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When Two Hearts Collide

Chapter 6

The room was still a bit steamy. He breathed deeply of her sweet scent. The smell of…lilacs…jasmine…and that underlying hint of vanilla. He picked up the towel she'd used, held it to his face. God, what kind of freak am I? he wondered, filling his lungs with her. She had used this to touch her body, dry it…definitely a freak, he thought weakly. He showered quickly, ignoring the throbbing in his cock. Hoping that eventually the damned thing would go down. It had been hard all day. Well, no, that wasn't true, exactly. Not all day. He hadn't gotten hard until the first time he looked into her eyes in the storeroom where the mirror…the destroyed mirror, was. He'd gone absolutely rigid when she'd looked at him with those beautiful eyes when he'd asked her if she wanted coffee. Stayed that way when she left with Sam, after the first meeting. Stayed that way while he tried to work. While he hid in Jack's office. While they'd that second meeting. He poured more shower gel on his hand, wrapped his long fingers around his impressive and swollen manhood, and began to stroke…hard, fast; grinning slightly as he thought that this was the reason it was called 'jerking off'. Right here. That beautiful, sexy body had been standing right here. She had been wet and naked…and…oh, god…just like that! He closed his eyes as he came, his body shuddering slightly. He wasn't satisfied. Not by a long shot. But it was a bit of temporary relief.

He pulled on sweats and a wife beater. Ran a comb through his wet hair. She was sitting cross-legged on the sofa, chess pieces around her, carefully examining each one. "That set was a gift," he said softly.

Startled, she jerked; sent the piece in her hand flying. It landed on the floor at his bare feet. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been touching it," she said, a hint of panic in her voice.

"No, it's okay, really." He picked up the piece, walked over to the coffee table, sat down on the floor. "Do you play?"

She shook her head. "I always wanted to learn, though." Her cheeks went crimson as her words filled her ears. That was a blatant 'Oh-please-I-want-to-spend-time-with-you' comment if she'd ever made one! "Maybe someday," she added quickly.

He watched her, not at all sure what had caused her to blush so furiously. "I'd be happy to teach you how to play," he said. Then you'd have to stay. How can I teach you to play chess if you don't live here? He shook his head mentally. Oh, hell, here we go again! I do not want to get involved! he argued silently. You already are, his heart taunted. He refused to admit to anything of the sort.

Oh, yeah. Right. Like that's gonna happen. She gathered the pieces, carefully put them back on the board. "That's a very kind offer."

And one she neither declined, nor accepted, he noted.

No man should be allowed to look so damned good! His broad shoulders were mostly bare, she could see a dusting of freckles on his tanned skin. A few scars. She wondered briefly how he'd gotten them. He smelled good, he looked good…and she needed to move away from him. As far away from him as she could get!

He was a bit startled when she jumped to her feet, nearly ran to the other side of the room. Watched as she began to read the titles of the tons of tomes that he had collected over the years. Tons of tomes. Cassie had come up with that. She'd giggled hysterically over her wit, and Jack had laughed with her. He smiled at the very pleasant memory.

"Oh, god, I thought I was the only one who read that book!"

He rose to his feet. "Which one?"

"'The Crystal Skull of Belize'. An archaeologist by the name of Nicholas Ballard wrote it." Her cheeks flushed. "Of course you already know that," she murmured.

"How did you happen to come across the book?" There was no way he was going to let her out of this one! He was dying to know how she could possibly have any knowledge about this much-maligned book of his grandfather's.

"I was an anthropology major. I took a class called 'Obscure Theories of the Archaeological World'. I thought that I would hear about obscure theories, the ones that never make the press, or make it into the movies. Things that might be important to an anthropologist. I never dreamed it would be nothing more than a crash course on how to bash anything that didn't fall into line with 'mainstream thinking'."

The tone of her voice let him know that she had not been impressed by her discovery. He chuckled. "This was one of the books on the reading list, I suppose."

She nodded. "I argued for two hours with that dip-shit professor-" her eyes went wide, and her hand flew up to cover her mouth. "Sorry," she mumbled.

He laughed out loud. "No problem. I had a few dip-shit professors myself. Please, go on," he urged gently, eagerly.

Her slender shoulders moved up and down in that now familiar way. "He told me that I was too willing to believe the unbelievable. I told him that without proof to the contrary, every word in the book should be given the benefit of the doubt, one man's experience shouldn't be ignored because he couldn't sway the narrow-minded, hard-liners of academia. He got pissy when I told him that Galileo had been considered a crackpot because he believed the Earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. Low and behold, the old boy was right. So who was to say that some day Nicholas Ballard might not be proven right? Besides, I loved the book," she said softly, a soft smile turning up the corners of her mouth.

"You did?" There was no way to disguise his surprise, by both the fact that she was so…open minded, and by her enjoyment of the book.

"It's so vividly written! I can close my eyes and see that huge cavern, the narrow stone pathway, the stone podium that the skull was sitting on…see the misty giant aliens. I've looked to see if he published any other books, but I couldn't find any. There were several articles about digs he'd been on. I made copies of those, so I could read them again and again. It was like being there with him." She sighed. Shook her head, as if clearing the memories away. "That was a lifetime ago."

He watched the excited light fade from her eyes. Watched the sadness, the wariness fill them once again. Wanted to do something to put that light back, to see her smile again. He had all of Nick's belongings stored in his allotted storage bin, now that the archaeologist was living with the Giant Aliens who had haunted him for twenty years; and he had all of his grandfather's journals. He'd let her read them…he had no doubt that she would love them. "What happened?" he asked softly.

Her slender shoulders moved up and down again. "Money. Or lack thereof," she said quietly. "I had to quit school. I was so tired all of the time, working fifteen hours a week at the library as part of my scholarship terms, thirty hours a week at the restaurant to try and make enough to live on, then classes and labs and homework…." she shook her head. "My grades fell because I couldn't keep up. I'm not stupid, there just weren't enough hours in the day," she added, defensively.

"Stupid isn't a word I would ever associate with you," he said, his voice low.

She looked up at him, smiled sadly. "I don't see why not. I drove from Tacoma to Silver Springs on the word of a dead seer."

He smiled. "I believe it's been established that she was right. And that it was damned important that you did."

"Why couldn't I…she…why couldn't they have just come through the mirror and told you themselves?" she asked.

"Time. They knew that we would probably be a bit…suspicious, and they didn't have time to waste trying to convince us to destroy our mirror. According to my letter, ten other contacts were made while they waited for you to get here." There had been other things on that second page as well, things about her, things that were meant to help him get to know her. That they…the SG-1 of that other reality…felt it vitally important that a seer by the name of Casey Webster be part of the SGC, and the battle against the Goa'uld.

She nodded. Wrapped her arms around her narrow waist, tried to back away from him without seeming to do so. Because if she stood there any longer she was liable to throw her arms around his neck and beg him to love her.

He noticed her subtle movements. Tried to figure out why she seemed afraid to be near him. "I won't hurt you," he said softly.

You already have, she thought, barely fighting back her tears. "Not intentionally, I'm sure." The words were out before she could stop them. She turned to look out the window, concentrated on counting the lights she could see.

He already had hurt her, they both knew that. He hadn't meant to…he was just trying to protect her, to keep her life from being screwed up, her very existence threatened. When his hands closed over her slender shoulders, he could feel the jolt of electricity that ran from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. The shiver she gave let him know that she had felt it as well. He turned her slowly to face him, tucked a finger under her chin and lifted her face. Winced when the wetness of her tears reflected in the light from the lamp behind them. "Never intentionally. Not even unintentionally if I can help it."

Her body was tingling, her skin on fire where his hands touched her. She refused to look at him, didn’t dare raise her eyes to meet his. She would be lost forever if she did. "Sometimes things happen. Or don't happen. That's just the way it is."

There was so much pain in those simple statements that he didn't even know where to begin to address them. Instead he pulled her close, hugged her tightly to his chest. Felt her arms go around his shoulders slowly, hesitantly. So good…so damned right! He could feel himself losing the battle to stay away from her, to keep her at arms length in an effort to protect her from the curse that seemed to haunt him.

No, she shouldn't be doing this! He'd made it blatantly apparent that he didn't find her attractive…didn't want to be near her! Yeah, so why are you standing in his living room, in his arms? her heart demanded to know. He just feels sorry for me, she shot back. Pity I don't need! That thought gave her the strength to fight against the attraction, the desire to remain in his arms. She pushed away from him. Never for me, she thought sadly. Love. Paradise. Happiness. Never, ever for me. Her already battered heart broke just a bit more. "No," she murmured. "No."

"Why not?" he asked softly, his hands wrapped around her upper arms. He felt cold…empty…without her near him, without her body against his.

"It just wasn't meant to be," she said sadly.

The melancholy in those beautiful eyes, the hint of tears still on her pale cheeks haunted him, poked at the wall he was trying so desperately to keep around his heart. He doubted seriously that her letter had warned her away from him. Not if his, and those of his closest friends, insisted that the two of them belonged together. "Is that what your letter said?"

She started. Dared to look up into those incredible cerulean blue eyes. They were guarded. He was afraid of being hurt. She cocked her head to the side. He was more afraid of her being hurt…cursed…he believed himself to be cursed, and that loving her would put her in danger! So he was trying to close himself off, hiding behind a wall of indifference. A wall that she would never be able to breach…no matter how much she might want to. "No," she said finally.

"Then why-"

"I'm really tired. If you don't mind, I'd like to just stretch out on the couch and get some sleep."

She had pulled away from him; physically and emotionally. She was trying as frantically to erect as many barriers as he was, both of them desperate to protect hearts that were battered and weary. He let his hands drop to his sides. "Sure. I'll get a blanket and a pillow."

Ten minutes later he was lying on his bed, his hands behind his head. One paragraph of the letter from…himself…filled his mind...

 

"On a personal note, all of the loneliness that you deal with now will be a thing of the past, if you don't blow it. She's your Destiny. And you are hers. Just love her, unconditionally, unequivocally…the way your heart wants to love her, and you'll be happier than you ever thought possible…if you don't blow it…if you don't blow it…"

 

He snorted softly. The look of raw pain in her eyes when he had jumped to his feet in the conference room danced in front of him. Way to go, Danny. You blew it before you ever had a chance! He didn't even bother wiping away the tears that ran down the side of his face. He had condemned himself to a life of loneliness, emptiness, coldness. His actions in that meeting had pushed her away, and there was no way to bridge that chasm now.

 

 

 

She tried to hold back the tears, but she was just too exhausted to do so. So close. Happiness…paradise had been within her grasp. But as always, it had been snatched away from her. Never for her. Never. Not even when it was supposed to be her Destiny. He was her Destiny, she could feel it! And she was his, she could feel that too! When he had wrapped his arms around her, it was the first time in her life she'd ever felt safe. So safe…so warm.

The room around her held his scent. This was his space - he was everywhere, surrounded her. With a tiny cry of pain, she tossed back the blanket, jumped to her feet. She folded it, put it on the sofa, the pillow on top. Found her worn cowboy boots and pulled them on. Her purse and duffel were by the table; she'd placed them there so that she'd be able to find them easily when it was time to leave. And it was most definitely time to leave. She pulled her coat over her arms. She'd noticed a pen and notepad beside the telephone on the sofa table. She located the penlight in her purse, held it with one hand as she wrote...

 

"

 

She slipped out the door and into the night. 

Alone in his bed, Daniel tossed fitfully, his dreams filled with green eyes and warm, loving arms.

 

 

 

Casey took the elevator to the parking garage, then wiggled past the wrought iron gate that prevented anyone without the proper ID card from entering. She gasped as the bitingly cold air hit her. Huddled as far into her coat as she could; the long, black, wool garment decidedly not meant for the double-digit negative temperatures of Colorado, she stood for a second on the sidewalk to get her bearings. They'd turned into the garage from…that direction… She started walking, going back over in her mind the short ride from the grocery store to the apartment building. She'd get a couple of hours of sleep, then head for the base. And she'd tell them thanks, but no thanks. She just didn't have what was necessary for the job. If they insisted on giving her those tests, she'd fake her way to failing them. They'd let her leave; she'd go back to Tacoma…and have to look for work there. Unless she could manage to make a call to Kelley…

By the time she arrived at the Piggly-Wiggly, she was nearly frozen. She couldn't feel her fingers or toes. She tossed her duffel bag into the backseat, then went inside, wandered the aisles, finally picked up a candy bar. The night clerk and the two people stocking shelves didn't seem to mind that she was there, so she continued to wander, pretending to be buying the items needed for lasagna, or manicotti, or just a meal of chicken breasts and linguine Alfredo…and green beans and ham. Or what about making a nice meatloaf? She sighed. She loved to cook, and rarely had the opportunity. Cooking for one wasn't any fun. Kelley had been spending most evenings with her mother. It saved the cost of a nurse for those few hours. Gave them precious time together.

Finally warm, she went out to the parking lot. Damn, the car was cold! She pulled her coat tighter around her slender frame. She really didn't have enough gas to just let it sit and idle, not if she was going to have to drive around looking for work. Okay, she'd go back inside in an hour or so.

Her mind went over all the excuses she could give, all the ways to politely decline the job that she knew General Hammond wanted her to take. She refused to think about the letter…that woman…had given her. It might be true for other…realities…She pushed back the feeling that she was supposed to be working there. That her presence could actually help the people who…did whatever it was that they did there. Secrets, lots of secrets connected to that place. Danger. Fear. Hope. Determination. No. She wasn't going to do it. She couldn't do it! She just didn't have the strength. There was no way that she could see him every day, and know that he was her Destiny. And when… because he was a gorgeous hunk of man, he probably had women throwing themselves at his feet…beautiful women, well-educated women…so when he fell in love, and it wasn't with her, she would just lay down and die. Nope, she was going back to Tacoma. Even if it meant dancing in that damned club to make a living! She closed her eyes. Dreamed of blue eyes, broad shoulders, and that warm feeling of safety.

 

 

 

He sat up, gasping for breath. Running from Hathor again. God, he hated that particular nightmare! He glanced at the clock. Not quite four. Might as well get up, no way would he be able to go back to sleep now. He'd work on translating the tablet that he'd brought home. Technically he wasn't supposed to, artifacts weren't supposed to leave the mountain, but it was a small tablet, and it was covered with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Goa'uld on it was surprisingly difficult to see. No one would pay it any mind. He flipped on the light to the small bedroom that served as his office. Wondered if the light would reflect and bother her. Slipped down the hallway to check…oh, Christ! The blanket was folded neatly, the pillow on top of it. He saw the notepad propped up against the lamp base. He switched the lamp on, read the painfully short note. Ran his fingers over the neatly written letters. Goddamnit! It's just too fucking cold for her to sleep in a goddamn car!

Daniel yanked on his jeans, tugged on a heavy sweater, pulled on socks and shoved his feet into his boots, grumbling to himself about stubborn blondes with a morbid wish to freeze to death. Maybe she'd stay put if he took her to the base, signed her into one of the VIP rooms, he thought, grabbing his keys and his coat, pulling the door to his apartment closed behind him. He should have done that to begin with. Then he wouldn't have fallen in love… He stopped, leaned against the wall of the hallway. Slammed his fist against the elevator call button. Oh, hell. He'd done it. He'd fallen in love with her!

He took a deep breath. In spite of his best efforts, in spite of the fact that he had tried to steel his heart against her…she'd managed to slip past his defenses, through the wall of ice he'd tried so hard to keep around his very soul. Destiny, Danny. Can't fight Destiny. So go find her, and bring her home, his heart begged. Yeah. Home. His home. Her home. Their home. He ran to the jeep, barely waited for the gate to finish opening before he was careening onto the street.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

It was so cold…if she could just warm the car up a little bit…She put the key into the ignition. Turned it. Listened to the odd grinding sound that echoed in the still of the early morning. Ricky had warned her that the starter was about to go. He wanted her to get a new car…well, a different car. She couldn't afford one. She was doing good to pay for the bare minimum of insurance and gas for this one! He did repairs on his own time, so that he didn't have to charge her for labor, and most of the time he paid for the parts himself. The battered little car would have died a long time ago if not for her best friend's brother. She tried again. And again. She was sitting in the cold, in a car that needed major repair work, with no money, no job, no home, in a town where she had no one to turn to…the enormity of the situation settled on her slender shoulders, and she began to cry. Sometimes, waking up just wasn't worth the effort!

The jeep raced into the parking lot. He parked beside her. She was leaning over the steering wheel. Was she crying? Yep, sure looked that way.

She jumped when she heard the tap on the window. Déjà vu, she thought morosely.

The door wasn't locked, which he discovered when it became apparent that she was going to try to ignore him. Did she have any idea how dangerous that was? What if some creep had walked up to the car? He slowly opened the door. "Casey?"

"It won't start!" she sniffed, hastily wiping at her cheeks.

"Aw, honey, don't worry about it. I'll call a tow truck…"

She shook her blonde head. She was so tired, so frightened, his words didn't even register in her mind. "It won't start, and I'm broke, and I don't have a job, and I don't have a place to live, and I'm so damned cold!"

He pulled her into his arms. Settled back into the seat sideways, cuddled her on his lap as she sobbed her pain, her distress…her fear. She was shaking, he had no idea how much was from her sobs, and how much was from the cold. He smoothed down her hair. Silk. It felt like silk. "Shh, it'll be okay, honey, I promise."

Her arms were around his neck before she could stop herself. Again the endearment he'd used failed to impact on her. The tears of pain that she'd forced back earlier returned, in full force. She wept against his shoulder, his arms warm and his chest so strong and he smelled so good and she felt so safe…and she cried all the harder knowing that he would never love her.

The arrival of a police car caught his attention. The officer checked the plates of her little car, then those of the jeep beside it. Finally he approached the couple. "What's the problem?"

"Car won't start. It's just sort of the last straw," Daniel replied calmly.

"This is her car?"

"Yes, sir."

"Miss, are you all right?"

She gulped back a sob, looked up at the uniformed man through tears. "It won't start," she hiccupped.

The officer smiled sympathetically. "So I hear."

"I'm cold," she added.

"Let's go home, babe. We'll worry about the car later," Daniel said softly, the endearment slipping out before he could stop it. Hoped like hell she wouldn't decided to fight him, and declare that he had no right to call her that, and that she wasn't going home with him. Instead, she gave a weary nod.

She just didn't have the strength to fight any longer. She was almost twenty-eight years old, and she'd fought all of her life. Most of the time it had been simple survival she had been struggling for. She'd been fighting for so long she had nothing left to fight with. When Daniel stood up, adjusted her weight in his arms, all she could do was cling tighter to his neck. She closed her eyes when she felt his lips against her forehead.

Oh, god, so damned sweet! His body reacted ardently to the taste of her skin. Her sweet scent filled his nose, his lungs, and her soft, warm body against his chest was enough to have his senses reeling.

The police officer opened the passenger door of the jeep. "I'll put a tag on the car. You'll need to get it towed as soon as possible."

"I'll make sure it's done today," Daniel promised. From the looks of it, having it hauled straight to the junkyard was probably the best idea. He fastened her seatbelt, reached into the little Toyota and grabbed her purse and duffel, put them in the backseat of the jeep.

The officer nodded at him as he settled behind the steering wheel. He left the parking lot at a much more sedate pace than he had arrived.

She was staring out the window. What the hell was she supposed to do now? She'd have to take the job working for General Hammond, doing whatever it was she was supposed to do. Which meant that she'd see Da…Dr. Jackson every day…and…no. She couldn't do it. She just wasn't strong enough. She had felt herself…break…sitting in that cold car, knowing that it wasn't going to start again. Casey wasn't prone to quit, she didn't give up easily; never lost faith, never lost hope. No, she wasn't a quitter. What she was…was exhausted. On every perceivable level. She just didn't have the strength to fight any longer. The best she would be able to do would be to drift along, and hope for the best. "I don't suppose there are any…gentlemen's clubs…in this town," she said softly, her voice emotionless.

"Say what?"

"I had an offer for a job in a stri…in a club in Tacoma. I figure if I could get one there, I should be able to find one here."

He swallowed…hard. No way in hell was she stripping in some dive like Deezers! He'd gone there with Jack and Teal'c, tired and lonely and just needing to know that there was something other than the damned Goa'uld in their lives; had enjoyed watching the dancers strip, giving the men who sat around the stage a good look at soft, firm, beautiful bodies; offering fodder for fantasies. He'd even paid for a couple of lap dances. To fuel his own fantasies, for a night or two. He thought about the women, several of them just girls, who worked there. Wondered if they were just as down on their luck as she was, if they had reached the end of their ability to fight what life threw at them. Just the thought of her dancing, taking her clothes of slowly, seductively; strange men watching her, leering at her, wanting her, lusting after her…No way in hell was that ever going to happen! Nope. No way in hell. "I was under the impression that you'd be working on the base."

She shook her head. "Can't. It would hurt too badly. Too tired to deal with the pain."

He could hear the hopelessness in her voice. The weariness. Oh, god, she was exhausted…physically, mentally, emotionally…that added page to his letter had told him that she'd suffered an abusive childhood. She'd reached the end of her rope. "Let's just go get some sleep. Things will look better when you can think straight."

"Not a bad idea," she said. Sleep first. Then she could find a strip club and start dancing and stripping to make a living…and become what she had tried so desperately all her life not to be. Her mind, as well as her body, was beginning to shut down from fatigue.

 

A   A   A   A   A   A

 

She didn't even argue with him as they rode the elevator to the fifth floor. He led her back to the apartment. Tossed her purse and duffel onto the sofa. Took her to the bedroom. Gently pulled her coat from her shoulders. When he sat her on the bed, knelt down in front of her and began to pull her boots from her feet, she finally began to struggle. "What are you doing?"

"I'm getting ready to tuck you in," he said, smiling at her.

Oh god! He was going to…he expected her to…it wasn't that she didn't want to…oh goddess she did…but she never had, and he'd be disappointed…and he didn't even like her anyway!

"Just sleep, Casey. You need rest. I could use a bit of sleep myself," he said gently, seeing the panic in those amazing eyes.

"I'll sleep on the sofa," she said.

"Tried that once. You ran away," he replied. Neither of them noticed that his hands were massaging her foot.

"Couldn't stay," she whispered.

"Why?" he asked in kind.

Her eyes filled with tears. "Too much of you to deal with. I can't fight it when there's so much of you to deal with," she said softly.

"So don't fight it," he said, sitting down beside her.

"I have to," she replied.

"Why?"

"Never for me," she whispered.

"What's never for you?"

"Happiness. Love. Belonging to someone. Paradise." She shook her head sadly. Her green eyes reflected the defeat she felt. "Never for me."

In that instant every barrier that he had tried to erect around his heart crumbled to the ground. The look of utter desolation in those beautiful eyes took all of the fight out of him. Left him questioning the need to fight against what was apparently inevitable. He wanted…needed…those things as much as she did. Was willing to take the risk if it meant finding them with her. He moaned softly, pulled her into his arms. "You can have them, Casey. I can have them, too. Together. We'll find those things together, I promise," he whispered.

"You don't even like me," she said.

"That's not true. I do like you. Well, maybe not like…" He tightened his arms around her when she tried to pull away. "I love you."

Her head shot up, she nearly smacked her head against his jaw; he'd felt her move and had managed to pull away in the nick of time. "You what?"

"I don't know exactly when it happened. But it seems that I've fallen in love with you," he admitted quietly, pushing a lock of blonde silk behind her shoulder.

She looked into his eyes. Searched them, found the truth in the blue depths. Shivered slightly. "Probably happened about the same time I fell in love with you," she said softly.

"C'mere," he said, pulling her along with him as he stretched out on the bed. "It was a long day, and it's been a long night. Let's get some sleep."

Without meaning to, her body moving on its own, or so it seemed, she snuggled closer to his side. Her head found its way to his shoulder. One arm wrapped around his waist. This was right. This was meant to be. She closed her eyes and gave in to her need to sleep. Just sleep. Just for a little while. Then...her last conscious thought was about the need to find a strip club, so that she could find employment.

Soft. Warm. Sweet. She felt so good, felt so right cuddled close to him like this. He tightened his arm around her shoulders, let his hand drift up and down the slender arm that lay across him. Closed his eyes. She was home. It was okay. He could stop fighting now…he could rest now…everything was right…now.


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