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ziparumpazoo wrote a lovely, but untitled, fic here which is about Sam dealing with the weight of taking responsibility for Cassie after Janet's death. She had held off posting it because she wanted to bookend it with a piece about Janet and Cassie, but could never get it written quite to her satisfaction. She asked if someone else could step in and write the bookend. This is my attempt. Hope it's what you wanted, Zip!

Title: Night Terrors
Season: One
Spoilers: Well, there's a canine.
Warnings: Be careful where you step. Oh, right. That's fictional. Nevermind.
Synopsis: They don't have to be newborns to keep you up at night. Sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique for a reason. It gets us to say what we ordinarily wouldn't.

Night Terrors

Janet smoothed a hand gently down Cassie's arm one last time, and after there was no stirring, and no change in the steady breathing when the rubbing stopped, - finally! - she rose gingerly from the child's bed, and tiptoed out into the hallway. Turning back towards the room, she gently pulled the door almost closed, allowing only a thin stripe of light through the crack in the door, just enough so that if Cassie should wake an need the bathroom, she would be able to find her way. For now, when the girl was just learning the house, the hall light would be on all night, but Janet planned to invest in some night lights as soon as everybody settled in, whenever that would be.

Janet was dog tired now, and she was ready to weep from exhaustion, a feeling that she had first encountered as an undergrad, and that had been her constant companion through internship. Familiar too was the stomach soured by too much coffee, and the racing mind that was a sure sign that, tired as she was, if she tried to sleep now, she would only toss and turn.

It had been a long day. Another long day in a series of long days, and then at least twice a night, if not more often, Cassie had cried out and woken her each night for all of the five nights she'd been there. Janet was good at dealing with interrupted sleep, as all beings who had run the gauntlet of internship and residency had to be, but she was beginning to feel like she would never, ever be allowed to sleep through the night again.

Still, that portion of the night was something that she could yet look forward too. Tonight Janet had not even made it to her bed. She'd come in from walking the Colonel's damn dog, who'd insisted that dogs don't do that in the rain, put on her oldest and softest flannel nightgown, and had been moving down the hall to the bathroom to do her nightly routine when she'd heard the quiet sob as she passed the door of Cassandra's bedroom. When she had stuck her head in, her heart had plummeted like a rock at the sight of her new daughter, in her new flannel gown with her long auburn hair in its night braid, and her face hidden under the pillow in her valiant attempt to muffle her sobs.

The girl had reason enough to cry. Probably, considering, it was the best thing for her. Certainly this was a case where words would only intrude. Janet went to gather her into a hug, but Cassandra had spun away from her, turning her back. Janet had sat on the edge of the bed anyway, rubbing one hand down the girl's arm, and up her back, and down her arm again, and she had accepted that comfort at least. Gradually the sobs had quieted until only the great stuttering gasps that signalled the passing of the great storm could be heard.

Now was the time to speak.

"It's okay to cry," she said. "You loved them. Don't feel you have to hide that from me."

Cassie said nothing in response, but when Janet stopped moving her hand on the girl's shoulder, she had reached up with her own small one, and grabbing Janet's had moved it slowly down her arm. Janet had resumed her rubbing, and continued for the interminable time it had taken the child to fall asleep.

Straightening her shoulders, and reminding herself that she was a Captain in the Air Force, and that mere tiredness was not a good enough excuse to weep, Janet padded in her bare feet down the padded staircase to the kitchen, in search of a glass of milk in hopes that it would help her get in a mood more conducive to sleep. She could hear the clink of the dog's tags and the clicking of its claws on the linoleum as it came to investigate what she was doing.

What have you gotten yourself into, Janet? she asked herself. A great job, but with plenty of stress and sometimes killer hours, a recent move, a new daughter, and not a nice easy newborn - no! - a traumatized ten year old one, and a damn dog! What on earth were you thinking? If Beau could see me now he'd die laughing! "Finally got that kid you were on about! Told you they were too much damn work!"

Still, this was what she had wanted. For so long! No sense in whining about it, when she had brought it on herself. Well, all except the damn dog. She had to deal.

With this she stepped off the carpeted stair, and passing through the archway into the kitchen, she stepped with her right foot onto the cool linoleum, and then with her left foot into something soft and warm, and - Eeeewwww!!!!

She hopped on her right foot to the paper towel dispenser, where she ripped off a few sheets and cleaned off the worst of it, before wetting another in the sink and slathering it with dish soap to help clean off the rest. Depositing the towels in the bin under the sink, she thanked her parents for insisting on those limbering ballet lessons as she lifted her left foot up to the sink to rinse it off. That done, she finally turned on the overhead light and began to clean off the floor.

By the time she finished, she was no longer depressed, and sleep was the farthest thing from her mind. She was angry, and she knew just who to blame. One a.m. Well, it serves him right! She began dialing.

He answered on the fifth ring, but she only heard him draw breath to answer, when she launched in.

"The damn dog pooped on the floor and I stepped in it!" she said, pausing for a moment to get some control of her breathing.

There was a silence on the other end, then, "Doc?"

"Well who else have you foisted a dog on lately? Do you make a habit of dropping dogs on unsuspecting victims? I have a busy job with long hours. Cassandra's been crying, and she gets bad dreams and wakes me up at night, and I get no sleep, and I don't know how I can make it better for her, because I can't, no one can, and then there's the damn dog!"

Dammit! Now her breath was hiccuping as much as Cassie's had, and with Colonel "Hardcore" O'Neill on the line too.

Silence on his end. She could almost see his open mouthed expression, the one he got when life threw him a bit of a curve ball - or, I suppose, a hysterical female - then a sigh.

"I'll come and get the dog, Janet. I can pay the kid next door to walk him, and Cassie can visit him over here. I just thought he might be someone she could talk to when she didn't want to tell one of us."

"The boy next door?"

Janet noted with detatchment that the hiccup-sighs had stopped. She heard the click of claws again as the dog moved around the counter and into her view.

"No. The dog. Dogs are people too, and they're great listeners. I'm sorry he's been such a burden. I'll be right there."

There was a clinking sound, probably as he picked up his keys. She wondered if he'd be arriving in his boxers.

Janet looked down into the face of the dog, who looked up at her. The last time she'd seen anything look quite that sheepish and apologetically guilty had been the Colonel himself when she'd caught him juggling an otoscope, a reflex hammer, and a pocket flashlight while awaiting a pre-mission physical. As a matter of fact, the expressions were remarkably similar.

She thought about what Jack had said. She thought about how Cassandra, desperately needing comfort and companionship had turned from her. She thought about that auburn head bent over the neck of the dog as she held him close. She pulled herself together. She needed to do what was best for Cassie here.

"No, Colonel. It's alright. I don't know what got into me. I guess I'm a little more sleep deprived than I thought. Sorry to disturb you."

"S'okay." His voice was gentle. "Kinda takes me back."

Janet waited, but finally had to ask.

"Back to what?"

"When Charlie was a baby. He musta nursed six times a night at the start. Sara didn't get much sleep..."

He trailed off, either too gentlemanly or too afraid of the big needles to point out that it had made her cranky too.

"Tell you what, Doc," he started off afresh. "Cass is just starting to settle in there, so it's probably not a great idea to uproot her, so how about this weekend I come over and sleep on the couch, and take care of Cassie and the dog, and you can spend the night on the guest bed here, and catch up on some of that backlogged sleep?"

"Oh, yes! You are a very sweet man, Colonel."

He chuckled.

"That's what Sara said too." A beat "Well, without the 'Colonel' part. You realize that if you tell anyone else that, I'll have to kill you. And them."

"Your secret's safe with me, sir."

"'Night, Doc."

"Good night, Colonel. And thank you."

"Think nothing of it."

She heard the phone click, and the hiss of a dead line. She looked down at the dog, who now regarded her with an eager, hopeful wag of his tale. He cocked his head to one side interrogatively. He's looking more and more like Colonel O'Neill by the second.

"I suppose soon I'll find out you're sweet too," she told the dog.

Damn if the Colonel wasn't right. He's a great listener. Janet yawned. She didn't think she'd need the milk now. She headed for the stairs, with the dog following companionably at her heels.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2011 09:01 am (UTC)
This is MARVELOUS. Ha, Janet wasn't any better at this than Sam is afraid she'll be, was she?

Love Janet reaming Jack at oh-dark-hundred for the dog. And the compromise. The dog looks like Jack, hee!

Excellent stuff. Can't wait to rec 'em together. :)
May. 8th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Well put! Very good story.

Melissa M.
May. 9th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
Thank you!
May. 9th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I don't think that anyone is ever fully prepared for the responsibility of parenthood. Willing, yes. Eager, yes. Well read and educated, and well practiced on siblings and neighborhood kids, yes. But when the first bad moment comes, and you realize that it's no one but you, and there will be no one coming to take the weight from your shoulders, that's when real parenting begins.

Janet does have the one advantage over Sam, because she took on the job assuming she could handle it, which was not necessarily true for Sam!
May. 8th, 2011 11:51 am (UTC)
Very nice. As with most shows of this sort, you're always left hanging as to what happened after the closing credits. It's nice to catch a glimpse of what happened after the 'happily ever after'. Thanks!
May. 9th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
Yes, and (for very valid reasons) we don't get to see more than a brief glimpse of Cassie until she emerges again as a 16 year old. There has to be so much story that happened between In the Line of Duty and Rite of Passage.

And, of course, you are very welcome!
May. 8th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
This is perfect - exactly the companion piece I was hoping for. :)
The level of of anxiety and exhaustion on Janet's part are no different from any other new parent, and her snapping at Jack, and he just let's her go at him because he's been there before too. Really lovely job.

(and a very happy mother's day to you!)
May. 9th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
This is perfect - exactly the companion piece I was hoping for.

Oh, thank you! Yay! Goal achieved!

The level of of anxiety and exhaustion on Janet's part are no different from any other new parent

Kind of like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects the way that first time parenthood will hit them. I thought that as a professional older sister (sibs 7, 8+, 10+, 17, & 27 years younger - although that last was 2 1/2 months younger than my eldest) and as someone who had been a swimming teacher, tutor, camp counselor, and babysitter, I was pretty well prepared. I still had my crisis moments.

(and a very happy mother's day to you!)

And to you!

Nov. 25th, 2014 08:01 am (UTC)
Just had the pleasure of reccing this. :)
Nov. 26th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
YES. He does owe her for the dog. You just don't do that with other people's kids unless you hate them!

And of course Janet's scared. It's natural. If she weren't, it would mean she was doing something wrong.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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