No groans of protest, please. :-) The story is finished, finally, and I'm fairly happy with it. What say you, readers?
Thanks for reading and reviewing and who knows, maybe Aeda and Daniel will make an appearance in another story...
They're so not mine. Well, Aeda is, but you're welcome to borrow her so long as you ask...
It was final exam time at Harvard, which inevitably meant extra long office hours and a headache that didn't go away until graduation. Aeda was buried under her Experimental Theories exam essays. She'd been reading them for two days without actually making any headway. Even her assistant had tried to help, but after the fifth poorly written diatribe on the existence of wormholes, he'd packed his messenger bag and had retreated from the Physics department. She couldn't blame him – her students were doing an excellent job of sucking at their choice of major.
She wrote "73" in angry red numbers on the front page of the essay in front of her and tossed it over the side of her desk. It landed with an audible thump on the pile of crap that had already accumulated.
She picked up another essay, took a deep breath, and read the introduction. It made sense, so she marked it with a check and moved on to the next section. It also made sense. By the end of the essay, her spirits were lifting. She graded this one higher – an "88" – and placed it carefully on the corner of her desk. Reverence for the first essay not to make her head hurt.
Her hostility towards the essays in front her was only partially caused by the stupidity she had been witness to over the previous two days. Mostly, it had to do with the resentment towards a certain archeologist that had been building since her second week back on the east coast.
He hadn't called her since their first official, long distance phone conversation. He'd told her he'd be out of town for a couple of months, but that he'd be back the end of April and that he'd call her from the airport on his way to Boston.
At first, she worried that something had extended his trip with the Daedalus. He was, after all, a naturally clumsy person. Then, when Jack let it slip that Daniel hadn't even made it to the Daedalus, her worry turned to anger, then to resentment, and now she was just bitter. A lot of emotions to go through in a little less than a month.
Her handwriting turned vicious and she scrawled a meager "59" on the essay in front of her. She hadn't even read it yet. It made her pause – perhaps taking out her aggressions on her student's essays wasn't the best idea. After all, she was sure they had tried and the subject matter was rather heavy. She crossed the "59" out and wrote a "70" next to it. Even if it deserved the "59" she was too tired to care and at least he would pass.
She took a deep breath and put her head down on her desk. It wasn't really fair to blame Daniel, she supposed. Maybe she should have tried harder. Tim had always told her she was low maintenance, easy to please. She suspected, though, that this trait made her high maintenance. She didn't expect great things and yet, Tim had always felt compelled to present her with great things.
Maybe, the postulated,Daniel was experiencing buyer's remorse – denying her existence would be a very easy way to drop her from his life. She wouldn't fight for him, wouldn't confront him about it. She'd ride it out and if, in the end, he disappeared for good, she'd accept it.
She closed her eyes and took another deep breath. Her assistant had had the right idea, bailing on her. She'd give anything for the exams to be graded and her office to be paper free.
A knock onthe door didn't bring her directly back to the present. She reasoned that if she kept her head down, whoever it was would probably not see her. Another knock. She sighed and called for the intruder to come in, though she never lifted her head.
"Office hours are over for today. Come back tomorrow when I'll be more inclined to give a rat's ass," she said as the door opened.
"Your sign says office hours are from nine to six. It's just now four-thirty."
Her head came up at the recognition of the voice. Daniel Jackson stood in her office, the very portrait of an academic – jeans, an Oxford shirt open at the neck, and a corduroy blazer, complete with elbow patches, draped over his left arm. He smiled at her and she noticed that his glasses were gone.
"Hi," she said.
His smile widened. "Hi." He pointed to the door. "I can come back tomorrow, when you're more inclined to give a rat's ass."
She shook her head, too surprised to really answer. She'd been thinking about him all day and there he was, standing in front of her. She had an irrational moment where she considered thinking about a large brownie sundae, but changed her mind at the last second.
She stood, came around the desk, and reached for his arm. It was solid and radiating a slight warmth. She pinched him.
"Ow," he said and jerked his arm away. "What was that for?"
"I had to make sure you were real."
"Hallucinating lately, are we?" He rubbed the spot on his arm where she'd pinched him and she couldn't help but grin.
"You never even got on the Daedalus, Daniel."
He frowned. "Jack has a big mouth." She nodded. "It's a long story, which I promise to tell you,that involves pirates and King Arthur and a whole bunch of other things, including a plague that almost wiped out most of the Earth."
"I may have read something about that," she said slowly. He stared at her in awe. "What? I'm a Harvard professor. I spend about six hours a day at home and I'm usually sleeping. You tell me when I'm supposed to find time for the news."
They stared at each other for a moment. "Well, this is awkward," she said.
"Yeah." He cocked his head at her. "I can't believe you thought I'd abandoned you."
She scoffed. "I never said abandoned."
"And besides," he continued, as though she'd never spoken, "you're the one who abandoned me. I woke up, all warm and fuzzy, and you were gone."
"Wait, warm and fuzzy?"
Again, he continued as though she'd never spoken. "I was all alone in a bundle of blankets."
She rolled her eyes. "We had this discussion. I don't do long good-byes."
"I can see that."
She frowned. "Did you fly cross country just to mock me or were there other reasons attached to that decision?"
"Actually, yes, there were other reasons." He closed the door and, for a moment, Aeda's heart stopped.
"Do tell, Professor."
He was quick. He swept her up and had her pinned against the door before she could utter a sound of disagreement. Her arms went around his neck and reflexively her legs wrapped around his torso. "I love you, Aeda," he said thickly.
She looked at him, felt the heat radiate from his gaze, and knew that at some point she'd fallen for him as well. She smiled. "I love you, too," she said and kissed him.
When they broke apart, she took a deep breath. "Now, put me down before we break this door and the whole department realizes I'm a naughty librarian in disguise."
He laughed, loudly and wholeheartedly. When he set her back on the ground, she didn't let go of him. Instead, they stood in her office, surrounded by each other, and marveled at the irony of it all.
Widow meets widower – she'd have to remember to thank Jack.