm happy right where I am."
Daniel began kissing the nape of Sam's neck, sending a shiver of pleasure through her. His hands started stroking her body, one of them wandering to her inner thigh. Letting out a moan, Sam lifted her head and caught Daniel's eyes.
"I guess a few more minutes won't matter," she said huskily just before pulling Daniel's head down into a heated kiss. She lifted up and then came back down on his lap, straddling him. Daniel crushed her to him, his lips growing demanding.
In a surprisingly short time, they brought each other to full arousal. Sam lowered herself onto Daniel, loving the feeling of him filling her again. Flying high on the feelings of ecstasy, they made love with glorious abandon, bringing each other a sense of joy beyond words.
In the aftermath, they sat in silence, kissing and caressing, utterly content . . . and totally unaware that someone was watching them.
Jack poked at the fire with a stick, feeling his patience wearing thin. Daniel and Sam had been gone for an inordinately long time. There is no way that Sam could still be taking a bath. She'd be shriveled up like a prune by now. As for Daniel, Jack didn't know if he'd found Sam or not. If he did, maybe that's why they were both so late. Sam might have killed him and was now disposing of the body. Seriously, though, maybe the reason why they weren't back yet was that Daniel found her. Perhaps they finally sat down and were talking. He hoped that was the reason.
"Should Daniel Jackson and Major Carter not have returned by now?" Teal'c asked.
"Yes, but I'm hoping that they're not back yet because they're talking."
"Of what do you think they would be talking?"
"Uhhh . . . long story."
"They did appear to be ill at ease in each other's company last night."
"Yeah, that's part of it. I'll tell you about it later."
The two men fell silent again. Another fifteen minutes passed.
"Okay, that's it." Jack stood up. "I'm going to go drag them back here. If they show up, call me."
Flashlight in one hand, P-90 in the other, Jack headed for the lake, muttering under his breath. He was nearly there when he heard Daniel and Sam cry out. Grasping his P-90 more tightly, he ran the rest of the way, prepared to blast whatever was threatening his teammates. Just before reaching the lake, he slowed to a crawl and cautiously approached it. Seeing no one on the shore and hearing nothing except for the night sounds of insects, he stepped out of the cover of the trees, keeping low. His gaze went to the lake. For a moment, he saw no sign of anything, and then he spotted something off to the right. Someone was in the water, and they. . . . Jack's mouth fell open as he realized who was in the water and exactly what they were doing.
Daniel and Sam were beside a large boulder, their obviously naked bodies entwined, kissing and caressing each other. The sight shocked Jack so deeply that he just stood there gaping at them for a very long moment. How could he not have known that this was going on between them? How long had it been going on? Neither one of them had given any indication.
The colonel felt more than a little angry that two of his team had been carrying on a secret affair right under his nose. There was no way he could let this passed. There was going to be hell to pay.
Jack's attention was drawn away from his anger and back to Daniel and Sam when he faintly heard Daniel's voice.
"I love you so much, Sam," Daniel said.
"I love you too, Daniel," Sam responded. "It feels really good being with you like this."
"I wish I'd told you a long time ago how I felt. A lot of things would have been different, better."
"I know. I wish the same thing. But there's no point in regretting what we didn't do, Daniel. We're together now, and that's what's important."
Jack felt his anger drain away, realizing that Sam and Daniel hadn't betrayed his trust and threatened the welfare of the team. They were two people in love who had just found each other. Watching them a few seconds longer, Jack then headed into the trees, making his way slowly back to camp.
As he walked, Jack thought about what he'd just discovered. He had to wonder if this new relationship between Daniel and Sam was going to be a good thing. He knew that it could cause problems. At least there were no regulations against it.
That thought brought to mind his own feelings for Sam. There had been a time when he'd felt a lot more than he should for her, but those feelings had faded a long time ago. The naked, unvarnished truth was that, even if he and Sam had not been in the same chain of command, a relationship between them would never have survived for long. They were too different, having nothing in common except their careers. Jack had no interest in the things that Sam was passionate about, and she felt likewise. Such was not the case with her and Daniel. Though their fields of expertise were not the same, they both shared a passion for discovery and the mysteries of the universe, able to talk for hours on subjects that went right over Jack's head. There was no doubt that Daniel and Sam would make a good couple. They were well suited for each other, and Jack knew that they'd loved each other deeply for a very long time, almost right from the start. They'd grown so close so quickly.
So, what was this going to mean for the team? Could Daniel and Sam both remain on SG-1 and not let their personal relationship get in the way? Jack didn't want to lose either one of them. They were both too important to his team. Jack had spent a year painfully learning that lesson in regards to Daniel.
God knew that both those kids needed a big break in their lives after all the crap they'd lived through. Maybe being with each other would finally bring them the happiness they deserved.
One way or another, they would all just have to make this work. That's all there was to it. That having been decided, Jack increased his pace, feeling his steps lighten and a faint smile come to his face. Maybe, this was going to be a very good thing after all.