by Brianna Aisling

Daniel still wanted her. He couldn't help it; the desire lingered, in his mind and in his body, thick and heavy.

He lay in his bed, on his back, arm resting on his forehead, and closed his eyes. He imagined her, her smile, her laughter, the smell of her skin, her hair, her tears.

No. Not really. Really, he imagined her with Cassandra. He imagined her holding Cassandra as she had in the van, arms wrapped around her, cheek resting against the top of her head. He imagined her holding Cassandra's hand, helping him swing her between them. He imagined her laying beside him, now, in his bed, head resting on his outstretched arm, curled on her side, Cassandra curled up next to her, her arms around the child. He imagined rolling over onto his side, spooning up behind her, wrapping his arm around them both, pressing a gentle kiss to her neck and hearing her sigh contentedly. That was what he imagined.

Daniel sat up, struggling to breathe. Tears stung his eyes, and he angrily got out of bed and pulled on a shirt and pants. He headed out into the halls of the SGC, determined to rid himself of the hunger gnawing in his gut and the guilt that swamped his heart. He wandered thoughtlessly, the colorless walls blurring together until he eventually found himself in the commissary. There, he poured himself a mug of coffee and sat with his hands cupped around its warmth.


"Hey, Daniel."

Daniel jerked startled, cold coffee splashing over the rim of the mug, down his fingers, and onto the table. He grimaced and fumbled with napkins, trying to clean up the mess. "Jack. Hi. Um, what- what are you doing here this late?"

"Paperwork." Jack flopped down across from him, dropping folders onto the table. "What're you up to?"

Daniel looked up at him from beneath his bangs, his hands pausing in their clumsy movements. Jack lifted his eyebrows, and Daniel focused on cleaning up again.


Jack didn't respond, just nodded and flipped open a folder. Daniel stared at the crumpled, coffee-stained napkins, trying to think only the thoughts he was allowed to think.


Jack glanced up from his paperwork at Daniel, wondering what was bothering him. Everything had turned out okay. Cassandra had a home, and no one got blown up. So, why did Daniel look...lost? Was that the right word? Lost? Yes. Lost was good.

Jack sat back in his chair, running a hand through his hair and letting it drop onto the table. He sighed and drummed his fingers restlessly. He wanted to draw Daniel out, but Daniel didn't appear to want to be drawn, so Jack settled for mentioning something he'd been musing over.

"So. Who'd a thunk it: Carter a mom?"

Daniel flinched, his hands tightening around his mug. "I hadn't noticed. Besides, Dr. Fraiser is adopting Cassandra."

Jack stared at Daniel, a strange feeling settling into the pit of his stomach. He leaned forward, bracing his weight against the table with his elbow. "How could you not notice? I noticed, and I didn't spend half the time with them that you did."

"I just didn't," Daniel snapped, his hands clenching violently on his mug. He glared darkly at Jack. "Why do you always have to push?"

"I didn't realize there was something to push."

"There's not." Daniel tossed back the last of his coffee as he stood. He thumped the mug down on the table and stalked from the room, shoulders hunched, hands shoved in his pockets. Jack sat for a moment, debating, before he grabbed his files and took off after him.

"Hey! Wait up, Daniel."

"Go away, Jack."

Jack fell into step with Daniel and shook his head. "Let's go for a walk."


Jack grabbed him by the collar, forcing Daniel to follow him to his office to drop off his reports. Then he led Daniel through the halls of the SGC, to the elevator, and up into the cool air of the night.

They wandered through the surrounding trees until Daniel sat heavily on a log, removing his glasses and pressing his fingers against his closed eyes. Jack sat next to him and waited.

Eventually, Daniel lowered his hand and stared morosely into the forest, sighing. "I'm sorry for snapping at you."

"Don't worry about it."

Daniel was silent for a moment. "I've thought it before."


"Sam. Being a mother."


"The Nox."

"She smiled."

"I knew."

"Right." Jack rolled his eyes. Adoring the kid didn't mean much about your parenting skills. Loving them only made it worth it, not easy. "So you noticed."

"Yeah," Daniel sighed, "I noticed."

His tone caused Jack to lift an eyebrow. "Just how much did you notice?"

Daniel winced, his face lining with frustration and guilt.


"I know," he said softly. He was quiet for a moment, staring off into the darkness. "I'm married."

Jack reached up and squeezed Daniel's shoulder, his heart clenching at the pained tone. "I know."

Daniel glanced at him and then away. "Sha're and I were talking about having kids before all this started."

Everything fell into place. "Don't go there, Daniel. Both Sha're and Sam deserve better."

"I know, I know!" Daniel shot to his feet, hands tangling in his hair. "I hate feeling like this, Jack. I miss Sha're so much and..." Daniel's voice faded. "What makes it worse is that I know if it weren't for Sha're, I could love Sam so easily."

"Damn, Daniel."

"I don't know what to do, Jack. I don't know how to make it better."

"I don't know either, Daniel."

Daniel closed his eyes, the muscles in his jaw working. He gave his head a shake and sat back down. "I miss Sha're."

"We'll get her back."



They sat quietly for a while longer, Daniel staring sightlessly into the darkness, Jack at the stars. Eventually, Jack gave Daniel's shoulder another squeeze and stood. Daniel followed him back into the mountain, going to his own room.

That night he dreamed of a little girl being swung between her parents by their hands, black ringlets trailing out behind her.


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