A Road Not Taken - Part Five


 Eight o'clock the next morning, Jacob Carter walked down the upstairs hall to wake his children so they could get ready for the day while he prepared breakfast. There was no answer from his son's room, and when he opened the door he saw the bed had not been slept in. He closed his eyes as he closed the door, his jaw clenched with anger and frustration. There was teenage rebellion, there was anger and blame, and then there was this. But he didn't know what to do about it.

With an effort, Jacob took a deep breath and released it, relaxing his muscles and clearing his head before moving on to Sam's bedroom. There was no reason he should take out his frustrations on her. Besides, she'd had a bad night the night before. His little girl had been quiet and withdrawn, unwilling to explain where Daniel had gone in such a hurry as she cleaned up the mess their pyramid had caused when it collapsed. He guessed there had been an argument of some sort, but wasn't too concerned. Children would be children after all, and everything should blow over in a few days.

"Sammy, time to get up, kiddo." There was no response to his hail, although he could hear something from the other side of the door. She was probably already up. "I'm coming in, Sam," he announced as he reached for the knob. "You wouldn't happen to know where your brother... could... be... Sammy?"

His original train of thought was totally derailed by the sight that met his eyes when he opened Sam's door and stepped inside. The young blonde was stretched out on the bed, face buried in her comforter with her forehead on her crooked left arm, the picture of herself and Daniel taken the day before clenched tightly in her right hand. What was truly shocking was that Sam's shoulders were shaking with the force of her crying, something she hadn't done since her mother's funeral as far as he knew.

Totally at a loss, Jacob hurriedly sat on the side of the bed and laid a gentle hand on the quivering back. "Sammy, what's wrong? What happened?"

"D-d-daniel h-h-hates me!" Sam cried out between sobs, not lifting her head. "I said mean things to him yesterday and he h-hates me!"

"What are you talking about? What did you say that was so bad?"

She shook her head, still not lifting it. "He's got every right to hate me. I was mean and out of line and he was just wondering. He's the best friend I've ever had, and I made him hate me!"

Jacob sighed and realized his daughter was in no condition to answer questions. He began to rub his hand in gentle circles between her shoulder blades. "Sam, I'm sure whatever you said couldn't be that bad. Daniel will forgive you. You just have to say you're sorry."

"I am sorry, but he won't want to talk to me. I wouldn't want to talk to me either, not after what I said."

"You don't know that, sweetheart," Jacob refuted, his hand stilling. At his words, Sam broke out into a fresh wave of weeping. The man just didn't know what to do anymore. What he wouldn't give to have his wife there... "Oh, God, Sammy, I wish I knew what to say to you. I wish your mom could be here, that I'd done more to insure that she would be. I know she'd already have everything smoothed over for you."

Sam turned over onto her back in surprise at the mention of her mother. Her father hadn't willingly brought her up since the funeral. When she looked into the older man's eyes, she - in a moment of raw emotion herself - saw what Daniel had told her the day before was there: a deep, abiding guilt and pain that seemed amplified by a helplessness to help his daughter. Without even intending it, Jacob had proven Daniel's point and finally broke through the barriers around Sam's heart. The young blonde sat up abruptly and threw her arms around her father's chest. "But you're here," she murmured as he returned the embrace hesitantly. "You're here."

"You bet I'm here, Sammy," Jacob replied fiercely, tightening his hold on her. "And I'll be here as long as I can, whenever you need me."

Sam nodded, her face rubbing against the faded blue terrycloth of Jacob's robe. She sat there a while, letting the warmth from her father's arms seep into her soul. "Dad," she finally said a touch hesitantly, "do you really think if I say I'm sorry Daniel will forgive me?"

She listened to the echo of his chuckle reverberate in his chest. "I think Daniel is a good boy with a big heart who cares about you very much. If you say you're sorry and you mean it, he'll forgive you."

Sam pulled back and began to fidget with the picture she held. "I do mean it. But I should do it today. I want to fix it before it can get any worse." She paused and took a deep breath. "But I don't know his phone number or where he lives."

"Then this is your lucky day, kiddo," Jacob said with a soft smile. "If you'll remember, I drove Daniel home Friday night. How about I take you over there? I'll wait outside for a while, and you find out if he wants to talk there or somewhere else. I'll take you guys wherever you want to go."

"Oh, Dad, would you really?" Sam asked, her blue-grey eyes wide and a small smile filled with hope beginning to make an appearance.

"Anything for my little girl. Now you get up and get dressed while I make us breakfast, then I'll take you over to Daniel's and you can smooth this whole mess over." He ran a hand through her long blonde locks as his smile grew larger, then headed for the door. "Oh, by the way, would you have any idea where your brother could be?" he asked, pausing in the doorway. "He didn't come home last night."

Sam blinked as she saw the flash of pain that came and went in her father's eyes, yet another confirmation of Daniel's insight. "Um, no, Dad. He didn't tell me anything yesterday. I didn't realize he hadn't come home."

Jacob nodded. "That's what I figured. Well, get ready. We have lots to do this morning."

"You bet, Dad."

* * * * * * * *

Daniel sat in the back of the walk-in closet he shared with his thirteen-year-old foster brother as he had since he'd finished supper the night before. His knees were pulled up to his chest with his forehead resting on them, his arms wrapped around the lanky limbs. He hadn't been able to sleep at all, his mind constantly replaying the argument he'd had with Sam.

What had he been thinking? Sam's relationship with her father was none of his business, and he certainly had no right to tell her how to feel about her mother's death. He couldn't believe he'd been so mean and harsh. There had been no way Sam could have known that his own parents were dead and he was in foster care. But of course he had to overreact to her understandable defensive questions and send her on a vicious guilt trip. There was no way she'd want to be his friend after this. He'd be lucky if she'd ever be willing to look at him again.

Daniel fought back the tears that threatened to form. One more time he'd be losing someone he cared very much about. Was that all that the future held for him? Was he going to just keep getting close to people just to see them leave, either by dying or in disgust with his pathetic personality? After the Rogers left he'd thought he could shut the world out and take care of himself. He should have realized how wrong he was when he qualified that with his connection with Jack. Not that he'd ever give that up, but it was oh so obvious that he couldn't turn his back on people. He knew what it was like to be left alone and hurting, and he just couldn't bring himself to do that to anyone else, no matter how much pain he was in himself.

He was just going to have to learn to swallow the pain, like he'd been doing since that fateful day at the New York Museum of Art. He could help people, but he couldn't count on them to be there in return. Sam was just one more example, not that he blamed her. He only wished things were different.

A pounding on the closet door made Daniel's head snap up. "Yo, loser, you in there?" one of his foster brothers asked harshly from the other side. "Someone's here to see you!"

"He's not a loser so stop calling him that!" a muffled female voice cried out indignantly.

Sam? Sam was here? He wasn't expecting her to end things so soon. Considering the rage he was sure he'd left her in, Daniel had guessed it would be at least a couple of days before she told him to take a hike.

"You obviously don't know him. Get out of the closet, geek!"

"I'm coming." Daniel crawled to the door and moved some clothes out of the way to give himself room to stand.

When he unlocked the door and stepped into his bedroom, he found the seventeen-year-old Matthew sneering at him and Sam in the doorway staring daggers at Matthew. "Don't you call him a geek either," she growled, fists firmly planted on her hips. "Just proves you're jealous because he's so much smarter than you." She turned her head to face Daniel, her expression immediately changing to guarded reluctance. "We need to talk, Daniel. I'm thinking we should go somewhere else to do it." She shot a significant look at the taller young man who still stood there watching the display.

"Are you sure?" he asked quietly, barely able to make eye contact.

"Yeah. Grab your stuff and let's go. My dad's outside in the car. He said he'd take us anywhere we wanted to go."

"You think he can just take off whenever he wants?" Matthew scoffed as Daniel blinked in complete surprise.

The younger boy registered the haughty question a moment later. "Why not? You do," he said snarkily, walking over to where he had dropped his backpack the day before. It hadn't been touched since.

Matthew glared at him. "That's different. I'm older."

Daniel shrugged. "So? I'm smarter. Come on, Sam." He walked out of his room and headed directly for the living room once Sam stepped aside for him, the girl immediately following. Once he got there, he sought out the older woman who sat on the couch watching television, flipping through a magazine as she did so. "Mrs. Betts?" he asked a touch shyly.

The woman raised her head and smoothed back her grey-streaked brown hair. "What is it, Daniel?" she asked with a distant smile.

"May I go over to my friend Sam's house today? That's why she came over, to ask me." He totally missed Sam's start of surprise when he called her his friend.

Mrs. Betts nodded as she dropped her gaze once again to her magazine. "Of course, Daniel. Have fun."

"Can he stay for lunch and supper?" Sam asked as Daniel went to get his jacket. The girl missed his start of surprise at the question.

"Just have him call if it's going to be too late," Daniel's foster mother said dismissively as she shooed the children away absently. Her eyes never rose again from the glossy pictures before her.

Daniel and Sam shared a look, both a bit embarrassed for different reasons. "Good-bye, Mrs. Betts," the boy said politely as he zipped up his jacket and led Sam out of the house. There was no response.

It was a silent ride back to the Carter's house. Jacob left them alone in the living room, claiming he had work to do in the study, and the two children sat on either end of the couch not looking at each other for five wordless minutes. "I'm sorry, Sam," Daniel said finally.

That made her turn her head to stare incredulously at him. "Why? You were right."

Daniel shook his head. "I shouldn't have said anything. It wasn't my place to tell you how you should treat your father or react to your mother's death. I was out of line to have told you about my parents the way I did, to make you feel guilty."

"I don't think you told me to make me feel guilty," Sam refuted. "I think you told me to try to make me understand. And if anyone was out of line yesterday, it was me."

"No, no, you had every right to be upset with me. I shouldn't have stuck my nose into your business. I... I'll understand completely if you don't want to be friends anymore."

Sam's jaw dropped as she gazed at the dejected form opposite her on the couch. He hadn't looked at her once, and his voice was filled with resigned acceptance. He really thought she wanted to tell him to take a hike. "Daniel, that discussion became your business the moment I involved you in it," she said gently. "And you said a lot of things that made me think. But I think the most important thing you need to know right now is that I definitely consider you my friend, now more than ever." Her breath caught for a moment when her statement snapped his head around toward her, his expression one of shock, amazement, and blossoming hope. "You told me things I needed to hear, and you shared a very painful memory with me to drive it home - all because you care about me." She smiled, not noticing the tears that were beginning to well up in both their eyes. "Other than my family, no one's ever cared that much about me. Daniel, you're the best friend I've ever had, and the last thing I'd ever do, or ever want to do, is make you go away. I wouldn't blame you after the way I treated you, but please don't. I don't want my friend to go." She bit her lower lip and blinked furiously to keep herself in check.

Daniel was flabbergasted, so much so that he didn't feel the wetness of his cheeks as his eyes overflowed slightly. "You... you really don't hate me?"

A teary laugh escaped Sam's lips. "Of course not. I was afraid you hated me."

"Never, Sam, never," the young man insisted emphatically.

Sam scooted over and threw her arms around Daniel and was relieved to feel him do the same in response. "We'll be best friends forever, I know it," she murmured into his shoulder, grinning when she felt him nod in agreement. "And thanks to you, I see my dad the way he really is. I think I can forgive him now, Daniel."

Daniel gave her a happy squeeze. "That's wonderful, Sam. Did you tell him?"

"No, not yet. I just came to that conclusion this morning, when I was still really worried about you."

"So when are you going to tell him?"

Sam took a long moment to consider that before an idea came to her. "I think I know the perfect way," she said as she sat up and gently ended the embrace. "But I'll need your help."

Daniel smiled. "What do you need, Sam?"

"You're in art class while I'm in shop class, right?"


"Then I need you to draw me a picture for a Christmas card. I'd do it myself, but I'm not really any good at it, and I want this picture to be the best it can be. And maybe you can help me with the wording...?" She gave him a tentative, pleading look.

Daniel's smile widened. "Whatever you need, Sam. Whatever you need."

* * * * * * * *

"Dear Jack,

"I really messed up yesterday. Sam and I got into an argument, and I said some mean things. I was pushy and inconsiderate, and I had the audacity to tell her how she should feel about something that had hurt her terribly. I don't want to say exactly what it was we argued about, since it's not my place to say. I might as well do something right.

"I ended up telling her about my parents in the process of it all. I can't believe I gave her that guilt trip! I never thought I could be that heartless. I knew she was hurting and I said it anyway. Makes me wonder if I deserve her for a friend after all.

"It certainly makes me realize just how lucky I am. Sam came over earlier today to pick me up so we could talk. I was sure she was going to tell me she didn't want anything more to do with me - and I wouldn't have blamed her if she had - but she wanted to apologize to me. We talked for a while and worked everything out. After not being able to sleep last night it was such a relief. She really has turned out to be a good friend, and she thinks of me the same way. I'm still working out why. I think I'll just take it for an early Christmas present and leave it at that. Now all I have to worry about are the finals coming up this week. But I'm not that worried. I'll write you another letter later this week when I have your Christmas present done. Until then enjoy your vacation.

"Your friend,


* * * * * * * *

It felt like a temporary truce had been called in the Carter household for Christmas that Saturday. Mark held his temper through the morning, making it easier for Jacob to hold his. The three of them shared a hearty breakfast before opening presents, a small pile being left behind for when Daniel came over that afternoon. Sam fidgeted horribly the whole morning, waiting for her brother to leave. She didn't feel comfortable giving her father his real present with the teenager around since she knew what his reaction would be. Maybe she should have Daniel have a talk with him, too. If anyone could make Mark see reason, it would be Daniel.

She shook her head. Nah. Daniel was her friend; you didn't send your friends into that kind of danger.

A little after lunch Mark left to go hang out with a few of his friends that didn't celebrate Christmas and Jacob retreated to his study with a sad look and a sigh. Sam figured that was her chance. She ran up to her room and grabbed the card she had made before hurrying back to the closed study door. "Dad?" she asked after knocking loudly.

"What is it, Sammy?" the man's tired voice called back, nearly breaking the girl's heart.

"I have another present for you, Dad. I wanted to wait until we were alone to give it to you. Can I come in?"

"It's unlocked."

When Sam slipped inside, closing the door behind her, she saw her father leaning back almost lazily in the chair behind his desk attempting to give her a smile. "This is just between you and me. Daniel helped me make it." She walked over to the desk and handed him the large card.

Jacob looked closely at the folded piece of white construction paper and the carefully drawn bouquet of gladiolas on the outside. His eyes widened. "These look almost lifelike. Did Daniel draw these?"

"Yeah, aren't they great? It's amazing what Daniel can do with colored pencils. He wasn't satisfied with the proportions, but I said they were fine. He finally gave in." She frowned. "That may have had more to do with the fact that we ran out of construction paper though."

"'Because we both love her'," Jacob read, then gave his daughter an odd look. "What is this?" he asked, confused.

"Open it," Sam urged eagerly.

The older man gazed at her for a moment longer then followed her suggestion. "'Christmas is a time for family and loved ones, even those we miss that can't be with us. That love is more important than material things, and so I give this gift to you. I love you, Daddy, and I forgive you. Merry Christmas.'" By the time he reached the end of the hand-written note, Jacob's eyes were filled with tears, and his voice cracked on the holiday well-wishes. He brought his eyes up to meet Sam's equally watery gaze. "Sammy, are you sure?" he barely whispered.

She nodded. "I know you loved Mom as much as we did, and you'd never have done anything to deliberately hurt her. I was just too focused on my own pain to see yours. I'm sorry, Daddy, and I love you." The young blonde ran around the desk and threw herself at her father, arms open wide.

He gathered her close and laid his cheek against the soft golden locks. "I love you, Samantha Rose. I love you so much."

The father and daughter pair held each other and cried for a long time. Finally Jacob pulled back slightly and held his daughter at arm's length, gazing at her with so much love in his eyes that Sam wondered how she could have missed it before. "I am so glad you're still here for me to be mad at," Sam said fervently.

Confusion transformed Jacob's features. "Did I do something to make you angry, Sam?"

"Oh!" the girl exclaimed, her hands flying upward to cover her mouth. "That didn't come out right!"

Jacob chuckled. "Now I think I get it."

"You know, Daniel didn't just help me with that card," Sam admitted after returning her father's smile. "He's the one who made me see your side."

"So that's what you argued about, huh?" Jacob guessed.

"Yeah. I told him that you and Mark always argued, and he asked me why I wasn't mad at you all the time like Mark was. I didn't know what to say. Daniel kept defending you, so I asked him how he would know how I felt." Sam's eyes dropped to the floor. "He told me his parents died a little over three years ago and he'd been in foster care ever since."

Jacob sighed. "Well, that explains why the boy that met him at the door looked nothing like him."

Sam nodded. "He reminded me I still had you, and that I was lucky." She finally brought her eyes back up. "Daniel was right, Dad. I still have you. And I'm glad."

Her father smiled warmly. "So am I, kiddo. So am I. I guess we both have a lot to be grateful to Daniel for. I'm glad he's coming over this afternoon."

"Me too." Sam looked at the clock on the wall to her left. "And he should be here any time! I have one more present in my room I forgot to wrap!" She tore out of the study and up the stairs.

Jacob laughed outright at the sight and headed for the kitchen to get some drinks ready. He hoped Daniel showed up before Sam was ready. He wanted to thank the young man personally. And that was just a small measure of what he owed Daniel for giving him his daughter back.

* * * * * * * *

"Dear Daniel,

"Do you go out of your way to try and give me heart attacks? I read the first part of the letter you wrote before Christmas and nearly panicked because I thought you'd been smacked upside the head by life again. I was about ready to check my savings account to see if I could fly out there. Then I read that last paragraph and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Don't do that to me!

"Sounds like you had a good time with the Carters on Christmas. I brought in a decent haul myself. Dad gave me the old beater I used to drive around in high school and said he'd store it in his garage until I had a place for it. Chris gave me a new hockey stick, Beth got me a pair of tickets to the EAA Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin next year, Gabriel picked me up a pair of skis, and my mom gave me a photographic collage of the family. They were all impressed with the pencil drawing of the Egyptian gods you sent me. My mom and Chris said it was interesting the way you grouped the profiles of the animal-headed representations with completely human images of what they might look like. In fact, my mom would really like to know where you got the inspiration for that one. I liked it myself, but something about one of the goddesses - Hathor I think you said her name was - kinda creeped me out. Don't get me wrong, still a great picture but... -shudder-

"Actually, Lauren said it was pretty neat when I showed her the day after I got back from Christmas break. She wondered where the color was, but I explained it. Her roommate Sara made fun of her for not understanding it was a pencil drawing, then me for keeping it in the bottom of my trunk. It's not like I'm allowed to hang it on the wall, I hope you know that. As soon as I have some real personal space that's exactly what I'm going to do. But until then, in the trunk it stays.

"What is it with Sara anyway? I've been seeing Lauren for almost four months now, and Sara hasn't backed off in the least. She's always throwing me attitude, and we get into a bickering match almost every time we meet. It's pissing Lauren off, actually. Of course, she blames me for letting Sara get to me, but making it up to her is a whole lot of fun.

"Maybe I shouldn't be telling you that quite yet.

"I don't get why Lauren and Sara are such good friends, anyway. Sara's a pretty serious student, gets good grades in all her classes. She's light-colored, especially compared to Lauren, with her shoulder-length dirty blonde hair and pale skin. And there's a hardness, a toughness to her and her lean, muscular frame. I don't get her. Lauren has long, black hair and an almost permanent tan, a billowy frame and a constant smile. God, Daniel, she's so beautiful. She's not all that serious most of the time, but she sure knows how to have a good time. I have to admit that if it weren't for Sara she'd probably be failing her classes, but that's about all the use I have for the witch.

"Okay, I doubt you really want to hear me go on about someone I don't really like. I started making serious inquiries about the advanced piloting classes, and a couple of my instructors have subtly let me know my chances seem pretty good so far. So, all in all things are going pretty well. Oh, and the hockey team got a new assistant coach. He's another one I don't think I care for.

"I think that about does me for this letter. Write back soon and let me know how the science fair went. With Sam helping you out you should be just fine. Heck, I don't think the science department will know what hit them.

"Your friend,


* * * * * * * *

Time went by at its usual rapid pace, filled with letters and study sessions and random trips to various places. Jacob threw a small birthday party for Sam during the second half of May where he gave both Sam and Daniel pictures he took at the science fair. "I can't believe you took this picture!" Sam cried when she saw the photograph. Daniel just blushed.

"How could I not?" Jacob replied through a laugh. "The both of you were just standing there blinking, smoke billowing out around you."

"It wasn't supposed to explode," Daniel murmured, the color in his cheeks deepening.

"It wouldn't have exploded if it hadn't been for that stupid hamster," Sam grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest. "What was Patty thinking, not securing the dumb thing's cage? I don't think she ever found it."

Jacob shook his head, still grinning. "What I want to know is what the little monster found so tasty that it felt the need to chew through your containers. You guys were so careful not to mix those chemicals."

It was his daughter's turn to blush. "I think that might have been my fault. I'd just finished a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before we set up our display, and I might have gotten some on the containers." She shrugged. "But it wouldn't have made a difference if Patty had kept her cage secured!"

"At least they still gave us the first place ribbon," Daniel said. "We're just lucky it didn't all happen until after they'd finished judging the project."

"My dress was ruined," Sam bemoaned. "And I'd only worn it twice."

Jacob raised his eyebrows. "You owned it for a year, Sammy. It's not like you didn't have a chance to wear it more often."

Sam brushed off some imaginary dust from her well-worn blue jeans and lifted her head haughtily. "That's not the point."

The doorbell rang just then, and Jacob rose to answer it. He grinned when he saw who it was. "George! What the hell are you doing here?"

The lean man starting to thicken in the middle grinned back. "Turns out I've got some news for you, Jake, and figured I'd deliver it in person." He stepped inside at a gesture from Jacob. "Nice house you've got."

"Believe it or not, I do have taste. So how's Margaret and the girls?"

"They're doing great." George paused as a pair of laughing voices echoed down the hall. "Do I need to ask how your kids are doing?"

"Mark gets more and more rebellious every day," Jacob replied with a frown. It quickly disappeared. "But Sammy and I made a breakthrough at Christmas and have been getting closer. I have her friend Daniel to thank for that."

George grinned. "Daniel, huh? How old is Sam again?"

Jacob gave his friend a light punch on the shoulder. "Don't start with that. I'm not looking forward to the dating years. Besides, those two are the best of friends. I've never seen a pair closer. But you want to know what's really scary? You know how I told you how smart my girl is? Well, Daniel is at least as smart as she is."

"You're kidding."

"Not by a long shot."

Another round of laughter came from down the hall. "From what you told me, I didn't think I'd hear that when I walked in your front door." George gestured in the direction of the giggling voices.

"That's something else I have to thank Daniel for, although I think Sam taught him to laugh again. He just made it possible for her to want to. Come on. I'll introduce you." Jacob led his friend down the hall, and the two men stopped in the doorway to watch the two children at play. They sat on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, using the table as some kind of desk and looking extremely serious.

"Hello. I'm Samantha Carter."

"I'm Daniel Jackson."

"And welcome to the six o'clock news."

As Sam began to rattle on about a made-up, late-breaking news story, George's pale blue eyes widened. Hearing those two names together struck a chord in him, one he hadn't been sure existed - or if it did, one that wouldn't be played for another twenty years. He thought back to the time he'd spent working under Cheyenne Mountain in 1969, and the four prisoners he was supposed to have escorted out before they "escaped", leaving him and all the other guards unconscious around the two trucks. Something in the faces of these two children reminded him of two of the four "Soviet spies". Yes, he could just make out the features that would grow into the man and woman he would get to know so well so many years in the future. And something about the confirmation of what he'd been told so many years ago made him feel better, like everything was moving forward the way it was suppose to be.

An elbow to the ribs brought George back to the present. "Hey, kids," Jacob announced into the silence of an announced "commercial break". "I'd like you to meet a friend of mine, Colonel George Hammond."

"Hi," Sam said cheerfully.

"Hello, sir," Daniel said respectfully.

"Hi there," George replied in a friendly tone, a small smile on his face. "I guess I don't have to ask who you are. Samantha and Daniel, right?"

Daniel nodded as Sam rolled her eyes. "It's Sam, but yeah."

Jacob laughed. "I guess I should have warned you about that. So what's your news?"

George shot a quick look at Sam and his smile completely faded. His gaze shifted back to his friend before he could see the effect his change of expression had on the young blonde. "I drove up here to let you know that you're about to get your orders to transfer to Dover. I'm heading that way myself."

"Dover, huh?" Jacob responded, his eyebrows raised in surprise. It was his turn to shoot a glance at his daughter, who had turned pale at the news. "When?"

"About a month if your orders are the same as mine."

"Maybe I should make a call. Why don't you come with me to the study?" He gestured down the hall and George began heading that way. "Sammy? I'll let you know as soon as I have some answers, okay?"

Sam nodded. "Okay, Dad," she said softly.

Jacob gave her a weak smile. "It'll be okay, sweetheart." He watched his little girl for a few beats longer then left.

"I don't want to go, Daniel," Sam murmured after a long, silent moment.

"I know," Daniel replied just as softly. "But your dad's right. It'll be okay."

Blue met blue as Sam turned to face him. "I don't want to leave you behind. You're my best friend, Daniel."

Daniel pulled back slightly in shock. "You... you're my best friend, too, Sam. You and Jack. And this is different..." His voice trailed off as he took a deep breath. "I'm leaving anyway. I was going to tell you before I left today."

Sam leaned forward, all thoughts of her own tragedy pushed aside. "What do you mean you're leaving? When?"

"My social worker called yesterday and told me they'd be changing my placement. I thought it would be around here, but it turns out that it's going to be further south, in Carmel. I guess there's no place closer that's available right now."

"So why do you have to go?"

Daniel shrugged. "I'm guessing that there's some kind of rule about how long you can stay with one family, so you don't get too attached. Foster families are supposed to be temporary, after all."

Sam frowned. "That's not fair. Not fair at all." She took a deep breath to get her temper under control when she saw Daniel's eyes drop to the table and his brave face start to quiver. "So when are you going?" she asked, much calmer.

"The middle of June. The eighteenth, I think." Daniel shrugged again. "I'm not used to having so much notice."

The blonde girl reached out and took her friend's hand. "They're probably waiting for school to be over in both places." She smiled slightly once Daniel had nodded his concession of the point. "You know, that makes me feel better about having to move. Once you're gone there'll be nothing here that I'd want to stay for."

That made Daniel raise his head. "You don't mean that, Sam, do you?"

"Of course I do. Other than my dad and my brother, you're the only one I'm close to here. So when you're gone, I won't really have any friends in Wheatland. Why would I want to stay?" Her smile grew stronger.

"I wouldn't want to stay without you here, either," Daniel said seriously. "I'm not going to like it in Carmel."

"I probably won't like it in Dover," Sam said with a shrug. "But we'll both try anyway, right? And write letters back and forth like you do with Jack?"

Daniel didn't miss the touch of desperation in her eyes and voice. He finally smiled. "Of course, Sam. I don't ever want to lose contact with you. And I suppose there might be something in Carmel worth liking." The smile turn slightly impish. "I'll make a deal with you. I'll find something I really like in Carmel and tell you all about it. In return, you have to find something in Dover that you really like and tell me all about it." He thrust out his hand.

Sam shook it heartily, her expression a relieved grin. "You've got a deal, buster. I hope you like long letters."

"As much as I like writing them."

They both laughed. "And when we move again - like I have a feeling is going to happen - we'll find new things we like and tell each other about them," Sam said with a decisive nod.

"It'll give me something to look forward to," Daniel said with a wide smile.

"Now," Sam said in a tone that signified she was changing the subject, "since it looks like neither one of us is going anywhere for a few weeks, let's get back to having some fun. We haven't covered sports yet."

Sam gave him a quick hug that was enthusiastically returned, and the two of them went back to their mock news broadcast.

Back to Ship Fiction          Back to Part Four          Go to Part Six

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