A Road Not Taken - Part Fourteen


 The telephone was ringing. One bleary blue eye cracked open at the sound and glared around the pitch black room, promising laser blue death to whoever or whatever could possibly think it was acceptable to disturb the orb's owner's barely two-hour's worth of sleep. Writing two masters theses was hard work and time-consuming, and Daniel had only recently fallen into bed after finally getting over the hump on his archaeology paper. A groping hand nearly knocked over the bedside table before snatching up the telephone's receiver. "This is Daniel Jackson and you apparently have a death wish, whoever you are."

"You just aren't a morning person, are you?"

"I can be when the sun's up and I've had half a pot of coffee. Who the hell is this?"

Chuckling on the other end almost had Daniel slamming the phone down in disgust. "Daniel, it's Jack. You remember me, don't you? Captain in the Air Force who kills trees to communicate with you?"

That made Daniel really open his eyes. "Jack? What are doing calling at..." He squinted his eyes to make out the numbers on his digital alarm clock. "Four thirty-two in the morning? Don't you ever sleep?"

"Well, it's actually five thirty-two here, but that's neither here nor there. Daniel, I'm calling from the hospital. The baby's here."

"The baby... The baby?" The college student rolled on to his back and sat bolt upright, completely awake. "Wow, Jack, that's great! Are she and Sara okay? Did everything go all right?"

"Yeah, Sara's fine. So is my son. It's a boy, Daniel."

Daniel grinned. "So I guess all those little signs aren't as reliable as her family thought, huh?"

"That's what I'm thinking."

Daniel paused. Something in his friend's tone wasn't quite right. "Um, Jack, are you sure everything's all right? You don't sound as happy as I figured you would."

The sound of an explosive breath being released came through the receiver. "Why does everyone expect me to be Mister Happy-go-lucky all the time? Why is it if I'm not doing backflips there has to be something wrong?"

The young man blinked at the ferocity in the snarled words. "Hold it, hold it, Jack! You know I don't think that way! There was just something in your tone that said you weren't that happy, and I was wondering what it was. No judgment calls."

There was a long moment of silence. "Christ, Daniel, I'm sorry," Jack said finally. "I've just spent the past hour talking to all the relatives, and every last one of them are bouncing around like this is their kid and telling me that I'm just tired, that I'll be as giddy as they are once I've gotten some sleep. It seems that if I don't make light of things and crack jokes about serious situations there's something wrong with me. Or something horrible is happening that I don't want to tell them about. Why can't I just not be as excited as them?"

"Is that really true? Are you really not that excited about the birth of your son?" Daniel asked carefully, his tone as neutral as he could make it.

"I'm excited, sure, and I think he's beautiful, but I'm not bouncing off the walls."


There was another pause at the simple question. "I don't know," Jack said softly.

Daniel considered it. "I could be off base here, since up to two hours ago I was busy writing a couple papers about archaeology and ancient languages, but let me give it a shot. Did you hold him?"

"Yeah, Sara asked me to. You were working until two-thirty on your thesis? Don't you ever sleep?" Jack's tone was incredulous.

"When I need to, yes. My deadline is coming up fast and I had finally worked out a problem I was having with my archaeology thesis. How did you feel when you held him?"

"It was incredible, actually. I've never loved anybody or anything that completely," Jack answered softly then cleared his throat. "Are you going to be able to finish in time?"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Yes, Jack, especially now that I've worked through that logic knot. Do you think maybe you're feeling a little overwhelmed by your feelings for your son?"

Jack cleared his throat again. "It's possible I guess. Why didn't you ask one of your professors to help you? Then maybe you wouldn't have to be up at all hours of the night working."

The teenager sighed and rubbed his eyes. "It wouldn't really be my paper if I ran to someone else every time I had a problem, Jack. Besides, it's kind of exciting when I finally figure it out on my own. Are you still having doubts about being a parent?"

The long tense silence told Daniel more clearly than any words that he'd just hit on the crux of the problem. "Is there something wrong with me, Daniel?" Jack eventually asked breathlessly, uncharacteristic uncertainty coloring the question. "I should be excited. I should be handing out those stupid blue bubble gum announcement cigars to anyone I can run down. I should be babbling incessantly about the light blond fuzz that covers his head and how perfectly formed his fingers and toes are. But all I can think of is how thoroughly frightened I am that he's going to break when I hold him, that something will happen that I won't know how to deal with. All I know right now is that I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready for a tiny little life to be so dependent on me for everything he needs. And more than anything I'm afraid he's going to grow up and find out what I do for a living and hate me for it. What business do I have bringing a life into this world when my job revolves around taking lives?"

"Oh, Jack," Daniel breathed. It was worse than he thought. "Jack, don't you see? That's exactly why it's so wonderful you and Sara now have a child. To prove that life and love are greater than the evil that makes what you do so necessary. To prove that no matter what darkness is out there it cannot triumph." He gave a small, quiet laugh. "Corny, I know, but it's true. Life's not fair, Jack. Sometimes it flat out sucks. But then moments like this happen. You have a son, Jack. A beautiful little boy who will be loved by his family and learn to share that love with the people around him, making at least his little part of the world a better place just for having been a part of it."

"God, Daniel," Jack said after another long pause. "How do you do it? How can you see the world the way you do? After everything..." His voice cut off sharply as he realized what he was saying.

Daniel smiled. "After everything that's happened, I have to look at the world this way. If I didn't, the gift of life my parents gave me would be wasted. And I love them too much to throw anything they've given me away like that."

There was another moment of contemplative silence. "But I still don't know if I'll be a good dad," Jack said quietly.

"And that's exactly why you will. You're not taking anything for granted."

"Daniel, is there anything you don't have an answer for?"

"Probably not."

"How can you store so much knowledge and wisdom in that brain of yours?"

The younger man laughed. "I never said those answers would be based on knowledge or wisdom. There's lots of stuff I don't know or understand. But give me enough time, and I'll always be able to come up with something to answer your question. Now whether or not it's the correct answer..."

Jack laughed too. "You've already got one up on most of those so-called experts out there then."

"How's that?"

"You've got just the right tone of voice to make people believe you always know what you're talking about."

"Just don't give away my secret."

Jack chuckled, and Daniel could just see him slowly shaking his head. "Will you be able to come down after the school year's done to see the baby?" he asked, much calmer.

Daniel thought about it. "I think I might be able to pull it off. I've been doing some part time work as Doctor Jordan's research assistant when I have the time. He pays pretty well."

There was a barely audible sound of approval from the other end of the line. "What about Sam's graduation? Will you still be able to go out there if you come down here?"

"Not a problem, Jack. I've been saving for that since I started college."

"Then I guess everything's good," Jack proclaimed, satisfied.

"Only if you're really feeling okay with everything," Daniel qualified.

"I am, Daniel, thanks to you. You know, my boy's going to be really lucky to have an uncle like you in his life."

That caused a blush to creep across Daniel's cheeks. He could only be glad Jack couldn't see it. "I'm honored you think so."

"You should be." Daniel rolled his eyes at the pompous tone. "Now I think I'm going to let you get back to sleep. I'm sure you have classes in a little while."

Now the student grinned. "Nope. It's Friday. I made sure I didn't have any classes on Friday. And I haven't had classes on Fridays for the last two years. My advisor told me I'm a master at schedule manipulation."

Jack laughed. "I bet. Either way I'll let you go, Daniel. Let me know as soon as you can if you'll be down."

"I will. And Jack?"


"Congratulations. I couldn't be happier for you."

"Thanks, Daniel. I'm feeling pretty good right now myself. Good night."

"Good night." With one last fond look at the phone as he returned the receiver to its rightful place, Daniel snuggled back under his covers and into his pillows and was soon asleep, a smile of joy for his friend still on his lips.

* * * * * * * *

"You can't be serious," Sara said to her husband incredulously two days later.

"Why not?" Jack asked in return, truly confused.

"I thought we weren't going to be calling him after anybody."

Jack blinked. "We said we weren't going to name the baby after any of our parents. We didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But what's wrong with this?"

Sara sighed and rubbed her hands over her face. "Daniel's more your friend than mine."

"So pick one of your friends and we'll use that for a middle name."

"All of my close friends are women!" the new mother snapped, her fist slamming onto the hospital bed she was still resting in. "And they have pretty feminine names at that!"

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. He supposed he should just be glad they'd gotten to the part of the argument where he got to hear the reasons for her fifteen minutes of flat denial to name their son after his best friend. "Sara, he's the most special person besides you that I know. I want to honor that. Why is that so wrong?" His brown eyes were hard as they glared at the woman in the bed.

She flung her arm out in a wide, vague gesture, her expression as hard as his. "That right there is my point. I don't need to hear about two Daniels constantly. I want my son to be special, to hold a singular place in your heart."

The captain's jaw dropped. "You have got to be kidding me. You honestly think that I wouldn't love my son as much if his name was Daniel too? You really think I'm that shallow? Are you trying to tell me I'm too stupid to tell the difference, that I'll get the two of them mixed up in my head or something?"

Sara flinched slightly at the suddenly cold tone. "No, I don't think that. I just... I can't seem to find the words I need to explain."

"I think you've said enough." The deep freeze was still in place.

"Damn it, Jack, let me try again! I'm just not comfortable naming our son Daniel, all right? I can't explain it, and I'm just frustrating and insulting the both of us by trying. Please, let's just find another name."

Jack's chin dropped to his chest. "I don't know, Sara. I might get confused. I'm pretty stupid, you know."

Sara hit the bed again. "Oh, knock it off! You know I don't think of you that way." She took a deep breath and released it. "How about we use Daniel as a middle name? Will that work as a compromise?"

Jack stared at her silently for a long, tense moment. "Yeah, all right, fine," he said finally, letting his muscles relax with the words. "That's not unreasonable. What did you have in mind for a first name?"

"I don't have anything in mind." She grabbed the name book off the bedside table. "But we have plenty of choices if you're willing to go through this with me."

"Let's do it."

Sara watched her husband with a wary eye as he came over to the bed and sat down on the edge of it. It was obvious she'd hurt him by taking the stand she did, but he'd agreed to the compromise and so had shoved those feelings away. Worse, he'd never talk about it willingly with her again. She gave an internal sigh and focused on the book Jack had snatched out of her hand.

* * * * * * * *

"Thanks for taking me to dinner, Jack. The food on the plane was awful."

"Yeah, well, I think that's some sort of rule or something. I'm just sorry you can only stay for the weekend."

"Doctor Jordan asked me to be around next week to help with a new shipment the Oriental Institute is getting in. He said I'd love it." Daniel grinned at his friend.

Jack returned it. "I don't doubt that." He gestured toward his car as they reached it, leaving the restaurant behind them. "Although I'm shipping out on Wednesday, so it's not like it would have been worth it for you to stay that much longer anyway."

Daniel gave him a curious look before getting in on the passenger side. "Can you tell me where?"

"Frankfurt to start with. Can't tell you more than that."

"Fair enough."

It was a relatively short drive to Jack and Sara's house, where Daniel insisted on carrying his own bag inside. "It's a duffle bag, Jack. I may be a student, not a soldier, but I think I can handle it."

Jack scowled at him. "I'm your host."

"And if I had a suitcase I'd let you carry it. Can we just go inside?" Daniel stared at the older man expectantly. Jack shook his head and led the way.

"Daniel!" Sara called from the living room once the front door was shut behind the two men. "It's good to see you. How was your flight?"

"Tedious. But I'm here now and that's what counts. How are you?" He shot a dark look at Jack as the Air Force captain snatched his duffle bag and took it to the guest room.

Sara fought back a snicker. "Still get tired more easily than I used to, but it's getting better. Shouldn't be too much longer before I've bounced back completely. Did you eat?"

Daniel nodded. "We stopped at a restaurant before we came here." He joined the blonde back in the other room when Jack didn't immediately reappear. "This will be a nice break from all the work I've been doing."

She gave him a gentle smile. "You definitely earned those two masters degrees you can now hang on your wall from everything Jack's told me."

Daniel smiled shyly. "I'd like to think so. But I'm not done yet. I'll be starting work on my first doctorate in the fall."

"You'll be just fine."

"Damn right you will," Jack agreed from the entryway.

Daniel turned his head and saw the reason for Jack's delay. In his arms was a diminutive figure, and on his face was the gentlest expression the younger man had ever seen on him. "So that's what was taking you so long," he said with a smile.

Jack gave a small shrug. "Well, you came here for a reason. Come meet my son." He looked at his wife. "Sorry. Our son."

Daniel stepped over to where his friend was standing and looked down into the tiny face, smiling widely when the bright eyes that had yet to change color from a deep blue blinked up at him. "He's beautiful," the young man said softly, reaching out a hand to brush a finger lightly across one of the chubby cheeks.

"Daniel, I'd like you to meet Charles Daniel Tyler O'Neill." The taller man watched his friend carefully for his reaction to the announcement.

"What?" Daniel asked, his dark blond head popping up. His summer blue eyes were wide behind his wire-framed glasses.

"And Charlie, I'd like you to meet the guy who's sure to become your favorite uncle no matter what Chris says, Daniel Jackson." Jack kissed his son's forehead, his eyes never quite leaving Daniel's face.

"Did you say Charles Daniel Tyler O'Neill?" Daniel asked in disbelief. Jack nodded, the corners of his mouth threatening to break out into a grin. "Does that mean what I think it means?"

The grin broke free. "If you think that I named my son partly after you, then yes, it means what you think it means."

Daniel shook his head. "But... why?"

Jack's smile faded to a much more serious expression. "Daniel, you're the best friend I've ever had. You've stuck with me through a whole lot of crap, especially since I went into Special Ops. I know I can count on you for anything. Not to mention helping me keep my head on straight during some of the biggest moments of my life. I wanted to honor what that friendship means to me." Here he glanced past his friend to give his wife a significant look. "I can only hope that my child turns out like you."

Tears welled up in Daniel's eyes. "Thank you," he whispered, struggling to keep his emotions in check. He quickly dropped his eyes to the slightly squirming bundle in Jack's arms and said something in Egyptian Arabic.

"What did you just say?" Sara asked softly, tears in her own eyes.

"Just a traditional Egyptian blessing usually given at the birth of the first-born son," Daniel explained. "It means..."

"I know what it means," Jack said quietly. "My language instructor from the base said something similar when he stopped by the hospital the day after Charlie was born." He looked back at Sara. "I'll explain later."

The young man cleared his throat and gave Jack a speculative look from beneath his eyelashes. His friend was beginning to look uncomfortable with the conversation. He could fix that. "So are you okay?" Daniel asked, bringing his head up.

Jack blinked at the surprise in the other man's tone. "Yeah, why?"

"Well, with all this talk about feelings and emotions, I was beginning to wonder if maybe the Roswell greys came back to Earth and switched you with some sort of defective clone or something. You have to admit it's not like you, Jack."

Sara started laughing as Jack shifted Charlie further into the crook of his left arm and used the right one to smack Daniel upside the head. "Very funny," he griped, unable to completely keep from smiling.

The lone woman in the room got to her feet and came over to the others. "I think that's enough from the both of you," she said as she took the baby from his father. "I suggest you two find something to entertain yourselves for a while before supper tonight. For now, this young man and I have a date for a late lunch."

Laughing, the two friends did as ordered, thus kicking off a weekend that would always remain one of their treasured memories.

* * * * * * * *

Daniel was glad to see that the weather was just as beautiful for the second Air Force Academy graduation he'd attended as it was for the first. He grinned as Sam made her way through the crowd to his side. "Congratulations, Sam," he said proudly once she stood next to him.

"Thank you," she gushed, impulsively hugging him. "I feel like I'm on top of the world right now!"

"And well you should," Jacob said as he joined them. "It's not every day you graduate top of the class from the academy." His eyebrows raised as Sam abruptly stood at attention and snapped off a perfect salute. "What the heck was that for?" he asked as he instinctually returned the gesture.

Sam shrugged. "Well, officially you are my superior officer," she explained.

Jacob snorted. "That hasn't made a difference yet. Now come here." He pulled his daughter into a fierce embrace that was eagerly returned. "I can't believe you're going to Stanford after this," he said once they separated.

Sam grinned. "I earned it. Besides, how else can I keep up with Daniel and get my masters degree?" She gave her friend a wink.

"You'll need two for that, Sam," Daniel reminded her with a wicked glint in his eye.

"Show off."

Jacob proceeded to take a bunch of pictures of his two favorite graduates - he insisted this was just as much a celebration of Daniel's accomplishments as it was Sam's; she agreed - then took them out to lunch. Daniel gladly showed off the pictures of Charlie Jack had insisted he take with him when he'd left Florida. "So where's Jack?" Sam asked, peering closely at one of the prints.

Daniel shrugged. "He took the pictures. Wouldn't let anyone else near the camera. Sara showed me some she'd managed to take of him with Charlie, but Jack didn't let me take any of those. He said he looked like crap in them."

Sam rolled her eyes. "Figures."

"Definitely a cute kid," Jacob commented, holding another one of the photos. "Betcha he ends up quite the handful."

"He's Jack's child. Of course he'll be a handful," Daniel said.

"But I bet he doesn't end up more of one than someone at this table I could name." Jacob shot his daughter a sly look.

Sam's jaw dropped. "Dad!" she protested.

The light-hearted conversation continued until Jacob took his leave, saying that he was expected at a meeting with someone at Peterson Air Force Base. Once he was gone, Daniel gave his friend a long, searching look. "Sam, was Mark supposed to be here today?" he asked quietly.

Blue-grey eyes immediately dropped to the tabletop. "Can we not talk about it here?" she whispered.

"Of course," Daniel immediately replied. "Where do you want to go?"

"Wherever. We could just walk, that would be fine."

"Let's go."

As Jacob had already paid for their meals, the two of them made their way quickly out to the street, Daniel following as Sam led them in what appeared to be a random direction. "I got a letter from him a couple weeks ago," Sam said once Daniel had stepped up to her side as she waited at a corner for traffic to clear. "He told me he wasn't coming."

Daniel narrowed his eyes, staying by his friend's side as they crossed the street. "That's not all he said, is it?"

Sam shook her head. "Not by a long shot. He... he said he couldn't support my decision to join the Air Force, that he thinks it's the biggest mistake I'll ever make in my life."

The young man's jaw clenched. "How dare he say that to you?"

"He thinks he's doing me a favor," she replied with a scowl.

"Some favor," Daniel muttered.

"Supposedly he understands why I've done what I did. He just says that some trade-offs aren't worth it to make a dream come true."

It made Daniel's heart hurt to watch Sam wipe away a tear that threatened to fall down her cheek. "You know better, don't you?" he asked.

She nodded. "I accepted my path a long time ago, even while I was so angry at Dad."

"Thinking of that, I'm sure your dad being here was another reason he didn't come."

"He said as much, right after he went on about Dad being glad he was getting at least one clone of himself."

Daniel sighed and looked around. Spying a park nearby, he gently took Sam's elbow and steered her toward it. "I want you to know a few things," he said once they were seated on a bench. "I'm proud of you for following your dream. I'm proud of you for having the courage to follow your heart in regards to your father, knowing how your brother would react. I'm proud of you for seeing the truth in spite of what your brother told you in that letter."

"He lied to me," she whispered, her eyes dropping away from his. "Mark lied to me."

"What? How?"

Sam swallowed and brought her gaze up once again. "He told me at our high school graduation that he'd support me and my choice to join the Air Force. Now he took that all away."

Daniel's jaw tensed and his eyes narrowed. "I didn't realize what he'd said while I was gone. I think I'm glad he's not here right now. I might have done something I'd probably regret."

Sam gave him a shaky smile. "You would have had to wait in line. I'm not exactly thrilled with my brother at the moment either." The smile faded. "Promise me, Daniel. Promise me you'll never lie to me like that."

"I promise, Sam. I promise with all my heart." He pulled her into a tight embrace that was returned full measure.

* * * * * * * *

"Dear Daniel,

"Well, I have to admit your little speech about my career in relation to my son has given me a new outlook I only recently realized I had taken to heart. I've found myself doing what I'm doing for Charlie, to make the world a better place in which he can grow up. That mindset is actually quite liberating, even if I find myself outraged more often than I'd like at the atrocities I've witnessed. And before you say anything, it's not that I'm getting outraged per se, it's that those emotions are coming out while I'm working. Calm, cool, and collected is the best way to make sure you come home in one piece, and I have a lot waiting for me at home.

"Apparently, my actions over this last month pushed me over the edge in regards to my superiors, and they decided to let me know. Now, before you panic thinking I'm in big trouble, breathe. It's nothing like that. I've just traded my bars for oak leaves. Yes, that's right. I'm now Major Jack O'Neill. Sara gushed about it when I called her with the news, although she wasn't the happiest when I couldn't tell just what I did to earn the promotion.

"The whole secrecy thing is hard on her. She's admitted it before, but always says she knew what she was signing on for when she encouraged me to go into Special Ops in the first place. I've made a point of telling her the truth about everything else; she doesn't need to live in a world of lies, and neither does my son. Even when it comes to missions and such, I don't lie exactly. I just tell her I can't tell her. But I know that she'd prefer I told her everything. She really believes that a marriage works best when both parties are completely open. I'm guessing that she didn't think my work would affect her as much as it has. We haven't really talked about it in depth.

"I'm glad you had a good time overall in Colorado Springs. Be sure to pass on my congratulations to Sam, and tell her she owes me a salute. I will say this though. If that brother of hers ever crosses my path, he may not like the results.

"Anyway, I suppose I should wrap this up. Take it easy this summer. Have fun. And I mean real fun. You're going to need something to fortify you when you start working on that archaeology doctorate in the fall. And whatever you do, stay safe.

"Your friend,


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