TITLE: "Breaking the Code"
AUTHOR: Little Red
RATING: PG-13 for skin and sexual references
CATEGORY: Dan/Jan fluffiness, as requested
SUMMARY: He speaks 28 languages, but there are still some things he can't say.
DISCLAIMER: I don't even own the action figures. Do they even have Stargate action figures? They must. But I don't own them.
DEDICATION: For Karen and Amy. I send attack dogs to your enemies and shippy fanfic to your friends.
ARCHIVE: Err... I suppose so, so long as it's not, like, "The Official Archive of Really Craptastic Stargate Fanfic Authors Who Should Just Go Away" or something :).
Otherwise, I'm flattered you think this isn't awful! Just fire me off an email first.
Breaking the Code
Hot, late-afternoon August breeze breathed against him, lifting him just past the point of consciousness. Awareness came slowly, reality seeping into his nebulous dreams of enigmatic alien writing and a dark-eyed woman, and he savored the cozy remnants of a sated, pleasant sleep. He was warm, half-wrapped in a sheet, his bare skin comfortably bathed in the sunlight shining in from the open windows through the translucent curtains. He was naked. And he wasn't alone.
Next to him, eyes closed, she sighed. A sleepy, feminine hand brushed unconsciously against the arm, his arm, that lay next to her, a bare inch from holding her tightly and permanently against him.
Janet. He, Daniel Jackson, was on Janet Fraiser's living room floor, sprawled out naked with her on a loose bed sheet she'd tossed down to protect the carpet from them and them from the carpet. Ancient complicated puzzles barely gave his brilliant mind pause and here it had been two weeks and he still couldn't even begin to wrap his brain around it. Janet. Him.
He was, probably, the luckiest bastard alive.
The air conditioning in Janet's house had given way, making the upstairs bedrooms unbearable, and Daniel found he was grateful for it. Her living room curtains weren't as opaque as the ones in her bedroom and here, in the sunlight, he could really, shamelessly stare at her while she was too asleep to mind.
She was beautiful. It hit him in waves, now, whenever he saw her. She had undoubtedly always been attractive, even if he'd been too distracted by her ever-present pen- lights and syringes to notice, but it felt to him as though she had changed in the last two weeks, like she now glowed with a unique kind of beauty visible to him alone.
Two weeks. God, it felt at once like barely a moment and an entire happy lifetime. Their first time had practically been an accident. Janet had invited her SG-1 friends over for an evening of "grown-up time," ostensibly to capitalize on having the house to herself for the next two weeks while Cassie was on the East Coast doing a pre-college summer program for high-schoolers at one Ivy League university or another, but really to ease the lonely, foreshadowing emptiness of her house. In just another year, Cassie would be off to college for good and, rather than dwell on that alone for her first night as an independent adult since Cassie had arrived on Earth and in her life, Janet had decided to invite her closest friends over for relaxed company, half-hearted board games and alcohol.
A few too many drinks, an offer from Jack to drive an unexpectedly tipsy Sam back to her place and drop Teal'c back at the SGC on the way, a promise from Janet to make sure that Daniel had sufficiently sobered up before being allowed back behind the wheel of his car, and they had been left alone on Janet's back porch. Warm and relaxed from alcohol and a pleasant evening, hypnotized by fireflies, they had fallen into pleasant conversation about work and, miraculously, about other things. Janet, more than any of Daniel's other friends, rode the line between their shared top-secret existence and a normal life, her teenage daughter keeping her tethered to popular culture and the goings-on outside of the mountain. She relayed curious real-world details from the years he had missed, buried underneath his stacks of artifacts and translations as he was. She asked him questions about his life in academia and, amazingly, painful though the answers sometimes were, he found himself answering her. He asked her any question he could think of, about medical school, about Cassie, about her patio furniture, even, thoroughly entranced by her voice and desperate for more of it.
She was funny, too, easing his nervousness as parts of him began to realize that their friendly conversation was slipping farther and farther away from their usual brief exchanges of pleasantries. He found himself laughing, genuinely, in a way he couldn't remember having done in months. Years, maybe. She was funny, and kind, and even as he sobered up he found himself unwilling to leave her company.
For a brief few moments, he convinced himself that he was lingering, pretending to still think himself unfit to drive, solely for her benefit, to keep her from a lonely, Cassie-less house. The truth was he could feel himself unraveling under her soft, affectionate gaze. Beneath the barriers he'd erected God-knew-when, he liked her. More than liked her. Somewhere along the way she had touched a part of him he'd thought dead and buried in the Abydonian sands and, like the coward he was, he'd slammed up every single one of his defenses and convinced himself that it wasn't so. She was a colleague -- a friend, on the best of days. Nothing more.
And now, aided by wine and the hot summer night, that friend had managed to pull away the threads holding all his illusions together, leaving him emotionally exposed and compelled and hopeful. And, because she was Janet and he knew her, knew she wouldn't laugh at whatever pitiful, unpracticed attempts he might make to deal with this and with her, knew she would forgive him his shy nervousness, it wasn't completely scary. His world wasn't threatening to fall apart, just because some part of him -- most of him -- had suddenly realized that he *felt* something. For her.
"We should... do this again sometime," he'd stammered during a pause in the conversation, awkwardly, never having been good at that sort of thing, hoping, hoping that it wasn't too forward, that it wouldn't burst the comfortable bubble surrounding them.
He needn't have worried. "Let's go for a drive," had been her response, grinning and rolling her eyes at her own impulsive suggestion. And, doing something she laughingly claimed not to have done since she was a teenager and he had never done at all, they had climbed into his car and driven for hours, him following her haphazard directions until he got the hang of aimless driving, stopping at a late-night drive-thru, listening to golden oldies on scratchy AM radio, talking, laughing, and saying nothing until even the silence became comfortable. Sometimes, when the road was straight and the traffic nonexistent, she would slip her hand against his where it rested on the gear-shift, and his heart almost exploded with giddy excitement each time she did. Comfort, lust, and a simple joy filled him until he felt *alive* for the first time in years. Unwilling, by mutual silent agreement, to really address what they were doing, to talk or even think about how they had been platonic friends for years, how they worked together, how she was his doctor and had seen more of his body than he had, they had happily ignored reality and simply enjoyed each other's company.
By the time he brought her back to her house it was almost dawn. After a long, silent moment in her driveway, her watching him with an indescribable expression that filled him with longing and him watching her with nothing so much as insecurity, she'd leaned over the center console of his car with a smirk. "You can kiss me," she'd prompted in a low whisper that undid all his concentration, granting him permission. Instinct took over, commandeering his body from his confused and frightened brain, and when their lips met he felt a powerful sensation of coming home. Emotion had pounded through him and he'd kissed her long and hard, losing himself in her mouth against his, her hands on his chest and shoulders, her hair around his fingers, the sound of her occasional gasp in his ear as he fumbled and found by intuition what she wanted, what she liked... he was heedless of the expected decorum of a first kiss, knowing only that this was *right*, that she was warm and necessary and, suddenly, for that brief moment, that he was completely unable to exist without her.
Finally pulling apart when he reached to pull her closer and his seatbelt choked the movement to a sudden halt, she stared at him, looking as stunned and breathless as he felt. Frozen by want, unwilling to wish her goodnight and head back to his lonely apartment for fear that the entire magical evening would vanish like a dream, he could do nothing but stare back. He didn't know, or couldn't remember, what he was meant to do next, how he was supposed to get from here to her arms.
Her door clicked open, and disappointment surged through him like all his hopeful strings had been cut. He sucked in a breath, trying to calm himself, to school his features away from desperation. Of course she wouldn't want this. Later, once he'd slept and came to his senses, *he* probably wouldn't want this, either. The words rang false in his mind, but he continued to repeat them so strongly that he almost didn't notice her stop in her exit, touch a gentle hand to his cheek, and offer her invitation. "You can come in, if you want."
Her touch and words finally pierced his lust-hazed brain, and he gaped at her, half-expecting that she would be joking, that no matter what had happened so far his night couldn't possibly end with *that*, with *her*. In the grey light of pre-dawn he could see her face just well enough to tell that she was deadly, wonderfully, amazingly serious. Fear and elation warred for dominance in his heart and mind and, somehow, amid the confusion, he ended up in her bedroom, unaware of the steps he'd taken to get there, only aware of her hands and lips as she reached for him again.
Giddy with the exhaustion of a long work week, running only on adrenaline and a sexual excitement long, *long* denied, the entire experience took on a drunken, ethereal quality. Afterwards, basking in their shared hazy, passion-soaked early-morning doze, it had hit him. All the debilitating fears and insecurities, the horrible anguish of loves past, had crashed down on him in a way his body could not support alone. She had held him, silently, reserving judgment, easing his desperate pain with her warm, soft skin and soothing his damaged, tormented mind with gentle kisses against his face and, after the worst had passed, murmured assurances that he would be okay. Eventually, wrung dry with emotion, he slept, and when he woke up, she was still there, curled up against him, holding him protectively even in her sleep.
He had never before felt so much awe for another human being. That she had stayed there beside him, seen what a train wreck he was and stayed anyway, had taken his breath away. Unable to stop himself he kissed her awake, and that time, it hadn't felt like an intoxicated, evanescent dream. Her body felt more real than anything he'd touched since Sha're. He *felt* for her, in a way he couldn't describe or reconcile, and it scared the hell out of him.
But he stayed.
Next to him on the floor, Janet sighed again and her eyelids fluttered open. Her warm brown eyes met his with unabashed affection, and he felt like he was falling. She smiled, still mostly asleep, and shifted an inch closer to him before drifting off again. Breezy, faint shadows drifted across her back from the sheer curtains fluttering in the windows, and Daniel couldn't resist reaching out a hand to skim his fingers over them. Her skin was hot from the sun, and he moved just enough to place a soft kiss on her shoulder before propping himself up on one elbow to watch his fingers chase the moving shadows on her back.
He'd stayed for two weeks, falling into an unreal sort of pattern. Their relationship, such as it was, remained a secret. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as a shared desire to keep it hidden away from the harsh reality of their lives, to let it stay a fantasy for as long as they could. Even Cassie was kept in the dark. Daniel took a strange sort of pleasure in watching Janet be a mother, overhearing her half of the almost nightly conversations with her daughter, listening to the way she shared and encouraged Cassie's enthusiasm over the friends she was meeting and the course-work she was doing and how she patiently soothed the occasional bout of homesickness. It was remarkable to watch her love someone so completely, even when it frightened him too much to consider whether, perhaps, she might feel something like love for *him*.
They went on dates, the cliched dinner-and-a-movie sort of dates and, feeling helplessly like a teenager, he stole kisses from her in the back of the theater. He followed her around the grocery store like a puppy on her regular Tuesday shopping outing, silently elated when she'd asked what his favorite breakfast cereal was and bought it without further comment. Even Gretzky, the dog Jack had bought Cassie but was now more Janet's pet than anyone else's, had gotten used to his presence and stopped barking at his car when he pulled into the driveway.
And they slept together. He loved her body as often as she let him, reveling in the way she made him feel whole and human and enough and *good*, dizzy with physical pleasure and filled with an unusual confidence that, maybe, as a man and a human being he wasn't a complete failure. That someone like Janet, kind and wonderful and more than intelligent enough to see what he was made of, could find something in him worth her time and her affection -- that *meant* something, didn't it?
At work, they were discrete. He'd dropped by her office once or twice, unnecessarily, when the frustration of being apart from her for hours at a time started to grate on him, but nothing they did was obvious. If their actions hadn't slipped completely under the collective radar of their colleagues, at least they hadn't done anything yet that required them being called on the carpet. SG-1 had only gone off-world once in the past two weeks, to a planet designated S3J-118 where Daniel had spent seventy-two of the longest hours of his life. The population had been wiped out -- by plague, presumably, since the infrastructure of the cities, decayed by time, showed no signs of war damage but were surrounded by mass graves -- and they had left behind a complicated pictographic language that Daniel was still struggling to decode. Any other week, he would have barely left his office, spending every moment he possibly could in with the digital videotape of the crumbling stone walls where countless examples of the alien glyphs had been engraved.
The mysterious writing still gnawed at him, and he had still put in the time on S3J-118 and, later, in his office to make some basic headway with it, but he hadn't been able to completely pull himself away from Janet. He'd foregone inviting her on a date on Friday night, the night before, to pull an all-nighter at the SGC but, in the morning, he'd turned up at her house and they'd ended up there on the floor.
Janet had been in the process of tidying -- unnecessarily, since her house was already infinitely less cluttered than anytime when Cassie was home -- in anticipation of her daughter's return the following day, but she had abandoned her vacuum cleaner without a word and gone to him, as caught up in this... thing... between them as he was.
Daniel was drawn out of his reverie as Janet's breathing changed, became less even, and he was startled to notice that her eyes were already open and that she was studying him curiously.
"What're you doing?"
It took him a moment to realize what she meant, but then noticed he was still drawing invisible patterns on her exposed back as she lay next to him on the sheet on the floor. He watched his hand for a moment, as though it was apart from him and had a mind and will of its own, as it traced lines like those of the glyphs he'd been studying all night between the smattering of light freckles across her upper back.
"It's nothing," he smiled back at her, again feeling an unparalleled rush of disbelief and joy that *he* was *there*, spending away a Saturday afternoon doing nothing more complicated or galactically important than being with her. "I can stop."
"Mmm... no." She closed her eyes and snuggled closer to him. The top sheet that had been haphazardly covering her lower back slid even farther down, drawing his gaze along with it. "I like it."
He looked back up at her face as he drew out some of the more complicated symbols he'd translated the night before, watching her reaction to see if she liked the light touch or not. Her eyes opened again, meeting his with a smile, but behind the relaxed expression he saw a worried sadness she was trying to hide.
It hit him in a rush of painful loss. This was the last day. This romantic, consequence-free holiday of impromptu dates and sex on the living room floor, of unacknowledged, undeclared intentions, would be over the moment Cassie's plane touched down in Colorado.
He couldn't lose her. The thought of walking out her front door and never being allowed to come back, never being able to crawl back into her arms and feel her loving, comforting kisses was so painful he could hardly breathe. But this, *this* couldn't last, not like it was, not when Janet was an utterly devoted single mother. And he... he didn't know how to fit into her life, her real life.
For this to work, to really work, he had to mean it.
It terrified him. *She* terrified him. Losing Sha're had destroyed him, broken him into pieces, and the thought of giving someone else the chance to wield that kind of power over him was daunting in the worst degree.
His hand stopped drawing designs on her skin, and Janet noticed before he did.
Slim fingers brushed through his hair, pulling his attention back to the present. "Are you okay? Daniel?"
He pulled her close to him, soaking up the smell of her skin, the feel of her warm body against him like he wanted to burn the memories into his mind. He didn't know if he was okay, didn't know if he could do this, if he could risk this, could risk what might happen to him if he fell for her and lost her, or what might happen to Janet and Cassie if he tried to do right by them and failed.
Janet kissed him and ran warm hands up and down the arms that held her, her gentle touches meant to soothe rather than arouse although, it being her, she easily could have managed both. When the need to cling to her receded, his fear of losing her becoming slightly less urgent, he loosened his hold and she relaxed against the sheet again, watching him and waiting for him to tell her what was going on. The concern in her own expression was mounting the longer he waited to speak.
His hand returned to her back, writing out random alien words as an outlet for his nervousness. He appreciated that kind of puzzle, the academic kind, the kind he could solve just by sheer mental discipline. Solving emotional puzzles, like the ones twisting at him as he looked at the woman in his arms, didn't come as naturally to him.
"Do you..." her voice was nervous, vulnerable, almost as though she were speaking his troubled thoughts aloud. "Do you want to... try this?"
For a moment, he couldn't say anything at all. He didn't know. On the one hand, having her there with him gave him a startling feeling of clarity, of being exactly where he was supposed to be in their complicated universe, but on the other, she left him so confused he couldn't think.
Janet's muscles tensed under his hand, and he realized he'd left her waiting too long. Hating himself for hurting her, for not knowing how to *not* hurt her, he was reduced to babbling just to have something to say into the cavernous silence. "I don't know," he told her honestly. "I want... I don't want to lose this." He silently pleaded with her to understand, to forgive him his inadequacies and tell him what he should do next, how to make this work without anybody getting hurt or killed and leaving him barely able to go on for the second time in his life. Or, more mundanely, without him disappointing her and forcing her to abandon him for a far less dramatic reason than death at the hands of the Goa'uld.
Maybe it wasn't too late, a terrified little voice inside his head insisted. Maybe, if he got up and walked away now, he could call the past two weeks an aberration, spend a few months buried in alien hieroglyphs, and secure himself back in the bleak, safe, emotionless life that he had been calling his own for years.
"Daniel... if this is going to be too hard for you, I won't blame you."
She was giving him an out. Promising not to condemn him, to hate him, for admitting that he couldn't handle her family, couldn't handle the responsibility a real relationship would place on him, couldn't handle *her* at all once he was forced to really look at her and all that went along with her.
Her lovely dark eyes, open and forgiving, clawed at his skittish heart. He couldn't walk away. It was well past too late. She had gotten too close, bound up inside of him where he had silently sworn he would never let anyone get again. Retreat was no longer an option. Falling back to the comforting familiarity of ancient languages would leave him as desperately heartbroken as he had ever been.
He was afraid, but that wasn't the only thing he was feeling.
A confession tumbled from his lips, lame and poorly phrased. "I don't know how to... do this."
She let out a relieved breath, and his heart jumped at the possibility that she had been truly afraid that he would take her up on her offer to walk away blameless, right then, without another word. If she didn't really want him to leave... "I don't either," she told him, eyes clear and unafraid as she spoke. "But I want... I want *you*."
He had to close his eyes as her declaration washed over him. She knew him, knew what an emotional coward he was, knew how hard his fears and history would make this, had her own troubled history to consider, and she wanted him anyway. "Janet..." he murmured her name, but he was unable to match her bravery. Emotion filled all parts of him but the feelings died on his lips, and the only thing he could do was kiss her, briefly and gently, wishing that the truth would show through.
He didn't say it. He couldn't. He spoke twenty-eight languages and he couldn't come up with a single way to force the words out, to tell her what he meant, what she meant to him, what he was scared that meant for their future and his life.
Her eyes drifted closed and she settled right up against him, not demanding that he return her declaration of intention. She didn't mind, but still, he wished he had the courage to tell her so she could be sure, so she could know that he wasn't going to bolt the moment her daughter came home and raised a disapproving eyebrow, if she did, about what her mother had gotten up to while she'd been gone, and who she'd gotten up to it with. He continued drawing on her back and she sighed happily at the contact.
He'd thought she'd fallen back asleep, but suddenly, she spoke. "Are you writing something?"
She must have noticed the lines were too deliberate to have simply been random. "Just words. Pictographs."
"S3J-118," he told her. "I still don't know what the language was called, but the writing is actually a mix of Egyptian and ancient Chinese."
She smirked like he amused her. "I know. You told me about that one."
He was surprised she remembered. He had told her, over dinner, the night SG-1 had first returned from the distant world, and he had been shocked to notice that she was actually paying attention to what he said. She had guiltily admitted to being more intrigued by the excited way he spoke about the ruins than the ruins themselves, but he forgave her the lack of purely academic interest. Truth was, he did the same thing, asking her about her latest research projects more to watch her eyes light up with enthusiasm and brilliance than because he cared one way or another about prion replication.
She was quiet again for awhile, just enjoying their closeness, before she asked, "What does it mean? What you're writing?"
He froze, his fingers stopped between her shoulder blades.
One glyph, unconsciously scrawled out over and over again, with the appropriate curlicues attached to represent pronouns, in locations specific to the alien written grammar.
*I love you.*
His heart felt like it stopped, and then thudded back into abrupt motion as he stared at her, the emotional truth pouring through him too intensely to ignore.
He met her eyes, unable to speak, his unconscious emotions betrayed by his hands and a language he'd barely begun to decode.
She couldn't have known the language, known for sure what he'd just declared across her spine, but she must have seen it in his eyes because she graced him with a smile he'd never seen on her face before. She lifted herself up on her elbow and kissed him, gently, long and wonderful, before pulling back. Her eyes glistened, but she wasn't crying.
"I mean it," he whispered, his voice suddenly and unreasonably raw. With a shock, he realized that he did, and that meaning it wasn't horrible, didn't feel like it was condemning both him and her to lives of pain.
She smiled that smile again. "Come here," she bade him, raising a deliciously sensual eyebrow.
Certainty and confession making his heart light and giddy, he did.
On to Part 2