Disclaimer :: The characters herein are the property of their creators. I make no profit from their use.


:: White Dove ::

written by Starlet2367 { e-mail // livejournal }


Daniel Jackson dropped his green, military-issue duffel bag onto the floor of the entry hall. Its thud was the only sound in the cabin. When he inhaled, he smelled dust and the faded scent of lemon cleaner.


Scratching his leg where the skin itched like fire ants, he thought about Nicaragua . You’d think, as many times as he'd died, that he’d be beyond worry about things like gunshot wounds.


He limped down the three little steps and into the living room. Jack was a tidy housekeeper for a bachelor. Gun and fishing magazines, corners aligned like soldiers, lay on the big, wooden coffee table. But it was the window that drew him.


Out here, night was cold and clear. No light pollution or smog to block the stars. He put his hand on the glass and remembered what it was like to be out there, floating. Nothing but energy.


Shaking it off, he went back for his duffel. Jack had told him to take any of the bedrooms, so he chose the front one with a view of the lake. It glistened like a black mirror, reflecting the sky back to itself. He knew what it meant to see his reflection in the universe. To feel its smile, that unending sense of connection.  


The lack of that connection drove him these days, making him reckless, restless. He dropped his bag on the king-sized bed, unzipped it, and pulled out his heavy sweater. He tugged it over his head and it caught on his glasses. With a frustrated grunt, he reached under and took them off. He got the sweater on and returned his glasses to their perpetual position on his nose. The thick wool warmed him, reminded him that he’d tended to forget little things, like how to put on clothes or how cold it got here in winter, since he’d been back.


Grabbing his black watch cap, he left the bedroom. He didn’t bother to lock the front door behind him.




His feet crunched and slipped on the pine needles. High up, the wind moved like an ocean wave but down here, he felt heavy, weighed down by his body.


His hands found the pockets of his jeans. Probably he should have worn a coat and gloves. His leg throbbed, but it was a dull, distant pain.


Hammond ’s voice rolled through his head, that mild Texas twang only blurring the steel’s edge. “Dr. Jackson, take some time off. That’s an order.” The implication was that his moping around wasn’t helping anyone.


Moping around. Was that what this was? Returning from death, then getting taken hostage…. He shrugged. Whatever. None of it made any difference. Life was just one long, dull road, and he was walking it only until he could leave.


A shuffling ahead drew his attention. His brow wrinkled as the sound came again. What was out here that was big enough to make that much noise? Deer? Bobcat?


His shoulders tensed. Human?


The jungle flashed, green and humid. Sweat-soaked skin, the enlivening, excruciating pain of electric shock as the battery cables found his flesh.


Endless thirst. Their final dash for safety. The hot flare of a bullet ripping….


He shook his head and forced himself onward, surprised at the depth of feeling he’d maintained for those few seconds. It was almost like being alive.


Parting the branches with his hands, he peeked into a small clearing. Moonlight silvered it, turned it into an upside-down bowl of branches and shadows. Just as he was about to walk through it, a movement stopped him.


He blinked, not sure that his eyes were registering the scene correctly.


On the other side, a woman, slim and dark-haired, holding a long sword—a katana?—above her head. She stared at the moon, chin raised in graceful defiance. Then, with some inner beat, she pulled the sword down in a long arc and started dancing with it.


As the moves took shape, he could see it was a routine. A warrior’s dance. He watched, intrigued, as she moved, furling her body into a tight knot, then swirling out, arm extended, sword lengthening her reach by a good three feet.


She stopped, held the sword, arm trembling. Even from here, he could see that she was breathing hard. The workout hadn’t been that tough, but it looked like she was going to drown without air.


Her arm shook and she squared her chin and held it. One minute, two. Her breath sobbed and when she looked up, the moonlight silvered tear tracks on her cheeks.


His heart raced, and he stepped forward, pulled by her anguish.


She stiffened, turned at the sound.


He went still, something warning him that he really didn’t want to disturb her. Not with that sword in her hand. Not with that look in her eyes.


So he held his breath, and finally she relaxed. With one more glance at the moon, she sheathed the sword and disappeared into the darkness on the other side of the clearing.


He waited until he couldn’t hear her footsteps, then turned and walked back to the cabin.




The bell over the door rang when he pulled it open, a shrill tinkle against the truck engines in the parking lot. The town store carried everything, from milk to gossip to fishing lures. It was a cultural anachronism, a lost species in a world of convenience stores and fast food restaurants. 


It smelled like butcher paper and bubble gum, the kind that came with the cartoon wrapped around it. Bazooka? He scratched his leg through the heavy corduroy of his pants, realized what he was doing, and stopped.


Someone bumped him. “Sorry,” he said, scooting aside.


You’d think with all the gate-hopping he did, that moving through time wouldn’t seem so disorienting. But this was his planet, his time, and except for the cell phones several customers spoke on, and the TV playing an all-news channel in the corner, he could have been in a pioneer town a hundred years before.


Wide, wooden floors, high shelves with jars of preserves and garlic pickles. Plaid jackets, wide-brimmed hats, plain brown work boots marching on display down the shelves.


He stood for a minute, absorbing the sense of safety, the feeling of connection with humanity through time. It gave him a momentary rush, sent blood pounding to his cold skin. For another, brief second, he felt alive. And then it was gone.


Dull, pale, removed. He stripped off the gloves and put them in the coat pockets. His boots echoed on the wood floor and he made his way around to the right, where he spotted a small grocery section.


Jack’s cabinets were well-stocked with staples like canned chili and boxes of macaroni and cheese. He’d unearthed a couple of bottles of beer in the fridge and an open carton of baking soda this morning. Luckily he hadn’t been hungry, though he was starving now.


Maybe he’d get a cup of coffee and a muffin. Eat a snack here, then go back and cook breakfast. He walked around the corner toward the refrigerator cases then stopped, staring.

It was her tattoo that caught his eye first. A blazing sun, set low on her back. Intense colors: red, yellow, blue. Its face smiled at him from above the waistband of her low-cut jeans. If he closed his eyes he could almost see her, in the artist’s chair, her face in a grimace as the needle went deep….


She pulled a box of microwave popcorn off the shelf and dropped it in her basket. When she stood the edge of her waist-length sweater hid the ink at her back. He wanted to brush the fabric out of the way and trace it, just to see what it felt like. Smooth? Rough?


He stepped forward, curious, his hand out.


Across the store someone laughed, a raucous burst, and she looked up, shoulders tensing. He saw it then, the gracefully defiant tilt, and the flash of her face in the moonlight. He froze.


Then she turned, only to stop when she saw him. “Sorry,” she said. “Didn’t see you there.” Her voice was well-pitched, friendly. Nothing to indicate that she’d been outside last night cutting moonlight to shreds.


“Uh, that’s okay,” he said, stepping back, giving her room.


Her smile was amazing, like the sun on her back. But he felt a shock of recognition at the emptiness in her eyes—


When he focused again, she was walking away. He watched her, craning his head around the corner till the wall blocked his vision completely.  Finally, he started walking, trying to force his thoughts back on his mission.


What had he come in here for? Oh, right. Milk, beer…. He looked over his shoulder again, in the direction she’d gone.


“Excuse me.” It was another customer, smiling politely, her small shopping cart bumping into his legs.

The voice and the press of metal jarred him into action. “Yeah, sorry.” He cradled the basket on his arm and made his way to the frozen foods.


By the time he got to the register, she was gone. “Um, there was a customer here earlier…? Young woman. Dark hair, great smile?”


The cashier, brown hair streaked with gray, smiled up at him. “Sorry, honey. I just came on shift.” Her eyes were friendly, warmer than the other woman's. Like she’d never experienced loss or if she had it had worn a smooth place in her heart. “Can I help you with something?”


Behind him five people waited to check out, patiently compared to most check-out lines he knew, but still, he didn’t want to risk holding them up. “A cup of coffee and a muffin, to go.” He paid, collected his groceries, and walked out the door.


The sun smacked him in the face when he got back outside, but the wind was still cold enough to freeze the tip of his nose. Off to the east a cloud bank massed, turning the sun-soaked clouds bright red. “Red sky at morning,” he whispered.


He opened the door to the Jeep and threw the bags on the passenger seat, and then put the coffee in the cup holder. The lid held the smell in, and only the harsh bite of the wind permeated his senses. With one, last look through the windows, he drove back to the cabin.




The ringing phone jarred him awake. He fumbled for the receiver. “Hello.”




“Sam. Hey.” He rubbed his eyes. “Time’sit?”


“About one. You sleeping?” There was a laugh in her voice. Sam had more energy than one person should be allowed. She mocked people who napped.


“Yeah. Musta fallen asleep while I was reading.”


“How ya doing?” The humor was paired with a warm thread of concern.


“Fine. Tired, I guess, considering I’ve been asleep nearly three hours.” He stretched and sat up. “How’s work?”


“Oh, the usual. We’re all kind of taking a break while you’re out.”

“Which means you’re working on the particle generator, right?” He smiled. She was so predictable.


“My bike, actually. I wanted to up the torque out of third gear. Some kid on an Interceptor beat me on the mountain loop the other day.”


Daniel laughed. “Beaten by a teenager, huh? How embarrassing.”


“Tell me about it. But once I get this gear shift figured out, I’ll leave him in the dust.”


He shook his head. “Be careful.”


“Yeah, yeah. I’m a safe driver. I just like to go fast.”


“Adrenaline junkie.”


She snorted. “Pot, meet kettle. So, what have you been up to?”


“In the twelve whole hours since I got here?”


“Shut up, Daniel.”


He could almost hear her roll her eyes. “Well, let’s see. Last night, I took a walk in the woods. This morning I went to the store, got some breakfast, and crashed. Then you called. Pretty boring, actually.”


“Bet it’s nice, though.”


“You wouldn’t know what to do with quiet if it bit you in the ass.”


She laughed. “You’re right. I’m all about the work. Hey, did you decide how long you’re staying?”


He glanced out the window; saw that this morning’s red clouds had covered the sky with a thick, gray blanket. Snow was just starting to fall, already collecting in a thin layer on the grass. “A day or two more, anyway. Looks like we’re gonna get some good snow in the next few hours.”


She grunted. “Great,” she said, like a sullen kid. “Guess that means I won’t be able to ride this afternoon.”


“Uh, you did know it was supposed to snow, right?”

“I guess.”


He heard her tinkering in the background. “Sam, how long’s it been since you left the SGC?”


There was a pause, as if she was thinking it over. “Um, I’m not sure. I slept here last night, so…two days? Three?”


“Go home. Watch the weather. Catch up on life.” He paused. “Make Jack come over and buy you a pizza.”


“What about Teal’c?” she asked, absently.


Daniel rolled his eyes. She was so clueless sometimes. “What about him?”


“Oh, hang on. Colonel O’Neill just walked in.”


He heard a shuffle as the phone passed hands. “Danny-boy.”




“How’s it hangin’?”


Sam said something in the background that Daniel was glad he couldn’t hear. “Going well, thanks. It was good of you to let me use the cabin.”


“Yeah, sure, you betcha,” he said in an exaggerated accent. “Kinda hard to do any fishing up there at this time of year. Freeze your ass off. Just ask Carter—no, wait. Don’t.”


In the background, Carter said, “You never said anything about ice fishing.”


God, they were like clueless peas in a pod. “Getting some good snow,” Daniel said. “You could always come up and ski.”


“Nah. Got some guys coming over to watch the playoffs. So, when you coming back?”


“Couple days, I guess. Hammond gave me a couple of weeks if I wanted it.” The thought of two weeks alone made his gut feel hollow. “Don’t think I want it.”


“Well, hurry on back. Major Carter misses you.”


There was a thump, then Sam on the line again. “Okay, Daniel, we’ll see you when you get back.”


“Except for the part where you’ll call me in another twelve hours to make sure I haven’t starved to death, right?”


She huffed. “See if I act like I care, any more.”


He knew his loss had hurt her. He’d seen it in her eyes after he’d returned. It made him want to be gentle with her. “Thanks, Sam,” he said, letting the words tell her what he couldn’t.


“Welcome,” she said, quietly.


He hung up and stared out at the falling snow, thinking of family and connections. Wondering what it meant that his heart ached. He rubbed it and then dropped his hand to scratch his itchy, healing leg.


Then he got up and went to the kitchen to make lunch.




Remembering how chilled he’d been the night before, Daniel pulled on his coat and gloves in addition to his hat. The snow had stopped sometime earlier but he’d been too caught up in dinner preparations to actually notice when.


Maybe she’d be there, but probably not, considering the foot of new snow that crunched under his feet. It was light and dry, and compacted as he made his way into the woods. The forest floor was dark, fallen branches making bumps in the snow, and up high, the trees were quiet. That hush lay everywhere and his stomach constricted.


He wasn’t used to being alone. It made him nervous, jumpy, especially when he realized that, if the girl had been out here, anyone could have been.


“Don’t be such a baby,” he whispered. He could defend himself. Better than he’d been able to a few years ago, anyway.


His footfalls echoed in the silent night and he slowed down, a little out of breath with the exertion of breaking a trail.


As he got closer to the clearing, he stopped, listening. Nothing.


Frowning, he moved closer, breath fanning out in front of him in white waves. He stepped nearer, peering around the black tree trunks and thin-limbed brush, trying to hide in the shadows, in case she was there.


The clearing had been trampled; the snow compacted with footprints that marred the surface into a series of ruts. The now-clear sky showed a naked moon, her thin, white skin lighting the clearing.


She was gone. He’d missed her. The idea hadn’t even occurred to him. He felt like he was sinking inside, the disappointment as strong a sting as anything he’d felt since the jungle. He closed his eyes and imagined her dancing, dressed all in black, the silver sword cutting the air with its deadly edge.


When he turned she was there, only feet away, the sword point aimed at his heart.


“Shit!” His blood thrummed through his chest, echoed in his ears. 


She arched an eyebrow. “Good thing I saw you in the daylight, or I’d be decapitating first and asking questions later.” Her arm trembled, but the point stayed focused. “Still might if you don’t tell me what I want to hear.”


“Daylight? What’s that got to--”


The sweat at her temples curled her hair, the ends of which were just visible under the black knit cap she wore. The trembling in her arm spread to her shoulders and he watched herself force her body into rigidity.


He narrowed his focus on her unflinching gaze. “What do you want?” he asked, in the voice he used for hostage negotiations.


“Why are you following me?”


“What? I’m not—That’s crazy. Why would I follow you?”


She stepped back, out of his reach, and the sword dropped to her side. Her eyes were smudged beneath with shadows, like someone who hadn’t slept well for too long. “You tell me.” She was wary, watchful.


Secrets. She had them.


He stepped toward her and the sword came up, its sharp point grazing his throat. “Ow! Hey!” He jerked back. “Put that thing down!” He nudged it aside with his forearm, the blade glancing off his sleeve.


He heard a “whoosh,” and felt the sword on the other side of his throat, stopping just short of cutting him. He swallowed, hard. “Uh, you’re, uh, very good with that thing.”


She smiled. “Thanks. You wanna tell me why you’re here?” The sword didn’t move, despite the conversational tone in her voice.


“Using a friend’s cabin. I, uh, was injured at work. Needed a rest.” He nearly shrugged but stopped himself at the last second. No telling where that blade would end up if he moved again.


“Uh huh. Why’d you come looking for me tonight?”


He blinked. “What? I—“ Oh, give it up, Jackson , he thought. You were never a good liar. “I saw you by accident last night. I was curious.” He shrugged. “Think about it. You’re out walking in the middle of nowhere and you come across a beautiful woman in a clearing, dancing with a sword. Wouldn’t you follow her?”


She shrugged. “Probably not. But I had my fill of women with weapons a long time ago.” The sword arced away and came to rest at her side. She considered him for a minute, and then the wary set of her shoulders eased. She switched the sword to her left hand and stuck out her right. “Cordelia Chase.”


He took it, his big, padded gloves meeting the thin leather of hers in an awkward shake. “Daniel Jackson. Mind if I ask what you’re doing here?”


She dropped his hand and stepped back. “Ask all you want. Not that I’ll answer.”


She was tough. He liked tough. “That sounds like a California accent. I’d say….” He trailed off, thinking. “Somewhere just south of LA.” He glanced back at her, saw her eyes had narrowed. “Am I close?”


“Probably closer than you really want to be.” With that, she backed up, her trim, black ski suit blending into the shadows.


“Cordelia! Wait!”


When she turned, her face was a smudge of white in the filtered light. “What?”


“It’s not good to keep secrets to yourself for too long. They fester.” He gestured at himself. “Believe me, I know.”


She laughed, a funny, strangled sound in the back of her throat, and evaporated into the forest.




He stared at the pound of coffee, unopened, sitting on the white counter. He could smell it through the foil-lined bag and the rich aroma made his mouth water. Even though he was hungry, the thought of eating breakfast alone just didn’t appeal to him.


The snow silenced the world until he felt like he was the only person in it. He could call Sam, shoot the shit with her. But, then what? He’d just hang up and be alone again.


Before he could think, he slipped his coat on, grabbed his keys and started toward the Jeep. It started easily, well-stocked in anti-freeze and used to the cold. The tire chains kept it on the driveway, and by the time he got to the main road, which had already been plowed, the car was warm.


Local radio stations were sparse, but one played NPR, and he kept it on low volume more for the company than the news. When he pulled into the store’s parking lot, his stomach was growling.


The same woman was working behind the cash register. “Help you?” she asked, smiling.


“Could I get a cup of coffee?” He wanted to ask about Cordelia again, but figured the cashier probably didn’t know anything more today than she did yesterday.


She pointed behind him. “Help yourself.”


He turned and found himself looking at a shiny, new self-service station with several air pots, labeled by coffee type. “Hey, that looks great.”


“Yeah. It’s the honor system. Easier on everyone.”


“Wonderful,” he said, digging in his pocket for change for the Mason jar, then picking up a Styrofoam cup.


Just as he pumped the first draught into the cup, someone jostled him, and Daniel’s hand wound up under the steaming flow. “Ow! Shit!” Daniel dropped the cup, spilling more coffee in the process.


“You okay?” called the cashier.


“Fine, fine!” Daniel said, mopping up coffee.


There was a movement at his shoulder and he glanced up to find himself face to face with Cordelia. Her hair was pulled back from her face, and she had on a turtleneck and a down vest.


“Oh! Did I do that? I’m so sorry!” She took his hand and examined the red, stinging skin. “That looks awful.” Her brow wrinkled. “You should put some cold water on that. I’ll bet they have burn cream here, too.”


Her skin was warm, soft. It had been a long time since any woman but Sam or Dr. Fraiser had touched him. “No, it’s fine.” He pulled away slowly. “I’ve had worse, believe me.”


“I really am sorry.” She smiled cautiously. “Can I get you some coffee to make up for it, Mr. Jackson?” She dropped a few quarters in the jar, grabbed two cups from the stack and started filling them.


“Doctor,” he said, out of habit. “It’s Dr. Jackson.”


Her smile turned wistful. “My mother always told me I should marry a doctor.”


Something about that look, so full of longing, made his heart ache. He swallowed his instinctive need to comfort. “Would you like a muffin?”


She shook her head. “I’m not hungry. Thanks, though.”


He took a blueberry muffin for himself then started toward the rocking chairs by the front window. A fire burned in the freestanding fireplace and the smell of wood smoke permeated the cushion when Daniel sat down.


He glanced up to find her staring at him. "What?"


She shrugged.


His forehead wrinkled. He thought about the silent way she'd slipped up on him in the woods. “Maybe I should ask if *you're* following me?”


Cordelia laughed. “Cordelia Chase, a sheep? As if.” She sipped her coffee, eyes warm over the white rim. “Well, it was nice to see you again, Doctor Jackson. Don’t sit and brood for too long.”


Daniel wanted to ask how she knew about his brooding, but she was already gone.


Instead, he sipped his coffee, ate the muffin and watched the lazy ebb and flow of people through the store. When he looked down at his watch, he realized it was nearly noon .


He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to just sit and think, especially about someone besides himself. He tended to get mired in research or—as Cordelia had guessed—sit and brood about his problems.


“You’re still here? That’s a good omen.” And there she stood, staring down at him, an expectant look on her face.


She was far too good at this sneaking-up thing. Maybe she could teach him how she did it and he could freak out Jack on their next mission. “An omen?”


“Yeah.” She flashed that smile. “That you’re supposed to buy me lunch.” She started for the door, like a princess with an entourage. He rushed out of his chair to catch up.


“—hear they have a good burger, but I haven’t tried it--  Hey, are you even listening?”


“Sorry. I was just—“ He shook his head. “Anyway, who has a good burger?” He led her to the Jeep and opened the passenger door for her.


Alton ’s,” she said, when he got in. “Out past the mall? It’s a drive-through. No tables, but you can sit in the parking lot and eat in the car. Most people do.”


His brow wrinkled. “There’s a mall?”


She snorted. “If you can call it that. Just turn right and I’ll show you from there.”


He started the engine, then looked at her. With her hair pulled back, the perfect bones of her face were exposed. She looked vulnerable, young. “You often get in the car with strange men?”


Instead of answering, she shot a question back. “Who says you’re strange?”


“Well, last night you accused me of stalking you.”


Her laugh was the first genuine one she’d given. “Oh, please.”


“Why’d you suddenly start trusting me?”


“Maybe I just wanted a free burger.”


He glanced at her and noticed that, despite the teasing tone, her body still carried a habitual tension. He knew it well—the feeling that he was running late and always trying to catch up. “Maybe. So, you’re from SoCal?”


She rolled her eyes. “Dead giveaway that you’re not from there.”






He turned his gaze back to the road. “So? You didn’t answer my question.”


“I grew up there. Now I’m here. You?”


“I grew up all over the place. My parents were killed when I was a kid.”


“I’m sorry.” She sounded genuinely sympathetic.


“It was a long time ago.” He’d lost a lot of his grief when he’d relived the day, over and over, through the Gamekeeper’s software. Now it was just a dull ache.




“Now I’m an archeologist. I specialize in Egyptian mythology.”


He felt, more than saw her immediate withdrawal. “So, Sun God Ra, that sort of thing,” she said flippantly.


“That bother you?” When he glanced at her now, he could practically see the walls around her.


“No. Why should it?”


“You turned chilly all of a sudden.” Something about her directness made it possible for him to say things he wouldn’t ordinarily say to a stranger.


“It’s chilly everywhere, Dr. Jay. We’re in Colorado in the middle of winter.”


He let that slide. “Where now?”


“Just follow this road till you get to the old millhouse. Turn right there and you’ll see it about a mile down.”


“How do you know so much about this place?”


She shrugged. “It’s small. Not much to learn.”


He got the feeling it was more than that, but he didn’t know how to pursue it. “How long have you been here?”


She stared out the window. “Not long.”


“Do you like Colorado ?”


“It’s all right.”


His mind started ticking, like he was solving a puzzle. He’d keep playing 20 questions till he got a real answer. “What did you do before?” he asked, thinking ahead to what he’d ask next.


“I hunted vampires.”


“That’s interesting. You—“ His brain stuttered to a halt. “You what?”


She held his gaze. “I hunted vampires.” She shrugged. “Well, demons, too. But mostly vamps.”


The matter-of-fact way she said it had his archeologist’s antennae snapping to attention. “Vampires.”


“You think I’m crazy.”


He thought of zombies, reanimated by boxes that earned their reputation as the fountain of youth by dark means. “No. No, I….” He ran his hand over his head, rubbing the knit cap back and forth. “It’s just….  Not the kind of thing you hear everyday.”


She glanced out the window. “I guess in your world it isn’t."


On the right a mill house with its big wheel came into view. The building was old, falling down around itself, the creek that used to run it long dry.


“Here’s where you turn,” she said.


“Thanks.” Now he’d gone from wanting information to wondering if he’d gotten too much. But, as his grandfather used to say, in for a penny, in for a pound. “Have you ever been bitten?”


She shot him a look that clearly said he’d better not be making fun of her.


He felt the need to explain. “Let’s just say that if vampires do exist—“ A tingle shot through him. “If they exist, it won’t be the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”


She considered him silently for a few moments. He kept glancing back and forth from the road to her face, trying to suss her out.


Finally, she leaned close and tugged her turtleneck down. He glanced over, eyes drawn to the silver bite on the olive skin of her neck.


Teethmarks. The size of a human mouth. He swallowed, suddenly feeling queasy. “Oh. Uh. Wow.”


He must have looked poleaxed because she patted his arm and said, “It’s okay. She’s dead. I’m not.”


His heart raced. “How? I mean—“ His mind was moving so fast he couldn’t keep up with the questions.


Cordelia’s arm rose and she pointed toward a strip mall on a flat stretch of land about a quarter mile ahead. “ Alton ’s is that little shack next to the All-night Video Rentals And Pizza Parlor.”


“Thanks.” He hadn’t been paying attention to the road. Grateful for her presence of mind, he pulled into the parking lot, got in line behind the cars at the order window, and turned to her. “Show me again.” His fingers itched, the way they’d itched to touch her tattoo.


“Buy me lunch first. I don’t put out a second time unless I’ve been fed.” 


He couldn’t figure out whether the sound that came out of his mouth was frustration or laughter. “Do you have this effect on everyone?” He pulled up as a car drove away.


“Just a select few.”


Something about her tone had him stopping. “You okay?”


She paused, thought about it. “No.” She shrugged. “You?” Her eyes looked like the sky, vast, dark, and cold.


He felt like he was falling into the Stargate when he saw her. “No.” It was a relief to tell the truth to someone who seemed to understand. Maybe that’s all this was. A mirror. Someone who understood.


“Well, aren’t we just the gloomy Guses?” she asked.


He laughed, startled by her change in tone. “Yeah, I guess we are.” He rolled down the window and stared at the big, plastic menu posted on the side of the building. “Maybe a burger and fries will help us take ourselves less seriously.”


“Doubt it.” But her smile was lighter, and that made him feel better.




Daniel dropped her off at the store, where she said her car was parked. “You heading home?”


“Soon. I forgot to get milk, so I’m stopping in the store, first.” She smiled. “Thanks for lunch. It was nice.”


He nodded. “It was. See you soon?”


She shrugged. “Probably. Kinda hard to get lost in a town this size.”


Daniel waved and waited until she got safely into the building. He drove back to the cabin, thinking about their conversation. She steered it carefully away from herself, but he’d learned enough to pick up some clues.


She’d lived in Los Angeles and knew someone named Angel. She hunted vampires and seemed comforted by his easy acceptance of her. In fact, he wondered if that and the stalking made her warm up to him.


She was probably crazier than he’d been when Machello had gotten his hooks in him. Batshit crazy. Straightjacket crazy. One fry short of a Happy Meal crazy.


But for some reason, he didn’t think so. He’d met crazy people. He’d *been* crazy on more than one occasion. Cordelia didn’t strike him as crazy, he thought, as he pulled into the driveway. She struck him as…incredibly sad.


He locked the Jeep out of habit. When he got to the front door, the phone was ringing. “Crap!” Just as he got in, it stopped. Hitting redial netted him an operator’s voice. “This number cannot be redialed.”


“Sam,” he said, knowing the SGC would never show up on the redial system. He stripped off his coat and gloves and dialed her number.


“Samantha Carter.”


“Did you ever go home?” he asked.


“Daniel! I just tried to call you. Were you out on a hot date?”


Startled, he paused.


“You weren’t.” She paused, as if taking it in. “Were you?”


“No, not really. Just a girl I met, uh, yesterday at the store.”




He fingered the cut on his throat from the sword. “I’m not sure I’d define her as cute.”


“Huh. Smart?”


That wasn’t so straightforward, either. “Um, I’m gonna have to go with yes.”




He thought about her ringless hands. That haunted look in her eyes. “Don’t know.”


“Daniel….” She may as well have shouted a warning.


“Hey,” he said, trying not to feel defensive. “I’m on vacation.”


“I worry about you. You just…got back and—“


“Sam, it’s okay. We just had lunch. We’re not getting married.”


She laughed, sounding embarrassed. “You’re right. Sorry.”


“Speaking of hot dates, did you get Jack to come over for pizza?”


“Colonel O’Neill?”


He rolled his eyes. “Yes, Colonel O’Neill.”


“Ha ha. You think Colonel O’Neill would be a hot date?”


“No, but I think you do.” There was a long pause. “Sam?”


She huffed. “Did you just call me to tell me how much my love life sucks?”


“I didn’t call you. You called me. Remember?”


“Oh, right. You know, I should come up there and meet this girl. I’ve got lots of leave coming. I could take a couple of days off and be up there by tomorrow.”


He knew she was kidding. But the idea of sharing Cordelia with anyone made him really uncomfortable. “Yeah, that’d be a blast.”


“Don’t sound so excited. I was just kidding.”


“I know.”


“This sounds serious. Is it? It can’t be. You just met her.”


“It’s not serious. It’s just…nice to make a connection.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Look, I just got back and I’ve got groceries in the car.” It was a weak lie, but he grabbed it with both hands.


“Cool. Call me tomorrow if you get a chance. Let me know you’re okay.”


“Yes, mom.”


“Shut up, Daniel.”


“Bye, Sam.”




He brewed a pot of coffee. Stared at his laptop, still in its case by the bed. Turned away, refusing to invade her privacy. If she’d wanted to tell him, she would have.


Steam climbed up the window, blocking the white glare of snow.


Los Angeles . Movie studios. Blazing sun. Vampires.


A world away from here.


The next thing he knew, he was unzipping his computer case and plugging in the phone line. The beeping sound of the connecting modem kept his tapping toe company.


He booted up and loaded Google. “Cordelia Chase,” he whispered, as he typed. It was easiest to start with the basics.


Lots of entries popped up with “Cordelia” and “Chase,” but only two had the complete name.


One was a review of a play from several years before, and he skimmed it quickly. It was for a small theater in Los Angeles , and his heart started thumping as he read. “Cordelia Chase is one of the most beautiful women to grace the stage since Anne Bancroft. Unfortunately her acting is as awful as she is beautiful.” He made a moue with his lips.


“Throwing her voice, pulling faces like she was made of Play-Doh, and the best part of the night? Calling for a line, mid-scene. This is community theater at its worst. But at least she’s gorgeous.”


Daniel winced. “Ouch.” He clicked back and scrolled down to the next entry. “Angel Investigations.” His breath caught. Was this Angel?


He took a swig of his coffee and double clicked the website. There was a picture of something that looked like a lobster, or if you squinted and held your tongue just right, an angel. Over it, in black, the words, “Angel Investigations. We help the hopeless.”


Breath catching, he noticed the Los Angeles address. He quickly scrolled down to the “About Us” link. The page popped up, a simple white background with a list of names. Angel, no last name. Wesley Wyndam-Price, Charles Gunn, Winifred Burkle. And, “For more information, contact Cordelia Chase.”


He stared at her name, getting that same feeling he’d had earlier in the store. Like time was collapsing, or words colliding. He tapped his fingers on the mouse, popping up a new email message and hit send.


After a few seconds, the chime told him he had mail. Sure enough, the message had been undeliverable. He dialed the number. It rang once, twice, and then picked up. “The number you have reached is no longer in—“


So he went back to researching. Only one article on the firm, something about saving the actress who’d played Raven. He shrugged and kept digging.


Frustrated, he used his military ID to grant him access to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Some part of him knew he was beyond invading her privacy and into downright insanity, now, but he had to know.


The last address they had was in Silverlake. Her driver’s license had expired over a year ago. “This is nuts,” he whispered. But he kept going, driven by the knowledge that there was something about her, something he had to know.


Deeper and deeper the clues went, until he tracked Angel and the others to a law firm. A big one, from the looks of it.


So, Angel had left his own company and gone to work for someone else. Cordelia, for whatever reason didn’t go. And obviously wasn’t too interested in being found.


Daniel ran his hand over his mouth and stared at the screen. She wasn’t running, though. She hadn’t changed her name, and she didn’t keep what she’d done in the past a secret. He studied Wolfram & Hart’s website. Thirty branches listed. She probably couldn’t hide if she wanted to, from a company that big.


The question was, what happened?


He rubbed his eyes, then dropped his glasses to the table. Cordelia, determined to finish a routine that showed she was more than proficient with ancient weaponry. So gentle when she soothed his burn. Crazy enough to tell a perfect stranger that she used to hunt vampires.


And why did he even care?


“Who are you?” he whispered at the screen.




Daniel looked up from the book he hadn’t been concentrating on. The kitchen clock said 4:30 .


He’d been sitting for nearly two hours, staring at the book, forcing his thoughts away from Cordelia, only to have them circle back. She wasn’t listed in information. Didn’t have a Colorado driver’s license. It was like she didn’t exist, except for that life in LA.


He stared out the window, tapping his fingers on his knee. Los Angeles . Sea and sand. Sun and surf. Vampires….


He reached for the phone. “Yes, I’d like the number for Wolfram and Hart in Los Angeles , please.” The phone lines clicked, clattered. And then he was being connected.


A pleasant voice answered, “Wolfram & Hart, how may I direct your call?”


His stomach tightened. “Angel, please.”


“One moment, sir.”


He swallowed and tapped his fingers faster, his mind spinning.


“Wolfram & Hart, Mr. Angel’s office. Can I help you?”


The woman oozed California through the phone lines. He could practically feel the sun on his face. “Um, I was calling for Angel.”


“I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting. Could I take a message?”


His brain stuttered. What the hell was he doing? “Uh, no. No thanks. I’ll just try back later.”


He dropped the phone into the cradle. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered, banging his fist against his forehead. “Just go see her. Go ask her.” He dropped his hand. “Ask her what? Why’d you move to Colorado ? What’s the name of the vampire who bit you?”


Rising, he dropped the book to the couch and went to stare out the window. It was already twilight, brought on by the advancing clouds and early sunset. The snow had gone from diamond to pearl, the sky a gray satin cloth.


On the edge of the woods, something moved.


Drawn, he opened the sliding door and stepped onto the porch.


Everything was still, sullen. His shoulders tensed. “Hello?”


Cordelia materialized out of the forest, a black figure against blacker trees. She stood, empty-handed, and stared at him from across the pond.


“Cordelia?” he whispered.


She smiled, a beautiful, bittersweet lilt. Then she turned and vanished into the trees.


Daniel leapt off the deck and sprinted after her. “Cordelia! Wait!” The snow crunched under his feet, and he stumbled, fell, and caught himself with one hand. “Cordelia!” Jumping up, he dashed after her.


The woods were eerily silent. No birds, no breeze. Nothing but trees, shadows and snow. Her footprints blended with the breaks made in the white drifts by leaf piles and branches. Finally, nearly blinded by the darkness, he lost her.


“Cordelia? Cordelia!” His voice echoed back to him. Nothing else stirred. “Shit!” He’d come out without his coat and it was absolutely freezing. He turned, barely able to make out the cabin’s lights, and started back. This was totally stupid. He’d lost his fucking mind.


Trudging back took a lot longer than coming out did. By the time he got in, his nose and fingers ached with cold. He pounded up the deck stairs and slammed the cabin door behind him.




Daniel sat in front of the fire with a beer, staring into the flames. The clock in the kitchen ticked, its quiet voice keeping him company. He fingered the paper in his hand, turning the number over and over.


It was well after midnight . It made no sense to think about calling now. Even heads of law firms slept sometime.


But he couldn’t get her face out of his head. He had to know. Who she was. What she was.


He grabbed the phone and punched the numbers angrily. The automated attendant picked up. “You’ve reached Wolfram & Hart. We’re closed at this time, but if you know your party’s extension—“ He hung up, grumbling, “Damn voice mail.”


Then it occurred to him that there might be a list of extensions on the phone mail system. So he dialed again and waited patiently through the message. Sure enough, the attendant started reading through the list. “For Research, dial 302. For Files and Records, 304.” The voice droned, until finally, “For Angel, CEO, dial extension 580.”


He punched in the numbers with trembling fingers. The phone rang tinnily and he waited impatiently, knowing he was going to get voice mail again.


The line connected. “Angel.”


Daniel stopped breathing.






“Hello? Can I help you?”


“I--  Uh—“ Daniel collected his breath and his wits. “Yes. Please. I’m looking for Cordelia Chase.”


The silence hummed. Daniel’s shoulders tensed. “Hello?”


“Who is this?” The voice was pure steel, sharp and deadly.


“It’s, um.” He cleared his throat. “My name is Daniel Jackson. I met Cordelia two days ago, and she told me she worked in Los Angeles . I was just trying to, uh, track her down.” God, that sounded so stupid. Who with a brain would ever buy that?”


“Is this some sort of joke?”


“N-no. I was just interes—“


“Mr. Jackson—“


“It’s Doctor. Doctor Jackson.”


“Doctor Jackson, I don’t know what you’re playing at. Hang up now and forget you ever knew this number.”


Daniel tensed at the implied threat. But the need to know won out. “Wait! Wait! Angel, right?” There wasn’t an answer, but he didn’t hang up, either. “Look, I don’t know how to explain this. I met Cordelia, and she….” He blew out a breath.


“Cordelia’s been in a coma for months,” Angel said, flatly.


His heart raced. “What? No! She can’t be. I just saw her!”


The line went quiet, and then Angel asked, as if the idea had just occurred to him. “Are you in some kind of trouble, Mr. Jackson?”


Daniel blinked. “I—“ He started to say no, but then thought of how he’d felt since he got back. So…blank. “I guess you could say that.


Angel’s chuckle was painful to hear. “Still helping the hopeless,” he said under his breath.


“I’m sorry?”


“Cordelia died late this afternoon. In the hospital here in Los Angeles .” Angel said. “She never regained consciousness.” He sounded exhausted, at the end of his rope.


“What?” Daniel’s head reeled. “But that’s—“


“Good night, Mr. Jackson.”


The phone disconnected and Daniel stood, staring, at the receiver.




The plane shuddered through storm clouds as it lifted off the ground. He was used to traveling fast, light. Shoving his carry-on into the overhead bin, settling himself in the seat only reminded him how heavy he was now. The burden of this body he carried.


"Gosh, weight of the world much?" Cordelia's voice rang in his head and he stared out the window. The rush of clouds, white and thick, eddied past and he found himself closing his eyes and pretending he was flying with them.


With her.


The captain mumbled something over the PA about flight times and weather. He didn't even try to tune in, just laid his head back on the too-upright seat and went back over every time he'd seen her. How clever she'd been, appearing to him in public, as if she were just a girl. How clever she'd been to flash her sword, her tattoo, and the shadows in her eyes.


How could she have known?


The drone of the plane put him in a stupor and he didn't fight it. Let himself slip under, under, until he was flying, floating. Out somewhere in the sky.


He blinked and found himself suspended, nothing but energy. When he looked over, she flew next to him, a bolt of pure, white light.


"Sir? Would you like a drink?"


Daniel opened his eyes and found himself looking into the pleasant face of his cabin attendant. "Martini. Three olives." The light was nothing more than the sun's reflection off the clouds outside the window. They'd finally climbed into open sky.


The attendant, used to people on different time zones, merely nodded and began mixing his drink. She unfolded his tray and set it down on the little plastic shelf.


"Thanks." Since he was flying first class, the only way he was comfortable flying after years of instant travel, he didn't have to pay her. Free drinks weren't something he often took advantage of, he thought, as he sipped the bracing cocktail, but sometimes alcohol really was the best medicine.


He stirred the olives absently while the little TVs switched from the picture of the plane's location over the US map to the Friends reruns they were featuring during the relatively short flight. Headphones sat in the empty seat next to him but he didn't bother putting them on. Little about TV interested him, except as a cultural artifact. Too much time on distant planets had made him a fan of a good book or the quiet.


So he turned his gaze downward, and something caught his eye. He chuckled and pulled the olives out of the drink. Instead of a toothpick, they'd been run through on a plastic sword. He sucked the first olive off and felt the sword with the tip with his tongue. Fingered the still-healing prick on his throat with his free hand.


Probably no use trying to figure out how a dead person held a real sword. Probably better just to eat the rest of the olives, swill down the joy juice, and poke the air with his miniature plastic facsimile. He knew better than anyone that reality was just a figment of the imagination. Metal sword, plastic sword, none of it mattered, since they were all nothing more than a collection of space and infinitesimal particles.


He finished the drink and dozed, the sword clutched in his hand.


The pilot's voice woke him, and he stirred, rubbing his hand over his face. His nose and throat were dry from the drink and the recycled air. The seat felt uncomfortably stiff, impossibly straight, and his neck had cramped while he slept.


He shook it off and, when the plane landed, stood to collect his bag. The sword fell, bouncing on the floor, and he stared down at it, shiny white against the dark blue carpet. He nudged it with his shoe, waiting for the attendants to open the doors, for the plane to burp him out in California .


Something tugged at him, so he stooped, picked up the sword and put it in his pocket. Slowly, the people in front of him collected their bags and moved out the jet way.


He bypassed luggage claim and went straight down to the lower level to catch a cab. The warm, salty breeze made him stop just outside the door and breathe. Warm air, sunshine. Los Angeles .


Palm trees lined the airport through-road and he stood, staring, trying to get his mind to shift from mountain snow to sand and tropics. Finally, he raised his hand and hailed a cab.


According to the paper, the funeral was at 11:00 a.m. at a Catholic church downtown. It was 9:45 , which gave him plenty of time, so he gave the address to the cabbie and settled back into the seat.


Los Angeles passed in a blur of pastels. Cream-colored buildings, blue sky, late winter flowers just starting to bloom. After Colorado it was like stepping into a Technicolor paradise.


Out the corner of his eye, he saw a splash of brightness. “Hold up!”


The cabby glanced at him in the rearview. “What?”


The flower stand whooshed by, blocked to him by three lanes of fast-moving traffic. “Flowers. Where can I get them on the way to the church?”


The cabbie didn’t answer, but in a few minutes, he pulled over into the loading zone in front of a row of storefronts. Daniel climbed out. “Wait here.”


When he got back into the car, he nodded to the cabbie. “Okay, now the church.”


He hopped out at the curb half a block down from the cathedral. It rose toward the sky in stone splendor, its curving arches like upraised arms. “Thanks.” He pressed the fare and a tip into the cabby's hand and shouldered his bag.


The feeling of time dividing came over him again, and he stood, staring at the church. He'd just flown halfway across the country to the funeral of a woman he'd never met. How fucking crazy was he?


"Excuse me." A mourner pushed past him and into the church. The woman, tall and slender, wore a black dress with a very short skirt. Her wavy brown hair was held off her neck with a clip and she held the arm of a man whose piercing blue eyes were red-rimmed but dry.


It brought Daniel back to the present, and before he could talk himself out of it, he strode through the open doors and into a shadowed narthex. Organ music flowed, lilting, beautiful. The smell of lily of the valley and of roses wrapped around him like his grandmother's perfume.


The aisle was long, the pews nearly full. It was 10:30 , and mourners were still arriving. Thin, like birds, in their city black, they probably didn’t even have to alter their wardrobe from their everyday wear to attend.


He felt like a country rube in his gray suit and maroon tie. He wished he had his boonie and fatigues. In those clothes, he knew who he was.


A line of people shuffled in, finding seats. Some went to the front, and there was a knot of people up by the altar. He paused. Was this an open casket ceremony? The irony hit him. He'd be seeing her for the first time, in real life, as a corpse.


He followed the trail to the front of the church, waiting patiently while the crowd thinned out. They went past him, quiet-faced, and came back, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed with the shock of seeing death.


Finally he reached end of the aisle. The red carpet draped three steps and above the steps was the altar. Candles, an open Bible, communion plates glimmered, silver, white and gold in the scented air.


At the base of the steps, a white casket, bathed in golden light.


He became one of the focused ones, his gaze drawn to the casket, as it had been drawn to her sword, her smile.


His steps slowed, like time was expanding as he got closer. The carry-on cut into his shoulder. The scent of flowers made his nose itch. Music swelled, an old, barely-remembered hymn. Behind him, someone sniffled into a tissue.


Finally, he drew a breath and the spell broke. He stepped forward.


And there she was.


Eyes closed, perfectly at peace. A secret smile on her face, as if she’d finally come to the end of the road, and what it held was too marvelous to share.


He stared at her. At the long, dark fall of hair. The tipped up nose and generous mouth. At her beauty, rivaled not even by death. Whatever secrets she had, they were gone with her, now.


She clutched a single red rose, beautifully pristine against her white dress. Like a bride, all she needed was a veil.


He stared, tracing the pale skin with his gaze, the deceptively shadowed eyelids, and the perfectly manicured nails. The thing that made her who she was, was gone. "In my end is my meaning," he said, remembering Thomas Merton.


He took a breath, realizing for the first time since he'd returned that he felt fully plugged in. The tug of grief, the sting of tears. Music, incense, flowers, the press of the person at his elbow, weeping. He felt it all.


His vision blurred as he realized what she’d done for him. Her dance, so fluid, so beautiful. It had sparked his imagination, drawn him outward just as fluidly, as gracefully.


As if she’d known exactly what he’d needed to bring him back to life.


He lay his flowers at the floor next to the casket, not wanting to disturb the blanket of roses on top. “Thank you,” he whispered. “For everything.” He touched the silky smooth edge of her casket and turned to leave.


Then he stopped, his mind tweaked by something. Like he'd left his glasses or his wallet at home, a forgetful feeling. He patted his jacket pocket, his pants pocket. Remembered then and pulled out the sword. He turned, smiling, to slip it under the white silk pillow.


When he looked up, the church was nearly full and there was a line behind him of people waiting to pay their respects. He caught the eye of a man on the front row, the man who’d passed him earlier. Those blue eyes were cold, assessing.


Angel? Daniel nodded at him anyway, and moved back down the aisle toward the door.


At the back of the church, in the shadows, something moved. He narrowed his eyes and caught sight of a face, a pale smudge.


Just like hers that night in the forest.


He stopped, something resonating in him. As if time suddenly knit itself back together. “Angel.”


Angel’s eyes were haunted, weary. “Yes?”


“I’m Daniel Jackson.”


Dark eyes flared, hot, nearly gold.


Daniel flinched instinctively but it was the wrong kind of flash for a Goa’uld and probably just a trick of the light. “I just want you to know, I—“ He stopped, unsure of what he wanted to say.


Angel stared at him for a long beat, as if reading the book of his soul. Daniel stood, letting himself be absorbed. After a moment, Angel nodded, and blended back into the shadows, almost as if he were made of them, himself.


The sun glowed through stained glass windows, decorating the rug and lighting peoples' clothes and hair. He looked up, drawn away from the darkness by the colors, and found himself staring at the soaring arches of the church ceiling. Awed, the music swirled around him, and as he watched, a white dove appeared, her feathers catching fire in the light from the Rose window.


He caught his breath, watching as she dipped and swirled, almost like she was dancing.


The music died away, leaving nothing but echoes. The bird drifted down in a long, perfect arc and flew out the open doors.


He followed her out.




The surf came in, an endless beat, like a heart. Daniel wiggled his toes in the sand, soaked in the chilly sea breeze, and listened to the shrieks of children playing on the Santa Monica Pier.


His cell phone rang. "Hello."




"Sam, hey." He smiled, thinking of her tinkering with her bike, her hair mussed and her face smudged. Totally in her element. The urge to hug her was so strong that he wrapped his arms around himself.


"So, how's the snow?"


His laugh effervesced out of him. "You're behind. It's sand, now."


He heard her stop tinkering, felt her attention turned on him like a spotlight. "Say, what?'


"I'm in Los Angeles. Don't ask. It's a long, crazy story. But the beach is beautiful."


There was a short pause, and then she laughed. "Daniel, are you sure you're okay?"


He didn't even have to think. "Never been better."


Something in his voice must have convinced her, because her laugh grew alongside his, until he was throwing back his head and howling at the sky.


When he caught his breath, he felt light, free, like the wind. "How's the bike?"


"I kicked that kid's skinny butt." She still sounded like she could giggle at any moment. "Really, Daniel, what happened?"


"Maybe I'll tell you sometime. When we're both really drunk."


She snorted. "How's Friday night?"


Daniel sobered. "Do something for me, Sam. Do it right now." He felt the sense of urgency rising.


"What? Daniel...?"


"Call Jack. Invite him over for dinner tonight."


"But, Daniel, it's--"


"Sam." He paused, not sure how to get his point across. "Just...do it for me."


 She sucked in a breath, let it out slowly. "Why is this so important to you?"


He thought about Cordelia's pure, white light. About Angel, disappearing into the shadows without her. "Time's so short, Sam."


Sam laughed, but this time it was strange, uncomfortable. "I know that, Daniel. I go through the Stargate every day--"


He shook his head, kicked the sand and sent it streaming into the air. "No, no. That's not the point. The point is, sometimes God offers us love. We're crazy if we don't take it."


Silence vibrated through the lines, and then Sam's voice, quiet, thick. "I'll think about it."


His smile bloomed. "Perfect." In the distance he saw a white gull, floating high over the ocean, and he lifted his hand, imagining that the white bird would take his hello to Cordelia. "I'll see you tomorrow."


The little phone clicked shut and he stood, staring out at the ocean, smiling.




Thanks: To my heavenly beta crew: Littleheaven70, Queen Mab, Psychofilly, Laurie Andrews and Rachel Caine.