There's too much conflict here, today. He's arguing with Jack; Jack's arguing with Hammond; this thing has a hold on his friend and all anyone can do is snap at each other. He hates that. And he hates finding himself helpless, and then finding himself sticking up for Sam only to realize that what he's doing is protecting the memory of the dead. He hates all of it, helplessness and conflict and that thought about Sam. So he retreats to his office – and finds himself not alone.
Janet’s sitting at his desk, her fingers steepled against her lips, looking intently at nothing at all. In the moment before she sees him, he watches her in the half-light from the hall. There’s little of her usual cool efficiency, now, overwhelmed by something else. He tries to read it, but finds her withdrawn thoughts inscrutable.
She turns and startles and gets to her feet.
‘Daniel. I’m sorry. You weren’t here, and I needed a quiet place to –.’ He shakes his head with what he hopes is a kind smile.
‘It’s okay.’ He gestures. ‘Sit. I’ll just –’ She shakes her head, drawing a deep breath. She’s steeling herself, he thinks. Putting her CMO face back on. She scrubs the heel of her hand across one cheek. She’s been crying. She steels herself, but she doesn’t make a move to leave.
'Daniel,' she says. 'I think I'm losing my mind.' She's aiming for wry, but she's not quite there. He crosses his arms, leaning against the table, waiting to see what she’ll do. She winces. Resolve isn’t coming easy to her, today.
He thinks he knows why.
‘Janet, this – it’s okay to have a hard time with this. We all are.’ She spreads her hands, works her jaw. Looking for words. Helplessness; anger. A doctor who can’t solve her patient’s problem. That, he can read. He leans across the table, pushes up his glasses. Meets her eye. ‘This isn’t your fault. No one blames you for not having a solution to this.’ She shakes her head.
‘She’s just lying there occupied by some alien, just lying there, and I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything, Daniel,’ and the raw anger in her voice, this rapid stream of speech, startles him. It’s more than just pain, more than just frustration.
‘It must be terrible. Not to be able to help her, find a solution –’ as he moves toward her, she holds up a hand, warding him off. Squeezes her eyes shut, pinching the bridge of her nose.
‘No, it’s not – that’s not – never mind, Daniel.’ She draws another shuddering breath, and then it hits him. He’s been wrong; he recoils and reorients his mind, like when an obscure syntax becomes suddenly clear to him. The doctor’s not talking about Major Carter, her patient. Janet, the woman, is talking about Sam, her friend. Or maybe –
Oh. Shit. Right.
He bows his head, lets his mind adjust to a new reading of a year and more of signs.
‘Janet,’ he says softly, raising his eyes. ‘It’s – that is, Sam.’ This is harder than he’d thought it would be. He clears his throat. ‘You have feelings for her. Don’t you? ...That’s why this is so hard, isn’t it? You care for her, uh –’ he gives a rueful little laugh. ‘A lot more than you’re supposed to.’
Her eyes flash wide and she’s paralyzed, staring at him, about to shake her head, about to deny it, but he pushes forward.
‘It’s okay, Janet. You –’ he steps toward her. ‘And Sam? Does she–?’ There’s just terror in Janet’s eyes, abject and frank and clear as day. ‘My god,’ he whispers, taking another step. ‘You’re lovers. You and Sam are lovers.’ She’s shaking her head with a vehemence that only confirms his guess.
‘I didn’t say that, Daniel, I didn’t –’
‘You don’t have to. And Janet – Janet, I won’t, either. I’m not going to tell anyone. I promise.’ Shit. It's too bad that's the only thought he seems capable of. Shit, shit, shit. But he crosses the space between them before that caged-animal fear can let go of her, before she bolts. Places a hand on each of her shoulders. ‘It’s okay, Janet. I don’t – won’t –. It’s okay. It’s okay.’
She just breaks. Her head bows and she’s sobbing. He strokes his thumbs across her shoulders, holds back a wry smile at how suddenly ironic her epaulettes look to him.
‘Your lover is suffering, and not only can you not help her, you can’t even be her lover – can’t hold her hand or kiss her cheek or talk to her the way a lover does. To her, or anyone. That’s it, isn’t it?’ It must be unbearable. She nods slowly, and before he thinks about it he folds her into his arms. There’s so little of her; his arms wrap all the way around her shoulders. She quakes against him and her hands fist fiercely in his shirt; he holds her that much tighter. She projects the energy of a much taller woman. An incongruous thought. He’s not sure what to make of the fact that he’s discovered the thing that can make Janet Fraiser so small and so fragile. So he just stands there, rubbing her back in slow circles, murmuring meaningless reassurances.
Janet loves Sam; Sam is dying or maybe dead; she loves her and she’s disappearing. It's all very simple. And it’s all an absolute secret, of the direst kind. Shit. He has no idea how to wrap his mind around that, so he just stands there. It occurs to him, for some reason, to kiss the top of her head. When he does, she shifts and rests her temple against his sternum and breathes deeply, and her sobs die down.
She backs away, carefully. Resolve is coming back to her. She wipes her cheeks.
‘Daniel.’ Not so fragile. ‘Daniel, please –’ He nods.
‘I said I won’t, Janet, and I meant it. I promise.’
She shakes herself out, tucks a stray shock of hair back into place, dabs her cheeks and her nose with a handkerchief whisked from a pocket and back again. And it’s uncanny, but already she’s the CMO again, scarcely a trace of – anything else.
‘Thank you, Daniel,’ she says, and he knows she’s aiming for crisp, but there’s a world of warmth in her voice that makes him smile. She turns to go, but he holds her back by one hand.
‘Janet, now that – I mean, I can – I mean, I’m here for you. Whenever. If you need anything –’ She smiles and nods. Squeezes his fingertips, and then with squared shoulders and the stride of a much taller woman, she’s off along the corridor.
And Daniel leans back against his desk, biting his knuckle, watching the space she left behind. He’s learned a great deal, today. The intensity of Janet Fraiser; the ferocity of her. Sam, he thinks – and he smiles – is going to be just fine.