A Road Not Taken - Part Nine


 Sam sighed as she leaned back in her desk at the back of the classroom just before fifth hour. Her creative writing class hadn't started yet, and she barely took note of the students as they wandered in. She was sick of all the flyers she'd been seeing - including the banner that was currently draped above the chalkboard - that were posted all over the school advertising the Valentine's Day dance that was coming up on the sixteenth. Since she'd only been there since the beginning of the semester, it wasn't like she had a date - or much hope of getting one.

Her father had promised her this last, sudden move would be just that until she graduated from high school. He'd spoken to his superiors about the issue, so Sam was confident that things would work out. It didn't fix the "new-kid syndrome" but it was nice knowing this would be the last time she'd have to deal with it until she graduated.

Thinking of "new-kid syndrome" a hesitant figure in the doorway caught the blonde's attention. The boy was a lanky five-foot-nine with slightly unruly dark blond hair that hung a half inch past his ears, and he was wearing a brown plaid shirt tucked into a worn pair of blue jeans, a scuffed pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of mottled-brown, plastic framed glasses. Sam watched as he double-checked the number on the door then walked over to Miss Wagner's desk in the front of the room. The teacher looked over the slip of paper he gave her, then gestured toward the desks with a small smile. The young man nodded in return and slipped into the one at the front of Sam's row. He took the pair of textbooks he'd been hugging to his chest and placed them in the basket beneath his seat before opening his notebook and placing a sharp pencil beside it to wait for class to start. Sam didn't know what it was about the kid, but something struck her as familiar about him.

She didn't have much time to ponder the idea thanks to the bell that rang at that point. Miss Wagner moved to stand in front of the middle row of desks and had the class spend ten minutes writing whatever came to mind about the person or people they cared about most. She made it clear that the exercise wasn't about form or grammar - it was about expressing ideas. Sam was happy about that; while she was more than capable of putting together an impressive research paper given the time and resources, writing fiction was proving to be quite the challenge. Talking about ideas, impressions, and sensations on paper for everyone to see stretched her imagination to its limit, although it was getting easier as time went along. She much preferred dealing with facts and figures.

Once the time was up, the teacher began to call on people to read what they'd written. Elisha Bannon, senior captain of the cheerleading squad, went first, her piece sounding more like a mix between a list of conquests and a family tree than anything resembling prose. Jeremy Hart's piece was pretty much a blatant plug for his garage band. Chad McAlister, vice-president of the student council, apparently only needed to look in a mirror to see the person that meant the most to him. Sam was almost ready to volunteer to read her own composition - if only to get a break from the pointless drivel - when Miss Wagner decided to call on the new kid. "Daniel," she said with a gentle smile, "why don't you share what you've written? It'll give us a chance to get to know you."

The young man hesitated for a moment before rising to his feet and turning to shyly face the class. His bright blue eyes were glued to the paper he held. "Tall, lean soldier," his low baritone voice said clearly if a bit softly, "seeking to soar through clouds of pure white, to speed through the air and joyfully touch the sky, to protect that which he holds close to his heart. He walks beside me, in spirit if not in fact, steadying my steps and heartening me when they falter. An anchor when the world around me is in chaos. He makes me laugh.

"Slender, intelligent student, reaching for the stars, for that which lies beyond what we know, for understanding of the workings of the universe. She walks at my other side, in my heart if not in person, sharing with me the joy of learning and the excitement of discovery. The calm after the storm when my heart and soul are in turmoil. She makes me smile.

"And lastly, above me, guiding my steps and watching me move ahead, are those who formed this body, this soul, this life. There is pain, of loss, of longing, yet there is also happiness, of memories, of lessons learned so long ago. Theirs is the path I seek to follow yet make my own. I only hope I can make them proud.

"All of these, in their own ways, have touched my life, my heart, and made it complete. I love them all." His eyes never rising, he lowered his paper and slipped back into his seat.

The usual applause that followed a student's reading was subdued, and Miss Wagner stared at the young man with wide eyes. "Daniel, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us." He shrugged, and the teacher went on to talk about the assigned reading they were to have read the night before.

Sam sat at her desk, stunned. Daniel? Was this her Daniel? She hadn't heard from him since he'd been in the hospital, she didn't know why. Now here he was, in the same school and the same class as she was. And he still thought so highly of her, even though he had to be disappointed that he hadn't heard from her either.

Apparently he hadn't seen her yet, or hadn't recognized her if he had. She had to let him know she was there. A huge smile split her face as an idea struck her. It was perfect.

A few minutes later, while Miss Wagner's back was turned as she wrote notes on the blackboard, Sam handed a folded note across the aisle to an acquaintance from her math class, signaling to her that she wanted Daniel to get it in a roundabout way. The girl snickered and did as requested. Another five minutes later, the note landed on Daniel's desk, with him totally unaware of where it came from.

Daniel's brows furrowed in confusion when he realized a folded up piece of paper was nestled up against his elbow. He discreetly glanced around the room, but no one appeared to be watching him. His curiosity getting the best of him, he unfolded the note.


"I couldn't help but notice that you're new here, aside from Miss Wagner's comments. I wanted to welcome you to El Segundo High School and El Segundo. I moved here myself just before the start of the semester in January, so I understand how it feels to be the new kid.

"Lunch is coming up after this, and I would be honored to have you sit with me. Someone once told me that new kids need to stick together, and there's a great tree out in the yard that's perfect to eat your lunch under. I'd love to show it to you.

"If you're up for it, wait for me after class. We can drop off our books at our lockers, pick up our lunches, and go outside. It's absolutely gorgeous out there. Hopefully, I'll talk to you later."

Daniel frowned when he saw the note wasn't signed. Something about the messy handwriting seemed familiar, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. He was somewhat afraid that the whole thing was a joke at his expense, but the same curiosity that had him reading the note in the first place had him wondering who sent it. He knew he'd be lingering around after class.

The bell finally rang, signifying the end of the period. Miss Wagner had Daniel wait for a moment as the other students filed out while she got him a copy of the textbook they used in her class. He thanked her then began to gather up his belongings as she returned to her desk. He sighed. Apparently the mystery author hadn't wanted to wait.

"So should I take this as a sign you want to see my tree?"

Daniel straightened abruptly, books in the crook of his arm. Whoever was right behind him sounded just like... "Sam?" he asked incredulously, spinning around to face the source of the question. His eyes widened when he found himself eye-to-eye with a fully-developed Samantha Carter, her sunlight-colored hair much shorter than it had been the last time he'd seen her, now only hanging down to her shoulders. "Is that you, Sam?"

She smiled widely as her blue-grey eyes watered. "Who else would send you a note like that? Didn't you recognize my handwriting?"

"Something seemed familiar, but your letters were always so neat..." Daniel's voice trailed off as he shook his head in amazement. "I never thought I'd see you again," he murmured.

"That's funny," Sam replied, her voice shaky. "I thought the same thing." She bit her lower lip for a moment then launched herself at her friend, forcing him to drop his books onto the desk next to him. "When they told me you'd been discharged from the hospital and I never got another letter I was so worried, Daniel. I didn't know what had happened." A few tears escaped her control as she laid her head on Daniel's shoulder.

"I'll explain everything," Daniel said softly as he held her tight against him. His eyes flickered over to the teacher's desk where Miss Wagner sat silently watching, tears in her eyes and a wide smile.

Sam nodded. "What you wrote today was so beautiful, Daniel. Do you really think that about me, that I walk by your side in your heart, that I'm the calm after the storm for you?"

Daniel closed his eyes briefly, a touch embarrassed that she'd heard that. "I'd never lie about how important you are to me, Sam. Now why don't we go to lunch and we can talk about everything. You still have a tree to show me."

Five minutes later the two of them were sitting under that tree, both of them having brought a lunch from home. "Nice tree," Daniel commented with a smile as he settled himself. "I can understand why you'd eat here."

"I was hoping I'd get the chance to use it to read your letters under while I ate," Sam murmured, a bit embarrassed. "I thought it was so neat when you told me about my special tree in Carmel."

"Yeah, about that," Daniel said, his cheeks flushing. "I did try to write you. I wasn't expecting to be discharged for another couple days when Miss Drake and the doctor came in and told me I'd be leaving that day. I knew you were in school so I couldn't call, and once I'd been taken to my temporary foster home I didn't feel comfortable asking to make a long distance phone call. So I wrote you a letter since my foster parents told me they'd send along anything I got after I'd left, but it got sent back, return to sender written in big letters across the envelope. I tried again, but didn't hear anything. I had no idea what was going on, and actually got a little worried."

"I'd never send back your letters, Daniel, never. I hope you know that," Sam assured him quickly, her eyes wide.

Daniel smiled. "I know. I didn't think it was you. The handwriting on the letter I got back wasn't right, and it didn't seem like your dad's either. I just didn't know what was going on."

Sam relaxed. "I think I get it. You got discharged on a Friday, right? Just before Christmas?"

"Yeah, that's right."

"My last day before break. I was going to call you that night, but my dad wanted me to go with him to one of his social functions. Some general was throwing a Christmas party and had invited us. Believe me, you don't turn down a general unless you have a very good, very valid excuse. The next morning, Dad told me I needed to pack. We were moving out here over the weekend. I guess his immediate superior told him about it at the party, including the fact that he'd already arranged the purchase of a house for us to go with Dad's transfer to the Los Angeles Air Force Base. I tried calling the hospital, but they told me you'd been discharged and refused to tell me where you'd gone. After Christmas, once we were settled in a bit, I tried calling Miss Drake since she'd been so great about contacting me about you being in the hospital, but the lady I talked to wouldn't transfer me to her. She told me that since I wasn't relation they couldn't give out any information, and not to bother sending them any letters for you because they'd just be returned. I believe her exact words were, 'Look, kid, we're not the post office.' I so wanted to hit her." Sam scowled darkly as she remembered that phone call.

Daniel's expression was a mix of shock, outrage, and hurt. "No one ever told me anything."

The blonde young woman shrugged, taking a deep breath to calm herself. "That doesn't surprise me. I doubt Miss Drake even knows I called. But I didn't think it would do any good to send a letter anyway. I get the feeling Miss Drake is unique."

Daniel nodded, his face settling into resigned acceptance. "She was."

"So when did you move here? And how?"

"Just this last weekend," Daniel said, letting Sam change the subject. "Miss Drake arranged for me to be transferred to Los Angeles County. A friend of hers is my new social worker. Kayla Waters. She's nice."

"I don't get it. Why would Miss Drake transfer you down here?"

"She tried so hard three different times to get me into a good home and three times it didn't work out. She said she feels like she failed me, especially after the Higgins' home. I tried to tell her she was wrong. But she'd talked with Miss Waters, and everything was settled. The good thing is I shouldn't be moving until after I graduate from high school." Daniel sighed as he pulled a handkerchief out of the back pocket of his jeans and wiped at his nose.

Sam grinned. "That's exactly what my dad told me when we moved here. We're going to get to graduate together, Daniel!" Daniel returned the grin, but before Sam could move in with her intended hug, he sneezed loudly. "Oh, Daniel, are your allergies bothering you too much?"

Daniel shook his head as he blew his nose. "Not really. It's the usual. Travel tends to set them off, though, and it takes a little while for them to settle down. I wish I knew what the stuff was that Sergeant O'Neill gave me when I went out to Colorado Springs. I didn't have a twitch the entire time I was there."

The young lady waited until the scrap of cloth had been put away then went ahead with her intended action. "It's so great to know we have so much time together," she whispered into his ear as he brought his arms around her as tightly as hers were around him.

"I don't think there's much that could top this, Sam," Daniel whispered back. "Not only do I not have to worry about never hearing from you, we get to live near each other again."

"Life's finally giving us a fair shake, Daniel," Sam said as they separated.

Daniel nodded his agreement. "And we won't take it for granted," he vowed.

The two of them shared a wide smile then tucked into their previously forgotten lunches and caught up like the old friends they were.

* * * * * * * *

"Dear Daniel,

"That's great that you and Sam ran into each other at school, and it's very cool that you'll be able to stick together until you're finished. I'm really happy for both of you. I know how much it was tearing you apart that you didn't know what had happened to her, and I'm sure she was just as torn up about you. Now the both of you better behave yourselves. Remember your ages.

"I'm glad you had a good time at the Valentine's Day dance with Sam. Personally, I hate social functions like that. You have to dress up and watch your manners. And if you don't kiss up to just the right people you could be wrecking your career. Just ask Sam. Or her dad. I bet they know what I'm talking about.

"Thinking of social functions, I took Sara to the last one I had to go to. General Bischoff's wife had it planned for months, and my CO told me it would be in my best interest to be there. I guess she'd heard a few things about me (no, I'm not telling you what they were. I wish I didn't know!) and was curious to meet me and my girlfriend. You should have seen Sara, Daniel. She was so beautiful that night. She wore a black evening gown with a high neck but no sleeves (I'm sure you could describe it so much better than I can), and there were sequins that caught the low lights at the general's house just right so she looked like she was glowing. I had a hard time tearing my eyes away to play nice with the higher-ups. And when we danced...

"Daniel, I said it. When I dropped her off at her apartment, she told me she'd had a wonderful time and was about to get out of the car when I grabbed her wrist. She looked at me, confused, making her forehead get that cute wrinkle I like so much. For a long moment I just stared at her, speechless. And then it just came out. I knew Sara's patience was about to run out and I just blurted it out. I actually told her I love her. And the smile she gave me... wow! She leaned over, kissed me senseless, and said, "Of course you do. I've known it all along. But it's about time you said something." All I could do was sit there and blink!

"I won't go into details about how the rest of the night went. But I've found it's a little easier to say now that I've gotten that first time out of the way. I have to ask you one question, though. Is it strange that it took me over two and a half years?

"Life's been uneventful otherwise. My CO recently asked me if I'd consider going into Special Ops training. I haven't decided. I think a lot's going to depend on Sara. I'm beginning to think she's the one, Daniel, and if she doesn't like the idea of me going into Special Ops, I'm not sure I could do it. I'll have to talk to her I guess. What do you think about it?

"I'll keep you updated, and say hi to Sam for me. Hope to hear from you again soon.

"Your friend,


* * * * * * * *

Spring semester in El Segundo flew by once Sam and Daniel had reunited. Even Jack was with them in spirit, as he'd given Daniel permission to share bits of his letters with the girl he'd shared a desperate vigil with not six months previously. The younger pair spent lots of time together, even when Sam started dating a boy from her advanced auto shop class a month and a half before the end of the year.

El Segundo High School's graduation ceremony that year was like many others seen across the nation. Miss Wagner asked Daniel to write a poem for the graduating class, surprising the senior class advisors as he was a junior, and two years younger than normal to boot. When none of the seniors came up with anything better, they begrudgingly conceded to the English teacher's wishes. Sam was part of the festivities as part of the orchestra. She complained that she didn't want to go - she was a third-chair violin - but with the seniors unable to participate she needed to fill in the gap.

"Why did Sam have such a problem playing with the orchestra?" Daniel asked Jacob after the new graduates had been presented to the crowd. He'd been able to rejoin the audience after he'd finished reading his piece. "Sam would never tell me."

"The only reason she learned to play in the first place was because her mother forced her. And the only reason she kept it up was because the violin was her mother's favorite instrument," the recently-promoted brigadier general explained.

"I see," Daniel said softly. He'd repeated his final benediction on the Class of 1980 in four different languages as a tribute to his own mother, as much as he'd explained it away as a representation of the world welcoming its newest bright stars.

Jacob gave him a small, understanding smile before looking back out at the milling crowd to try to spot his daughter. She hadn't returned to the bleachers when Pomp and Circumstance had finished. "Oh, wonderful," he grumbled when he caught sight of her. "She found Dave."

Daniel looked in the direction Jacob's eyes were locked on. "Yeah, she's been depressed that he'll be leaving at the end of the summer," he replied, ignoring the complaining tone.

"I'm not," the blonde's father said firmly. "He's been getting too touchy-feely with her lately. I think he's forgetting she's only sixteen, and just barely at that."

"Well, she did just finish her junior year," Daniel said, fighting back a snicker. "Although I kind of wish she wouldn't go driving with him quite so much. I'm beginning to miss her." He shook his head even before he'd finished his sentence. "That's not fair. It's not Sam's job to keep me entertained. And it's not like I haven't met a few other people I can spend time with."

Jacob lightly punched the young man's shoulder. "She's your best friend, Daniel. Well, one of them. You guys used to spend all your free time together. It's only natural that you're going to miss that when other things take up her time."

Daniel gave a small frown as he watched Dave run his hand through Sam's hair before kissing her lightly. "I guess so. But I'm also a bit worried for her. Dave's too reckless behind the wheel. And all that does is make Sam laugh all the harder."

Jacob blinked. He hadn't known about that. "So that's what goes on during their drives?"

Daniel's dark blond hair swirled around as his head snapped to face the older man. "I... I didn't mean to say that."

"But you did, Daniel. It's too late to take it back now. Is that what happens?"

"Yeah," the boy said with a sigh. "Dave doesn't like to take me with them anymore. At least, not since I told the police officer that pulled him over a couple weeks ago that he'd driven through the stop sign on purpose because he'd been racing a friend of his and that was their finish line. I think Sam might still be a little mad at me about that one."

"Maybe. But then again, she couldn't be too mad, since she's had you over for dinner more times than not over the past two weeks. You did the right thing, Daniel," Jacob said earnestly. "He could have easily caused an accident with behavior like that."

"I know, and I'd do it again. There's just been something about the way Sam's been with me that tells me something's wrong." Daniel's eyes narrowed and his posture stiffened. "Is it just me, or does that look like an argument?" He gestured toward the happy couple that suddenly didn't look too happy.

Jacob took a closer look. "It's not just you."

Just then, Dave abruptly turned away from Sam as she was obviously in the middle of saying something, walking off toward a group of his friends that were waiting not far from him. Sam stared after him for a long moment, sighed, and trudged back toward the bleachers. "Hey, Dad, Daniel," she said in a cheerful tone that was completely forced once she reached the two males waiting for her.

Jacob's eyebrows rose. "If you're going for convincing, you're going to have to try again, Sammy. What happened with Dave?"

"You saw that?" The girl looked stricken.

"We were wondering where you'd gone and saw you with him," Daniel explained. "Then we saw him walk away from you not looking too happy."

Sam sighed. "I guess he decided that since he was leaving at the end of the summer anyway, it wasn't worth it to stay with someone as young as me." Her eyes never met those of either her father or her friend, and they both knew that meant she was hiding something.

The men shared a look. "That must be rough, sweetheart," Jacob said sympathetically. "Losing your first 'significant other' always is." He offered his arms for a hug.

She took him up on the offer. "Yeah, so I hear," she murmured into his shoulder. After another deep breath she turned her head to look at Daniel. "Thanks for waiting."

"Where else would I be?" Daniel said with a shrug. "Besides, I wanted to tell you the orchestra sounded great today."

"That's something I guess. Your poem was great, too." Sam pulled away from her father. "So where to now?"

"I take my two favorite teenagers out to dinner," Jacob announced. "After that, it's up to you." He grinned as he stood, then steered them through the still-lingering crowd and to his car.

Dinner went smoothly, both Daniel and Jacob avoiding the topic of Dave out of consideration for the hurt they could still see in Sam's eyes. Once they were done, they went back to the Carter home and Jacob disappeared into his study. "Are you sure everything's okay?" Daniel asked once he and Sam were alone on the couch in the living room.

"Why wouldn't everything be okay?" Sam replied shakily, again avoiding looking her friend in the eye.

"He hurt you, Sam. That by itself makes things not okay. But I don't think you're telling me everything that happened. Please tell me?" He watched her face carefully, his blue eyes wide and pleading behind his glasses.

Sam met that gaze and sank further into the cushions of the sofa. "He... he wanted to have a private celebration, just the two of us. He whispered a few things he wanted to do with me after he kissed me," here she began to blush furiously, "and how we could go as fast as I wanted. I told him I didn't want to go fast at all, that I wasn't ready for anything like that. That's when he accused me of doing something with you, since I still insisted on spending time with you even though he didn't like you."

"I figured he didn't care for me much after the stop sign thing," Daniel said to fill Sam's silent pause. "I was kind of afraid you didn't like me much either."

The young woman blinked in surprise. "Not like you? No way!"

Daniel shrugged. "You just seemed to withdraw from me a bit after that, that's all."

Sam shook her head decisively. "That wasn't it, I promise. I was just kind of torn. Dave kept ripping on you, and I really liked him - but you're my best friend. It felt like a major conflict of interest. You never made me feel that way, but part of me felt a bit guilty for spending time with you when Dave didn't want me to." Her eyes dropped. "I shouldn't have let him make me feel that way. I'll do my best to not let it happen again."

The blond young man was silent until Sam brought her gaze up again, then smiled gently. "I trust you, Sam. So what happened with Dave today?"

"I sputtered a bit after his accusation. I couldn't believe he'd say that! Then he said I was just a big tease, making it look like I was easy when I really wanted to play hard-to-get. That I made it look like I was fast and loose with my need for speed." Sam's eyes began to fill with tears. "Is there really something wrong with me liking to go fast?"

"It's part of who you are," Daniel said, shifting closer to his friend. "So, no, there's nothing wrong with it. And it's not your fault Dave jumped to the wrong conclusion about your intentions. As much as it hurts, it's probably better that you two aren't together anymore. If he spent that much time with you and still didn't understand you, he wasn't good enough for you."

Sam couldn't help but smile at the staunch support. "Thank you, Daniel. You make me feel so much better." She laid her head on the shoulder that was now so close to her own.

Daniel rested his cheek against the soft, blonde hair tickling his jaw. "That was the intention."

The two of them stayed that way for quite a while, until Jacob came out and announced he was making a late evening snack. Sam was surprised at how much better she felt, and proceeded to enjoy the rest of the night with the two most important men in her life.

* * * * * * * *

"Are you ever going to tell me where we're going?"

"Eventually. Now stop playing with that blindfold!"

"I hate not being able to see where I'm going. Where is that again?"

"It's going to be straight back to the car if you keep this up."

"It is not. You look forward to being with me too much."

Jack sighed. Sara had him there. "If I promise that we're almost there, will you stop asking?"

She laughed. "Fine, fine. As long as you're telling me the truth."

"Of course I am. Now be careful here. There's a slope."

Once the couple reached the top of the grass-covered hill, Jack sat his girlfriend down on the blanket that was already laid out and set up the telescope that had been tucked under his arm. "Jack? You didn't go anywhere, did you?" Unknown to the blonde, the tall, brown-haired man grinned down on her and moved to the other side of the telescope to fine tune it. "Jack? Oh, you better not have brought me up here to just walk away. That would not be funny. Did you hear that, Jack?" she shouted. "Abandoning me isn't funny!"

Jack somehow managed to keep from laughing as he silently uncovered a small cooler that held a bottle of wine on ice and two glasses. Her patience had to run out sometime...

Sara finally gave up on getting a response and snatched at the black cloth over her eyes, gasping when she saw the scene before her. The telescope she and Jack usually took out to watch the stars was in place almost directly in front of her just past the edge of the blanket she was sitting on, already situated at a good angle to look up at the night sky. There were no trees on the hilltop, and behind them was a glow of lights that showed where Colorado Springs waited for their return. The cooler she hadn't heard Jack retrieving sat open to her right, the bottle of wine nestled in the melting ice and the two glasses resting to either side. A picnic basket was on the ground at Jack's feet, and the man himself was standing next to the telescope with his arms crossed over his chest, an amused smile threatening to grow into a full-fledged, face-splitting grin. "When... when did you find the time to set all this up?" she asked breathlessly.

"I actually had the whole day off, not just the half day I told you," Jack said with a shrug.

"This is so romantic!" Sara exclaimed, still reeling from the shock.

"Hey, I'm capable of being romantic from time to time," Jack said indignantly. Sara just looked at him with her eyebrows raised. "Well, I am." She continued to stare at him. "Okay, fine. I asked a couple of guys on the base for some ideas. And when those didn't trip my trigger I asked Daniel. For a fifteen-year-old, the kid's got style. I took everything and came up with this." He gestured vaguely at their surroundings.

Sara's smile returned. "Then thank them all for me. This is wonderful."

The two of them sat close together and shared the dinner Jack had packed in the picnic basket. It took longer than usual due to the number of kisses interspersed with the bites of food. Afterward they sipped at the wine and waited for the meteor shower that was supposed to take place that night. "This stuff is good," Sara commented, her eyes lazily scanning the sky.

"I'd hope so. I purposefully went out and got your favorite brand." Jack nudged her with his shoulder.

"I guess I was too surprised to notice."

Jack chose not to comment, instead standing up to check the telescope. "I think it's starting," he announced, offering a hand to help his lady to her feet.

For the next five minutes Jack stood back and watched the woman that he loved look through the eyepiece of the telescope, frozen in fascination. Little sounds of surprise and delight escaped her lips on occasion, and each one softened his expression a tiny bit more. His eyes flitted up to the night sky after a few of the louder exclamations, and finally settled there as he firmed his resolve. "It's interesting to note that the potential for wish-granting has gone completely off the scale tonight," the officer said, the glowing streaks highlighting the view keeping up a steady pace.

Sara brought her head up to look at him, a bright smile on her face. "I know. I've been trying to remember the entirety of my wish list."

"I've only got one I want granted with any kind of urgency," Jack said casually, his head not turning from the panoramic scene above him. "But I don't think it would do any good to call on a falling star or ten."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm going to have to go straight to the source."

"You are so confusing."

Jack rotated his head to look Sara right in the eyes. "This is actually one time I don't want to be," he said seriously. He let the rest of his body follow his head's lead, his right hand digging in his light jacket's pocket. "Ever since I said those three magic words to you without even thinking about it, I've been thinking about it. You're always on my mind. And I think it's about time to bring this to a conclusion." He watched Sara's eyes grow wide as he sank to one knee and drew a small black velvet box out of his pocket. "The night I told you I loved you I started to realize that I really couldn't picture my life without you in it. Now it's time to seal the deal. I want to have you near me for the rest of my life. Will you promise me that you'll stay? Sara Tyler, will you marry me?" He opened up the velvet box to reveal a thin gold band in the shape of an Irish claddagh with the two hands holding a diamond heart.

Tears suddenly welled up in the wide eyes staring down at the kneeling man. "Oh my God, Jack," she murmured breathlessly, her hands flying up to her mouth.

Jack couldn't help but smile. "So is that a yes or a no?" he asked impishly.

Sara laughed. "Yes! Yes, I'll marry you, Jack O'Neill! Oh my God, I love you!" She fell to her knees and threw her arms around Jack's neck as the tears flowed unchecked down her cheeks.

"I love you, Sara," he muttered into her hair as his arms automatically wrapped around her waist. "You've just made me the happiest man in the world, hands down." He pulled back and brought the ring box between them, switching it to his left hand as his right caught Sara's left. He grinned as her breath caught, then slipped the ring onto the appropriate finger. "My gran gave this to me right before she died during my junior year of high school and told me she hoped I'd find the right woman to give it to someday."

Sara brought her hand up to her lips and kissed the new addition. "I'm beyond honored that you've given it to me then, Jack. I only hope she's watching us from above and agrees with your decision."

"Oh, I'm sure she's smiling down on us, if that's what you're worried about. And now I believe we're forgetting the most important step to this whole thing."

"And what's that?"

Jack's answer wasn't in words. He rose to his feet, pulling Sara up with him, and took her back into his arms, his face lowering quickly to capture her lips with his own. She returned the kiss with equal passion. They were the happiest they'd ever been, and even the heavens seemed to rain down their blessings as the meteor shower continued to brighten the sky with its celestial illumination.

* * * * * * * *

Sam's brows furrowed as she watched Daniel finish reading his latest letter from Jack. They were sitting under a pier on their favorite beach, and had been chatting about a book they'd decided to read together, even as he read the letter, at least until the last page. The first line cut Daniel off mid-thought, his eyes growing wide and his jaw dropping more and more the further down he got. Sam kept quiet as she didn't know what to say. She hoped it wasn't anything bad.

But now Daniel sat with the multi-page letter in his lap, his eyes distant as they looked out over the ocean. His expression was that of incredulous disbelief. Sam doubted he even realized she was still there. "Um, Daniel? What did Jack have to say?"

Her question startled the young man back to the real world. "Oh! Sorry, Sam. Didn't mean to zone out on you."

Sam dismissed the thought with an impatient wave of her hand. "What did Jack say?"

"Jack..." Daniel looked down at the pile of paper he held in his hand in his lap then met Sam's gaze. "Jack's getting married!"

"What? Really?" A grin blossomed on the blonde's face. "He asked Sara?"

"And she apparently said yes." Daniel shook his head. "I can't believe it."

Sam looked at him confused. "I thought you said they were in love."

Daniel nodded. "They are."

"So why are you so surprised he asked and she said yes?"

He blinked and gave himself a small shake. "That's not what I'm surprised about. Remember when Jack asked me what I thought would make a romantic evening?"

This wasn't lessening her confusion. "Yeah. As I recall you came up with something quite nice."

Daniel shrugged self-consciously, blushing a touch at the soft-spoken compliment. "I guess Sara thought so too. It seems Jack took my idea and that of a couple of friends from Peterson and treated Sara to a romantic evening under the stars to watch a meteor shower. She liked it a lot and had Jack thank the people that helped him come up with the idea."

"So you're surprised Jack used your idea and it was successful?"

"That's part of it. I didn't think he was going to use the night to propose! Wow." A smile finally began to form on his face. "Wow," he repeated much softer. Then he sighed, the smile fading. "I think I'm a little jealous."

"Jealous? Of what? Aren't you a little young to be getting married?" Sam gave him an amused smile.

It wasn't returned, and Sam quickly wiped hers off. "I thought I was more mature than this, but I don't think I like the idea of sharing him."

Sam was confused again. "But he and Sara have been together for three years now. You've been 'sharing' him for all this time."

"Sara's been his girlfriend for three years. It wasn't anything permanent, although it was long-term. But now she's going to be his wife. They're going to promise their lives to each other, to have and to hold, til death do they part. She's not going anywhere, and may even have a stronger hold on him than I ever have." Daniel sighed again, this one tinted with disgust aimed at himself.

Sam put her arm around his shoulders, knowing by his lack of relaxation under the touch that there wasn't going to be a quick fix to this. "You're afraid of being left out of his life." Daniel shrugged. "You won't. I mean, think about it. You're probably the first person he told about it," she assured him, gesturing to the forgotten letter. "He even used your idea to make it happen."

Daniel nodded, letting his head hang down. "I know. Logically I understand everything you're saying. But Jack's been a part of my life since I was six. For almost ten years - over half my life - he's been an important part of my life. I've seen so many important people in my life get taken away or walk away that it's hard not to think that Jack's just going to be the next statistic."

Sam was silent for a moment, her eyes closing as she considered what to say next. She desperately wanted to lift Daniel out of his depression and hopefully past this very normal reaction. "Daniel," she said as she reopened her eyes, "Jack has gone out of his way to be there for you all this time. His relationship with Sara hasn't effected that in the least. It won't change that now."

"Like I said, logically I understand that, and I even agree. And like I told Sara at Jack's graduation when she asked if I was jealous of their relationship, the fact that Jack is sharing the highs and lows in his relationship, that he's willing to ask for my opinion about things relating to her and that opinion means something, that's all the evidence I need to see that truth. It's logical, it's rational, and it doesn't seem to be making a bit of difference." Daniel shook his head slightly.

"Your head isn't listening to your heart, is that it?" Sam asked sympathetically.

"Pretty much." He took a deep breath and released it. "I'll get over this, I know I will. I just need some time."

Sam smiled as Daniel finally relaxed and rested his head against her shoulder. She knew that he meant what he said. "Time is something you have plenty of," she said softly. "And I'll be there with you every step of the way." Daniel didn't respond, but she could feel his smile form against her skin. She knew everything would be all right.

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