Author's Note: Written for vicki595, who wanted "Janet's life in the firemanverse" with Janet/Daniel and Shep/Weir. While I think the pairings might be a little light, I did try to fulfill your wishes, even though Janet is a relative enigma to me in any 'verse. I scoured old firemanverse fics for mentions of her and didn't really find a whole lot (my apologies to everyone if I missed something), so I sort of went with whatever fit.
Oh. Also, the relationships here are nearly entirely based on lyssie's "The Little Red Engine That Could", because I love that fic so very much. And um, this never ever would have been finished had it not been for controlfreak80 asking me "how's the fic coming?" at least once a day for the last week (I found that I couldn't possibly keep telling her that I hadn't started, and therefore the shame pushed me into doing it) and then performing a lovely and speedy beta (and she gave me a title). So, many thanks to her, as usual.
"She's never pulled anyone from a burning building."
Sitting at a bar, taking a drag out of her long necked beer bottle and contemplating the empty stools on either side of her, Janet Fraiser couldn't help but think Well, this is a cliché.
Usually, she really wasn't the lonely bar-trolling type, but now she found herself forced into the habit by circumstance. She had just moved into town a few months ago in an attempt to escape the confines of an old so-called social circle that consisted of humorless doctors and a jackass of an ex-husband. That much, she had managed with great success—now, she just faced the typical trials of a single woman in a strange city—a preoccupation with her job, a distinct lack of a social life, and a keen desire for sex sometime sooner, rather than later.
Thus, the bar-trolling, such as it was—O'Malley's wasn't exactly the height of the social scene, as it turned out, considering that she had been sitting here without so much as a glance in her direction for some time now. Of course, it didn't really help that the place was mostly empty except for a large and extremely boisterous group in the back of the room.
"It always this slow?" she asked the bar tender, Walter.
He shrugged. "Only when they come in," was his reply, nodding to the group in the back. "There was a brawl once over a pool game that's scared a few people away. Luckily, they normally make up for it by buying enough alcohol to drown an elephant."
"Damn straight," said a new voice from behind her. "And in that spirit, Walter, we need more beer."
Wondering if maybe her luck was turning, Janet swiveled on her stool—only to find one of the few people in town she actually already knew, along with his beautiful, blonde wife. Still, she should at least acknowledge him. "Mr. O'Neill."
He glanced down and grinned. "Hey, Doc! We didn't see you here, or we would've dragged you into the party ages ago. You have to join us."
Eyeing the group, Janet suddenly felt strangely awkward. "Oh, I was just going to finish this drink and head home."
"Don't be ridiculous. This is our baby shower, and as the person who will be delivering the baby, you have to join in. Come on, we'll buy you another drink."
Janet tried to protest one more time, but O'Neill seemed curiously deaf to anything he didn't want to hear, and before she knew it she was carrying various drinks to the back of the room and weaving in and out of the crowd. "Look who I found," O'Neill said as he settled down next to Samantha Carter, who was sipping at a completely non-alcoholic iced tea due to her rather advanced pregnancy.
"Dr. Fraiser! What a coincidence! Everyone, this is our OBGYN."
This announcement seemed to cause some kind of huge sensation, and before she knew it, comments were being thrown from all sides. "You'll have a hell of a time with an O'Neill kid," an older, bald man that she vaguely recognized as an organ transplant patient observed.
"Forget the kid. She'll have a harder time with Captain Carter. That woman can yell," a younger guy (they were all calling him Probie, which she hoped to God wasn't an actual name) pointed out.
"What I want to know is where Doc Fraiser here was when Shauna had our second. We had to settle for Dr. Lam, who was wound so tight that I thought her panties…."
At this point, a woman who Janet assumed was the black man's wife interrupted. "Stop right there," she warned, narrowing her eyes.
"I'm just saying. We've heard nothing but good things about Doc Fraiser. We should think about switching to her for baby number three."
His wife snorted indelicately. "If you think there's going to be a baby number three, you really are insane."
The husband turned to someone else Janet recognized—Dr. Daniel Jackson, one of the psychiatrists at the hospital where she worked. They had met in passing, but Janet had to admit to a more than passing curiousity about him—oatmeal sweater wardrobe not withstanding. "Doc?"
Dr. Jackson shook his head. "Nope. Still sane. Just hopelessly optimistic, it seems."
"What do you know? He really is a genius," the wife said.
"Don't use words like genius in Daniel's presence. He gets all puffed up," said a woman who hadn't spoken yet.
"This coming from the woman who secretly preens for a week after spinning a potentially damaging piece of PR," said yet another guy.
These people couldn't all be firemen, right? Because she knew Dr. Jackson wasn't, and the last guy seemed to be wearing a haphazard hairdo and some kind of spandex biking shorts, which Janet didn't figure were very flame-retardant.
At that point, someone brought out a cake that had toy fire engines on it. Almost immediately after it had been placed on the table, a rather vicious free-for-all in pursuit of the dessert broke out. So, the cake was consumed, the trucks were promptly set up in drag races across pushed together tables, and this officially became, hands-down, the weirdest baby shower she had ever attended.
"Are all your parties like this?" she asked Sam as they watched the men construct a ramp so that the engines could vault over the salt and pepper shakers.
"More or less. Sometimes we try the whole 'dignified adult' thing, but it never sticks for long when we all get together like this."
"Everyone needs to blow off steam sometimes," pointed out Elizabeth while she downed a tequila shot that Sam was eyeing with longing.
Thinking of the straight-laced life she had just escaped, Janet smiled. "I can drink to that."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw O'Neill check his pager and jog to the pay phone to make a call. When he came back, the humor in his face had disappeared. "Okay, has anyone had more than one beer?"
T looked at the freshly opened bottle in his hand. "I was just starting my second. Did something come up, Chief?"
The good mood slowly dissipated completely as they saw the all-business look on O'Neill's face. "A tenement on the far side of town is burning out of control. They're asking for any available units to report in."
In a flash, Jonas and T joined O'Neill, grabbing their coats and saying their goodbyes. Janet noticed that Sam even started to get up too, before she realized that being eight months pregnant sort of deterred her involvement. Looking frustrated, she grabbed at her husband's jacket. "Whose idea was this baby thing, again?"
He smiled and kissed her cheek. "Entirely yours, I'm afraid."
"That's what I thought," she said, grabbing the front of his shirt and pulling him closer. "Hey. Don't die."
"Yes sir, Captain, sir," was his teasing reply, but despite his levity, he kissed her tenderly. On his way out, he grabbed Janet's arm, pulling her to one side. "Hey, Doc, would you mind staying with her while we're out? Shauna's got to get back to the kids, and Daniel will stay but he gets all philosophical, which is hardly helpful, and Lizzie and Sheppard seem to be in the middle of some weird spat thing. I just want someone to…."
Janet stopped him there, really not needing the long-winded explanation—or even the request at all. "I'll stay. You go."
He nodded and was off with his men, leaving a significantly smaller and less jovial group behind. At Sam's request, Walter the bartender switched the TV from sports to the news, which was covering the blaze. "My God," Janet muttered as the inferno came into focus.
Looking at it now, she could understand why the city had called for back-up. Flames encompassed nearly an entire city block of low-cost housing, menacing and virulent. Even Sam, who had assumingly seen her share of fires, paled at the sight. "What causes something like that?" Dr. Jackson wondered.
"Any number of things," Sam managed to choke out. "Considering the area, electrical is a possibility. My money is on arson, though."
Judging from the morose look on Dr. Jackson's face, he agreed. "Nirrti."
"Bitch," muttered Elizabeth.
Sam glanced at her and scooped up the shot glass. "No more tequila for you."
A more than slightly drunk Elizabeth made a face and took to glaring at John over the table and shutting everyone else out. Scrambling to process everything, Janet burst out with questions. "Who's Nirrti? And why would she want to burn down an entire city block? And why, exactly, is Elizabeth drinking herself silly?"
The first two were fairly reasonable questions and the third simply had to be asked because in her designer suit, Elizabeth Weir hardly looked like the type. Luckily, no one seemed to object to her bout of nosiness on that score. "Nirrti is the 'city developer' that owns most of the slums. She's been making a lot of noise about building a 'new and better city to host our expanding population'."
"It's not a bad idea in theory," Daniel grudgingly admitted, "But the city counsel decreed that the costs of relocating the tenants in those buildings out-weighed the possible benefits of her expansion plans. She was…not pleased with the verdict," Sam explained.
"And I was drinking because John is a jackass who can't wait for the fire department to come and fix the broken elevator. No, he has to go crawling through the shaft with Bates the security guard and nearly get himself killed," drunken Elizabeth proclaimed.
From across the table, John's glare got more intense. "The elevator crashed! They would have died if it wasn't for me!"
"Or the fire department could have shown up and fixed everything…."
"But I was there first! I can't believe you're mad that I did it."
"What, annoyed that I'm not swooning at your so-called heroics? You're not trained to shimmy up elevator cables. Someone could have been hurt, or worse, killed, and then I'd be stuck trying to write a press release explaining how my bike messenger boyfriend thought he was a hero and recklessly…."
"Take it outside, guys," Sam said tiredly. Luckily, they took her advice and headed for the back exit, bickering the entire way. Once they were out of earshot, Sam looked visibly relieved. "This all happened over a week ago. She's not really that pissed anymore. Neither is he. They're mainly fighting so they can have make-up sex. It's one of the few kinds of sex they haven't tried yet and going without sex as they have been isn't good for their normally sunny dispositions."
"Obviously," Daniel pointed out with a pointed smile.
Janet wasn't sure if she was glad to have the insight into her new acquaintance's behavior, or if she was disturbed by now having way too much insight into their personal lives. Luckily, she didn't have to think about it for too long, because Daniel chose that moment to study Sam and ask, "Are you sure you don't want us to take you home? You might be more comfortable there."
She shook her head stubbornly. "No. Once they have the fire under control, I want to go down to the site and make sure everyone is okay."
"I'm not really sure that's such a good idea," Janet pointed out.
"I won't stay long. I just…I'll never get to sleep otherwise."
That much was understandable, and it was fairly apparent that nothing could be said to change her mind. And so, silently, somehow Janet and Daniel joined together in Sam distraction. As doctors, both knew that obsessing over every little detail on the news wouldn't help her, so they turned down the volume just enough so that they'd know when the blaze had subsided and proceeded to entertain her as much as possible. They ate the few crumbs that remained of the cake and discussed politics, and when they got really desperate, Janet remembered a deck of cards in her purse and dragged them out.
Over a hand of five card draw, she caught Dr. Jackson smiling at her and thought that maybe, her luck really had changed at the bar earlier.
Four hours and fifty dollars of Daniel's money later, George Hammond (the district manager of the fire department) appeared on the TV screen. "…the fire is now in control and diminishing quickly. I can not answer any questions about survivors at this time, but I can express my extreme pride in the men and women who…."
He continued on in what sounded like a nice speech, but they had already heard what they needed to know. "Okay, let's get out of here," Sam stated firmly, struggling from her chair.
Determined not to let her patient out of sight until she knew she was safely tucked in bed, Janet nodded. "Sure, just let me run to the bathroom real quick." Two beers, a glass of water, and a large cup of coffee had finally caught up with her.
The facilities were surprisingly clean for a public restroom, and Janet took a minute to splash some water on her face, trying to wake up from what had turned into quite a night out.
That was when she heard the grunt. And then the shuffling. And finally, a half-muffled moan. Glancing at the second stall in the room with a suspicious eye, she wasn't sure whether to be embarrassed or laugh. As she made her exit, it seemed that laughter won out.
"What's so funny?" Daniel asked while he helped Sam into her coat.
Throwing decorum to the wind (because really, who cared about decorum anyway?) Janet smiled. "I just walked in on the make up sex."
"The wha…Oh!" He did a double take at the restrooms, blue eyes wide and incredulous. "Really?"
"Huh." He appeared to be equal parts amused and impressed. "How creative of them."
Feeling impish, she let him help her into her coat as well before breezing a slightly airy, "Not really," into his ear.
Judging from the expression on his face, her efforts were not in vain. Hooking her arm through an amused Sam's, they set out.
Finding O'Neill and his ladder company turned out to be easier than expected, because the troop was one of the first allowed off site, and thus, were already packing up. Sam had a surprisingly emotional reunion with her colleagues, betraying the real levels of her worry, and as Janet watched O'Neill hug his wife close, she was glad she had tagged along. "Everyone okay?" she asked Jonas, who was a little sooty, but otherwise seemed fine.
"T has a few burns on his right leg, but nothing too serious. He went in the last building to go up, found the only survivor. A little girl."
Dismayed, Janet surveyed the extensive damage. "All these apartments and only one survivor?"
"Yeah," was his grim reply. "Bad day."
"No kidding. The girl's parents…?"
His grimace said it all.
"Where is she?"
Jonas pointed them in the direction of the parked ambulance, where they could make out T, his leg wrapped in gauze, and a huddled mess of long hair and bright eyes under a blanket. "What'll happen to her?" Janet couldn't help but ask Daniel.
He sighed. "Unless she has some close relative that didn't live on this block, which is pretty doubtful, she'll most likely end up in foster care."
There was no way that a kid who needed help as much as this little girl was sure to would flourish in foster care, and as Janet stared at her, she puzzled over the sudden and inexplicable feeling that more than new friends or a fresh start or even some fantastic sex, this moment was exactly what she had been searching for.
Walking towards the vehicle, she smiled at T and then approached the little girl, sitting next to her slowly. "Hi."
After a moment's of hesitation, the little girl, who at closer examination seemed to be about eleven or twelve, responded with a nearly inaudible, "Hi."
At least that was progress. "I'm Janet."
One more pause, and then the girl offered a tentative, "Cassandra."
Not really knowing what to say—if, in fact, there was anything to say, Janet finally settled on, "You have to go to the hospital. Want me to come along?"
A small hand emerged from the blanket, soot-covered fingers lacing with her own. "Yes, please."