"But..." Pete started, staring at the ring that was neatly tucked back into the ring box. Lifting his eyes he looked at Sam. "No?"
Sam sighed. She struggled not to do something physical with her anxiety. She had set in her mind how things ought to happen when she would tell Pete her final answer. "Pete, it's no. I can't. It just is not... right."
"It's him isn't it?" he spat, rising off the bench.
"No," Sam said softly, placing a hand on his arm. "It's not him." She could not even say his name. She closed her eyes and shook her head, this time forcing the name out, "I am not in love with General O'Neill."
"Well at least you have admitted it," Pete said hotly. "You know, I never thought I would hear that coming from you. All the couple sessions and talks, I thought he would always be the man in the wings, you wishing I was him." Pete sat down, turning the ring box in his hand. "Who is it?"
"That I'm not ready to say."
"So there is someone else." He stated it as a fact and watched Sam nod her head slowly. She slowly lifted her eyes off the box and they bore into his. "Has there always been this other person?"
"Sort of," Sam said. "It's been a progression. I mean it's sometimes odd to look at him and know..." she paused, "to know that you have deprived them of the knowledge that they are loved."
Pete's eyes softened. "Well I am glad that I had gotten to know a wonderful woman who loved me..." he drew out the word waiting for Sam's acknowledgement.
"I'm sorry it has to ends this way, I really am. But as you said, I don't want this looming in the shadows during our marriage. It would not have been fair for you," Sam said softly.
Pete stood, helping Sam stand and then wrapped both arms around her and said, "Thank you for letting me know you love me, even if it was not meant to last forever."
Sam smiled weakly as Pete walked away, away from her. She pulled her light sweater closer and started for her own car, hoping that she was making the right decision.
She drove to Jack's house first, not sure if she was really doing it all in the right order. She wanted to tell Daniel, but Jack also deserved to know. She never saw good outcomes when she calculated the risks of her coming with him to tell Jack. But she would have liked his strength. She circled Jack's house once more.
Slowly she walked up to the back of the house, smoke coming from outside revealing that he was out there grilling, probably with a beer in hand. Coming around the corner, she stood watching him. She watched him flip another burger and pour some of the beer on the meat and flames. He would probably ask if she wanted a piece.
"Hey Jack, there is something wrong with your icemaker," a female's voice said, coming out of the house. The woman walked across the deck, back to Sam who could just see over the deck floor and through the slats. "I hope you did not want real iced tea. It's more like tea."
Jack smiled warmly, extending an arm to her and pulling her to him. "I don't think that icemaker ever worked. I think I have every scientist look at that thing and it has them all baffled."
"Amazing. They can work the Stargate, but not an icemaker?" the woman asked.
"Well, they seem to work better without instructions. I tend to like that approach myself."
"Hmm so you are trying to tell me that charred thing is a burger?" the woman said, wrapping an arm around Jack. "Am I supposed to eat it?"
"Yes. It helps to be surprised with the taste. It has a kick to it ya know," Jack said as he kissed the woman.
Sam pulled back and turned back to her car, thinking that maybe it would go better now that she knew Jack had company - a woman - at his house. Maybe her equations and calculations on how he would react would be minimal. She had spent too much time already trying to come up with how she would tell both of them, but she knew there really was no set way to go about breaking the news of love to your best friend.
She drove to his house, the newly purchased home which Sam had absent mindedly helped with. Daniel had stopped looking for input and house hunting, and truth be told, stopped coming around as often, once she and Pete really got involved. She had been to his house a few times, the house warming, a dinner, even one of her "I miss Pete" talks. Sam shook her head as she thought about how she went to the man she was denying she needed. He was her best friend, they talked about everything, but suddenly as his house came into view, she wondered how he would react now.
"Sam," he said surprised as he opened the door.
"Hey Daniel," Sam said, smiling as a grin graced his lips. "I need to ... just talk I guess."
"Sure, you want to come in?"
She nodded and passed him into the hall. "Pete and I broke up today."
"I'm sorry, Sam," he said sadly, genuinely sorry. Sam's heart soared; she had made the right decision.
"Oh don't be. I'm fine, I can now be free... to finally listen to my heart," Sam said. "It's Pete who took it hard."
Daniel looked at her confused, and she knew the hard part was coming. Taking his hand she led them to the couch, sitting down and facing him, she steadied herself. "Long time ago I had this dream of how my future husband would be able to capture my heart without me really having much to say about it. A bit childish I know, but it is something I still think about. There have been many guys who have been sort of interesting choices, but never fitting into my dream. Jonas was a complete looney, a few Air Force brats were just creepy, and now Pete.
"None fit into my white wedding world. Nothing seemed to reflect what I saw my parents have. I could not sit for hours and just talk about nothing unless I wanted to bring something into the conversation with any of them." Sam paused, "No one had captured my heart. Or so I thought. You see, me breaking up with Pete would have come eventually; I cannot live outside my work for very long with a man who wants me to be in the private sector. It took some kind words from a friend for me to stop fooling myself."
Daniel looked at her, thinking back to the mission of a few days ago. They had gotten into a small argument, Sam left, and he had chased her, stopping in time before she plunged into a river thousands of feet below. "I'm sure you will be very happy."
The comment was a brush off of sorts, and stung Sam. "Well I hope so. I mean I am trying to finally just listen to my heart."
"You don't need to be here talking to me," Daniel said, getting up.
Sam stopped him. "What are you talking about?"
"You have been thinking about everything but work, when you are it is not for long, and on missions you are becoming over protective. You need to make yourself happy Sam," he said holding her shoulders.
"I am trying." Realization came to her as she searched his eyes. "Oh. OH! Gawd Daniel! He's my superior - commanding - officer! Jack is ... is..."
"The safe bet," Daniel said softly.
"I don't want the safe bet! I am tired of feeling like I need to walk on eggshells. Yes, Jack is the safe bet, he has told me so himself, but that is... that is not what I can live with," Sam said. "You see someone did steal my heart without my say. He did it so slowly, so covertly; that it took me almost stepping off a 2000-foot cliff to realize my heart was already in a safe place. It was in the hands of the man I have slowly, covertly fallen in love with myself."
Daniel stood silent, having dropped his hands and stuffed them into his pockets. "You're leaving aren't you?" He sounded like a little boy, making her heart break.
"Not if I can help it." Sam brought one hand up to his face and lightly traced his jaw, stepping forward, bringing their bodies within inches of one another. "Daniel, you have been my best friend, confidant, late night coffee drinker/donut runner. We have had our share of smiley pancakes at IHOP, brain-storming sessions we were sure we lost a good portion of brain cells over, and had the blue jell-o fights in the mess hall. You have slowly, covertly stolen my heart in a way I only hope to have slowly, covertly stolen yours."
Sam bit her lip as she waited, willing for him to say something, do something. She opened her mouth to ask him to speak, when he laid a finger over her lips, stopping her. "You are the only woman to ever have come close to describing how I feel. Not that I would expect anything less. Sam... I have happily given my heart to you, and I am glad that I am not the 'safe bet.'"
Before she could even take another breath to speak, he took it away as he closed the gap and kissed her. She flung her arms around his neck as she felt his strong ones go around her waist and pull her closer. The kiss seemed like eternity, but as they pulled away, Sam felt like it had only been a few moments.
"You have always been the dangerous one, Daniel," Sam said. Seeing him try to figure out what she meant, she laughed. "When I met you, you were married, then Sha're was kidnapped then was killed. You were grieving for a long time, and I turned to someone who I thought was available. For a while it was a distraction, but my heart was already yours, and I was just denying it. You are the dangerous bet, but I am willing to gamble and take the plunge."
"Well I think that would be Jack. He will be quite intrigued in what has just taken place," Daniel said as he pulled back. "Have you already told him?"
"I was there, but I could not do it without telling you that I love you. Besides, he had company," she said with a conspiratorial tone. "I don't think Jack will be too heart broken knowing I am not playing the game any more."
"You surprise me every moment," Daniel said. Kissing her nose, he smiled. "We will have many more years you can surprise me, just you see ColonelDoctor Samantha Carter."
"Did I hear a proposal in there Doctor Daniel Jackson?" she said playfully as they made their way out to his car.
"Not yet. We first have to survive the 'safe bet' and his mystery woman. Then a nice dinner, maybe a movie, and then, if the date goes well, maybe something more."
Sam smiled and for the first time in days gave a real laugh. She took his hand, the hands that held her heart and were patching all the holes, and felt ready to take the plunge 2000 feet below.