Part 1: Janet
Dr. Janet Fraiser arched her back, her hands braced on her hips. It helped a little. She rotated her neck slowly, then started to rub it half-heartedly with one hand while tidying up the papers on her desk with the other. She'd been on her feet all day and everything ached. Suddenly strong hands took over, kneading the muscles expertly.
"Let me do that."
She knew those hands. "Oh, Daniel, that feels sooo good." She luxuriated in his practiced touch for awhile. Over the last two years, Dr. Daniel Jackson had learned exactly which muscles bothered her and how to make it all better, for a moment anyway.
"I hope my son isn't part of the reason you look so worn out."
She grimaced and finally said, "Not today."
Daniel finished up his massage and patted her on the shoulder. He walked around her to perch on the edge of the desk in front of her. He took her hands and pulled her a little closer.
"I'm guessing that means he HAS been a pain in the ass at some point while I was offworld this time, but it just wasn't today."
"I don't see you for 3 weeks," she said ruefully, "and we have to start out talking about Alejandro's behavioral problems." She and Daniel locked gazes for a moment, just enjoying looking at each other. "It's probably okay," she finally reassured him. "Look let's get out of here. I've got to pick both of the kids up at the high school."
He looked concerned so she quickly explained, "They're not in detention, Daniel. They're both in a play. The rehearsals keep them there until after the bus leaves and Cassie's car is in the shop."
"You should have picked mine up for her to drive."
"Remember there's an insurance problem with somebody else's kid driving your car."
"We could fix that," he said innocently.
She gave him a warning look. "We're not going there, right?"
She locked the office door behind them and they walked briskly to the elevators. "We could go to Mama Maria's," she suggested. "I'm not in the mood to cook or eat anything from the limited repertoire of dishes Cassie and Alejandro know how to fix or," she let the end of the sentence trail away.
He laughed, "From my limited repertoire."
"No offense, Danny," she said, pushing the elevator button, "but I don't think you have a cooking gene anywhere in your body."
Daniel filled her in on the more amusing bits of the mission and had her laughing at a story involving Teal'c and a flirtatious local woman who wouldn't take no for an answer as they came out of the mountain and walked to her Chevy Suburban. Daniel slid into the passenger seat and began to relate how his teammate, Major Samantha Carter, had made an extremely insightful suggestion that had enabled him to solve a tough problem with some Ancient ruins.
"You know Jan, it's not even her field. I mean she's an astrophysicist. And boom there it is. Her mind is even more beautiful than her body. You know what I mean?"
"Yup," she said tersely, and the temperature in the car dropped a few degrees.
I know all too well. Could you be any more clueless? Do you think the way you wear your heart on your sleeve that isn't a single person at Cheyenne Mountain who doesn't know you're in love with her?
They rolled along the interstate for awhile, Janet berating herself for hooking up with a man who was in love with someone else. Finally she gave herself a mental slap across the face. Time for a reality check Janet. You wouldn't be with him if he WASN'T in love with someone else. That's why you get the companionship without the sexual demands you can't handle. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Just suck it up.
Finally, Daniel, perhaps sensing that he had stepped in it, broke the silence to say, "I really like that sweater on you. You look beautiful in that shade of blue."
She looked over at him briefly. He was angled toward her and he looked so eager to please. The boyishness got to her every time. How could any woman stay mad at the man? "Thanks. You gave it to me, remember?"
"Oh yeah," he smiled, "I remember now." He leaned back and changed the subject. "How were the utility bills this month?"
She sighed. "We had some unseasonably cold weather for March and the gas bill was really high, not helped at all by the incredible high cost of fuel lately."
Daniel was lying back in the passenger seat, his eyes closed, looking almost asleep. "Is it all that high?"
Janet chuckled. One of added values she brought to their partnership was keeping Daniel grounded in reality. He was so focused on other worlds most of the time he had no idea what was going on in this one. She gave him appropriate executive summaries as needed.
"Oh yeah. I can't remember exactly what the gas bill was but gasoline at the pump is 10 cents higher per gallon than last month." She swatted the dashboard. "It really mounts up for this monster."
Daniel winced and Janet regretted the comment. She had traded in her zippy sports car when Alejandro got added to the household. Cassie and Alejandro and their stuff seemed to need almost three times the hauling capacity that Cassie had alone. It was a mystery they hadn't been able to figure out but it bothered Daniel to have saddled her with such a behemoth of a car.
"I did the accounting last night for your share of this month's costs. It's at the house."
"So," he said, "about Alejandro. What exactly happened this time?" Janet could see how tense he was out of the corner of her eye. The sleepiness was a pose.
"Well, they couldn't prove anything."
"There was Spanish graffiti sprayed on the side of the gym. A teacher saw three kids running off. Security got two of them but the other got away. The teacher couldn't id him positively but thought it could be our boy. The other two denied he had anything to do with it and there wasn't enough evidence for the school to take any action."
"What did HE say?" Daniel asked, sitting bolt upright now.
"Alejandro Arturo Jackson Chavez? What do you think? He denied everything of course."
"I'm sorry Jan. When you agreed to take care of him whenever I was gone, you weren't bargaining for all this hassle."
"No one had a gun to my head Danny. I wanted to do it then and I still do."
Silence descended again, lasting until they pulled into the circle drive in front of the modern-gone-mad monstrosity of a school. The two teens were waiting under the portico and came strolling out to get in the back. Janet thought how beautiful Cassie and Alejandro were to watch and not just because she loved them both as dearly as if she had given birth to them. They were such a study in contrasts. Cassie had grown into a lovely, fragile, pale waif of girl, like a sprite from a fantasy with a shimmering fall of strawberry blonde hair. Just over average height and solidly muscular, Alejandro made her look even slighter. He was his father done over Latino with shiny, longish, straight black hair and warm tones to his skin but the eyes were purely Daniel, beautiful, clear blue. When she missed Daniel the most, just looking at his reflection in his son was a huge comfort.
Daniel grabbed the door handle but then let his hand fall away. She could tell he was suppressing the urge to get out the car and hug Alejandro. There were other kids still waiting next to the school and he surely knew he would embarrass him. Cassie got in first and she and Daniel greeted each other warmly. They had an uncomplicated affection for each other that was easy to be around.
Then there was Alejandro. It was always a crapshoot which Alejandro was going to show up. There was the sweet boy who had come to live with Daniel after his mother and then his Uncle Arturo died. He had been so eager to please, perhaps afraid that his father would reject a previously unknown son dropped on him out of nowhere. So bright. You only had to tell him something once. He got good grades even though his English had languished while he lived in Guatemala with his uncle. He had fitted in with Janet and Cassie with hardly a ripple.
After about six months, the other Alejandro made an appearance. Privately they called him the Bad Seed and the original Alejandro the Good Seed. The watershed event seemed to be when Daniel got badly hurt on a mission. His life was never in danger but it left him with a rakish scar through one eyebrow and it threw a scare into everyone who cared about him. Suddenly Alejandro turned surly and uncooperative. He would go days at a time refusing to speak English to her or Daniel. His grades took a nose dive and she suddenly became buddies with the guidance counselor. Just when Daniel was ready to try family counseling, the Good Seed came back, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Daniel had his arm across the seat, looking back and smiling broadly at his son but Janet could see his tension in the way his other hand, out of sight from Alejandro, was clenched tightly at his side. "Hey dad," Alejandro spoke first and he was smiling back. Daniel's hand slowly relaxed.
"Hi Alejandro. It's really good to see you." They did a high five.
"So you guys are in a play?" he asked.
"It was Cass's idea. Since soccer practice doesn't start until the play's over, I thought why not?"
"We were thinking we could go to Mama Maria's for dinner and get caught up. I want to hear all about it."
Later, Daniel and Janet were sprawled on the worn out couch in the family room. The kids were upstairs on their computers, hopefully doing homework. Janet had her doubts about what Alejandro was actually doing but didn't want to make an issue of it when Daniel was home for the first time in three weeks.
"I can barely move," Daniel moaned, his hand curled protectively over his stomach.
"Nobody made you eat that much food," Janet chided, smacking him lightly with a throw pillow.
"Do you have any idea what I have been eating for the last three weeks?" He looked at her pitifully. "Did you notice I didn't eat any spaghetti tonight? " He shuddered. "We kept getting served this so-called delicacy that looked a lot like spaghetti but the long skinny white things were… worms."
"I do not believe that for a minute."
"Uh huh, Scout's honor."
"Oh come here," she commanded and pulled his head down on her lap. He swung his legs up on the couch and closed his eyes. Janet began massaging his scalp.
"Man did I miss that," he said.
"What, you can't get Teal'c to do it for you?" she teased.
"There's an image." He added wistfully, "Now if I could just get Sam to consider it."
Janet felt like punching him. I'm the one that's here with you, that's always here with you.
Suddenly Cassie's dog started barking and a moment later the doorbell rang. Neither of them moved. There were teens tramping in and out of the house constantly. One of the kids would get the door. Janet was thinking idly that it was probably Jaye, Alejandro's girl friend, who conveniently for Alejandro, was also the proverbial girl next door. They heard Alejandro come from the direction of the kitchen. You were right. Definitely NOT doing his homework, not even upstairs on the computer she thought wearily. The dog stopped barking which confirmed Janet's hypothesis that it was Jaye or some other buddy of theirs and not a stranger. Janet ignored the murmured conversation in the front hall.
It felt so good to just be here with Daniel's warmth against her. He captured her other hand and held it lightly on his chest in both of his. They both were almost asleep when Janet thought someone else had entered the room. She opened her eyes to see what the kids wanted and saw instead Jack in a dress uniform and Sam in a fetching little black dress.
Her hand stilled on Daniel's head. He was apparently oblivious to anyone's presence and complained, "Don't stop Jan hon."
Janet said slowly, thinking Don't freak out on me, "Jack and Sam are here."
He shot upright at exactly the same moment that Janet moved to shift him off her lap. His head grazed her jaw and she yelped, "Ow."
He was immediately contrite. He took her face in his hands, and turned it to look at her jaw line. "I'm so sorry. Does it hurt? I am so sorry."
She removed his hands gently and said, "I'm going to be just fine." She was pleased that he appeared to have forgotten their visitors and be focusing on her wellbeing.
"If I'd known that dropping by was going to create a safety hazard for you kids, we would have skipped it." Jack plopped into an arm chair opposite them and started petting the dog that followed them in.
"You been out on a date?" Janet asked looking significantly at the black dress. Wishful thinking but she would be forever grateful if Jack could permanently remove Sam from Daniel's fantasy parade.
Sam hastened to correct her, "General Hammond asked us to fill in for him at some reception."
Jack was still stuck back on Janet's question, "A date? You think we've been on a date?"
Sam explained further, "My dress uniform turned out to have a stain on it and Jack didn't think it would matter if I showed up in civilian clothes."
In the background, Jack was interrogating the dog, "Do you think we've been on a date?"
"Anyway, we were coming right by here in my car and I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to drop off that dress you loaned me that I've had in the trunk for a month."
Janet looked puzzled looking her empty hands and Sam hastened to add, "Alejandro took it."
"How was the reception?"
"Not really as much fun as gum surgery," Jack said.
Daniel smiled at him and asked Sam, "Let me see if I can reconstruct what happened. The two of you entered the room and Jack made a beeline for the hors d'oeuvres. When there were no little pigs in a blanket on toothpicks, he lost all interest and started campaigning to leave."
Sam laughed weakly, apparently relieved to have left the whole date topic but still appearing ill at ease. She said, "Close enough."
Jack said, "They didn't even have any nuts."
"Can I get you two something to drink?" Daniel asked stifling a yawn. "We've beer right? Is there anything of that Pinot Noir left we opened before I left?"
Before Janet could answer, Jack said, "You look exhausted. We'll just let ourselves out. See you Monday." He looked at Sam and jerked his head to the door.
They heard the door close. "I can just imagine the conversation they'll be having in the car," Daniel said.
"You really think they didn't have any idea that we'd gotten so, I don't know, so comfortable with each other?"
"Probably not but you know," he pulled her to her feet and hugged her, "I don't really give a rip." She rested against him for a moment and then he said, "I'm done for. I'm turning in." He didn't even ask if he could stay there that night. Over the past two years it became more and more of a nuisance for him to pack Alejandro up and take him home if he was just going to be off again. Eventually he took over the bedroom that connected with her bath on the other side and she moved her computer and home office to the end of the family room. He hadn't slept at his own place in over three months.
Janet was having the dream again, the terrible, terrible dream. They were all around her, laughing at her, taunting her, tearing at her clothes. She was screaming but it didn't matter. And then she heard Daniel's voice and she swam to consciousness. "Honey, honey wake up. Wake up Jan. It's okay. I'm here. No one is going to hurt you."
His soothing words continued until she quit trembling. He kissed the top of her head. "You going to be okay now?"
She nodded mutely. He started to get up and go back to his own room but she held on to his hand. "You want me to stay?"
She moved over and said "Please." She never had the bad dream when he was lying beside her.
The next morning Janet was awakened when Cassie rapped on the bedroom door, "Mom, you've got to wake up. I need to be at the Medical Explorers car wash fundraiser at 9:00 and it's 8:45." Janet was so foggy she didn't process this fast enough for Cassie's taste and Cassie opened the door and started to come into the room.
"Oops," she giggled when she saw Daniel on top of the covers next to Janet, an afghan thrown over him for warmth, still asleep. Then becoming more serious, she asked just above a whisper, "You had the dream again." Janet shrugged.
Alejandro was behind Cassie in the hall now. He exchanged a private little smile with Cassie when he saw his father and Janet together. Janet said, "Just take the car Cassie. You'll be back before noon, right?"
"Sooner I think," Cassie said and waited to watch Alejandro make his pitch.
"I would really like to go over to Jake's," he proposed. "You said that Dad had to say when it was okay."
"He's still asleep."
"I'm awake now," Daniel mumbled. "I don't want to pick your friends for you Alejandro but the kid is an idiot. You're a leader and you can't be leading him into trouble any more. He's not bright enough to question your wrong headed moves." Janet could tell that Alejandro was torn between being resentful over the insult or flattered by the complement.
"Whatever happened to Jim, the kid with the band, Suicide.. What was it Jan?"
"Yeah. That's it. Despite the unnerving band name, he was a good guy."
"TRY to keep up dad," Alejandro said. He immediately got a warning nudge from Cassie and adjusted his tone of voice before continuing. "He graduated last year and he's going to college somewhere. Can we please focus on Jake?"
"Go hang out with him but if you get the two of you into trouble, you'll be pulling twice as much punishment for it."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Alejandro said and closed the door. A few moments later they heard the front door slam behind them.
Daniel sat up and crossed his legs Indian style. "Jan, we need to have that little talk."
She put the pillow over her head and said, "Nananananananananananana I can't hear you Nananananananan."
He took the pillow away. "You promised me before I left on this last mission we would talk about it."
"Now? Before I've had any coffee? While I have alligator breath and your hair is sticking out at all angles. You know, I REALLY much preferred your hair when it was long and all silky instead of this spiky bit all gummed up with gel." She sat up, warming to her topic. "The gel comes off on the pillowcases you know and it's hard to wash out. Sometimes you get little bits of lint stuck in -"
He stopped her in mid tirade. "You are not changing the subject."
"I'm not marrying you Daniel."
"Like I haven't gone over this with you before!"
"The last time we talked about this was close to a year ago."
"Whatever. I've fallen even more deeply in love with you. Things have just continued to grow. We get closer and closer. Our lives get more and more intertwined. You are Alejandro's mother now and Cassie sees me as her father. You are having trouble making ends meet financially with all the bills you are paying off from your mother's illness and care before she died and the house is falling apart and needs work."
He paused to take a breath and she interrupted.
"And you are still look at Sam like a lovesick puppy when you don't think anyone will notice."
"That's an exaggeration."
"Daniel you love Sam and you always will. And I'm damaged and I always will be. I can't ever have a sexual relationship with a man. I can't give you that."
"Jan, I won't deny that I still love Sam. Hell, on some level I still love Sha're but it didn't stop me from falling for Sam." He took her face in his hands and looked straight into her eyes. "Janet I'm in love with you. It's different from the way I feel about Sam just as that was different from the way I felt about Sha're. Every relationship is unique. But when you lose someone, " he sighed, "or you never had them, you have to let go, get past it, find something else."
She pulled away and put the pillow back over her head. "You're just saying you are in love with me. If you were, you would have tried to," she left the thought unfinished. They didn't talk about sex easily.
"Do you think I don't want you? Good grief Janet, I am a normal, red-blooded man, despite," he muttered in an aside," some of the wilder rumors that run around the base."
They both chewed on that for a moment. Janet had really hoped he had never heard any of the speculation that linked him to some less probable partners.
"But I know," he resumed, "that you can't deal with it. I'd rather have you and no sex and then hump like a bunny with someone else."
"Hump like a bunny?"
"Quit trying to derail me. The more time I spend with you the stronger my feelings for you grow while nothing is happening to nourish my feelings for Sam. She's in love with Jack."
"I'm not as sure of that as you are," Janet demurred.
"Well she sure isn't in love with me," he said bitterly.
"Look Jan," he went on. "Priests give up sex for something that makes them happy, that more than compensates. You make me so happy. You make me feel peaceful. I could never get through the crap that Alejandro hands out sometimes on my own. I know you are a strong independent woman but I want to take care of you in anyway you will let me."
He tried to pull the pillow away again but she held on to it tightly. "People have a right to make their own decisions. You can decide what you want out of this relationship but you don't have the right to decide what I will settle for."
He gave up and went into the bathroom. She listened to him brushing his teeth, running the water and making shaving lather. He has to be one of two men in the country who uses shaving soap and a shaving brush when he has a chance. Where would I ever find another man like him who is willing to settle for half a woman. I thought I was resigned to always being alone but now I know what it's like not to be.
Suddenly she couldn't stand to think about going back to being alone again. She threw off the blanket and ran to the bathroom door. Once she got there she didn't quite know what to do next.
He turned and looked at her, "What?"
"I want a carrot cake with cream cheese icing."
He toweled his face off, buying time to figure that statement out. "Okay," he said slowly. "We could go to Annie's and get some coffee and cake for breakfast. Seems like they always have carrot cake. We'll have to wait until Cassie gets back with the car."
"I want a dove on top instead of the little bride and groom."
His face lit up and he stepped quickly to the doorway and picked her up and twirled her around. "You can have a whole flock of doves if that's what you want."