Chapter 1: Ugly Black Dress
Ugly Black Dress
"More than a year? Wow, I was only dead for five months. Do you remember any of it?"
Buffy gazed with interest across the table at her date. He was brilliant, good-looking, had died more times than she had, and best of all was legally permitted to discuss things with her as the Air Force's representative to the Watcher's Council. Someone upstairs had decided that the country's two best-kept "weird" secrets should be put into contact; whomever it was, Buffy vowed to track them down and send them chocolate.
"Not much," he replied. "I lost my memory when I returned; that year is still missing. Jack says I visited a few times; he could probably tell you more."
"I hope you didn't show up wearing what you died in." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "They buried me in this really ugly black dress..."
Daniel blinked, and then grinned at her, a brilliant teeth-baring smile that nearly stopped her heart. "No wonder you came back, then," he said.
"Wha, huh?" She wrinkled her brow, confused.
"Old superstition," he explained. "If a woman is buried in black, she will return to haunt the family."
She had to grin back. "Well, that explains it!"
Living the Adventure
Buffy leaned closer to Daniel, snuggling her cheek into the curve where shoulder met neck. He smelt slightly of male sweat, cologne, and some unique fragrance that was strictly Daniel; it sounded clichéd to say that even in her own head, but it was true. Some aftermath of his time with the glowy people? If Cordy ever showed up again, she'd ask her.
Whispered voices carried from the other side of her date: Daniel's friends Jack and 'Murray', arguing about the other movies in this series, spoilers they'd heard for this one, and a series of comparisons she barely followed between the fall of the Chosen One and the fate of some baddie they'd met called A-new-bass, or something like that. Teal'c was apparently as big a fan as Andrew, which Buffy found slightly bizarre; he lived a sci-fi adventure, so what was the big?
The previews finally ended, and a hush fell over the theater as the music came up and the familiar letters began scrolling up the screen. So maybe this wasn't the most romantic date she'd ever been on, but she was here with Daniel and they'd each survived their latest apocalypse; that was enough for her.
Slaying the Want Ads
"How about this one?" Buffy said, glancing up at Daniel as he expertly flipped an omelet from pan to plate. She shifted the Gazette a little to the left, making room for her freshly cooked breakfast, and traced a finger across one of the advertisements. "Position available for Receptionist in growing organization. Multi-line phone experience preferred..."
"Which means they don't understand the system and will need you to run it."
She rolled her eyes. "Here's one with flexible work hours..."
"Also known as frequent overtime." Daniel's tone was discouraging, but the corners of his eyes were crinkling.
Buffy's mouth twitched as she picked another ad at random. "Quick problem solver?"
"They're months behind schedule."
"Must be able to lift 50 pounds..."
"No health insurance or chiropractors available." He brought his own plate to the table and sat down, blue eyes twinkling behind his glasses.
She covered a laugh with a sip of her orange juice. "Management training position?"
"Salesperson with a huge territory."
She nudged the paper off the table, sending it fluttering to the floor, and leaned across the plates to steal a kiss. "Guess that leaves me with just one option then; I'll call your boss back tomorrow."
"Those three months I spent on P4T-3G6..." Daniel began.
"Don't count; you had amnesia." Buffy shook her head.
"The three weeks the team spent on P4X-347..." he tried again. Hadn't that been more vacation than mission? SG-1 had only stayed there for medical reasons.
"You mean the killer lightbulb planet?" She raised her eyebrows. "Besides, going through the gate is by definition part of our job."
Well, that eliminated Abydos. "There was that time Sam and I went to Chicago and then Egypt..." Daniel was grasping at straws.
"Chasing Osiris?" Buffy stared at him in disbelief.
Daniel winced, then sighed. "Okay, okay. So I haven't been on a real vacation since I started working here. Is that what you wanted me to say?"
She rolled her eyes, then reached for his lapels and tugged him closer. "No, what I wanted you to say was, 'You know, it has been awhile. How does Hawaii sound?'"
He blinked at her, then grinned and wrapped his arms around her small frame. "Another note for my Buffy translation journal: 'So when was the last time' is a hint, not a question." Then he repeated her words back to her.
Buffy smiled. "It sounds great."
Into the Breach
Daniel awakened with a start, inexplicably certain that something was wrong. The light was too dim to be morning, and there was someone standing in his bedroom...
His heart rate spiked sharply, then calmed. Osiris had never come bearing coffee.
"Buffy," he mumbled, yawning. "What time is it?"
"Four thirty," the blonde intruder said cheerfully, holding a steaming mug within reach.
Daniel took in her fully-dressed appearance with puzzlement as he slowly sat up, then wrapped his hands around the warm cup. He clearly remembered going to bed with his girlfriend less than five hours ago; had she sneaked out for another patrol? "Why...?"
"Because the bookstore opens at six today?"
Even exhausted and decaffeinated, Daniel could recognize the overtones of 'duh' in her voice. He took a long swallow of coffee, trying to jolt his braincells, then groaned as he remembered her taste in reading material lately. She'd been re-reading the series-- this must be the day the sixth book was due. He vividly recalled trying to shop for a new wardrobe the day Order of the Phoenix had been released; the mall would be a madhouse if they didn't go early.
Only for Buffy. "Okay, okay, I'm up..."
He'd agreed to the film for her sake-- Kenneth Branagh in quantity plus gorgeous costumes and sets, never mind the antiquated English. She'd surprised him there, though; he'd known Buffy was smarter than she let on, like Jack, but he'd never suspected she'd developed an ear for language over the years. Maybe she couldn't reliably repeat anything, but she could understand it.
Regardless, Daniel paid more attention to her than the screen. Perhaps that's why he registered the dialogue only after she'd gone quiet:
"...The undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns."
Not so true in our case, he thought wryly, remembering the discussion the day they'd met. Black dresses and lost memories…
He placed a comforting hand on her knee, smiling at her in nostalgia and sympathy.
She stared at him in confusion, then laughed and explained. She'd been thinking, not of death, but of Star Trek courtesy of Andrew indoctrination!
He spent the rest of the movie just as distracted as before, but this time more from trying not to picture an aging Shatner in Hamlet's place than any concern about Buffy.
He'd never laughed so much in all his life as he had since meeting her.
Buffy kicked off her shoes and sat down on the side of the bed, gazing at her sleeping boyfriend. He'd been in meetings until late every day for weeks, what with Jack and Sam leaving the program and Atlantis lobbying for his (their!) presence; it seemed like they'd hardly had five minutes to themselves in several days.
Daniel cracked an eye open at the movement of the mattress, peering up at her blearily, and yawned. "D'you get that nest of Fyarls?" he asked, reaching for her hand.
"Yep," she said lightly, shivering a little as his thumb traced circles on her palm. "They're big and mean, but all that paralyzing snot doesn't do them any good if you happen to have silver crossbow bolts handy."
"Good," he said, yawning again. "I prefer my girlfriends fully articulated, not to mention alive."
Buffy snorted, then snatched her hand back and quickly removed the rest of her clothes. "I'll show you fully articulated," she challenged him, crawling in between the sheets to put herself in contact with as much warm Daniel-flesh as possible.
He grinned, tracing work-roughened hands up her bare sides, sending tingles up her spine. "I think I can handle that."
"Her Daniel?" Buffy glared down into the gate room with narrowed eyes. "Who does she think she is?"
She'd heard all about Daniel's adventure with the interstellar pirate from him afterward; they hadn't been able to double-book assignments at the time, and she'd fretted for weeks in advance about him being in Atlantis without her for who knew how long. She'd been equal parts shocked and pleased when he'd returned early-- until she'd hacked into the Prometheus security footage and realized just how much he'd left out of his story.
His excuse had been that he didn't want her getting all upset over 'nothing'. He'd slept on the couch for weeks after that faux pas.
She knew it wasn't completely his fault, of course. He was male, and Vala Mal Doran was Lust personified. Still. It had given her unpleasant flashbacks of her third year in Sunnydale, when Angel had let Faith fawn all over him in order to get more dirt on the Mayor.
Buffy turned on her heel and stalked off toward the briefing room. Whatever that woman was here for now, there was no way in Hell she was letting her talk to Daniel without Buffy present.
Buffy leaned forward in the uncomfortable infirmary chair, clasping one of Daniel's hands and contemplating murder. Only the fact that killing Vala would doom Daniel, too, kept her from strangling the unconscious space-ho where she lay.
She should never have taken her eyes off him; she knew he had an insane knack for getting into trouble with alien women. Buffy had thought he would be safe with her in the same room-- but she'd been distracted momentarily by the stacks of boxes in his office, wondering if she'd forgotten to pack anything important, and when she'd looked up Vala had already slapped that tacky Goa'uld bracelet on his wrist.
Dr. Lee hadn't been able to remove it, all Teal'c could tell them was that it was some kind of slave bond thingy, and there were less than three hours left until the Daedalus departed. General Landry was inclined to just let it leave without them, let Daniel find the supposed treasure--
--but there was no way in Hell Buffy was letting Vala's greed ruin Daniel's dream. She'd just have to come with, much as Buffy hated the idea.
"Get her things-- and tell the Daedalus they'll have another passenger."
Daniel opened his eyes slowly, uncomfortably aware of the sounds and sensations of an infirmary around him. What nightmare had he awoken to this time?
He knew that tone; Buffy was on the warpath about something, but squelching it down so as not to worry him. "Buffy?" he replied, turning toward the sound of her voice.
She smiled at him in relief. "Welcome back," she said, warmly, clasping one of his hands in hers. "How are you feeling?"
He smiled softly in return. "Uh, fine, I think. So, what happened? Last thing I remember..."
"It was the bracelets," a crisp voice interrupted. "They're called kor'mak; they make the wearers ill if separated."
Daniel glanced behind Buffy, and blinked at the unexpected presence of Elizabeth Weir. And behind her, the wall-- this wasn't an infirmary after all; he was aboard a ship, probably the Daedalus. "Then how..."
"We hijacked her," Buffy answered, her smile turning feral. "If she wants to stay in this galaxy, she'll unlink you pronto."
"That isn't fair!" a peevish female voice exclaimed. "This wasn't supposed to happen!"
Daniel's smile widened. Not his nightmare, then. They were still en route to Atlantis; everything else was just details.
Since the moment the Daedalus had dropped Vala on a Gate-bearing planet along their route six hours after departure, Daniel had been making up for lost time. He'd brought Atlantis' mission reports along for in-flight reading, and several of his new colleagues were aboard, giving him an opportunity to get to know them before they had to work together. He was stepping into the position as head of social sciences, which was still drastically understaffed, and in addition he was displacing Dr. McKay as Atlantis' 2IC.
Rodney was an abrasive soul, but Daniel, with a similarly sky-scraping IQ and his own array of defense mechanisms, could make allowances for that; he thought once Rodney got over the insult to his ego, he'd actually be pretty relieved. The physicist would still be in the decision loop as head of hard sciences, after all; all he'd be losing was the extra paperwork load.
Buffy was less sanguine-- they'd had several spectacular clashes already-- but considering they were both going to be on the same offworld team, that would probably change soon enough. Daniel dreaded the day when her sense of humor and McKay's fell into synch; the city would probably never recover.
From This Day Forward
Buffy stood next to Daniel in the Engineering section of the Daedalus, watching with Weir and Hermiod as the little dots representing the active F-302s on the monitor engaged in some pretty fancy maneuvering. Rodney got on her nerves as badly as Anya had, and she didn't know Sheppard very well yet-- like Jack, he had a tendency to hold people at arm's length-- but they were her teammates now, and it made her antsy that they were out there risking their lives without her.
She tensed as the two ships' signatures disappeared into the star's chromosphere, then made an effort to consciously relax when Daniel slipped a hand into hers and squeezed. She threw him a grateful glance, then watched with bated breath until a single dot finally reappeared on the screen and Sheppard's voice came over the radio.
She didn't know what exactly she'd been expecting, coming out here; her focus had been on fulfilling Daniel's dream. So far, though, it looked as though it wouldn't be much different from her time on SG-2. Adventure, occasional life-threatening danger, a team of capable people at her back, and Daniel to come home to. What more could she ask for?
Chapter 2: Stalking Rodney
Daniel blinked in disbelief at the scene before him: his girlfriend, dressed all in black with her long blonde hair tucked up under a cap and a zat'nik'atel clutched in one hand, was pressed bodily against one of Atlantis' aesthetically pleasing corridor walls as she snuck a peek around the next corner.
"Buffy..." he said warily, not sure he wanted to know what she was up to. "What are you doing?"
"Stalking Rodney," she said matter-of-factly, glancing back over her shoulder to flash him a quick grin.
"...And why are you stalking Rodney?" he asked, thinking back quickly over the week's events. He didn't think he remembered the other scientist doing anything in specific to set her off; they hadn't been teammates long, but McKay had already had a thorough education in Things Better Not Said Around The Slayer.
"Because it's fun," she replied, still smiling brilliantly. Her eyes twinkled, inviting him in on the joke, but Daniel still wasn't quite sure where she was going with this.
"Come again?" he asked, blinking.
Buffy rolled her eyes, her smile taking on a decidedly mischievous quality as she answered. "Later, dear. I'm stalking Rodney."
"Buffy..." he sputtered, realizing only afterward how his question could have been taken. Really, for a man who thought of himself as one of the top linguists in two galaxies, he seemed to be putting his foot in his mouth on an amazingly frequent basis around this woman. Not that she didn't abuse the language until it cried, herself, of course: one of the foibles he found so endearing about her.
"Seriously?" she replied, straightening her spine a little and shifting into what he thought of as her business expression. "The boy is way too wound, and the sooner I train that out of him, the better."
"And you think stalking him is going to get him to relax?" Daniel couldn't help but reply, visions of being forced to pry the physicist's white-knuckled grip from the ceiling flashing through his mind.
"Oh, not right away," Buffy answered, shrugging off-handedly. "He's got to make it through the five stages of phobia first."
Daniel sighed and took a sip from the coffee mug he'd been carrying from the cafeteria to his office. She was clearly having too much fun with this-- the safest thing to do was to just play along. "I thought that was the five stages of grief?" he asked, feeding her the next line.
She rolled her eyes. "Which of us majored in psychology again?" she asked rhetorically. "It starts with obliviousness, then goes through edginess, outright paranoia, nervous collapse, and finally acceptance," she explained, acting out each named emotion as though she were playing charades.
Daniel narrowed his eyes at her, trying to keep from laughing. "You made that up," he said, accusingly.
Buffy smirked. "I totally did, but it's still true. When I'm done with him, he'll be much, much calmer on missions, and that can only be of the good."
He shook his head. "I still think you're asking for trouble, but as long as you have Sheppard's okay..." he prompted, wondering if she'd thought that far ahead.
"Don't worry! All is of the good." She flitted away from the wall long enough to duck under his coffee-cup-bearing arm, stand on tip-toe, and seal her lips to his in a sudden, enthusiastic kiss. Then she shoved him away and darted back to her corner, peering around it in an exaggeratedly stalkerish manner. "Now, shoo. I'm stalking Rodney."
Daniel chuckled to himself, then resumed his trek toward his office and left her to it.
Chapter 3: Cubicle Warfare, Atlantis Style
Daniel trudged down the hall toward his office, returning from the weekly department heads' meeting. The first few meetings after he'd arrived had been a little awkward-- Jack had made his appointment as Elizabeth's second a requirement for Sheppard to continue as Atlantis' military commander, trying to placate those who wanted more checks and balances on the Atlantis expedition without actually doing anything harmful, and a lot of the scientists without prior SGC experience had initially been wary of him. That had changed once they'd realized how much easier he was to deal with than Rodney-- unfortunately, as many of them expressed their gratitude with stacks of extra paperwork.
Luckily, Rodney had also chosen to take Daniel's appointment positively, crowing about how much more he got done now that he didn't have to supervise the "guesswork and voodoo" departments. He even ducked out of most meetings, deputizing Radek in his place. Daniel didn't blame him; there were days when he'd gladly trade the pen of authority for a P-90 and a regular place on a gate team again. Still, he was in Atlantis, able to study the city in depth as he hadn't any of the sites he'd visited with SG-1, and still making a positive contribution to the program that had become his life's work. He wouldn't trade this assignment for-- well, for one particular world, perhaps, but not for anything less.
He'd been a little more worried about Buffy, who still had connections with friends and family on Earth, but she'd adjusted just fine. She'd decided to treat her new team as she would have her "Scoobies", and for the most part, they'd bonded well. The only snag so far had occurred when Buffy had decided to stalk Rodney to increase his situational awareness and coolness under fire, and, in what had seemed an inexplicable move at first, Sheppard had allowed it. Rodney had been frustrated and furious for weeks, taking it out on everyone around him.
Daniel had understood the colonel's reasoning much better after Rodney had begun to retaliate, engineering a series of increasingly vicious booby traps and malfunctions that had left Buffy equally frazzled. Not only had Rodney in fact gained experience that could prove useful in the field, Buffy had learned a lot more about what Rodney was capable of when motivated, not to mention a greater appreciation for the dimensions of the city, and Sheppard hadn't had to lift a finger to accomplish it.
Speaking of traps, Daniel thought as he stepped into his office. A tail of blonde hair dangled in mid-air just above his desk, and as he looked up he could see the rest of his beautiful, deadly girlfriend attached to it; a length of strangely patterned, probably Ancient chain had been wrapped several times around her body and strung through hooks in the ceiling. Buffy's gene was as artificial as Rodney's, and Rodney still had a better grasp of how to key things to his specific control than she did; this wasn't the first time Daniel'd had to free her from one surprise or another.
"Is something wrong with the floor?" he asked her, chuckling.
She rolled her eyes and squirmed within her bindings. "Stop laughing and get me down from here."
Daniel grinned appreciatively up at her a moment longer, taking in the sight-- then blinked, perplexed, as he recognized the unusual shape of the chain's links.
"Those aren't-- monkeys," he said, unable to believe what he was seeing.
"As in, more fun than a barrel of?" she said, petulantly. "Yep. And the Ancients' version isn't plastic; they're strong, they can hook themselves, and they want to be a chain. I can't get them to let go!"
"The Ancients had barrels of monkeys," he repeated again, delighted at the implications this could have for his understanding of their child-rearing practices. "Well, of course they would know what monkeys were; if we're truly the second evolution of their form, it follows that they evolved the same way we did. But that they would create the same kind of toy--"
Buffy's green eyes had gone a little flinty as he rambled, and she interrupted him sharply. "Yeah, and that's not the only thing we found," she said. "But I'm not telling you where the Ancient toybox is until you get me down from here." She squirmed in her chains again for emphasis, trying futilely to reach the fastenings the terminal monkeys at each end of the chain had been attached to.
The prospect of more Ancient children's toys was almost enough to distract Daniel from what her writhing on the ceiling was doing to his libido. "All right, just give me a minute," he said, focusing his mind to the task.
It still took more effort for him to work gene-activated equipment than it did Sheppard-- despite his greater experience with the Ancients, he'd only acquired the genetic marker during his second return from Ascension, and Sheppard had had it his whole life. Still, when Daniel asked, the city took notice; not even Sheppard could block him. The hooked arms at the end of each link in the chain slowly unbent, releasing their identical brethren, and let her go amid a shower of miniature mechanical primates.
Space monkeys, indeed, Daniel thought suddenly as he steadied Buffy on her feet. Jack was never going to let them live this down.
Chapter 4: No, I See How It Is
"So what do you think?" Sheppard drawled, leaning across the commissary table and giving her his best puppy-dog eyes.
Buffy rolled her eyes at him. She'd faced down any number of forceful expressions over the years, including not only the practically irresistable Willow Resolve Face but also Rodney McKay's patented You-Touched-What Glare of Doom; the only reason her team leader blipped the scale at all was because of that gravity-defying hair of his. She'd swear it had a life of its own.
"Why ask? You've already made up your mind you want him," she said. She paused half a beat, then smiled sweetly, pushing her empty tray to one side and steepling her hands on the table. "On the team, that is."
He sat back a little at that, raising his eyebrows in affront; the hair did a little shimmy of its own above his brow. "Aw, c'mon. It's not like I want to kick you off; there's plenty of teams with five members back at the SGC. Maybe not Jackson's team, but...." He shrugged. "And I seriously think this guy could bring a lot to the table."
Buffy pursed her lips, tipping her chin up a little to display her disdain for that line of argument. "No, I see how it is," she said. "The girl with the superhero powers is old news; now you want the guy with the supercool space gun."
Sheppard snorted, and the corners of his mouth twitched in suppressed amusement. "Well, it is a pretty cool gun," he admitted, then heaved a theatrical sigh. "This is about my asking you not to spar with him earlier, isn't it?"
She turned her head to one side, giving him an uptilted profile, and raised one hand as though to inspect her manicure: a modified version of the Cordelia Cut Direct. Then she waited; he was so much fun to taunt. Not as hilarious as Rodney, or as satisfying as Daniel; but still, favorably reminiscent of the early years of the Scoobies. She missed the old gang since they'd all drifted apart, but she'd more than found a new home with Daniel and her new teammates.
He groaned. "Come on. It's not like I was trying to protect you. I just didn't want you to crush his ego his first day here!"
She allowed a glance back in his direction at that, and lowered the hand, drumming her fingers on the table. It was a pain in the butt to keep her nails done a galaxy away from any beauty professionals, but it was worth it for the annoyance factor the shellacked tips could deliver. "A likely story," she sniffed.
"...What story?" the half-distracted voice of her boyfriend asked behind her; and Sheppard looked up to greet the new arrival with the same pleading expression he'd tried on her.
"Dr. Jackson!" he said, respectfully. "I was just explaining to Summers that I thought Ronon would make an excellent addition to Response Team One."
Daniel stopped in his tracks, narrowing intense blue eyes behind his glasses as he glanced from one to the other of them. "I assume you've already talked to Elizabeth?" he asked, warily.
Buffy met gazes with Sheppard for a moment; yeah, he had. Which, she assumed, was why he was petitioning her-- so they could form a united front.
"I'll leave you to it, then," Daniel added dryly, and turned to head for Radek's table instead.
Buffy stuck her tongue out after him, then raised an eyebrow at Sheppard, daring him to tease her for it.
He smiled instead, and spread his hands in acquiescence. "Okay, you twisted my arm," he said. "He's in the training room whaling on the Marines. Just don't break him, okay?"
"I haven't broken the rest of you yet, have I?" she said lightly, grinning her appreciation as she popped up from the table.
"Not for lack of trying," Sheppard drawled. "Though I have to say, the thing with the monkeys? McKay's getting pretty damned creative with his comebacks."
"I know," Buffy smirked. "How long do you think it'll take the new guy to learn?"
"Heaven help us," Sheppard chuckled. Then he waved her off. "Shoo. Go have fun."