A Road Not Taken - Part Eighteen


Sam and Daniel arrived in Athens in the early evening on Saturday and decided to check into their small, out-of-the-way hotel, catch dinner at a nearby restaurant, and make an early night of it to hopefully cut down on jet lag the next day. Sunday was spent wandering around the various neighborhoods, taking things slow, and generally enjoying each other's company. Their conversation was light and a bit frivolous, matching their moods and their desire to have a good time together.

Early Monday morning, Daniel shook Sam awake. Her blue-grey eyes opened a crack and narrowed to mere slits when she saw her roommate was already dressed, showered, and shaved. She was in no mood to face the day yet. "What?" she practically snarled at the man leaning over her.

Daniel fought back a laugh. "So you're not really a morning person. Amazing I didn't realize that before," he quipped.

"Yes, amazing. Now let me go back to sleep." She pulled the covers up over her head.

"Nope, can't do that. If you want to start that tour of the Acropolis before the hordes of tourists get there we need to go now. Besides, the idea is to take it slow. It's only open from eight to seven."

"That's eleven hours. I can sleep for one of them."

Daniel grinned and shook his head at the muffled voice as he straightened. "Come on, Sam. You agreed to this when we set up the itinerary. And as a reward we'll watch the sunset from the rock of Areopagos; I promise it's breathtaking."

Mussed-up blonde hair and suspicious blue eyes suddenly popped out from under the blanket. "You aren't going to leave me alone, are you?"

Brown eyebrows rose. "What do you think?"

Sam sighed melodramatically. "I think you better get me some coffee while I get ready, or this is going to be a long morning."

"Okay, Sam - as long as you're really going to get ready."

"Since when did you get so suspicious?"

"Since you developed such a firm attachment to those blankets."

The woman stared at her friend for a long moment then released an explosive breath. "Fine, I'm up, I'm up," she said as she threw aside the covers and sat up, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. "Satisfied?"

Daniel nodded with a happy smile. "Immensely." He headed for the door. "Oh, I'll bring up some breakfast for us while I'm at it. I'm sure you're hungry, and I know I am." He gave one last wave and headed out.

Forty-five minutes later, the two of them were walking up the marble walkway up the famous Acropolis toward the even more famous Parthenon. "You know what's so fascinating about all this," Daniel said, gesturing to the area around them. "People actually lived here on the Acropolis as early as five thousand B.C. People walked where we're walking right now almost seven thousand years before us. We are truly experiencing history first-hand."

Sam smiled at him. "That's very cool. We actually studied Athenian history a bit in our tactics and strategy courses at the academy. The sheer sides here made an excellent natural defense, and you could see enemies coming either by land or by sea."

"I knew you'd like it, Sam."

"What are those?" Sam asked a little while later, pointing at immense column drums built into the sides of the Acropolis.

"Oh, um, those were part of the original Parthenon that was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 B.C. When Pericles later had everything rebuilt, he had those drums made a part of the new walls to remind people of what had happened and that they had managed to rebuild. I think I like the statement." Daniel smiled.

Sam did as well. "Remember the past, but look to the future."

Daniel reached over and gave her hand a brief squeeze. "Exactly."

"Is there a special name for this entryway?" Sam asked as they approached a relatively simple-looking stone doorway near the top of the monument. "It almost looks out of place."

"That's because it was built by the Romans. This is the Beule Gate," he explained, stepping a bit off the trail to touch the stone archway reverently.

Sam moved over behind him, closely examining how it was put together. "It's always been kind of fascinating to me how Roman architecture has lasted so long. Some of their techniques have never been able to be recreated." Her brows creased as a thought occurred to her. "Beule Gate? That sounds French."

Daniel nodded, never taking his hand or eyes away from the structure in front of him. "It is. It was named after the French archaeologist who discover it in 1852. The next structure we'll see is the Greek entryway, the Propylaia."

After a few more minutes the two of them moved forward on the pathway that led through the two sections of roofless columns, Daniel telling Sam about the monuments they were passing as they did, the Pinacotheca on their left and the small temple to Nike Athena on their right.

"Nike Athena?" Sam asked, smirking.

"It means Athena of Victory," Daniel translated with an amused roll of his eyes. "It commemorates the victory of the Athenians over the Persians."

Sam looked down at her feet. "Nike. How strangely appropriate," she murmured.

Daniel dropped his gaze down as well. A chuckle escaped as he dragged his friend forward. "I don't think you're going to find any swooshes around here... except for the ones on your shoes." They laughed and continued on.

And so the day continued. They went slowly, examining everything carefully and thoroughly, Daniel telling his friend about the details of what they were looking at, the stories creative and engaging. Time flew by.

"It looks so graceful," Sam murmured as they stood before the Parthenon itself around mid-afternoon. They'd started on the edges of the plateau and worked their way in, eating the lunches they'd packed in the large inner pockets of Daniel's jacket at noon - they'd left their bags at the hotel knowing they weren't allowed on the Acropolis - and drinking bottled water they'd bought at the snack bar near the entrance.

"Doesn't it? Ictinus was a miracle worker. He used entasis to near perfection."

"Who was Ictinus?"

"What's entasis?"

Daniel and Sam shared a look at the last two questions, neither of them asked by the blonde lieutenant. In unison they turned to look behind them and were shocked to see a crowd of about twenty people gathered behind them waiting patiently for the answers. "Um, well, you see..." Daniel began politely, his shock rattling his thought process for a moment. He shook his head to clear it and continued with a bit more confidence. "Ictinus was the architect of the Parthenon. When you look at the columns, the stairs, even the floor of the monument, everything looks gracefully straight, almost perfectly so, right?" He waited for the murmur of agreement, totally missing the growing grin on his friend's face. "Well, in all actuality, nothing here is straight. Everything is minutely curved, which creates the optical illusion of a straight appearance. With the columns, that means that they're slightly thicker in the middle, and that's a device known as entasis. Does, um, does that answer your questions?"

Sam fought back a fond chuckle at the total change in demeanor with his last question. His explanation had been backed by knowledgeable confidence and an enthusiasm for his subject, but his final query revealed his uncertainty at how these people would receive him. She was happy to see nothing but smiles and nods. She stood back and watched as Daniel continued to field questions about the rest of the monument, a surprising amount of them covering facts he had related to her as they went that she didn't think would be found in the average tourist brochure. Had these people been following them around all day? If they had, how had the two of them missed it?

Looking around the plateau, Sam noticed a small group of native looking people talking and gesturing a bit angrily in their direction. Suddenly everything clicked. These people had been part of other tour groups, and had abandoned them to listen to Daniel. And now the tour guides were a bit upset. Sam cringed. She hoped they wouldn't give Daniel too hard a time. It wasn't like he did it on purpose, after all.

She was brought back to the present when she felt Daniel put his right arm around her shoulders and start to lead her away. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but my friend and I have an appointment to talk with one of the archaeologists on site." Sam blinked. They did?

The blonde woman glanced at the man at her side amidst a flurry of cheerful farewells and wishes to see them again soon. "Are you serious or was that a ploy to get us away from that crowd?" she asked quietly.

"Both," Daniel replied. It was then that she realized the flush of his cheeks wasn't entirely due to the sun overhead. "Although I'm surprised they stayed as long as they did."

"You're entertaining when you're excited about something, Daniel. And you know so much about this kind of thing."

"Thanks," Daniel said quietly, a pleased little smile teasing his lips.

They walked around to the back of the building, and Daniel checked his watch. "Well, I told Devin we'd be here about now," he muttered, letting his arm fall back to his side as he looked around. They were both surprised to find they missed the sensation.

A few minutes later a short British man appeared and proceeded to show them around the part of the Parthenon the general public wasn't allowed to see. Devin Bartholomew had worked on the dig in Egypt with Daniel, and had taken up an internship in Greece when the summer had ended. Daniel had called him when he'd been making the arrangements for the trip, and Devin had been more than happy to play tour guide for them. When they were finished a couple hours later, they made arrangements to meet the fledgling archaeologist the next night for dinner then exited, Daniel immediately leading them toward the rock of Areopagos.

"Tomorrow we're going to the Sanctuary of Artemis, right?" Sam asked as they carefully made their way down the somewhat slippery stone steps.

"After we come back here to go through the Acropolis Museum, yes," Daniel confirmed.

The two of them finally made their way to their destination and found an empty space out of the way of the tourist traffic to sit and settle themselves to wait for the sunset. They were quiet for quite a while, just comfortable in each other's company and looking out over the city and surrounding countryside, until a crying child decided to throw a tantrum directly behind them and ruin the mood. They shared a rueful grin once the frustrated mother managed to drag the kid away. "Welcome back to the real world," Daniel said, pushing his glasses back into place.

Sam nodded. "It's not always the nicest of places, is it?"

Daniel frowned. "No, but that reminds me of something Mel said to me before she dropped me off at the airport on Friday. She'd asked me about one of my theories, if I was planning on publishing a paper on it."

"Okay, you lost me. Which theory?"

"Cultural cross-pollination."

"Oh, yeah, I remember that one. Don't you need to gather some more evidence before you put together a paper though?"

Daniel nodded. "Definitely, but I think I'd like to put a little more emphasis on that. Anyway, that's not what Mel was talking about."

Sam's brows furrowed in confusion. "So what was she talking about?"

The brown-haired man sighed. "She said some people probably wouldn't like what I had to say, even if it's the truth. I know she's right, and I also know that shouldn't be a reason not to go through with this paper. But I can't help but be a little scared about the reaction I'm going to get - and it'll be nothing compared to what I'll get if that other theory of mine pans out the way I expect it to. Will it really be worth it?"

The blonde woman looked at her friend sympathetically, wondering what she could do or say that would make him raise his head from where it had dropped onto his drawn-up knees. Fortunately, she was saved the dilemma when an accented voice spoke up from behind the pair. "You believe you have found the truth, is that right?"

"What?" Daniel asked, surprised, as he and Sam looked over their shoulders at the older woman standing there.

"Your theories, they're the truth? No matter what your colleagues believe now?"

"I think so, yes." Daniel's eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out who this slightly overweight woman in light-colored baggy clothes was.

She nodded. "Then say it. Publish your papers. I understand you're afraid. But you cannot let that fear keep you from telling the truth. People may very well scorn you, make you an outcast. But that won't make you any less right, and the world deserves to hear the truth, even if it doesn't believe it. Can you do that?"

The passion in her voice made Daniel's expression clear and he rose to his feet. "I can," he assured her firmly. "I will."

The woman smiled as she shook the hand Daniel offered. "You are here on vacation?"

"Yes." Daniel's smile grew as Sam rose to her feet. "My name is Daniel Jackson and this is my friend Samantha Carter. We're here on spring break."

"It's a pleasure," Sam said as the two women shook hands. Her smile came from seeing Daniel's spirits lifted so successfully. She'd always be grateful for that.

The Greek woman's eyes sparkled in the tanned face. "If this young man has such wonderful taste as to choose this beautiful city for his vacation and this beautiful woman as his companion, I can believe that the rest of his thoughts will be as beautiful." She laughed as the younger pair blushed. "You will both go far if you don't let fear hold you back. Remember that." She said one last thing in Greek and wished them farewell.

"What did she say?" Sam asked once the other lady had disappeared from sight, looking off in the direction she'd gone.

Daniel could only be grateful his deepening blush had gone unnoticed. "Um, it was a traditional Greek blessing." He wasn't about to admit that it had been a wish for them to have a long, loving life together filled with many children. There was no way.

Sam sighed and turned back to face her friend. "I wonder what she was doing here. She definitely wasn't a tourist."

The young archaeologist gestured for them to sit back down. "Oh, she wasn't," he said as they resumed their former position. "I think I recognized her. If she's who I think she is, she's an archaeologist who believes there's a connection between ancient Greek and Chinese cultures. She's published books about it that are considered quite controversial, and she also acts as a tour guide at the Acropolis." He smiled. "I bet none of the people following us around today came from her group."

"No bet," Sam said. She considered their recent conversation. "Well, you know she's talking from experience then, about coming forward with theories that may not be accepted."

"Yeah," Daniel agreed softly, his eyes dropping momentarily. "I can do that too."

The corners of Sam's mouth turned upward at the sight of her best friend's completely confident expression as he lifted his eyes and stared off toward the horizon. "I know you can. And you'll always have me to back you up. Always."

His head snapped toward her and he gave her a heart-melting grin. "I know that, Sam. I never doubted that. No matter what happens I know I'll always have you and Jack." He scooted over slightly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Sam let her head rest in the crook of his neck, and the two of them sat and watched the glorious sunset over the ancient city before them.

* * * * * * * *

Jack sat blinking on his bunk later on Saturday night, a bit stunned at the news he and his team had just received. "So what are you going to do with your three days of leave, Major?" Sergeant Thomas Gibson asked him, excitement lighting up his youthful features.

The older man blinked and looked up at him, meeting the green-grey gaze that held far too little innocence for the age of its owner. "Not quite sure, Gibson. I've been waiting for orders to head out on a mission, not a mini-vacation." Jack smirked to take the sting out of his sarcastic tone.

Gibson laughed. "No kidding. It's been too tense around here for the last week."

"Do you know what's bothering the colonel so much, Major?" Captain James Tucker asked. It had taken a while, but the man finally settled into his role in Black Ops. Jack still wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

"Not entirely," the Air Force major answered thoughtfully. It was a question he'd been asking himself since he brought it up in his letter to Daniel in mid-March. "I have a couple ideas, but they aren't anything I'm ready to talk about. It's all just guesses anyway."

"I heard one of the other teams took a really hard hit on their last mission over near Turkey," Lieutenant Leon Butler commented, running a comb through his curly black hair, the white plastic standing out sharply against his chocolate-colored skin.

Corporal Kenneth Silverman, the shortest man on the team, flopped down on the next bed down from Jack. "Supposedly there was some kind of breakdown in communications," he added, rubbing the short blond fuzz on top of his head. "But I don't know any specifics."

Jack shook his head and stood up. "Well, it's pointless for us to sit around here gossiping about it. The colonel will make sure we know anything if we need to know it. You guys going anywhere in particular during your leave?"

"There's this one club where they say they have the most exotic women in the city. We thought we'd check if it was false advertising." Gibson grinned wickedly.

"It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it," Butler added with false sincerity.

"And you know I can't just let them go alone," Tucker said, a serious look on his face only somewhat spoiled by the upward twitching of the corners of his mouth.

They all laughed, and the majority of the team started to get ready for their night on the town. They were just about ready to leave when Silverman turned back to his CO, who had resumed his seat on the edge of his bed. "Sir? Did you want to come along? I'm sure there'll be more than enough ladies to go around."

Butler planted an elbow in the corporal's ribs. "The major's married, you idiot," he hissed.

"So am I," Silverman shot back with a definite "duh" in his tone.

"Don't worry about it, Butler," Jack said with a smile. "And as much as I'd love to watch you guys make asses of yourselves, I've got some things I need to arrange for my own leave. Just remember why we're here and don't take things too far."

"Yes, Major," the others replied then left.

Jack watched them go, thoroughly amused, then went through his personal belongings and pulled out an envelope. He took the letter out and compared it to the generic calendar that hung on one of the walls, causing a grin to slowly take over his features. "Perfect," he muttered, then went on to start the rest of his arrangements.

Halfway through Monday morning found Jack maneuvering his way through a throng of people at the Hellenikos Airport heading for where a rental car was waiting for him. Normally he would have been content taking a taxi and letting someone else deal with the crazy traffic, but the previous night's phone call to a couple contacts in the area had changed the purpose of his visit to a more protective and much less pleasant one. Suspected terrorists eyeing up American tourists was not the kind of thing he wanted to hear, and the last thing he wanted to do was draw attention to one particular pair. Since he was known to the group in question thanks to previous encounters in Eastern Europe, he couldn't take the chance of being seen with his friends - but nothing was going to stop him from making sure they were okay.

Jack spent the afternoon discreetly following Daniel and Sam's movements from their arrival at their hotel on Saturday evening - only a few hours before Jack had received word of his unexpected three-day leave he realized with a smirk - through their sight-seeing tour of the less-touristy parts of the city, and finally to the Acropolis where they were at present. When he'd finished following the two graduate students' trail, he went to see one of his contacts. He was determined to confirm that Daniel and Sam hadn't attracted the wrong kind of attention.

"Is this seat taken?" he asked as he stepped up to a table at an outdoor café in the middle of the market district.

"No, feel free," the Greek man replied with a gesture toward the chair across from him.

Jack sat and met the other man's gaze. "How's the family?"

The other man smiled. "Out of town, fortunately. I'm enjoying my time alone, however short it may be."

"Then we can cut to the chase?" Jack asked, his volume dropping as he sat forward to rest his forearms on the table.

"Of course, O'Neill. What are you looking for now?"

"Looking isn't exactly the word I'd use, Andre." Jack couldn't help but frown slightly at the amused expression his contact wore. "Don't make me remind you who pulled your butt out of the safehouse in Prague before it was stormed by KGB agents."

Andre raised a bushy black eyebrow. "There is no need, O'Neill. I have every intention of helping you if I can. What is it you require?"

Jack sighed. "Information. What's going on with Kresky's group? Have they picked a target yet?"

The slightly older man leaned back in his chair, his smile fading. "No, not as of yet. And this worries me. They should have made their move by now."

"You're not exactly filling me with confidence here, Andre. I need to know my people are safe."

"I wish for your people's safety as well, O'Neill. What I can tell you is that they aren't on the list one of my contacts was able to see. It was only a small pile of secretly-taken photos, but none of them matched the description you gave me of the young man."

Jack ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. "I wish I could have given you a description of the woman he's supposed to be with."

Andre smiled. "Last-minute changes in plan are always troublesome, but you have said they will be spending almost all of their time together. If that is true, then it is very unlikely Kresky would have a picture of one without the other."

"Yeah, I know. It's the only thing keeping me from going completely crazy." Jack chuckled and shook his head. "I get the feeling these two are going to push that envelope on a regular basis though."

"I have agents like that as well, O'Neill. But they're the best I have. Don't try to protect them too much." Andre grinned. "You'll only hasten your descent into madness."

"Thank you for the vote of confidence," Jack said with a mock scowl. It cleared quickly. "But your information helps. Since they'll only be here until Saturday evening, I'm not as worried as I was before. I just hope they can stay under Kresky's radar until then."

Andre gave him a speculative look. "If you wish, O'Neill, I can arrange things so others draw Kresky's attention for certain. It would assure your people's safety."

Jack looked at him sharply. He was right; it would make sure Daniel and Sam never caught Kresky's eye. But would Daniel ever forgive him if he knew that Jack had sacrificed some other poor tourist for him? Somehow the major didn't think so. "I don't think that'll be necessary, Andre. Like you said, I can't protect them too much, and that might just be crossing the line." He glanced at his watch then up at the horizon. "I need to get going. But thanks for everything. You really were a big help." He stood and extended his hand.

The Greek man shook it. "You are more than welcome, O'Neill. And I would have done this for you even if you had not saved my life in Prague."

The two men parted ways shortly afterward, and Jack made his way to the base of the Acropolis, hoping to at least see his friends, even if it was only from a distance. Only after the sun had fully set did he finally catch sight of the young man he held in such high regard. He couldn't see Daniel or the blonde at his side very clearly, but he recognized the jacket the archaeologist wore from his visit to Florida. Jack was happy to see that the two of them were laughing. But just before they got within range and Jack would have finally been able to see what Sam looked like, a crowd of bubbly, happy people practically bum-rushed Daniel, all chattering at once as they completely surrounded him.

"Did you enjoy the Parthenon?"

"What was it like inside?"

"Did you get any pictures?"

"Where are you two going to be tomorrow?"

"What hotel are you staying at?"

"Can we get your number? We might have questions later."

"Hold it!" Daniel cried, waving his hands to get their attention and a word in edgewise. "While I'm very flattered that you enjoyed my stories about the Acropolis and the Parthenon, Sam and I just want to go back to our hotel and get ready for dinner. We have a lot more vacation left; I'm sure we'll run into some of you later in the week. If we do, I'll talk to you then."

Jack was impressed. What should have been a harsh reprimand came out as a gentle but firm request to allow him some space. And obviously the twenty-odd people thought the same thing. They stepped back a bit and wished him and Sam good night, hoping they'd have a good time at dinner and whatever else they were planning on for the rest of their evening. Daniel waved and put his free arm around someone's shoulder, starting to lead her away. Ah, that must be Sam, Jack thought, perking up at the thought of putting a face to the name at last.

As the pair passed the shadow Jack had hidden himself in to keep from being seen, the major frowned. Sam had covered most of her face with her hand, burying most of what was left into Daniel's shoulder. Jack could just make out the muffled giggles she was struggling to keep under control without much success. He sighed. Apparently it just wasn't meant to be quite yet.

A quick look at his watch put the military man into action. He headed back to his rental car and drove to the airport. After returning the vehicle, Jack barely made it to the gate in time to catch his return flight, the very last person to board the plane. He grinned to himself as he listened to the traditional pre-flight safety lecture. Daniel and Sam were safe and having a good time, and he just might get back in time to watch the rest of his team make asses of themselves on their last day of leave. Yeah, it was all good.

* * * * * * * *

After watching the sunset on the Acropolis and somehow managing to enjoy a quiet meal at a small restaurant near their hotel alone, Sam and Daniel went to one of the dance clubs in the city, where the blonde woman was surprised to find that her friend liked to dance - and wasn't even all that bad at it. They left, sweaty and laughing, a little after two o'clock in the morning. Neither of them noticed the nudges and smirks the bouncers at the front door shared as they passed them.

The next two days involved a lot of sight seeing per their itinerary and a lot of playing tour guide to members of Daniel's impromptu tour group from the Acropolis. They were never sure how, but somehow one or another of the other tourists would manage to find out where they were going to be and spread the word. Usually within ten minutes of their arrival Daniel would be politely giving another lecture about one of the wonders of Athens until such time as he would nicely but firmly tell everyone that he and Sam either had an appointment to keep or wanted to get some dinner. Then the group would cheerfully say goodbye until they were sighted once again at another famous attraction.

By Thursday morning Sam had had enough. Her blue-grey eyes darted from side to side, anxiously watching for any of the now-familiar tourists that seemed to be dodging their every move. Daniel noted her distraction, but wasn't sure what was causing it and didn't want to ask. They had a late breakfast then headed to the Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments. They had walked through a couple of the exhibits and were listening to a sample of music at a third when Sam's vigilance paid off. She caught sight of an older red-headed woman, one of the more vocal and boisterous members of the tour group, and tensed up, her eyes wide. The next thing Daniel knew, she had grabbed him firmly by the shoulders and shoved them both into a tiny storage closet a few feet from where they'd been standing.

"Um, Sam," Daniel began once the door to the closet had been carefully closed and total darkness had descended on the pair, "what's going on?"

"Shh!" Sam quickly reprimanded in a harsh whisper. "She's out there!"

"Who?" Daniel whispered in return.

"The redhead. I think her name is Jodi."

The archaeologist blinked as things suddenly clicked for him. He remembered Jodi as a loud woman with two even louder daughters who couldn't stop asking which college he was attending. It seemed her girls were about to graduate from high school, and she wanted to be sure they went to the kind of school that produced the kind of intelligent, well-mannered, and attractive students Daniel's university apparently did. He didn't know how he'd done it, but so far he'd managed to avoid mentioning the University of Chicago, although the Oriental Institute, where he worked with Doctor Jordan, had slipped out a few times. He really didn't want to lie, but he also didn't want to get roped into playing mentor to Jenny and Jill, the two heavily made-up teenagers with incredibly poofed-out hair kept that way with far too much hairspray for any two individuals.

The other thing he noticed was that the size of the space Sam had crammed them into had forced them into incredibly close contact with one another. Their chests were pressed together, and Sam's hair was tickling his nose. He could smell she'd put on a splash of her favorite rose-scented perfume, which made quite a heady combination with the lingering fragrance of strawberries from the shampoo she'd used that morning. Daniel took a deep breath and rested his cheek against her hair, thinking that the man that ended up with this beautiful woman was going to be a lucky one indeed.

On Sam's part, she didn't notice her situation with Daniel until after she was satisfied that Jodi had gone past. She didn't dare go back out quite yet, however. She had a terrible feeling that the older woman was deliberately looking for them, and she hadn't caught sight of either of the overbearing lady's daughters. They had been trolling for Daniel since they met him, and she was going to do what she could to make sure they didn't get their hooks into him.

When she felt Daniel's sigh and his cheek rest against the side of her head, Sam suddenly became aware of just how much of her body was pressed against his. He wasn't as toned as some of the military men she'd been exposed to, but he was filling out nicely as the years went by. She smiled at the thought. It was too easy to think of the young man as the gangly boy that had been her childhood friend. And now with his tall, filled out frame, beautiful blue eyes, and kind, giving personality... Well, Sam could only hope to find a man like Daniel one day. With a sigh she let her head rest against the brown-haired man's shoulder.

The two of them spent a silent five minutes that way before Daniel took a deep breath and released it, sending the top of Sam's hair fluttering. "Do you think it's safe yet?" he asked quietly.

"Only one way to find out, I guess," Sam whispered a little hesitantly.

Her fingers had just started to brush the closet door handle when a loud brash voice had them both jumping back as much as possible in the tiny space. "Jenny? Jill? Have you seen that wonderful Daniel yet?"

Oh, crap, they both thought, she's right outside the door.

"No, Mother!" was the echoed response, one half coming from opposite ends of the hall the exhibit they'd been looking at had been in the middle of.

"I could have sworn the cabbie said this is where he'd dropped them off," Jodi mused, still loud enough for anyone in the hall to hear clearly. "And I thought real American money would make sure the information was accurate."

"Mother, when are we going to get lunch?" Jenny - or was it Jill? - whined, her tone rising into a sound that rivaled fingernails scraping across a blackboard.

An explosive sigh and thump against the closet door the hidden pair could feel in their teeth was the response. "I suppose we can get some food," Jodi begrudgingly conceded, sounding thoroughly disappointed. "We've already looked everywhere they could be hiding here." There was a brief pause punctuated by the sound of creaking wood presumably caused by the larger woman taking her weight off the door. "And maybe we'll find that nice Kevin. He said he was going to be looking for them at the Greek Folk Art Museum. Come along, girls."

Sam and Daniel waited until they could no longer hear the three sets of heavy footsteps before the blonde woman reached for the doorknob again. She twisted it and pushed... and nothing happened. She tried again, rattling the knob in the hopes that would free it. Again, nothing.

"Uh, Sam, what's happening?"

"It won't open," Sam said through gritted teeth as she tried to put more of her weight into the next attempt.

"What?" Daniel asked, startled. "Let me try."

They twisted and turned, sliding against each other in a way that would have been deemed erotic had there been a witness or had the situation not been as desperate for the trapped duo. Finally, they positioned themselves so Daniel was able to grab the handle and Sam was pressed against his back. He gave the piece of metal a tentative shake then practically twisted his whole body in an attempt to turn it with enough force to make the door open. Still nothing.

Daniel sighed and let his forehead thump against the door. "This isn't happening. It can't be."

Sam leaned heavily against the back wall, her head bumping it a bit harder than the rest of her. "I think Jodi jammed it when she flopped against it." It was her turn to sigh. "So what do we do now?"

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, Sam."

"Oh, you're not serious."

"Can you think of something better?"

Sam hesitated for a long moment. "No," she admitted grudgingly.

"Then on three. One, two, three."

"Help!" they both cried.

Five minutes later, thanks to the combination of both their voices and the pounding of Daniel's fists on the door, the door sprung open, and they nearly tumbled out at the feet of their savior, a teenage boy with wide brown eyes and a thoroughly confused expression. "Ha, ha, Daniel, you kidder," Sam said stiffly, wearing a fake smile as she mock-punched Daniel's shoulder. "Too bad that little joke blew up in your face."

Daniel's eyes narrowed slightly at Sam's lame cover story. "Let's just look at the rest of the exhibits and get going. Jodi might decide to come back." As they walked away they could hear the boy snickering, obviously having recovered his composure enough to see the humor. Daniel blushed furiously and hurried Sam along.

* * * * * * * *

A few hours and a quiet lunch later, Sam and Daniel were wandering around the market district looking through the shops before heading to another museum. This time they were both keeping an eye out for Daniel's fan club, almost to the level of paranoia. "I'm sorry," Sam said for the seventh time since they'd left the musical instrument museum.

"I know," Daniel replied. "And I already told you you're forgiven."

"But I embarrassed you."

"You were embarrassed, too." Daniel stopped in his tracks and sighed. "Sam, think about it for a second, would you? We got trapped in a closet trying to hide from a few overzealous tourists. Don't you see that as remotely ridiculous?"

Sam stared at him for a long moment before she finally saw the corners of his mouth twitching upward. Her own smile burst forth. "It was pretty silly, wasn't it? I can't believe we got stuck!"

They both started to laugh. "I think I will always remember the look on that kid's face when we nearly landed on his shoes," Daniel said through his chuckles.

"Me too!"

"And I think I feel sorry for Kevin, too."

Sam was about to respond when something caught her eye, making her breath catch. She grabbed Daniel's arm and pushed him into the middle of the clothing rack they'd been standing next to. "It's Victor," she hissed, pulling him into a crouch that hid the top of his head.

Daniel peeked out between the hangers and saw the Italian man Sam was referring to. He cringed. The man was always the last one to accept any excuse he and Sam used to get away from the tour group and always asked about what hotel they were staying at. This was not someone he wanted to see them. "So what do we do now?"

"Well, at least we can't get trapped in here like we did at the museum," Sam muttered, frowning in thought. She looked out between the hangers in a different direction. When she finally registered the stall she was looking at she grinned as an idea struck her. "I've got it. We just have to get to a certain vendor without being seen."

"Should I be nervous?" Daniel asked suspiciously. He could see the cunning expression on her face.

"Of course not," she scoffed a bit too quickly. She actually wasn't sure how Daniel was going to react to her idea, but since it wouldn't hurt either one of them she figured she could talk him into it. Besides, it would be fun.

Twenty minutes and a bit of haggling on Daniel's part later saw two outlandishly dressed tourists come striding out of a clothing vendor's booth, the woman with incredibly teased black hair swinging a pair of bags widely to match her pace. The man with mid-back length, bleach-blond hair tied back in a loose ponytail walking beside her adjusted his large sunglasses and his skin-tight, stonewashed blue jeans before taking her free hand and leading her away. They both heard an amazing assortment of curses fall from the lips of an irritated Italian man as they passed him. "Where did the two of them go?" the olive-skinned man muttered darkly. "I was seeing them here among the clothing just a little bit of time ago."

"I can't believe you talked me into this," the blond man whispered into the dark-haired woman's ear once they were well past the fuming man. "I really want to button up this shirt."

"You'll just draw attention to yourself now," the woman said between the open-mouthed chewing of a piece of gum. "Let's just go to the next place on our list. No one will recognize us now." She shook her shoulders a bit, minutely adjusting her baggy, off-the-shoulder white peasant blouse.

The man sighed and fiddled with the collar of the red shirt that was halfway open. "Come on, Sam..." She interrupted him with a sharp cough. He sighed. "Fine, Mandy. Let me at least close a couple of the buttons."

She gave him a bright smile that made him want to see the look in her eyes behind the sunglasses she wore. He knew he'd find an impish twinkle there. "Now, D.J., that's not the attitude to have here. You've acted before. Just consider this one more role."

"It was the only way to get an "A" in that acting class!" he protested in a harsh whisper.

"And you earned that "A". Now you get to use it." She grinned unrepentantly and led him away.

Later on, Daniel had to admit Sam had been right about their new identities. As D.J., the New York private investigator, he hadn't been recognized once, and had found his sarcastic wit - enhanced by a Brooklyn accent he had dredged up from his time living in Manhattan - coming to the forefront without even thinking about it. A few of the comments he'd made to the people that had been dogging his sight-seeing the last two days brought a blush to his cheeks when he thought about them, but had made the Californian flight attendant with the Valley Girl accent giggle as she chewed continuously on her gum. Sam had whispered to him as the both of them had been changing originally that there were a couple students at Stanford she was planning on using for her persona, girls she was sure were attending the university only because Daddy's money said they could.

Sam had thoroughly enjoyed herself that afternoon, but was happy to put Mandy and D.J. away when she and Daniel went to another night club that evening. She figured she had dropped enough hints about she and Daniel going to the ancient Agora all afternoon the next day so that they could enjoy their last full day relaxing on the beach without any interruptions. They again talked, laughed, and danced the night away.

The beach ended up being as relaxing as they'd both hoped, and they spent the rest of their day wandering around off the beaten path, checking out shops that tourists rarely went to. Daniel's command of the Greek language was invaluable, even if he wouldn't explain why he tended to end up blushing after talking with the clerks on their way back to the street. They had another quiet meal, and strolled along the beach one more time under the moonlight. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Their last day in Athens was spent picking up all the souvenirs they'd avoided buying the rest of the week. They had their film developed so as not to take the chance of an X-ray machine wiping out a roll, since both of them wanted to take home as many memories as they could from this wonderful place. Basically, they took care of all the little touristy errands they hadn't wanted to do previously. But the time for their flight home came ever closer, and finally, after one last dinner at the restaurant they'd had their first meal in Athens, the two friends left for the airport, knowing they'd always treasure the week they'd shared.

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