As Daniel and Sam had suspected, it didn't take long for word of the incident at the park to make it around the base. They got lots of stares and were no doubt the subject of plenty of conversations.
Two people in particular listened with greater than normal interest to the gossip, one of them being Jack, who wasn't the least bit amused. Some versions of the tale just about had Daniel and Sam having sex right on the parking lot asphalt, whereas others were a lot closer to a PG rating. But, regardless of which version you believed, Daniel and Sam had been sharing an intimate moment right out in public.
Jack was really trying not to let it bother him, but it was, dammit. He didn't want to think about Sam in Daniel's arms, his lips on hers, the two of them making love. Jack had decided yesterday to be a man about the whole thing and try to be happy for them. This new development wasn't making it easy, though.
The other person who paid close attention to the gossip was General George Hammond. He was mildly surprised by the news that Daniel and Sam were in a romantic relationship, but not overly so. He'd already known that they were very close and cared a great deal about each other. This was just a natural progression of those feelings.
Actually, this development was somewhat of a relief to him. Hammond was a commander who liked to keep up on the rumors going around his base, and among those rumors had been the ones hinting that there was something between Colonel O'Neill and Samantha Carter. Part of the reason for those rumors was the fact that the two alternate realities they'd encountered had Jack and Sam in a relationship. Many had assumed that, if it was true in those realities, perhaps it was true in this one as well. Hammond had never once believed that the two of them were carrying on a secret love affair, but that didn't mean that certain emotions didn't exist.
Of course, now that Sam was no longer in the military or on SG-1, it would not technically be against the regs for her and Jack to date, but such a relationship could still cause problems. One between Sam and Daniel, on the other hand, shouldn't be an issue at all. The fact was that the SGC already had one married couple on the civilian staff, and two other civilian scientists had recently gotten engaged. It hadn't been a problem with them, so it shouldn't be with Daniel and Sam.
Hammond had considered bringing the two young people into his office and talking with them about this, but he decided against it. There was no sense in making them uncomfortable, not as long as their relationship didn't affect the performance of their duties.
Daniel and Sam had lunch together and were alternately amused and made uncomfortable by all the stares they got. They were about halfway through the meal when Janet joined them.
"My, you two are certainly the talk of the town," she said. "I've heard all about your make-out session in the park."
Sam choked on her food. "Make-out session?!" she nearly shrieked when she could talk again. "We kissed! That's all!"
Janet smiled. "I know, but it is the nature of gossip to often get blown all out of proportion. Some versions of the event are pretty, er, steamy."
Daniel groaned, lowering his head into his hands. "Oh, wonderful."
"Don't worry. They haven't escalated to public sex . . . yet."
Sam was blushing all the way to her neck. "That makes us feel soooo much better, Janet."
The doctor leaned in closer. "So, what's going on? Why the kiss?" she asked in barely above a whisper.
"Sergeant Harriman was there and watching us," Sam replied. "We decided to kiss and give him something to talk about. We figured that hearing the talk would make Jack really jealous."
"Ah. Well, I suspect that you succeeded. The colonel had to come in for a tetanus booster shot this morning, and he looked like he was ready to rip someone's head off."
Sam smiled hopefully. "He did?"
Daniel tried to ignore the feeling in his chest that Sam's smile created. It wasn't supposed to hurt; it was supposed to make him happy. This is what they both wanted , wasn't it? It was the whole point of this thing, make Jack jealous and drive him into Sam's arms.
"So, what happened after Cassie and I left Saturday night?" Janet asked.
"He and I had a little . . . discussion," Daniel replied. "I basically told him to stop acting like an ass."
"Well, just don't come to blows, okay? I've got enough business in my infirmary."
"Don't worry, Janet. Getting beaten to a pulp by Jack is not on my list of things to do."
Sam and Daniel finished their lunch, then went to his office to talk about what they'd learned regarding Jack. They froze upon seeing who was sitting in a chair beside Daniel's desk. For a fleeting moment, the archeologist wondered if he'd be making a trip to the infirmary after all.
Jack got to his feet and looked at them squarely. "I owe both of you an apology. You were right, Daniel. My behavior was unacceptable. It was rude and completely uncalled for."
The two scientists stood unmoving, taken totally by surprise. They hadn't expected this.
Jack walked past them, heading for the door. "Well, I just wanted to say that. I'll leave you two alone."
"Jack," Daniel called out. The man turned to face him. "Thanks."
The colonel nodded once and left the room.
Knowing that Jack's anger had cooled was a big load off the minds of both Daniel and Sam. Though Sam wanted the colonel to be jealous, she didn't want his fury. Her plan was that, after a few weeks, she and Daniel would 'break up', then she'd go to Jack and tell him. Her hope was that it would lead to him saying something about his own feelings for her.
And what if there were no such feelings anymore? Sam chose not to think about that.
Over the next several days, Daniel and Sam continued playing their parts. They ate every lunch together. When they could, they tried to arrange it so that Jack was there at the same time. Whenever he was, they sat even closer together, touched more often. They spent more time together in either Daniel's office or Sam's lab, collaborating on projects like they often did during those first couple of years in the program, all of it in the effort to increase Jack's level of jealousy.
The problem was that there was something else that was increasing. With every passing day, Daniel's pleasure at spending time with Sam grew stronger, the effect of every touch becoming more powerful. He ached to kiss her again, to do more than kiss her. He began to dream about her, every dream progressively more passionate until he found himself waking up crying out her name in ecstasy.
Deep inside Daniel's heart, he knew what was happening, but he couldn't admit it, not even to himself. This couldn't happen. It couldn't. This was Sam, his friend and former teammate, a woman who could never be his.
The hoax had been going on for two weeks when Janet decided that it was time to up the 'pressure'. She invited Daniel and Sam to dinner at her place, telling the archeologist to drop a casual invitation to Jack to join them. The bate was the homemade Irish stew that Janet was fixing. Jack had once mentioned that his grandmother used to make a fantastic Irish stew, a recipe straight from the "old country". Janet had searched the Internet for an authentic stew to tickle Jack's taste buds. Upon hearing what was on the menu, Jack accepted the invitation and passed one on to Teal'c.
Jack's taste buds were most definitely tickled that evening. He praised Janet for her cooking, giving her the high compliment of saying that his grandmother would have given the stew her approval.
After dinner was when the 'show' really began. Daniel and Sam sat close together, Sam's legs curled up on the sofa, Daniel's right arm around her shoulders, his left hand on her knee. Their eyes met often, smiles coming frequently. They kissed lightly more than once. All in all, they looked very happy and content. The problem was that it didn't appear to be doing what it was supposed to, namely, to make Jack seethe with jealousy. Oh, he definitely noticed. He spent a lot of time looking at them. But there was no glitter of jealousy in his eyes, no frown on his face. Instead, he often appeared thoughtful, sometimes even introspective.
Dissatisfied with his reaction, Janet decided it was time to pull out all the stops. She managed to sneak out onto the back porch with the two scientists.
"Okay, I say that we try something more radical," the doctor said.
"Define radical," Daniel responded nervously.
"Well, all the kisses the colonel has witnessed have been rather chaste. It's time to turn up the heat."
Daniel's mouth instantly went dry. No, no, no. Bad idea, bad, bad idea. He'd been able to stay in control while kissing Sam only because those kisses had not been the passionate sort. The kiss in the parking lot had been the closest to containing any heat. If he had to kiss Sam the way Janet was suggesting. . . .
"Uhhh . . . I don't think that would be a good idea," he said, trying not to sound as nervous as he was.
"I think Daniel's right," said Sam.
"Why not?" Janet asked. She noticed that Daniel had sort of a deer-in-the-headlights look and wondered about it.
"Uh, because . . . because Daniel and I aren't the type to kiss like that in public," Sam replied. Hmm. She had a wee bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look, too.
"Well, we're not exactly in public. This is just a gathering of friends." Janet looked at Daniel. "Besides, Major Ferretti wasn't shy about describing the kiss Sha're laid on you on Abydos."
That made Daniel blush. "Yes, well, my intention had been just a peck on the lips, Janet. It was Sha're who turned it into a lot more."
Janet frowned. "Okay, how about if you do it during a private moment that the colonel just happens to witness? It's a nice evening. You could stay out here on the porch to 'get some air'. I send the colonel out to call you in for dessert, and he sees the kiss."
Daniel was frantically trying to come up with another reason why this would be a bad idea, one that didn't involve him admitting that, if he kissed Sam like that, there'd be no hope of staying in control.
"I, um . . . I-I guess we could try it," Sam said, stammering slightly. Her statement sent a silent groan through Daniel. He wasn't going to get out of this. What the hell was he going to do?
Janet smiled. "Good." She glanced at her watch. "I'll send the colonel out to get you in five minutes."
Daniel and Sam watched the woman leave, checking the time on their own watches.
Daniel was so tense and nervous that he felt sick to his stomach. He kept trying to convince himself that he could do this, but it wasn't working.
"Daniel, are you okay?" asked Sam, startling him out of his panicked thoughts.
"Uhhh, yeah, I'm just. . . ."
"Nervous? Yes, me too. But it'll be fine, like two actors kissing before the camera, right?"
Daniel turned away, eyes closing briefly at the twinge of pain in his heart. "Right. Two actors." This is what he needed to remember. This kiss might mean a lot to him, but it would be meaningless to Sam. It would be taking place for the sole purpose of making the man she loved jealous.
Yep, that sure did kill any passionate thoughts. The kiss shouldn't be a problem at all now.
Sam looked at her watch to see how much time had passed. They still had a little while, so she joined Daniel at the railing.
"I'm beginning to wonder if this is all just a waste of time."
Daniel looked at her. "Why do you say that?"
Sam rubbed a fingertip across the railing. "Because Jack doesn't seem to be all that jealous. Yes, I know he was mad to begin with, but, now, it's like he's fine with us being a couple. Maybe he simply doesn't love me anymore."
"Sam, how could he not love you?" Daniel asked. "He'd be crazy not to feel that way about you."
Surprised at the passion in his reply, Sam looked at him. "Thank you. That's a really nice thing to say."
Daniel turned back to stare out into the night. "Maybe he's just trying to do the right thing, be a good friend and accept our relationship."
"You think so?" Sam asked in a tone of hope, a tone that made Daniel hurt even more. He gave a soft sigh, only his ears hearing the sadness in it.
"Yeah. I'm sure that's it."
Sam glanced at her watch again. "It's almost time. We should, uh, get ready."
With a sense of resignation, Daniel took Sam into his arms. They listened closely for the sound of footsteps. Several seconds later, they heard Jack's approach. Bracing himself, Daniel lowered his mouth onto Sam's. Her lips immediately parted beneath his . . . and he was lost. The taste of her overwhelmed him, the slide of her tongue on his alighting him like a match to a can of gasoline. He pulled her hard against him, all but devouring her mouth. There was no porch, no Jack, no hoax to make the man jealous. There was only Sam, the taste of her, the smell of her, the feeling of her body so tight against his, her hands clutching at him.
Daniel had lost all sense of the passage of time by the time he ended the kiss and pulled back to look at Sam. She didn't just look dazed this time, she looked downright shell-shocked, her breath coming in short, heavy gasps.
As if she'd suddenly recalled why they were there, she turned toward the door and was surprised to see no one there.
"Where'd he go?" she asked, pulling out of Daniel's arms. To Daniel, it felt like she was also pulling out his heart.
They heard footsteps again, this time feminine ones. Janet opened the door and stared at them.
"Well?" she asked.
Sam frowned. "Well what?"
"You kissed, didn't you?"
The two scientists glanced at each other.
"Yes," Sam replied. "What happened?"
"Don't you know?"
This time, Daniel frowned. "Um . . . no."
Janet looked at them in an odd way. "I sent the colonel to go get you. He came back a few seconds later and said that you weren't quite ready to come in."
"He did?" said Sam, shocked.
Janet's expression turned thoughtful. "Yes. I guess you were both too busy to notice him arrive and then leave."
Identical blushes suffused Daniel's and Sam's cheeks. They hurried into the kitchen and to the living room. Jack was watching them with an unreadable expression.
Daniel and Sam were both eager to escape and did so after the dessert was eaten, thanking their hostess for the delicious dinner. As Daniel drove Sam home, they said nothing, too occupied with their thoughts.
"See you tomorrow," Sam said after Daniel pulled up to the curb. He watched her until she'd made it into the house, then he headed for home. Once he was there, he lowered himself onto the couch and sat staring at nothing.
Slowly, the pain in his chest grew, pain caused by the knowledge he couldn't hide from any longer, the knowledge that he'd fallen utterly and hopelessly in love with Sam.
Something was wrong with Daniel. It had been two days since the dinner at Janet's, and he hadn't come to Sam's lab even once in that time. Whenever she went to see him, he claimed to be extremely busy and only gave her cursory glances. He hadn't eaten in the cafeteria at all.
Sam missed his company, missed him. She'd come to love the hours they spent together, both at meals and working jointly on projects. She also missed the physical contact. The one time that she touched him, he moved away, getting up to go get a book. Worst of all, he didn't smile, not even once. Ever since they began this charade, he'd smiled often, and it had been wonderful to see. Now, there seemed to be no joy in him at all.
Sam asked Daniel what was wrong, but he claimed that he was fine, that he was just tired because of all the extra hours he was putting in. Sam knew that he had, indeed, been putting in a lot of hours. She'd learned that, both nights since the dinner, he hadn't gone home, which meant that either he slept on base or didn't sleep at all. And he did look tired. No, more than tired. He looked weary, a tiredness beyond the mere physical.
At around seven o'clock Monday night, Sam went to Daniel's office. He was hunched over a stone tablet inscribed with strange characters. As she watched, he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, sighing deeply.
Daniel became aware of her presence and looked at her for a moment. He then put his glasses back on, eyes again on the tablet.
"Hey," he said.
"Daniel, you need to go home. You're exhausted."
"I'm all right. I'm used to long hours. And I've got a lot of work to do. I've been getting behind lately."
"Well, it won't do you or anyone else any good if you collapse from exhaustion."
Daniel didn't reply to that. "Was there something you needed?" he asked.
Frowning, Sam stared at him. "Jack wants us to have a movie night tomorrow. I guess he bought some new videos that he's dying to play for Teal'c."
Daniel sighed again. "I really shouldn't. I have a big translation job that I'm trying to get done."
"Would a few hours away really make that much of a difference? Jack will wonder what's going on if you don't come."
Daniel's grip on the tablet tightened. "Right. We must keep up our pretense of romance, mustn't we."
Sam stared even harder at him, certain that she'd heard a touch of bitterness in his voice. What the hell was wrong with him?
"You know, maybe you're right," she said, a little angry. "Maybe you should just stay here and work yourself to death."
Daniel closed his eyes, his head dipping almost to his chest.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I . . . I guess I am overworking." He gave a shaky sigh. "I'll be there for the movie night."
Sam's emotions softened. "And will you go home tonight at a decent hour? I know that you've been here all night the last two days."
Daniel nodded. "I promise."
Sam gave him a look of concern. "I'm just worried about you, Daniel. I care about you."
Daniel's face turned away. "I know you do. Thanks."
Sam's frown returned. This time, she could have sworn that the tone in his voice had been sadness.
"Okay, I'll, um . . . see you tomorrow," she said.
Daniel nodded, still not looking at her. "Good night, Sam."
Sam hesitated a moment longer, then left.
Daniel lifted his head and stared at the empty doorway, feeling tired all the way down to his soul. The tiredness had less to do with the virtual lack of sleep and more to do with the heavy weight of sorrow that was bearing down on him. Of all the women in the galaxy that he could fall in love with, why did it have to be one whose heart belonged to someone else? Was he forever doomed to be unlucky in love?
Deciding that perhaps it really would be a good idea to go home, Daniel got up and went to the locker room. He tiredly changed into his civvies. A short while later, he was on his way home. Once he got there, he went straight to bed, not feeling hungry. But, like the previous three nights, sleep did not come. The minutes, then hours ticked by as he stared up at the ceiling, trying to figure out how he was going to get past this terrible ache inside him. He knew he could do it. He'd gotten through those first horrible days after Sha're's death. If he could do that, he could do this. He had to. There was no other choice.
Jack watched Daniel with a deep frown. Something was going on. The man looked like hell, dark circles under dull eyes, a weary slouch to his posture. He looked like he needed a solid week of sleep. But there was more to it than that. During these past couple of weeks, he'd been so up. Now he was just the opposite. Oh, he was trying to act like nothing was wrong, but his performance was more than a bit under par tonight.
And then there was Sam. She didn't look all that happy either. She was often looking at Daniel with a concerned expression. Though they sat together on the couch, they did not hold hands, they did not put their arms around each other, they barely even touched at all, except for the couple times that Sam laid a hand on the archeologist's arm. Had something happened between them?
Daniel excused himself to go use the bathroom. He knew that he wasn't convincing anyone that he was all right. He was just too tired to find the energy to put on a convincing act. He couldn't wait to leave, to be in the privacy of his home. He was going to take a sleeping pill tonight, one of the heavy-duty ones he had left over from the last time he received an injury and couldn't sleep because of the discomfort.
Returning from the bathroom, Daniel paused to look at the three people in the living room. Jack and Teal'c were both engrossed in the movie. Sam's eyes, however, were on Jack, a wistful expression on her face.
Seeing that look was like the straw that broke the camel's back, that broke Daniel's heart. God, he couldn't do this anymore. He just couldn't. He had to put an end to it before his heart shattered completely.
Saying that he was really tired and needed to get some sleep, he told everyone that he was going home. They'd taken separate cars, but Sam insisted on following him home, saying that she wanted to make sure he got there okay, without falling asleep at the wheel.
At his apartment building, Sam got out of her car and went with him to the front entrance. He stopped, keys in his hand, eyes on the door.
"Good night, Sam. I'll see you tomorrow."
The astrophysicist made no move to leave. "Daniel, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm just tired."
There was a long silence, then, "Daniel, why are you lying to me?"
Daniel's head dropped, his eyes closing, shoulders slumping. He took a deep breath. "I can't do it anymore, Sam," he whispered.
"Pretend to be your boyfriend."
Sam was shocked by the statement. "I don't understand. Why?"
"I can't talk about it. Please, Sam. I just can't do it anymore. I'm . . . I'm sorry that I'm letting you down."
"Daniel, please tell me what's wrong."
"I can't. Please don't ask again." Daniel unlocked the door and slipped inside, making it clear that she was not to come in with him. "I'll . . . I'll see you in the morning."
Not looking at her, he shut the door, the lock automatically clicking into place. Sam watched him through the glass as he walked to the elevator. The doors opened almost immediately, and he disappeared inside.
Sam's thoughts were deeply troubled on the drive home. What had happened? Why was Daniel acting this way? What had driven him to back out of their plan? It had to be something really big.
Sam pulled up in front of her house, but didn't get out. Instead, she sat deep in thought, very worried about Daniel. Strangely, she wasn't the least bit unhappy that this was going to put a halt to their efforts to make Jack jealous. She didn't care about that right now. All she cared about was Daniel. He had very clearly been upset.
All at once, Sam decided that she had to know tonight what was upsetting her friend so much. Figuring that he would probably be unhappy about her showing up, she restarted the car and drove to his apartment. Fortunately, he'd given her a key to the main entrance for the times that she came to feed his fish when he was in the infirmary, so she didn't have to buzz him.
The look on Daniel's face when he opened his door confirmed her belief that he would not be happy to see her.
"Sam, I said I couldn't talk about it," he said.
Sam slipped inside. "I know, Daniel, but I think I deserve an explanation. I'm also worried about you. It's pretty obvious that you're upset about something."
Daniel shut the door. He didn't want to do this. He couldn't do this.
"Did Jack say something?" Sam asked, her tone making it clear that she was going to get an answer one way or another.
"What? No, Jack didn't say a thing."
"Then what happened?"
Daniel walked across the room. He went to the fireplace and stared down at the unlit logs, hands buried deep in his pockets.
"You don't want to know," he said in a voice so low that Sam almost didn't hear.
She stepped closer to him. "Yes, I do, Daniel."
Daniel closed his eyes, knowing that he wasn't going to get out of telling her. "I can't pretend to be your boyfriend anymore because I'm . . . feeling things."
Sam frowned, not understanding what he was saying. "Feeling things?"
"Things that I know I shouldn't, things that . . . that I know you'll never feel for me."
Suddenly, Sam realized what Daniel was saying, and the knowledge struck her with stunning force. Oh my God.
"I-I don't know what to say," she stammered.
Daniel's face was completely turned away from her now. "I never planned for this to happen. I never even imagined that it could happen. I just . . ." he sighed, long and deep, "I just need to be alone, all right? I'll be fine. I just need some time."
Sam stayed rooted in place, still shocked by the turn of events.
"Please, Sam," Daniel pleaded. "Please go."
Sam didn't want to go and leave Daniel alone, but what could she say? What could she do? This was so unexpected.
"I'm so sorry, Daniel," she said, then turned and left.