Must Have Learned Them From A Million Stars

Author: Minervacat
Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Pairing: Daniel + Sam
Rating: R
Spoilers: Through the end of S8.
Summary: but i know -- i've got my looks and you've got yours. 6500 words.

Set between S8 & S9, about a year and a half before you can buy her things now.

Sam learned a long time ago that people aren't quantifiable, that they can't be subjected to the rules of mathematics, the laws of physics. Daniel tells her differently -- Daniel told her differently, Daniel will continue to tell her differently until one of them dies -- but that's because Daniel believes in sociology, in the idea that if he watches everyone around him for long enough, he will understand why they do what they do.

Sam has never believed in sociology. She believes in mathematics, in solving the unsolvable problem. She believes in the stars and the way the earth shakes in California. She stopped believing in people a long time ago, because other than SG-1, everyone she's ever loved has left.

Sometimes her teammates have left her, too, and she's never known if that was better or worse.

Daniel thinks that people will give him answers. Sam knows that everyone around her is a mystery, a complex bundle of secrets and desires and things they'll never say out loud. She knows more about her teammates than she knows about most people, but she doesn't always know why they do what they do. Why they've done what they've done. Daniel thinks there are black and white answers, and the right questions will get him the right answers.

She doesn't know if the right answers are the answers that he wants to hear.

The weeks before she leaves, she lies in her bed, alone, and tries to quantify all the people she knows. She can't do it -- they're all alone, one is the loneliest number, and no matter how hard Sam tries, she can't look at any of her teammates and make their one combine with someone else's to make two. Sometimes they come close -- once upon a time in another dozen different universes, she and Jack made things work out, and she's always known that he and Daniel were closer, in their own weird ways, than they were with anyone else.

Pete almost worked. She really did love Martouf. But she's got SG-1, and even if they're all single entities operating without hope of addition or multiplication, Sam isn't always so lonely.

Just late at night, trying to figure out how they all ended up alone. Just when she's alone.

The morning of the day before she leaves for Area 51, she has coffee with Daniel in the commissary. She's hopping a transport that leaves the SGC at the crack of dawn, because it was the only one all day that had enough space for her and all the stuff she hasn't already shipped out there, and Daniel is blearly and exhausted when he collapses into the seat across from her at 0900.

"You and Jack never did believe in sleeping until a civilized hour," he complains, but he complains to the cup of coffee she has waiting for him, not to her. His complaints are rote by now -- Sam makes Daniel get up to drink coffee with her far earlier than he wants to get up; Daniel complains. He might not even actually be awake while he's complaining at her right now.

"Nine is a completed civilized hour," she says.

"I was here too late last night," he says, and the sentence hangs unfinished in the air except that he doesn't need to finish it -- she's known Daniel long enough, she's known what it means to be part of SG-1 long enough, to hear the unspoken second half: because there was no one to go home to, because no one was waiting for me at the end of the day.

"You're here too late every night," she says.

Daniel won't meet her eyes when he says, "I'm not the one Jack always told to get a life outside of the Mountain." If it was coming from anyone else, it would have sounded mean -- but then, no one else would ever say that to Sam. Daniel's always gotten away with more -- she's always let him get away with more -- than most people.

"You're grumpier than usual this morning," Sam says.

"I feel like I'm breaking up the team," he says, and it takes Sam a long minute of silence to realize that it isn't an ungrounded segue.

"Oh, Daniel," she says. "No one's breaking up the team. We weren't going to stay together forever." He looks up from his coffee cup and meets her eyes, and she knows that Daniel hears the things that are left unsaid in her sentence: you already left us, once.

Daniel hums into his coffee, and he still won't look at her. She supposes she deserves it. She supposes they're both a little singed around the edges by now -- they're both a little fragile, likely to crumble under a friendly touch.

"Either you feel guilty that you're going to Atlantis," she says, "or you're angry at me for going to Area 51."

"Oh, Sam," he says.

Daniel doesn't say, neither, but he also doesn't say both. And it is a little of both, and a little neither one -- Sam knows how he feels. It isn't something they've talked about; it isn't something they're going to talk about.

There's a lot they've never talked about; SG-1 is bound together by their own secrets, the things they've seen and heard and survived together. It's how they've stayed a team all these years. Let someone keep as many secrets as Sam has kept for Daniel, as General O'Neill has kept for her, as Teal'c has kept for all of them, and the bonds left behind when the secrets are forgotten are stronger than the bonds that were there, before the secrets.

Once she tried to think of it in scientific terms -- covalency, the way that certain elements are drawn to others. Or gravity, the push and pull of human nature keeping all of them firmly on the ground, even as they spent their workdays traveling through the stars. No comparison ever came close, no metaphor ever explained the sometimes strange way that SG-1 orbited around each other. No person is -- was, would be -- as simple as gravity.

And, especially -- no people that Sam knew, or loved, were as simple as gravity. Everyone she loved was more complicated; everyone she loved was too complicated. She's closer to SG-1 than she is to her family -- than she is to Mark, than she was to her father -- and there are still a hundred thousand questions she won't ask, a hundred thousand secrets she keeps. She's kept secrets that she didn't know she was keeping until they spilled out. She's kept secrets for people who didn't know she was keeping their secrets.

And none of that covers the things she knows, the things she's learned, that should have been better left as secrets. Like the fact that, for all he will never talk about the time he spent being tortured by Ba'al and Sam would never ask him to, the General saw Daniel then. Daniel, Ascended, keeping General O'Neill company and refusing to intercede. It's always struck her as a cruelty simultaneously small and large. She's never questioned that O'Neill and Daniel were closer than the rest of them, if only (but it's never been only, and Sam knows that, too) because of the first mission to Abydos, and that he was the one Daniel explained everything to, after Kelowna -- she understands that.

She's never understood why Daniel would see O'Neill suffer like she knows he did and refuse to stop it. Or maybe she does understand; it's what they threw him out for, after all, refusing to stand by and see harm done to others. Daniel knew, when he interfered, that he was losing the gift he'd been given, and he did it anyway. That's a Daniel that Sam understands -- compassion for all living things, and a burning desire to do what's right, to know what the right thing to do is.

That he watched O'Neill's torture and did nothing -- she wonders if the company was worth anything at all to O'Neill, then, or if it only made things harder. She thinks it's a secret that should have been kept, that she should not know that Daniel loved O'Neill enough to stand beside him and do nothing. It's all complicated; Daniel is complicated, and O'Neill is complicated, and their relationship has always been complicated. It still is. It's nothing Sam will ever understand, and she's seen so many pieces of it that if she were a different kind of person, she could fit them together and see the whole picture.

But she can't, and it's a small, petty, awful thing, but she's always been jealous that Teal'c and O'Neill saw Daniel, the year that Daniel was gone and Sam missed him every single day, and Daniel never appeared to her. Daniel never thought she needed anyone so badly that he would risk his Ascension to keep her company.

She's leaving, and Daniel's leaving, and Teal'c and O'Neill are already gone. They're breaking up the team for good, and Sam still has questions without answers, right or wrong.

Sooner or later, everyone disappoints her. Even people she loves. Even herself.

She doesn't want to leave angry about things she doesn't understand, so instead she just says, "Oh, Daniel."

Sam knows that it's a compliment that Daniel didn't come and see her when he was Ascended -- that he believed she could cope on her own. That he never saw her as alone, as lonely, as she saw herself, and that's a compliment, too, but it doesn't mean she wasn't lonely. It doesn't mean that she didn't miss Daniel while he was gone; it doesn't mean she won't go out to Area 51 and be lonely, because without the team -- without all of the team -- she's always lonely.

Sometimes she's lonely even with the team. Daniel is watching her with an expression that's all too familiar; he has his hands wrapped around the coffee mug, and his face is somewhere between concerned and affectionate. Sam looks down at her own hands and then back up at Daniel. All his expressions are as familiar as the backs of her hands. She knows him that well. She knows what his looks mean, whether they're directed at her or at anyone else.

"I'm not angry," Daniel says, and his face tells her that he's telling the truth. Sam isn't angry, either -- at least, it's not all anger. It's complicated, just like everyone else -- there's no mathematical expression to compute the way she feels right now, or the way she felt ten years ago, or the way she'll feel next week.

There isn't anything she can say to that. There isn't anything she can say to anything, really -- no responses to everything that's been said in the last eight years, or the things that have never been said. She says, "Have dinner with me tonight."

"I have to pack," Daniel says, as though he knows that she wants to ask him questions that he probably doesn't want to answer. Sam wants to ask Daniel a million questions, because if she asks enough questions, maybe someday she will be able to graph the paths of their complicated lives. There's no normal function in the world that will track the ways they've moved, shifted, grown together, grown apart, over the years, but even though she knows that people cannot be explained in x + y and exponential equations, she still tries.

That's the unofficial motto of SG-1: get up and keep trying.

"Just dinner, Daniel," Sam says. It's been a year since the whole team went out together -- the General and Daniel may well have had dinner together after his promotion, but if they did, she didn't hear about it, and Jack had enough trouble keeping his bias hidden, tamped down, distilled, when they were on base, when they were under his command. He said that his promotion wouldn't change the fact that they were and always would be SG-1, but it had, and Daniel had not felt that loss as keenly as Sam had.

Daniel had left them over and over again; Sam had always been the one who stayed. It hurt, that she was always the one who stayed, alone.

At least, she didn't think he'd felt it like she had.

Her coffee cup is empty, and she doesn't know what she thinks anymore. She's lost in her own head, trying to make sense of things that have never made sense, and sitting across the table from Daniel, drinking coffee like they have a hundred thousand times before, she doesn't know anything anymore. Sitting in the commissary, watching Daniel try to find excuses, Sam thinks, we're breaking up the team, and it feels like my fault.

Daniel doesn't find another excuse. "All right," he says. "Will you be in your lab, or home?"

"Lab," she says.

"I'll drive," Daniel says. "Six?"

"Sure," Sam says.

"I'll see you then," he says, and he squeezes her shoulder as he passes her, coffee cup still in hand. All the things she's never been able to quantify seem suddenly huge and awful -- incomprehensible and impossible, things she's lost and they've lost and the whole world has lost. Eight years, and she's always welcomed the unknown quantities that made up their lives at the SGC, because she had the team, and the people around her were always more important than the things that happened to those people, to her. Today Daniel is more of a variable than he's ever been before, and Sam thinks that it's nothing Daniel's done -- he's the same as he's ever been, heart on his sleeve and carefully, cautiously guarded all at once.

Sam doesn't recognize herself; she doesn't recognize the filter she's seeing Daniel through.

He's not a stranger, but she is.

She sits in the commissary for another half an hour -- a Marine who helped her pack last week stops by and asks her about her transfer, Carolyn Lam stops and reminds Sam that she needs an exit physical before Carolyn will transfer her medical records. Sam makes small talk with the Marine, and nods at Carolyn. She misses Janet -- she's missed Janet every minute of every day since Janet died.

If she told Daniel about that, he would have an explanation: she'd suffered so much grief, so many times over, in such a short period of time. It's normal. It's routine. Sam is sure it is, but it goes back farther than Janet, runs deeper than losing her father and her friend and nearly losing the whole world she'd come to know and love and live in.

Daniel has always categorized his grief. She's always known this, because it's how Daniel copes. That's another thing they all know about each other: the griefs, the loves, the triumphs -- the way they cope. The way they stand up and keep going, the things they do so that they can stand up and keep going.

Daniel categorizes his grief; Teal'c copes in meditation and action. Early on, the General drank his grief, and now he wears it bound tightly beneath the uniform his rank requires of him. She doesn't know which is better for him; neither, she thinks.

She can't quantify herself. She has to fight to step back and see her teammates with an objective eye; she can't get that far from herself, and she doesn't know if she wants to.

She packs the last of her boxes, the last of the things that haven't already been shipped, two and three boxes at a time as she no longer needed them here, to Nevada. She could get the Marines to help her, but there's a comfort in doing it herself -- a million memories caught in a million pieces of equipment, a million scorch marks on lap tables and craters hacked into walls by accidents both happy and sad. She sits in her lab with the door open, boxes at her feet, and closes her eyes and listens to the heartbeat of the Mountain rumbling through the hallways in the sounds of boots on concrete, voices low in gossip.

You come to the SGC for reasons that are entirely your own -- and she knows that all of them, all of SG-1, came here in grief, in a need to do something rather than just sit there and let things happen to them, always action before thought -- and you stay until you go.

When she accepted their call, she thought she'd stay forever.

Things change. People change. The world keeps spinning, and mostly it keeps spinning because of things they've done.

She takes a shower in the locker room and puts street clothes on, and when she bursts into tears standing under the pounding water, Sam can almost reach out and put her finger on the reason why.

But not quite.

She doesn't understand people that well yet. She doesn't understand herself that well.

Daniel looks harried when he stops by her lab to pick her up -- circles under his eyes and a tuft of hair sticking up at the back of his head. He hugs her when he comes in, before she can even get up from her stool, one arm wrapped tight around her shoulders, and Sam turns and presses her face against his shirt.

Daniel twists down, presses his face against her hair, and they stand -- sit -- there, quiet, for a long minute. "I'm sorry," he says.

"For what?" Sam says. She's curious, genuinely curious, because there's about a dozen things that Daniel could be apologizing for and she's never expected to hear any of those apologies -- and because outside of those things (I'm sorry for dying, I'm sorry for leaving you all alone, I'm sorry I didn't know that I was the one who held SG-1 together -- because he always had been, and while he was gone, he came to the General and he came to Teal'c and he tried to hold them together, but he missed one link, and it's sticking in Sam's chest, this week, while they're all gone already, all getting ready to leave), she can't think of anything he's done.

"I'm sorry I was so cranky this morning," Daniel says.

"You're cranky every morning, Daniel," she says. "It wasn't any different today."

She thinks about all the non-verbal cues she's learned over the years; the way Daniel pinches the bridge of his nose, the way O'Neill says things that he doesn't mean and knows they'll hear the things he did mean. She keeps thinking about the way she's always thought that she understood her teammates, the way she's always thought they understood her, and as long as they were a team, she supposes that was true.

Take the word team away, and Sam doesn't understand anything. That's happened before -- happened while Daniel was gone. They were still SG-1, and they were still a team in the eyes of everyone above them, but they weren't a team, not the way she'd gotten used to.

She's going to have dinner with Daniel, and she thinks there are still too many things they've left unsaid. They're done, as a team, for good. There are things they need to say, things she needs to say, but they've never been said for a lot of good reasons. Sam knows Daniel better than anyone in the world -- except the General, except Teal'c, and better than she knows herself -- and she doesn't know if she can, if she will, say the things she thinks she needs to say.

They've gotten along well with silence, all these years, because they didn't need to say anything for the rest of them to know; eight years, and their silences were never silent.

She wonders if there's a time to stop being silent. She wonders if Daniel is thinking about the same thing.

Daniel says, "Well," and Sam hears, thanks for being kind.

"Dinner," she says. "We're going to have dinner, somewhere out in the real world. It'll do you good to breathe old fashioned fresh air on Earth before you go off to another galaxy."

Daniel snorts, and says, "It'll do you good to get some old fashioned fresh air before you move into your lab in Nevada and never leave it."

"I'm not a plant, Daniel," she says. "I don't need sunlight to live."

"Aw, Sam," he says, and tightens his arms around her shoulders again. "I'm going to miss you."

"I know," she says. "Come on. Dinner." She can't bring herself, yet, to say that she'll miss him -- she will. She misses Teal'c and O'Neill already, and she will miss Daniel the most because Daniel was always the one most likely to leave, to find what he was looking for and stay when he found it. They're all still tied to their lives as they were at the beginning, still held down by loss and sacrifice and the things they've shared, but Sam thinks, leaning against Daniel's warm, strong chest, that Daniel is the one of them most likely to cut the strings, to get lost in another galaxy and stay lost.

She wouldn't blame him; when O'Neill went to Washington and Teal'c went to Dakara, she asked for the assignment to Area 51 before Daniel chose to go to Atlantis, because Sam didn't want to be the one that was left behind.

If she was going to be left behind, she was going to make that choice herself.

Dinner is something that normal people eat; after 8 years, Sam is hardly used to eating dinner at the time the rest of the world prescribes for dinner. She eats when she's hungry, and sometimes it's breakfast time and sometimes it's four in the morning. All her research says there's no such thing as gate-lag, but if you leave a planet in broad daylight and stumble back into the darkness of the Mountain at 2 a.m. on Earth, eventually you learn to forget about living a normal life.

There's no such thing as normal in her life -- in any of their lives -- and it only took her eight years to figure that out. She hears O'Neill in her head: for such a smart broad, Carter, you sure are dumb sometimes.

But it's never stopped them all from wanting something normal.

Daniel drives, because her car is already in Nevada; she's been living on base since the first truck full of books and equipment and volatile experiments left last week. She fiddles with all the radio presets that she knows by heart -- NPR, the college station, a crackly station broadcasting from out west, playing old cry in your beer country songs -- and stares out the window. Eight years, and suddenly she's got nothing to say to Daniel; silence again.

They go to an Italian place that Daniel likes. He orders wine, and she's grateful when it arrives because it gives her something to do with her hands. Sam's never been good at sitting still; there was always something she'd rather do than just sit, than just wait, than be still and silent and watchful.

She's always left the watching to Daniel. There's always been something better to do with her hands.

Sam means to say, I'm going to miss you, with her hands wrapped around the bowl of the wine glass. She means to say, It's time for us to all move on. Instead she says, "I've always wondered why you didn't come to see me while you were ... gone."

Because it's a secret language, the language they share -- a family of convenience, coincidence, and finally, later, choice. Because she's never understood people unless she asked questions, and they were always the wrong questions. She was awkward, as a kid -- she never knew the right thing to say, and as she got older, she still never caught the clues, but she got better at hiding it. The only people she's ever understood were Daniel, and Teal'c, and O'Neill.

Daniel taps his knuckles against his glass, the same way he taps a pencil against his teeth when he's stuck on a translation, and just looks at her. It's a look Sam knows, the look Daniel wears when he wants to have an answer for them and doesn't. She says, "I'm sorry," and thinks about the fact that they've spent the day apologizing for things that should have been said years ago, their last day as teammates apologizing for all the wrongs they've accepted as fact over the years.

She thinks about all the looks Daniel's given her over the years: the excited looks, collaborating over something in his office, her lab; the looks of naked fear; the looks of defiance he raised to every System Lord they ever encountered.

She knows his looks as well as he knows hers.

"I don't know," he says, and the waiter who's been hovering disappears again, into some shadowy corner. Sam thinks that the waiter must think they're breaking up, or getting back together, or somewhere in between, and the way they look to outsiders is never the way they've looked to themselves.

They've all lived double lives; triple lives, even. The lives that other people thought they lived, the ones that they did live, the ones that they all wanted to live. The lives that they wanted to find, when they stepped through the event horizon, over and over and over again.

Every conversation is a double-edged sword, everything they say to one another fraught with too many meanings, and which meaning has ever been the right one?

People are complicated. SG-1 is complicated. They always have been, and breaking up the team doesn't change that.

"I don't know," Daniel says again, and Sam swallows half her glass of wine in a single gulp. It warms straight down her chest, and she almost reaches a hand across the table to Daniel. He sounds lost, the way he did when he came back, when they all got a second (a third, a ninth, a 54th, because if nothing else, they got a hundred thousand tries to make it right) chance. "I really don't, Sam. You know that -- I don't remember most of it. Just pieces, like all those memories belong to someone else and I've just been told stories. I only know -- because they told me."

"I was angry," Sam says, and she was. But more than that she was hurt, and they'd spent that year as walking wounded anyway, she didn't need anything more. "I missed you."

Those sentences don't go together -- don't mean the same thing. Two sides to a coin, and it's always been about the choices they made, the ones they didn't make, the ones that were made for them.

Daniel, who has always been so good with words, good with words where the rest of them always failed, sits across from her, speechless.

Everything that Sam has learned -- in her life, in her research, in all her time with the Stargate program -- is floating up through her mind today, this week, this month. There's always been something about saying good-byes; she's always faced with regrets she didn't know she had until she has to say good-bye to something. To someone.

And she knows all the sorts of speechlessness that exist: of awe, of shock, of horror, of fear, of shame. Daniel's silence is none of those. He isn't angry with her; he looks sad, and tired, and Daniel has always, always worn a hint of excitement, a hint of looking forward, even at the worst time. He looks at her and she sees the rest of their lives, written as something to be discovered and to be loved in being discovered, across his face.

"I suppose," he says, and then stops, picks up the bottle of wine, and tops off her glass, and then his own. "I don't know, Sam, and if I had an answer, would you want to hear it?" There's laughter in his voice, and she knows what he's implying. She's enjoyed arguing with Daniel as much as she's enjoyed working beside him, with him.

There's another thing she missed while he was gone: someone to engage her in the way that Daniel always had.

"Why did we never fall in love?" she says, and realizes that they've forgotten to order dinner. She's half drunk, and Daniel's flushed, the tips of his ears bright red.

"I don't know," Daniel says. "I don't know a lot today, I guess. And I think we did, Sam -- we all did. In our own ways, all of us with each other. There're theories about close group work like we've done."

Sam's never thought of that. She says, "I never ..." and Daniel laughs.

"I hadn't, either, but I found an article in my office about it," he says. He's still toying with his wine glass, a line of defense between Sam's questions and the things he's been thinking, the things he doesn't want to say. Sam can't turn her brain off, can't stop thinking about the ways that she knows all her teammates so well, from defense mechanisms to the way they drink their coffee (Daniel, black and strong and any way he can get it, instant or freshly ground, it doesn't matter). "I must have thought about it at some point, because I saved the article, but I don't remember."

"Are you still," she says, and she doesn't finish the sentence because she knows he knows that she means, not remembering things from before you died.

"No," he says, suddenly solemn. "I mean, well, yes -- but honestly, Sam, you've been in my office. The article was from 1998. Who knows how long it's been there? I've stopped worrying, mostly, if it's things I've forgotten because it's human nature to forget about things like sociology research or it's things I've forgotten because of the time I was gone."

The waiter is hovering again; Sam orders linguine with clam sauce, Daniel orders lasagna, and she's suddenly starving. Nothing's changed -- she still forgets to eat, Daniel is still scatterbrained except about the things he cares about. And he cares about her, all his attention focused on her face even when she drops her head to avoid his gaze.

"I always wanted to matter," Sam says, quiet, because she's never said it out loud before now, and who better to say it to than Daniel, who lost his entire life, more than once, and keeps trying to save the world despite it.

Daniel says, "Oh, Sam," and puts his wineglass down so he can reach out and wrap her hand in his.

There's so much they're never going to talk about, and so much that Sam knows is better left untouched -- but it feels like a disservice to the team, to everything they've weathered together, to at least not acknowledge it, and if she doesn't, no one else will. It's how they've survived; knowing each other's expressions, private hurts, wounds not just physical but also of the heart, but never speaking about any of it.

The restaurant is almost empty, and their food appears while they're still sitting in silence, Daniel holding Sam's hand; Sam holding on to Daniel like he's a lifeline. They've been her family, all these years, and there's been joy, as much joy as there's been pain, as much wonder as there's been fear, scattered between the secrets they've kept for each other.

"Eat your clams," Daniel says, and squeezes her hand. "You've mattered. We've all mattered."

Sam says, "But," and she doesn't know how to finish the sentence. Daniel squeezes her hand again before he digs into his lasagna.

The linguine is good. Another thing that Sam's forgotten, over the years: sometimes people eat because it tastes good, because it's more about pleasure than about not keeling over when you've been in a lab for 18 straight hours, or running from people who really, really want to shoot you in the ass and string you up to sacrifice you to the Goa'uld.

Daniel has marinara sauce on his chin and he's staring at her thoughtfully, fork dripping with pasta and cheese paused in mid-air. "You think too much, Sam," he says.

"That's gold, coming from you," she says.

Daniel says, "Touché," and the fork gets halfway to his mouth before he pauses again and says, "You know, in a hundred years, we'll all be famous."

In a hundred years, their work will finally be declassified, and all the papers that Sam's written for the pleasure of knowing that she's right and everyone else is wrong, for the pleasure of the numbers which made sense when nothing else did, they'll all be splashed across the covers of every news magazine, every respectable peer-reviewed journal, every tiny scientific press in the country.

She'll matter, then -- but Daniel's right, they've mattered now. It's never been about recognition; there's been a dozen things more important than recognition, things that have kept them stepping through the gate for all these years. Fear. Curiosity. Family.

Sam knows as well as anyone that there are a million ways things could have gone differently; people aren't quantifiable, and they've seen too many alternate universes to ever believe that people could be. No version of herself has ever made all the same decisions that she's made. Human nature's too strange and unbalanced for that.

Daniel says it in such a casual way that it startles her, though. "Huh," she says, and he laughs, and tips his glass in her direction with the hand that isn't holding a fork dripping with lasagna.

"No perspective," he says smugly. "That's the problem."

"Too much perspective," she shoots back. "When you've seen the universe in all its glory, you forget about CNN."

"Not me," Daniel says. "Jack's always been obsessed with the news networks. I think he was looking for alien sightings. Or stories explaining what happened all those times we almost destroyed the Earth."

"I never almost destroyed the Earth," Sam says.

"Not without help from the rest of us," Daniel says. Sam's warm and tipsy from the wine, and all the time she's been thinking, she's been eating, too, apparently, without thinking about it, because her plate is half empty -- she thinks about automatic responses, the way they all look for danger out of the corner of their eyes, still, now, at home, in safe spaces, after all these years. Put food in front of someone who's hungry and they'll eat.

Put a choice in front of Daniel and he'll make a sacrifice; put a problem in front of Sam and she'll try to solve it with science.

Put the world in front of SG-1, and they'll try their level best to save it.

She wanted something more, today; they've broken up the team and she thought that things would change when they weren't all standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the gate ramp anymore. But things don't change, they never do and never have, and she and Daniel are still talking in circles but saying everything they need to. Secrets will always stay secret; O'Neill will call her office twice a week and leave abusive voicemails that tell her to get a life.

They stayed together as long as they did because they still had to work to do, and somehow Sam had missed the point when they all decided to scatter to the four points of the universe -- somehow, she'd thought they were breaking up the team because there wasn't any work left to do, but even while Daniel was hurt, and angry, that O'Neill left them for Washington, he and Teal'c saw what it took her weeks to realize, suddenly, with a forkful of linguine with clam sauce balanced in her hand.

They stayed together because there was still work to do; they're all leaving because there's still work to do, and they can't do what they need to do as a team anymore.

It's exactly the same way it's always been.

"If we're not a team anymore, does Murphy's Law still apply?" she says.

Daniel is frowning at the dessert menu. "Tiramisu or cannoli?"

"Tiramisu," she says. "Think we'll get where we're going without incident?"

"Tiramisu, and two forks," Daniel tells the waiter. "Do you expect that we will?"

"One day I'll teach you not to answer a question with a question," Sam says. She pours the last of the wine into her glass and leans back in her chair. Daniel's face has gone soft, his eyes focused somewhere in the distance, and he's tugging on his ear like he does when he's thinking.

"Probably not," Daniel says, distractedly. "We haven't traveled in a straight line, have we?"

"Metaphorically or literally speaking?" she says. "Well, neither, really, I suppose."

The waiter puts the plate down, and Daniel's face slides back into focus. He smiles at her, passes her a fork. "Keep passing open windows," Daniel says cryptically. Sam digs her fork into the dessert and waits, because Daniel will always explain. "It's what we do -- we just keep doing."

"Metaphorically and literally speaking," Sam agrees. "But what have windows got to do with it?"

"Mmmm, I don't -- it dates back to the Hapsburg Empire," Daniel says, through a mouthful of tiramisu. "If you pass the open windows and don't jump out, you survive. Pass them, avoid killing yourself."

"Really? That's awfully morbid."

"Ah, no," Daniel says sheepishly. "I stole it from a John Irving novel, but I've always liked it. The phrase. The sound of it."

Daniel's always liked the sounds of words; the way they feel in his mouth, the way they look on the page. But there's something to the phrase -- keep passing open windows -- and the fact that Daniel's admitted to shamelessly pilfering someone else's words that makes Sam laugh. She laughs, and Daniel continues to look sheepish and shovel tiramisu into his mouth like a garbage disposal, and then he laughs, too.

"Don't change," Sam says.

"Oh, Sam, we've all changed," he says. "This life, it's changed us all. And for the better."

They have changed -- and it's funny, another condition of human nature, the more things change, the more they stay the same. She's sure that Daniel could say it in another dozen languages, if she asked.

She almost asks.

Daniel says, "I'm going to eat this by myself if you don't help me."

She'll send messages to Daniel through the databurst; they'll pry him away from the Ancient database in Atlantis long enough to come home on the Daedalus, long enough to spend another trip at Jack's cabin catching fish that didn't exist before they changed the timeline.

She'll never understand people, and she'll always understand her teammates.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


author's notes: title and summary from mike doughty, "looks". thea and my otp did beta duty. ♥

feedback always welcome.

stargate: sg-1 fanfiction