Part 8: Sunrise and Shadow
July 8, 1892
"Father?" Sam descended the stairs and found him at his desk in the study. "Did I hear voices?"
All the windows and doors were open, in a vain attempt to capture any cool breeze through the house. But her father appeared unusually cool.
"Sam, you should remain in bed."
She was growing annoyed with everyone treating her as if she lost limbs. A few scrapes and bruises and one twisted ankle was not enough to stay in bed in Sam's opinion. So far, she was putting up with those of differing opinion because she knew her loved ones had had quite a scare. She wasn't ready to start arguments on the heels of that.
"I will return to it soon. But I thought I heard—"
"Colonel O'Neill stopped by." Her father didn't look up from his ledgers as he spoke, nor did his tone indicate anything unusual.
"Oh? What for?" Sam asked, as if she had absolutely no idea why the colonel might be speaking with her father. There'd been no time for the colonel to ask her father for permission to court her before the terrible ordeal had happened, but now more than a week had passed since. Plenty of time.
"Various things…" Jacob turned a page. "He asked how you were feeling."
"He did?" Sam sat at the chair opposite her father's desk and looked him over curiously. For someone who'd just been discussing his daughter's future, Jacob appeared to be completely unaffected.
"Yes, and also wanted to let you know that the Frasiers now have a baby girl."
"I missed it." Sam sank further into the chair.
Jacob glanced up at her. "I wasn't aware of your sudden fondness for babies. I thought you always said—"
"People change." Sam cut him off, and instantly regretted taking out her irritation on her father. It wasn't his fault that Colonel O'Neill was an obtuse oaf. "I meant to say, that it's different when it's my dearest friend who has given birth."
Jacob's expression shifted for a moment. "I thought Vala was your dearest friend."
It startled Sam. "She is, of course."
"Hmm." Her father returned to his books.
July 31, 1892
As Daniel finished his story, the Frasiers and Jacob laughed. Teal'c expressed nothing more than a serene smile. Sam, who hardly heard the tale due to being involved in her own thoughts, looked up and forced a chuckle simply to fit in and not raise anyone's awareness.
A group of children passed in a game of tag, and once they went by, the town mayor, Mr. Hammond, approached their picnic table. He needed to speak with Mr. Frasier and Mr. Carter, so the men together moved off to have their discussion. Sam knew that a big town hall vote was coming next week, something about the rates and policies at the new bank that some felt were unfair. Mr. McKay, bank owner and manager, was of course insisting that no one was smart enough to understand the mathematics behind it, and they should simply trust he was right.
Once they left, Janet turned the discussion to teasing Daniel about Willow Song. There was something extra in the spirit of Janet Frasier, and Sam suspected it had much to do with the little bundle in her arms, and the fact that this was the first outing for Janet since giving birth to Cassandra.
Other gossip and news was exchanged, but Sam couldn't stay interested in any topic for more than a few minutes. Her eyes looked over the crowd in attendance at the Sunday afternoon church picnic. Everyone in town was there. Everyone but one, it appeared.
"Sam?" Janet asked.
"Yes," Sam turned her head back to the group before her. She didn't miss the look that passed between Daniel and Janet. The fact that Teal'c sat there, completely unassuming, instantly made him Sam's new favorite.
Sam replied quickly, "Sure." Probably too quickly. The fact that she hadn't seen Jack O'Neill in two weeks and suspected now that he was avoiding town functions in his apparent need to avoid her, well, that had nothing to do with anything.
"It is a shame that Colonel O'Neill is out of town," Teal'c said, while lifting one of Janet's special seasoned fried chicken drumsticks. "He would have enjoyed this fine food, Mrs. Frasier."
Out of town? Sam's mind raced with the news. She hadn't known, and part of her wondered if that was exactly why Teal'c had mentioned it.
Janet took the words out of Sam's mouth, "Thanks, Mr. Teal'c."
"However," the blacksmith continued, "in O'Neill's absence, it means more for us."
Janet snorted. Daniel glanced sideways at the big guy, then back to Janet. "Ah, yeah, thanks, Mrs. Frasier."
"You're more than welcome, but Miss Carter made the potato salad."
"Brought." Sam replied automatically. "Maya made it."
"Brought," Janet corrected herself. "Still, it was nice, honey."
Sam was having no more of this… game, or whatever it was they were all playing. "Why is the colonel out of town, and where did he go?"
There was an uncomfortable silence for a second before Daniel said, "He went to Denver… to testify in court."
"He didn't want us to tell you, Sam."
"And why not?"
Janet said, "We assumed you'd know why."
"Right," Sam covered her disappointment and anger by biting into her chicken. "Of course I know why."
August 19, 1892
Jack encouraged the horse, but it was done pushing on for the day. It was time to admit that they should stop for the night.
One more night away, when it had already been weeks longer than Jack had expected to be gone. It seemed the trial would never end. But Jack was determined to watch the men responsible for hurting Sam be convicted of their crimes.
He hadn't counted on the fact that it wasn't just the crimes committed against the Carters. These men had a whole list of things the government wanted them held accountable for, and thus, the trial seemed to go on forever. Far longer than the couple of days or a week that Jack had planned to be gone for. He couldn't imagine at this point what Sam must think, and once again, Jack questioned the wisdom in making Jacob promise not to say a word to his daughter before Jack returned.
His mind drifted back, as it often had over these long weeks, to that afternoon spent fishing. Jack could still picture Sam's eyes, and the hunger and passion there. Even the mere memory was enough to made his heart slam harder in his chest. It was more than he'd ever hoped for, that one day she might see him as more than a friend. But this? Sharing in his desire too, this was beyond his dreams come true.
At the roadhouse, Jack turned his horse over to the stable boy and went inside for some supper, a stiff drink, a room for the night. He reached into his pocket to pull out money to pay the proprietor, and for a moment, his fingers closed around something else in his pocket. It was the other important reason he'd traveled to Denver, and it was equally responsible for him being so anxious to get home.
A/N: almost done! :)