Rating: FR-13, at the absolute most, probably FR-7
Disclaimer: Buffy and Daniel belong to their respective creators, etc.
Spoilers: None really. Buffy through season 7 and SG1 late season 5
Summary: Boy meets girl.
ANs: Very unbeta'd. The art mentioned in this fic can be easily found by searching for Luca Signorelli and the Orvieto Cathedral.
ANs II: Hey WoP listers! I decided to go ahead and put it up here. Otherwise, I'll play with it tomorrow, rather than getting down to business on Amends and FWWS.
Dr. Daniel Jackson was in love.
This was nothing new.
It was actually a long-standing affair. From almost the first moment he saw her, two decades before, he knew the fascination would last for the rest of his life.
He didn’t get to see her very often. In fact, it had been nearly seven years. His life on Abydos, the search for Sha’re, work with the SGC, and various other responsibilities had kept them apart for far too long. Which was why, during his team’s first furlough in ages, he had brought—and in the case of Jack, dragged—his teammates along to meet her.
“So what do you think of her?” he’d asked, moments from their hotel, when they’d turned down the Via Dei Santi Quattro.
“Her?” Jack asked swiftly.
Daniel gestured to the open window next to him and the view beyond. “The eternal city.”
“He means ‘Rome’, sir,” Sam mentioned helpfully.
“I know what he means, Carter,” Jack said gruffly, smiling as the taxi passed a group of lovely women sipping espresso at a café. Without losing sight of the ladies, he remarked, “Nice choice, Danny.”
“It is indeed a wondrous city, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c agreed readily. “Most impressive.”
“So where are you taking us first?” Sam asked, as they passed a glittering collection of shops.
“I thought we’d get settled at the hotel, grab some lunch, and then visit the Museo Galleria Borghese.”
At Jack’s predicted sigh, Daniel continued, “It’s called ‘the queen of all private collections’. We don’t have to stay long, but everyone should see it at least once… After that, maybe we can go to the Colosseum, dinner, and a café or club later tonight?”
“Now you’re talking,” Jack said, rubbing his hands together a few times, as if he relished the idea. Then to Teal’c, he mentioned, “The Colosseum’s the place the gladiators used to battle to the death.”
“As they did in the movie we watched at your home last weekend?” Teal’c asked, leaning forward with renewed interest.
Daniel rolled his eyes at Sam good-naturedly. He took a deep, contented breath of fresh Roman air and settled back into his seat. Not even popular film references littering their discussions could ruin his enjoyment of this vacation.
It was sunny and warm for mid-March, quite a departure from the near-freezing temperatures they’d left behind in Colorado Springs. They had traded their dark wool, cotton, and winter blues, for linen, silk, and sun-drenched euphoria. For the rest of the week, he had nothing to do except introduce his friends to the wonders and mysteries of Rome.
All was right with the world.
Then he tripped over a blonde.
It wasn’t his fault this time. He wasn’t being clumsy. Not really.
Daniel had felt like going for a drive, getting a view of the country side while he could. So he rented a car. Setting out late the afternoon of their third day, leaving the others to their own devices, he drove north on the Autostrada toward Florence on a whim. Arriving at Orvieto and the famous Cathedral at 5:30 PM local time, just before vespers, he decided to turn off and make that his destination. As soon as he could, Daniel located and begged the local Monsignor for a few minutes in the San Brizio chapel.
He didn’t see the beautiful blonde woman with flashing green eyes. He’d been caught up, enraptured by the waning light pouring through the rose stained glass windows, warming the rich, colorful paintings on the Gothic arched ceilings.
She was lying face up on the stone floor when they collided. Although, he was forced to concede, it really wasn’t a collision in the strictest sense. She wasn’t moving. Mostly he was just falling, tripping over her, and smacking late 15th century marble loudly with his palms.
“Ow!” she whined, convulsing as he tried to disentangle his legs from hers.
He was shocked, and not merely as a result of his concussive near miss. But also to find that another American had been permitted entrance to the chapel after tourist hours.
Plus, she was reclining on the floor which was... strange.
Coming back to himself, he rushed, “Oh God, I’m so sorry. Are you OK?” hoping that she hadn’t been injured.
She had straightened her legs out and was back to lying prone on the cold tiles. She didn’t move much, let alone stand up and introduce herself like a normal person, in response to his words. Instead she tilted her chin down to the right and regarded him steadily as he struggled to regain his footing.
Her long golden hair flared out behind her head like soft, liquid flames. For some reason, stretched out the way she was, the petite, lithe woman reminded him of Sif, the Norse goddess and wife of Thor. It occurred to Daniel that Sif’s hair must have looked very much the same when she fell asleep outside her dwelling in Asgard. Loki had allegedly sheared her head bald that day.
But before, the story had seemed nothing more than words on a page. It wasn’t until this moment that the myth struck him as such a heinous violation of something so divinely beautiful.
“I’m fine,” she replied archly. “But you’re blocking my view.”
Stunned, Daniel jerked backwards, turning his face upward, following her line of sight to the Signorelli painting of angels rejoicing in heaven.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” he began. “It was painted by Luca Signorelli from 1499 to 1503. He was influenced by Dante’s Divine-”
“Yeah, took the tour,” she quipped sharply. Then a look of regret passed over her face.
“I come here a lot," she shrugged, shifting her shoulders against the floor. "This is the best view."
Then she patted the stone tiles with her left hand.
Daniel shook the kinks out of his aching arms and hands. Appreciating the spontaneity of her offer, he joined her on the floor.
They spent several minutes in contented silence. A few priests drifted in and out, lighting candelabras. They were lit more for her benefit than his, Daniel recognized, as she greeted the priests by name.
They called her ‘Signora Scelta’ and ‘Donna Scelta’ and nodded to her reverently. Was Scelta her last name? He recognized the word. It meant ‘chosen’ in Italian. Did ‘signora’ and ‘donna’ indicate their respect for her--as it might have during the renaissance when the chapel was built--or was it in reference to her marital status? He knew it was a bit odd, but whenever Daniel found himself in ancient places, it wasn’t hard for him to imagine and experience his surroundings as if he were among the original builders or the first visitors to the site. He was probably just projecting. No doubt she was married to a man of influence in the community.
Daniel peeked at her once the priests were gone, suddenly wanting nothing more than to bear witness to her features in the hazy candlelight. She was so, achingly beautiful! The gentle line of her jaw, the butterfly fluttering of her dark lashes against the soft glow of her cheek, and the dusky scent of roses and sandlewood, forced him to inch closer.
“What?” she asked softly, not taking her eyes from the ceiling.
“Well, I was just wondering…”
“Yes,” she whispered slowly, suspicion thick in her voice.
“What’s a pretty American girl like you-”
“Doing in a place like this?” she finished for him. “Little obvious, don’t you think?”
Daniel chuckled and shook his head. His glasses shifted further down his nose. He pushed them back into place. “No. I was just curious. You said you spend a lot of time here.”
“I do,” she sighed.
“Because this is my life.”
“Your life? What about Dante’s trilogy... could possibly be... your life?” Daniel asked in perplexed, stilted rasps.
“All of it," she whispered, pain thickening her words. "Heaven, hell, the forces of darkness and light constantly battling for blood... and souls... and the ground beneath our feet... And that…”
She pointed toward the east wall. Daniel squinted, scanning and finally locating the exact fresco she designated. He recognized the depiction. The four horsemen of the apocalypse were raining terror down on the scattering, sinful populace. He pulled back and looked at her sharply. A single, slow tear slid from the corner of her eye, but stubbornly she refused to look at him.
“… And that…” she said again, pointing to a lush blonde villager, draped across the back of a dark, flying demon. The demon was stealing her away from what was presumably her family below, and looking back at her lasciviously. “That girl. That’s me sometimes. Lots of times.”
“No. I don’t believe that. That could never be you,” Daniel said firmly. “You’re over there.”
She brushed the tear from her cheek and rolled her head to the side, studying him intently. She gazed at him, over an intimate, broad expanse of time without a clear beginning or end. Daniel remained perfectly still, letting her look--not wanting to disrupt the exchange. And he looked back, lying on the cold floor next to her, watching sadness war with curiosity inside her. He wanted to touch her. He wondered if she felt it, too.
Then her eyes left his, sliding down his face and neck, across his chest, up his arm, and out to his extended index finger, pointing to a far panel. Her voyage over him was a brief caress that lasted less than a few seconds. And yet, under his skin, it felt like a slow, smoldering wick had been laid from his throat to his gut, burning his muscles and draining his strength as it went, until his arm trembled from the strain. He swallowed convulsively.
She didn’t see herself as he did.
“Where?” she asked softly.
“No, you’re looking in the wrong place,” Daniel whispered, mock impatience in his voice covering something deeper. Stretching, he stood and offered her his hand. She hesitated, as if the contact might scorch her and leave behind an imprint of him. But then impulsively, bravely, she accepted his assistance.
He shook himself inwardly. He was projecting again. She thought of him as a stranger. Nothing more.
Standing up, she was more petite than he’d thought. Graceful and gracious as well, obviously, as she had smiled a little and let him help her to feet.
“Where am I?” she asked, nudging him playfully with her shoulder.
He pulled her by the hand to the exact spot. “You’re there. The golden angel with the pink wings, crowning the blessed.”
She smiled again. “If that’s me, then you’re there.”
“Where? he asked, mirroring her earlier question.
“Up above me, playing that harp thingie.”
Daniel snorted. “No, that’s not me. I don’t know how to play the guitar, let alone the lyre.”
“It’s a metaphor,” she explained.
“Inspiration, maybe. I don’t know. We just met,” she said thoughtfully, withdrawing her hand and the rapport they had established with it. She wandered away from him, her head tilted upward, still engrossed in the frescoes, the angels, the devils, and everything in between.
Daniel let her go. He pretended to study the dramas painted so long before his birth, and yet still present in his daily life. He was trying to sort out the myriad of feelings she had inspired in him, and to respect her desire for distance.
The minutes dragged.
“Do you believe in Heaven?” he asked, for no good reason other than to keep in contact with her. “Do you?”
But she didn’t answer. Daniel hadn’t heard her go. He scanned the entire chapel with his eyes, and walked the perimeter, searching the alcoves.
He went outside into the pitch black and called for her, but she was gone.
“Signore, can I help you?” a man asked behind him.
Daniel whirled around. Standing a few yards away, one of the priests who had attended to the candles in the chapel, was waiting for Daniel to reply. The man had dark hair and gentle eyes. He had a softly rounded face and features that one trusted implicitly.
Daniel nodded. “I’m looking for the young woman who was just here. I think her name is… At least, you called her ‘Scelta’.”
The priest smiled kindly. “I am afraid she is not here, Signore. She has gone.”
“Gone? Do you know where she went?” Daniel demanded urgently.
“Exactly I cannot say. She is gone to perform her duty, I would imagine,” the priest answered, in an annoyingly patient voice.
“Do you know where she lives? Where I can find her?” Daniel asked insistently.
“Signore, she is not a woman to be sought after,” the priest said, shaking his head. “She is una leggenda santa, you understand... A… sacred myth. It would be… impertinent for me to inquire about such things.”
Daniel was taken aback. The priest assumed that the conversation was over, so he turned and continued on his path.
“You’re telling me she’s a ghost?” Daniel whispered, as the priest opened the heavy wooden door to the rectory.
“I do not believe in ghosts, Signore,” the priest sighed tiredly. “Like the frescoes in the chapel, the church teaches that all souls go to one of three destinations after death. To assume that she is a ghost would mean that she is not welcome in Heaven. I cannot imagine this is true.”
Daniel nodded his acceptance and made his way back to his rental car. He had planned to stay the night in Orvieto, but instead, the car seemed to turn itself onto the Autostrada, this time heading south. On the drive back to Rome, he considered the beauty that had touched his life that day: the eternal city, Dante’s stories, the frescoes, the priest’s words, and especially the woman.
Dr. Daniel Jackson was in love.
This was nothing new.