Our tale begins in Colorado, in a rural town that most visitors would consider indistinguishable from any other. It has a saloon, a general store, and a new bank that everyone has been talking about. There's a blacksmith, a doctor, a sheriff, and plenty of farmers and miners. But things here are about to change, and it all begins with the arrival of two new residents.
September 14, 1891
In Jack O'Neill's mind, he had a competition going between the number of people he'd seen and the number of clouds in the sky. So far, it was a pretty low-scoring game. The heat, he supposed, was to blame for keeping people from moving about in town much. And the lack of clouds in the sky, well, they were partially to blame for the heat.
Jack leaned against the frame of the entrance to Teal'c's blacksmith shop. It was the perfect location to keep an eye on the people passing on the main street and still be able to carry on a conversation with his friend. Even if it was mostly a one-way conversation. The shaded spot also allowed Jack to feel what little breeze there was in contrast to the heat from both the sun and the smithy forge.
"I hear there's a new bank opening."
No response from Teal'c.
Yeah, come to think of it, Jack wasn't all that interested in that particular topic either. One subject was sure to pique the interest of the big guy, being that he felt a certain kinship with those who had fewer freedoms, but Jack had been reluctant to bring it up the last few days. Might as well get it over with.
"Some government man from the Department of the Interior is supposed to show up and keep an eye on the Indian reservation to the south. Probably send reports back to Washington, or something."
At this, Teal'c's head turned from his work for the first time in over an hour. "Should you not inform Mr. Daniel Jackson of this news?"
"Oh, believe me, Daniel knows. He's been at the train station every day after school for the last week waiting to greet the man."
"Do you anticipate any problems, O'Neill?"
"When Daniel's involved, I always anticipate problems. Thing is, you never know what kind and when it'll happen." Jack twisted his lips into an ironic smile. "Part of Daniel's charm."
Teal'c set down the tools he'd been using to fashion a horseshoe. He opened his mouth about to say something when Jack put his hand up, halting further conversation. Then he made a signal and Teal'c stepped over to the doorway to see what Jack had observed on the street. A woman in full skirts, hat, and delicate leather boots was walking beside the very man they'd been discussing during the last few minutes.
Jack said, "Looks like Daniel made a friend."
Two hours later, Jack went over to pick up some for nails for Teal'c. In the back aisle of Siler's General Store, he stopped moving when he heard a familiar voice respond to one that was not at all familiar and distinctly feminine.
"I suppose I should drop my card at the homes of all the important ladies in town. If I delay too long, it might be taken the wrong way."
"Ah, well, that," Daniel replied. "Not too many people around here have calling cards."
There was a long silence. Jack imagined the woman was stunned by this news and couldn't figure out what to say next. He was so absorbed by the situation that he didn't realized he'd been inching forward to catch their next words; thus, he tripped on a box, knocking it over in grand style and alerting everyone in the General Store to his presence.
"Hey, Siler," Jack called to the proprietor, "watch where you stack these things, will ya?"
"Sorry, Colonel." The tall, lanky man grabbed a broom.
"Jack," Daniel rounded the corner and his new lady friend was right beside him. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing." Jack changed the subject. "Who's your friend?"
"Forgive me. This is Miss Samantha Carter. Her father works for the Department of the Interior, and they've just arrived from Washington. Mr. Carter asked me to show her around town."
"Miss," Jack tipped his head.
Daniel explained to Sam, "Colonel O'Neill is retired from the Army, and about 6 years ago the town elected him sheriff."
Sam offered the colonel her hand. "I'm very happy to meet the man that keeps the peace."
"Most of the time," Daniel added, under his breath.
"Daniel." The warning in the colonel's voice was clear, apparently even to Sam.
"It appears you have a loyal following, Colonel."
Was that humor? Honesty? Teasing? Jack dropped his gaze from hers rather abruptly.
At that moment, someone burst into the General Store shouting, "Colonel! Colonel, come quick!"
Sam and Daniel were right behind Jack when they came upon a group of people gathered on the street outside the saloon clapping and cheering. Jack shoved his way between them but stopped when he got a good look at the two men fighting. One was much larger and landed several blows to the smaller man's face.
"Aren't you going to stop them, Colonel?" Sam asked when she noticed Jack pause to watch.
"In a minute."
She blinked at him. "What kind of sheriff are you? If you don't step in, that man could be seriously hurt."
She huffed her indignation and pushed her way between the spectators into the ring they'd formed.
"Stop!" She attempted to step between the large man's fists and his intended target. "Stop it immediately!"
"Oh, for cryin'…" Jack grumbled at being forced to intercede. He grabbed Sam's arm and dragged her aside. There was a flare of something in her eyes, and as annoyed as he was at her, that flare still had a funny effect on him, but he had more important things to deal with at the moment.
"OK, boys, break it up." Jack took hold of the larger man, twisting his arm behind his back and up until man howled in pain. "Enough."
Sam bent down to the man in the dirt, and examined blood coming from several cuts on his face. "I can help," she said softly, hoping to calm and ease. "I have some cream that can be applied to these."
"I'm fine, Miss," the man replied as he stood and brushed himself off.
Daniel appeared at Sam's side. "That was very brave of you, Miss Carter."
"I may be a lady," she gave her new friend a smile, "but I think there's a lot about me that will surprise you, Mr. Jackson."
Jack turned the culprit over to his deputy and lingered on the scene watching the as the crowd dissipated. He also observed Miss Carter and Daniel. This lady was unlike anything he'd ever encountered, all full of manners and polish on the outside, but fascinating on the inside in ways he hadn't expected. Not to mention she wasn't bad to look at. Not bad at all.
No wonder Daniel was interested in her.
A man standing to Jack's right whistled low under his breath. "Mighty fine lookin' lady."
"Don't you have telegrams to be sending or receiving, Henry?"
But Henry ignored the grouchiness in the colonel's tone. "Shame she don't seem to like you much."
"What? It ain't a crime to look, Sheriff."
September 15, 1891
Maya had just set the pot of tea on the table when Jacob Carter entered the dinning room.
Sam looked up from her breakfast, "Morning, Father."
"Sam," he smiled, "sleep well in your new room?"
"It's strange. It's almost too quiet here."
Maya poured Jacob a cup of tea as he sampled his eggs. "Too quiet?" Jacob spoke between bites. "I'm afraid you've lived in the city for far too long. Perhaps this move is good for us in unforeseen ways."
"Yes, perhaps." But in her heart, Sam didn't believe that to be true. On the one hand, she was proud that her father had achieved his promotion at work. But in all other aspects, their life had taken turns she was not happy with.
Sam missed assisting at her grandfather's clinic three times a week. She missed her friends back in Washington, especially Vala, who never thought Sam's hobbies were odd or her future plans inappropriate for a proper woman of society.
She missed Lady Langford, who had taken on the young Samantha as an unofficial daughter when Sam's mother died in childbirth with Sam's little brother. Lady Langford made sure that when Sam needed new dresses, Jacob paid for them. When a new ball was announced, she'd convinced Jacob to allow Sam to attend with herself as chaperone of course. She'd told Sam all about the subtle ways of catching a man's eye, even if Sam found the whole discussion more amusing than useful.
Sam missed it all but was not going to mention a word of it to her father. He deserved the promotion, even if it came with a move to Colorado and leaving the life they'd known behind.
Maya entered the room again, this time to introduce a guest. Never having been someone who stood on ceremony, Jacob went to the parlor to fetch Mr. Jackson and invite him into the less formal rooms of the house.
"Mr. Jackson, have a seat." Jacob offered, as they entered the dinning room. "Would you like some coffee, tea, or breakfast?"
"Thank you, coffee would be wonderful."
Sam lay down her fork as an idea formed in her mind. "Father, may I accompany you and Mr. Jackson to the reservation?"
Jacob seemed startled. "I would have thought you'd want to get started on your garden?"
"I do," Sam replied. "But I can start tomorrow. I'd like to come along."
"Mr. Jackson, do you mind?"
Daniel gave Sam a smile. "Not at all. She made for pleasant company yesterday, I'm positive that today would be no different."
The sun was high; only a few clouds lingered in the eastern sky. It was a beautiful day, and Sam was forced to admit that Colorado had a few things going for it. The mountains in the distance stood like cathedral walls. The tall grass swayed in the breeze, and the children ran through the settlement playing a rambunctious game until an adult scolded them to play quietly. It all lifted Sam's spirits.
Daniel and her father spent most of the morning in talks with men that Sam assumed were the elders of the various Indian tribes. As Sam understood it, the main issue was that several tribes had been moved to the same location; a few of them were once enemies. The government was seen as not considering such issues. In the past, Sam felt the government had made mistakes in handling the Indian wars. But she also saw in her father a strong belief that despite the past, peace could be achieved.
She looked away from the meeting taking place among the men. The half-finished sketch in the notebook open on her lap couldn't maintain her attention either. Something about the mountains and the trees made her want to daydream like she used to as a child. It was silly, there were plenty of constructive things she could be doing, including the fact that Mr. Jackson had promised to introduce her to a medicine man.
Sam was so caught in the tangle of her thoughts that she didn't hear anyone approach.
"Nice day. Not too many of these warm ones left in the year."
Though the sun behind him made a halo that blinded her a little, she could make out the brown-turning-gray hair and the jaw line of Colonel O'Neill.
"May I join you?" he asked.
He lowered himself to the quilt she'd spread on the grass. For a few moments, she'd thought he might say nothing further, just sit and look out at the landscape before them.
"What are you doing here, Miss Carter?"
"I could ask you the same, sir."
"You could." He picked at blades of grass. "But I'm the sheriff and I'm used to askin' the questions and folks answering them."
"Well, allow me to add this to the list of ways in which I'm not impressed by your skills as sheriff."
A strange expression she couldn't read appeared for a second before he schooled it away. If she didn't know better, she'd have thought it was some kind of amusement with her, but that couldn't be right.
"You're still angry about yesterday," Jack finally said.
"What happened to the man that was hurting the other?"
"I put Mr. Davis— that was the man throwing the punches— up in my guest room overnight to sober up. Gave him a stern talking to in the morning and then let him go."
"That's it?" Sam was flustered.
"That's it." Jack twisted two blades of grass between his fingers and glanced at her. "You never answered my question."
"I came with my father and Mr. Jackson."
"I can see that, but why? Why would a lady like you be interested in spending time in the company of a bunch of natives? Most are afraid of them."
"Not a lady, or not afraid?"
She gave him a look that could make any child quiver in fear of punishment.
"Of course." Jack stood and brushed bits of grass from his pants. "Well, I've got some very inadequate sheriffing to do. You have a nice day, Miss."
O'Neill started to turn, but stopped. "You never asked me about the other man."
"I examined his cuts, which were not deep, and I assume he has some bruising but otherwise he seemed all right."
"He is. He's also sitting in my jail cell, being that day before yesterday he tried to take advantage of Mr. Davis' wife."
Sam could only manage a weak, "Oh," in response, but the colonel never heard it. He was already halfway across the field.