Have I Mentioned I Hate You Lately?
A/N: I have no excuse for my lack of posting. Sorry. I hope this makes up for it. Hope it's not too boring. For the record, I'm not fond of the ending. I think it's too abrupt, but I hope you like it. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed, or favorited, or alerted this story!
So, I noticed that my section dividers weren't showing up, so I changed them. ~safarigirl
There was sound, barely a buzz that filtered into her mind. Slowly, she realized it was music, which meant one thing: her alarm was going off. Eyelids peeled back from honey colored eyes that slowly focused on the red spot floating above the bookshelf in the dark room. The bright numbers flashed from 5:32 to 5:33.
A sigh escaped from parted lips as a black blanket was thrown from a green clad torso. Pale legs swung over the edge of the bed and toes accented with purple polish set down on worn beige carpet. Cartoon boxers, stolen from Brad that last time she slept over, were shucked and replaced by green sweatpants, and the green shirt was traded for a blue Air Force shirt followed by a matching hoodie. White socks slipped over pedicured feet and neon blue running shoes followed. Bright pink laces were pulled tight before being tied into a bow and double knotted.
She walked to the kitchen, patted the cat on the head, and opened a cabinet below the counter. A cup of cat food was pulled out and dumped into a dull blue bowl. A matching bowl half full of water was picked up, the water dumped into the sink and the bowl rinsed. Once filled with clean water, it joined its mate on a fish shaped mat on the cream tiled floor. The calico purred as she rubbed against a leg before hunkering down in front of her food dish and delicately taking a piece of food in her mouth.
A red travel mug with the letters UNLV printed across the side in large white print was grabbed from the drying rack next to the sink. Dark liquid quickly filled it, splashing a little out of the top before the faded yellow spout was lifted upright and the coffee pot was replaced on its faded yellow base. Keys were snatched from the counter, causing a few pieces of junk mail to fall to the floor, where they were ignored. A faded grey ski jacket as grabbed off the coat rack and hastily put on before an orange and black messenger bag was seized from its place next to the front door and hefted over a shoulder. A door opened then shut. The click of a key turning in a lock sounded before shoes smacking on pavement faded. Then the apartment was silent.
Erika stood at the bottom of the stairs, her breath making little puffs of white in the crisp morning air. She took a large gulp of her coffee before walking toward her truck. She threw open the door, tossed her bag on the passenger seat, and climbed in. A turn of a key started the engine and she backed out of the complex parking lot. A left and two rights brought her to the main road, which in turn lead toward the SGC.
Twenty minutes later, she pulled into the first checkpoint. The man inside the booth, Airman First Class Matthews, smiled as Erika handed him her ID badge.
"You're in early today, Captain. Busy day planned, Ma'am?" he asked as he swiped the badge through a card reader. The machine beeped and he handed it back to her.
"Just some work I need to get done. Thanks Matthews," Erika made small talk back. She accepted the badge and clipped it to the fabric of her hoodie. He saluted, and she returned, before she drove into the base. Two checkpoints later and she pulled into the officer's parking lot, maneuvering into her parking spot next to the other captains. She noticed Colonel Carter's Jeep Cherokee on her way into the base and smiled. General O'Neill's Wrangler was nowhere to be found. Neither was Daniel's Subaru.
The guard at the entrance saluted as she walked to the main doors. Erika gestured back before sliding her card, typing in her six-digit code, and pressing her hand to the pad. There was a hiss, a pop and the metal door slid back. No one else was waiting at the elevators that early in the morning. Erika pressed the only button, the down arrow, and waited. A ding and the doors opened. Erika stepped through and pushed the button for level 11. She switched elevators at the 11th floor and continued on her way to level 18.
Daniel's office/lab was three left turns and a right turn from the elevator. One of the scientists from the biology labs waved as he walked in the opposite direction. Erika waved back, but continued on toward her lab without stopping. She dropped her bag on top of her desk and stripped off her jacket and sweater. With a flick of her wrist, she zipped opened one of the side pockets on her bag and dug around for her iPod. Ear buds tucked securely in ears, she exited the room, not looking where she was going as she fiddled with her music selection.
Song picked. Play pressed. Guitars filled her ears as running shoes hit the concrete floor, slowly at fist before building up speed.
The halls of level 18 were mostly empty. Few personnel wondered the halls, perhaps moving from one lab to another. Erika ignored them, focusing instead on the pace of her feet and the beat of the music. She jogged through the maze of halls, barely noticing where she was but her feet knew the route just the same. She rounded a corner and ducked through a doorway, taking the stairs down two at a time. She continued moving deeper into the base, jogging through the halls of a floor before returning to the stairwell and descending once more.
She finally emerged 4 floors down where the hallways were slightly more crowded with early workers and those who lived on base. Erika past them with ease, her main destination in sight at the end of the hall. The two main dining halls were closed at the moment, but the smaller dining room was open to early risers who needed a quick breakfast. Or in Erika's case another cup of coffee. The captain slipped her headphones out of her ears before grabbing a paper cup and pressing the black tab of the coffee maker down. The dark brown liquid rushed from the spout, making a satisfying splush sound as it filled her cup. She took a sip as she headed back to the elevator bank. She needed a shower and there was only one place on base that would serve.
While Erika did qualify for on-base housing, she opted not to use it. Mostly she did not need it, preferring to shower and change before coming to work, or jogging through the corridors once work was over and showering and changing at home. But some days, when the weather was cold and she had plans in the evening (like Brad coming home from a 3 day peace keeping/trading mission) she needed a place to shower and change on base after her morning workout. She had a locker down in the SG team locker room for when she went off world but was not a big fan of the communal shower. Brad, as a team commander, had on-base quarters, but he shared it with another captain. Besides, they kept their relationship strictly off base. Which left Daniel's private quarters.
Daniel's' on-base quarters, much like his home, was organized chaos. Artifacts from different time periods, different planets, lined the walls and shelves almost like they were on display in a museum. Books were stacked everywhere: on the two night stands that framed the bed, in a small display stand, on top of the desk, on the chest of drawers, and of course lined along the single bookcase in the corner. A framed picture of Sha're stood on one of the nightstands.
Erika ignored it all. She opened the top right drawer of the chest of drawers and pulled out one of the uniforms Daniel allowed her to stash there. There were fresh towels in the bathroom and her shampoo and body wash was still under the sink from the last time she needed to shower on base.
Clean, she changed into her base uniform. The black t-shirt was tucked into green cargo pants. Her hair was swept up into a neat bun on that rested at the base of her head. The matching green jacket was thrown over her shoulders, completely the ensemble. Erika glanced in the mirror, brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead, and exited Daniel's room.
She looked at her watch and smiled when she realized she still had 15 minutes before she had to be at her desk, which left just enough time to grab a quick bit to eat. She took the elevator back up to level 22, where the main dinning rooms were now open, and stood in line for breakfast behind a scientist she did not know. The line moved quickly and soon Erika sat at a table by herself.
"Captain Sheppard," Erika looked up from her half-eaten mushroom and spinach omelet. A woman with curly strawberry blonde hair and thin-rimmed glasses stood at the end of the table. Her smart charcoal suit was just visible under a white lab coat. Her small hands were folded in front of her. She looked down her long, slightly bent nose at the captain seated in front of her.
"Dr. Lithe," Erika replied, her fork paused mid-way between her plate and mouth. "What can I do for you this morning?" She did not smile up at the other woman. Their distain to each other was well known in the department, if not the entire base.
"Are on Daniel's desk," Erika informed her. Thinking the conversation over, she brought the fork to her lips and bit into the piece of food still stuck the end. She chewed, swallowed, and stabbed another slice of omelet. Dr. Lithe did not move from the end of the table.
"They're on his desk. Dr. Lithe. He'll look them over and sign off on them when he has the time." Erika went back to eating, her eyes traveling to the end of the table every so often as the fork traveled back and forth between plate and mouth. The woman still did not walk away. Instead, she pushed her glasses up her nose and folded her arms over her chest.
"Typical," she whispered just loud enough for Erika to hear after a few moments of awkward silence. Erika pushed her almost empty plate away. Her appetite was gone anyhow.
"What is?" she asked with an exasperated sigh.
"Nothing," the other woman replied with a slight smirk. Erika rolled her honey eyes before pushed her chair back from the table and rising. She walked around the doctor, making her way toward the elevators. Dr. Lithe followed.
"I need Dr. Jackson to sign off on those reports today, Captain. I have a briefing with General O'Neill at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning."
Erika stopped at the elevator bank and pressed the up button. "You scheduled a briefing with the base commander before the department head signed off on the project?" she asked, trying to keep her voice neutral. And failing. She knew it sounded like an accusation.
"It's important research. I'm sure Dr. Jackson will sign off on it once he reads it," the doctor shot back. "Next time, I'll be sure to hand it directly to him, instead of to his secretary."
"Yeah, good luck with that," Erika snapped back as she stepped into the elevator. Dr. Lithe followed. The lift seemed to take longer than usual to reach the 18th floor. Erika stared straight ahead, ignoring the woman standing next to her. Or tried to. It was hard when said woman was staring daggers into the captain's back. Finally, there was a ding and the doors opened. Erika went left. Dr. Lithe went right, much to Erika's pleasure.
She entered her office, hoping for a quiet morning.
"Erika, just the person I was looking for."
"So much for that," the captain muttered under her breath before turning to her guest. "Frank, what can I do for you?"
"I need to check out some video equipment."
"Okay." Erika stood over Daniel's desk, organizing his papers. She slipped Dr. Lithe's documents to the top of the "read" pile. "You know how to do that, Frank. You don't need me."
"I need someone to document a site."
"You have Josh," she replied absently as she read over a supply request form that Daniel needed to sign.
"Josh's no good," Frank stated. Erika glanced at him over the top of the page she held. She stared at the scientist in front of her, but he would not meet her eyes. With a sigh, Erika shuffled her papers and placed them in a separate stack on Daniel's desk. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, staving off the building headache. She could feel that it was going to be "one of those days."
"Nothing's wrong with Josh, Frank. Give him the camera and he'll document the site for you."
"He's not good enough. He doesn't know what he's doing. You do it, Erika. You're the only one who knows how to use those damn cameras," Frank complained as he paced the room.
"Oh, Frank, flattery will get you no where. Josh's fine. I trained him myself. Hand him the camera and let him do his thing," the woman replied back, her annoyance creeping through. She collected a disorganized pile of papers from the top of Daniel's desk and began sorting once more. Frank stopped in his pacing and glared at the younger woman.
"I need someone new," he tried again. Erika sighed heavily. "Just assign someone else to my team."
"No. I will not."
Frank opened his mouth.
"And Daniel won't either," Erika added. "This is the third new team member you've had in two months, Frank. Work with what you've got. Anything else, Frank?"
She could not have made the dismissal more clearly without actually telling the man to leave. Frank glowered for a moment before straightening his shoulders and spinning on his heels. He met Daniel at the door.
"Frank," the linguist said lightly as he brushed past the other man. "What brings you by this morning?"
"Your assistant is being obstinate," Frank practically growled back.
"Yes, she does that from time to time. What's the problem this time?" Daniel asked, glancing backwards at Erika as he did. The captain rolled her eyes before returning to her paperwork.
"It's Josh, Daniel. I need a replacement for Josh."
"And Erika told you no?"
"She's being stubborn. She just doesn't understand what he's like. He's just not good enough. Wasn't trained well enough or something."
"Didn't she train Josh?"
"Yes," Erika interrupted.
"So what you're saying is that Erika doesn't know how to train our people? If you think you could do better, Frank, we have a few coming in tomorrow that need to be trained on the new protocols-"
"No, no, no. Erika does a fine job at those. Besides, I have a lot to do tomorrow, Daniel."
"Like going over Josh's photographs."
Frank sighed. "Fine. You win. I'll use Josh this time. But if one thing is wrong, I want someone new."
"Bye, Frank," Daniel replied as he fully stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. Erika shoved a stack of papers in front of him before he took three steps across the small room.
"Sign those, please. Now," she instructed. She produced a pen when Daniel's search proved fruitless.
"Where were you hiding that?" Erika opened her mouth to reply. "Never mind. I probably don't want to know."
"Shouldn't I read them first?" Daniel asked as he glanced over the first page of the first paper.
"I read them already. You approve of these ones. There's another stack of ones you don't approve of. And a third stack of other requests that for some reason need your signature. Plus, there's that pile next to your keyboard that you do actually need to read, mainly because I hate those people and find every word I have to read another reason to poke my eyeballs out with white hot pokers."
"Lovely image," Daniel counted as he continued to scan the document. "And I approve of this?"
"Fair enough," he replied as his pen scratched over the paper to form a messy signature.
Erika snatched the first paper away. "Great, thanks for the raise."
"Joking." She set down her stack of papers. "Okay, just finish with that stack, then start on this second one." She pointed. "You have a meeting at 0900 with General O'Neill and a meeting with SG-6 at 1000. After SG-6 is a post mission briefing with SG-8 at 1100 and SG-16 at 1230. Then you have that training with the new biologists at 1450, and finally there's a pre-mission briefing with SG-4 at 1630. And some time in between all of that you really need to finish this paperwork. It's been piling up and I've signed everything I'm allowed to sign off on."
"Aha. And what are you doing all day?" Daniel asked as he scanned over another document before adding his signature to the bottom.
"I have a meeting with General O'Neill, a training session with some new lab staff, a pre-mission briefing with SG-9, a post-mission briefing with SG-12, and a ton of artifacts that need to be catalogued and filed. Plus, you never got around to looking at that stuff SG-10 brought in last week, so I have to do that, too. Trust me, Daniel, my day is just as full as yours." Erika glanced down at her watch and sighed.
"I'm going to get started on those artifacts from SG-10. Remember, meeting at 0900. Don't be late. I'll be in the artifacts room if you need me," she said before turning for the door, leaving Daniel alone in his office.
He just shoved the papers aside to open a file on his computer when she poked her head back in.
"Read and sign papers," she remarked quickly before ducking back out again, not waiting for Daniel's response. She heard a muffled curse as she walked away and chuckled to herself.
Erika sighed and stood. She stretched her back out, shifting her ribs from side to side trying to work out all the kinks. She circled her neck before rubbing the stiff muscle with a hand. She looked down at her watch again. It was almost time for her meeting with SG-9. Then she had her last meeting of the day with SG-12. If she were lucky, she would be done before 1500 and skip out early. She had a date tonight and she wanted to look her best.
She grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair and collected the two folders she would need before she headed out of the artifact lab. She whistled as she made her way to the elevators. She rocked back and forth from heel to the toe in front of the elevator, waiting for the car to reach her floor.
"Captain Sheppard," a woman's voice called. Erika glanced over her shoulder. A woman around her age with flaming red frizzy hair and glasses was rapidly walking toward her. Erika recognized her as the scientist from SG-16. She stopped whistling and glanced down at her watch again. Daniel was supposed to be in a meeting with SG-16. Erika could feel her stomach start to knot. She did not have a good feeling about this.
"Dr. Merlitte, what can I do for you?" she asked with a false smile. The knot in her stomach tightened when the smile was not returned.
"Have you seen Dr. Jackson? He was supposed to meet us in the main briefing room 10 minutes ago. And he's not in his office," the other woman quickly explained. Erika groaned. She resisted the urge to smack the palm of her hand against her forehead. The elevator dinged and the doors opened.
"I haven't seen him since this morning. I'll page him when I get to briefing room B." She pressed the button and the elevator doors slide shut with a mechanical hiss, not waiting for Dr. Merlitte's response. But the knot in her stomach did not go away. If she knew Daniel, and she certainly did after working with him for a year and a half, he was side tracked and off on some other project. Before the door opened, Erika closed her eyes and rubbed at her temples with the thumb and middle fingers of her free hand, her palms ghosting over closed eyelids. Her fingers traveled across her eyes, lingering at the bridge of her nose. An index finger rubbed up and down her forehead as her thumb and middle finger ran across her closed eyes again. She could feel the tension headache building. And she had almost been done for the day.
The doors slide open. Erika opened her eyes and heaved a sigh before exiting and turning down the hall. She nodded to the already seated team as she entered, waving the sergeant and lieutenant back into their seats when they stood. She tossed her files on the table, but she did not take a seat. Instead, she strode to the phone, picked up the receiver, and pressed the red button.
"Paging Dr. Jackson. Please call briefing room B. Dr. Jackson, call briefing room B," she repeated. The announcement echoed softly through the room. Erika snapped the phone back into the cradle before returning her attention to the team before her.
"Okay, remind me again which planet you're going to," she started as she sat, her attention half on the team in front of her, and half on the phone to her right. She reached for the file on top, flipped it open and looked over it. She was half way down the first page before realizing it was the wrong file. Switching files, she tried again.
"Ah, M420-XC. Here's what we know."
Erika collected her papers, tapping them in front of her to make the stack neater before sliding them back into her file. She glanced at the phone again. It never rang. Not once in her 45 minute meeting did the damn phone ring. Although twice during her meeting a member of SG-16 came in to find out if anyone from her department was going to be at their post-mission briefing. And since it was an archeological dig, and since it was Daniel's dig, they kind of needed some one from her department there. Preferably Daniel. But since he was currently unavailable, and apparently unreachable, Erika would do since she knew all the important stuff about the site.
Erika cursed under her breath as she left the briefing room and headed up a flight of stairs. She had to postpone her own post-mission briefing with SG-12. And since that was her pet project, the last follow up to a mission she had been working on for the last month, she needed to be there for the post-mission analysis. Erika cursed again.
She walked into the room. Dr. Merlitte glanced down at her watch before glaring pointedly at Erika. The captain tried very hard not to sigh loudly and roll her eyes. Instead she bit her lip and shrugged.
"I'm sorry. I'm still trying to find Dr. Jackson. Until then, I'll do the briefing," she explained. "But first," she added before Dr. Merlitte could open her mouth to comment. She went to the phone.
"Paging Dr. Jackson. Please call the main briefing room. Dr. Jackson, please call the main briefing room." She turned back to the group and sat at the head of the table. "Okay, make this quick. I don't have any of his notes, so just summarize, people. You can fill in the details in your reports."
Erika sneaked a glance at her watch - an hour and a half. They had been in the damned meeting for an hour and a half. And still no call from Daniel. It was times like these that she wished radios and cell phones worked on the base. If they did, she would be cursing Daniel to several different planes of Hell at this very moment. This was his project. He should be doing the damn briefing. She really did not care about pottery inscriptions on fragments found on a planet that was barely beyond flint tool use. Erika made a face. Okay, under normal circumstances, she cared very much, but, she glanced at her watch again, today she did not have time to care. She had to find Daniel because he had to train biologists about the Stargate in 10 minutes.
"Okay, thanks, Dr. Merlitte. I'm sure it's all in your report," she said, standing suddenly.
"Well, yes, Captain, but don't you want to hear-"
"I'll read the report," Erika interrupted. "Just leave them on my desk. I'll make sure Dr. Jackson gets them." She turned without waiting for a response and went to the phone on the wall again.
"Dr. Jackson, call the conference room. Dr, Jackson, call the conference room." She was losing her patience with the man.
She took the stairs to the conference room two at a time. Three people, two women and man, in white lab coats sat around the conference room table, all three looking out the window that over looked the gate. They barely looked up when Erika entered and strode to the board in the back of the room. She glanced toward General O'Neill's office as she made her way across the room, but the General was out. Erika grunted. That was usually a bad sign.
"Hello," she said, drawing the biologists' attention. "I'm Captain Erika Sheppard and I'll be training you on DHD operation and standard protocols of how to dial back to Earth."
"I though Dr. Jackson taught this?" one of the women asked. Erika ground her teeth, but her smile remained.
"He usually does. He's been…indisposed at the moment. But I'm his assistant and will be filling in," she said, "for him today."
All three nodded. The man opened up a notebook and tapped his pen against it. Erika glanced back at the phone, sighed, and began the training session by drawing out a DHD in black dry-erase maker.
"Okay, DHD: Dial Home Device. This, as the name implies, is how you get home." She turned to the whiteboard and began drawing out symbols. "These are possibly the most important symbols on the DHD: our address. Live it, know it, love it."
"That's about all you need to know about how to use the DHD. Any questions?" She glanced up at the three people quickly before pushing on. "Good. You should have been assigned to an SG team already, so just make sure you read the updated deployment schedules and show up to all your briefings on time. Thanks." Erika skirted out of the room before the biologists could corner her for questions.
She glanced down at her watch and sighed with relief. It was only 1525. She had a few moments to grab a bite to eat before her re-scheduled meeting with SG-12. She sighed. So much for working on any artifacts that day.
Erika threaded her way through the gray halls with purpose, taking stairs two at a time in some places because she did not want to wait for the elevator. In a matter of minutes, she was at the mess hall. Although the lunchtime crowd was diminished, a few stragglers, such as her, were mulling about. Erika's mood brightened when she noticed that Brad was among them. She grabbed a tray, picked out a few favorites, and pulled out the chair besides him.
"Hey, thought you ate already, otherwise I would have stopped by your office," he offered in way of greeting. Erika nodded around a mouthful of food.
"I've been filling in for Daniel most of the day," she answered after swallowing. "He's MIA."
Brad nodded, "Come to think of it, neither he nor General O'Neill was at our post mission briefing. But you're almost done, right. Because we have that reservation at 1800 tonight."
Erika chuckled, "Did you just give our date a deployment time?"
Captain Michaels returned her laugh. "Sorry. But we're still on for tonight, right?"
Erika nodded enthusiastically. "Of course." She shoved another bite of food in her mouth before grabbing his wrist and checking the time.
"Shit," she mumbled through a mouthful of pasta. "I have to go. Pick me up at 5:30?"
"Looking forward to it. Oh, and Captain-"
Erika paused. "The blue one," was all Brad said, but Erika could feel the heat creep into her cheeks. He loved her blue dress.
With renewed energy, Erika raced back up to the briefing room, thoughts of her date that night quickly being replaced by thoughts of her meeting. This team was working on her pet project: a dig not far from a small settlement of people who shared ancestry with the ancient Chinese found on Earth. Possibly people from before the Qin Dynasty. An excited smile lit the captain's face. She had been looking forward to this meeting all day and now, after putting it off 3 times, she was finally going to hear the results of a month of work. Plus there was a small storeroom of artifacts that needed to be researched, analyzed, and catalogued. With a happy sigh, Erika entered the conference room and smiled at the team seated in front of her.
"Sorry about the delays. It's been a crazy day, but I'm here now." She seated herself at the head of the table. "Let's begin. Dr. Lyman, what can you tell me?"
"That should do it then," Erika declared as she stacked her papers and notes together. She looked around the room and smiled. "Good job, everyone. We'll start on the analysis tomorrow." One by one the team left the briefing room, Erika bringing up the rear. She glanced down at her watch as she headed back to her office to pick up her things. If she hurried, she could still be ready before Brad picked her up. With a smile, she picked up her pace to the elevator banks, ready for the day to be over.
The elevator door was almost closed when a hand darted out, forcing the door to slide back open. Erika recognized the major from SG-4 standing in the open door.
"Captain Sheppard," she said casually, but the warning bells started ringing for Erika. She checked her watch again. It was just after 1630, which meant Major Degas should be in a pre-mission briefing with Daniel.
"Major," she responded. "I was just on my way out. What can I help you with?"
"Dr. Jackson hasn't shown up yet. We need someone to do the briefing."
"Of course, Major, but I don't have the information on your mission. Daniel's the one with all that information. You'll have to postpone the briefing until tomorrow."
"We're scheduled to leave first thing in the morning, Captain. My team needs to be briefed on the indigenous peoples and if Dr. Jackson is not able to do it, then it falls on you, Captain, as the assistant head of the Anthropology Department."
Erika was stunned for a moment, but collected herself as Major Degas stepped into the elevator.
"With all due respect, Major, I'm not the assistant head of the department. I'm Dr. Jackson's assistant and a member of the Anthropology Department. There actually isn't an assistant head. I'm sorry, Major, but I don't have that information. You need to find Daniel."
There was silence as the elevator ascended to the 18th level where Erika and Daniel's office was located. When the door dinged open, she exited, the major following close behind. Erika ignored her, stepping into her office and making her way to her desk.
"Captain Sheppard," she said, stopping at the threshold. Erika looked up from sorting through her files, deciding which to take home and which could stay. "My team needs to be briefed tonight. Is there anyone who can take over for Dr. Jackson?"
Erika sighed. She looked up at the wall clock. The big hand glided toward the five as the little hand hovered over the nine. She swiveled her gaze to Daniel's desk: a mess of papers, charts, and files with a few artifacts strewn about. Somewhere on there was the file pertaining to SG-4's mission. She sighed again.
"Give me fifteen minutes to find the files. I'll meet you in the briefing room."
"Thank you, Captain." Erika waved her off. She waited until the major was gone before going to her office phone and dialing the number from memory.
"Hello," her boyfriend answered. Erika took a deep breath.
"Hey, Hun, I've got some bad news."
"You're canceling?" She could hear the disappointment in his voice. She pursed her lips and closed her eyes, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She hated disappointing him, and it was happening more often in the last month or so.
"I just might be late is all," she lied. "Something's come up and-"
"Something always comes up, Erika."
"I'm sorry," she said as she moved over to Daniel's desk and began ransacking it for the file she needed. "Daniel's still missing and there's no one else here who can do this briefing. I'll be quick and meet you at the restaurant, okay?"
There was silence on the other end and Erika paused in her search. "Brad?"
"Yeah. Yeah, that's fine. I'll see you at 6:30." The line went dead. Erika stared at it for a moment before hanging up and continuing her search. It took her rifling through the first file drawer before she found the correct file. She flipped through it as she headed back down to the briefing room. She swept through the door and, without bothering to greet anyone, went up to the white board at the front of the room.
"Let's begin," she instructed. She opened the file again and set it before her on the table, glanced at it again and began writing on the board.
Erika capped her pen and glanced down at her watch. It was a quarter to six. She could still get home and showered and changed and meet Brad on time. Her gaze swept around the room, catching each person as her eyes traveled around the table.
"Any questions?" she asked, cleaning up her papers and stacking them back in the manila file. Her manner suggested that she did not want to answer any questions. A sergeant timidly raised his hand.
"Captain, you didn't go into any specifics about the rituals we'll be expected to participate in."
"Yes, because I don't have specifics on those rituals. If you find Dr. Jackson, he has all the details you'll need."
"Dr. Jackson is in Dr. Lee's lab. He told us to come find you to do the briefing," Dr. Craig answered as he gathered his notes. Erika stopped half crouched over her chair and stared at the linguist as the information processed.
"He's…he's in Dr. Lee's lab?" she asked, still half in the chair. "He's been there the whole time." Dr. Craig nodded. Erika was out of her chair and out of the room at a jog. She took the stairs down a level two at a time and practically ran to Dr. Lee's lab. The door was half opened when she got there and she heard voices inside. One caught her attention.
"I never want to do that again."
"I agree, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c responded.
"You won't have to. We're going to be shutting this project down," General O'Neill replied.
"Good," Daniel replied, "Because I never want to do that again."
Erika pushed into the room.
"Captain Sheppard, what an unexpected visit," the general quipped. Erika nodded.
"Sir, if I could steal Daniel for a moment?" she asked, barely containing her anger as she stared at her boss. Daniel stood and answered for General O'Neill,
"What can I help you with?"
"Can I speak with you in the hall?"
"Sure." He stood, some what strained, and followed her out into the hall. The door was barely shut behind them before Erika turned on him, her face red with anger.
"This is where you've been all day. I've covered every one of your meetings today. I've pushed back my own projects so I could cover for you. I was supposed to be out of here an hour ago. Do you know where I should be right now? I should be at home cleaning up and changing into a slinky blue dress so my boyfriend, whom I haven't seen in 10 days because of meetings and missions, can take me out for a nice night. But I'm here, covering my boss's meetings because he's too busy, doing what exactly?" she blurted out, her voice rising with each word.
"I've been here, helping Teal'c. He was trapped in the training simulator," Daniel explained. Erika crossed her arms over her chest.
"Daniel, you had things to do today, and playing on the training simulator wasn't one of them. I had things to do today, and instead I had to cover for you. Get an assistant head for the department. I can't continue doing the head of the department's job, the assistant head's job and my job. Now I'm going home, changing, and meeting my boyfriend."
"Erika," Daniel started. Erika raised her hand, cutting Daniel off.
"I hate you a little more than usual right now."