Daniel began to make plans. For now, he'd just go away on a trip somewhere, someplace where he could try to find some peace within himself. Once he came back, then he could start the business of moving. Perhaps by then he'd have some idea on where he was going to make a new life for himself.
Daniel got up and made some coffee. Over the brew, he thought about what he was going to tell Jack. The man probably wouldn't be happy. He just hoped that Jack could at least understand why he had to do this. That would be a conversation for later, though. He would not reveal that he was moving away until after he'd come back from his trip.
After finishing his coffee, Daniel began to pack. As he did so, he put some thought into where he was going to go. He thought of and discarded several places before settling on one that he figured would work perfectly for what he believed he needed.
After finishing with the packing of his clothes and toiletries, he went into the living room and gathered a few books. He reached for his laptop, then changed his mind. If he took it, Jack would no doubt try to email him. He'd also have to leave his cell phone behind to avoid the dozens of calls he'd no doubt get from the colonel.
That thought made Daniel's eyes go to the home phone. He needed to let Jack know that he was going away for a while, but if he called his friend at work, Jack would demand to know where he was going. To avoid that, he would have to leave Jack a message at home. By the time Jack got it, he would be gone.
The archeologist finished his preparations for the trip and took care of a few other things. He then made the call to Jack's place. Though he tried to sound casual on the recording, he didn't think he succeeded.
As he hung up the phone, Daniel thought of something else, something that made his stomach tighten. It was not something he wanted to do, but, after his despicable actions, he owed it to her.
After taking care of that second thing, Daniel glanced about to see if there was anything he was forgetting. His eyes fell upon something, and he realized that there was one more thing he had to do.
Jack stepped into the house, slamming the door behind him. Today, Hammond had talked to him about picking Daniel's replacement.
"Jack, I know this isn't something you want to do, but you need to face the fact that Doctor Jackson is not coming back," the base commander had said. "His departure is a loss for this entire program, but our fight against the Goa'uld hasn't stopped, and I need your team back out there. I want you to get started on going through personnel files tomorrow."
Jack went to the fridge and got a beer. As he opened it, he saw that the light was blinking on his answering machine. He pressed the play button and was surprised to hear Daniel's voice.
"Hey, Jack. I, um, wanted to let you know that I'm going away for a while."
The words made Jack freeze, his stomach clenching. He continued listening to a voice that was trying to sound casual but failing miserably.
"I don't know yet how long I'm going to be gone. Since I know that you'll try to call me even if I tell you not to, I'm leaving my cell phone behind. Don't worry about me. I'll be okay. I just need to . . . to get away from . . . everything." There was more than a little tension in those last words.
"So I guess I'll, uh, talk to you when I get back," Daniel said in conclusion.
As the message finished playing, Jack let out a curse. A bad feeling in his gut, he called Daniel's house. He was not surprised when he got no answer. He then tried Daniel's cell phone, hoping that the archeologist had changed his mind about taking it. The call went straight to voice mail.
Slamming the phone down, Jack hurried out the door. He didn't know what he hoped to accomplish by going to Daniel's since the archeologist had obviously already left, but maybe he could somehow figure out where his friend had gone.
As he drove, the thought came to Jack that maybe he should just turn around and go back home. Was it any surprise that Daniel wanted to get away for a while? Maybe it would be good for him, certainly better than moping around his apartment day and night. But Jack's bad feeling wouldn't go away. He couldn't get out of his head the undercurrent in his friend's voice, like that of a man who'd reached the end of his rope. Jack knew that feeling all too well. It had led him to accept a suicide mission. What would the same feelings lead Daniel to do?
Jack was afraid of finding out.
Sam closed the door with a weary sigh. She might as well not have gone to work today. She'd gotten nothing accomplished. All she kept thinking about all day was what happened last night.
Sooner or later, she was going to have to face Daniel, but she didn't know how she was going to look him in the eyes. What would she see there when she did?
Sam sat down at her computer and booted it up. She checked her email, eyes skimming down the list. Her heart just about leaped into her throat when she saw one from Daniel. Almost holding her breath, she opened it.
How can I ever express how horribly sorry and ashamed I am for what I did to you last night? Nothing I could ever say or do would make up for it. Your friendship has meant so much to me, and with that one selfish act, I betrayed that friendship and your trust. I can never forgive myself for it, and I certainly don't expect you to forgive me. I will understand if you never want to see me again for the rest of your life.
I am going away for a while. I need to go someplace where I can be alone and try to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. There isn't much left in my life to salvage, but I need to try.
Though I neither expect nor deserve forgiveness, I hope that, someday, you will be able to give it to me. But, no matter what the future brings, I want you to know that I will always cherish the friendship you gave to me.
Sam's breath caught, tears spilling down her face, Daniel's word tearing a hole in her heart. He thought that he had betrayed their friendship, but he was so wrong. She was the one who'd betrayed him. She was the one who acted selfishly.
Sam reread the email. Something was wrong. There was something in the message that gave her a bad feeling that Daniel wasn't going away just for a few days.
Sam placed a call to Daniel's cell phone, already knowing that he wouldn't answer. The fact that it went to voice mail without ringing told her that it was turned off. Knowing that he was probably already gone, Sam dashed out the door, intent upon finding out where he was.
Jack stepped into the apartment. The lack of Daniel's car in his parking space had confirmed that the archeologist was gone. Now, Jack would have to see if he could find out where his friend went. He checked the bedroom first. Having seen inside Daniel's closet before, he knew approximately how many clothes the younger man had. The closet was now a whole lot emptier, telling Jack that Daniel was not coming back in two or three days. He then checked the drawer where Daniel kept several hundred dollars in emergency money. It was all gone. Gone as well was the photo of Sha're that had sat on his bedside table. In its place was Daniel's cell phone.
Leaving the bedroom, Jack returned to the living room and just stood there. After a few seconds, he realized that something was different. It took him a while to figure out what it was. It was too quiet. He turned to a corner of the room. The fish tank was gone. Jack knew what that meant. If Daniel really was only going away for a week or two, he would have made arrangements for someone to come here and feed his fish. The fact that he'd apparently gotten rid of both the fish and the tank meant that his plans were a lot more permanent.
"Dammit," Jack cursed.
Knowing that he probably wouldn't find any more clues there, Jack went to the door. He opened it and was startled by the sight of Sam on the other side.
"Sir!" she cried, also startled. "Daniel. He's—"
"Gone. Yeah, I know. He left a message on my machine."
"He emailed me."
Jack stepped aside so that she could come in.
"Do you know where he went?" Sam asked, clearly very worried.
"No, and he left both his cell phone and computer, so we have no way to contact him."
Sam walked away a few steps. "I wish I'd had some idea that he would do this. Maybe I shouldn't be so worried, but I have a terrible feeling that. . . ."
"This is more than just a case of him getting away for a while?"
Sam turned back to Jack. "You feel it, too?"
Without a word, Jack pointed to the empty spot where the fish tank used to be.
"Oh my God," Sam gasped. "Sir, we have to find him."
"Yeah. Come on. Let's go to the base."
As soon as they got to the SGC, Sam and Jack told Teal'c about Daniel's departure and what they feared. The news greatly concerned the Jaffa.
As Jack and Teal'c went to talk to General Hammond, Sam got on the computer and checked the flights out of Denver to see if Daniel had booked something. She came up empty, which could mean that he was driving. The question was where? In his email he said that he needed to go someplace to be alone, so that let out places with big crowds.
Sam recalled Daniel once telling her that Sha're had wanted to see an ocean ever since he described what they were like. Maybe he went to the coast. But which coast? The West Coast would be closer. Perhaps California. She knew that he still had some friends at UCLA.
When Jack and Teal'c got to her lab, she asked them what Hammond said.
"He's worried," the colonel replied, "but there's not much that he can do. We can't involve the military in this, and we can't go to the police unless we have evidence that Daniel's life is at risk. He said that he'd make a few calls and put out some feelers."
Sam told him her thoughts about California, and Jack nodded.
"Good thinking. I'll do some digging and find out who he knows at UCLA. Wasn't there some guy who helped him arrange that last lecture?"
"Yes. Um . . . Brant, Doctor Kevin Brant. Daniel touches bases with him from time to time."
"All right. Get his number and call him."
"What should I tell him?"
"That Daniel recently lost a loved one, and we're worried about him and think he might be showing up there sometime in the next few days. Tell him not to let Daniel know that we called but that he's to contact us right away if Daniel does show up."
Sam caught Jack's eyes. "Sir, what are we going to do if we can't find him?"
"That isn't going to happen, Carter. One way or another, we are going to find him."
Daniel took a long, deep breath, drawing in the cool, fresh air. A haunting cry came to his ears, and he looked out across the water, just barely making out the creature that uttered the sound.
The archeologist had to wonder what his ex-teammates would think if they knew where he had chosen to go. They'd definitely be surprised, especially Jack. He pictured the look on the man's face, and a smile came to his lips. The smile did not last long.
Daniel closed his eyes with a weary sigh, tired beyond words. In the days that he had been here, he'd barely slept. He had hoped that the peace and quiet of this place would enable him to find some peace within himself, but such was not the case.
Maybe this was a mistake. Perhaps he should have gone someplace where he could have filled his hours with stuff that would distract him. In the past, whenever life got really hard, he'd buried himself in work or in study. It never really made him feel better, but it had at least kept him from thinking about everything all the time.
And that was the problem. During every one of these days, he kept thinking about everything all the time. Everything. The thoughts about Sha're and her death were bad enough, but the thoughts about Sam were even worse. The memories of their lovemaking plagued him ceaselessly. He could not stop thinking about her beneath him, his body buried so deep inside hers. The taste of her mouth and breasts, her passionate outcry as he entered her, the feeling of her lips and tongue on his skin. It wouldn't go away, keeping him awake at night. And, God help him, he wanted it again. His shame over what he'd done was as strong as ever, yet he could not deny how fantastic the lovemaking had been. For the first time since Sha're was taken by Apophis, he had felt truly alive, no worry, no sorrow, just the brightly blazing fire of passion.
The fact that he did want it again made Daniel feel even more ashamed. What kind of sick bastard was he? Sha're would be ashamed of him, too. As for Sam, she'd probably shoot him. He'd give her the bullets to do it.
Daniel got up and went inside. Deciding that a hike would do him some good, he put some things in a backpack, then struck out into the woods. As he walked, he thought again about what he was going to do once he got back from this getaway. Where could he make a new life for himself? What he would most love to do was get back into archeology, find some remote dig somewhere and let himself get lost in the thing that was still one of his greatest passions. But could he find a dig that would accept the crackpot Doctor Daniel Jackson? He still had some friends at UCLA with strong connections in the archeological community. Maybe one of them would know of a dig that would accept him. If not, maybe they could at least steer him toward a job, some potential employer who could look past his history of off-the-wall theories.
There was another friend, too, or at least someone who used to be a friend. If he went back to Chicago, would Doctor Jordan want anything do to with him? Daniel knew that he hurt his former professor and mentor by leaving and breaking off ties with him so suddenly. Stephen Rayner definitely wouldn't welcome him back.
And then there was Sarah Gardner, the woman who had been a friend and became a lover. That relationship ended badly as well. He really did have a bad habit of trashing friendships with women by bringing sex into the mix, didn't he.
That brought him right back to thinking about Sam. Why couldn't he just get what happened out of his mind? It couldn't be because it had been a long time since he'd willingly had sex with a woman. He'd gone much longer periods of time without it. He wasn't the casual sex sort of guy, so his sexual encounters had been limited to the women with whom he had a relationship, and those had been few and far in between.
Ruthlessly shoving all thoughts of Sam out of his mind, Daniel took a fork in the narrow path that looked as if it would take him up a steep incline, figuring that the strenuous activity would help keep his mind off everything else.
Soon, the gentle slope steepened, and his hiking turned into climbing. It wasn't long before it got even steeper, and Daniel began to question the wisdom of what he was doing. When he reached the point where he had to use his hands to brace him, he decided to stop. This kind of climbing was not wise to do alone, especially when he had no way to contact anyone if he was injured.
Daniel looked over his shoulder down the path he had just taken. It looked even more treacherous going down than it did going up.
Mentally mapping out the best way to go down, Daniel began his descent. He hadn't even gone five feet when a rock beneath his right boot came free, and, suddenly, he was falling.
Jack glared at the paperwork sitting on the desk before him. Four days. It had been four days since Daniel disappeared, and they still had no clue where he'd gone. He had not made contact with any of his acquaintances in California, though that didn't mean he wasn't in that state. He had not used his debit or credit card since leaving Colorado Springs, so they couldn't track his whereabouts that way.
Had he gone off to some dig somewhere? He'd taken no international flights, so it was unlike that he'd left the continent, but there were plenty of archeological sites right here in the U.S., as well as Mexico. Jack could picture the man in the middle of some godforsaken jungle, exploring Mayan ruins that even the tourists were too smart to go near. Great. As if Jack wasn't worried enough already.
"Daniel, I swear that, when you come back, I am going to beat you senseless," the colonel muttered.
If he came back.
The only good thing about the whole situation was that Hammond had allowed Jack to put off finding Daniel's replacement, recognizing that he was too worried and distracted.
Jack left his office and went to Sam's lab, she was staring vacantly at her computer.
"Can't work either, huh," he said, startling her.
She let out a sigh. "No, sir. I'm just really worried about Daniel."
Jack settled on a stool. "Join the club. I know he's a big boy and can take care of himself, but he wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind when he left."
Guilt assailed Sam again, knowing that one of the reasons Daniel had been in such a negative frame of mind was what happened between them and his misplaced guilt over it.
"I suppose you haven't come up with any bright ideas on how we can find him," Jack said.
"I wish I had, sir. Obviously, he's been using cash since he left. I have to wonder if he's doing that deliberately so that we can't track him."
"So you think he knew that we'd do exactly what it is that we're doing?"
"Well, he may have suspected that you'd try to find out where he'd gone so that you could follow him there."
Jack thought about it. "Yeah, he knows me well enough to guess that. But, dammit, if he'd just told me up front where he was going, I wouldn't have felt the need to go after him."
Sam stared at Jack intently. "Wouldn't you?"
Jack paused. "Okay, so, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have, but with all the stuff that happened and how he felt about it, the thought of him being off by himself someplace makes my palms sweat. If we at least had some idea what he's doing, I'd feel better . . . well, unless it turns out that he really is digging up some remote Mayan ruin."
Sam's brow furrowed, a question in her eyes. "Remote Mayan ruin?"
"Never mind. It's just something that came into my head earlier." Jack frowned. "You said that he used his debit card at a store here on the day he left."
"Yes, at a department store."
"Can we find out what he purchased?"
"I suppose so, but I couldn't access that information online. We'd have to go to the store, and for that we'd have to ask General Hammond's permission."
"Then let's go talk to him."
Hammond gave the two permission to talk to the store, so they immediately went into town. At the store, they flashed their IDs and told the manager that their request was part of a classified military matter, which was a lie, of course, but definitely got the man's attention. He looked up the record of purchases for that day and found Daniel's.
"Okay, it looks like he purchased some food, plastic utensils, paper plates and cups. Also a cooler, some ice, bug spray, and a backpack."
Oh, this was not good, both Jack and Sam were thinking. It sounded like Daniel definitely went somewhere that was not the center of civilization.
"Anything else?" Jack asked, leaning forward to look at the computer screen.
"Um, let me see. Oh, yes. There's also some fishing gear, including a rod."
That made Jack stand up straight. "Fishing gear?"
A smile began to tease at the corner of Jack's mouth. "Thank you. You've been a big help. We must ask you not to discuss this with anyone, including family and coworkers."
Jack strode away, Sam on his heels.
"Sir, do you know where Daniel went?" she asked once they got outside.
He stopped and turned to her. "Yes, I do, Carter, and it's the one place I would never have thought to look for him." He resumed walking. "Come on. We need to get back to base and arrange for some leave time. We're going on a little trip."
With reflexes honed over more than two years of dodging enemy Jaffa weapons fire, Daniel reached out to grab something that would save him from a possibly fatal tumble down the hillside. His hand came in contact with the trunk of a bush, and he grabbed on. The bush jerked, nearly pulled out by the roots, but managed to hold. Daniel's boots gained purchase on the ground, and his slide stopped.
For a moment, the archeologist didn't move, clinging to the bush until his thundering heart had calmed and he was sure that it was safe to let go. Okay. That was a close one. How stupid would it have been for him to survive extensive brain damage caused by an alien torture device only to die on a hike right here on Earth?
Daniel waited a while longer, then resumed his descent. He managed to make it the rest of the way down the steepest part of the trail without further incident. He went to a small boulder and sat down, knowing that he was very lucky he hadn't been injured.
The archeologist thought about what went through his mind as he fell, the intense, adrenaline-pumping fear of death. He had not wanted to die. Despite all the anguish and guilt he had been suffering and his wish that he had died instead of Sha're, the desire for life had kicked in with a vengeance.
Daniel drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. For the first time since receiving the devastating news, he felt like he really was going to get through this. He would survive. He would move on and build a new life. He would never forgive himself for being the one to take Sha're's life, but he would learn to accept the guilt.
At that moment, sitting there with nothing but the animals and trees around him, Daniel remembered. It all came back to him, Kasuf telling him that Sha're's son had been taken, pointing off to the tent where Daniel could see a female Goa'uld. When he ran toward the tent, his thought had been that the child was inside, that he needed to get to the boy before the Goa'uld escaped with him. It wasn't until he was closer that he realized the Goa'uld was Amaunet.
Just then, an army of Jaffa came running over the hill. He should have gone back to help fight them, but all he could think about was Sha're and her son. He managed to kill the two Jaffa guarding her, though one nearly blasted him with a staff weapon.
Once inside the tent, he confronted her, demanding to know where the baby was.
"Where you and the System Lords will never find him," she had replied.
And then she began to raise the hand bearing a ribbon device. Daniel warned her to stop, but she ignored him. He could have shot her, but he just couldn't get himself to pull the trigger, his love for Sha're making it impossible to kill her. He had even feared to wound her in case his bullet went astray.
Every agonizing second of being ribboned replayed in his mind: sinking to his knees, telling Sha're to fight the Goa'uld inside her, Amaunet's haughty response. And then came the memory of feeling his brain and body dying, of knowing that he wasn't going to make it and that with him would die his dream of saving Sha're. He was nearly unconscious when the sound of the shot came.
Janet and his teammates were right. He didn't shoot Sha're on purpose. It really was an accident. Knowing that gave Daniel a sense of relief and helped ease his guilt, at least in that regard. He would always bear the guilt that it was because of his actions that Sha're was in that position in the first place.
Daniel got to his feet and made his way back to his present residence. He decided that a more sedentary pastime was in order and got one of his books to read out on the deck. Instead, he ended up thinking about Sam. Though his guilt over killing Sha're had eased, the guilt about what happened with her was as strong as ever.
Somehow, he had to beg for her forgiveness. He couldn't leave his old life behind without first trying to repair the damage he wrought to his friendship with her.
That night, for the first time since learning of Sha're's death, Daniel made it through the whole night without suffering a nightmare. He spent a good part of the next morning down by the water, putting some thought into what kind of jobs he'd be willing to do and which ones he had any real hope of getting. There was always the option of going back to Egypt. He might have better luck getting a job in the field of archeology there. He still had friends there, too, people who could put in a good word for him.
It was about an hour after lunch when Daniel heard the approach of a car. Even before he saw it come into sight, he knew who was in it. He walked down the steps and waited for the vehicle to come to a halt.
"I see that I was right," he remarked as Jack, Sam and Teal'c got out of the car.
"Right about what?" Sam asked, happy to see him. Daniel caught her eyes for a brief moment, then looked away.
"That if you knew where I'd gone, you wouldn't be able to leave me be. Actually, it was Jack that I knew wouldn't, but I figured that you and Teal'c might come along with him."
"Well, Daniel," said Jack, "if I had known that you were coming to my own cabin, I'd have invited myself along."
"Which would have defeated the whole purpose of me coming here."
"I wasn't even aware that you knew where the colonel's cabin was," Sam said. "I know you've never been here before."
"He mentioned once that it was around a mile from Silver Creek Junction, so all I did was ask some people there for directions."
Jack studied the archeologist closely, noting that the man appeared to be a lot more relaxed than when they saw him last. "So, Daniel, have you been having fun?"
"Well, I wouldn't exactly call it fun, but it has been relaxing," he paused ever so slightly, "for the most part. I do, however, wish that you'd told me there are no fish in the lake. I'd have saved myself a lot of money and not gotten all that gear."
"So you did go fishing. Sweet."
"If that's what you call putting a line in the water, then just sitting there until moss grows on you."
Sam looked at Jack. "Why do you keep coming here to fish if there are no fish?"
"Well, I don't know that for sure," the colonel said defensively. "I might be surprised someday. Besides, fish aren't important to fishing."
"No. It's all about the act of fishing."
The other three stared at him as if he was delusional.
"So how did you find me?" Daniel asked.
"Actually, it was you buying the fishing gear that made me figure it out," Jack replied.
Daniel looked at the grey-haired man for a long, silent moment. "You actually went to the store to find out what I bought?"
"We were worried about you," Sam said.
Daniel's eyes met hers again. For a brief moment, she saw a look of guilt and shame, then he looked away.
"I appreciate that you were all worried, but, as you can see, I am alive and all in one piece. You wouldn't have had to come all this way to check on me."
"Do you want us to leave?" Sam couldn't keep the hurt out of her voice.
Daniel's gaze was now turned to the ground. "I did come here to be alone." Before anyone could say anything in response, he added, "But you've come all this way, so you might as well at least stay for the rest of the day and tonight."
Jack's gaze sharpened, having caught two words in particular. "At least?"
Daniel merely shrugged. He looked at the car, which he saw was a rental. "Did you fly in?"
"Yep. Not commercial, though. I borrowed a friend's Cessna."
Jack, Sam and Teal'c got their bags out of the car and carried them into the cabin. Sam looked about.
"This is nice, bigger than I imagined. How many bedrooms?"
"Two," Jack replied. "We three guys will have to bunk in together."
Sam couldn't stop herself from thinking that, if she and Daniel had to share a bed, it wouldn't be the first time.
"Um, there's going to be an issue with dinner," Daniel said. "I don't have enough to feed all of us."
"That's not a problem," Jack responded. "I can go into town and get more. We'll get unpacked, then I'll go ahead and do that."
Sam put her stuff in the unused bedroom as Jack and Teal'c did likewise in the room in which Daniel had been sleeping. There were two double beds in the room. Since Teal'c didn't need a bed to Kel'no'reem, Daniel and Jack would each have one to themselves.
As everyone was coming out of their bedrooms, Daniel's and Sam's eyes met for a moment. The archeologist quickly looked away and hurried on past. Sam watched him sadly, not noticing the way that her C.O. was staring at her.
Jack invited Teal'c to come with him to town, and the Jaffa accepted.
"We'll probably be gone for a couple of hours or so," the colonel said. "I haven't been here in a while, and I'd like to say hi to some folks."
He and Teal'c got in the car and headed down the road.
"I believe that there is some issue between Daniel Jackson and Major Carter that needs resolving, O'Neill," Teal'c stated.
"Ah, so you saw that too, eh? That's why I invited you along and am giving them a couple of hours alone together. Hopefully, by the time we get back, everything will be straightened out. I do have to say, though, that I'm curious about what it's all about."
"I believe that, if Daniel Jackson is willing to do so, he will tell you eventually."
"Yeah. Until then, I'll just have to keep wondering."