Title - "Tertius"
By - Kellifer
Challenge - Three
Summary - When two people are meant to be, fates conspire, even if they have chosen different paths.


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Tertius


~ Primus ~

She was on the thirty-sixth hour of a twelve-hour shift and dead on her feet. There'd been a head on collision on the interstate that had involved eighteen cars and they were still bringing in victims. Janet tried to ignore the way her hands shook with fatigue as she stepped out of the hallway just after placing in a chest tube and starting six-year old girl breathing again.

Everyone who'd been on call had been brought in and there were still not enough doctors to go around.

It had been a bad night and it wasn't over.

Shouting from the emergency room made Janet look up. She saw a gurney was halfway through the swing doors at the end of the hall and the ambulance officers were wrestling with another man in jeans and a beaten up leather jacket. As Janet got closer she could make out what he was saying.

"... not supposed to have come here. He's supposed to be taken to the military facility!" The man was tall and imposing and the ambulance officers were having a lot of trouble holding him at bay. As Janet walked toward them the man managed to get a hand on the gurney and yank it back through the hospital doors. Her mouth firmed down in the line that made nurses and doctors alike scurry out of her way like frightened rabbits.

"Just what on earth is going on here?" She bellowed and saw the man look up, around and then down, his eyebrows arching in surprise. She knew when she wanted to she sounded tall, even if she wasn't.

She could tower over the best of them with her voice alone.

"Look, Doc-" he said and she could hear the sneer plain in his tone, even if he hid it from his face.

Janet cut him off with a wave of her hand and leant over the occupant of the gurney. Her hands moved up but were arrested before she could touch the younger man lying beneath her by callused fingers. Janet looked up into the dark brown eyes of the taller man that had been making the commotion and was heartened to see real fear and concern in them.

"Please, trust me with him," she said, turning her hand in the one that held it so she ended up squeezing in comfort. She felt the fingers tighten for a moment before releasing.

Janet's fingers skipped over the man's body, searching with practiced ease for any and all damage. The man groaned softly when she lifted his shirt and felt across his belly and up to his ribs. She was hoping that he was just bruised from the seatbelt but there was a chance the ribs were broken. His leg was also cocked at an ugly angle and although the ambulance officers had secured it as best as they could, Janet knew she would have some work cut out for her to set it properly.

As her fingers moved up she encountered and chain around his neck and pulled it aside without really looking at it. She heard the taller man curse and reach across her, snagging the chain in his fingers and pulling it up and off. "How many times do I have to tell him to take these off?" He snapped but she could hear the affectionate desperation in his voice and she knew she was warming to the man, all lunatic behavior aside.

"Military?" She asked while carefully feeling around the unconscious man's neck and hairline, looking for fractures or swelling that would indicate he was in a more serious condition. The other man raised an eyebrow at her and she shrugged slightly. "Dogtags." She said, nodding at the chain that was clasped in his hand.

"He's...ah." The man rubbed a hand over his hair, looking uncomfortable. Janet decided to let it go.

"What's his name?" She asked, professional mask slipping on.

"Daniel."

"Daniel, can you hear me?" Janet said in a louder voice, leaning close to his face and opening one of his eyelids with gentle fingers. "Daniel, I need you to try and open your eyes for me."

Both eyes slitted open and she caught a glimpse of dark blue before they fluttered closed again. She looked up and gestured for an orderly who grabbed the end of the gurney. "Take him to X-ray. I'll need an MRI as well just to be sure."

"Can I-?"

Janet looked around and her lips pulled up into a comforting smile. "Let us do some tests and then you can go back and see him. I'll come out and get you," she said. He looked extremely pensive and almost like he was going to make a grab for the gurney again so Janet pressed a hand to his chest. "Go sit down." There was a tone of command in her voice and she saw him stiffen and half-turn like he'd been made to take orders.

Definitely military, she thought.

~*~
"What happened?"

Janet started and looked up from the chart she was making, hooking it on the end of the bed. She was being regarded with serious blue eyes and as she watched the man in the bed before her narrowed them and then tilted his head and somehow she just knew he was missing a pair of glasses.

"You were in a car accident. There was a huge pileup on the interstate and we've had a lot of people admitted."

The man seemed to regard his hands for a moment and then his eyebrows shot up and he threw the blankets back, crying out when the move to swing his legs free of the bed jarred the broken one even though a temporary cast supported it. Colour drained out of his face and he lay back, panting.

"Jack?" He asked, pained.

"Is he a little over six foot, graying and with a really bad temper?" Janet hazarded and Daniel looked up at her, relief flooding his features. She smiled. "He's in the waiting room. I'm worried though if I don't let him in to see you soon he's going to start head butting people."

Daniel chuckled which dissolved into a pained wheeze as he discovered that he had bruised ribs to go with his broken leg. His hand explored the bandaging around his abdomen tentatively and then he seemed to make a mental survey, checking for other hurts.

"Apart from the bruised ribs, broken leg and a nasty gash on your right shoulder, you're okay. You were pretty lucky."

Daniel snorted and Janet got the feeling she was missing out on a pretty good joke. He went back to looking at his hands and Janet risked stepping closer, wondering if she was only appearing as a fuzzy outline to him the way he was squinting.

"Do you want to see Jack now?" She prompted and he nodded vigorously, sun-bleached hair falling into his eyes. She wondered at that and at his deep golden tan. He looked like he had just arrived from somewhere exotic.

"Yeah, thanks," he agreed readily.

"Okay. I'm off now but someone will be in to check on your soon. I'll be back on in twelve hours so I'll see you then."

Daniel looked hesitant but then a smile washed away the expression. "Sure," he nodded.

~*~

Janet was only back in the hospital a few minutes when she went hunting for Daniel's chart, wanting to check on his progress. She knew it was not really professional to dote on a patient but he had been interesting and had intrigued her. She yawned as she searched through the night's handovers and then looked up at the duty nurse, a pleasant faced girl named Eva who, with the right inclination, could be scarier than Janet herself.

They were kindred spirits and had always gotten along.

"Where's Daniel Jackson's chart?" Janet asked, knowing it had to be somewhere.

Eva stood and reached for the stack of charts Janet was holding and set them aside. "Twenties, good looking, broken leg and scary attachment?" She asked, arching an eyebrow. Janet opened her mouth to ask what the last meant and then realized she knew.

The man called Jack.

"Yes, I just wanted to see how he'd done before I went and had a look at him," Janet said and Eva was looking at her with a curious glint in her eyes. Janet touched her face, wondering if part of her breakfast was still present on her cheek. "What?" She demanded.

"You're the pretty Doctor!" Eva's tone was one of accusation and amusement and Janet blinked. She hadn't gotten enough sleep to deal with cryptic and that's what Eva was giving her.

"What are you talking about?" Janet demanded.

"The guy, Jackson. He was taken out of here by a couple of military goons and the tall gray-haired cutie," Eva explained and Janet's face fell. "On his way out he and the tall guy were arguing and he said that he hadn't even gotten time to say thanks to the pretty doctor."

Janet felt her cheeks heat. "I'm sure he didn't-"

"Oh yes he did," Eva nodded firmly and started sorting through the folders Janet had managed to disorganize in her search. Janet watched her for a few moments and felt the blush intensify.

It drained away with the knowledge that she would probably never see Daniel Jackson again.


~ Secundus ~

Janet pulled herself up onto the barstool and slammed a flat palm onto the counter. She wanted a drink and wasn't in the mood to wait for the bartender to finish chatting up the leggy blonde at the other end of the bar for it, who looked barely legal if she actually even was.

The bartender looked her way, seemed to contemplate ignoring her and then must have seen something in her face that read that she would brook no defiance. He offered an apologetic shrug to the blonde and loped down to her end of the bar.

"What can I get for you?" He tried a smile that would normally be charming but fell off his face when he met the steely countenance of the small woman before him.

"Dirty martini," Janet ordered, drumming her fingers on the bar as she waited for her drink to be made.

"I know you, don't I?" A voice behind her queried and Janet tensed. She saw the bartender look over her shoulder and give a non-too- subtle back off gesture to her would-be suitor who was either oblivious or chose to ignore him.

"I'm not in the mood, okay?" She sighed, just wanting to be left alone.

"The pretty Doctor." Janet stiffened and then turned slowly around, looking up into blue eyes that crinkled in recognition behind wire frame glasses. His hair was shorter and he was broader than she remembered, but the sweet face and smile were the same, even if there were a few more lines apparent.

"I'm sorry?" Janet queried, feigning ignorance. She didn't usually indulge in games but she also didn't really want to give away just how much she remembered this man.

"Sorry, you probably see hundreds of patients a month. It was silly to think you'd remember me. Daniel Jackson." He pointed to himself with the hand he was grasping his beer in and held out the other. "Big pile up on the interstate, broken leg and bruised ribs," he clarified, rattling off his injuries.

"Oh, right," Janet nodded slowly, hoping that the heat in her cheeks couldn't be seen in the dim bar light. "Janet Frasier." She accepted his hand and the shake. She didn't know why she had expected his hands to be smooth but they weren't. They were work roughened, just like her Father's had been and this tiny thing made the man in front of her all the more appealing.

"I'm having drinks with some friends. Do you want to join us?" he asked, nodding back in the direction he had come from. Janet followed his gesture and saw an impressively large and built man, a blonde woman and the same silver haired guy from that night in the hospital. She was impressed, it had been probably five years since she had seen them and from the depths of her memory she dragged his name.

"Jack, right?"

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Oh, of course you remember him," he said and she was pretty sure there was a tinge of good-humoured jealousy in his tone, but it was gone again as quickly, replaced by the lazy smile that the nurses in the hospital had been talking about for weeks after his short stay.

Janet's martini was finally set down in front of her and she curled her fingers around the stem, regretting that the chance meeting with Daniel was really bad timing. Any other night and she would have accepted his offer, but she was not good company at the moment and emotionally fragile.

"I'm sorry, I've had a pretty rough day. I just wanted to grab a drink and then go home and to bed." His eyes clouded with concern and just that small thing made her almost change her mind, but she shook herself and reached forward, clasping his elbow. She knew it was bold, but she felt reckless.

"If you're up for coffee or something, maybe in a few weeks, I'd really like that." She thought he might run screaming because she was being so forward, but his smile simply got wider.

"Sure, that'd be nice. Look, here's my number." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pad and a pen. He thumbed through pages and pages of the notebook and Janet was tempted to make a joke but refrained, seeing that most of the pages were crammed with notes rather than other girl's numbers. "I'm away a lot so if you call and get my machine leave a message, okay?"

Janet, for a panicky moment, thought he was just being polite and giving her a false number so he could escape, but she was reassured when he pressed the paper into her hand and allowed his fingers to linger on hers for a moment too long for it to be casual.

He hesitated before leaving her, a trace of the concern left in his eyes, but then he smiled and headed back to his own table, threading his way through a large crowd of people that had just poured through the door. Janet took that as her cue to leave and downed the martini in one gulp, grimaced and then slapped her money down on the bar top.

She slid off the stool and headed for the door, sparing a glance back at Daniel and his friends. Daniel was in the middle of the group and talking animatedly, hands dancing in the air. Jack rescued first one beer bottle and then another with practiced ease and a gentle, affectionate smile.

Despite the bad night she'd had, it had ended well.

She pushed her way out into the night.

~*~

It seemed she'd been given a false number after all.

Janet had waited four weeks while the number had stared at her, pinned up on a corkboard by her phone. She'd past it once or twice a day, always pausing to pick it up and look at it, decide she was being silly and reach for the phone and ultimately chicken out, pinning the number back onto the wall.

She'd finally screwed up the courage exactly four weeks and two days from when she'd had the number pressed on her and the first time she'd heard the disconnected message, she'd been sure she must have misdialed.

She'd tried four times before admitting defeat.

~*~

When she crashed into a solid wall of male at the local fruit market, she'd expected to just apologise and move on.

Instead Janet stopped dead, her mouth dropping open. Standing before her was the tall, silver haired man. Jack, she reminded herself.

"Oh, hello," she greeted coolly, not really knowing what kind of greeting to offer to a man's buddy who had thought it was okay to give her a false number rather than just a polite `no thanks'.

A strange expression flitted across Jack's face, but it wasn't embarrassment. If anything, there was something deeply sad in the lines of his face. "Hey, Doc," he returned, and there was real warmth in his tone, coloured gray by the sadness that seemed to be touching everything around him.

"How's, um, how's Daniel?" Janet asked, knowing that there was something dreadfully wrong with the way this chance encounter was going. Jack looked at a loss for a second, but then sighed heavily and scrubbed a hand through his hair, a gesture she had seen before and so knew was something he did when he was worried or upset.

"Ah... well. Um." Jack looked about, as if planning to flee, but then took a deep breath. "Ah, Daniel passed away about two weeks ago," he said in a rush and Janet realized that it wasn't just sadness that was clinging to him like an old coat, it was actual grief, real and palpable.

Janet blinked and stepped back, feeling like she's been punched. "How?" She blurted and then coloured, knowing it was an appalling first response. She should have offered her sympathies or something, anything other than the morbid desire to know how he'd died.

"There was an accident..." Jack shrugged, making a helpless gesture with his hand and Janet just knew that it was cruel of her to keep him bailed up in a fruit market, talking about his friend's death.

"I'm really sorry. Honestly, I should let you go. Please pass my condolences to..." Janet trailed off, mimicking Jack's gesture, not knowing just whom condolences needed to go to other than the man before her and not wanting to say `to his friends'.

"Sure, you bet," Jack nodded, already away from her in mind, if not body.

As soon as Janet got home, she hunted through her trash and rescued the slip of paper with Daniel's looping scrawl on it, name and number. It was only slightly stained on one corner from the coffee grounds she'd dumped that morning and as she tucked it carefully into a book she wondered why the stain of coffee on the paper was weirdly poetic.

She took the paper back out of the book and pressed it to her nose and the coffee scent curled through her senses.


~ Tertius ~

Always small for her age, little Janet Frasier had gotten her military Father to secretly teach her how to defend herself. When she landed a punch, there was not much strength behind it, but definitely skill and she knew just where to hit to cause the most damage that her tiny frame could muster.

The ringleader, a large and gangly boy named Fenster, dropped to the ground, gripping his nose and howling. Janet stood over him, tiny fists balled and feet spread a little wider to give her an even stance, something her Father had taught her and she's listened. She looked up at the three Fenster minions who moved forward to gather their fallen leader and slink away.

Seven-year old Janet finally relaxed her battle stance and picked up the pair of glasses that had been thrown to the ground and then thoroughly stomped on. "I think they're broken." She said, holding them out to the huddled figure on the ground. The boy, who'd been dragged into the dirt and then repeatedly kicked, finally uncurled himself enough to look up at her. He was up on his feet a moment later and Janet was amazed at his recovery.

"S'okay," he shrugged. "I'm always losing `em. I think my mum keeps three or four spare all the time." He reached out a grubby hand and Janet dropped the glasses into it.

"Are you okay? They kicked you pretty hard," she asked, her eyes large. She reached forward and her fingers skimmed over a long gash on the boy's forearm. He hissed and shied away.

"Happens," he grumbled, his tone resigned and despite her tender age, Janet ached for the solemn little soldier before her. "I'm pretty much the new kid year round and they're always easy pickings."

~*~

Janet started awake, her heart racing. She wasn't quite sure what had woken her but then realized it was the soft, whimpering coming from the other figure in her bed. She reached out a hand and touched a bare shoulder and it was slicked with sweat.

Nightmare again, she thought, resigned.

"Daniel, come on, wake up," she whispered, her tone gentle.

Daniel rolled onto his back and his eyes opened and focused, searching her out in the darkness. "Janet?" His voice was small and she worried, knowing by instinct that it must have been a bad one.

"I swear, you need to leave that place," she said, not really meaning for as much venom in her tone as there was, but her hatred of the SGC and what it had done to the man beside her was clearly defined and well understood. She'd been given clearance by the higher powers because of the number of times Daniel had had to be nursed back to health and she's started poking around, not really believing the cover stories.

"You know I can't do that," Daniel sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. He let Janet pull at him until he was halfway across her lap, his head just under her chin.

"There are the nightmares and the injuries, not to mention the torture and constant kidnapping. Let's also not forget that they've already killed you once."

Daniel grimaced, not wanting to let on that he'd been presumed dead more times than that. She didn't need to hear it and if he was to get any peace, he wasn't about to speak it. "What other job can I get where I save the world?" He asked and Janet smacked his arm.

"Don't be cute. I'm angry and I want to stay angry long enough to get out of this bed and ring that place and tell them you're quitting."

"You won't do that." Daniel tilted his head so he could brush lips along her jaw line and Janet tried not to let it diffuse her sour mood, but it was impossible.

"Can I at least think that I'm going to, right up until the morning when you talk me out of it?" She grumbled, but the venom had drained from her voice completely. She carded a hand through Daniel's hair. "What was it this time?" She asked, knowing the best way to alleviate the poison Daniel's nightmares infected him with was for him to talk about them.

"A couple of months ago, there was a mission. A member of SG-13 was hit and we went through to pick him up. It was an ambush. A Doctor died." He shuddered and Janet pressed arms around him more firmly. "She was nice. She didn't deserve to die like that. What kind of enemy shoots a medic?"

"The kind you're fighting." Janet said gently, wondering how she'd turned a one eighty and was now about to reassure Daniel about what he did. "That's why you fight. You save the world." She repeated his own words and Janet could feel his grin by the lift of his cheek.

"As long as I keep just one person safe, I'm happy," he said.

They settled down and Janet was just drifting off when she remembered what her own dream had been about. "Wouldn't it be funny if that night in the bar was actually the third time I'd met you and not the second."

"Why do you say that?" Daniel's voice was barely above a whisper.

"I just remember this kid, back when I was seven. He got beaten up because he was new and I rescued him. He just reminded me of you."

Daniel's breathing had evened out and Janet knew he was asleep. She let her fingers stray through his hair again, just thinking.

"Besides," Daniel said and Janet blinked awake. "The Museum was the third time. You have an impressive set of lungs on you."

"I'm sure you would scream just like a girl too if you bumped into a guy you thought had been dead for a year," she snapped.

"Got my attention." The words were an exhalation and Daniel was now really asleep.

Janet pressed a kiss to his forehead and then let herself release the waking world also. She needed all the sleep she could get. Daniel was off world again in two days and she wouldn't sleep the entire time he was gone.

~End~

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