Title: To Care and Not to Care
Author: Isabelle Ashe
Category: smarm, Sam/Jack UST, Daniel/Janet
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Meridian, Abyss
Summary: Daniel hangs around a little longer after Abyss.
Disclaimer: DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Author's Notes: I just saw Abyss for the first time, and I was a little disappointed because Daniel seemed kind of callous and emotionless, so I decided to fix that! The title is an allusion to T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" (great poem!!!). The whole line is "Teach us to care and not to care / Teach us to sit still." Also, this is my first Stargate fic, so send me lots of feedback to let me know what you think.


To Care and Not to Care

Jack can't see me anymore, but I haven't actually gone. I have a nagging feeling that the Others think I've stayed too long and should get back to the more important (but frankly...and yes, it's actually me saying this...kind of boring) work of existing on a higher plane. But here in the familiarity of the SGC, and the infirmary, no less, I can't quite bring myself to leave. I chose my journey, and it's all for the better. I think I had you convinced there, Jack, and if I keep repeating it to myself, eventually I'll believe it, too. Don't get me wrong, being ascended definitely has its perks, but mostly I miss the people I left behind, even though I'm not supposed to.

Of course, my main temptation in hanging around the infirmary is to drop in on Janet. That has always been the big draw of the infirmary, and it makes my accident-proneness immeasurably easier to handle...or my former accident-proneness, I should say. There are advantages to not having a body. I snoop around a little bit and find her stretched out on the bed in the on-call room, having finally allowed herself some sleep now that Jack is settled. Although I've only actually appeared to Jack, I've been checking up on all my friends, but I have to be most careful when visiting Janet. The temptation to stay is simply too strong. We had so little time, and leaving her was undoubtedly the biggest sacrifice I made when I ascended. She is peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful, and I can't help but lean over her to try to give her a soft kiss. I might add, there are distinct disadvantages to not having a body. She murmurs and sighs a little bit in her sleep, and my hypothetical heartbeat quickens. Simultaneously, the alarms start going off in my head...get out now, Daniel, I tell myself, before Oma swoops in and gives you a good thrashing for being too attached. Damn right I'm attached, I think, casting one last glance on my sleeping beloved.

I figure before I go I'll check on Jack and Sam. She went to get him some water, but I'm sure she'll be back, sitting by his side while he sleeps. Or not. Usually when a guy has almost died of an ancient disease, had a snake put in his head, gone missing and been tortured to death over and over again, and finally made it back home, the rest of his team is pretty happy to see him. Jack is asleep, but he's all alone. I guess Teal'c had to kel-no-reem, and I don't suppose Jonas would necessarily hang around, but I'm pretty shocked that Sam's not here. Knowing instinctively that all must not be right with her, I float swiftly down the corridors of the SGC in search of her. An Oma- ish warning about rivers needing to flow independently of one another flits through my brain. Screw it, I think, my friends need me.

I checked her quarters, hoping maybe she had gone to sleep. Of course not. As I round the corner of the corridor her lab is in, I'm not surprised to see a light shining from under the door. She isn't working, though; she's just sitting hunched over her desk, her forehead resting on the heels of her hands. This is about as close as Sam gets to crying most of the time.

I materialize next to her, but she doesn't seem to notice. Oo- kay. "Hi, Sam," I say softly. That did it. Her head snaps up and she's out of her chair in half a second. She blinks at me for a moment and then rubs her eyes.

"I've really gotta get some more sleep," she mumbles.

"Uh, no, Sam, I'm really here."

"Daniel?" Her eyes widen as she stares at me.

"Yup." I can't hold back my grin.

"You're not a delusion?" Déjà vu. And can they really be so blind to the fact that they're made for each other?

"Nope, not a delusion. You know, that's exactly what Jack said. Of course, he decided to throw a shoe at me to test the theory." She pales a little.

"J- the colonel saw you?"

"Yeah. I, uh, visited him while he was back on that planet. Tried to keep his strength up between torture sessions." She grimaces, and I'm immediately sorry I said it. "I thought I could help him ascend, but he wasn't too keen on the idea." That draws a brief chuckle from her, but the pained look is back on her face a moment later.

"Ascend?" she asks. I nod. "You would have taken him away from me... us?" Her accusation is fairly effective, given the fact that he's back safe and well in the infirmary right now. I also notice her possessive slip, but I decide not to comment.

"At the time I didn't see any other way to save him. I guess I should have had a bit more faith in you."

"Yes, you should have. We don't leave our people behind." Jack's mantra. I don't have much to say in response to that. After a moment, she resumes speaking. "That's why he went back there, isn't it? Kanan, I mean. Once he blended with the colonel, he felt the power of his loyalty." She knows it's true.

"Jack's loyalty," I agree, then hesitate for a moment, "and Jack's love." Her back had been to me, but she whirled around instantly, her blue eyes moist and flashing.

"Don't go there, Daniel," she warns. Oh yeah, I'm going there. I'm going to the heart of why both of you are by yourselves right now and not together where you belong.

"The woman herself said that although she knew Kanan cared about her, she never dreamed how deep his love was. I'm guessing that Kanan himself didn't know how deep love could be until he experienced Jack O'Neill's love."

"Loyalty. For his team. For the people he's responsible for." Her voice is strained.

"Bullshit, Sam. Yes, Jack has loyalty for his team, but Kanan went back not out of loyalty for a team but out of love for a woman. A love he didn't know he had until he felt Jack's love for you." She looks like she's would haul off and slug me if I had a body to hit. I stay quiet, and she breathes deeply. I can almost hear her thinking, deciding what to say. When she looks back at me after pacing around a little bit, her face registers pain instead of anger.

"Then it really was all my fault. All of it." What? "I asked him to have the symbiote. God, Daniel, can you believe I had the gall to ask Jack O'Neill of all people to have a snake put in his head? I told him it was for the sake of the information Kanan had, that it would benefit the fight against the Goa'uld, but I had to pepper it with my sweetest 'Please, sir.' I didn't give a damn about the Tok'ra and their stupid mission. I just couldn't watch him die. And if what you say is true, that Kanan went back there essentially because of me, then we've crossed that line we've been dancing around for years. Our feelings have compromised our decisions."

She is crying now, and the anger has returned, manifesting itself in her sudden need to overturn every piece of disposable furniture in her lab. I feel so helpless as I watch her, wishing I had a body so that I could at least hold her and get her to calm down. Maybe interfering wasn't such a good idea.

"Sam!" I say sharply as she lunges for her desk with her laptop sitting on it. No matter how she feels now, she will hate herself in the morning if she destroys her work. My alarmed cry seems to have taken the fight out of her, and she sinks down to the floor, leaning up against the desk. I sit down next to her.

"It's not fair," she whispers, wiping tears from her eyes. From another person in another situation, her words might have sounded childish, but I could feel the real pain behind them. Suddenly she chortles a bitter laugh. "I always thought crossing that line would be better than this."

I offer her a wry smile in return. "Sam, I don't see what you mean by crossing lines and compromising decisions. Jack is alive and essentially well; if you hadn't convinced him to have that symbiote, he would be dead. Your decision saved his life, and his decision saved the life of the woman Kanan loved. Both good things, right?" After a moment's hesitation, she nods in assent. I continue, though I'm aware I'm on kind of shaky ground with what I'm about to say. "You know I think you and Jack should just screw the damn regs and be together. Life is too uncertain not to take advantage of the opportunities you have." The image of Janet's sleepy smile kissing me good morning flashes in my mind, and I have to swallow in order to keep my voice from breaking. Sam notices and looks at me with knowing sympathy. "But," I continue, "I also know that you and Jack have a lot more respect for the Air Force than I do." She nods but is visibly disappointed. "No matter what, though, Sam, you two need each other, in whatever capacity. Sometimes it doesn't take death for people to lose each other. Please don't let that happen." She looks thoughtful, and after a moment the corners of her mouth twitch up slightly.

"When did you get to be so smart?" she asks, the smile beginning to touch her eyes.

"Well, you know, I'd like to blame it on the whole ascension thing, but the Others don't seem to go in much for human relationships, so I guess that particular bit of wisdom is leftover plain old descended knowledge." I grin.

"Oh, god, Daniel, I miss you!" she says suddenly.

I open my mouth to spout the 'I've got my own journey' line, but realize I can't do it. "I miss you, too. And this," I say, gesturing around me, "all of this." The grin is gone, and I wait somewhat apprehensively, expecting Oma's lightning bolt to strike me. When nothing happens, I decide to go for broke. "How's Janet doing?" I ask softly. "And Cassie?"

"They're okay," she answers. "Cassie puts on a brave front, but she told me last week that she really misses you. I think she had started thinking of you as kind of a dad." I gulp, staring at the floor. Oh, Cass, I'm so sorry.

"And Jan?" I whisper when it seems like Sam isn't going to go on voluntarily.

"It's been hard for her," she admits. "But she is one of the strongest people I know. You'd be proud of her."

"She is strong," I agree. "I can't talk to her like this. Not yet, anyway. I'd never be able to make myself go back, but it wouldn't be fair to her if I tried to stay like this," I explain. Sam nods. "Speaking of which, I should probably get out of here before I get in trouble."

"But you'll come visit again?" she asks hopefully.

"I don't know," I admit. "Hopefully you won't need me again, but that doesn't mean I won't stop by to check in from time to time."

"Thank you, Daniel."

We smile at each other, and I disappear from view. I watch as she leaves her lab and walks back along the silent hallways to the infirmary. She pulls a chair up next to Jack's bed and after glancing around to make sure no one is watching, gently takes his hand in both of hers. His eyes flutter open, surprising her. She moves to let go of his hand, but he holds on.

"Hi, Carter. Thought you left," he says drowsily.

"I decided to come back. I thought you were supposed to be sleeping."

"I think I can sleep now."

I take that as my cue and ascend out of the depths of Cheyenne Mountain and of Earth itself. Soon I am aware of Oma Desala next to me. She doesn't seem exactly happy, but she is much less annoyed than I feared.

"This has been a strong test. You were in a position to change the direction their branches grow."

"Yeah," I agree, "but I just helped them see what they already knew."

The End

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