A good friend is someone we can count on, as well as being so much more. A friend is someone with whom we can relax and just hang out, have fun and share our innermost thoughts - deep dark secrets, lofty and noble goals, or our hopes, joys, and fears. A good friend allows you a safe space to share your deepest thoughts and needs - without worry of being judged, criticised or made to feel silly for feeling the way you do. Friends cheer each other on, laugh and cry together, and just plain commiserate and listen to each other. That's why friends are friends.
-- Bettie and Jennifer Leigh Youngs.
Light flickered gently in the corner of the room, a computer's screensaver pulsing gently as ancient Egyptian figures occasionally marched across the screen. The room was quiet with the timeless peace of a much-loved, well-used library; the only sounds being the soft scratching of a busy pen and the occasional rustle of paper as a page was turned. In the background, a clock ticked; a reassuring beat that accentuated the sensation of the room as a haven, a retreat from the chaos of the world outside the door.
Daniel Jackson sneezed.
"Dammit!" he mumbled, fumbling around for a tissue. He looked up at the time and sighed - that was the eleventh sneeze in five minutes. The book he was reading was old; the mustiness of age clinging to each page and the scent of dust was hanging heavy in the air, even though there was no visible sign of any. It was as if age had embedded the dust into the book's very structure and to remove it would be to remove its very soul.
Which, while a rather romantic notion, was nothing more than a frustrating annoyance to an allergy-riddled archaeologist. He dug around in his drawer for his anti-histamine tablets and finally pulled out the blister pack, an empty blister pack.
He stared at it in dismay then physically looked inside his drawer, as if he could somehow locate any tablets that had escaped his searching fingers.
No such luck.
He put his pen down and rose. "Well," he sighed to the book. "Looks like a trip to the infirmary for me. I hope you're happy."
The book, being a book, didn't seem to care but Daniel glared at it anyway.
It wasn't that he objected to visiting any of the infirmary staff. He got on with most of them. They were nice people and he was one of their favourite patients - always co-operative with their demands and rarely aggressive in temperament - so his visits were always welcome. However, today, in light of an emergency medical situation with two SG teams, Daniel had been giving the infirmary a wide berth. They didn't need people getting in their way and General O'Neill was good enough at lurking for the entire base.
When he arrived, he cautiously poked his head around the doorway but everything looked calm. Patients were either asleep or behaving themselves, nurses were doing their duties with quiet efficiency, and the crisis looked like it was over.
He smiled at a nurse who had spotted him and was rewarded with a faint blush and an answering smile. "Any sign of the Doc, or is she still busy?" he asked.
There were several doctors at the SGC, all of them had the right to be referred to as "the Doc" but only one ever was. It should have caused confusion, it should have raised questions along the lines of "Um... which doc?" but it never did. The Doc was Janet Fraiser, and everyone knew it.
"No, she's in her office. Go right ahead," the nurse gestured in the direction of the CMO's office.
"Thanks," he threw her a grin, which provoked another blush and a smile, and headed off to the office. He really didn't know why women blushed so much whenever he talked to them. Jack teased him endlessly about it and even Teal'c seemed to regard his plight with amusement, probably because he found it annoying. Sam and Janet didn't blush whenever he spoke to them and neither did Cassandra. He couldn't even remember a time when either Sha'uri or Sarah had. Surely if any women had ever had a right to blush when he smiled at them, it would have been those two?
He paused, suddenly experiencing a small flutter in the pit of his stomach as that part of him that was pure male ego panicked. Hold on, it demanded indignantly. So why didn't they?
Face it, Jackson, he told himself wryly. You just don't understand women.
He grinned at himself, feeling a little rueful and knocked the door. What man does? "Hey," he said cheerfully as Janet looked up from her work - a little warily, he thought. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
She relaxed as soon as she realised who it was and gestured to a seat. "Daniel," she said warmly. "Take a seat."
He did as ordered and settled himself comfortably against her desk. "I thought for a moment knocking the door was the wrong thing to do."
Janet grinned sheepishly. "I was expecting the General," she admitted.
He laughed. "Yeah, I know that feeling," he sobered up slightly, studying her features. She had a very animated face normally, with bright brown eyes that reflected at least three different shades depending on her moods. Sometimes, he would swear blind that there were golden flecks in her eyes. At other times, they seemed tinted with shades of red or even green. At the moment, however, they were incredibly dark, a rich chocolate that made all other colours invisible and veiled her emotions from his probing gaze. "How's Philips?"
She rubbed her forehead with the hand that still held her pen. "Stable," she said non-committally. "We'll see how that goes."
He nodded at the response. She looked tired and wan but he didn't bother stating the obvious. Instead, he decided to settle for encouragement. "You have a good staff here, I'm sure he'll make it."
She sighed at the quiet confidence in his tone and dropped her pen on the desk. Leaning back in her seat, she stretched, arching against the back of her chair. She clapped a hand over her mouth as a sudden yawn escaped her and cleared her throat softly, embarrassed.
He grinned at her reaction, which just made her blush and glare at him. "Right, that does it," he declared, pushing himself to his feet. "On your feet."
She looked startled. "Why?"
"Because you're tired and I'm frustrated, so we're going to go in search of my magical cure-all, guaranteed to chase away the blues. And the yawns."
She raised both her eyebrows at him, amused. "This magical cure-all," she mused. "It wouldn't happen to be caffeine-based, would it?"
He flapped his hands at her, gesturing emphatically for her to get out of her chair. "Up, up! Come on," his tone was firm but his grin eloquently answered her question.
Janet rose and then pulled herself up to appear as tall as possible. She didn't make much headway against his greater height but she gave it a determined try anyway. "As a doctor, I really can't condone substance abuse by any of the base personnel, Daniel. That includes you."
His eyes glowed with laughter and he grabbed her hand in both of his to still the finger she was wagging at him. "How about medicinal use? As a doctor, you can control my intake, after all."
"Doctor Jackson," she responded tartly. " No-one on this planet can control your caffeine intake."
"Yeah, but admit it - you have fun trying," he quipped back.
She laughed at the impish expression on his face then squeezed his hands gently and pulled her fingers free of his grip. "Alright, alright, coffee it is," she threw him a stern frown. "One coffee, Daniel."
He nodded in agreement. "Anything you say, Doctor Fraiser," he agreed, shooing her out through the door. She shook her head and let him. His nod may have been an attempt at reassurance but his tone definitely was not.
There had been a time in her life when she had become cut off from everything and everyone in her life, when she had almost let depression overwhelm her and forgotten how to live. Although that had been a dark time she had no desire to repeat, it had taught her a lesson she valued so much that she was, on some level, grateful for her past experiences.
The lesson she had learned was how to recognise, and accept, true friendship into her life. She had a few friends outside the military in Colorado Springs, all of whom she valued, and who were incredibly supportive of Cassandra when work kept Janet at the base, or even off-world, for days at a time. Within the base itself, she, like almost everyone else there, considered the SGC to be a close family unit - while she was closer to some than to others, everyone could be counted as a friend.
She had bonded quickly with Sam, their discovery and adoption of Cassandra, and the Hathor incident, cementing their relationship into unbreakable stone. However, her closest male friend was undoubtedly Daniel, who had a sixth sense for knowing exactly what she needed and when she needed it. Unlike her relationship with Sam, she couldn't think of any one incident that had helped cement her relationship with Daniel, although there were definitely several occasions that had helped reveal the sheer strength of what was normally perceived to be a very understated friendship. She didn't know if he considered her to be his closest female friend, or whether that honour went to Sam, but she didn't consider it important enough to ask. Certainly, there was no competition between herself and Sam for his time or attention. His friendship was a secure constant in her life, something that she had never needed to question and couldn't envisage ever needing to question.
She had, quite simply, never met any man like Daniel and she knew she was incredibly lucky to have him as a friend. After all, if there was one thing his ascension had taught her, it was to never take a friendship for granted. She had a feeling it had taught him the same lesson but she had never felt the need to ask if that perception was true.
It was, however, the reason why she was now indulging his playful disruption of her work. She needed the break, he knew that and, by the sounds of it, he needed it as well. She blinked, surprised as they arrived at the mess without warning and glanced over her shoulder, bemused. She had been so deep in thought she hadn't paid attention to the journey from the infirmary... or to her company. She looked at Daniel, intending to apologise for her distraction and found him watching her in barely concealed amusement. "Oh, shut up and get me a coffee," she mumbled instead.
This time, he didn't even bother biting back his grin. "Yeah sure, ya betcha," he replied, sauntering off while she chose a table. As she sat down, she couldn't help reflecting on the fact that the General's catchphrase had become annoyingly ingrained in SGC conversation. Even she found herself using it on occasions, much to her horror.
Although there were plenty of people around, it also wasn't particularly full, so it didn't take Daniel long to return with the coffee. Her eyes drifted shut as he sat down and she took a few deep breaths, savouring the strong scent as her mind slowly unwound from the infirmary's earlier frenetic activity. When she opened them again, she found him watching her with an intent, focused gaze.
As close as they both were, she still couldn't interpret every single one of his expressions. There were a few that she had never been able to put a context to and, as a result, what they represented remained a mystery to her. It wasn't the first time she'd seen this look on his face and it always made her intensely aware of how incredibly blue his eyes really were. She wondered if she had any expressions that he couldn't puzzle out, it would be only fair for such mystery to be shared, after all.
He seemed to realise they were staring at each other because his eyes suddenly began to twinkle gently. "Janet, I thought we were concerned about my caffeine addiction?"
"Speaking of which," she leaned forward. "What brought you to the infirmary in the first place?"
"Speaking of which?" he looked thoroughly baffled. "How'd we get from caffeine addictions to my arrival in the infirmary?"
She smiled at his confusion. "Seriously, Daniel."
He shrugged ruefully. "Okay, well, if we're being serious, then," he also leaned forward slightly but she didn't feel crowded by their proximity. Their friendship was so old, so established, and so comfortable, that she'd stopped caring about personal space a long time ago. "I'm out of allergy meds," he said sheepishly. "I can't do my work if I'm sneezing every time I open an old book."
"I can see how that might be a problem," she responded, a smile threatening to escape the corners of her lips. "The SGC can't afford to have its most talented archaeologist become allergic to his own job."
"Oh," he said tartly, clearly not amused by that idea. "Oh, that's funny, Janet. Really."
She laughed. "Alright, Daniel, we'll swing by the infirmary when we're done here and get you sorted out."
"I appreciate it," he said a little dryly.
His hands were resting on the table, loosely encircling the base of his mug. She reached over and tapped the hand nearest to her with a finger, a gesture of mild admonishment. "Hey, no sulking allowed. That's my department."
"It is?" His eyebrows shot up and his gaze focused on her face, studying her intently as if trying to spot something he had earlier missed. "Why?"
She sighed. "Oh, I had a phone call yesterday from Dominic's parents."
"Not bad, I hope?" He had leaned into the conversation again and she watched in amusement as the steam from the coffee clouded his glasses.
"Depends on your point of view," she chuckled slightly as he pulled off his glasses to clean them and gestured for her to keep talking. "They wanted to check that it was okay for Cassie to spend the weekend around there."
"That's not a problem, is it? She's done it before?"
"Well, it depends on what plans Dominic's parents have for Saturday, as to whether it's bad or not."
He squinted at her then pushed his glasses back onto his nose, blinking as his focus changed. "Saturday?"
"Yeah, they're going out for a meal. I think Dominic is planning to take Cassie out anyway - everyone else seems to be. But..." she trailed off then shrugged wryly. "They're 18, they've been dating for over two years. I'm probably the world's last Victorian mother or something but I don't like the idea of them having the house to themselves. On Saturday, of all days."
He glanced upwards in confusion, as if seeking inspiration from the ceiling. Apparently, he didn't find any, because when he returned his attention to the doctor's face his puzzlement was unabated. "Um... Janet, what's so special about Saturday?"
Janet gazed at him for a moment, as if trying to decide whether he was teasing her or not but his confusion looked genuine. She began to smile. "It's Valentine's Day, Daniel."
"Really?" He stared at her. "Wow." He paused, considering it for a few moments then his eyes widened in shock. "Good grief, it's February already? Where'd Christmas go?!"
Janet burst out laughing. "Well, I guess I don't need to ask if you've made plans for the weekend."
He grinned at that. "I knew Sam and Pete were going to be busy this weekend but I didn't realise why."
"Yeah, and Sam told me that Teal'c's decided to take advantage of everyone's distraction to visit Ishta," Janet said wryly. "So I guess that means even a Jaffa can get laid on Valentine's Day."
Daniel chuckled faintly at that. "What were you planning on doing?"
"Oh, the usual. Bottle of wine, popcorn, films. Or maybe a good book. I haven't quite decided," she grinned suddenly. "Having the house to myself is almost decadence in its own right."
"That I can believe," he agreed in amusement, being well aware of the running battles that often occurred between Janet and Cassandra. Daniel didn't consider Cassandra to be a particularly untidy teenager but over the years, he had noticed that Janet appeared to have what he could only describe as a permanently active nesting instinct. "Maybe we should team up," he suggested, taking a long swig of his coffee.
"What? On Saturday?"
"Yeah. If all I'm going to do is work, and all you're going to do is watch TV... well... why not?"
She thought about that. There wasn't any major objection she could think of, and she had to admit the idea of company was a lot more appealing than the idea of spending the evening alone. She grinned at him. "Okay, sounds good. Now... what on earth do we actually do?"
"God, I have no idea," he admitted ruefully. "Nothing involving semi-naked women wrestling in jello, or science fiction films, and I'll be happy."
Janet laughed. "Yeah, don't worry, the General and Teal'c won't be planning this one." Her eyes twinkled impishly. "Although I have it on good authority that you, Doctor Jackson, don't usually object to the semi-naked jello-wrestling women."
Daniel turned a faint shade of pink and cleared his throat. "Okay, so... anyway," he said, changing the subject quite firmly. "We could go out somewhere, if you want?"
She wrinkled her nose at that suggestion. "Not sure there's much point. It'll be a busy night with real couples. There won't really be anything catering to us single and bored types."
In obvious amusement, he watched her nose scrunch up. "Ah, so. Really, you want to lounge around the house, getting drunk and being mean about Valentine's Day?"
"Before you get started, Daniel, just remember that I could drink you under the table," she pointed out indignantly.
"Nonsense," he said dismissively, causing her to laugh at him in disbelief. "Okay, fine. How about we just lounge around your house being mean about Valentine's Day and forget about getting drunk?"
Janet was still laughing but she nodded in agreement. "Sounds good to me. How about you pop round at... oh, I don't know. Five?"
"Sure, sounds good," he smiled then drained the last of his coffee and squeezed her hand, which was still resting lightly over his. "Well, Doctor Fraiser. Ready to find a cure for sneezing yet?"
Janet finished the last of her coffee and rose. "Don't push your luck, Doctor Jackson," she warned him with a grin.
"Well," he said wryly, also rising. "Since my entire career apparently rests in your talented hands, I wouldn't dream of it."
She shook her head ruefully and led the way out of the infirmary. The coffee break had been short, and it had been nonsensical, but it had done a better job of refreshing her than 8 hours of sleep could have done. Yes, she reflected silently, friends like Daniel Jackson are definitely a resource I can't afford to lose.
Janet sighed and picked up yet another t-shirt from the bathroom floor. "Cassie, we do have a laundry basket!" she called out.
"Oh, God, Mom, I put it down two seconds ago!" Cassandra's frustrated voice echoed from her bedroom. "Give me a break!" She walked onto the landing tucking a clean t-shirt into her jeans and glaring at her mother.
"I'm just saying," Janet said with forced calm. "It wouldn't have taken any more effort to drop it into the basket instead of on the floor right next to it."
Cassandra rolled her eyes. "You're obsessed, Mom," she grabbed the t-shirt out of Janet's hands and stalked back off into her room with it. "Anyone tell you that?"
"There's nothing wrong with good hygiene habits, Cassandra." Janet stated as patiently as she could. Her daughter muttered something but she couldn't hear it so followed the girl into her room.
Cassandra spun around looking mortified. "Mom! God! Knock the door!"
Janet gazed at her, baffled. "It was wide open!" she protested.
"That's not the point!"
"You were in the hall two seconds ago!"
"That's still not the point!"
Janet opened her mouth to respond then closed her eyes, and her mouth, and took a deep breath, trying to retain her calm. "Okay," she said. "Are you all ready for the weekend?"
"Yep," Cassandra looked more enthusiastic. "Everything's packed, I'm all set."
"Any idea what you'll be doing?" Janet tried to keep her voice casual but, judging by the suspicious look her daughter sent her, she wasn't sure she had succeeded.
"Dunno, Dom wants to surprise me."
"Sounds romantic," Janet replied cautiously and was rewarded with another suspicious look. "Any idea what his parents are going to be doing?"
"Dunno, Dom doesn't know either," there was The Look again.
This conversation was definitely not easing Janet's concerns. "Alright, Cassie, you don't need me to tell you to be careful... " she began.
"Oh for God's sake, Mom. I'm 18 years old!" the teenager exploded.
"I know that, sweetheart..."
"I know all about sex!"
"Oh God," Janet whispered.
"And how to say no, if I'm not interested!"
"I'm glad to hear that," her mother's voice was feeble.
"So, stop worrying about me!"
Janet groaned. This conversation definitely hadn't reassured her. In fact, it had done the exact opposite.
"Mom?" Cassandra's voice was suddenly friendlier, more conversational. Surprised, Janet refocused on her, unsure what to make of the change in demeanour.
"What is it, Cassie?"
"Are you going to be okay when I'm gone?"
Janet looked slightly baffled by the teenager's concern. "Yes, of course, I am. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, it's just that everyone's... doing things and you..." Cassandra trailed off, looking sheepish and Janet suddenly realised her daughter was worried about her mother being alone on Valentine's Day.
Janet grinned and shook her head. "Don't worry about it, Cassie, I'm sure Daniel and I can find something to do with ourselves."
Cassandra stared at her. "Daniel?"
Janet shrugged and picked up the t-shirt Cassandra had taken off her earlier. She left the room and walked into her room to gather up what clothing she could find that needed washing.
Cassandra followed her, a perturbed expression on her face. "You're spending Valentine's Day with Daniel?" she asked slowly.
Janet studied her daughter's surprise, not really understanding it. "Is that a problem?"
"No... well... no, it's not!" Cassandra, seemed to be trying to work something out in her mind. Janet could almost hear the cogs turning in the teenager's brain. "Mom, how long has this been going on?"
Janet picked up a towel and began to fold it. "How long has what been going on?"
"You and Daniel!" Her daughter sounded exasperated that her mother wasn't keeping up.
"Me and Daniel what, sweetheart?"
Janet looked up from the towel at the incredulous expression on Cassandra's face. "What?"
"How long have you and Daniel been dating?!"
Her mother stared then her eyes flew open wide as she finally understood the reason for Cassandra's confusion. "Oh! Um.. no, Cassie, we're not.. oh." She took a deep breath and tried again. "It was a choice between working alone, watching films alone, or spending a quiet evening with a friend."
Cassandra stared at her intently, as if not entirely certain whether to believe her or not.
Janet didn't drop her gaze. "Is that a problem, Cassie?"
"What?" Cassie shook herself back into focus. "No, it's not! I just thought... well... " she stared at her mother's inquiring expression then flushed. "Never mind," she muttered and slunk back to her bedroom.
Janet stared at the spot Cassandra had been standing in for several long moments, trying to work out how on earth the teenager could have assumed she and Daniel were dating but she couldn't really find a satisfactory answer. She and Daniel spent a lot of time together at any time of the year. Valentine's Day was, when it came right down to it, just another day of the year so she really couldn't understand the fuss. In the end, she dismissed it as Cassandra being a teenager who was still young enough to be bowled over by the romance of the day. Janet had spent years cynically dismissing the commercialisation of it all, so she suspected there was probably a large attitude gap between herself and her daughter with regards to things like this.
She grinned, shook her head and carried the washing downstairs - there were more important things to do than dwell on romances that didn't exist.
Since General O'Neill had inherited the SGC from Doctor Weir, the base had quickly learned the one great consistency of his command: if anyone needed to reach him, his office was the last place anyone should bother to look.
He strolled down the corridor towards Colonel Carter's lab, absently trailing his hand over the exposed piping along the wall. He swung to a lazy stop outside her door and meandered inside, studying the tips of his fingers for any sign of dust. Brushing his hands off on his BDUs, he idly wondered what the Appropriations Committee would say if he asked about increasing the SGC's cleaning budget.
His eyes drifted around the lab until he located her, bent over something that was shining like an over-eager glow-worm. Teal'c was standing silently at her side, holding a staff weapon in his hands, watching her intently. She was poking and prodding the neon object with all the caution of an adult who possessed a childlike curiosity to touch but was still afraid it might turn nuclear at a moment's notice.
He leaned forward.
He leaned back and watched as the Colonel actually jumped clear of the floor, gasping. "Why, Carter," he said lazily. "A few more inches and you'd crack the secret of flight!"
He was disappointed to note that Teal'c's only reaction to his sneakiness was a mildly animated eyebrow twitch.
"Sir!" she said with a careful control, her eyes expressing deep irritation with him even as she straightened politely - her compromise to his demand to stop saluting every time he walked into a room.
"So..." he glanced around the room again before his gaze settled on the item she had been so interested in. "Whatcha doin'?"
She sighed. "Paperwork problems, sir?"
He wrinkled his nose then leaned in slightly. "Walter," he said in a stage whisper.
Her eyebrows lifted and she exchanged a glance with Teal'c. "I am certain he is merely doing his job to the best of his ability, O'Neill," the Jaffa stated calmly.
"Yeah, but does the guy have to be so.. so... so... god-damned psychic?" The General shuddered. "It's creepin' me out!"
Sam cleared her throat and looked down at her toes hoping Jack couldn't see her fighting a grin. Teal'c didn't even bother hiding his amusement.
"Turncoats," Jack muttered, clearly spotting their lack of sympathy.
Before anyone had a chance to answer him, the phone rang. "Excuse me, sir," Sam said and moved past him to answer it. The moment her back was turned, Jack looked down at the green thing and gave it a good, solid poke.
He glanced up to find Teal'c staring at him. Shooting him a wolfish grin, he turned to eavesdrop shamelessly on the telephone conversation.
"Cassie!" Sam was saying, surprise in her voice. "Hey, how's it going?" She paused for a moment before adding. "That's good, and the weekend-- really? Sounds fun!" She paused as Cassandra clearly launched into some kind of speech then burst out laughing. "No, Cassie, I'm sure she doesn't mean it the way it..." there was another pause before Sam laughed again. "Look, I'm betting when she was your age, her mom was telling her the same things too. And I bet when you're her age and your daughter's your age, you'll be saying exactly the same...." she stopped again, listening, her grin growing broader by the second. "Okay, if you say so, Cassie," she agreed in a tone that clearly indicated she didn't believe a word of what she'd just been told. "Yeah, sure, ask away..."
Whatever Cassandra said next had a fascinating effect on Sam. The smile dropped off her face, to be replaced by an expression of open-mouthed surprise. "You must have heard wrong, Cassie, what...." she stopped for a moment, a frown forming on her face. "Really?.... she actually said that? Well.... no, Cassie, it's news to me too...." she cast a pair of baffled blue eyes in Jack and Teal'c's direction. They were both watching her with the kind of fascination they usually reserved for Playboy and science fiction films. "No, I bet they don't know either... yeah, they're right here, I'll ask.... hang on...." She covered the phone with her hand and hesitated.
"What is the matter, Colonel Carter?" Teal'c asked immediately.
"Cassie wants to know if there's anything going on between Janet and Daniel," Sam said, bemused.
Jack stared. Even Teal'c blinked. "I do not believe so, Colonel Carter," the Jaffa said slowly. "What has happened for Cassandra Fraiser to ask?"
"Apparently, they've made plans for Valentine's Day," Sam said slowly.
Jack spluttered then choked, fighting to regain his breath.
Teal'c looked slightly confused but paused in his response long enough to come to his commander's rescue. He didn't so much pat Jack on the back as punch him. The General's knees almost gave way but he certainly stopped coughing.
"Thanks, T," he said weakly.
"You are welcome, O'Neill." Teal'c returned his attention to Sam, who was still holding the phone to her ear. "Colonel Carter, it is my understanding that Daniel Jackson is planning to work this weekend."
"Yeah," Jack said. "He said something about some weird Goa'uld dialect SG-9 encountered on P9-211. Or... somethin'." He hesitated. "Had a stone in my shoe at the time," he explained quickly. He seemed slightly sheepish but it was hard to tell if he was embarrassed at revealing he knew too much detail about the mission or not enough.
"Daniel Jackson has noticed the influence of the language of the Ancients within the text and wishes to understand why," Teal'c confirmed firmly.
Sam turned back to the phone. "They think Daniel's working this weekend, Cassie. What did your mother actually say..." she trailed off, frowning. She nodded slowly as the teenager clearly complied. "Well... maybe that's all it is then? I haven't seen anything that would suggest... yeah, yeah, I know they are... yeah, I know Cassie, they've been like that for years though.... I know, but I'm not sure we should read anything.... I know it's weird timing.... look, Cassie, maybe they just didn't want to be alone on the weekend, so decided to do something together?" She sighed heavily. "Okay, I'll think of a way to ask him.... Cassie, Cassie, hold up, can I ask a question?... Yeah. Thanks. Look, if they are would you have a problem with it?"
She was silent for quite a while before she spoke again. "Really?... Yeah, I know... Oh yeah, I know exactly what you're trying to say.... No, no, sounds like a perfectly sensible concern...." she laughed. "Yeah, sounds like Daniel alright.... I'm sure he'd agree with you, actually... And your mother, for that matter.... no, no, it sounds like you're thinking of all the right questions... yeah, just depends on whether they really are.... Good plan, Cassie, I'll get back to you when I know something... Yeah, you too! Bye, Cassie," she hung up and turned to her companions, eyebrows raised.
"Danny and the Doc?" Jack said in disbelief.
"I doubt it, sir." Sam said, seriously. "From what Cassie said, it sounds like they just realised they'd be bored over the weekend, so decided to actually do something together that wasn't work related."
"On Valentine's Day?" Jack said incredulously.
"I know what it looks like, sir," Sam said earnestly. "But think about it... it's going to be pretty lonely for them, knowing most of their friends are doing something else that weekend."
"Yeah but... Valentine's Day?!"
Sam sighed. "Well, according to Cassie, Janet claimed it was just to starve off boredom. She wants to know what Daniel's opinion is."
"She does, does she?"
"Yeah, she thinks you'll be the best one to ask him." Sam added quickly.
A little too quickly. Jack gazed at her suspiciously, but, confronted by those baby-blue eyes stretched wide with pure innocence, he caved with a groan. "Alright, alright, I'll ask!" He grumbled, walked out of the lab trying to pretend Sam hadn't just winked at Teal'c, and headed for Daniel's office.
As he expected, the archaeologist was up to his neck in a pile of old books, flicking through one volume with an intense focus, the impact of which was somewhat spoiled by his frequent sniffling.
"Hey, whatcha doin'?" he began.
Daniel looked up sharply from his book and squinted at the General as if he didn't have his glasses on. Jack's eyebrows lifted. Given the sniffles and the watery redness marring his old friend's eyes, most of the evidence pointed to Daniel being very upset about something.
"Hi, Jack," Daniel sighed, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his eyes. "What's up?"
He didn't sound upset, he sounded like he had the flu. Jack studied him intently. "You comin' down with something?"
"Allergies," Daniel grumbled.
Jack stared then looked around the contained, underground room in confusion. "From what?"
Daniel eyed him for a moment then sighed and gestured to the books strewn across his table "Dust."
The General blinked and looked back at him. He peered at the books and sniffed. His nose tingled; he could feel the dust in the air as well and he didn't even suffer from allergies. A slow grin began to spread across his face. "You been to the Doc about this?"
"Yes, she's tried three different kinds of meds," the archaeologist sounded cross. "None of them are working so far."
"Better hope the Doc can find one that does, Danny-boy, or you'll be out of a job," Jack looked positively delighted. Daniel just glared at him then returned to digging through his books.
"Speaking of... whatcha doin' on the weekend?"
Daniel didn't look up. "Lazing in front of a TV, probably."
"What happened to work?"
Daniel turned away to cough painfully, then he paused to blow his nose. He sighed. "I'm not working like this," he said with some asperity. "Janet and I decided to have a movie marathon, since everyone else is going to be busy."
Jack stared at him. Somehow... he hadn't expected it to be so easy. "You and the Doc?"
Daniel shrugged and returned to his book. "Why not?"
"It's Valentine's Day!"
The archaeologist blinked his teary eyes at the General and suddenly reached up to the top of his head, pushing his glasses back down onto his nose. "So?"
Jack blinked. "So...." he deflated. He couldn't think of a good argument against "so". It wasn't exactly a crime for good friends to hang around together on a weekend, even if it was Valentine's Day and, so far, Daniel wasn't behaving like there was a budding romance on the horizon.
As if reading his mind, Daniel managed to rise above his misery long enough to look amused. "It's not a date, Jack, if that's what you're asking."
Jack drew back, raising his hands submissively. "Who's askin'?" he demanded, the picture of innocence.
"Uh-huh," Daniel readjusted his glasses then sneezed. "Dammit!" he exploded in frustration. "This is getting ridiculous!"
Jack winced sympathetically and handed him a tissue. "Probably a good plan to spend the weekend with the Doc," he admitted after a moment. "Especially if you can't find any meds that'll work."
"You're telling me," the suffering archaeologist groaned and blew his nose again.
Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Get better soon, Daniel," he said, heading towards the door. He paused then grinned slyly. "Or your date'll be a disaster."
"It's not a---" Daniel began but started sneezing again. By the time he'd regained control over his sinuses, the General was gone. With a frustrated sigh, he turned back to the books he was fast beginning to hate. "It's not a date," he grumbled at them but the books, being books, didn't seem to care.
Daniel glared at them, anyway.
Janet stood outside the back door of her house, watching the snow gleaming dully in the swiftly darkening twilight. The sky was a distinct shade of blue that heralded the oncoming night, fading into a dusky green across the mountains to where the sun had long since disappeared.
She folded her arms across her chest and glanced back down at the snow. Despite the light covering, the weather wasn't nearly as cold as she had been expecting. There was a light crispness to the air that made her skin tingle and come alive rather than making her freeze, the faintest hint of a breeze that brought the evening air to life and made the hairs on the back of her neck curl with pleasure. She took a deep breath and released it slowly. These were the nights that made sitting inside the act of a criminal, the nights that made the child inside her soul press her nose up against the window-pane, frosting the glass with her breath and dreaming of reindeer bells and snowball fights.
She loved nights like this.
"Earth to Doctor Fraiser!"
She jumped like a startled cat, turning swiftly to see Daniel jog up the steps to join her on the veranda. He flashed her a smile. "I did ring the bell but when no-one answered, I figured you'd be out here."
"You, Doctor Jackson, are late," she said, her severe tone belied by her grin. She turned, walking into the kitchen and he followed her without prompting. After all these years, they didn't need to give each other permission to enter the other's house; their friendship was far to secure for such formalities.
"I know, I had to swing by the Mountain on my way here. Forgive me?"
"I'll think about it," she turned, giving him a critical stare then suddenly placed her hands on his chest and gave him light shove down into a seat. "Stay there," she ordered and disappeared into another room before he could respond.
Blinking in surprise, he tugged off his glasses and cleaned away the steam that had built up from stepping into the warm house then made himself comfortable in the chair while he waited.
He had just placed his glasses back on his nose when she returned with a medical bag. His eyebrows lifted as she parked herself on the table in front of him and pulled off his glasses.
"Hey..." he began but his protest was cut off when she leaned in close to his face, placing her fingers against his eyelids to study his eyes intently. She felt his muscles tense and a shiver ripple through his body. "Your hands are cold," he complained in a tone of voice that suggested he wasn't entirely sure whether to be confused, annoyed or amused by her sudden descent into medical mode.
Instead of responding, she flashed a penlight across both of his eyes, studying the pupil response. "Hm," she said, turning away for a second to put the penlight down on the table behind her.
"Okay, aren't we supposed to be avoiding work tonight?" he asked, shifting his weight so he could climb back to his feet.
She returned her attention to him and pushed him back down with a frown. "You missed your last appointment in the infirmary yesterday, Daniel. I'm not going to ignore that. How are the new meds working?" her small hands investigated his neck with careful professionalism and she felt him shiver again.
"This lot seem to be working," he admitted patiently. "At least, I've stopped sneezing and I can breathe again without coughing all the time."
Janet nodded "Good. Your glands have definitely come down," she added, apparently satisfied by what she was finding.
"Great," he grabbed her hands and drew them away from his neck, pinning them together between his own. "Then please stop prodding me. In case you missed it the first time - your hands are freezing!"
"Oh, don't be such a baby," she laughed. "It's not even cold out there."
"Uh, Janet, you did notice the snow outside, right?"
She grinned and wriggled her hands free of his grip so she could tug the coat he was wearing. "This isn't exactly arctic gear, Daniel," she observed in amusement. "So you can't be that cold either."
He started to respond then stopped, gazing at her with one of those unfathomable ultra-blue stares that she couldn't interpret. Suddenly, he rose from his chair and walked over to the window, looking out of it in silence. Janet hesitated. She was a little unsettled by his sudden mood change, unsure of how to interpret it. "Daniel?"
He turned back to her, eyes twinkling with sly humour. "What do you think about having a picnic?" he asked her, his tone quite bland and off-hand.
She stared at him. "A picnic?"
She stared out of the window. "In the snow?"
His eyes were now gleaming. "You're the one who said it's not cold out," he observed, quite reasonably.
"Are you mad?" Janet exclaimed, gazing at him incredulously.
He laughed at her but his tone was absolutely serious. "What do you think?"
"Daniel, we'll freeze!"
"No we won't," he said with quiet confidence. "I have a secret weapon. All we need is to put some food together, grab some blankets - and my secret weapon - and we're all set."
She eyed him suspiciously. "And what secret weapon would that be?"
"That's classified, I'm afraid," he replied impudently. He watched her for a few moments, his stare unwavering. "So? Shall we?"
She stared right back at him but his eyes had locked onto hers, a mixture of laughter, determination and challenge dancing at the back of his gaze. "You're actually serious, aren't you?" she said at last. "You really don't care if we catch our deaths out there."
He chuckled. "We won't. I have a secret weapon, remember."
"Um..." she hesitated, her mind buzzing. It was the silliest idea she had ever heard. It was the middle of February. There was snow on the ground. Although this particular day had been surprisingly warm, most of the month's temperatures had been barely above freezing - she didn't want to think about what the temperature would fall to now that it was night.
And yet, it was the kind of weather she loved. And it was Daniel who was asking. Daniel. Who, while admittedly capable of the craziest stunts, never willingly put his friends in danger. Whatever madcap scheme was running through his head, she knew, deep down, that he would give it up if she really didn't want to do it, or if it really did become too uncomfortably cold. She eyed him and he grinned broadly in response. Dammit, she grumbled to herself. He's too damn sure of himself.
The trouble was, she realised, he had good reason to be. She wasn't putting up much of a fight. The idea was insane, the kind of insanity that appealed to her, and she'd already observed to herself that this was a night that should not be spent indoors. At last, she sighed. "Alright, but this secret weapon of yours better be worth it," she threatened him.
Another grin, this time rather smug, and she decided that for the moment, she would content herself with hating him. "It will be," he assured her. "We'll have to swing by my place to pick it up though, if that's okay."
She had been turning around to investigate her refrigerator to see what food she had available but turned back in surprise at his words. "Your place? We're not doing this in the garden?"
He laughed at her surprise. "Oh, Janet, no," he chuckled. "I've got somewhere else in mind."
"Well... where?!" she demanded incredulously. She glanced out of the window again. It was already dark. Where on earth could they go at this time of night?
"You'll see," he replied impishly. "Now, how about we decide what food to take with us?"
In the end, Janet decided for some small measure of sanity amongst the craziness, and, after double-checking how many clean thermos flasks she had available, made up one flask of hot coffee and one flask of hot soup. Her one major indulgence, however, was to take along a small chocolate cake she had made especially for tonight - although this definitely wasn't how she had planned on eating it.
For some reason, Daniel found this particular demand incredibly funny but, frustratingly, she couldn't make him explain why.
It was gone six o'clock when they finally left in his car, threading their way through the streets back to his place. He didn't speak much during the trip, except to playfully divert all attempts to find out what he was collecting and where they were actually going. Once they reached his home, he didn't linger long, returning with a binliner that clearly contained... something. Much to her annoyance, and his obvious amusement, he refused to clarify what it was and packed it into the trunk where she couldn't peek at it.
"You're the most annoying man in the world," she muttered at him as they left. Although she was well aware of just how badly he could tease both Jack and Sam - and even Teal'c - she hadn't really noticed him invest the same degree of effort into teasing her before. Until now.
Contemplating revenge, she discovered, was an excellent way of passing the time.
The destination became obvious once Janet realised that Daniel was driving up to Cheyenne Mountain. He didn't turn into the military complex but kept driving a little way further, turning up a dirt track that led to a small campsite. It was a place military personnel had used before and Janet knew that even some aliens had been allowed access to it on occasion, when given limited exposure to the terrestrial surface of the Tau'ri world.
Feeling a distinct sense of relief that she knew the terrain even at night, she helped Daniel unpack the equipment and carry it beyond the campsite. When he finally came to a stop, all Janet could do was blink and stare.
It was a small clearing that ran a little way downhill to eventually spill over a cliff edge. Signs of a reusable firepit in the ground suggested that people had used this place in the past, understandably so when Janet observed how the trees that crowned the cliffside sheltered the clearing from the wind. The ground had even escaped most of the snow.
It was the view, however, that struck Janet the hardest. She could see all the way down the mountainside and, it seemed, for miles beyond. In the distance, the lights of the city twinkled gently against a backdrop of deep blues, purples and greens, nighttime shadows created by the rocks and bushes that faded into the dull gleam of the snow that blanketed the land. She glanced up at a dark cloudless sky, to see stars were already begin to twinkle slowly into existence before turning her attention to snowy landscape that stretched out below her. There was something strangely unreal about this moment, something intangible - even ethereal - lingering in the air. She could feel goosebumps shiver into life along her arms and a odd tingle running down the length of her spine, finally coming to rest at the tips of her toes. Her scalp prickled gently and she felt butterflies begin stirring in the pit of her stomach.
Suddenly aware her mouth was hanging open, she clamped it shut and glanced out of the corner of her eye to see what Daniel was doing. She wasn't entirely surprised to find him standing nearby watching her with a steady, but unreadable, gaze.
"So?" he asked lightly when he realised she was looking at him. "What do you think?"
Janet's eyes narrowed at his nonchalance. Two could play at that game. She sniffed." It'll do for now," the doctor dismissively turned her back on him but his only response to her aloofness was a soft chuckle that made her smile.
There were more stars out now. In fact, Janet couldn't remember a time in her entire life when she had seen so many. Not that she had ever taken the time to really look. There had always been too much going on in her life, too many distractions, and too much time in the city, or too much time concentrating on her job in the heat of battle. Nothing to make her look up, no reason to even really care. Sometimes, on passing through the Stargate, there would be moments where she'd see a rush of colour, a brief hint of stars - maybe even entire galaxies - spinning past her eyes, but nothing she could get a true sense of. She didn't even know if what she sensed during those few seconds of transport was even real.
But here, now, the sky was almost glowing with silvery pin-pricks of light, making the snowy landscape shine as if touched by moonlight. There wasn't just a single colour, she realised slowly as she watched. There were greens and reds and yellows, twinkling blues, mysterious purples and even a few cheeky splashes of pink. She hadn't realised until now just how colourful the night sky could really be and for the first time, she began to understand just why Sam loved the heavens so much: every time a star twinkled, the sky's mood subtly changed.
Janet was in danger of becoming addicted.
So far this evening, she had vented her frustrations and her fears regarding Cassandra's date and Daniel had complained irritably about his disastrous allergy-afflicted week at work. Somewhere down the road, and she couldn't remember where, they had wound up sitting under one of the trees instead of with the food. Daniel had a blanket wrapped around himself and was leaning back against the tree trunk, with Janet comfortably nestled between his legs, using his chest as a backrest. A second blanket thrown over the top of her not only kept her warm but also hid the fact his arms were loosely wrapped around her waist with her fingers comfortably twined with his. In this weather, he may have had the better deal, except for his secret weapon which had turned out to be a portable heater designed specifically for keeping campers warm when in the middle of nowhere.
It was doing its job quite nicely, she decided.
At some point, as if by mutual consent, they had stopped talking. Janet had lost track of when they'd last said anything but she didn't mind. The silence was pleasant and comfortable. It was easy to spend hours in his presence saying absolutely nothing at all and, more importantly, not feeling any pressure to find something to say. In the company of a good friend, she realised, silence was a topic of conversation in its own right.
Somewhere against her left shoulder, she could feel his heart beating in a slow, soft rhythm. It was almost hypnotic and she could feel her attention beginning to drift away from the stars as drowsiness began to creep over her.
It suddenly occurred to her that Daniel had not only been silent for some time but hadn't moved either. She craned her head up slightly, although it didn't really help her catch a glimpse of his face. "Hey, you're not falling asleep on me are you?" she asked in that hushed tone often used by people who were trying to talk without ruining a peaceful mood.
"No," he murmured immediately. "Just thinking."
He was silent for several moments, so long, in fact, that she wasn't sure he was going to answer her at all. "The Tollan," he admitted eventually.
She wriggled slightly, seeking a more comfortable position and felt him shift his weight slightly to accommodate her. "Do you think they're still alive?"
"I don't know," he replied. "But I often wonder."
"Yeah," she hesitated. "I know Sam does too. I think part of her still misses Narim. To tell you the truth, Daniel, I found them a little..." she trailed off, searching for a good word.
"Abrupt?" His chin was leaning into her hair and she could feel him smile.
"That's one way of putting it," she agreed dryly.
"They had a good reason to be," he tugged the blankets a little more securely around them. "Omoc's... bedside manner... may have been a little lacking but I don't think he said anything that wasn't true."
She craned her head back to get a better look at his face but again she mostly failed. "What was it between you two anyway?"
"What?" A little surprised by the question, he shifted slightly so he could get a better look at her face. He wasn't certain whether it was because of the angle, but he found himself unable to read her expression.
"Omoc was about as... well, he was more intimidating than Teal'c in his own way. But he actually seemed to like you."
"Oh," his chest vibrated as he chuckled softly. "Omoc wasn't so bad. Just had to know how to talk to him," he sighed. "This might sound a little crazy but in some ways, he reminded me of Nick."
"Your grandfather?" Janet thought about that for a moment. "No, sorry, don't see it."
Another faint chuckle escaped him. "Short-tempered, suspicious and a pain in the ass if you don't agree with him... but he knew what he was talking about and he really did care about what he believed in." He was silent for a few moments. "I got the impression he was a rather gentle old soul... but I guess when we came on the scene, he suddenly found himself shouldering the burden of history. Tollana's history, I mean." He sighed. "More people should learn from history. On Earth, I mean."
Janet settled her head back against his chest. "War, disease, famine, death, more war, more death... I guess it's not surprising people don't pay attention to history."
He looked down at her in astonishment. "Janet, there's more to history than war and death." He shifted his back against the tree trunk for a moment, before continuing. "There's language, culture, art, music, literature, craft, technology..." he paused then added, with what sounded like a smile in his voice. "... even medicine. It's all about a point of view."
Her eyes drifted shut as she felt him settle into lecture-mode. Once someone challenged him to defend history, he was usually hard to stop but something in what he was saying made her pause.
"Is that why you got into archaeology?"
"Huh?" Effectively derailed by the question, he staggered to a halt and looked down at her. "Sorry. What?"
"For other points of view..." she thought about it for a moment. "You.. well, you're very good at doing that," she smiled suddenly. "Some say too good."
"People are still mad at me about the Unas thing," he said wryly. "But... uh... to answer your question, no, not really." He thought about it. "Or maybe... I guess it was part of it."
Janet opened her eyes and twisted herself around to get a better look at his expression. A slightly disgruntled mutter escaped him as he shifted again to accommodate her change in position and rearranged the blankets so they wouldn't get cold. As a result, she couldn't pin down any particular emotion that would explain his unusual uncertainty. "What was the other part of it?"
He stared at her for a moment, his eyes startlingly blue as they often were when he was emotionally involved in a subject. "I grew up in that life," he mused. "Apparently, I was practically born on a dig." His gaze shifted away from her to stare into space and his expression changed from amused to slightly wistful. "It was all I ever knew until my parents died. After that... " he shrugged and sighed.
"... you felt you owed it to them?"
His gaze suddenly snapped back to her face with a speed that caught her by surprise. "No," he murmured thoughtfully. "I hated anything to do with history and archaeology for years after that. For a while... " he stopped, blinking rapidly for a moment then he looked away again. He swallowed. "For a while, I hated them for being archaeologists."
Janet smiled sympathetically. "My parents died a few years before I joined the Stargate Programme. They loved to travel... which was ironic because while my father was in the military, my mother complained about travelling all the time," she sighed and leaned back into his chest again. "It was a stupid accident. They went on a cruise and it ran into a tropical storm."
There was silence for a few moments then when it was clear she wasn't going to continue, Daniel's grip on her waist tightened gently. "The ship sank?" his questioned was whispered.
"No," she whispered back. "That was the stupid thing. The ship survived, they limped into port for repairs and were all staying at a hotel near the beach. The day before they were due to depart, another hurricane hit the resort. They were on a cruise... and they died in a damn beach-hut."
One of his hands escaped from around her waist to slip underneath her hair and encircle the back of her neck. "I'm sorry," he said softly.
She sighed. "It's old pain. Well... you know."
"Yeah," he said quietly. "I know."
The trouble with "old pain", as Daniel well knew, was that it wasn't "extinct pain". In his experience, pain never went away. Time didn't cure the wounds pain caused so much as teach the wounded how to live with injury. The end result wasn't so much a healed wound as a scar that ached in bad weather.
Daniel was fully aware that his experience wasn't unusual. There were occasions when Jack still visibly struggled with the death of his son, there were times when the death of Sam's long-estranged fiancÚ still haunted her. Teal'c lived with the pain of both a lost wife and a lost lover, and the echoes of his father's death coloured his entire fight for a free and functioning Jaffa nation.
"I hated them for going on a cruise," she muttered. "How twisted is that?"
He kissed her hair. "It's not twisted," he murmured. "Grief does that to people."
"You didn't hate Teal'c," she said softly and felt his entire body stiffen as soon as the words were spoken. She lifted her head and looked quickly at him suddenly unsure of the half-question that had slipped out of her mouth. Over the years most of the barriers that usually existed between people, even between friends, had disappeared. There had been no significant destruction, no important event that could be signalled out as a reason why - just a slow erosion over time, leaving behind empty postholes that were gradually filled in by pieces of their own personalities. Very few warning flags were ever raised now, but when they were, it was sometimes hard to precisely define them. Somehow, the years had made them forget how to draw a line in the sand.
His eyes met hers and they were surprisingly steady. Reflected in that intense stare, she could see surprise; he had been caught off-guard by the reference to his wife's death. There was pain, the pain that he was still clearly able to feel over her loss. She could also see a patient understanding, an awareness of why she had raised the subject and acceptance that it was not meant to offend. But there was also a flicker of guilt.... and defiance.
"I hid it," he admitted quietly at last. He dropped his gaze from hers and looked away, his eyes searching something beyond the trees and, perhaps, even beyond the stars. "Sha'uri gave me a dream that spanned a lifetime. I... " he swallowed, for a moment blinking rapidly again. "I had the chance to prepare for what I would go through," he said at last. "Not many people get that opportunity."
Janet looked down, her eyes coming to rest on the zip of the fleece sweater he was wearing. For a moment, her fingers absently traced the zip down almost half of its length as she tried to understand the peculiar tone of his voice. It matched the mix of guilt and defiance she had seen in his eyes. "Teal'c did the right thing and you hated him for it. You felt guilty for it because of the awful position he was in but still think that you had the right to feel the way you did."
He didn't answer immediately. Her fingers stopped playing with his fleece and curled into a fist. She looked up, expecting to find him still gazing off into space but instead found him staring right at her. She could see tears lurking in his eyes. "Yes," he said softly, at last.
She swallowed and felt a telltale heat flush through her own eyes. In response to the soft confession, or the raw pain in his face, she didn't know. Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek, before settling back down against his chest, resting her head next to his heart. For a moment, he didn't respond at all then she felt his grip shift once more to encircle her waist as he buried his face in hair.
"What about you?"
Janet almost didn't hear his question. The silence had stretched out so long, she had long ago switched off from listening to the outside world, had even given up on her new favourite hobby of stargazing. She had burrowed into his blanket, entangling her slowly chilling hands into his fleece to keep them warm and let herself drift off to both the rhythmic harmony that beat quietly against her cheek and the warm breath brushing softly through her hair.
Daniel lifted his head to get a better look at her face. "Hey," he said gently. "You haven't fallen asleep on me, have you?"
"Heard you the first time," she mumbled, slightly irritated that he'd broken the silence; she had been enjoying that silence. "Didn't understand the question."
"It's okay," he murmured. "It's not important."
Janet managed to find the energy to move her fingers enough to poke him in the ribs. "C'mon," she said. "You've started now. You may as well finish."
There was a moment's pause, where she could feel Daniel's heart beat several times before he responded. "You were married once?" he asked at last.
Janet stiffened slightly as the question sank in, before gradually relaxing again. The question had caught her by surprise, although she wasn't certain why. Her divorce wasn't a secret but very few people had ever asked about it. She and Sam had partially commiserated, partially celebrated after the Hathor incident: she had told Sam all about her failed marriage and Sam had told her all about her failed engagement. They had toasted to friendship, women's rights and the impossibility of men. And then, they had moved on with their lives.
It suddenly occurred to her that what she was surprised about wasn't that Daniel was asking the question but that he had never asked it before now.
"Yeah," she said at length. "Complete jerk."
He sounded curious but she couldn't be bothered to move to look at him, so settled for wriggling further into his blankets to escape the cold she could feel creeping through her clothing. Part of her had assumed that Sam had said something to the others over the years but at the same time, part of her was also glad to have been given this proof of the physicist's discretion. "We're back to stupidity again," she sighed. "He was my first serious boyfriend. I thought I was in love... so we married young."
"What was his name?"
"Shane. Shane Callaghan. And I got married when I was 19," she was silent for a few moments, reflecting on the past. She knew how to describe what had happened now; her talks with Sam had helped her find the words. Once upon a time, she had tried to defend him but that was a long time ago. "He trained young, almost... well... almost an apprenticeship. He was good with his hands - engineering, electrics, carpentry, you name it. If he could imagine it, he could make it..." she smiled faintly. "He could make building a house seem like a work of art. I think I fell in love with that..." she snorted in wry amusement. "I'm a sucker for men who get overenthusiastic about their work. Watching them get excited, taking pride in what they do... brings me out in goosebumps. Silly, isn't it?"
A faint chuckle escaped Daniel as he considered the fact that she herself was someone who could become delightfully giddy about her own work. Then he sobered up slightly. "What went wrong?"
She wrinkled her nose and thought about that. "It wasn't any one thing, really. I went to college, he didn't. I joined the Air Force, he didn't. He had been raised to believe the man was the breadwinner... it's not that he objected to me working... " she trailed off for a moment. "Not in the early days, at least. It's just that... well..."
"Women could work as long as they didn't earn as much as men?" Daniel murmured, his mind drifting back to the year he had spent living on Abydos. Male and female roles had been very clearly defined and the lines were not often crossed. He had done so and been teased often for it, but while Sha'uri had tolerated his idiosyncrasies she, herself, had been mostly content with her role in life.
At first, he hadn't understood why until he began to look beneath the surface and became aware of the more subtle power the women wielded. In a society where men dominated so visibly, women had learned to find a more indirect route to power. In their own way, the women had been as powerful as men on Abydos... but not in any manner a woman raised in a Western society back on Earth would have recognised. Sha'uri herself had wielded a lot of power on Abydos but what had amused Daniel was the fact that the native men had never really seemed aware of it. All the women, however, clearly had been.
"Yes," Janet sounded a little surprised that he understood so readily but her surprise quickly faded. "I definitely had the better job.. financially, anyway," she sighed. "I tried to tell him the money wasn't important, that job satisfaction was more valuable but..." she rolled her eyes. "That was too female of me."
She was silent again. Daniel didn't speak either and she mulled over his patience. The only other man she knew who displayed this level of patience was Teal'c. They could sit in silence for hours, just letting someone chat incessantly, as if understanding that sometimes it was better to listen instead of speak. She wondered how they could both tell when it was a good idea to speak and when it was better to listen. Half the time, she just had to guess and hope it was the right decision.
"Anyway, from there, things just got worse. He didn't like me working, he didn't like me studying, he would become aggressive whenever my paycheques came through..." she trailed off as she felt Daniel's body begin to slowly stiffen. "He never hit me, Daniel," she reassured him quickly, realising what was going through his mind. "His temper was quick, and what he could say to me was... was horrible. But he never laid a finger on me," she sighed. "Instead he... began pushing me to give up work, or get a job that involved me doing less hours, earning less money, staying closer to home. He didn't like me hanging around with my colleagues after hours. He didn't like me spending my money, or going shopping. At some point... and to this day, I can't tell you how it happened, I went from being outgoing, sociable and adventurous to someone who was afraid to step outside my front door without asking him for permission... it was just so much easier than fighting all the time."
She felt him swallow. "Sounds like emotional abuse to me," he muttered.
"Yes," she agreed quietly. "He never laid a finger on me but he did destroy my confidence. I lost my friends, my family, I had no energy to work and I didn't even enjoy my work anymore. When my parents died... he wasn't that supportive and that's what woke me up. When I finally lifted my head and took a look around... I really hated what I was becoming. So... so I walked."
"Good for you," he said firmly.
She smiled sourly. "It didn't feel very good at first. It took me a long time... it took depression counselling, in fact, for me to realise that he had been the one with the issues - no self-confidence, no ambition... he was so insecure and the only way he could cope was to drag everyone he knew down with him. And when that finally sunk in and I finally felt able to rebuild my self-confidence and my life... I divorced him, moved away and never looked back," she was silent for a few moments. "Do you want to know the funny thing?" she asked at last.
"What's that?" his voice was quiet again, that hushed, soothing tone that he always used when he wanted someone to know he fully supported them without putting it into words. Somewhere along the line, he had begun stroking her hair gently but she couldn't actually remember when he had started doing that.
"I was shocked by how easy it was to turn my back on him and walk away and... how little I've missed him since." She was silent, reflecting over it. "I don't think I ever really loved him. I mean..." she added quickly, hurriedly. "I did care about him, for years I was crazy about him but... I don't think it was the kind of love that lasts a lifetime."
"Hm," he mused. "Sounds like my relationship with Sarah."
"Oh, not the emotional horror story," he stopped for a moment, his body slightly tense. "At least... I certainly hope not... I was, uh, I was definitely the jerk in that relationship," he cleared his throat, clearly a little embarrassed. "Although she was hardly innocent herself, I should add. For a while I thought I knew what true love was... even after we split up, I still wondered what I'd lost. It wasn't until I met Sha'uri that I realised..." he trailed off, as if hunting for the right way to express what he wanted to say.
"... that you hadn't lost anything at all?" Janet supplied softly.
"Yeah," she could hear a smile in his voice. He lapsed into silence again before rousing himself with a slight shiver. "Anyway, I was trying to say I know what you mean."
She bit back her own smile. "I got the message, Daniel."
He kissed her hair. "I'm sure one day you'll find someone who'll sweep you off your feet and carry you off into the sunset," he told her softly.
"Mm," she stretched against him and shivered as another burst of cold air hit her. The temperature was definitely dropping, she realised suddenly. "White steed? Knight in shining armour? Shiny swords and evil dragons?"
He laughed very softly. "Something like that. There's someone out there for you, I'm sure. We just need to dig him out of whatever hole he's hiding in and let him know you exist."
It was her turn to laugh this time. "Oh, according to my daughter, I'm already dating," she told him in amusement.
Picking up on her amusement, she could feel his own voice tease back as he answered. "Oh yes? Who's that unlucky soul?"
"That unlucky soul, Doctor Jackson," she said, a little indignantly. "Would be you."
"Really?" there was a mixture of surprise and puzzlement in his voice. "Where'd she get that idea from?"
Janet chuckled. "Because we made plans for Valentine's Day. She's 18, Daniel. In her mind, the only people who do things together on Valentine's Day are romantics. She got the message eventually though."
"Oh". He was silent for a moment, then suddenly laughed. "She's not the only one. Jack couldn't wrap his head around it either. I think I set him straight but I was sneezing my head off at the time."
She shook her head ruefully, suspecting that Daniel's quiet emphasis meant the archaeologist was expecting Jack to tease him about this weekend for a while to come and sank back against him. He was still trailing his fingers through her hair in a slow, lazy caress but this time, she couldn't relax. It took her several minutes to realise it was because of how cold she had become. "Daniel, how much gas does that heater of yours have?"
"Hm?" his fingers froze against the back of her neck. "Oh, um, at least six hours worth was left, I think. It should be plenty - I wasn't planning on keeping you out here all night."
"You sure it's got six hours?" She lifted her head to peer in its direction. "It doesn't seem to be working any more."
The archaeologist nudged her gently. "Okay, let me take a look at it."
Janet muttered under her breath. "That means moving," she protested, tugging the blankets back around her.
"Yes, Janet, I'm afraid that it does," he sounded amused and this time poked her in the ribs. Repeatedly.
"Okay, okay, I'm moving," she grumbled, grabbing the blankets and sitting up properly. "Happy now?"
"Freezing, actually," he grinned at her and hauled himself to his feet to check the heater. His eyebrows rose as he realised it was stone cold. "Interesting," he muttered. "Must've been off for a while. Janet, grab me a flashlight, will you?"
With a exaggerated sigh, Janet climbed to her feet and dug around for a flashlight. When she found one, she pointed it at the heater and joined him.
Working with the benefit of light, Daniel investigated the heater quite quickly but to Janet, who was holding the flashlight in her unprotected hands, it felt like an eternity before she saw him sit back on his heels with a snort. "It's out of gas," he admitted. "I'm sorry, Janet, I guess I overestimated the amount left in it."
"It's not a problem, Daniel," she chuckled. "I'm surprised we got away with this as long as we did."
"What time is it, anyway?"
"Uh..." Janet turned the flashlight onto her watch and stared. "That can't be right," she said.
Daniel pushed himself to his feet and took her wrist. "What can't be ri--" he stared at the time. "Oh boy," he said, and checked his own watch. "No, it's definitely right, Janet." He laughed suddenly. "No wonder the gas ran out, we've been out here for seven hours!" He threw her a mischievous look. "Time flies when you're having fun."
"Not that much fun, Doctor Jackson," she told him tartly and moved across to the food to begin gathering it up.
It didn't take them long to pack everything away, although it took a little while longer to double-check the clearing to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything - with only flashlights for help, it wasn't the easiest search. They spent the journey back to Janet's house slowly thawing out with the help of the car's efficient heater. By the time they reached her place, Janet was beginning to feel quite cosy again - cosy enough to resent the sight of her house as it stood, silently illuminated, in the headlights of Daniel's car.
She hurried up to the front door while Daniel unloaded her equipment from the car. She was still hunting for her door key when he finally caught up to her on the porch. "You haven't locked yourself out, have you?" he asked blandly.
"No I have not, thank you very much!" she said indignantly, causing him to laugh. She hissed through her teeth in annoyance then put her bag down and reached up to pull her spare key from where it was hidden amongst the eaves. The trouble, she discovered quickly, was that it wasn't where she normally hid it. There was one other spot the key could be safely hidden and it was out of her reach; a spot that Cassandra, who was much taller, had no trouble reaching.
Daniel watched her in silence as she stood on the very tips of her toes, closed her eyes and stretched as high as she could to reach the key. "Need any help?" he asked innocently, struggling to keep the amusement off his face.
"No!" She stuck her tongue out in concentration and gave it one last effort. Her fingers touched the edges of cold metal and she made a Herculean attempt to grab for it...
She growled as it skittered beyond her reach. "I'm going to kill that girl!" she burst out in frustration.
Daniel cleared his throat in a determined effort to avoid laughing and reached up to pull the key out. "It's not Cassie's fault you're so short," he said, completely straight-faced as he handed her the key.
"I'll have you know the best things come in small packages!" she retorted, grabbing the key off him and unlocking the door.
"So does poison, Janet," he murmured nonchalantly.
"Daniel Jackson, don't make me add you to my hit-list as well!"
This time he did laugh at her, even as he helped her carry the bags into the kitchen. "Where do you want all this?" he asked, placing them on the table.
"Oh, just leave it there, I can't be bothered to fuss at three in the morning," she told him and stifled a yawn. "Do you want a coffee or something?"
Her yawn was about to set him off, he realised, and he still had more driving to do. "No, I think I better get home before I fall asleep on my feet," he admitted wryly.
"Wow, Doctor Jackson turning down coffee? It's a miracle," she smiled then bit back another yawn. "Thanks for tonight, Daniel. You're completely insane but I had fun."
He chuckled and enfolded her in a tight hug. "I enjoyed myself too," he said softly. "Sleep well, Janet."
"Drive safely!" She responded firmly, pulling free of him.
"Always," he said with a grin.
"Don't give me that, Daniel, I still haven't forgotten your maniacal driving in Egypt."
He laughed. "Okay, I'll behave myself," he promised, heading for the door and ignoring her cynical snort behind him. "Oh, by the way," he added turning at the door. She raised her eyebrows at him. "You actually managed to go the entire night without insulting Valentine's Day!" He skipped off the porch before she could swat him and grinned impudently at her from the driveway.
"Good night, Daniel," she commanded, smiling nevertheless.
"Night, Janet," he chuckled and disappeared inside his car. He waved once as he put the vehicle in gear and drove off, observing through his rear-view mirror that she waited until he was out of sight before closing her front door.
He would never have admitted it to her face, of course, but she had been almost right about at least one thing.
The best friends really did come in small packages.