Summary: How do you say what you mean after a lifetime apart? A little look at life for Catherine and Ernest after Torment of Tantalus.
Season: Season 1, Torment of Tantalus
Characters/Pairings: Catherine Langford/Ernest Littlefield
It was early morning when Catherine found the first one; just a scrap of paper propped against her tea tin.
You still hum when you make tea, but now I don't know the song.
She nearly dropped the kettle she'd brought to the tea cart.
Ernest was still upstairs, tucked away in one of her guest rooms. He joined her later, but he seemed withdrawn and shy, so Catherine performed what was, for her, an unnatural act, holding back the words she wanted to say.
He'd need time, the doctors had warned her before she and Ernest had left Stargate Command. Be aware of his sense of displacement, they'd said; let him set the pace, don't crowd him with expectations.
It seemed unlikely to her that there was a theory anywhere on earth that could make sense of this man's history; but he was closed off now in ways he hadn't been before he'd come to her home, and she was uncertain how to respond. Giving him time and space seemed as good a plan as any.
The second appeared in her study later that same day.
I always suspected you were smarter than I. I do so enjoy being proved right.
It was a post-it note, stuck to a pile of her old papers about the Stargate, work she'd done while trying to convince anyone in authority to re-instate the research program. Catherine knew without looking that they were a complicated mess; linguistics and archaeology mingling absurdly with engineering and physics.
She went looking for him, finally finding him at the kitchen table. His head was bent over one of the many books he'd been devouring the past few days, trying to fill in fifty years of history, culture, and science, populating half a century of missing pieces any way he could.
"Hmm?" he replied, raising his head. He'd started looking at her the way he had on that planet; his eyes were directed at her face, but somehow they focused on a spot that was a few feet behind her head. She beat back her irritation.
The third she spotted on the dresser in her bedroom. It was lying next to a piece of sculpture, an intricate carving Ernest had given her for her birthday shortly before he died to the next several decades of her life; a talisman that had stayed in her room all these years, evocative.
Did I tell you then that I bought this because I found it almost as beautiful as you?
As she read the words, Catherine's patience for living with these two vastly different Ernest Littlefields deserted her. Turning over Ernest's note, she picked up a pencil and wrote one of her own.
If you don't stop leaving me these notes and just talk to me, I'll throw all of the pens and pencils out of the house, and you along with them.
On reflection, she felt the words to be inadequate; returning pencil to paper, she added three more.
In the rain.
The addition, she thought, was childish, petty, and rather satisfying. Calmly, she left the bedroom, moving sedately down the stairs, into the living room, and directly to the couch where Ernest sat. She dropped the piece of paper onto his book, and then she stood over him, glaring.
He bent his head, studying what she'd written; held out a hand without looking up. Sighing, Catherine placed the pencil in his fingers, watching as he scribbled more words underneath her own. When he extended the piece of paper to her, she took it, resisting the urge to throw it back at him.
It's not raining now. Care for a walk outside?
She laughed, an involuntary, near-bark of a sound. When she raised her eyes, he finally met them, really looked at her for the first time since he'd entered her home; he was smiling that charming, winning smile that had made her insides giggle back when they were just a boy and a girl.
"Fine," she said, turning away and heading toward the back door. She heard him rise from the couch to follow her. "But don't bring that damn pencil, Ernest."
"Wouldn't dream of it, my dear."