Disclaimer: Ooooooh! I wish they were mine. But they're not. So... No ownership. No money. No fame. No glory. No guts, either.

When Push Comes to Shove...

By Linda Bindner

Daniel stood on the front step when Pete opened the door that bright sunny Saturday morning in May. He looked...

Daniel! Sam called from the kitchen, looking cheery herself in spite of her father's recent death. Surprised to see her friend, especially so early on a weekend morning, she still had the presence of mind to turn down the burner under the pancakes that she was making for breakfast. When she was certain that the batter wouldn't burn, she joined the astonished Pete at the door to greet her teammate.

Daniel! Sam exclaimed yet again before her face fell into lines of concern. God! You look awful! She reached out to pull Daniel across the threshold without first ascertaining what Pete thought of the maneuver. Come in! she immediately ordered, too concerned about her friend's deathly appearance to care overly much about propriety. What..?

But Daniel managed to make himself speak before she could finish her question. I'm all right, Sam, he assured, then ran a hand through his hair, making the strands stand wildly on end in typical Jack O'Neill fashion. But I do need to talk to you, he said, contradicting his earlier assertion. He turned his tired eyes in Pete's direction. There was the light of apology in them when he said, It's about something that's classified, and I really need to talk to Sam about it, so... He didn't finish, just gazed at Pete out of eyes that were suddenly ten times more exhausted then they had been. Do you mind if I ask you to please leave for... an hour? he suggested.

Pete was flabbergasted by the request, though given Sam's work history, he shouldn't have been. He breathed quietly through his mouth while staring in sudden confused astonishment at Daniel.

The silence stretched out to the point that Sam was finally going to add her encouragement to Daniel's... after all, what could have happened at the SGC that had brought Daniel over to see her so early? And surely this had to do with the SGC... Daniel had said that it was classified...

But a belligerent expression quickly passed through Pete's brown eyes. Uh... He hesitated. Uh... He blinked. Uh... Then Pete turned back to gesture into the house behind him. We were about to have breakfast... pancakes... Maybe you would like to join us?

Daniel seemed puzzled by the request for just a moment, as if the way that Pete blatantly ignored his own entreaty had thrown him for a minute, but he recovered quickly given his clear state of exhaustion. Um... No... Thanks. But you don't understand. I said that this is classified...

Pete's belligerent attitude revved up a notch. And I say that Sam and I are getting married in a couple of months, and that we have no secrets from each other, and...

Sam gaped at Pete as he said that. Of course we have secrets! she blurted. It's my job! I could go to prison for telling you more about those secrets than I've already been authorized to...

Sam, Pete interrupted, his belligerence now peppered with patience, as if he and Sam had gone over this same ground in exhaustive detail. We shouldn't...

But Pete, Sam also interrupted. You know what working where I work is like, she protested. I...

I'm really sorry about this, but.., began Daniel when once again Pete's angry voice cut him off.

I've just about had enough of the secrets of the SGC, yours included. He poked Daniel in the chest with a not-very-friendly gesture as he spoke.

Sam gaped again, astonished at how rude Pete was behaving, and astonished even more at how quickly the behavior had transpired. Pete! she admonished with a little bit of her own anger mixed in with her surprised tone.

Daniel's good will, already on a much shorter tether than it normally was due to his severe exhaustion, snapped, and he pushed Pete's finger away from his jacket-covered chest. Still, he tried to reign in his mounting temper, for Sam's sake, if nothing else. Look, I don't want to be rude, but.., he began to say.

This is escalating awfully fast, Sam realized, still not quite sure what was happening or why, when suddenly Pete's anger grew exponentially to make him shake in the doorway. Swaying in front of Daniel, he asked, Just what the hell do you do all day in that damned mountain? What goes on that you can't tell me?

Nothing! Daniel instantly protested. His expression grew even more baffled as he continued, All I need to do is ask Sam a question that I can't ask over an insecure phone line, and I don't want to keep my work waiting until Monday morning! It's not that big of a deal! As he spoke, he leaned tiredly against the doorjamb, putting his foot on the threshold to keep from losing his balance in the emotionally fraught scene.

'Threat!' Pete's honed police skills screamed at him the second that Daniel moved his foot, and as a result he swiftly grabbed the linguist with an instinctual surge of strength showing in the lines on his heated face. The next thing that anyone knew, Pete's right arm was around Daniel's neck, pulling him down into a half-Nelson crouch while his left fist slammed into Daniel's stomach...

Sam instinctively winced as she watched Pete's arm aim for Daniel's softer stomach area, but she was still too far away from the pair of men to intervene. However, it didn't matter where she was standing, for the resounding thump that came when Pete's fist landed in the folds of Daniel's stomach was not the sound that they all expected to hear of flesh striking even softer flesh. Something more like a clang rang throughout the house, and Daniel raised his eyes to take in the form of an open-mouthed Pete shaking his left hand through the air, as if all the feeling had suddenly left his fingers and he was trying to shake them back to life.

Ouch! Daniel grimaced in some sympathy. He winced in mock pain. I bet that hurt! he exclaimed as Pete's arm fell away from its stranglehold on his shoulder, and he slowly straightened.

Sam was appalled at what had transpired on her front step. Not entirely sure what was going on, she still had the wherewithal to say to Pete, Let's get some ice on that before it starts swelling like a...

Daniel stopped her mad rush for the kitchen. Too late, he nonchalantly noted. He critically eyed Pete's quickly ballooning hand. That might be broken, he announced as he critically studied it. He eyed Pete and suggested, Better get to the ER and have it x-rayed, just to be sure.

Pete was still dancing and shaking his hand as if his life depended on it. What the hell have you got in there? he asked Daniel in an agonized tone. Rocks?

Daniel sent a fast, satisfied grin at the police officer. A magician never reveals his secrets, was all he would say in way of a reply. But he did pull down a coat from the hooks near the door, and dragged a set of car keys out of the pocket. Should have listened to me the first time. Now, if you're back in three hours, I'll be surprised. He stepped aside, clubbing Pete on the back as he induced him to hurry through the open door. Remember: ER. See you later.

And so, Daniel deftly traded places with Pete after throwing the jacket and keys onto the lawn. He was simply too tired now to spend time on being polite. He turned to regard a still stunned Sam. I've known you for eight years, he nonchalantly and tiredly began as he closed the door behind him. It's amazing how a guy can know me for eight months, and still think he can get away with being such a prick right in front of me...

Sam's eyes were still bugging straight out of her head. Not quite able to wrap her mind around what had just happened at her own front door, she zeroed instead on Daniel's... Daniel, what are you wearing around your stomach? she asked in incredulity. That didn't sound like any punch to a stomach I've ever heard!

Daniel gave a brief smile, then walked to glance out the window at the side of her door. Through it, he could see Pete climbing into the passenger seat of his car, while a man, probably Sam's neighbor... he could never remember precisely what Sam's neighbors looked like... climbed into the driver's seat and secured Pete's lap belt around him before they sped off into the morning.

Satisfied that they were gone, Daniel then turned around to explain his uncharacteristic attitude. He tiredly swiped once at his eyes, then undid his jacket, then the buttoned shirt he was wearing underneath the coat. He grinned slightly as he pulled away a rusty, scuffed piece of metal from the undershirt that it covered. An old mirror/tray thing that Jack and I found at a yard sale ages ago, he told her with a voice full of quirky, if tired, humor. It was right after our second mission to Abydos, and we had watched the movie Batman... trying to forget about what had happened, ya know... Jack really caught onto that scene where the Joker shoots Bruce Wayne, but Bruce has a small tray covering his chest... The bullet didn't even touch him. Jack thought that idea was so neat! So we looked the next week until we found a whole box of these, Jack heated them in his fireplace...

Sam gaped. In his fireplace! she yelled in disbelief. It's a wonder you guys didn't burn his house down!

We were really careful, Daniel explained, as if he were explaining everything to a small child that was in turn speaking to an enraged parent. Then he went on, When the metal was hot enough, Jack carried it with his grilling tongs to the curb outside his house, and pounded the edges until they curved just right to fit around our ribs. He settled the metal close to his stomach again, where it clearly wrapped around his chest bones. Just like that, and... he cooled the metal in his kitchen sink full of water, let it sit for an hour, and... voila... instant protection. Then Daniel blinked in hesitation, as if another thought had struck him. Personally, I kind of thought that Jack was a little into the protection thing a bit too much. Then he gave a disarming shrug. But... I was willing to stay out of his way while he had his fun. He shrugged again. Now with all that we've seen and been through over the last years, I understand where he was coming from. I borrowed this from him this morning before I came over here.

He knows you're here? Sam sharply questioned Daniel.

No, Daniel instantly told her. Jack's still at the base. He had to work all of last night. But... Here he mischievously grinned at her. I used my key to get into his house, then from there went into the basement where he keeps useless stuff like this tray, and... He gave a defensive snort as an expression of censure crossed Sam's face. Well, I didn't know what was going to happen this morning when I got here, he defended himself. And I've never really trusted your guy, pardon me for saying that, and... Daniel ran another aggravated hand through his hair, messing up his previous mess. Maybe Jack is rubbing off on me... soon, I'll be as paranoid as he is. Then Daniel sent a rueful look at the obvious dent in the metal that he'd had encased around his stomach. Looks like my instincts were right.

Sam instantly felt like she should come to Pete's defense, even as she was irritated and slightly appalled that she had a reason to defend his behavior in the first place. Look, Daniel, I don't know what came over Pete to make him act that way, and...

Daniel gusted a tired sigh. It's all right, Sam, he assured, still thinking of how Pete's hand was probably broken. He smiled, then amended, Well, it's not all right, but it's understandable. He is a cop with a cop's instincts, after all.

That is no excuse, Sam said, and stubbornly crossed her arms.

True. Daniel looked hesitant and unsure for a moment, then trained his blue-eyed gaze on the woman before him. I'd say that I've caused enough trouble for one morning and leave now, but I'm here to cause you more grief, I'm afraid, and I might just as well get it over with.

Sam's arms uncrossed as her mood moved from aggressive to anxious in a heartbeat. What is it? she asked, her hair raised on the back of her neck in spite of her attempts to remain calm. Is something going on at the SGC? Is it the General? Teal'c?

Daniel's smile ghosted across his face once again. No, he firmly assured. I don't mean to worry you. He took a turn around her living room. But that's exactly what I'm here to do, he said at last as he again ended up by her front door.

Sam was completely bemused by his speech. What's going on, Daniel? she asked in a soft, cajoling voice.

Daniel sighed. Then he gave a pointed look to the engagement ring she was wearing on her finger. I saw you the other day in the Control Room, he enigmatically stated.

This was no help to Sam. She gave a snort, then said, So? I'm always in the Control Room, and you always see me there. She shrugged and sent him a puzzled glance. So? she repeated.

Daniel sighed again. You don't understand, Sam, he said, trying to be coherent in his explanation. I saw you the other day in the Control Room just as Jack was leaving to go down and greet the Tok'ra delegation that had come to retrieve Jacob's ashes.

Still Sam was confused, unless he meant that he thought she should be more broken up and down-in-the-mouth about her father dying. But she had almost expected to hear that Jacob had died on a secret mission for the Tok'ra for... years. The fact that he had quietly slipped away like he had had been unexpected... in an expected way. She shook her head. I don't get it, Daniel, she finally announced. What..?

I saw you looking at Jack, Daniel firmly stated. In fact, I watched you purposefully. He excused his deliberate actions by adding, Things have been different since I got back from my ascension thing, and I wanted to know why.

So you spied on me? Sam asked, incensed.

Watched you, Daniel corrected. When the opportunity presented itself. I didn't spy, he negated.

Sam once again crossed her arms in controlled animosity. Okay, so, you watched, but didn't spy, she recapped. It was clear from her suspicious tone that she didn't completely believe him, but she wanted to give him the benefit of her doubt. So..? What happened next?

Daniel quickly answered. I saw the way you looked at Jack.

Sam huffed a disbelieving breath. And how did I look at him? she sarcastically inquired.

With the swiftness of a sudden summer storm, Daniel's face went from its congenial, though tired, appearance to one more thunderous in seconds. Oh, come on, Sam, you know what you were thinking at the time! he exclaimed in exasperation. He ran a hand through his hair for the third time in ten minutes, his aggravation just barely held in check now. Sha're melted me with lesser looks than that one that I saw on your face when you thought no one was looking cause we were all supposedly staring at the Tok'ra in the 'Gate Room!

Sam's arms uncrossed again to dangle at her sides, but she stayed silent as Daniel ranted on.

He shot another pointed, scathing glance at the ring on her left hand before saying, You aren't fooling anyone, Sam, and I know that Jack says that we're all supposed to be quiet and not say anything for your sake, cause he thinks that you're happy and all, and... But I'm just sick of it! he blurted, his face screwed up in acrimony. I've spent the last three days thinking on this, and I've only gotten a few hours of sleep the whole time, and now, I can either die of lack of sleep, or finally say what's on my mind! Then he added, No matter what Jack says!

Sam said nothing, but her expression had moved from tolerant irritation to an almost guilty sheen as her face swooped into a more serious arrangement the more Daniel spoke. Still, she didn't say anything when Daniel continued. But... Jack thought she was happy... so he refused to say anything? Since when?

Daniel sighed, cutting into her thoughts with the sound, a sad, angry burst of air that reverberated through her house. How long is this gonna go on? he asked, saddened. How long are we going to have to pretend that watching you and Jack hurt each other doesn't bother us? Bother me and Teal'c, he corrected. How long? he asked, entreating her with a suddenly beseeching look. She didn't say anything to stop him, so he went on. And I'm still talking about you and Jack here, not you and that idiot cop who just broke his hand on one of the oldest tricks in a criminal's book. I'm talking...

Sam's features suddenly fell into graceless lines of agony. What are you saying, Daniel? she entreated, stricken by his words to be less guarded. Are you saying that I should leave Pete, just like that? After all he's done for me? How can you be so cruel to even suggest such a thing? Astonished, she continued to stare at him. I can't hurt purposely Pete, no matter how stupid he just behaved...

But Daniel cut her off. His tired voice fell flat on her ears as he said, Do you mean, should you hurt him now by calling off the wedding, or hurt him a lot more a few months from now, when you fully understand what a mistake you made in marrying him in the first place when you decide that you can't pretend any longer, either, and divorce him? They were both quiet as he piercingly gazed at her. Cause that's what's gonna happen, he predicted with finality. You can pretend all you want to right now, Sam, but don't try it with me. A person who is engaged to marry one man shouldn't even be tempted to look at another man the way that you looked at Jack the other day. Then he gave a second sad shake of his head. Pete might have enough... enough... love... enough for the both of you to have a successful marriage, but if there's any doubt about your feelings, to say nothing of his, there won't be enough of anything that can save yours and his marriage, and you know it, whether you admit it to yourself or not.

Daniel gave a third negative wag of his head. I won't be a party to this... this pretending... anymore, he continued in a tired, but much firmer tone than one he had used even as little as a few years ago. He turned to the door without another word, and reached out to pull it open. But he paused, and glanced over his shoulder to give her one last look. Just something to think about, Sam, now, before it's too late. His blue eyes zeroed in on hers. As Jack so often says, 'You only get this one chance. For crying out loud, don't fuck it up.'

Then he was gone as unexpectedly as he had appeared. Sam was left in the silence that enshrouded her suddenly empty house, alone, only the smell of the burning pancakes available to stop her sudden and guilty thinking. I thought I turned off the burner under the pancakes, she hazily ruminated.

But when she crossed back to her stove, walking as if in a daze, to look at her breakfast, and had blinked enough to clear her foggy eyesight, she saw that she had not turned the burner down low, as she'd thought, but had actually turned it up as high as it would go. It's no wonder the pancakes are burning, she thought. Ashes... Just like my life. And she felt a wave of the previously suppressed guilt engulf her mind.

Well... Not one to typically let self-recrimination stop her mind for long, Sam took a shuddering breath, then tried her hardest to collect her scattered feelings enough so that she could decide what to do. She could let this new, admittedly wrong, life consume her. Or she could turn off the burner under that fire her life had somehow become, putting it out forever.

As always, it was up to her to finally do something about the morass her life had became, or to once again do nothing.

Without giving herself the chance to second guess the next thing that she decided that she had to do, she lifted her phone receiver from it's cradle and dialed a familiar cell phone number.

A voice came over the line as someone answered. Hello?

Hello? Pete? Sam replied.

A much calmer sounding Pete greeted her. Sam, I'm so glad that you called. Look, I'm on my way to the x-ray lab now, but I want to take these few seconds to apologize for what happened back at your place. I... I don't know what came over me, he gushed. I know that Dr. Jackson is a friend of yours, and I know that he's no threat to me, and... It was just cop instincts, what can I say? he tried to lightly excuse. But, look, I want to make it up to him and to you, and I was thinking of...

Before Pete had the opportunity to finish vocalizing his idea, Sam cut him off. I know that you're in the ER right now, she said. And this probably isn't a good time to talk. But... Maybe we can get can get together after...

Pete sighed at her hesitant tone. His own cautious voice sounded over the line. Sam, just lay it out straight. He paused, then tiredly continued, as if he knew what she was going to say despite what he next asked her. What are you trying to say to me?

Sam grimaced, but pictured Daniel's face in her mind as he made his not-so-complimentary comments on her recent decisions. She straightened in determination. Emboldened again by her friend's previous sense of honesty and forthrightness, she continued, Pete, I'm sorry, but... Can we... maybe... talk?

The End

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