Title: The Persistence of Memory
Author: Isabelle Ashe
Category: Daniel/Janet, angst
Season/Spoilers: nothing particular; probably set season 4 or 5
Rating: PG-13
Summary: What do you do when you discover your life was only a dream?
Archive: free to a good home; just let me know where it's going, please

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Author's Notes: This bunny came absolutely out of the blue and wouldn't let me leave it alone. I suppose it was more or less inspired by "The Changeling" and more vaguely by the Atlantis episode "Home." But there aren't any spoilers for either one. And despite the tremendous amount of time that Daniel and Janet seem to spend in bed together in this fic, I'm afraid there's not actually any sex...sorry, but I'm just not any good at writing it; plus, Michelle wouldn't read it, and I don't know what I'd do without her feedback! Finally, the fic will probably seem a bit weird at first, but hang with me!


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The Persistence of Memory
Part 1


As Janet came slowly awake but before she had opened her eyes, she could feel him watching her. "What is it?" she murmured sleepily, still refusing to open her eyes to the sunlight streaming in the windows.

Daniel gently ran one finger down the side of her face, pausing to caress her lips before he kissed them softly. "Good morning."

Janet finally squinted her eyes open and smiled at her husband. "Good morning, yourself. You're awfully awake this morning for someone who didn't make it to bed until the wee hours of the morning. Did you finally get all the papers marked?"

"Eventually. You know, I think every year my students' writing gets progressively worse." He shook his head ruefully. "I had the weirdest dream last night, though."

"Oh?" Janet knew from the way he said it that this dream must be the reason for the slightly distracted expression on Daniel's face.

"Yeah, I have no idea what it was all about, but it was so real. One of the most real dreams I've ever had."

"What did you dream?" she asked, as she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Daniel continued to lounge next to her, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist. As she shifted positions, he took the opportunity to snuggle up against her.

"We both worked in this strange place...all concrete and no windows. You were still a medical doctor, but I wasn't a professor. We knew one another, and I'm pretty sure we were friends, but I don't think we were together. And there was this large, strange ring with water in it, but it stood upright and the water didn't flow out. It was very important somehow."

Janet was silent for a moment, trying to place the elements of Daniel's dream in an effort to discern what might have inspired it. "I don't know, babe, it sounds pretty random to me," she finally concluded.

"I know," he agreed. "But it seemed so real at the time."

At that moment, their alarm clock buzzed to life on the bedside table. Even though she was already awake, Janet groaned as she reached over to shut it off. "I guess that's our cue," she announced, kissing Daniel on the top of the head and disentangling herself from his embrace.

"Oh, by the way," he said as she headed into the bathroom, "remember that I've got that committee meeting this afternoon. Can you still get Cassie to her orthodontist appointment?"

"At four?" confirmed Janet as she turned on the shower. "I've got it written down. And Mrs. Lane is able to keep Nick and Katherine through the afternoon, right?"

"Yup, I confirmed that yesterday," answered Daniel as he came in the bathroom and began shaving. "But I don't remember what we decided about dinner tonight. Are you cooking, or am I?"

***

"Ah, watch it, little miss!" cried Janet as a splash of warm, soapy bath water soaked the side of her face and shoulder. "No more splashing, or you'll have to get out," she warned.

The squirming child in the tub giggled. "Sorry, Mommy."

Janet both loved and hated bath duty. Her children were always adorable, running around with wet heads and fluffy, white towels, but the task of getting a three-year-old and a five-year-old clean usually left her more than a little damp herself.

"Nicky?" Janet called over her shoulder. "Take your pajamas to Daddy so that he can get you ready for bed!"

She heard pattering of feet, and her youngest child appeared in the doorway wearing nothing but bright blue underpants and a towel held around his neck. "I don't want pajamas, Mommy. I'm Superman!" he declared before racing down the hallway toward the living room.

"Aaugh, Nick! Go away! I'm trying to do my homework," whined Cassandra, who had sprawled out on the family room floor doing homework in front of the television.

"But I'm Superman, Cassie!" insisted her baby brother.

"Nick, you're blocking the TV. Mom! Dad!"

"Be a little patient, Cass," called Janet from the bathroom. Then, "Daniel? Can you help, please?"

She heard the rattling of dishes as Daniel closed the dishwasher door and hoped that meant he was free to assist in the peacekeeping. Soon she heard his voice in the family room. "Superman, eh? Well, how about we hang up that wet towel and find your Superman pj's instead?" A moment later, Daniel walked past the bathroom carrying the de-caped Superman in his arms.

Janet smiled at him before turning back to her five-year-old, whose fingers were beginning to turn pruny in the bath. "You about ready to get out, Miss Katherine?"

Katherine swam Ariel the little mermaid around the tub once more. "I guess so." She stood up, and Janet wrapped the towel around her, impulsively scooping her up into her arms. Katherine giggled and proceeded to sprinkle water from her dripping hair over her mother.

"Hey, now!" chastised Janet, barely holding back a giggle herself.

Katherine changed into her pajamas and brushed her teeth, and she and Janet joined Daniel and Nick in the bedroom that Nick and Katherine shared. Katherine was just getting old enough that she resented sharing a bedroom with her younger brother. There wasn't much choice at the moment, though, since Cassandra categorically refused to share her room with Katherine, and with more than ten years' difference in the girls' ages, Janet and Daniel were inclined to agree that it would be a bad idea. They had talked a bit about looking for a bigger house, but somehow there hadn't been time yet.

Nick was already in bed and yawning terrifically. Katherine bounded into her own bed and dramatically pulled the covers up to her chin. Janet kissed first her son and then her daughter goodnight. As Daniel kissed Katherine in turn, she suddenly jumped out from under the covers and locked her arms around his neck. "I love you, Daddy," she said fiercely.

Daniel looked a little surprised, but he quickly pulled the little girl into a hug. "I love you, too, angel. Very, very much."

"Forever and ever, no matter what?" challenged Katherine.

Daniel pulled back to look her in the eye. From her own position standing in the doorway, Janet couldn't see the expression on his face, but a strange and uncomfortable sensation suddenly overwhelmed her while the image of a ring filled with water flashed inexplicably in her mind. She could see the muscles in Daniel's back tense, and she wondered if he felt it, too. She gripped the door handle tightly in an effort to stifle the urge to seize up her babies and never let them go.

When Daniel answered his daughter, his voice was tight with emotion. "Forever and ever, no matter what."

***

Janet sat up quickly in bed, breathing heavily. She blinked a couple of times as her room, familiar even in the dark, came into focus. The clock beside the bed read 3:42 am, and Daniel had scarcely stirred beside her. 'It's just a dream,' she reassured herself. 'Not even a bad dream...just a strange one.' She slipped out of bed and made her way to the bathroom. She flipped on the light and squeezed her eyes shut in reaction to the sudden brightness. When they had adjusted, she studied her reflection in the mirror. She tried to gather some of her short hair together and pulled it away from her face, trying to picture it long and bound up, like it was in the dream. It didn't work, and Janet was inexplicably relieved. The woman in the dream and the woman in the mirror were not the same.

When she returned to bed, Daniel was awake. "Hey," he muttered sleepily. "You okay?"

"I had your dream," Janet answered softly. "About the ring full of water and not being married to you. You're right. It's feels so real it's uncanny."

Daniel sat up, suddenly awake. "You did?" he asked suspiciously. "I just had it again, too."

"Well, uh, that's unusual." Janet wished she could get rid of the growing sense of dread she felt.

"It's more than unusual, Jan. Something's not right. I've felt it all day, and I know you've felt it, too." Janet hesitated a moment before nodding. There was no reason to deny it. "How do we know what is real, anyway?" Daniel continued after a moment. His voice was deceptively calm. "That other life feels so real in the dream. I don't understand it, but it fits, somehow. Yet this is real, too. How do we know?"

Janet looked at him in shock. "We know because we're awake now and we were dreaming then, Daniel. Of course this is real!"

"But how do we know?" protested Daniel.

"Because...because it *is*! Because this is our life! Because I work all day to save people's lives and come home to kiss my children and make love to my husband at night! Because I married you and gave birth to our babies, and I remember every minute of it!" As she was speaking, tears began to flow down her cheeks, and she could feel herself growing more and more agitated. She couldn't understand why she was so upset: what Daniel was suggesting was so absurd that she ought to be laughing instead of crying. "Because this is our life, Daniel! I want this life!" She buried her face in his chest as Daniel pulled her into his arms.

"Shhh, shhh, baby, it's okay. I'm here; we're here; it's okay. I've got you; shhh, now, I love you; it's okay," soothed Daniel as she sobbed. Suddenly, she felt him stiffen, and his tone changed to one of alarm. "Dear God, what's happening?"

Janet snapped her head up and watched the room quiver around her. It literally flickered, and changed at intervals between her bedroom and an uncannily familiar concrete room filled with medical equipment. "No!" she breathed before jumping out of bed.

"Janet!"

"The children!" she called out to him as she struggled to reach the door. Despite her best efforts, her body refused to cooperate, and she couldn't get out of the room. "No, no! Cassie! Katherine! Nick!" she cried at the top of her lungs. "Dammit, Daniel, help me! My babies!"

***


On to Part 2

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