Summary: Pancakes don't go too well with off-world missions
Daniel opens the door and Sam sees the reflection of her own restless night on his face. He blinks behind his glasses trying to make sense of her presence at his doorstep at six in the morning.
"Can I come in?"
"You have to ask?" He smiles wanly and waves her in. "I'll make some coffee. And breakfast."
"Coffee will be fine, thanks. I'm not really hungry."
Daniel's gaze is suddenly sharp on her, as if he really sees her now. A blink later, he gives her a little smile. "Neither am I, come to think of it. Make yourself at home, Sam."
Sam thinks he expects her to wait in the living room, but he says nothing when she follows him to the kitchen. A small, utilitarian kitchen, very much like her own. For two people at most. Maybe. Not for a family.
Daniel busies himself with the coffee pot, and Sam follows him with her eyes. She needs a steaming mug to hide behind. To obscure her face, because she's not sure she wants Daniel to see what's there when she begins to speak.
"Pete called," she finally says. Daniel looks at her with sympathy, and she resents it for a moment; she doesn't want sympathy, but Daniel never has anything but the best intentions, and maybe it is what she needs. She looks into her mug so as not to see him. "I didn't tell him anything," she continues. "I couldn't. He thought I was going to work, and I didn't correct him. He wished he could be there to fry pancakes for breakfast."
Pancakes don't go too well with off-world missions. Missions like their last one, that are like the old black-and-white documentaries, or dry factual excerpts from history books, suddenly turned colour and live.
She was able to put Euronda in words, turn it into a regular soldier report, but she isn't able to articulate something that rendered the word 'horror' meaningless.
Sam knows Daniel can see the tears in her eyes, and he takes the mug out of her hands and puts it on the table. When there's no danger of hot coffee in the immediate vicinity, he hugs her tightly. Sam puts her head on his shoulder and wishes he could be Pete.
But it's Daniel whose hand moves in soothing circles. It's Daniel whose fingers brush through her hair. She envies him, because he doesn't have to hide anything from anyone. And she knows she's unfair, because she, at least, has someone. She sniffs, feeling the tears get cold on her cheeks. She should have some tears for Daniel, too.
He looks at her. A small smile he gives her crinkles the corners of his eyes. Sam wants to see them better so she takes off his glasses. He wipes her tears with his thumbs. He leans in and ghosts a kiss on her lips. A token of comfort maybe...
Or maybe something else, because then he leans in again and kisses her in this focused and intense way of his, offering but leaving the options open. She wishes he could be Pete, but when he pulls back, it's still Daniel.
She never wishes Pete could be someone else. But sometimes she needs someone who knows exactly what she feels.
Daniel smiles again and brushes her lips with the tips of his fingers.
"I'm glad you're here, Sam."
They both lean in and there's nothing remotely awkward or anxious about the kiss. There's nothing reassuring or sympathetic about the kiss. Finally, there's nothing shy and innocent about it.
There are too many clothes, too few hands and the tabletop digs into her thighs, so Daniel pulls her with him towards the doorway.
Too many legs, too few arms as they stumble, probably towards the bedroom, because it's where Sam expects Daniel to lead her. Her arm connects with the doorframe, and she laughs into the kiss. A little hysterically, just a little, but she can't help it. It's all still too raw for her to wind down. Breaking off, Daniel looks at her with keen eyes. They kiss again and hobble until she feels the bed against the back of her legs.
A knock on the door interrupts them and Daniel holds her close before she can jump guiltily away. The knocking gets more insistent and Daniel sighs, releasing her.
Daniel opens the door and she hears the Colonel's voice. She tiptoes to the living room.
She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. It will be enough, because, really, it is. And it is a kind of absolution that she could give Daniel what he needed when she needed it too. If just for a short while. Because she knows how it feels to need so much and not get enough.
"Good morning, sir," she says as the Colonel and Daniel enter the room. The Colonel's eyes move from her to Daniel and back. He knows, and Sam hopes she isn't blushing.
"Morning, Sam." He says her name without much conviction. How many times does Jack get caught at the back of her throat, and sir slip off her tongue?
"Jack," she acknowledges, refusing to look away. Daniel is watching Jack intently, as if trying to see something, but she's sure there's nothing there. Jack has always been good at it.
"I'll get myself some coffee," Jack says and Sam tries to use this moment to communicate with Daniel, but he follows Jack. She thinks she should go home. She'll call Pete once she gets there; maybe they'll make the pancakes after all.
When she enters the kitchen -- it might be better just to go, really, she'll go in a minute -- she sees Daniel and Jack with their foreheads close. Daniel is murmuring something to Jack, quiet words of comfort she can't hear from where she's standing, and she thinks it's unfair. It was the Colonel's decision to gate out. Even if they couldn't help they should have tried.
But then it's Daniel who slumps to the floor and the Colonel -- Jack -- crouches next to him.
A woman crouching next to a heap of skin and bones. A man and a woman rocking over a dirty dress that had long matted hair and thin legs sticking out from underneath. And another, another, another. A soldier wiping blood off his shoes, polishing them with a handkerchief, and then throwing it to the ground.
So proud to show the visitors the way they dealt with traitors. Not very efficient, mind you, but has a desired effect. And they did try; Daniel in his earnest passion talked and talked and talked, but words had no weight for those people. They looked Teal'c's staff weapon enviously.
"Daniel," she whispers and he looks at her, noticing her again. Jack notices her too, and suddenly she knows why he's a better commander than she ever will be. He does what needs to be done at the exact moment. Some of those moments, Sam is at a loss. Like now.
Jack turns to Daniel and puts his hand on Daniel's arm. They look at each other and Jack pulls Daniel into a hug.
She's about to turn and leave when she hears a quiet, "Sam" and Daniel releases his hold of Jack's shirt and reaches out blindly with his palm up and his fingers spread.
She kneels and takes his hand, intertwining her fingers with his. Jack has his back to her and she thinks he won't let her in. She'd never go to him, and he comes to Daniel. But Daniel is there, for both of them, and Jack moves to make space for her. Teal'c, if he were here, would probably stand a little aside, watching the Tau'ri in their strange rituals of comfort, his own presence more comforting than anything he could say or do.
Her knees begin to ache. The tiles in Daniel's kitchen are hard and cold. But Jack's hair is soft and feels good against her temple. She clings to him harder wishing he could be Pete too.
Daniel lets out a short laugh. "How about moving someplace else?"
"How about making my knees work?"
They laugh but don't make an attempt to move. The floor is still cold, but Sam doesn't mind. She feels the tears dry on her cheek.
Finally they get up and stand close to one another in silence. Sam expects Jack to crack a joke, dismiss it all, get back on track. But he looks back and forth between her and Daniel.
Daniel looks at Jack but then he turns to Sam and kisses her.
She blinks. She doesn't kiss him back. Not really. She wants to, but there are three variables in this equation. She can see out of the corner of his eye that Jack is watching them, assessing, not giving anything away until he has made a decision.
"Sam," Jack says seriously when Daniel moves away to look at her too.
"It's still us, you know," Daniel continues Jack's thought and Jack nods at every word. "And it will be us. No matter what. And it will be you, Sam. Major Samantha Carter."
It's still them. She loves them and she loves Pete. But Pete will never know, and they do. They won't talk about it, but they don't need too many words.
So she leans forward and kisses Daniel back. She doesn't close her eyes, because she wants to see Jack too. Jack doesn't change his expression; only his pupils are wider than usual when he moves behind her.
She can feel Jack's warmth against her back, but he's not touching her yet. Daniel's kiss and this anticipation of what Jack will do make her close her eyes. She snaps them open when Daniel nips on her lower lip and she's about to protest, because he's not kissing her any more, but words get stuck her throat and she has to swallow, because Jack and Daniel are kissing over her shoulder.
A slow, languid kiss, just like hers and Daniel's. But it's Jack and Daniel, and her brain suffers from overload and she's sure that some of her synapses are terminally fried. She moans helplessly and tugs at them both to get moving. And she doesn't care that they stopped kissing, because they can do more of that in Daniel's bedroom.
Jack seems to read her thoughts, because he navigates all three of them there.
Daniel helps her dress. He adjusts her bra and kisses between her shoulder blades. She is still a little drowsy, but she smiles when Jack enters the bedroom squinting slightly. He's naked.
"Where are my boxers?"
"There." Daniel points to the floor next to the bedside table. Sam pulls on her T-shirt, and when she gets to push it inside her jeans, Jack has his boxers already on, and he throws Daniel's sweats at him.
Fully dressed they crowd in the kitchen trying to get a warm mug of coffee. Daniel shoos them out and they withdraw strategically to the living room. They are a team, though not entirely complete at the moment, but they should know their logistics in the field none the less.
"I'm hungry," Sam says and Jack pulls a face.
"I bet his fridge is empty," he states, and she sneaks to the kitchen hoping it won't be so, because she thinks about pancakes. The open fridge reveals a carton of milk, a dying lettuce and a pound of cheese.
Daniel shrugs and hands her a full mug. He takes his and Jack's, and they go back to the living room.
"We can order pizza," Daniel says huffily. Sam cannot help but smile, because Jack is as close to poking his tongue at Daniel as an Air Force Colonel can be.
"What's pizza without beer?" he asks pointedly.
"Jack, they don't deliver beer," Daniel says, and Sam can easily imagine that Daniel would poke his tongue out right back.
"Hah! But I have a couple of six-packs in my trunk."
"Where's your trunk?"
"In my car in front of your house."
Daniel blinks at Jack. "Then what are you still doing here?"
Sam smiles as Jack leaves to get the beer. She and Daniel bicker over toppings. Daniel says he'll order olives for Jack. He'll be complaining and picking them out, and Daniel will be snatching them for himself.
Jack brings the beer as Daniel puts down the phone. He announces he has to take a leak and leaves the beer to them. Daniel opens a bottle for Sam and himself. When Jack comes back, he scowls and extricates the bottle from Sam's hand. Daniel grins at her and opens another one for her.
And then her cell phone rings. She wants to ignore it, but Daniel and Jack are silent and looking at her, so she goes to the kitchen and extracts the phone from the pocket of her jacket that she hung on the back of a chair.
A few moments later she is back in the living room and there is understanding in the eyes of both men, and that's what she wanted, isn't it?
"Go, Sam. I would take pancakes over pizza any day," Daniel says, because he just knows, and Sam doesn't wonder how.
And she would too, but not today, and they understand it, because Daniel is at her side and hugging her, and kissing her on the cheek. And the Colonel is there too, and she can't look him in the eye.
And it's still them. She clenches her fists, her fingernails digging into her palms. Pete is waiting. Pete is going to make pancakes for her, and she's ready to start crying, but she won't do it.
She takes a slow deep breath and smiles a brave smile. "Thanks, Daniel. Thank you, Sir," she says looking at them, her chin high. And they're not falling for it, but they both smile back.
Pete is waiting for her, she realises. He's waiting for her, and this time she really smiles. The Colonel's lips form this small, self-satisfied smirk. I told you so, Carter. And Daniel winks at her, and everything is back to normal. As much as it can be, but she does feel better.
She nods at them, the smile threatening to break out again. And Daniel pushes her out though the door, and there's a cab waiting in front of the house. She turns to say good-bye, but it's really unnecessary, because they'll meet at work anyway.
And Sam doesn't feel guilty, because she isn't alone, and she isn't leaving them alone, and Pete will meet her at the door. So she just waves and Daniel waves back while the Colonel just nods.
She shuts the door, gives the driver her address and wishes the cab were a faster car than it is.