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Language of Love

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Dr. Daniel Jackson leans against the back wall of the elevator with a weary sigh, pinching at the bridge of his nose and wishing desperately for a nap.

Or at the very least a cup of coffee.

Honestly, whomever came up with that hoary old ivory-tower cliché obviously never witnessed a gaggle of horny professors and grad students downing drinks and partying until the wee hours in a hotel bar.

Not a pretty sight, especially the aftermath. The sound of his neighbors on either side throwing up into their respective toilets at three in the morning wasn't exactly conducive to a sound sleep, either.

He's definitely not a morning person.

Daniel finds conferences annoying anyway, preferring to spend his time in fieldwork and research instead of schmoozing with his peers. If appearances like these weren't practically pro forma he'd never leave his cozy office at the university (which isn't much bigger than a broom closet, but at least it's his).

Even after the selection committee approved one of his papers for presentation, he persisted on dragging his feet; it finally took the severe threat of pulling funding for next year's dig at Saqqara to convince him to go. He hates playing office politics with a passion, but his precarious position in the department's his last chance to make something of his academic career. So here he is.

The car gives a slight jerk as it stops. Daniel straightens, starting to exit before realizing it's not his floor. He steps back in time for a petite young woman to enter, hefting a tall stack of papers almost reaching to her chin.

With one hand awkwardly wrapped around the pile she struggles to push a button on the panel with the other. The elevator starts up again and she stumbles. Papers slip from her grasp and she curses under her breath in a language he's sure isn't English.

(Not surprising considering the hotel's full of linguists for the conference, but that particular dialect she's using intrigues him.)

On impulse he rescues a few on the way to the floor. "Need some help?"

"Thanks. Guess I should've made two trips." She smiles at him briefly, before dropping her gaze down to the pile. A blush tints her pale cheeks.

"Where are you taking these?"

"Meeting room 2B. My advisor needs them for a round table discussion he's chairing."

"That's on my way. Why don't we share the load?"

"Oh! Thank you, but you don't have to--"

He divests her of almost half the pile, his long arms easily cradling them. "I don't mind. I remember having to act as beast of burden for my advisors duiring conferences, too."

The elevator stops. Daniel waits for the young woman to exit then follows her down the hall. The room is empty save for a single long rectangle table with chairs in the middle and a smaller table offering beverage service.

"Dr. Lyon's not here yet. I guess I'd better get these sorted before he arrives." The young woman sets her portion of the papers on the table and Daniel follows. "Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it." The blush deepens slightly as she glances at him, a small smile flirting with her lips.

He returns the smile, quietly amused at her apparent embarrassment. "You're welcome. See you around."

Lingering by the doorway, he watches her quiet, deliberate movements as she neatly sorts out the papers, unexpectedly taken by the inner strength and poise which belies her seemingly delicate appearance.

Soothing. Charming, even.

Watching her makes him feel a little better.

But he still needs that cup of coffee.

****************

Becky Grahme shifts in her seat during the chairperson's introductory remarks, fidgets with her notes, stares out at the audience.

Only a year into the dual Master's program at UCLA (Linguistics and Cultural Anthro, after an accelerated undergrad program recommended by her mentors at the Phoenix Foundation). Still hard to believe Dr. Lyon actually believed one of her term papers could be a worthy contribution yet here she is, barely 22 and already presenting at her first academic conference.

Everyone's watching her. Prepared to judge every word she's labored on, crafting her precious theories into something she hopes is a valid contribution to her chosen field of study, maybe even enough to impress her peers.

Her heartbeat steps into double time and it's getting hard to breathe. A rising tide of panic threatens to overwhelm her. What if she's not good enough? What if she's laughed right off the stage?

Becky gives herself a mental shake. Enough already. Time to get a grip.

Be brave, she can imagine both her uncles saying, as clear as if they were right beside her. You can do this.

Mrs. Avery- her redoubtable choir teacher from high school- had the perfect advice: find someone in the audience, ignore everyone else, and focus entirely on getting through to that one person. Once that's accomplished, the rest is easy.

She quickly scans the audience. A tall man stumbling into an aisle seat catches her eye, glint of silver-rimmed glasses followed by a mop of brown hair, sun-streaked blond in places.

The helpful, soft-spoken- and undeniably gorgeous- guy from the elevator.

As if aware of her gaze he looks up from the program in his hand, eyes widening with interest as he recognizes her. Nods and gives her a small smile.

Yeah, she can do this. Piece of cake.

A smattering of perfunctory applause. It's time.

Becky steps up to the podium, takes a deep breath, and begins her presentation.

****************

The next morning Daniel's as ready as he can possibly be, considering yet another sleepless night. The last time he had neighbors who partied this hard every night had been during his undergrad years.

Everything's going about as well as can be expected.

Daniel defends his paper on the cross-pollination of cultures in the ancient world, laying out theories, backing up conclusions with his own translations displayed on the overhead projector. Mostly sticking to the topic, but every so often going off on a tangent or two that seems relevant at the time.

The audience is mostly receptive, though some are shaking their heads.

It's okay. His theories aren't exactly what one might call mainstream, yet he's got this gut feeling someday they'll be proven right.

The hieroglyphics of Naquada III sing to him, as nothing else does. So deceptively simple, yet he's certain particular words- or perhaps proper names- have hidden meanings concealing a deeper truth, lost to history.

(What do the words "Goa'uld" and "Jaffa" really mean, anyway?)

A few more months of research and results from the dig in Egypt are all he needs to complete the capstone for his third Ph.D. Not bad for a man his age, with two doctorates already under his belt.

Time for the Q&A. A few formal questions at first, which he takes care to answer with equal aplomb.

Then of course his chief academic rival- smarmy Dirk Sanderson from Syracuse- just has to stand up and start laying into him. Calling his theories complete garbage, sneering at the validity of his research, all that crap. Nothing he hasn't heard before, unfortunately.

He longs to return blow for blow but doing so would merely serve to diminish his already precarious academic reputation. It's all he can do as it is to stand stoically at the podium as the tirade continues.

Out of the blue after one particularly nasty slur the young woman from the elevator- who delivered a very intriguing paper the other day- jumps up and launches into her own impassioned verbal defense of his work.

Well. Maybe his theories aren't really as far from mainstream as he'd thought.

Daniel doesn't even have to add anything, Sanderson just stares at her, mouth stupidly agape. By the time the session's over she's got the jerk on the run. Literally, though not without him muttering a few curses and threats under his breath before leaving.

The audience disperses, leaving the two of them in the suddenly echoing room.

He quickly stuffs notes and transparencies into his briefcase without looking and steps off the stage. Approaches her carefully, as she's still a little stunned by her own outburst. "Hey, you okay?"

She blinks up at him. "Huh? Yeah, I'm fine. Though to be honest I'm not exactly sure what just happened."

"You mean, defending the honor of strangers isn't something you normally do?" He grins, to show he's not offended.

She blushes. "Not exactly. I didn't mean to disrupt your lecture. But what that guy was doing, dismissing your work like that..." She shakes her head in disgust. "I normally don't speak out in public, but I was just so appalled I felt compelled to say something. Why is it that supposedly brilliant scientists have to be so rude and obnoxious?"

Daniel shrugs. "Sanderson's a cretin, always has been. Don't worry about it. Besides, it's better than the response I usually get from an audience. Luckily no one wanted to burn me at the stake for my heretical thoughts this time."

She frowns, a small crease forming between her brows. "Why would anybody do that? Your theories make perfect sense to me, and the reasoning's sound enough."

"Unfortunately not everyone sees it that way."

Daniel doesn't know why he's not just leaving, seeking solitude to decompress as per usual. But he's oddly drawn to this petite young woman. There's something about her that feels familiar. Like a kindred spirit.

He decides to take a chance. "You still look pretty shaken up. Want to go somewhere for coffee?"

"Away from the hotel?"

"Why not? We're in Seattle, after all. Capital of caffeinated culture," he quips and she chuckles. "I'm sure we can find even a halfway decent place not far from here."

"Sure." She hesitates. "Um, mind if I ask you something really dumb?"

Never stop asking questions. Even the dumbest ones can lead to the most amazing discoveries.

Dr. Jones taught him that, one of his favorite archaeology professors back in his undergrad days.

"I beg your pardon?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

Belatedly he realizes he must've spoken out loud. "Sorry. What did you want to know?"

A flush tints her cheeks again. "What's your name?"

He blinks in surprise, then offers his hand. "Oh. Right. Daniel Jackson."

"Becky Grahme." A spark runs through him as she places her small hand in his.

She's cute in an attractive sort of way, and her eyes are awfully pretty, like the sky on a clear winter's day. Her glasses slip down her nose and he's seized by the impulse to reach over and gently push them back up.

Her clear interest in him (and his theories) is gratifying. Then again, he ought to be realistic.

After all, who could possibly be attracted to an awkward, bookish geek like him?

Maybe it's just his imagination.

****************

The coffee shop's cozy and inviting. Rough red brick walls, warm wood, scuffed linoleum parquet. Tables, chairs and couches with an attractive patina of age. The smells of hazelnut, burnt coffee and baked goods. Soft jazz playing in the background.

Daniel's a perfect gentleman. Offering his arm to steady herself at the crosswalks, inclining his head to listen as if everything she says is of the utmost importance, opening doors. All the things that make her feel like a lady.

Becky collects her drink and chocolate croissant, follows him to a secluded booth. "You didn't have to pay for me. I mean, I've got money--"

He waves away her objections. "Consider it thanks for standing up for me. Also, sort of a 'welcome to your first academic conference' gift."

"How can you tell it's my first?"

"I have my ways." He sips his coffee, a touch of mischief making his eyes twinkle.

Neither of them are fond of small talk, so they soon slip deep into discussion without even realizing it, touching on a dizzying array of subjects, one idea flowing effortlessly into another.

At one point she waves a hand wildly to describe an especially interesting concept, knocking his coffee cup over. His hand brushes against hers as they both scramble for napkins to mop up the liquid; the heat from his touch zings through her body. She yanks her hand back, quickly.

He blinks at her, surprised. "Something wrong?"

God, why does she have to blush so easily? "Sorry about that. I get so lost in my thoughts sometimes I forget to pay attention to what's around me. My mom always used to say when one's eyes are on the stars it's important to keep one's feet on the ground. Guess I need to remember that."

"I get the same way myself, a lot of the time. Sounds like good advice for both of us."

Despite her physical ineptitude it's so easy being with Daniel; all of Becky's awkwardness has virtually melted away in his presence.

Which is unusual, to say the least.

She's never felt this comfortable with any other man before, except for her uncles. Could it be she's found a kindred spirit at last?

He's brilliant and gorgeous, with beautiful blue eyes regarding her kindly behind his own glasses and a gentle smile on those full lips. She suddenly possesses an irrational desire to run her fingers through his hair.

(Is this falling in love? She has no idea.)

Anything's possible, but Becky's a realist when it comes to her personal life. He couldn't possibly be interested in her in a romantic way.

She's too short, too shy, too awkward, too much the bookish nerd. Not unattractive yet not exactly a fashion plate, either.

Keep your feet on the ground, girl.

At least the conversation's fascinating.

****************

Daniel scowls down into the glass of scotch and wonders for the hundredth time what he's doing at this godawful party.

He hates everything about it. The oppressive crush of people. The stench of body odors masked by perfumes and cologne, mingled with alcohol. The appallingly loud music. The inane, insipid small talk and gossip making the rounds.

If it wasn't for the pressure by his peers he wouldn't be here. He thinks longingly of the quiet room upstairs, the comfort of books.

Not too far away he spies Becky standing against the wall, gazing miserably around her at the jostling crowd. Looking as desperate as he feels to be anywhere else right now.

He feels a surge of sympathy. Perhaps he should approach her, rescue her from this ordeal.

But as much as he enjoyed her company earlier in the day, he's worried she might get the wrong impression of his motives if he comes on strong. Maybe he should hold back for now.

Or maybe not. He frowns as a dark-haired man approaches her. Tall, abrasive and angry as hell over his earlier humiliation. Looming over her petite figure as he speaks and she pulls away, grimacing at the overpowering stench of alcohol on his breath.

Sanderson. Oh, joy.

Daniel's just close enough to hear her say, "Please, leave me alone. I'm not interested, all right?"

Sanderson glowers. "Think you can just yell at me and get away with it, huh? I don't like being yelled at. Especially by little brats like you." He staggers forward, she involuntarily steps back. "But I can be forgiving. How 'bout making it up to me with a dance?"

"No, thank you." Her response is more firm than before. "I don't want to dance with you, or do anything else with you for that matter. Go away, please."

"Think you're better'n me, huh? Just 'cause you sided with Ol' Four-Eyes Jackson. Say," Sanderson leans into her space, using his greater bulk as though to entrap her. "You're a four-eyes yerself, aren't you? No wonder you got nobody."

Becky glares at him but says nothing.

"Come on, just one li'l dance with me an' I'll forget the whole thing."

As he clumsily paws at her it's obvious even to Daniel the guy's incapable of standing on his own two feet, let alone dance.

"I said no!" Becky's putting up a brave front, but words alone are obviously no longer sufficient enough to ensure her escape. She frantically glances around for help, but no one nearby appears to be paying the slightest attention to her plight.

By now Sanderson's essentially backed her into a corner. He leans in close, murmurs something in her ear, most likely both deeply suggestive and offensive at the same time. Becky's eyes widen and she visibly pales. He takes advantage of her shock to grab at her arm and she struggles to get free.

That does it. Time to intervene.

Despite his anger, Daniel keeps his tone controlled as he steps towards them, unwilling to attract attention. "Leave her alone, Sanderson. Go pick on someone your own size."

The bully turns to him, a nasty grin spreading across his face. "Well, well. If it ain't Ol' Four-Eyes Jackson himself. The guy with the crazy theories 'bout aliens in ancient Egypt. What'cha gonna do if I don't, huh? Sic your pyramid-building aliens on me with their ray guns?"

"Look, let her go already. It's obvious she wants nothing to do with you."

"Make me, wimp," Sanderson sneers. "C'mon now, brat. You're coming with me."

He tugs at Becky's arm hard enough to bruise, making her cry out in pain. As he pulls her roughly towards him she abruptly turns and rams a knee straight into his groin. He doubles over with a muffled yelp.

Daniel takes the advantage to pull her away from him. "You okay?" he asks her.

"I'm fine. A little shaken is all." She glances behind him and blanches. "Oh god, he's getting up--"

Daniel turns, sees Sanderson glowering at them, uttering curses as he stumbles to his feet. He charges straight towards them, fists cocked, ready for a fight--

Without thinking Daniel steps into his path, blocking his advance with a right uppercut. Sanderson immediately crumples, knocked out cold.

Daniel steps back, momentarily stunned by his action, hand aching from the blow.

There's a tug on his arm. "Let's get out of here before we get into any more trouble," Becky urges quietly.

He allows her to lead him away, slipping through the crowd.

People- no doubt the same ones who didn't lift a finger to help earlier- watch them speculatively, immediately start chatting with each other.

Great. They'll be talking about this for years to come, he's sure.

There's nothing like the academic rumor mill to make or break reputations.

(Not that he cares particularly, but it's still pretty annoying.)

****************

Another of Seattle's ubiquitous coffeehouses. A Bach concerto plays softly in the background, the classical music a sharp contrast to the shop's sleek and modern appearance. City lights begin to twinkle in the gathering dusk outside.

Becky's sitting opposite him in the booth, looking at him in concern. "You're sure you're all right? You seemed a bit surprised after hitting him."

"I'm fine," he reassures her. "It's just...Well, I like to think of myself as a pacifist. Hitting another person's completely unlike me. Even if he deserved it."

"You mean, defending the honor of strangers isn't something you normally do?"

He blinks at her in surprise then chuckles, recalling the same question he'd asked her earlier in the day. "No, not really."

"Well, thanks for defending me anyway. I really appreciate it."

"You're welcome. Though you dealt him a pretty good blow yourself."

She flushes. "Best I could think of, at the time. I wouldn't have been there, even, if I hadn't been pressured into going. I'm not good with social situations like these." She shudders. "Dealing with people's pretty exhausting. I need a lot of alone time to recharge."

Daniel nods in perfect understanding, sips at his coffee. Thinks of the quiet solitude of his apartment, the joy he finds in his work. "Me, too."

"I think I've always been an introvert. Runs in the family, my dad especially."

"He still alive?"

She shakes her head. "Car crash. My mom and older brother, too. Happened when I was 14. All three gone, in one fell swoop."

There's a sadness in her eyes, one he empathizes with all too well.

"I'm sorry," he says, as gently and earnestly as he knows how. "I know what that's like. I lost my parents as a kid, too. They were both archaeologists, there was an accident while setting up massive stone blocks for a museum exhibit."

"I'm so sorry," she replies with equal sympathy and gentleness. "Do you have any other family?"

"My grandfather, but he refused to take me in. To this day I don't know why." He shakes his head. "Never mind. I went into foster care after that."

"I've got two uncles, my mom's younger brothers. Twins, as it happens. One is a problem-solver of sorts, working for a think-tank down in Los Angeles. He was my legal guardian until a few years ago. The other's in the Air Force. Just made colonel after serving in Iraq."

"They don't mind you're not following in their footsteps?"

"Not at all. Both pretty great guys, each in their own way. Encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter what. I've been lucky." A small, fond smile. "Always had a gift for languages, and I like learning about other cultures, so linguistic anthropology seemed a good fit. What about you? Have you always wanted to be an archaeologist?"

He nods. "Something of a family tradition I guess, starting with my grandfather. All my life I didn't want to do anything else. Interesting work, and I enjoy it. So much to learn."

"I know what you mean. Three doctorates, have to say I'm impressed."

Daniel gives a self-depreciating shrug. "A real slog sometimes. Worth it, though. Mind if I tell you something?"

"What?"

"I'm glad we met, even if it was by accident."

"Me, too." Such a sweet smile.

There's an undeniable connection between them now, he's sure of it. He wonders if she senses it as well.

****************

All Becky wants to do the next morning is hole up in her room for the day. Hope the rest of the world forgets about her.

So why is it she finds herself dressing to go out, taking the elevator up to Daniel's floor and knocking on the door?

After some grumbling he opens it, blinks at her. Blue cotton t-shirt and faded flannel pajama bottoms, floppy hair charmingly askew.

Adorable. Not to mention gorgeous.

She can just imagine snuggling up with him in bed, her head against his chest. Each reading their own book but occasionally sharing a kiss or two...

God. It feels like a flock of butterflies are loose in her stomach.

(Falling in love is terrifying.)

"Becky? What are you doing here?"

She mentally shakes herself. "Sorry, did I wake you?"

"No, I was just reading. Something the matter?"

"After what happened yesterday, I'm kinda afraid to face the music downstairs, and I really don't want to run into Sanderson again if I can help it."

He nods in understanding. "I don't blame you."

God, this is awkward. Best just to get it all out. "Thing is, I thought about spending the day in my room but I'm staying with a couple others and they've got awful hangovers. The last time I visited here was as a kid with my parents so I'm not going to the usual tourist sites. Care to come with?"

Daniel blinks at her, and she worries she's crossed a line. He's a fellow introvert, after all. She should know better than invade his private time like this.

Is this why she's so lousy at relationships? No sense of timing?

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

She sighs. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude. I'll see you later--"

"Hey. It's okay." He reaches out before she can fully turn away, gently clasping her arm. She's surprised, but makes no move to shake him off. "You just caught me by surprise, is all. What do you have in mind?"

"Oh, you know. Museums. Bookstores. That sort of thing."

There's that twinkle of mischief in his eyes again. "Playing hooky today sounds like fun. Let me get dressed."

****************

Becky's silent as they take a taxi back to the hotel, her mind in a turmoil.

A very enjoyable day, overall. Plenty of intriguing museums and bookstores around the city to explore. Nothing blooming this early in the season, so neither of them have to worry about seasonal allergies.

Daniel's been wonderful company the whole time, kind and attentive, humorous and insightful. There's a difference of several years between them- plus a few academic degrees- yet he treats her as an intellectual equal. Such a joy to match wits with him.

The taxi pulls up to the hotel and they each pay their half of the fare. Daniel climbs out of his side and comes around to hers, offering his hand to help her out. There's a spark as she places her small hand in his.

He holds onto her hand the entire way through the lobby. The long, capable fingers wrapped around hers. The warmth of his smile, every time their eyes meet.

They stop at the elevators and she breathes a silent sigh of relief when he finally lets go. His touch does strange things to her, making it hard to breathe. And the flock of butterflies from earlier are back in her stomach.

The car's empty at first but as others enter the elevator on the conference level floors they're gradually pushed to the rear, until Becky's squeezed right up against Daniel. "Sorry about that," she whispers.

"I don't mind," he replies just as softly, resting a hand lightly on her shoulder.

She feels the solidity and warmth of his tall body against hers and a shiver runs through her.

It makes her wonder if he's expecting something more intimate in return for his companionship. Which she's not exactly prepared to give anyone, as of yet.

Finally they exit the elevator, walk down the hallway to her door. Becky pulls out her key, smiles up at him. "Thanks for going out with me today. It was fun."

"You're welcome. I haven't done anything like that in a long time. Have to admit I enjoyed myself."

"Me, too."

"I'm glad." He says it softly, his eyes intently searching her face. She swallows and drops her gaze first.

Daniel continues to study her, a bittersweet smile on his lips. Then he reaches out, tilting her chin up and leaning down to cover her mouth with his.

The kiss is tender, gentle, sweet. Soft pressure, demanding nothing more.

He pulls away, his hand carefully cupping one side of her face, then brushes her other cheek with his lips. "Good night, Becky. Sweet dreams."

"You too," she barely has time to whisper before he's gone.

Her mind reeling, she unlocks the door and closes it behind her, still feeling the faint tingle of Daniel's hand on her face, the touch of his lips against hers.

Sensations that linger in her memory even after sleep comes, living on in her dreams.

****************

Daniel scrambles to retrieve clothes and toiletries scattered around the hotel room (how on earth did one of his shirts wind up in the bathtub, anyway?) and stuff them in his trusty battered suitcase and carry-on. Scoops books and papers into his briefcase.

Packing time, twenty minutes. Not bad for last minute, even if pretty untidy.

No matter. Everything will get sorted once he's back home. Eventually.

His hand closes on a small white square box.

He enjoyed his time with Becky yesterday, so much it inspired him to buy her something as a token of their new friendship. So to speak.

He doesn't believe in love at first sight, but there's no denying the connection he feels with the young woman he met only a few days ago in the elevator. Attraction, even; for one moment last night he seriously considered giving in to it.

But the moment soon passed.

He's glad. Now he can see her as a friend instead of a potential lover, which makes more sense given his lousy luck with relationships.

Daniel's almost out the door before realizing he'd left the room key on the dresser. He shakes his head ruefully as he retrieves it.

Keep your feet on the ground, Danny.

Pretty sensible advice, considering his life so far. He'll have to remember it in the future.

****************

Becky frowns up at the concourse departure board, anxiously shifting the strap of her carry-on from one shoulder to another.

The conference went well, all things considered. But now she's ready to go home. Back to her own bed, to Uncle Mac, to dear sunny, smoggy Los Angeles.

The air seems permanently laden with sound, bouncing off the wide glass windows. The rumble and whine of mighty jets. The constant chatter, the ebb and flow of passengers and personnel up and down the concourse. All the hustle and bustle of modern life encapsulated in an airport.

There's a tap on her shoulder, making her jump.

"Hi. Waiting for your flight?"

Daniel smiles down at her. Tweed jacket and jeans, slightly wrinkled blue button-down shirt, battered leather carry-on. The picture of academic casual.

"Yeah. You, too?"

He nods. "Join me for coffee?"

"Sure."

With hot beverages in hand they find a secluded corner.

"I'm glad I caught you before you left," Daniel says. "I'd like to keep in touch, and only today I realized--"

"--we have no idea how to contact each other?" Becky chuckles. "Weird, isn't it? I mean, I feel I've known you all my life--"

"--and we only met a couple days ago. I know what you mean."

Finishing each other's sentences, she thinks with a smile as they exchange phone numbers and email addresses. Nice to meet someone on the same wavelength.

"There's another reason I'm glad to see you here. I, well..." He flushes and reaches inside his jacket, pulling out a small, white flat box. "Think of it as a friendship gift."

She opens it to find a pendant on a chain, a gold hummingbird rendered in Northwest Native American design amid silver swirls. Gorgeous.

"Oh, Daniel. It's beautiful. Thank you."

"My pleasure. Among the coastal tribes the hummingbird's a gentle creature, known for its fortitude and ability to overcome great obstacles, and representing peace, healing and joy. Seemed perfect for you."

"Have to admit I also got you something. Kind of a thank-you present, for making my first conference memorable. Though in a good way." She hands him a package wrapped in tissue paper.

A notebook with blank pages of homemade paper, a native design in the center burnt into the dark green leather of the front cover.

Daniel's eyes light up, astonishment plain on his face. "How...how did you know I keep a journal?"

Now it's her turn to flush. "You mentioned it the other day, in passing. I pay attention to things like that. Thought you could use it for fieldwork or whenever."

He takes her hand, squeezes it. "I'll make good use of it," he promises. "Thank you."

"My pleasure."

Silence falls between them, but a comfortable sort of silence, where nothing really needs to be said between friends yet everything's easily understood nonetheless.

Just as well they didn't sleep together, she thinks. What they have now feels more right, kindred spirits without the undue pressure of romance.

Finally boarding calls are issued. First for his flight, then hers.

Daniel hefts the strap of his carry-on onto his shoulder. "I'd better go."

"I hope it's au revoir and not goodbye."

"Until we meet again. I hope so, too." He smiles wistfully, gently caresses her cheek. "Take care, Becky. Have a safe flight."

"You too, Daniel."

He heads off down the concourse to his gate, though not before turning and giving her a jaunty wave before blending into the crowd.

She waves back, blinking through the tears in her eyes.

****************

It isn't until the plane's at cruising altitude that Becky reopens the little white box. She gazes at the necklace for a while before fastening it around her neck.

Fingering the pendant she smiles, feeling a warm glow of satisfaction. Such a thoughtful man. She's glad they ran into each other on the elevator. Good friends are hard to come by, and she has a feeling this friendship will last a long time.

She leans her chair back, closes her eyes.

And dreams of a handsome, blue-eyed archaeologist.

****************

Daniel stares out the narrow oval window, marveling at the view of the Rocky Mountains spread out below him. He wants to jot down a few observations in his journal; with dismay he realizes he'd finished the latest volume the night before.

Then he remembers Becky's gift. How thoughtful of her.

He pulls the new journal from his carry-on. Smooths his hand over the soft, tanned leather, long fingers tracing the embossed design on the front cover.

Raven. A trickster figure whose antics ultimately help humanity, with a quick wit and sense of humor. Symbolizing curiosity, creativity, prestige and knowledge.

One of his most favorite mythological creatures. How did she know?

Kindred spirits, indeed.

Nice to know he's not alone.

With a fond smile he extracts a pen from his carry-on, flips down the tray table. Opens the pristine journal, ready to be filled with hopes and dreams.

And begins to write.