Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category: Slash, Humor, Mini-Angst, Mini-H/C, Drama, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel .... and it's all J/D
Season: 6 - June 3-9, 2003
Spoilers: Crystal Skull (minor)
Written: May 16-25,28,31, June 1-2,10-15,17-18, 2004 Revised for spelling: July 31, 2016
Summary: A nine-year-old Jack and an eight-year-old Daniel terrorize the SGC ... and no, it's not an alternate reality!
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) We had so much fun we decided to do it again ... and again. Thanks to Claudia, my always beta, and now sometimes co-author! She makes it so much fun to write some of these fics!
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: QuinGem, Kalimyre, Larkin, Drdjlover!
by Orrymain and Claudia
For the second time in two days, SG-1 stepped onto P4X-590, a planet
like Earth in many ways, especially in terms of climate and
vegetation. It was a nice seventy-six degrees, a light breeze in
the air that blew Daniel's shaggy hair to and fro gently since, at the
moment, his boonie hat was strapped around his neck instead of being
worn on his head. The sky was crystal blue, full of puffy,
triangular-shaped clouds that were a bit pinkish in color, one of the
few differences between this and the Tau'ri home world.
The team began making their way to the village they'd come across the day before. The quaint village was located only a mile from the Stargate, and Jack was thankful that there was actually some meadowland to the area, and not just the usual “trees, trees, and more trees” that seemed to appear so often.
Unlike the previous day, they were now loaded down with various pieces of scientific equipment.
“Okay, Carter, how long?” Jack asked, tapping on his P-90, once they reached their destination.
Jack motioned at all the equipment she was surrounded by, waving his free hand slightly.
“How long for ... all of this?”
“To do all the testing and get the necessary samples? At least six or seven hours, Sir, and maybe even longer.”
Jack sighed at the prospect of a boring day watching doohickeys doohick, which was what he internally called Sam's scientific experiments, at least those ones that involved so many different pieces of equipment in her testing. Generally, on assignments like this, Sam busied herself with an endless string of calculations, measurements, and readouts during which everyone else just sat around twiddling their thumbs.
His expression said it all to his teammates, but then he smiled slightly as he spoke, “On the bright side, at least Daniel is forced to take a break. For once there are no temples, ruins, or other boring rock things to study.”
From several feet away, his sunglasses still on as he stood with his hands in his pockets, Daniel scowled at his lover, “You never know, Jack. I might find something yet. I'm sure there must be an old building around here somewhere.”
Daniel twisted his body around, looking in all directions for some sign of ancient life.
“No way, Dannyboy. You've had your nose buried in research and translations for the last three weeks. Time for a break, and I'm going to make sure you get one. In fact, I'm not letting you out of my sight. You are resting on this mission, and that's that.”
The banter went on while Sam and Teal'c shared a “here we go again” look as they set up the equipment.
Daniel walked over to the cavern entrance. There was an overhang there that blocked the sun. He figured he'd just sit and relax for a while. There was nothing else to do, and before Jack had gotten involved in gossiping with some of the women from the nearby village, he had specifically ordered him not to touch anything -- “not even a rock, Daniel.”
In what was a strange twist for an SG-1 mission, Daniel was essentially along for the ride. Sam was busy running tests of the soil and air, Teal'c had been asked to evaluate the hand-to-hand combat skills of the local warriors, and somehow, Jack had ended up literally babysitting about ten children, and from what Daniel could see, he was having the time of his life.
~He's finally with people his own age,~ Daniel teased in his mind, seeing how well Jack fit in with the boys and girls of the planet.
In the meadowland near the cavern, Jack engaged in a game of Hide and Seek with the children. He was “it” and looking all around for the children who ranged in age from six to eleven. The clever youngsters hid behind rocks, under the few random circular tables that were scattered throughout the area, and a couple even ducked inside the cavern, smiling at Daniel as they walked by.
Daniel sat down on the ground. It was hard and not really comfortable, but that was ground for you. He rested his head back against the thick, rocky cavern wall, and was surprised when his head landed on a soft patch. He turned and looked at the small area. Reaching out, he touched it. It was a small, black patch, smooth, almost like velvet.
“Hmmm. Interesting.” He leaned back again. “It's very ... soothing,” he commented, his mind about to begin a book full of theories about the strange section of cavern wall, but a loud voice drew his attention away.
“Tag. You're it!” Jack shouted at one of the girls, scurrying to get out of her reach.
Daniel relaxed, letting go of his theories about the small patch, and watched the game play out. Apparently, Hide and Seek had been replaced by Tag. Fortunately, once Jack had caught the first girl, he had the common sense not to try and outrun the children further, but was now supervising, urging them on, encouraging their play.
~Look at him -- My Jack. He's having so much fun. Gawd, he's just a little kid at heart. Right now, he hasn't a care in the world. I know Charlie was one lucky little boy to have had a father like Jack.~
Daniel smiled as he saw Jack go over to one of the slower kids who seemed a bit clueless as to how to escape being tagged. She'd already been tagged three times and was looking very sad. Jack whispered something into the little girl's ear, and then she looked up at him, her expression a bit skeptical at whatever Jack had said. Daniel could just hear his lover saying, “Trust me.”
Moments later, the girl began trying to evade her chaser, running now in a zigzag pattern and not looking back. Instead, she remained focused on her path to freedom, and sure enough, when she heard the next “Tag. You're it,” it was to another child. She beamed at Jack, who just grinned that familiar, charming, self-assured smile of his.
Daniel's heart was full of pride in the man who was his heart. He found he had a need to express his emotion, so he did.
**I love you, Jack.**
Jack turned, hearing the silent message, his face alight with goodness.
**I love you, too, Angel.**
Time passed as Daniel sat and watched the games play out, his lover the center of attention and about the happiest he'd seen him in a long time. Daniel began to think about their childhood years and how different they were.
~Jack had a good family. He told me that. He had fun growing up. I wonder what that's like -- to run and laugh and ... just be a kid. I'm not complaining, not really. Going on digs, exploring the pyramids, learning about old worlds was great, and ... and I love you, Mom and Dad. It's just ... you died, and then there was nothing. I didn't fit in, and I never knew how to just ... play. Was I ever a child?~
“Hey, Danny. Why so serious?”
Daniel had gotten so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't realized his partner had walked over and joined him, their shoulders touching as they sat.
“Where were you?” Jack asked.
“Yes and no. Nothing specific really. Just thinking about being a child.”
Jack recognized the look on Daniel's face. He leaned his head back, part of it also touching the black velvet patch in the wall of the cavern, though he didn't stop to question the unique softness of the area against the back of his head like Daniel had. He looked over at Daniel who was smiling at the children playing off in the distance.
Daniel's eyes seemed to dance in delight as he watched, but the older man saw something more there, too. He wasn't sure what it was exactly -- pain, regret, longing, need -- but it took him to a place of dreams.
~I wish you'd known what it was like to be a child in an environment like I grew up in. I had it all. I can't think of one complaint -- not one. I had great parents who created a storybook home that radiated love, not to mention two sets of grandparents who doted over me, too, spoiling me rotten in the process. You deserved to have that -- a home, a family -- love. I wish you could know, Danny, that feeling of security and happiness. If I could, I'd let you be a child, to not have a care in the world, even if only for a week ... or just a day.~
Jack felt a nudge, looking with surprise at his soulmate.
“Now it's you who's disappeared,” Daniel said after the slight rub of his elbow against Jack's arm to grab the man's attention.
Jack laughed in acknowledgement.
“Danny, come play Kick the Can.”
“Kick the Can? That's a game?”
“Geez, Daniel. It's one of the first games any kid learns.”
“Oh, I ... I guess I ...”
“Come on, Danny.”
Jack had gotten up, extending his hand down to his soulmate in order to help him up.
“No, that's okay. You go ahead.”
Daniel spoke softly, his arms suddenly crossing his chest.
~Just a week of not feeling like this, of not having that memory of the coverstone and being ignored, of not feeling like Nick cared about skulls and alien giants more than me, of letting go. I wish ...~
Jack sighed sadly at Daniel's refusal to join in and headed towards the laughing children. Still, he wanted his lover's eyes to dance again, as they had minutes earlier, so he looked back over his shoulder, calling out enthusiastically, “Watch this, Daniel!”
He gathered the alien children together and started to play the game, laughter again floating through the air as the game waged on. After he watched for a few minutes, Daniel once again leaned back against the wall, his thoughts returning to those of childhood dreams and wishes.
~I don't think I was ever a child, not really. Gawd, growing up with Jack. Now that would have been an experience. What would that have been like? What was he like at seven or eight, or maybe nine, or even ten?~ He looked over at Jack. ~Were you scheming and incorrigible? Did you get into trouble? Were you the perfect child, Jack? What did you like to do? How would you have felt having me as a little brother? Would I have driven you crazy? I mean, I don't want to change who I am, I just ... I want to know more, to feel ... more.~
He let out a sound that was somewhat of a snort. ~It would have been so awesome. Jack as a big brother, teaching me stuff. Gee, that's what he does now, but as a child ... would we argue? Would we be friends? Jack ... what would it have been like to be your little brother?~
He watched Jack being tackled by one of the boys and smiled; in fact, he even laughed.
~Kick the Can. I don't have a clue what that is. Looks like fun, but I don't understand. How can kicking a can be fun? Something so simple, and look at Jack. Look at his smile; hear his infectious laugh. He's so happy right now, running around chasing some spinach can.~
Daniel sighed as he took in the sight some more, as if to memorize the experience.
~I wish we could have grown up together. I wouldn't have been so alone. I would have been ... a child. Where's Aladdin's Lamp? Just a week, maybe even just a day, it would be so much fun. I wish I could know what it was like to be a happy little boy, growing up with Jack.~
Daniel's heart suddenly stopped beating. His eyes grew wide. Using his hand, he pushed back against the wall as he struggled to get up.
“Oh no. What's happening?”
“WHAT THE HECK? DANIEL, DID YOU TOUCH SOMETHING?”
Daniel stood gaping at his soulmate, now a nine-year-old boy wearing BDU's that swallowed him. As he stood, Daniel looked down, realizing he was in the same predicament.
Then a large flash of light flickered, engulfing both men-turned-boys. The kids playing with Jack watched in astonishment before running away.
The boy Daniel smiled and ran to Jack, both now mysteriously dressed in jeans and shirts that fit properly.
“Jack, what now?”
“Now, we see if we can find some girl to terrorize.”
“Danny, you were way too sheltered over in ... wherever it was you lived before.”
“Okay, Egypt. Come on.”
“What?” the boy Jack asked.
“Beat you to that stone over there!”
“You little pip-squeak!”
Daniel had darted off, getting a solid head start on Jack, easily beating him. The two boys laughed.
“Geez, you're fast, but speed isn't everything, Dannyboy.”
“Dannyboy? My name is Danny.”
Jack smiled and shrugged devilishly.
“I know. Let's go find a girl to terrorize.”
“Jack, we aren't really going to ...”
“No, silly, but maybe we can find a frog or something here. Girls hate frogs.”
Shaking his head in exasperation, Jack tugged on Daniel's hand, leading him away from the area.
“Major Carter! Major Carter!”
“Whoa! Hey there!”
Sam was thrown by the frightened looks on the children's faces. Six of the ten children that had been playing with Jack now pulled and tugged on Sam's arms and clothes, desperate for her attention.
“He's a boy!”
~Okay. That helps -- not!~
“Who's a boy!”
“Um, well, yes, technically. I mean ...”
“No, Major Carter, you don't understand.”
“Everyone settle down. Take a deep breath, and ... one at a time.”
“We were playing and ...”
“And then he just changed ...”
“His clothes didn't fit anymore ...”
“He looked so funny.”
“He's a little boy now.”
The children had spoken quickly, in rapid-fire succession, and now, Sam struggled to make sense of the words she was hearing. She fidgeted and shook her entire body for just a second.
“Okay, kids, let me get this straight. You were all playing with the Colonel and then he ...”
“...turned into a little boy!” one of the children said in a frustrated tone.
“Okay,” Sam responded skeptically.
“So did Doctor Jackson.”
“He did?” one of the other children asked in alarm.
“Yeah, I saw him, by the cavern. He's a little boy now, too.”
Sam was sure this was a mistake, but she figured she should check it out since the youngsters looked genuinely shocked.
“Show me where you were playing.”
The kids took Sam by the hand and began pulling her.
“Hey, careful. I want these arms to stay attached to my body.”
“Keep a lookout, Danny.”
Jack had taken off his shoes and socks and waded into a shallow creek to look for frogs.
“Jack, are you sure this is a good idea? I don't want to get into trouble.”
“You need to get into trouble more, Danny. It's an O'Neill family tradition. Billy taught me, and now I get to teach you.”
Daniel snorted at Jack's explanation, then grinned.
~You're the best brother in the world, Jack.~
Young Daniel had never gotten into so much trouble in his life as he had during the past year with the O'Neill's, and he had to admit, it had been fun. The brothers O'Neill, Billy and Jack, had spent a lot of time showing Daniel the fine art of boyhood and explaining that it meant much more than studying artifacts and reading books. At the age of eight, the boy Daniel was finally learning how to play.
“Aha!” Jack yelled out triumphantly as he found a frog. “Got one, Danny!”
He brought the frog over and handed it to Daniel.
“Here you hold it while I put my shoes back on.”
Daniel took the frog and examined it. His look was intense as he spoke, “I don't recognize the species. I'll have to look it up when we get home.”
Jack shook his head a bit violently as he finished tying his shoelaces. He spoke forcefully to the younger boy, “Danny, you're too smart for your own good. Who cares what kind of frog it is? It's a frog, it'll scare a girl, and that's all that matters!”
He took the frog back, thereby ending Daniel's examination of the creature, and pulled on the younger boy's arm.
“Come on, Danny.”
They left the creek and walked back towards the village. They hadn't gone far when they spotted a group of girls playing what looked like some type of board game. Jack grinned in anticipation.
“Showtime! Danny, take the frog and just walk up to them. I'll start talking to them to distract them, and you drop the frog on the board game. Then we run.”
“Are you sure ...?”
“Yes,” Jack interrupted Daniel and began tugging him towards the group of girls. “Now's the time.”
They wandered over to the girls, and Jack started a conversation with them. Daniel envied the older boy's easy confident manner.
“Whatcha' playing?” Jack asked, making hand movements at Daniel.
Nervously, Daniel held out his hand, the frog clasped in it. Just as he was about to release it, he felt a large hand grab his collar. Looking over, he saw Jack in the same predicament. They looked up into the unamused face of Teal'c.
Teal'c stared down at the two children before him. He had no idea how his friends had come to be in this position, but he also had no doubt that these boys were his two Tau'ri friends. Their faces were more childish looking, but their features were essentially the same.
Daniel's eyes were as blue as ever, and his shaggy light brown hair extended down past his ears. Jack's hair was much shorter, spiky, and sandy colored.
Teal'c had been returning from his evaluation when he had heard a few of the children talking about the adults that had turned into children. He had hoped they were telling a fib, but now, he knew they were speaking the truth. He held the proof in each of his hands.
“His name is Daniel O'Neill!”
Jack glared at Teal'c, something the Jaffa hadn't expected. One of Teal'c's eyebrows rose.
“Yeah, and no one calls me Daniel. I'm Danny!”
“Yeah, he's Danny!” Jack echoed.
Daniel glared at Teal'c as well. Teal'c's eyebrow climbed even higher.
“Indeed. Release that amphibious jumping animal, Dani...” Teal'c clearly struggled to call Daniel “Danny.”
Looking guilty, Daniel released the frog, watching as it leaped away. ~Oh, I know what species it is. I just forgot. I think I'm playing too much.~
“What's amphibious?” Jack asked as he tried to get out of Teal'c's hold.
“It means the frog can live on land or water,” Daniel answered.
Jack started wriggling more aggressively.
“Let us go, T.”
“I will not, O'Neill. We are going to find MajorCarter.”
He began marching them back to the place where SG-1 had set up camp for Sam's experiments.
“Do you know about frogs, Teal'c?”
“I have studied all sorts of creatures, Dan...ny.”
“Me, too. There are a lot of different kinds of frogs. That one was ...”
“Danny, a frog is a frog.”
“Technically, it's a ... ouch,” Daniel said in reaction to the punch in the arm.
Seeing Jack's scowl, Daniel decided it was best to forget about frogs for the moment, especially with Teal'c holding onto his collar, making it a bit difficult to walk. He wasn't as clumsy as he once was, often falling over his own feet when he first went to live with the O'Neills.
~I think it was psychological because I was so self-conscious after Mommy and Daddy died, but ... I don't trip now because ... because of all the sports Billy and Jack have taught me. Billy said it would help with my coordination. Jack just said it would be fun.~ Daniel smiled as he focused on not tripping now. ~I think they were both right.~
“Where are they?” Sam asked the children.
“They were here, Major Carter.”
Sam looked all around, but there was no sign of Jack and Daniel. Their packs were gone, too. In fact, although the two had been settled in the area all day long, there wasn't any indication anyone but the children had been in the area.
“What happened to their gear? Their backpacks?”
“We told you. Everything just disappeared.”
“I think it's the legend,” one child said. “My grandmother told me about it.”
“That's just a silly, old myth,” another said, mockingly.
“Not if they needed to learn,” still another of the alien children spoke.
~Maybe I'm just having a bad dream.~
Sam was about to ask more questions when she heard Teal'c from behind her.
Sam turned, almost fainting at the sight that greeted her.
Stunned, the Major didn't even move as the two boys ran to her, both throwing their arms around her.
“We've been having fun, Sam,” Jack spoke.
“Yeah. Jack taught me how to make a spit wad.”
Sam wasn't sure what was stranger -- seeing Daniel as a child or seeing him bursting from pride at being able to spit!
“I outdid him, too,” boasted young Daniel.
“You did not!”
“I did, too!”
“I did, too, Jack, and you know it!”
“Oh, okay. Have it your way.”
Daniel glared at Jack as he huffed, “You're just jealous, Jack.”
“Jealous of you?”
“That I could spit farther than you!”
“I am so not jealous of that.”
“BOYS! Boys, that's enough.” ~I think I have a headache. The Colonel and Daniel as children may just kill me!~
Sam had one hand on each of the boy's shoulders. She looked at Teal'c, looking for help.
“I have no answers, MajorCarter. I was returning from the evaluations when I caught Colonel ...” Teal'c stopped his words, realizing it might be better not to associate the boy Jack with the Air Force Colonel, “when I came across these two attempting to frighten a group of female children with a what appeared to be a rana pipiens.”
“They were what?” Sam asked.
“A what?” Jack asked at the same time. “I've never heard of a ... ray ... ray...na...pipawhatever.”
“Rana pipiens, Jack,” Daniel explained. “It's the scientific name for the Northern Leopard Frog. I remembered the species when I watched it jumping away from us.”
“Leopard Frog?” Jack questioned.
“That's the kind of frog we had.”
“It's a frog! A frog is a frog,” Jack said, a bit of exasperation in his young voice.
“Actually, there are all kinds of frogs, Jack. This one was a jumping frog, but there are ...”
“DANNY!” Jack looked at the young boy, rolling his eyes in the process. “It's a FROG!” Turning to Teal'c, he asked reproachfully, “Why not just say it's a frog, Teal'c?”
“That's not the point,” Sam reprimanded, looking at Jack and Daniel, who now appeared a bit sheepish.
“It was Daniel's idea!” Daniel kicked Jack's foot. “Hey, that hurts,” the older boy whined.
“Tell her the truth, Jack!”
“Okay, okay, it was my idea. Geez, who knew having a younger brother could be so painful?” Jack said, leaning over to rub his foot for a moment.
“Brr...brrrr...brother?” Sam finally sputtered out.
“Is it time to go back through the Stargate?” Daniel asked.
“Stargate?” Sam asked, completely surprised that the two boys knew about the Stargate at all. She was now convinced that she was deep into some crazy dream. She nodded. “Yes, it's time to go back.”
“Race you to the Gate, Danny!”
“You'll never win. I'm faster than you!”
The two raced off towards the Stargate.
“When we get back, tell Janet to sedate me for at least a week.”
“As you wish.”
Sam chuckled, and then they began the short journey towards the Stargate.
~If it were only that easy,~ she thought as she walked, Teal'c at her side.
As they traveled, she realized they should take advantage of their time on the planet to try and find out information about the legend some of the children had spoken of earlier.
“Teal'c, I think we should stop at the village, talk to some of the locals, and see if they have any ideas about what might have happened.”
“I concur,” the Jaffa said. “I will go ahead and retrieve ... the children.”
“Can I dial the coordinates, Sam. Pleeeeease!”
Jack was randomly pressing various buttons on the DHD until his wrist was caught in the firm grasp of an unimpressed Air Force Major.
“Sam?” Daniel was peering over Jack's shoulder, looking at the symbols on the DHD. “What language is this? They kinda look like hieroglyphs, but I haven't seen any quite like this before.”
Teal'c and Sam exchanged a glance of surprise and perhaps of concern as well. It was turning out to be a crazy day. They had spent the last two hours talking to local villagers in a quest to not only discover how Jack and Daniel had been transformed into children, but hopefully to find a solution or antidote that would return them to their grown-up selves.
At the same time, Sam and Teal'c had tried to ride herd over the two very rambunctious young boys, a task that had ended up being a bit challenging as the youngsters played nearby.
Finally, they were back at the Stargate, preparing to return to Earth.
“You do not know any of these symbols Da...nny?” Teal'c stumbled again over the boy's preference to be called “Daniel.”
“No? What do they mean?”
Sam left Teal'c to deal with Daniel while she went over to the MALP which was now moving around as Jack pushed more and more buttons.
“Don't touch that, Jack.”
She led him over to Teal'c and began fishing in her pack for the bar of chocolate she was carrying.
“Teal'c, why don't you give them some chocolate while I dial the SGC and tell the General about, uh, this?” she suggested as she waved her hand over the top of the two boys.
Teal'c nodded and led them a short way from the Stargate while Sam began to dial it up. A minute later, she had informed the General about the current situation.
Sam winced and continued, “Children, Sir, and although they know who we are, they don't seem to have any knowledge of being adults.”
“Have you talked to the natives, Major?” The General's alarmed voice questioned over the radio. Sam sighed.
“Yes, Sir. They haven't a clue as to what might have caused this. They just talked about a legend they have of an overworked man who gets turned into a boy for a day so he can remember how to have fun. Apparently, it's told to children by the elders so that they can tell it to their parents and remind them of the importance of play.”
“And that's all they know?”
“It's all they'd tell us.”
“Do you think they're hiding something?”
“Not exactly. It's just ... it's a legend, and they don't seem to know much about it.” Sam paused and looked away for a moment, “Sir, I got the impression they thought we needed to relax more.”
Hammond looked a bit exasperated as he asked, “So that's all we're going to get from those people?”
“I'm afraid so, General ... at least, that's all for now.”
General Hammond stood at the base of the ramp in total disbelief of what Sam had just told him. If he hadn't seen it himself, he wouldn't have believed it for a moment, but there was no doubting that the two young boys standing by Teal'c bore a definite resemblance to Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
~There must be a logical explanation.~
The Stargate kawoosh ebbed, and in a few more seconds, Jack and Daniel ran through the Gate.
“Aw, you cheated!”
“Grandpa!” Jack shouted. “Danny, it's Grandpa.”
Daniel grinned as he exclaimed, “GRANDPA!”
The two boys ran and engulfed the Major General with two giant bear hugs. The General stood in total shock. His hands were elevated out in front of him, but as the two boys continued to hold on to him, the grandfather in Hammond emerged, and soon, his big arms encircled the two eager boys.
“We missed you, Grandpa,” little Danny said, a tear beginning to fall.
“Aw, Danny, it's okay.”
As everyone watched, Jack drew Daniel into a hug.
“Grandpa isn't going anywhere, and neither am I, or the folks.”
“I know,” Daniel sniffled. “I just get scared sometimes,” Daniel explained as he attempted to wipe the tears from his cheeks with the sleeve of his shirt.
Sam, Teal'c, and the General didn't have a clue how to react to what they were seeing.
“Danny, let's go play in Grandpa's office.”
Daniel's tears were immediately replaced with a devious grin, and before Hammond or anyone else could say anything, the two boys scurried out of the gate room.
“Major?” Hammond asked, not knowing what else to do.
“I don't know, General. According to the children on the planet, one minute the Colonel was playing Kick the Can with them, and the next ... he was really playing Kick the Can with them.”
“And Doctor Jackson?”
Sam shook her head, her answer almost a sigh, “I don't have any answers, Sir.”
“Very well, Major. Round up those two ... boys, and meet me in the briefing room in thirty minutes.
Sam looked upward towards Hammond's office where Jack and Daniel were waving. Jack held up the General's favorite model airplane and began to swoop it around in the air.
“Excuse me, Major.”
“Danny, get your nose out of those, and come play with this.”
Jack was swooping the General's model airplane around the office while Daniel had discovered some interesting looking photos. There were pictographs unlike anything he'd ever seen before.
“Jack, come look these. They're really different. I remember Daddy showing me pictographs in Egypt, but not like these.”
Jack shook his head and moved his plane swooshing over to Daniel until it was whooshed under the younger boy's nose, preventing him from looking at the photographs. At first, Daniel tried to look past the plane to the photos, then as his eyes started to focus on the plane, Jack grinned.
He moved the plane away a little just as Daniel made a grab for it. That was it, and the two were off. Jack ran out of the General's office and skidded around a corner, closely followed by Daniel, only to crash into the blue trouser legs of the General.
Jack looked up at the older man trying to look innocent. Hammond had to suppress the urge to laugh. That expression was exactly the same one that he was used to seeing on a much older face, and it wasn't any more convincing in a younger faced Jack O'Neill than it was in an older one.
“Boys, settle down.”
“Yes, Grandpa,” Daniel responded shyly as he kicked Jack in the shin under the table.
Jack leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Paybacks, Dannyboy, paybacks!”
Daniel snickered, desperately trying to stop himself from laughing.
“Jack. Daniel. We have a little problem.”
“Mommy and Daddy are okay, aren't they?”
All the laughter had gone from Daniel's voice and face, replaced by fear and sadness, and another tear.
“Danny, they're fine,” Jack said, getting up to hug the younger boy. “I talked to Mom earlier. They're all fine.”
“I promise,” turning to the General, “Tell him, Grandpa.”
The General coughed and decided to go along.
“Yes, Daniel, they're fine.”
“Danny. No one calls me Daniel. How many times do we have to tell you guys that? Geez!”
Sam, Teal'c, and the General all exchanged looks of surprise, not just at the name statement, but the attitude the young Daniel exhibited. Sam decided to try and tackle it head on. She moved her chair to behind where the two boys were once again sitting, and then she turned them around.
“We need you two to answer some questions for us, no matter how crazy they sound. Okay? Can you do that for me?”
Two bright smiles and nods came Sam's direction.
“Okay. Let's start from the beginning. Tell us your names.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other, both shrugging.
“You know our names, Sam!”
“Tell me anyway. We're ... playing a game.”
“A game?” Daniel sat up a bit straighter, his smile broader than before.
“Um, yes, it's called ... Special Operations.”
“Sounds like fun,” Jack responded, but he didn't seem to have any special reaction to the term itself.
“Okay, then. Tell me your names,” Sam instructed, adding, “Your full names.”
“Jonathan Jack O'Neill.”
Daniel hesitated for a moment, looking at Jack who smiled and decided to answer for him, “And this is my brother, Daniel Patrick O'Neill.”
“O'Neill?” Sam gulped.
“It was Jackson,” Daniel said softly, but then he brightened up. “I was adopted!”
“Adopted ... by the O'Neill's?”
Daniel nodded, explaining, “I was born in Egypt. My parents were archaeologists, but they died last year.”
“It was a horrible accident,” Jack added. “We were at the museum when it happened.”
“But you didn't see it ... like I did,” Daniel added slowly.
“No, but we saw you, and we took him home that night. He's my brother,” Jack said proudly.
“Um, Daniel ...”
“Danny! My name is Danny!”
Sam smiled apologetically and continued, “Okay, I'm sorry. Danny, what about your grandfather?”
“Nick ... Ballard.”
Daniel immediately shut down, staring at the floor self-hugging. Jack jumped up, moving to Daniel's side in an instant, leaning over to hug him. He turned back and glared at Sam.
“We don't talk about him,” Jack hissed angrily. “You should know that, Sam.”
Sam sat back in her chair, a bit taken aback from the outburst. She even felt guilty for bringing up the name.
“He ... didn't want me,” Daniel spoke quietly. Moments later, he added, “And all my other relatives are dead.”
“I am NOT dead!”
Daniel tilted his head up and smiled at his brother who now stood behind his chair. With a renewed confidence, he restated his situation, “All of my birth relatives are dead, but now I have a whole new family in Chicago. They're great! And we love Grandpa George, too!”
The two children beamed at the General, Jack moving to lean against the arm of Daniel's chair, his right arm around his brother's shoulder.
“Yes, uh, just how do you know ... Grandpa George?” Sam asked hesitantly, trying to evade the General's glare.
The two children looked at her as if she had grown two heads. She gulped.
“Remember ... boys, we're ... playing a game.”
Jack gave her a warning look, a look she'd seen on the Colonel many times. It was the look that said, “Don't go there, Carter,” and usually caused her to take a step or two backwards.
“Games shouldn't hurt,” he said as he gave Daniel's shoulder a slight squeeze.
“You're right, and I'm sorry. How about sitting down again ... please?”
Jack considered it for a moment, and then returned to his chair as he answered the last question a bit sarcastically, “He's Mom's father. How do you think we know him?”
Sam decided it was best to move on with the questioning.
“So, where are you parents now?”
“Mom and Dad are in Africa.”
“Billy's in school,” Daniel added.
“Billy? Who is that?”
“Our older brother. He's awesome,” Daniel said enthusiastically.
“Oh, so he's in ... private school somewhere?”
“He's going to college in Minnesota. That's where our other grandpa lives. He has the neatest cabin. He takes us there sometimes.”
“I've only been a couple of times.”
“Yet. We're going next week when Mom and Dad get back.”
“We are?” Daniel perked up.
Jack nodded, then covered his mouth, as if he had just revealed a secret ... and he had. Apologetically, he said, “It was supposed to be a surprise.”
“I'll act surprised,” Daniel promised, getting another smile from Jack.
Teal'c decided to ask some questions. He got up and stood behind Sam.
“Do you know who I am?”
“You're Teal'c,” both Jack and Daniel answered at the same time.
“Where am I from?”
Teal'c stared at them straight-faced and repeated, “Cucamonga?”
“It's a city in California, Teal'c.”
“He knows. That's where he's from.”
“How do you explain this?” Teal'c pointed to the symbol of slavery on his forehead.
“It's the neatest tattoo ever made,” Jack explained. “Dad won't let me get one, though.”
“Boys,” Hammond called out. “You came through the Stargate. Do you know what that is?”
“That's Danny's thing. Go, Danny. You're on.”
The child Daniel went into a detailed explanation of the Stargate, except its function wasn't to explore alien worlds, but simply to go to other parts of Earth.
“Dad says it's top secret, so we aren't supposed to talk about it, but it sure saves a lot of time traveling. They used it to go to Africa and to send us to meet Sam and Teal'c.”
“Where was that exactly?”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other.
Daniel answered, “Some place. There were a lot of other kids there.”
“We had fun,” Jack added. “Can we go play now?”
“Son,” Hammond said instinctively, “Do you know where you are now?”
“Cheyenne Mountain, where you work, Grandpa George.”
“Jack, I think he wants to know if we know that it's top secret, too.”
“Oh, Danny's smarter than me. Yes, we know. That's why there's all those military goons around.”
“Goons?” Sam repeated, sitting back in her chair.
“Huh?” Jack responded.
“Major Carter, find something ... appropriate for the ... children for a little while. Set them up in one of the VIP rooms, and let's reconvene here in one hour.”
Sam led the two children to one of the VIP rooms, gradually learning more about their history as they walked. On the way, she had a thought. While Jack and Daniel were kids, they hadn't asked them about the year. She wondered if they'd experience some type of culture shock when they saw current technology.
“Okay, you two. I need you to stay here until I come back and get you. This room has a TV, a game boy, and a Playstation,” she said as she showed them where everything was.
She watched carefully, noticing that everything seemed familiar to them, Daniel already turning on the computer while Jack was eagerly eyeing the game boy. She deduced from their behavior and actions that they must believe it was the current year, each obviously aware of, and used to, the technology of the day, only now they were children and not adults.
Still, Daniel didn't like the coldness of the gray walls or being separated from his grandfather. He walked away from the computer to the center of the room, staring at the plainness of the decor.
“I don't want to stay here,” Daniel sniffed.
Jack hugged him and whispered something in his ear. He grinned. Sam eyed Jack suspiciously, but he simply did his innocent look again. Daniel just looked happy, and Sam couldn't bring herself to risk removing that look from his face so with a final mistrusting glance at her young CO, she left.
“Are we really going to sneak out, Jack?” Daniel asked Jack hopefully.
He missed their parents, and everyone was acting so strangely. He just wanted to have some fun with his brother.
“Of course.” Jack grinned. “Don't worry, I'll teach you how to be a kid yet.”
“I am a kid,” Daniel said indignantly.
“Danny, you've hung around too many adults. Kids don't do what they're told, they don't look forward to going to school, and they don't ask for another helping of vegetables at dinner.”
Daniel looked crestfallen at these indictments, so Jack hugged him.
“Trust me, Danny. I've got it covered. By the time Billy gets back for spring break, you'll be the bestest kid ever. He'll be so proud of you for just being another kid ... like me!”
Daniel beamed and followed Jack out the door of the VIP room.
“Major, where are they?”
“As you suggested, Sir, I've had them assigned to VIP room three. It has a television, a game boy, and a Playstation, Sir. Hopefully, that will keep them entertained ... for a while.”
“I hope you're right. So, what do you make of this?”
“I don't know, Sir,” Sam answered truthfully. “This can't be a true go back in time situation because for one thing, their ages don't match up at all. Jack says he's nine, and Daniel is eight. They seem to have a similar relationship, the Colonel is ... um, well, he's ...”
“A mother hen,” Teal'c said for her.
Sam bobbed her head, nodding.
“They seem to be typical boys, General. Apparently, Daniel's parents died just as we know it, and his grandfather, Nicholas Ballard, refused to adopt him. He's been living with the O'Neill's since the day of the accident. Daniel said the O'Neill's battled the state of New York for him. He was actually quite proud of that fact, Sir.”
“Battled? In what way?”
“Well, Jack said that they didn't want to let Daniel go back with them to Chicago, but Mister O'Neill stared them down, absolutely refused to give Daniel up, said he was their son, and he wasn't about to let him go into foster care. It was the same with Nick Ballard. He didn't want Daniel for himself, but he also didn't want to let the O'Neill's actually adopt Daniel, either, but Jack's father wore him down.”
“I can't imagine that scenario happening, Major, as much as I think we'd all have liked it to have been.”
Sam sighed as she responded, “Realistically, Sir, we know it couldn't have happened that way. The laws and regulations for foster care would have required background checks for the O'Neill's and ... well, Sir, there are a lot of loopholes.”
The General noticed a hesitation in the blonde Major.
“But, Sir, this is what those two boys know. Nothing seems to phase them. It's like no matter how strange or different, somehow, a place or thing just fits normally into their existence. They don't question it, and I'm not sure they need to. General, their ages, their history, who we are ... it's what they believe. It may not be logical or realistic in our world, but it's very much their reality.”
Sam looked down as she spoke, “Actually, Sir, I kinda wished it happened like that. Daniel ... Danny,” she smiled, “he's ... he's not the Daniel we know. He seems to be the same genius, on some level, but he's a little boy, running and getting into trouble. He's ... happy, Sir, or seems to be.”
Sam suddenly realized she was getting a bit misty-eyed, definitely too emotional for the SGC, not to mention in the presence of the base commander. She was military, after all. Looking at the General, she said simply, “I apologize, Sir.”
“That's perfectly all right, Major. Did you learn anything else?”
“They believe all of this is legitimate. Apparently, they know nothing of the Goa'uld or any alien race we've come across. They really think the Stargate is an experimental travel device, like ... the transporter on 'Star Trek'.”
“They really believe that I'm their grandfather?”
“Yes, Sir. We don't know much about the Colonel's family, but apparently, in whatever ... reality this is, you are Mrs. O'Neill's father so you've known Jack all his life, and since Daniel went to live with the O'Neill's, you've taken a shine to him, too ... Sir. They ... expect to go home with you tonight, General.”
Sam nodded, adding, “They are pretty excited about it. Daniel says you have a 'really big' piano and he gets to play it.”
“It's what he said, Sir.”
His hands clasped together in front of him, the General leaned forward.
“I have no idea where to go with this. Something happened on that planet, and we need to get to the bottom of it, and quickly.”
“I would suppose so, Sir. Maybe ...” Sam sighed, as clueless as she'd ever been about anything. “We could run some tests ...”
“What kind of tests?”
Mimicking adult Daniel, she answered, “I have no idea, General, but it's the only thing I know to do. Maybe ... Janet can find out something.”
“Is Doctor Fraiser available yet?”
“She should be,” Sam said after checking her watch. “She was due back on the base ten minutes ago.”
“Very well, Major. Have Doctor Fraiser do a complete physical of both Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson immediately.”
Sam nodded and headed off to see Janet before bringing her the two boys. Janet had been in surgery at the military hospital when SG-1 had returned from the planet, and still had no idea what had happened. Unfortunately, the SGC's Chief of Medicine was on a conference call and signaled for Sam to come back in thirty minutes.
The blonde Major left the infirmary, heading for the control room to handle a computer problem that had come up a bit earlier.
“Where are we going, Jack?”
Daniel was getting bored. Jack looked around the corner of the door he had come across and grinned. He motioned for his brother to come closer, so he did. Daniel crept up to look around the corner of the door.
“I don't like hospitals, Jack,” Daniel said as he observed the beds and strange looking medical machines in the room.
“That's only 'cause you've never known what to look for. Come on.” He took hold of Daniel's hand and pulled him into the infirmary.
Earlier, Sam had told them about her friend, Janet, who was a doctor. She said they'd be visiting with her later in the day, once Janet arrived at the Mountain. Seeing a woman using a phone in an office, Jack said, “I bet that's Sam's friend.”
“The doctor lady?”
Jack nodded, and then put his fingers to his lips in a shushing gesture. Being as quiet as they could, the two bent down low to sneak past her.
In one corner of the infirmary was a skeleton. Jack grinned and went over to stand behind it. He picked up an arm and waved it at Daniel who laughed at the movements.
“Hello, DannyO'Neill,” Jack said in a gruff voice, imitating Teal'c.
The younger boy giggled, and then Jack whipped the arm up into a salute. As he did so, the skeleton's hand came loose and went flying across the room.
Jack was stunned, standing completely still, his eyes as wide as half-dollars, his mouth wide open in horror. Daniel started to laugh again.
“Did you see that?” he gasped in between laughs. “You should've seen your face.”
“Shhh, Danny,” Jack scowled as he recovered from his shock.
He watched as Daniel tried, and failed, to stifle his laughter, eventually holding onto his sides because he was laughing so hard. Daniel's laughter was infectious, and as he scurried to retrieve the hand, Jack started laughing, too. Their boyish giggles continued until Jack saw Janet hang up the phone. He grabbed the skeleton's hand and hid it behind his back as she came out of her office.
“What's going on out here?” Janet stopped, seeing the two boys. “You two look very familiar. Who are you?”
“We're ... Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn,” Jack lied with all the finesse of a boy trying desperately to avoid disaster.
“Tom and Huck?” Janet asked skeptically.
“I'm Tom,” Daniel decided.
“You are not.”
“Oh for crying out loud. I'm the brains of this outfit.”
“Wanna bet, Ja...Huck?”
“Betcha your new Battleship game!”
“And I betcha your sack of marbles!”
“That's not fair! I love my marbles!”
“And you're going to lose what's left of your marbles if you think you're the brains!”
“I am so the brains!”
“ALL RIGHT! Boys, calm down,” Janet ordered.
She stared at the young boys, and shook her head as she spoke, “You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were ...”
Just then the phone rang. Janet turned around to answer it, looking over her shoulder as she headed towards the office with the ringing phone in it, “You two stay right there.”
As soon as Janet picked up the phone, Jack put the broken skeleton hand on a table. As quick as he could, he grabbed Daniel's arm, and they ran out of the general infirmary, eventually ducking into one of the observation rooms.
“Wow, Jack, look at that big window. We've never been in here before.”
“Of course not. Grandpa has only let us play in his office before. We've never been allowed to see the fun stuff.”
“We can now,” Daniel said in a lively tone.
“Wanna go exploring, Danny?”
Daniel nodded excitedly as he began to treat the observation room like an artifact.
“Jack, I wonder what this does.”
“Danny, don't touch ...”
It was too late. Young Daniel had hit the panic button, and instantly, the alarms throughout the complex went off.
“Uh oh,” he said nervously. “What now, Jack?”
Jack laughed loudly. “Now we run ... and explore.”
“But the alarms ....”
“That's the best time, Danny. They all think some horrible thing has happened, but we know better. I know. Teal'c has that funny looking stick ... that long thing ...”
“Oh, I know what you mean, Jack. It reminds me of the staff Moses carried when he ...”
“Danny, no history lessons. I heard Teal'c say to one of the goons that he was going to take his big stick thing to his room. Let's go!”
The two boys raced each other down the corridor to the area of the SGC that they knew housed Teal'c's quarters. Jack had remembered Teal'c talking about the floor his room was on.
Jack noticed the funny looks they were getting from the various Marines and Airmen they passed, but they were all too busy to worry about the two boys, not suspecting they had anything to do with the blaring noise currently permeating the hallways of the SGC.
Seeing Teal'c running in their direction, Jack pulled Daniel into the first open door he found. It turned out to be a storage closet. He was fairly certain that if he saw them, Teal'c would insist on taking them back to Grandpa George, alarm or no alarm.
They waited a minute or two, Daniel hunched over Jack as the two looked out the crack of the barely open door. Finally, Jack decided it would be okay to continue their adventure.
“Coast is clear. Come on, but we need to avoid seeing any more people, or they'll guess where we are.”
“How do we do that?”
“We hide, like Hide and Seek.”
“I don't like that game very much, Jack.”
“That's because you can never find me,” Jack chuckled in response.
“You're good at hiding.”
“I'd never really hide from you, Danny. You know that, right?” Daniel nodded. “We're brothers, Danny. No matter what, you and me will always be like ... like a pencil and an eraser -- can't have one without the other and be worth anything.”
Daniel felt happy inside.
“You're the bestest brother, Jack.”
“Aw, Danny. I'm not so great.”
“Yes, you are!”
Jack grinned. He couldn't help it. He'd always looked up to his big brother, Billy, and now here was Daniel, looking up to him. He'd never let the younger boy down, not ever. It was a pledge he decided would be forever. In fact, Jack decided that in addition to being adopted brothers, they should be blood brothers.
“Danny, let's go over here.”
Jack surveyed the room. He found a roll of toilet paper and opened it, tearing off some. Daniel was at his side, totally confused. Then Jack led his brother to a corner, pulling out a pocket knife that his grandfather had given him.
“That's a cool knife,” Daniel said, looking at the red Swiss army knife.
“Grandpa gave it to me last year when we went fishing. It was right before our trip to New York when we found you.”
“What are you doing, Jack?” Daniel asked, alarmed.
“We're going to be blood brothers, Danny.”
“There's no tighter bond between two men. We swear on our lives that no matter what, we'll always be there for the other. Nothing and no one will ever come between us.”
“We are brothers now, Jack.”
“Yes, we are. This just seals the deal. It'll make us brothers physically because our blood will be mixed.”
Daniel didn't think Jack understood biology and chemistry very well, but that was okay. He liked the idea of being blood brothers. He watched as Jack slit his thumb.
“Doesn't that hurt?”
“A true brother will endure all pain for his brother without complaint.”
“I'm ready, Jack,” Daniel immediately responded, holding out his hand.
Jack smiled as he made the cut in Daniel's finger that matched his. He watched with pride. Daniel didn't even flinch. They joined their fingers, meshing together the dripping blood.
“How long do we do this?”
“For ... two minutes.”
“Why two minutes?”
“Because ....” Jack thought, trying to come up with a good answer, and then smiling, “because there's two of us!”
“Oh. That makes sense.”
~Geez, you make me feel good, Danny. It's nice to have a blood brother to depend on, and I know I can count on you forever, just like with Billy.~
After two minutes time, they pulled apart their fingers and used the toilet paper stop the bleeding.
“We're blood brothers now, Danny.”
“I'll never let you down, Jack.”
“Or me you. You can always count on me.”
Daniel smiled softly. Jack gave him a quick hug, and then checked his finger.
“Did the bleeding stop?” Daniel nodded. “Okay, but keep that wrapped around it for a little while.”
“You're such a worrywart, Jack.”
“It's my job as your big brother.”
“Oh. Okay then.”
“Ready to go find Teal'c's quarters?”
The two boys slowly opened the door, and after looking up and down the now-empty corridor, they left the storage closet. They opened various doors in search of the Jaffa's room.
“Jack, how will we know which room is Teal'c's?”
“He said it was at the end of the hallway.”
“Oh ... then how come we're opening all of these other doors?”
“To see what's inside!”
Daniel chuckled as he said, “You're funny, Jack.” Then Daniel opened a door at the end of the corridor. “I think this is it.”
The Jaffa's quarters were fairly plain, but the youngsters were really only interested in one thing anyway -- Teal'c's staff weapon.
“Why does T have so many candles? Guys aren't supposed to have candles; that's a girlie thing,” Jack asked.
“He uses them for meditation, and candles are not girlie. They're used in all kinds of religious rituals, the ancient Celts ...”
Jack rolled his eyes, causing Daniel to stop his mini-lecture. He looked like he had just lost the blood brother he had just gained.
“I'm boring you again,” Daniel said, looking down and folding his arms across his chest. “I'm sorry, Jack.”
Jack drew the younger boy into a warm hug. Daniel needed lots of reassurance, but Jack didn't mind at all. He felt lucky that he had such a wonderful family himself, and he just couldn't imagine what it must have felt like for Daniel to have watched his own parents die.
His own parents had asked Jack how he'd feel about Daniel becoming a part of the family, especially because of the added attention the young orphan would need. They were concerned Jack would feel unloved or maybe even like he was being pushed aside, but to Jack, he was gaining someone special in his life. He had bonded with Daniel from the first moment they had talked together in the museum, the younger boy not only traumatized by what he had just witnessed, but also being virtually ignored by everyone as he huddled in a corner.
It was Jack who had spotted him, walking over and introducing himself. Daniel had been crying. He didn't respond to Jack at first, but Jack refused to back away. In fact, he put his arm around Daniel's shoulder and comforted him until finally Daniel spoke, sniffling, “My name is Danny, and my parents are dead.”
Young Jack hadn't been sure what to do except to hold on to the shivering boy, and that's what he did until his parents finally came over to him. They had been appalled that the curators had ignored the small child, and Jack's dad had scooped Daniel up into his arms immediately.
The O'Neill's had exchanged one look, both nodding at the other, and then they began their battle with those who had attempted to keep Daniel from them. To the O'Neill's, it only took an instant. Daniel was already theirs.
From the beginning, Jack had been insistent that Daniel belonged with them. “He's already an O'Neill, Dad,” Jack had told his father. “No, Mom, I understand. I know you love me. Danny just needs to be loved, too, that's all.” To his older brother, he had said, “You watch, Billy. I'm gonna teach Danny all the neat things you've taught me.”
Since that conversation, Jack had worked hard to never forget that Daniel sometimes needed a little extra understanding, but his brother was doing great, and he was happy Daniel was his brother.
Now, in Teal'c's room, Jack knew he needed to make sure Daniel understood -- books were good, but playing was better! Actually, Jack and Daniel split their time between studying and playing and did practically everything together. Daniel helped Jack with his homework, and Jack helped Daniel learn how to play. It was a combination that worked extremely well.
“You never bore me, Danny. I want to hear all about the Celts, but not now, okay. I don't think we have much time before T comes back, and I want to play with his stick thing.”
“Why don't we take it back to our room? He won't look for it there, and we can hide it under one of the beds.”
Jack grinned with pride.
“Great idea! You are the brains of this outfit after all, aren't you, Danny?”
Daniel beamed at the praise as both boys grabbed different ends of the staff weapon and began making their way along the corridors back to their room.
“There's no sign of anything wrong, Sir,” Sam reported to General Hammond in the control room. “I don't know what could have set the alarms off. Everyone knows SOP if they set the alarms off by mistake so we've ruled out that possibility.”
Teal'c came up to stand beside her, and posed the question no one had yet asked.
“What of O'Neill and DanielJackson?”
Sam looked confused. ~They are ... under control ... I think.~ “They're in their VIP suite watching television and playing video games.”
General Hammond, however, exchanged a knowing glance with Teal'c. Both men had experience with young boys, and the General had just realized how foolish he had been not to ensure that these two boys in particular were being watched, especially considering one of them was Jack O'Neill. It was hard enough to stop the adult Jack from getting up to mischief, but a nine-year-old Jack was bound to be at least ten times worse. Hammond let out a sigh, knowing Jack was likely to be egging Daniel on as well.
“I want you to check their room immediately, Major, and then bring them back here. At no point are they to be left unsupervised.”
“It is likely that they are responsible for setting off the alarms, MajorCarter,” Teal'c said calmly.
“Daniel wouldn't ...” Sam began to protest before she realized that, for the moment, Daniel was not the Daniel they knew.
She raced out of the control room, Teal'c on her heels.
“I wonder how this works.”
Daniel shrugged. The two were back in their room. Jack held out the staff weapon, dropping it.
“Oops. Help me, Danny.”
The weapon was too heavy for him to hold by himself, so Daniel grabbed the back end.
“I wonder what happens if you move this ...”
“Wow!” both boys said when the staff weapon began to power up.
“Ready or not, here goes ...”
“We're inside. We might hurt someone,” Daniel said, concern evident in his youthful voice.
“Like I said, you're the brains of the outfit. Let's go outside.”
“How do we get there?”
“I saw one of the Marines go into this panel into the wall. I think it goes outside.”
“It's a long way up. Maybe we should take the elevator.”
“It's too busy. They might stop on the way up, and I think you have to have one of those cards for some of the floors. Besides, it's an adventure, Danny! What fun is an adventure if we do things the easy way?”
“Oh, okay. Let's go.”
Looking quickly out their door, and seeing the hallway clear, Jack and Daniel, carrying the staff weapon, made their way to the nearest access panel.
“That's a long way up, Jack. I don't like heights.”
“Just focus on me, Danny. You can do it. I have faith in you.”
Again, Daniel beamed, and somehow, grunting and using all of their might, the two boys made their way topside, carrying the staff weapon.
Sam was beginning to feel rather desperate. There was no sign of the boys in their VIP room, and they weren't in the commissary. Teal'c had gone to check his quarters, while she went to see if they were with Janet.
~And the day started out so well. I'm going to kill the Colonel when we get them back.~
“They ... those boys were really the Colonel and Daniel?” Janet couldn't believe it. “No wonder they seemed familiar.” She smiled at Sam, unable to resist saying, “Little Daniel is very cute. If he stays like this, I think I'll adopt him!”
“Stand in line!” Sam grinned. “I know what you mean. He just looks so huggable. I don't understand, Janet, how he could have suffered so much in foster care. A cute, sweet little boy like Daniel.”
Janet sighed, shaking her head.
“Well, he seemed happy enough with ... little Jack!”
“Oh, Janet, if you see him again, one word of warning. DON'T call him Daniel. He wants to be called Danny. In fact, he gets very upset if you call him that other name.”
Janet's eyebrows rose in disbelief, then she smirked, “How's Teal'c doing with that?”
“Not well. I think he's trying to avoid calling Daniel anything at the moment. And another piece of advice, try not to upset Daniel, or you'll have the Colonel on your back, and for a little kid he can still be intimidating.”
“It can't be worse than what we normally deal with ... can it?”
Sam gave Janet a look that answered the question, but just to make sure, she verbalized, “Little Jack has no inhibitions about protecting his brother, and I have the guilt scars to prove it!”
Sam explained about what had happened in the briefing room, and then informed Janet, “The General wants you to examine them, but we have to find them first.” The two women continued their discussion as they headed for the General's office. “If Teal'c hasn't found them, we'll have to organize a search of the entire base.”
The SGC was not a place for young boys to be wandering around, and Sam shuddered to think about all the trouble the two boys could get themselves into.
“And Grandpa George?” Janet laughed, “How's he handling this?”
Sam grinned at the memory of the General hugging the two boys in the gate room.
“Surprisingly well, considering he's just gained two grandsons in place of his 2IC and Head of Archeaology.” She finished in a whisper as they entered the General's office. He looked up at her, and she shook her head.
“GeneralHammond, MajorCarter, DoctorFrasier,” Teal'c came hurrying up to them. “Have you found them?”
“No, not yet. Teal'c, is something wrong?”
Sam saw the Jaffa's worried expression. Normally unflappable, Teal'c seemed a bit distraught, and that was certainly a cause for concern.
“It is most urgent that we locate them,” Teal'c spoke quickly. “I believe they have been in my quarters and have taken my staff weapon.”
Three horrified faces stared at him in shock.
“Teal'c, what was your staff weapon doing in your quarters? Why wasn't it in the armory?”
“The staff requires periodic maintenance, General. I had just retrieved the weapon from the armory to perform the cleaning. It was at that time that the alarm went off. I did not perceive the need to take the weapon with me and left it in my quarters. When I returned to search for the young O'Neill and ... his accomplice, the weapon was gone.”
“Teal'c, do you normally clean your staff weapon in your quarters?” the General asked.
“The staff weapon is an honored part of the Jaffa culture, GeneralHammond. I normally perform certain rites and meditation ceremonies during the maintenance. It is best to do those in the privacy of my quarters.”
“I see. We'll discuss that more later.”
Within minutes, every available person in the SGC had been ordered to help in a complete search of the base, inside and out.
“How about here?”
“Jack, it might start a fire or something. We don't know what it does.”
“Ah, Danny. Sometimes you're no fun.”
“I'm not. You're right. We need a safe target. Something old, run down, that no one cares about.”
After a few minutes, they came across a metal ... something sticking out of the ground.
“Does this look like anything, Danny?”
“It looks like a bunch of old pipes. It reminds me of this thing I saw in a museum once.”
“What do you think?”
Daniel looked at it and thought. It didn't seem connected to anything.
“Let's try it!”
The two moved quite a bit away, and struggled to hold up the staff weapon again. Jack initiated the power like he had done before.
Seconds later, the piping was a heap of nothing, the noise of the blast echoing through the mountaintop air.
“Jack!” Daniel stared at the place where the piping had been. “We are so dead. Grandpa is going to kill us.”
Jack hugged his brother close. That had been a bit more lively than he had anticipated.
“Come on, Danny, let's head back to that room Sam left us in.”
“What about the Moses staff? We can't just leave it here.”
Daniel looked at Jack trustingly.
“I guess not.”
Jack sighed and picked up the staff weapon, motioning to his little brother for help.
Lou Ferretti and his team were scouring the mountaintop for the two AWOL boys. Lou hadn't seen Jack Junior yet and was quite looking forward to seeing his friend as a youngster. He could get endless teasing material out of this.
~Wonder if anyone on base has a camera.~
Just then he heard a massive explosion. He exchanged a glance with his men and ran to the area the blast had come from. Before he made it there, he caught sight of the two boys running towards the SGC.
“JACK O'NEILL! YOU STOP RIGHT THERE, YOUNG MAN,” Lou yelled at his running friend.
Jack and Daniel heard Lou and stopped. Jack was aware that they had no chance of outrunning the older man while carrying the heavy weapon, and even if they could, it wouldn't make any difference. They'd still get into trouble when Lou told their Grandfather what they'd been up to.
Besides, he was getting a little worried about Daniel. The younger boy had started to wheeze and seemed to be having trouble breathing.
“Jack!” Lou grabbed the staff weapon from the two boys and glared at his young friend. “You know better than this Jack. You ...”
“Uncle Lou!” Jack interrupted. “I think Danny's having an asthma attack.”
Caught up in his exasperation with Jack and his curiosity in seeing his friend as a child, Lou had briefly forgotten Daniel. Now, though, he could see the difficulty the boy was having in breathing.
“Do you have your inhaler, Danny?” Jack asked worriedly.
Daniel shook his head, a tear escaping him as he held tightly onto Jack's hand.
“Geez, Jack.” Lou muttered as he picked Daniel up and began heading for the entrance to the Mountain, calling back over his shoulder to his men. “One of you secure that staff weapon and radio the General, tell him what's happened.”
“You'll be okay, Danny. We'll take care of you, won't we, Uncle Lou?” Jack's anxious face looked up at Lou.
“Sure we will. You'll be terrorizing your Grandfather in no time, Danny.” Lou shook his head at the peculiarity of the situation. ~If they think that the General is really their Grandfather, geez, I hope that doesn't mean I'm really their Uncle. That's just too weird.~
As they entered the complex, they were met by Janet and her staff, Sam, Teal'c, with the General bringing up the rear.
Jack ran to the small, red-headed woman and tugged on her white coat. Actually, it made for an odd sight. At age nine, Jack wasn't all that much shorter than the petite woman.
“You're a doctor, aren't you?”
“Yes, I am,” she smiled as she spoke calmly.
“My brother needs help.”
“Don't worry, Jack. I'll take care of Dan...”
“Janet,” Sam warned gently.
“I'll take care of Danny. Why don't you go with Sam and ...”
“NO! I won't leave my brother alone. Grandpa,” Jack turned and ran to the General, throwing his arms around the man, “Please let me stay with Danny.”
Again, the General found himself embracing this young version of his 2IC and quickly melting.
“Okay, Jack. Let's all go to the infirmary.”
“Better?” Daniel nodded. “Dan...ny, how long have you had asthma?”
He shrugged as he took another puff through the inhaler Janet had given him. She looked at Jack for the answer.
“Just for a year, Doctor lady. He didn't have it before his parents died.”
Daniel removed the device so he could explain.
“It's ... psychological. I'm better, but ... sometimes ...” he put the device back into his mouth.
“When he gets scared,” Jack noted. “But it's been a long time. You left your puffer at home, didn't you, Danny?”
“Puffer?” Janet asked.
“It's what I call it.”
“He teases me,” Daniel said with a smile after removing the device again. “I haven't needed it in a few months. There must be a lot of flowers around here,” looking at Jack, “because I wasn't that scared, Jack.”
“Uh, gentlemen,” Janet looked at the two boys, “what's this?”
Janet held both of their hands up, band-aids now covering the cuts they had made in their fingers.
“Can we tell, Jack?”
Jack beamed with pride, standing a bit straighter.
“Tell 'em, Danny!”
“We're blood brothers!”
Lou laughed. ~There's gonna be some great blackmail material after all.~
“What's so funny, Uncle Lou?” Danny asked sincerely.
That sincerity made Lou feel like a heel.
“Nothing, Danny. I'm sorry. Being blood brothers is serious stuff! You sure you want to do that with this bozo?”
“He's my brother!” Daniel responded fondly.
“Okay, people. Doctor Fraiser, I want you to do a full examination of ... the boys right away.”
“Examination?” Jack and Daniel said at the same time, automatically reaching out to hold hands.
“Don't worry, boys. It won't be painful.”
Three hours later, the exams were done, and the group was gathering together in the briefing room. Hammond was already seated, discussing ideas with Sam and Teal'c, when Janet and the boys entered.
“I wasn't sure what you wanted me to do with them, General.”
“Danny's tired, Grandpa. Can we go back to that room until you take us home?”
The General coughed, but quickly nodded.
“Teal'c, why don't you make sure they get to the VIP room without anymore detours. Post an SF.”
“What's an SF?” Daniel asked as he rubbed his eyes.
“I know!” Jack said.
Everyone smiled, even the General.
“You're right, Son. Teal'c.”
When Teal'c and the boys had left, Hammond looked to Janet for her report.
“They are two healthy boys, Sir, and without a doubt, they are Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. DNA matches perfectly.”
“Daniel's asthma?” Sam asked.
“He's right. It's actually probably a precursor to allergies, but based on the test results and what they told me, it's more a psychological side-effect from the death of the Jacksons. They've had a busy day today, so I'm not at all surprised that he would have the attack. He has an inhaler now, so he should be fine.”
“Major, tomorrow I want you to take a team through to the planet and see if you can learn anything more about what happened.”
“Yes, Sir. Ah, General, what about Jack and Daniel ... tonight?”
Hammond shook his head as he looked down, his fingers tapping against the tabletop.
“I guess I'll take them home, Major.”
Sam smiled. She just knew the General was a soft touch!
General Hammond approached the door to the VIP room Jack and Daniel had been given. He was pleased to see the SF was still outside the door although the two were probably too tired to cause too much more havoc.
~Famous last words, George. Never underestimate your enemy, especially when they're pint-sized.~
He nodded to the Marine standing guard who gratefully left his post. Babysitting children wasn't the most glamorous of tasks.
General Hammond opened the door and smiled. Jack was seated on the bed watching television, Daniel's head in his lap. Jack's left hand was absent-mindedly stroking the younger boy who looked like he was fast asleep. Jack looked up and smiled.
“Are we going home now, Grandpa?”
Jack looked down at the head on his lap then back at the General.
“I suppose we have to wake him up.”
“I'm afraid so.” He reached out and gently shook Daniel's shoulders. “Danny. Time to wake up, sleepy head.”
“J'ck?” Daniel croaked.
“I'm here, Danny. So's Grandpa. It's time to go home.”
General Hammond found himself looking into a pair of hopeful blue eyes, and he smiled at the sleepy looking boy. ~You do make a cute little boy, Daniel.~ He felt an unexpected stab of pride at the thought of being a grandfather to these two lads. Jack's protectiveness of his younger brother was endearing, and Daniel was an incredible child.
“Hey, Grandpa,” Daniel gave the General sleepy smile, then added in a tentative but hopeful voice, “Will you carry me?”
Glancing across at Jack, the General saw an equally hopeful look. Just as well Daniel wasn't particularly heavy. ~Even so, I bet my back will make me pay for this tomorrow.~ Nonetheless, he held out his arms and was rewarded with a megawatt smile from both boys as Daniel put his arms around the General's neck so he could be lifted up.
As he walked along the corridors of the SGC, General Hammond caught sight of faces peering out of various doors for a sneak look at their CO carrying the Head of Archaeology towards the elevator, his 2IC by his side hanging onto his jacket.
By the time they arrived at the General's house, Daniel was beginning to wake up from his late afternoon nap. Jack saw his eyes open and gave him a friendly punch.
“Sleep well, Dannyboy?”
“Yep. Are we there yet, Grandpa?”
“Almost, Daniel.” The General caught the scowl in his rearview mirror. “Sorry, Danny.”
“Why does everyone keep calling me 'Daniel', Grandpa?”
“Ah ... there's someone at the SGC who prefers to be called Daniel. I suppose it's habit for everyone.”
The General waited nervously to see if this explanation would be accepted and breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed to be.
“Daniel sounds so stuffy,” Jack commented.
“Yeah,” the young Daniel agreed. “I like being Danny.”
As he pulled into his driveway, the General wondered if he had made the right decision about bringing the boys home, and yet, he didn't know how in good conscience he could have left them at the base alone.
“We're here,” he informed the boys.
They all got out of the car, and Hammond watched as the boys raced for the front door. Hammond unlocked the door and was surprised when Jack and Daniel ran inside and went straight to the guest bedroom, as if it were theirs.
“This is my bed,” Jack insisted.
“I want that one.”
“Nope, it's mine!”
“Fine. I didn't want it anyway. I want this one. It's bigger.”
“But this one is by the window.”
“You can have it.”
“I already have it, Danny.”
Young Daniel grunted while Hammond laughed.
“Grandpa, can we go outside and play?”
“Sure, Jack. Go ahead. I'll let you know when dinner is ready.”
Hammond watched Jack and Daniel run outside and begin to play on the swings. He had called his daughter earlier to make sure she didn't have any plans to bring over his real grandchildren that night. He wasn't sure how'd he'd explain them to Tessa and Kayla if the two boys acted like they knew his granddaughters.
As the Major General prepared dinner for the three of them, he could hear the boys playing. About twenty minutes later, though, he realized things were too quiet. Walking out into the back yard, the General stood aghast.
“Danny, stop that!”
“He's showing me how to dig, Grandpa!”
“My birth parents used to take me on digs all the time. Look, what we found!”
“Isn't it great, Grandpa?” Jack asked.
The two boys were filthy, covered in dirt, muddied by the use of the water hose, though Hammond had no clue why they had the hose out for their “dig.” Both had been wearing white T-shirts, which were now grass stained and browned by the dig. Dirt on their faces made them look like they were on a covert mission, the dark smudges covering most of their noses, cheeks and even their mouths.
Jack and Daniel had dug up a five foot section of the vegetable garden, and at the moment, Jack was holding up a bone.
“I bet it's prehistoric, Danny,” Jack said enthusiastically.
“A dinosaur?” Daniel asked with wide eyes. “Bet that's the oldest one ever found in Colorado!”
Hammond took a deep breath, begging for patience. ~It's a piece of bone that my old dog, Clancy, buried a few years ago. Who knows how many of those are around here!~
“You two get in the house and clean up. Dinner will be done in ten minutes. MOVE!”
“Yes, Sir!” Jack stood and did a mock salute.
Daniel stood up and tried to imitate Jack. “Yes, Grandpa ... Sir!”
“Scoot!” Hammond clapped his hands together not even trying to hide his smile.
Several minutes later, Jack appeared in the kitchen, dressed only in a large white towel that covered his entire body.
“Grandpa, we don't have any clothes! Mom and Dad forgot to leave our suitcase with us.”
“Yeah,” Daniel added, running into the kitchen behind his brother. The youngest O'Neill was also dressed only in a towel. “I think it's because we were hugging for so long, Jack. Remember, they were almost late for Africa? We all forgot.” Jack nodded in remembrance of their farewell. “We had all our clothes and books ...”
“Books? Danny, did you pack books?”
Daniel looked down shyly as he admitted, “I asked Mom to pack just a few, Jack.”
“In place of our toys?”
“Just a couple, Jack, but I made sure she included your yo-yo and G.I. Joe.”
“Ah, Danny -- books?”
Hammond just stared. He'd forgotten about clothes, and the only children's clothes at the house were his granddaughters'. He didn't think the two boys would want to wear pajamas that had Barbie on them.
Quickly, he made a phone call to Sam, who immediately did some emergency shopping, showing up at Hammond's house an hour later, the two boys refusing to talk to her until they had decent clothes to wear.
“I can't believe we wore Barbie clothes, Jack.”
“It was that or go naked, Danny.”
“This is much better,” Daniel said, putting on his plain pajamas.
“Sam has a funny sense of humor. Look, Danny. It's Homer Simpson!”
Daniel laughed, then suggested, “Maybe she thinks you look like Homer Simpson!”
“I do not look like him!”
“I'll get you,” Jack mock-threatened and with a delighted squeal of laughter, Daniel ran out of the room, Jack chasing him, into the living room where General Hammond sat in an armchair trying to read a book.
“Are you ready for bed yet, boys?”
Jack went up to the General and whispered in his ear. General Hammond looked down at him then looked across at Daniel and caught sight of him staring at the piano in the corner of the room, a look of naked longing on his face.
“Danny? Will you play something for Jack and I?”
The General couldn't resist that look on Daniel's face. The adult Daniel knew of Hammond's love of music; they often discussed it during calmer, more private times, and sometimes even during Daniel's performance reviews.
Young Daniel beamed.
~Okay, George. Listen to Jack where Daniel is concerned.~
Jack had whispered in his ear that Daniel would really like to play the piano. He'd been looking forward to playing something for his 'Grandpa' all week but wasn't convinced that Hammond would want to hear it.
As Daniel began to play, Jack took up residence at his brother's side watching the slender fingers fly over the keys. The General sat back and enjoyed the recital. He hadn't realized that Daniel was such a talented pianist.
As the last sounds of the symphony faded away, Jack burst into applause, and General Hammond joined in. Daniel smiled shyly and stunned the General by walking over to his chair and climbing onto his lap.
“Did you really like it, Grandpa?” he asked hopefully.
“Course he did, Danny.”
Jack came over and leaned on the arm of the chair.
“As a matter of fact, I did enjoy it. You're very good. I'd like to hear you play more often.”
Daniel grinned, the smile turning into a yawn as he said, “Anytime, Grandpa.” He looked at Jack who nodded at him in silent encouragement. “Will you read us a bedtime story?”
The General found himself the recipient of longing looks from both blue and brown eyes. He smiled.
“Okay. Here, or in bed?”
“Here,” Daniel said, wriggling to get more comfortable.
The General did a mental inventory of the books he had that boys might enjoy. ~Ah, can't beat a classic, and I think this one will have particular appeal.~
“Jack, see that small red book over there? Could you bring it over, please?”
Jack pulled it out and handed it over.
“Come up here, Jack.” Daniel held out his hand. “You have to sit here, too.”
Jack grinned and climbed onto the General's other knee. It was a tight fit, but somehow they managed to get everyone comfortable. The General opened the book and began reading.
“A Bear called Paddington. Chapter One. Please Look After this Bear.” He continued reading, and when he read, “I'm a very rare sort of bear,” Jack grinned at Daniel.
“That's like you, Danny. You're a very rare sort of boy; that's what Mom and Dad always say.”
“That's good, right?” Daniel checked anxiously.
Jack sighed and punched his arm, speaking as only a brother could do,
“Of course, it's good, you nitwit.”
Daniel grinned, and the General continued reading. They reached the end of the first chapter, and with not very much persuading, the General found himself reading the next chapter, “A Bear in Hot Water.”
Jack let out a huge yawn, just as the General finished the final paragraph of the second chapter.
“I think he's asleep!” Hammond said softly.
Jack looked across at Daniel and gave his grandfather a sleepy grin. “Me, too ... almost.”
“Let's get Danny to bed. It's been a long day.”
Jack scooted off the chair and went to the bedroom, quickly moving onto his bed.
“Danny gets that bed.”
Hammond gently pushed back the covers and laid Daniel on the bed. The young boy opened his eyes just as the General pulled the covers over him.
“I love you, Grandpa.”
Hammond looked at the boy, and saw the expectation.
“I love you, too, Son,” Hammond said as he leaned over and placed a kiss on Daniel's forehead. ~I don't know what's happening, but right now, he's a little boy, and that's all that matters.~
With a big smile, Daniel rolled over on his side and went back to sleep. Hammond stood up and looked down at the child for a moment. Then he turned and saw Jack staring at him. ~Can't do for one and not the other.~
He walked over and tucked Jack in, not missing the large smile on youngster's face as he did so. He leaned over and kissed Jack on the forehead, too, and smiled.
“I love you, too, Son.”
Jack grinned as he settled.
“Love you loads, Grandpa. Goodnight.”
Hammond left the room and went about his business. Two hours later, he decided to call it a night himself. He looked in on the boys and was momentarily alarmed when Daniel's bed was empty ... until he looked over at Jack's bed and found the two boys huddled together, both sound asleep. Each faced the window and was snug against their individual pillows.
~Just like my granddaughters sleep when they're here.~
The next morning, Hammond felt something light rubbing against his cheek. When he opened his eyes, he discovered two smiling little boys attempting to tickle him with a feather.
“Where'd you get that feather?”
“I don't think we should have taken it, Jack.”
“Jack,” Hammond spoke, “answer the question.”
“We got it ... well ... you see ... it was ....”
“We got it from the big pillow in one of the guest rooms.”
“Son, the only way to get the feathers out of the pillow is ...”
Daniel looked away, and Hammond knew whatever had happened was bound to be a disaster, but before he could say anything, Jack said, “We're sorry for the mess, but we made you breakfast.”
Jack nodded, and suddenly both he and Daniel went to the end of the bed and brought over the tray of breakfast foods, if they could be called that.
As best General Hammond could tell, on his plate was a scrambled egg mixed with something that tasted like orange juice, two shriveled up pieces of sausage, and something that looked like it might have once been a piece of bread.
“You don't have to eat it,” Daniel said softly. “We sort of messed it up.”
“But we meant well,” Jack added.
Hammond had eaten worse, and just as he had endured meals from Netu courtesy of his daughter's when they were children, and more recently his granddaughters, he now ate every bite of the untasty meal, acting as if it had been the best food he'd ever tasted.
Jack and Daniel were thrilled.
~You owe me, Colonel,~ Hammond thought as he got up to dress. He wasn't looking forward to the trip downstairs, not sure what condition the kitchen would be in.
A few minutes later, his question was answered.
“We ... had a few accidents,” Daniel said sheepishly. “We're sorry.”
Hammond ran his fingers through Daniel's shaggy hair.
“That's okay, Son, but it's time for a bit of mop-up duty.”
“You aren't angry?”
“Of course not, but next time, be more careful!”
Enthusiastically, the boys helped their grandfather clean the kitchen, and then the trio headed for Cheyenne Mountain. On the agenda for the day, Sam and Teal'c would be returning to the planet, and Hammond would be babysitting when not in meetings.
Hammond had briefly considered using the childcare facilities offered at the Mountain, but that left the boys open to the possibility of hearing something that might be psychologically damaging. They couldn't control what other children or adults might say, and until they had properly evaluated the potential psychological effects of reality on the young boys, the Major General knew he needed to keep them within their small SGC family.
“Grandpa, are you going to stick us in that room again?”
He saw the disapproving looks in the young faces and melted. He would not be able to leave Jack and Daniel under guard with strangers or personnel who thought they were an oddity. With the possibility of the daycare center out and Sam and Teal'c both occupied, he decided to use the only other person the boys seemed truly fond of.
“You wanted to see me, Sir.”
“Uncle Lou!” two boys exclaimed in unison.
Lou smiled as he greeted them with an enthusiastic, “Hey, boys!”
He reached out and ruffled the hair on both boys' heads.
~Jack's going to kill me when he gets back to normal.~
“Major, I have a meeting this morning with people from the Pentagon so you've just volunteered to babysit these two ragamuffins.”
The General hid a smirk at the look of horror that flashed across Lou's face.
“I don't need a babysitter!” Jack scowled.
“Me, neither!” Daniel piped up.
“Either, not neither,” Jack whispered.
“Me ... neither, either,” Daniel said with a smile, folding his arms in a huff.
“Now, boys, you know I can't let you run around the base unsupervised. Remember what happened yesterday.”
The two boys looked sheepishly at the General. He had lectured them for twenty minutes over breakfast this morning on the proper behavior of young gentlemen while at a military base, and at the top of the list was “don't touch anything without permission.”
“We'll be good,” Daniel said sincerely.
Hammond smiled at the youngster and then turned his gaze on Jack who shifted uncomfortably.
~I have to teach Danny how to be a kid.~ Jack crossed his fingers behind his back, believing it would sufficiently negate any promises made. “Sure, Grandpa, we'll be good.”
The General looked closely at those brown eyes looking so innocently at him. He wasn't convinced of Jack's sincerity, but decided to question the boy would be unfair.
~I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, Jack. I just hope I don't regret it.~
He gave the two boys a hug and watched them leave, each holding onto one of Lou's hands.
It took some time for Lou to reach his office. It wasn't just his office, but a room that he and two other Majors shared when working on base and not off-world. Their delay was caused by being stopped by various SGC personnel who wanted to meet Jack and Daniel.
Daniel, in particular, was the recipient of curious looks. Lou suspected that a lot of personnel were still terrified of Jack, even if he was currently only nine-years-old. He saw Paul Davis coming towards them and grinned. Jack wasn't too fond of the SGC's liaison officer at the Pentagon, and he was looking forward to seeing how this version of Jack reacted.
“Hello, Major,” Paul Davis greeted him, his eyes flying straight to Daniel.
He smiled at the boy and was a little disconcerted when Daniel didn't smile back. He looked at Jack and was even more unsettled to find two brown eyes glaring at him.
“They're awfully cute.”
“I am not cute!”
Lou bit back a laugh. Jack had used his scary Colonel voice which coming from a nine-year-old was simply comical.
“Neither am I!” Daniel's glare joined Jack's.
“Ah ... okay.”
Paul Davis looked over at Lou who took pity on the poor man.
“Be nice, boys.”
“But he's a politician, Uncle Lou!”
“No, he's not Jack.”
“But Grandpa says ...”
“Jack, I wouldn't be quoting your ... grandfather out in the open like this.”
“Who does he think his grandfather is?”
Davis had heard about the youthful members of SG-1 through the grapevine, but he hadn't yet received the details of who they thought they were.
Davis coughed, looking at the boys. He gave a weak smile.
Jack just crossed his arms and looked stubborn. Daniel copied Jack's stance.
“Can we have a closer look at the Stargate, Uncle Lou? Pleeeease,” Daniel pleaded with the Major.
Lou sighed. After Jack and Daniel had become bored stiff in the office, he had finally taken them to the gym which they'd enjoyed, but Daniel had kept pestering him for a closer look at the Stargate.
“Pleeeease, Uncle Lou.”
Jack's pleas joined Daniel's, and Lou melted.
“Okay, okay. Sheez. What's a guy to do?”
They went to the control room first, Lou checking to ensure that there were no missions or returns scheduled for the next half hour, and then he took his charges into the gate room.
“Now, boys, you can look, but don't touch anything,” Lou told them firmly and went over to talk to one of the Marines guarding the room.
“Jack, look at these symbols,” Daniel gazed admiringly at the gate.
Jack shook his head.
“Forget them, Danny.”
He looked across to make sure that Lou was distracted and pulled a large permanent marker from his pocket.
He bent down as if he were examining the Stargate and began to write at the bottom of the base, “Jack and”
“Jack, you can't do that,” Daniel whispered, looking back nervously over his shoulder at Lou.
“Sure we can.” He pulled his brother down and handed Daniel the marker. “Now write your name.”
Daniel hesitated, but only for a second, and added his name. He handed the marker back to Jack who added “were here.” They looked at each other and grinned.
“Okay boys, are you ready to ...” Lou's voice startled them, and they stood up looking guilty. Lou looked at them suspiciously. “What are you two looking guilty about?”
“Nothing.” Jack said immediately, and perhaps just a little too quickly for Lou's taste.
He nudged Daniel who quickly added his own “nothing.” They stood by, smiling innocently, their hands behind their backs.
“Okay, how about we go get something to eat?”
The boys exclaimed their agreement, and the trio made a beeline for the door. Still not managing to shake the feeling that the two had been up to something, Lou told the boys to wait for a minute.
He walked halfway up the ramp and began to study the Stargate, carefully going chevron to chevron to chevron to ... ~Oh, no!~
His eyes widened as he spotted the scrawled phrase “Jack and Danny were here” towards the bottom.
~I didn't even know you could write on this stuff.~
Pretending he hadn't seen it, Lou quickly returned to the boys.
“Anything wrong, Uncle Lou?” Jack asked a bit smugly.
“Not a thing, Jack, except I'm hungry. Commissary ... and hurry!”
“Jack, stop that,” Lou swatted his friend's hand.
Jack snickered. He had just used his spoon to toss a few peas across the table. They had hit the back of a private's head, but the private was so involved talking to another private, one of the opposite sex, that he never really felt the peas. He had simply reached back with his hand as if pushing a fly away.
“Boys, you have to tell me something.”
“What do you want to know?” Jack asked.
“I'm your uncle, right?”
“How?” both Jack and Daniel asked.
“You're silly, Uncle Lou,” Daniel added.
“Maybe, but humor me. How are we related?”
Jack looked at Lou like he was the stupidest man on Earth.
“Gee whiz, Uncle Lou, you're Dad's little brother.”
Lou scrunched his face in disbelief. There was no logic to that at all.
“Um, Jack. What's my last name?“
“Oh pul-leeez,” Jack droned. “Do you believe this, Danny?“
Daniel rolled his eyes and whispered to his brother, “I think there's something in the water. Everyone is acting a bit strange, Jack.”
“You're right, Danny.”
“Come on, Jack. Humor me.”
Lou looked at his name tag. He considered saying something, but decided against it, not knowing the possible repercussions.
~Better ask Doc Fraiser what to do about things like this.~
“Wait here, boys, and please be good.”
He walked over to the phone on the commissary wall and dialed Janet's office. While doing so, he missed Jack and Daniel teaming up for a double dose of “toss the peas at the private.”
“Gotcha!” Jack yelled at the private.
The private immediately turned and glared at the youngster, having no clue about his true identity.
“You two are such dead meat.”
The private began walking over to them, and Jack stood up, his fists raised, Daniel taking up the same pose beside him.
The Marine laughed as he boasted, “I can kill a man fifty ways; you two are so far out of your league.”
“Oh, yeah,” Jack taunted, “At least we have brains. Everyone knows you only join the Marines if you flunk out of the Air Force and the Navy.”
The Marine's face tightened with anger, and he grabbed Jack's brown T-shirt as he threatened, “You little ...”
“LET ME GO!” Jack yelled.
Hearing his friend's voice, Lou hung up the phone and raced over to them, but not in time to stop Daniel giving the Marine a swift kick in the leg.
“Yeah, Let him go ... you ... you MEANIE!”
“PRIVATE!” Lou's sharp voice stopped the Marine in his tracks.
“Sir.” He looked resentfully at Jack and Daniel. “Who are these kids?”
Lou couldn't resist teaching the Marine a lesson. He was positive Jack had provoked the guy, but scaring two kids was not acceptable in his book, not to mention it was simply bad decorum to get into a fight in the commissary.
He smirked, “They're General Hammond's grandsons.”
The Marine paled then seemed to remember, “I thought he only had granddaughters.”
Daniel scowled, “He has us, too. I don't like you.”
Deciding it might be better to end this, Lou ushered the two scowling boys away, advising the Marine to be more careful in the future.
“Okay, boys, how about we play some basketball?”
“I'm not very good at sports.”
“Yet! You aren't good at sports ... YET, Danny, but you're a bunch better than you were when we met. You hit a triple last week in baseball.”
“There you go! Triples aren't easy to make, Danny.”
“I got lucky,” Daniel beamed, unable to hide his pride at his accomplishment.
“Let's play, Uncle Lou,” Jack urged.
Lou took the boys topside where they had a makeshift basketball court. Within minutes, several other Marines and Airmen had joined in, all eager to share their sporting expertise with Daniel who studied the sport like a textbook. Jack didn't care, just as long as Daniel was playing and not reading ... and having fun. Judging from the laughter and shine in Daniel's eyes, he was definitely having a good time.
“Major Carter, Teal'c, welcome back,” Hammond greeted the two as they returned from P4X-590. “Any luck?”
“Not really, Sir.”
“There is only the legend which we spoke of before, GeneralHammond.”
“Sir, there was one thing that seemed odd.”
As Sam told the General about the smooth, velvet-like patch of the cavern wall, the place where the children on the planet had told her they saw Daniel sitting near, Teal'c casually looked around the gate room, just observing as he normally did.
Seeing Teal'c do a double take, something he had never done before, Hammond asked, “Teal'c, is there something wrong?”
“Jack and Danny were here.”
“We know that, Teal'c,” Sam said, confusion in her voice.
“That is not what I meant, MajorCarter. It is written on the Stargate.”
“What?” General Hammond and Sam both spoke at once and turned to look in the direction Teal'c was pointing.
Sam bent down, rubbed her finger against the words on the Stargate, then licked her finger to see if it came off. It didn't. She stood up slowly trying to hide a smile.
“It ... ah ... won't come off, Sir.”
“What did they use? Surely there must be something that will get it off?” The General really didn't want to have to explain to the Pentagon why their Stargate now had “Jack and Danny were here” written on it.
Sam shrugged nervously. ~Wait! Why am I nervous? This didn't happen on my watch. I wasn't even on the planet!~. “I think they must have used one of the permanent markers from my lab. They're the only ones that will write on objects containing naquadah. The only thing that will get that off the Stargate is a lot of scrubbing.”
“Very well. Guess what those two are doing for the rest of the afternoon? ... and since Major Ferretti was supposed to be watching them, he can assist,” General Hammond snapped. “Major, exactly how did those two ... boys get access to your lab?”
“We stopped by there yesterday, or ... Sir, I usually keep a marker in the control room for easy access. They could have picked it up there.”
“Might I suggest you keep a better eye on your markers, Major.”
The General exited to track down his errant grandchildren.
“I'm going to get a camera. I have got to get a photo of this,” Sam said eagerly as she struggled not to chuckle.
“Blackmail?” Teal'c asked.
“Indeed,” Sam said coolly, raising her eyebrows.
“Great shot, Danny,” Jack patted his brother on the back after Daniel made his second straight basket in a row. “See, it just takes practice.”
“This is fun, Jack!”
“I told ya!”
As the exchange continued, Lou was the first to see General Hammond stalking towards them.
“He doesn't look happy,” the Major said softly, getting the boy's attention.
Immediately, all the Marines and Airmen began looking at each other, desperately trying to recall if they'd done anything wrong. Lou, unfortunately, didn't have to try very hard. It was more a matter of wondering which particular activities of Jack and Daniel had the General looking so thunderous.
“JACK AND DANIEL O'NEILL,” General Hammond fixed the two boys with a stern glare.
Lou decided to stand behind them, ~not for protection, just ... covering their six.~
The two moved closer together, linking their hands as they looked up at their grizzly bear grandfather.
“Which one of you wrote on the Stargate?”
A couple of Marines let out muffled snorts of laughter before the General fixed them all with a steely glare.
“I did,” Daniel spoke up immediately. “Jack didn't do anything.”
“I did so, Danny. You are not taking the blame for me.”
“No,” Jack grinned at his younger brother. “We're a team; what happens to one, happens to both.”
General Hammond was touched by the loyalty of the two boys to each other, and he could see looking around that he wasn't the only one. He sighed and held out his hands to them. As they walked hand in hand back into the SGC, he turned and called to Lou.
“Come on, Major. You have some scrubbing to do.”
“I'm going to kill Jack when he gets back to normal,” Lou muttered as he followed the three back into the Mountain.
By the time they reached his office, the General had changed his mind about making Jack and Daniel scrub their writing off the Stargate. He smiled to himself. He'd make them do it when they returned to their normal selves ... ~If they return to their normal selves.~
At the moment, though, it was time for a proper lecture. He sat Jack and Daniel down in the chairs that were in front of his desk. Hammond wanted to look a bit menacing.
“Now listen to me, writing on the Stargate is a bad thing.”
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Because it's government property, for one reason, and because it doesn't belong to you for another. ”
“Oh,” Jack responded, sneaking a glance at Daniel, a small smile on his face, something Hammond didn't miss.
“Jack. Daniel. The Stargate is my responsibility. If something happens to it, it's my fault. It doesn't matter if someone else does the damage, anything that goes on around that device is my doing.”
Hammond saw the two sad faces as the boys took in his words. ~Ah. Listening to me at last?~ Hammond continued, hopeful his message was getting across.
“You promised me that you would behave, and then you got into trouble. You wrote on the Stargate, something we may not be able to get off. Now I have to figure out some way of doing that or get in trouble myself. I'm very disappointed in the two of you. I thought I could trust you.”
“You can trust us,” Daniel said softly.
“Yeah!” Jack added, sneaking a look at Daniel.
Hammond's phone rang, and he turned his attention to it. When it ended, he covertly stayed on the line to hear what Jack and Daniel were whispering to each other.
“We didn't mean to get him in trouble.”
“We didn't, Danny.”
“He said we did.”
“Yeah, but that's grandfather-speak for us just being normal boys and doing what kids our age do.”
Daniel thought for a moment, then asked, “And what's that, Jack?”
“Having adventures ... and sometimes, getting into trouble is just part of making adventures happen. He still loves us. We're doing good.”
“Are you sure? He said he was disappointed in us.”
“Trust me, Danny. It's okay.”
Daniel smiled and even snickered at his brother when he said, “It was fun, wasn't it? Just think, Jack, for years and years to come, everyone will know that we traveled through the Stargate. We'll be part of history!”
Jack beamed as he responded, “Yeah, exactly! See! It's normal!”
A bit perplexed on what to do, Hammond hung up the phone, and decided to use an old standby tactic for disciplining. He pulled out two pieces of paper, handing one to Daniel and one to Jack. He stood and scooted their chairs forwards to touch his desk. Then, he gave each a pencil to write with.
“I want you both to write this until I tell you to stop. No conversation. No stopping.”
“Yes, grandfather,” Daniel said, gulping.
“I will never again write on the Stargate.”
Hammond looked on his grandkids sternly, and both began to write in earnest. The General couldn't help but smile when he noticed that Daniel was writing the phrase first in English, then in Arabic, French, and finally in Latin. Daniel seemed to hesitate, struggling to write it in Russian, too, but apparently he didn't quite know enough of the words -- yet.
~How many languages are you up to, Doctor Jackson? I believe it was forty-something the last time it came up in discussion.~ Hammond smiled as he looked at the intelligent child. ~Eight-years-old and already a genius.~
Ten minutes later, the trio were interrupted.
“General,” Sergeant Davis hurried into his office. “The NID are here. The front gate just alerted me.”
Looking up, Jack tensed when he heard the acronym. He didn't know what it meant, but he knew it was bad, especially when he saw the worried glance that the General shot them.
“What the blazes do they want?”
“I don't know, General.”
Hammond looked at the two boys and sighed, not liking the possibility that maybe someone had contacted the NID behind his back. As Davis left, Hammond picked up the phone.
“Major Carter, my office now.”
He hung up and dialed another number.
“Jack, what's going on? Who's NID?” Daniel whispered, moving his chair even closer to Jack's than it had been before.
“I don't know. They sound mean. Grandpa's worried.”
Just as Hammond hung up the phone, Sam arrived.
“Grandpa, what's the NID?”
“NID?” Sam said, surprised to hear Daniel use the acronym.
“Major, I have an urgent task for you to handle.”
“Quickly, Major. I have important ... cargo ... that I suspect needs protecting. I may not be able to fend them off ... Sam.”
Suddenly, Sam felt a knot at the pit of her stomach. The General obviously was worried about Jack and Daniel becoming guinea pigs for the NID.
“Sir, I need to ...”
“Now, Major, you know I don't have time to be informed about what and WHERE you do whatever it is you do all the time.”
“Jack. Daniel. Let's go.”
The two boys looked at the General with eyes as big as quarters. He nodded, but said nothing.
“Hurry,” Sam said again.
Their papers still in their hands, the boys let Sam usher them out of Hammond's office. All three were silent as they made their way to Teal'c's quarters.
“Teal'c, the NID are here.” She saw understanding dawn in the Jaffa's eyes as he stood up to follow her. “We'll change and go to a mall, wait for Hammond to contact us.”
Teal'c nodded, and the four of them made their way to the locker rooms. Jack and Daniel exchanged nervous glances as Sam and Teal'c changed, then they were off again, through the back corridors of the SGC to the top of the Mountain. Swiftly guiding the boys to her car, Sam drove away from the complex.
“What's going on, Sam?” Jack demanded from the back seat.
“Who are the NID?” Daniel added from beside him.
Teal'c and Sam exchanged another look.
“The NID are dishonorable people, O'Neill.”
“Why are you calling us 'O'Neill', Teal'c? Our names are Jack and Danny,” Daniel said as he stared at the back of the Jaffa's head.
Sam smirked until Teal'c shot her a menacing look, and then she figured she'd try and explain as best she could. “It's just his way, Danny.”
“The NID are after us, aren't they?” Daniel questioned again. “We're the cargo Grandpa was talking about, Jack.”
“Don't worry, Danny, I won't let the NID get you!” Jack reassured his brother.
“Neither MajorCarter nor myself will allow any harm to come to either of you ... Danny,” Teal'c said, wincing as he barely managed to get out Daniel's nickname.
“We won't write on the Stargate any more. We promise,” Daniel said.
“Yes, well, that's a good thing, Danny ... not to write on the Stargate,” Sam spoke, trying not to chuckle.
“Okay, you guys, how about we go shopping for some more clothes?” Sam suggested, thinking that they needed to augment the boys wardrobe anyway.
“Can't we go to Toys 'R Us?” Jack pleaded.
“Or Barnes and Noble ... ow,” Daniel reacted as he glared at Jack who had just hit him for making the suggestion that instead of shopping for toys they shop for books.
“Clothes first, then each of you can pick one other store of your choice for us to visit.”
Jack and Daniel did a “high five” and then followed Sam and Teal'c into the mall. Entering a clothes shop a few minutes later, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c were dismayed when Sam enthusiastically began to pick out item after item.
“Do we have to try them on?” Jack whined. “We know what size we are.”
“Yes you do, Jack.” Sam firmly ushered the two over to the changing rooms. “Now when you've got that first set on, come out and show Teal'c and I. We'll be right here.”
In the changing room, Jack dumped the clothes on the floor.
“This is boring.”
He noticed that Daniel was deep in thought and nudged him, asking, “Whatcha' thinking?”
“Isn't Grandpa going to get into trouble for hiding us?” Daniel asked Jack with concern.
Jack thought about it for a moment then his eyes lit up.
“Hey, lets sneak off, then Sam and T can go back and tell Grandpa that they don't know where we are, and Grandpa won't get into trouble!”
Daniel frowned. He wasn't sure of Jack's logic but the prospect of staying with Sam and Teal'c and trying on clothing was very unappealing. He'd rather play basketball.
“We can go check out the bookstores,” Daniel said hopefully, but Jack just sighed.
“Toy stores, Danny. Kids go to toy stores, and we're kids!”
He sighed again when he saw the disappointment in Daniel's eyes. “Oh, okay. After the toy shops, we'll go to one bookstore, but only one.”
Daniel smiled brightly and again threw his arms around Jack.
“You're the bestest brother, Jack.”
Jack couldn't help but feel pleased at Daniel's praise. He liked being an older brother. Leaving the clothes they were supposed to try on in a pile on the floor, they peered out and saw Sam and Teal'c talking.
“Now, Danny,” Jack whispered.
Keeping low and near the wall, the two sneaked past their guardians to freedom. As soon as they were out of the store, they made a dash for the other end of the mall.
“I did not drool on that book, Jack,” Daniel stated as they walked out of the Barnes and Noble bookstore.
“I'm hungry, Jack.”
“Me, too.” Jack dug in his pockets. “I don't have any money though.”
“I do,” Daniel admitted a little reluctantly.
Daniel nodded, and digging into his back pocket, he fished out a wallet.
Jack's eyes opened wide in admiration and awe.
“How did you get it?”
“I learned how to pick pockets in Egypt. All the kids there did it. I always gave the wallets back. I ... I only did it for fun,” Daniel added quickly in case Jack disapproved. “In the commissary, that Marine was mean. I was going to give it back, but then we left, and I forgot about it.”
“Well, we'll give it back later. How much is in it?”
Daniel opened the wallet and gasped.
“Wow, that's a lot.”
“Betcha it's payday or something.”
“Probably. Where should we go to eat, Jack?”
Jack looked around, and grinned, finding his mark. He carefully removed some of the money from the wallet, putting it in his pocket. Tugging on Daniel's sleeve, Jack led Daniel to the spot he had picked out.
“I like ice cream,” Daniel said as they entered the Baskin-Robbins store, “but shouldn't we get a sandwich or something first?”
“Nope. We're dining on ice cream. Pick out your favorites, Danny.”
The two boys soon had their noses up against the windows that housed more flavors than they could imagine. Jack started out with chocolate fudge, while Daniel chose chocolate chip cookie dough. Then they moved on to rocky road, mint chocolate chip, chocolate mousse royale, fudge brownie, very berry strawberry, and finally Jamoca.
Fortunately for them, the place was bursting with traffic and no one paid much attention to them. There were several workers in the shop, and they went to a different one each time they purchased another set of flavors.
“I don't think I can eat anymore, Jack.”
“Sure you can.”
“I don't think so. My stomach hurts.”
“It's the obligation of a boy to eat ice cream until they are all out.”
Daniel ate two more bites.
“Jack, I really can't. I feel awful.”
Jack saw that his brother wasn't kidding. Daniel's face was tight and a bit scrunched, like he was trying not to throw up. He also saw Daniel rub his abdomen with his hands after putting his spoon down.
“Okay, Danny, let's go.”
“I feel horrible.”
“We'll go find a place to lay down.”
“At the mall? Where?”
“There'll be someplace. I'll take care of you.”
“You always do, Jack,” Daniel responded with a smile.
The two boys headed outside and ran straight into a giant Jaffa.
“JackO'Neill and DanielO'Neill, you have misbehaved. This is not honorable. You shall be punished.”
“Teal'c, Danny doesn't feel very well.”
“I feel horrible,” Daniel said as he rubbed his abdomen. “I think I'm ... I'm ...” he turned looking for a place, but seeing nowhere, he threw up all over the cement floor ... and Teal'c's shoes.
“Oops,” Jack said, seeing the mess all over the Jaffa, and noticing the residue caught the end of Teal'c's pant's legs as well.
“I'm sorry,” Daniel said weakly.
Teal'c stared at his predicament, but, seeing the pale boy staring up at him, he quickly realized far more was at stake than a pair of ruined shoes and pants. Notifying the store personnel of the need of clean up in the area, and taking just a moment to wipe off his pants and shoes, the Jaffa picked up the ailing child.
“It is okay, DannyO'Neill.”
Resting his head on the Jaffa's shoulder, Daniel asked, “You aren't ... mad at me?”
“Did you do it on purpose?”
“No ... I'm ... sick.”
“Then there is no reason for me to be angry. Let us find MajorCarter. Come O'Neill.”
Carrying young Daniel, Teal'c motioned for Jack to follow as he headed towards the main mall entrance.
“Teal'c, you found them!” Sam exclaimed, as the Jaffa approached her at the customer service stand near the entrance.
Her smile faded, however, when she saw the lusterless child in her friend's arms.
“DannyO'Neill has consumed an overabundance of thirty-one flavors.”
“Oh, I see,” Sam said, her hand rubbing up and down the young boy's arms.
“My tummy hurts.”
Sam thought she'd die on the spot. Even in her wildest imagination, she never ever thought she'd hear Daniel say that his “tummy” hurt.
“Let's go to my house.”
“Will they not look there?”
Sam sighed as she thought. Teal'c was right. They couldn't go anywhere obvious.
“I know. A friend of mine is out of town, and I've been watering her plants and stuff. We'll go there.”
Back in the car, Daniel on Teal'c's lap, Sam looked over at Jack and asked, “So, Jack, why did you two disappear?”
“We didn't want Grandpa to get in trouble.”
Daniel added weakly, “We're the cargo. NID want us ... whatever NID is. Is it because I stole the Marine's wallet?”
Sam and Teal'c looked at the young boy in surprise. ~Stole a wallet? Daniel? Oh, definite blackmail material here ... but he looks so sick right now. I'll find out about the wallet later.~ Sam drove on.
“No, Danny. It's not because you stole a wallet,” Sam reassured the boy.
“Do not worry, DannyO'Neill. You are safe.”
Teal'c realized it was getting a little easier to say the name now.
Several minutes later, they arrived at the house of Sam's friend and went inside. It was a one-story, three-bedroom home decorated in a modern motif. Various artworks and sculptures of all sizes were scattered throughout the home.
Sam led Teal'c to one of the guest rooms in the house, turning on the light switch as they entered. The room had a double bed, two night stands, a desk, loveseat, and a cedar chest in it, and it was decorated in shades of red and black.
~Not my style, that's for sure.~
She looked over at Teal'c and spoke quietly, noticing Daniel had fallen asleep.
“Teal'c, put him down in here,” she said, leaning over and pulling down the sheets. Teal'c placed Daniel on the bed. “Thanks. Why don't you take Jack into the living room and explain why it's not a good thing to run away while I tuck Danny in bed?”
“As you wish,” Teal'c said, taking a reluctant Jack with him.
“Are you mad at us, Sam?”
“I thought you were asleep?”
“Almost,” the young boy answered as he yawned.
“No, I'm not made at you, but you shouldn't do things like that, Daniel. I mean, Danny.”
“We just wanted to protect Grandpa.”
“I know. How do you feel?”
“Lousy. I ate too much. My tummy hurts. Sam, is that your friend?”
Daniel pointed at the leafy, silver artwork on the wall that held a number of candid photographs in each “leaf.”
“Um, yes, that's Valerie,” Sam acknowledged, noticing there was a different man in each of the color snapshots.
“Who are all those guys?”
“No clue,” Sam answered a bit flippantly. ~I can't find one guy I can talk about publicly, and Valerie has all of those? What's wrong with this picture?~
Sam did have a boyfriend, but she was deathly afraid of her jinx. It felt like anyone she truly cared about died, so this one, she kept under wraps -- literally. In fact, Jack and Daniel were about the only ones who knew of the man's existence, but that's all they knew.
“Sam, are you okay?” Daniel asked quietly, his face scrunching a bit from his own stomach issues.
“Yes, I'm ...” Sam paused, realizing she had gotten lost in a moment of self-pity when she should be taking care of her charge. “Oh, Danny, I'm sorry. I'm fine. Let's see if we can make you feel better.”
Gently, Sam put her hand over Daniel's stomach and caressed slowly and lovingly.
“You'll feel better when you wake up. Go to sleep, Danny.”
“Sam, you'll find someone to love you. You're too pretty and smart not to be loved. Besides, I love you ... loads and loads.”
“Oh, Danny,” Sam whispered, leaning over to give the youngster a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, and I love you, too. Now ... close your eyes, and I promise, you'll feel so much better very, very soon. That's it ... just ... sleep.”
She kept up her motions for five minutes, until she was absolutely positive the young boy was asleep. She stopped her motions and stood up, but then she heard a small, sleepy voice.
“Mommy, don't go. I love you, Mommy. Tummy hurts. Mommy.”
“Right here, Danny,” Sam said, returning to her spot and continuing her soothing touch.
~Oh, Daniel. The Colonel was right. How could anyone let you suffer in all those foster homes for all those years? Look at you? Such a cute boy, and ... geez, so normal -- not perfect, but just a little boy who needs and wants love. I'd adopt you in a second.~
“Danny will be all right, won't he, T?” Jack looked anxiously up at the large Jaffa.
“He will, O'Neill.”
Teal'c was a little stunned when Jack climbed up onto his knee and sighed.
“Okay, T. Let's get the lecture over with so I can go sit with Danny,” Jack's lower lip trembled. “It's my fault he's sick. I made him eat all that ice cream.” After another sigh, “He just needs to learn how to be a kid, that's all.”
Jack turned and buried his head in Teal'c's shoulder sobbing quietly. The Jaffa rubbed his back and spoke reassuringly to him, then decided that the youngster would be better off in the other room. With little effort, he picked his friend up and carried him into the bedroom to sit him next to Daniel.
Daniel opened his eyes, relieved to find he was feeling much better than he had when he went to sleep. He was also happy that Jack was beside him. The television opposite the bed was on, showing a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but Jack wasn't watching it. He seemed to be engrossed in a book he'd found. He grinned at Daniel.
“Good, you're awake, Danny. You have got to see this.”
Jack showed the younger boy the book and gave a delighted laugh as Daniel's eyes widened.
“Where did you get that, Jack? Do Sam and T know you have it?”
“They're in the living room. I found this in the night stand, and of course they don't know!”
Daniel sat up and wriggled around a bit to get comfortable next to his brother.
“Can you really do that?” Daniel asked as Jack turned the page to show another illustration.
“Would you want to? It looks ...” Daniel tilted his head a bit, “painful.”
They were so engrossed in examining the image before them that they didn't hear Sam returning and only became aware of her presence in the room when the book was suddenly wrenched from Jack's hands.
“Jack O'Neill, where did you find this?”
Jack pointed to the piece of furniture in question. Blushing, Sam silently returned “The Joy of Sex” to its hidden place.
~That was more than I ever wanted to know about an old school friend, and Colonel, when you get back to normal, you are so going to pay.~
She knew she should probably reprimand them, but was too embarrassed. She hid a smirk. ~I can always tell the General, and let him deal with them.~
Then she thought, ~Talk to the General about ... sex? Whoa, Samantha. Maybe that's not such a good idea after all.~
“How are you feeling, Danny?”
She was pleased to see he had more color in his cheeks now. ~Of course, that could be due to their reading material. Daniel blushes so easily.~
He smiled shyly at her as he answered, “Much better, thank you.”
“Good. Well, the General just phoned, and the NID have gone for now, so I'm taking you to his house, and he'll meet us there.”
The two boys jumped out of Sam's car and ran to their grandfather, hugging him mightily.
“Hello, Jack, Danny. I heard you had a bit of an adventure today.”
“Um ... well, it ...”
“Grandpa, I forgot about something important, and I'm really sorry.”
Daniel told Hammond about the wallet, handing over the billfold and the leftover money.
“I just ... forgot.”
Jack was shuffling his feet as Hammond asked, “And whose idea was it to use the money to buy the ice cream?”
Daniel started to speak up, but Jack punched him in the arm.
“Stop trying to take the blame. Grandpa, I was making use of our resources. We'll pay it back. It was a loan!”
Hammond shook his head in disbelief. “Okay, boys. Tomorrow, we will return this to its owner. You will both apologize and ask the owner if he wants you to pay back the missing money in work or not.”
“Work?” Jack gulped.
“Work, and if he wants money, then I will pay him, and tomorrow, you'll be earning the money back by doing some chores.”
“Oh, okay,” Jack said, shuffling some more.
Hammond hid a grin and informed the boys, “For now, I want you two to stay right here. I need to speak privately with Sam and Teal'c for a minute.”
The boys stood together closely as Hammond and the others walked over towards the street.
“Major, I have a little problem.”
“My grandchildren, Kayla and Tessa, are coming over this evening. It seems my daughter has an important presentation and meeting with clients, and I had forgotten that I said I would look after them. I'm afraid it's too risky to mix the kids together. I just don't know how I'd explain it to my granddaughters.”
“I understand, General.” Hammond stared at Sam. “Oh, Sir.”
Hammond spoke authoritatively, “They are yours for tonight, Major. Please don't lose them again. Teal'c, an Airman should be here in the next few minutes to take you back to the base.”
Teal'c nodded, smirking at Sam as he turned to walk towards the car that had just arrived. He looked back and waved at the two boys who waved back at the Jaffa.
“Jack. Danny. Come here, please.” The two came running. “You'll be staying with Sam tonight. I have an important promise to keep, and I'm afraid I can't do that with you two here. Are you okay with that?”
“Sure, we like Sam,” Jack said, already planning a night time attack on the unsuspecting female.
Sam sighed, resigned to her fate. It wasn't that she didn't love her two charges, but she had a date. She'd have to make a quick phone call when she got home.
“Let's go, you two, and we'll start by finishing our shopping at the mall, and this time, you will not leave my sight.”
“Not at all?”
“NOT for one second.”
“How about when we're changing?”
Sam just smiled, looking positively devious as she led them back to her car.
Jack whispered into Daniel's ear as Sam went to the driver's side to get in, “Tonight we'll submarine her but good.”
“You'll see. It's gonna be GREAT!”
As Sam sat, she knew she had just missed something. Jack and Daniel both had big, mischievous smiles on their faces.
“Okay, that's too obvious. What are you planning?”
“Right ... and my name is Mary Steenburgen.”
“Your name is Sam!”
“Samantha,” Daniel clarified.
As soon as Sam unlocked her front door, the two boys jostled each other, both trying to be first through the door. In the end, Daniel's smaller size won out, and he was able to squeeze past Jack.
He ran around the living room shouting, “I win, I win,” until Jack tackled him onto the floor and began tickling him, sending the younger boy into hysterics. Sam shook her head and dumped the bags of clothes they'd bought on the floor.
~Someone give me strength.~
“Okay, you two. You've had a busy day, so why don't you take a bath while I get dinner?”
“It's too early,” Daniel whined.
“Yeah. We're not babies, Sam.”
Jack glared at her. With a sigh, Sam gave in.
“You can play in the backyard for half an hour, and then you have to come and take a bath -- no arguments.” They made a beeline for the garden. “And stay where I can see you!” she shouted after them.
Five minutes later, Sam was wandering through the house, looking for a magazine she had been reading when she looked out into the backyard.
~Geez, where are they now? Please don't tell me they've run off again, or the General will have me working as a secretary ... or worse~
She looked around the yard, but saw no sign of them ... until Jack dropped down out of the large oak tree in the corner of the garden.
“Come on, Danny. You can do it,” Jack encouraged his younger brother. A second later, Daniel dropped out of the tree as well.
“Oh, Danny.” Sam sighed, seeing how grubby and torn the boy's clothes had gotten in just a few minutes. “Look at you. It's lucky we went back to the mall!”
Daniel looked guilty, and she couldn't resist hugging him.
“It's okay, but it's definitely time for that bath.”
She didn't know whether to be relieved or worried when they acquiesced happily. She was also grateful she had a fairly nice-size bathroom and fixtures.
“Okay. You guys do this however you want. I don't care who goes first, but I want you both clean in time for dinner!”
She left them to have their baths while she put on dinner.
~At least they can't get into trouble there.~
“Who goes first?” Daniel asked.
“I don't care. You can, if you want to.”
“Or you can.”
“You choose, Danny.”
“I want you to choose.”
“Let's flip for who goes first!”
Jack looked around the bathroom and finally grabbed a small piece of soap. On one side, it had a design with ridges. The other side was smooth.
“Ridges or plain, Danny?”
“Hmmm ... ridges!”
Jack tossed the soap up high into the air. In fact, it hit the ceiling and quickly bombarded into the toilet.
“Oops,” Daniel said.
“Danny, why don't we just share this one time? It's a big tub.”
“Okay. I get this end!”
Daniel sat at the edge of the tub to mark his choice, leaving Jack the end with the drain and faucets.
“This is a great bath, Jack.”
Daniel submerged himself underwater and blew bubbles while his brother looked through Sam's bathroom cabinet.
“It's boring, Danny. Sam must have something we can play with,” Jack said as he perused the various bottles and items on the cabinet shelves. “Ah ha!” he said joyfully at the bottle he now held in his hand.
Climbing back into the bath, he poured the pinky red contents of the bottle into the water.
“It doesn't do much,” Daniel said with a disappointed look. “What is it?”
Jack swished his hand through the water and was rewarded with a single bubble. He grinned.
“I remember now.”
He turned on the faucet, careful to get the temperature right, and soon they had a bath full of bubbles.
“Ah, Jack I think we better turn the water off.”
Daniel had noticed water oozing over the side of the bath.
Jack threw a towel on the floor to mop up the water then scooped up a handful of bubbles and threw them at Daniel.
The great bubble fight was on.
Amid loud laughter, Jack and Daniel each sought to outdo the other in the number of bubbles they could hold, then smash. Then, they decided to toss the bubbles back and forth. In the process, water splashed all along the floor.
Hearing the noise, Sam decided she'd better check on her charges. She knocked on the door.
“Everything okay in there?”
Jack snickered as he answered, “We're fine, Sam.”
“Yeah, well. I think you've been in there long enough. Dry off, and come on out. I've put your pajamas on your bed.”
Drying off, Daniel asked, “How are we going to dry the floor? We only have enough towels for us.”
Jack shrugged, suggesting, “Let's leave it for later ... a lot later!”
Sam fixed the two boys spaghetti with meatballs for dinner, and afterwards, they played card games for an hour or so. Then, Sam let them watch some TV. She noticed it was a battle between The Cartoon Network and PBS. She was about to interfere when the boys compromised, watching a documentary on PBS for an hour and then changing back to see some classic cartoons.
After a late snack of cookies and milk, and much to their chagrin, cleanup time in the bathroom after Sam had discovered the mess the boys had made, Sam tucked Jack and Daniel in their bed. She only had a twin bed in her spare room, but they didn't mind.
“Brothers share beds all the time. No big deal, Sam,” Jack said.
Pulling the blanket up to their necks, she smiled as she said goodnight to the two irresistible boys.
~This is so surreal.~
Several hours later, Jack shoved gently on Daniel's shoulder, whispering, “Danny, it's time.”
Daniel grinned, waking up instantly. The two boys walked stealthily into the kitchen, not turning on any lights.
Very carefully, they selected specific items from Sam's refrigerator and cupboard, plus some other crucial elements from Sam's study. Placing his fingers over his mouth in a shushing motion, Jack led his brother into Sam's room.
The Air Force Major was sound asleep. She hadn't had much rest over the last few days, so she had fallen quickly into a deep slumber.
Resisting the urge to laugh, the two boys moved quickly and precisely as they submarined the Major. Sam had unwittingly aided in their plans by kicking off her sheets. It was a warm night anyway, so she had gone to bed with just one sheet and blanket over her, and within two hours, both had found their way to the edge of the bed, or in the blanket's case, to the floor.
Jack's and Daniel's attack involved several things ...
--First, they gently glided what little of the sheet that was left covering Sam, off.
--Then Jack took the peanut butter and spread it all over Sam's feet and ankles. She wriggled her toes and feet a few times, but never fully awoke.
--Meanwhile, Danny took the catsup and drew a long line over each one of Sam's pajama legs. He joined them together just above her waist. He began to do something else when Jack's eyes spoke loudly to the boy. Taking the mustard, Jack drew a large circle on Sam's pajama top, over her abdomen. Daniel smiled, as he added the catsupy smiling lips. Jack finished it off with dabs of grape jam for the eyes. Their impromptu smiley face was done.
--Then, they used string to surround Sam in what was essentially a human web. The intricate catacomb extended from the bottom of the bed frame to the top of the leg posts, and all across. They even tied string over to her windows and lamps so that it spread all along the room.
--Next, they emptied the entire jar of honey, outlining Sam's body and putting as much as they could at her head. Jack was worried Sam might wake up if he applied too much to her hair, so he just put a little. He held his breath as she flopped her head a couple of times, but then she sighed, and returned to her rest.
--Finally, they placed heaps of glue inside of Sam's slippers that she kept by the side of her bed, and on a whim, Jack added an egg to each of the large fuzzy foot warmers.
Their task complete, they shook hands, but then Daniel lit up with another idea. He motioned for Jack to stay. A minute later, Daniel returned with the camcorder he had seen in Sam's study earlier. Jack's smile signaled his approval.
The young Daniel searched for the perfect spot, checking out various locations, and finally picked what he figured was the best place to leave the camcorder. He set it down and turned it on.
Jack wasn't through yet, though, having one last inspiration -- emptying Sam's stash of whipped cream onto her chest and topping it with several cherries in a decorative pattern.
The two boys shook hands and bobbed their heads. Now, it was time to watch Sam deal with their handiwork!
Sam sighed and turned over, catching an arm on the string web surrounding her as she did. Her eyes flew open, and she heard a giggle.
She glanced down and groaned. ~Why me? They are so, so dead.~ Carefully, she sat up and looked around. ~And I thought the mess they made in the bathroom was bad!~
Having gingerly wriggled under the string to the edge of the bed, she slid her feet into her slippers and immediately felt the gooey liquid that was the glue. At the same time, she heard more giggles.
~Oh, yeah. They are so dead.~
“You two get in here ... NOW,” she ordered, standing ... and that's when she felt the eggs breaking.
~I am truly going to kill them.~
“What is that?” she muttered, slowly realizing honey was dripping down her forehead.
~Goes well with the smiley face. Very creative of the little geniuses.~
“JACK AND DANIEL, GET IN HERE ... ON THE DOUBLE!”
There was silence, and then the sound of running feet. She picked her way through the string to the doorway and walked down the hall to her spare room, her feet and clothes squishing from the combination of peanut butter, whipped cream, honey and she wasn't sure what else might be on her body.
Under the covers pretending to be asleep were the not-so-innocent Jack and Daniel -- ~looking like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.~
She flicked on the light switch, and they opened their eyes. She saw Daniel glance at her and giggle before he buried his face in Jack's shoulder.
“Sam, what happened to you?” Jack asked, feigning shock.
Daniel's shoulders shook with laughter as Jack tried to stifle his own laughter. Sam glared at the young version of her CO.
“You know very well what happened, Jack O'Neill. And you too, Danny.”
At last, Daniel seemed to have control over his giggles and removed his nose from Jack's side. Unfortunately, as soon as he looked at Sam again, he burst into more laughter which set Jack off, too.
“Out of that bed, gentlemen, and I use that term lightly.”
The two slowly pushed down their covers and stood, giggling every time they tried to look at their temporary guardian.
Sam tried to look like Apophis as she gave them their orders, “Now pay close attention. I am going to take a shower now, and while I do, you are going to clean my room. Do not miss an inch, gentlemen. Now march,” she ordered, watching closely as the boys went back to the scene of their crime, and then glaring at them when they started laughing at the mess.
Several hours later, dawn was breaking, and Sam's bedroom was habitable again.
“Can we go back to bed now, Sam?” Daniel yawned.
“No. We have to go to the Mountain in an hour. It's your fault you're tired.”
Daniel looked guiltily at the floor, and then let out another huge yawn.
~I am not going to cave. I'm not.~ Sam tried to resist the cute sleepy looking Daniel and failed. She bent down and hugged him, and then hugged Jack, too.
“You can take a nap at the Mountain, okay? Now go get dressed.”
Half an hour later, she went into their room to find them laughing at something on her camcorder.
“Hand it over.”
Reluctantly, they gave it to her, and she had to hide a smile at the sight of herself. She hadn't had a good look at what they'd done before she smeared everything turning over.
“Laugh it up, boys. I'll be making a full report about your ... activities to your grandfather.”
She tried not to laugh at the look of horror on their faces.
When they arrived at the Cheyenne complex, Sam marched Jack and Daniel directly to the General's office.
“Now, I've decided that I'm not going to tell your grandfather what you did, but I expect you two to behave from now on.”
Innocent faces beamed. ~Got her,~ Jack silently smirked.
She ushered them into the General's office, and he gave them a welcoming smile, holding out his arms to envelop them in a warm hug.
“Hello, boys. Did you have a good night at Major Carter's?” He felt the tension appear in their bodies and sighed. “What did you do?”
He looked up at Sam who smiled, saying, “They're your grandsons, Sir. I thought it best that you deal with them.”
She snapped out a salute and left before the General could say anything else.
“Okay, front and center.” The General motioned for them to stand in front of his desk as he returned to his chair. “Now, tell me all about it, and don't leave out a detail.”
Minutes later, Hammond was struggling to keep a straight face. He longed to let out a hearty laugh. ~These are the leaders of the SGC?~ He shook his head, not sure what to do. Then, he made his decision, picking up the phone.
The two boys still stood nervously in front of the desk when Teal'c walked in.
“Teal'c, they are yours until 1800 hours this evening. I advise you to watch them very carefully.”
Jack grinned. ~A challenge!~
Teal'c stared at the nine-year-old child. ~Not in this lifetime, O'Neill.~
“Yo, Sam. How'd it go with the gruesome twosome last night?” Lou asked, entering her lab during a short break.
“You wouldn't believe it.”
“Oh, yes, I would. Those two are little hellions.”
“It's so weird to realize they are Jack and Daniel. I mean, DANIEL! He's not just going along with the Colonel, Lou, he's right there.”
Lou joined in with his colleague's laughter, shaking his head, almost in admiration of the two boys, and especially the young Daniel.
“He's just being a kid.”
Then Sam grew serious as she asked, “How much do you know about Daniel's childhood?”
Lou let out a puff of air as he shook his head and answered, “Not much really. I know it was bad. He's changed a lot over the years.”
“I wish I had been here to see him open the Gate.”
“It was awesome, Sam. He was pretty funny back then. Long hair, sneezing at everything. I swear, he tripped over sand, but he saved our bacon. Good man.”
“Well, right now he's a good little boy.”
“Lou, what did you say a second ago about Daniel ... being a child?”
“He's just being a kid, your average, respectable male at the age of eight.”
“Yeah, right. You know, Teal'c told me something that Jack said last night.”
“That he had to teach Daniel how to be a little kid.”
“Sounds like Jack. He's always trying to get the Doc to get his nose out of books.”
“Yeah,” Sam said, lost in thought.
“Sam, you okay?”
“I was just thinking. On the planet, they have a legend about reverting to childhood to learn the gift of play, the importance of it.”
“That's what they say. I just wonder if somehow the legend is more than a legend. What if ...” Sam paused, formulating her thought, “What if the legend is true, and somehow, Jack and Daniel were reverted back to childhood so that ... Daniel could learn how to be a normal little boy?”
“You think it's possible?”
“Who knows? We've come across amazing things over the years. Why not?”
“Do you think they'll just ... revert back to their real selves one day?”
“I have no idea, Lou, but I hope so, because I don't have any ideas on how to get them back otherwise.”
“So what did the little rascals do to you last night?”
“They submarined me!”
Teal'c led his youthful charges to the gym where he was going to be training a new lot of recruits. He sat the two down and looked sternly at them, his hands clasped behind his back as he addressed the youngsters.
“I will be training new recruits for the SGC this morning. You may sit here and watch, or you may use some of the gym equipment under the supervision of Private Hampton, but you may not leave this room.
“Why can't we train with you?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah!” Jack added.
“The skills I am teaching are too advanced for ones as young as you. Now choose.”
“We'll watch,” Jack scowled.
Teal'c nodded, giving a final warning, “I advise you to behave yourselves. You will not enjoy the consequences if you do not obey the rules.”
The Jaffa turned his attention to the recruits coming in the door.
“Jack, why are we watching? It'll be boring.”
“Not necessarily. Watch and learn, kiddo.”
Daniel grinned excitedly when he realized that Jack was planning something.
Teal'c began lecturing the recruits on Jaffa training techniques, and the skills they'd need for hand to hand combat. Jack could see Teal'c managing to keep a close eye on them even while he lectured and demonstrated various movements and skills.
Young Jack remained still for almost forty minutes before deciding they needed some action.
“Okay, Danny.” He gave his brother an evil grin. “Just above us is a fire alarm. It's an oldie, but a goodie. All we have to do is set it off, and it's shower time in the gym. We'll watch it rain for a minute, and then sneak out.”
“Really?” Daniel's eyes widened. “I've never seen a fire alarm go off before.”
“Neither had I until Billy showed me. Okay, wait until T turns his back, then break the glass, and press the alarm.”
“You're going to let me do it?”
“Yep, the privilege is all yours, Dannyboy.”
Jack kept an eye on Teal'c, carefully waiting until he was helping a recruit with an especially difficult move, his back to the two boys.
A second later, chaos broke out as the fire sprinklers were activated. Shouts joined in with the ringing of the alarm bells, and Daniel barely heard Jack call out, “Run for it, Danny.”
They just made it to the door when the large form of Teal'c barred their way. Instinctively, they moved closer together.
The two gulped at the wet Jaffa. Without saying a word, Teal'c grabbed the boys, literally carrying one boy in each arm, Daniel in the right, Jack in the left.
“Put us down!” Jack demanded, his feet kicking and arms flailing into the air.
Teal'c said nothing as he passed through the halls, finally putting the boys down just in front of the door to his quarters. Opening it, he simply pointed inside. Without hesitating, the boys walked inside, only to have Teal'c close the door on them, locking it.
“I think he's mad at us, Jack.”
“So what can we do in here?” Daniel asked, not the least bit phased by their punishment.
“Teal'c doesn't have a lot.”
“He has candles!”
“Let's make a candle fort, Danny!”
Ninety minutes later, Teal'c opened the door to his quarters, and stared. He could not have anticipated the sight he held. The two boys had found every candle in his quarters and, using them and a few other accessories, had built a fort. With Jack's knife, they had even shaped the candles into the different sizes to make the fort pillars spike. One candle was cut into small slices to serve as the long walkway where guards would observe those approaching. Teal'c was stunned into silence.
Without saying anything, he backed out and again locked the door.
“What do you think, Jack?”
“I think he liked it!”
“What do we do now?”
Jack shrugged, looking around the room.
“This room needs some color!”
“But we don't have anything to color with.”
“Let's look around some more. You take that drawer, and I'll look in these boxes.”
After a minute, Jack called out, “Look, Danny!”
“Wow. What's that?”
“Armor of some kind!”
“Let's put it on! I'll go first.”
Jack helped his brother slide into the large Jaffa armor, and then grabbed the headpiece. He was just sliding it on when Teal'c entered again, and this time, called out loudly.
“O'NEILL, DO NOT DO THAT!”
Jack was so startled that he fell backwards, the headgear dropping down onto Daniel who screamed as he plopped down to the floor beneath the heavy Jaffa attire.
“Danny?” Jack knocked on the armor. “Are you okay?”
“Stand aside, O'Neill.”
Nervously, Jack obeyed, and Teal'c moved up to examine the armored figure.
“DannyO'Neill?” Teal'c carefully lifted the Jaffa headpiece off Daniel.
“Is he okay?” Jack peered at Daniel. “Danny, please be okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you.”
“He will be fine, but we need to take him to the infirmary.”
“Owww,” Daniel moaned, raising his right hand to rub his head. “Don't need the infirmary. That thing is heavy, T. How do you wear it?”
Jack flung his arms around Daniel and hugged him tightly, tears running down his face. He had truly been afraid that he had caused his brother to be injured. He sniffled out, “I'm really sorry, Danny. I was scared. I didn't mean to hurt you. I swear it!”
Daniel hugged Jack back and whispered, “You didn't hurt me, dummy. Now what do we do? I don't want to spend the rest of the day in the infirmary with all those scary machines.”
Jack brightened up immediately and grinned at Daniel.
“Come, DannyO'Neill,” Teal'c picked Daniel up and held out his hand to Jack, “You, too, JackO'Neill. We are going to the infirmary so that DoctorFraiser can examine you.”
After Janet had examined Daniel and pronounced that he had no lasting injuries, Teal'c led the two troublemakers to the commissary for some lunch. Jack and Daniel began to pile their trays with Jell-O, donuts, apple pie, whipped cream, and french fries.
Silently, Teal'c unloaded their trays and refilled them with beef casserole, mashed potatoes, carrots, and then gave them a choice of one dessert each. While they tried to decide, the Jaffa went and sat down at a table to wait for them. As soon as Teal'c's back was turned, Jack nudged Daniel and showed him a salt shaker.
Daniel grinned in anticipation and made a suggestion, “Put it in the beef stew, Jack, then no one will notice.”
Quickly, Jack uncapped the shaker and poured the salt in the large, hot pan from which the SGC personnel would get their food, mixing the stew a little to hide it. They grinned at each other and went over to the table that Teal'c had chosen.
A noisy bunch of Marines entered the commissary, heading for the food trays. Watching a couple of the men select the beef stew, the two boys began to snigger before reverting back to innocent expressions when they saw Teal'c looking at them with suspicion.
They didn't have to wait long, though, before one of the Marines took a mouthful of stew and promptly spat it out again.
“What the heck are you putting in this crap?” he bellowed at the KP workers as he carried his plate back towards the kitchen.
On his way, he took notice of Jack's and Daniel's laughter, saw their looks in his direction, heard their whispers, and, knowing how young boys are, put two and two together.
“Did you two have something to do with this? Why you little ...” He ceased talking as he slammed the plate down on an empty table and stalked towards the boys, only to find himself looking into the solid chest of Teal'c.
“You will leave these children alone,” Teal'c said in a tone that was unmistakably a warning. He fixed the two laughing children with a glare. “I will deal with them.”
“Uh oh, Jack. What do you think he'll do?”
“No idea, so let's eat while we have the chance.”
As Teal'c sat down, Jack and Daniel devoured the lunch, both afraid it might be taken away from them.
Thirty minutes later, Teal'c led the troublesome duo to the detainment area and locked them up in one of the cells.
“T, what are you doing?” Jack asked.
“Making sure you do not injure yourselves. I shall return later.”
“Jack, I don't like it in here.”
Unfortunately, there wasn't anything inside the cell except for one cot. The two huddled together on the cot, Jack's arm around his little brother.
Daniel repeated, “I don't like in here. It's ... I just don't like it.”
The place was cold and barren and reeked of loneliness. Jack held Daniel close.
“I think he's trying to teach us a lesson, Danny.”
“Is it working?”
“What do you think?”
Daniel grinned, as did Jack.
“I know. We can play Tic-Tac-Toe,” Daniel suggested.
“But I have another one of those markers.”
“We can play on the wall,” Jack chimed in.
General Hammond finished the briefing with SG-3, and then called Sam to his office to discuss another trip back to the planet to try and do further research on what might have happened to Jack and Daniel.
After some discussion, they left Hammond's office to head for her lab. She had some research on another project to show him. As they walked through the corridors, they saw Teal'c.
“Teal'c, where are the boys?” the General inquired.
“They are safe.”
“Safe where?” Sam asked.
“They have caused much trouble all day, at great potential harm to themselves, especially to DannyO'Neill.”
“Teal'c, where are Jack and Daniel?”
“In holding cell number three.”
“Teal'c, you didn't?”
“They are safe there, MajorCarter. On Chulak, we often teach our children lessons by showing them the consequences of their ways.”
“Putting them in a prison cell?” Sam winced. “Poor boys.”
“They are children, Teal'c,” Hammond said sternly as he charged off.
“Have I done something wrong, MajorCarter?”
“Uh, well ... Maybe it's a cultural thing, but we just don't lock up children in cells, Teal'c. Come on.”
Sam hurried off after the General, and Teal'c followed a few seconds later.
“This game is boring, Jack. It's always a tie. I don't like it here,” Daniel sniffled a little as he spoke.
They'd covered two entire walls with Tic-Tac-Toe, and most of those had been a draw. Jack drew his brother into a hug.
“What if T forgets about us? Grandpa won't know where to look,” Daniel sobbed.
“He'll find us, Danny.”
Just then they heard the sound of running feet as the General to the holding cell foyer. “Boys!” He unlocked the door of their cell, knelt down gingerly, and the two fled into his arms. “It's okay, boys. Teal'c didn't mean to scare you.”
“Yes, he did,” Daniel sniffled, drying his nose on the Generals shoulder.
Reaching into his pocket, the General quickly handed young Daniel a handkerchief.
“Teal'c's mean,” Jack said forcefully.
As Sam and Teal'c entered the room, Jack and Daniel looked up at them. They noticed immediately how Daniel instantly burrowed further into the General's arms. Jack just glared at the Jaffa.
“I apologize, GeneralHammond, O'Neill, DannyO'Neill. It appears we do things differently on Ch...” he trailed off, his memory as to where he was supposed to come from failing him.
“In Cucamonga?” Daniel poked his face out of the General's chest.
Teal'c inclined his head.
“Don't worry about it, Teal'c, but in the future, I think it might be best if you leave any disciplining to be done to me. Okay, you two, I think you'd better play in my office for a while.”
Holding each child by the hand, the three left the room, Daniel giving Teal'c nervous glances as they walked away.
Sam looked at the Tic-Tac-Toe games adorning the wall.
“I don't think your punishment worked, Teal'c.”
“It would seem not, and now DannyO'Neill appears to be afraid of me.” There was a trace of sadness in the Jaffa's voice.
“He'll get over it, Teal'c. You know kids; they're very resilient,” Sam said, patting him on the shoulder.
“I'll kill them. As soon as you get back to normal Jack O'Neill, you are soooo going to pay,” Lou Ferretti muttered to himself as he stalked along the corridors of Level 18, looking in every room. “Watch them, the General says. I'm beginning to think Teal'c had the right idea after all. Wish I'd thought of it. Teal'c won't be getting any more babysitting duty.”
“Hey, Lou. Lose something?” Sergeant Siler asked with a grin.
“Those two little twerps. I swear, Jack must remember some of that Special Ops training because I only turned my back for one second, and they disappeared. ONE SECOND!”
Siler gave him a wink as he walked past, giving him a hint -- “Try Doctor Jackson's office. I think I heard some mice in there a minute ago.”
“Mice? Right. More like rats,” Lou muttered as he ran off, ignoring Siler's laughter.
Still cursing under his breath, Lou opened the door to Daniel's office and couldn't help himself -- he smiled. Daniel was examining an artifact, his eyes focused on the shape of the item, his hands gently tracing the raised design that appeared on it.
Meanwhile, Jack was playing with another artifact, a small, oval shaped item. He bounced it in his hand, and then bobbed it back and forth between both of his hands.
As Lou watched, Daniel reached out, snatching the artifact from Jack's grasp. Jack shrugged, but a second later, as Daniel had returned to his study, Jack had all ready picked up another relic, this one bowl-shaped, and was playing with it.
The sight was amusing, and for a moment, Lou forgot he was supposed to be angry at his escaping nephews. He was, however, grateful the two hadn't had a chance to do much damage. The boys had only been out of his sight for a couple of minutes, but his main concern was making sure they didn't catch sight of the personal mementos that were in Daniel's office, especially the photograph of the adult Daniel atop a camel by the pyramids in Egypt.
“What are you two doing here?”
The two jumped, and the artifact that Jack had been playing with crashed to the ground.
Daniel rushed over to look at the broken pottery shards.
“I'm sorry, Danny. I didn't mean to drop it.”
Daniel sighed. It wasn't his brother's fault. It was that loud voice that frightened them both.
“I know Jack.” He turned a ferocious scowl on Lou. “Uncle Lou surprised us. That wasn't very sensible, Uncle Lou. Look what you made Jack do,” Daniel said, gesturing to the broken pottery.
Daniel's reprimand was so convincing that Lou was about to apologize before he caught himself. Grumbling, he said, “Right, that's it. You two little devils are coming back to my office and not moving until your grandfather comes to get you, capiché?”
Without waiting for a reply, he marched the two out of the office.
“Whose office was that, Uncle Lou? It's so cool,” Daniel babbled, not waiting for an answer as he continued to talk. “I want to have an office like that one day, and you can come visit me in it, Jack. I'll keep some special artifacts just for you to play with.”
Lou just grinned. His good friend, Jack, had begun playing with Daniel's prized artifacts almost from the beginning. The thought of Daniel having some there for the express purpose of humoring Jack was hysterical to the Major.
~I wonder if he really does have some there just for Jack's benefit? Hmm. I wonder if Jack knows that?~
Regardless, it was obvious Jack and Daniel hadn't had time to make any personal connections with the office space.
Teal'c entered Sam's lab, a look of determination and urgency on his face.
“Hey, Teal'c, I thought you had another training session this afternoon.” Sam looked at the Jaffa wondering if Jack and Daniel had done something else. She quickly asked, “Are the boys, okay?”
“GeneralHammond is meeting with SG-9 so the children are now with MajorFerretti.”
Teal'c paused as if wondering how to begin.
“What is it, Teal'c?”
“I wish to make amends for my error in judgment in punishing O'Neill and DanielJackson. I've been studying Earth traditions for children and believe I have discovered a way to convey my apologies.” Sam waited, curiosity filling her. “I was wondering if we could organize a birthday party for DannyO'Neill. We could tell him it is to make up for all those birthdays before we knew him.”
Sam smiled, nodding her head, as she responded, “That is a wonderful idea, Teal'c.”
“Do you think he remembers his true birthday?”
“I don't know, Teal'c, but your idea is easy to work around. We just tell him that we love him so much that we wanted to throw him a special birthday on ... our own special day ... because's he's just that special.”
“Should we not do something for O'Neill as well?”
“Oh yeah, or we'll never hear the end of it.”
Teal'c thought, and then smiled.
“You're smiling, Teal'c.”
“We will also celebrate JackO'Neill Best Big Brother Day.”
“Yeah, that'll work. Oh, better make a mention of this ... Billy.”
“Do you think O'Neill really has an older brother, MajorCarter?”
“I wouldn't be surprised. All these years, Teal'c, and to be honest with you, I still don't know much about him. In our first years together, most of what I learned actually came through Daniel. I didn't even know he was married and had a son until Daniel told me.”
“He is very private.”
“Except with Daniel.”
“They are brothers, MajorCarter.”
Sam laughed softly.
“They are ... bonded, that's for sure.”
“Will you assist me in the preparations for the party?”
“Of course! Let's go talk to the General!”
Arriving on Level 25, they discovered Hammond was still in his briefing. The two paced back and forth outside the briefing room until finally, Hammond, seeing their back-and-forth movements, excused himself. He wondered if the boys had gotten into more trouble, if that was possible.
“What did Jack and Daniel do now?” he asked with alarm as soon as he entered the corridor.
“They are fine, GeneralHammond.”
“Then why are you pacing the hallway?” Teal'c and Sam exchanged a look. “Excuse me, I AM in the middle of a briefing.”
“My apologies,” Teal'c nodded. “I would like your permission to throw a surprise birthday party for DannyO'Neill and a surprise big brother party for O'Neill.”
“Teal'c wants to make it up to Daniel, Sir. I mean, he seems a little afraid of Teal'c now, and if we have the party, we can't ignore the Colonel or he'll ...” she hesitated, clearing her throat.
“Or he'll make your lives miserable once he's back to normal?”
“Yes, Sir. That's about right.”
“When do you want to have this party?”
“Tonight. I wish to make sure DanielJackson,” Teal'c paused, “DannyO'Neill does not suffer ... nightmares because of his time in the cell.”
“Very well,” Hammond looked at his watch. “I should be through here in another twenty minutes, and then I have to make some phone calls. In an hour, I'll appropriate the cargo from Major Ferretti and take them off-base so you can maneuver without worrying about them getting into your hair.”
“I have no hair for them to get into, General.”
“It's just an expression, Teal'c,” Sam explained.
They discussed the timing and plans for a couple more minutes, agreeing that Hammond would return to the base at 6:30 p.m. with the two boys. The party would be on Level 17 in one of the meeting rooms.
An hour later, the General had retrieved Jack and Daniel from Lou, and the three were making their way to the parking level.
“Where are we going, Grandpa?” Daniel asked excitedly.
“We aren't going shopping again, are we? I'm tired of shopping!” Jack whined.
“It's a surprise, and no, we aren't going shopping, Jack.”
Fifteen minutes later, the two saw the sign indicating where they were headed and let out squeals of excitement.
“The Zoo, Jack. We're going to the Zoo! I've never been to a zoo.”
Daniel's nose was glued to the car window as he tried to see the animals, even though they were still looking for parking space.
“That's because it's a Grandpa thing, isn't it Grandpa?”
~Apparently.~ “Your parents never took you to the zoo in Chicago?”
“Na-huh,” Jack said. “Mom doesn't like seeing animals in cages. Dad said he'd take us someday, but we haven't gone yet.”
The General smiled at Daniel's excitement, and Jack's feigned nonchalance as they entered Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It wasn't far from the SGC, and they managed to pay for their admission just before the cut off time of 4 p.m. Hammond flashed his ID for his military discount, and then ushered the children inside.
Daniel spied the packages of giraffe crackers. With big eyes, he asked, “Grandpa, can we feed the giraffes?”
“Sure, we can, Son. Grab a package, and we'll give the tall fellows some crackers before we leave. Now, where do you want to go first?”
Jack immediately took Daniel's hand and started dragging him along.
“Come on, Danny. You have to see the pandas and the lions and the elephants and the hippos and the bears and the monkeys and the giraffes ...”
“Whoa, Jack, slow down. What do you want to start off with, and keep in mind that we only have two hours. The zoo closes at 1800, and we have to be back at the Mountain by 1830.”
Jack turned to Daniel, hiding his face from his grandfather. He felt embarrassed. Whispering, he said, “Danny, I'm not good with that military stuff. When's 1800?”
Daniel put his hand to Jack's ear to help mask his voice as he answered, “Six o'clock.”
“Oh. Thanks, Danny.” Then the older boy smiled as he asked, “What do you want to see first?”
Daniel thought and thought, and finally made his selection: “The lions.”
Jack grinned and began tugging on Daniel's arm again.
“The sign says they're this way. Hurry!”
General Hammond took hold of Daniel's other hand, and they made their way to the lion exhibit. They were soon peering in at a pride of lions, sleeping peacefully in the sun.
“They're African Lions. Their scientific name is Panthera Leo,” Daniel began reading from the sign outside the enclosure.
Jack shook his head as he chastised his younger brother, “We don't need to know all of that, Danny. Just look at them. Aren't they magnificent? Look at that one with the big mane.”
“But it's interesting, Jack. Their roars can be heard up to five miles away,” Daniel read out loud.
“Really?” Jack was interested despite himself.
General Hammond hid a smile, and then he thought he'd try to give each of the boys a new outlook.
“Jack. Daniel. There's a medium ground that you both should consider. Daniel, Jack is right. Sometimes, you need to just look and enjoy. If you are always reading the signs, you miss the living. The lion with the big mane, for example. Watch him, how he moves, how the others give him honor. He must be their leader. Or that lion over there. He almost looks like he's stalking something. You'd miss that if all you did was read the sign.”
Daniel thought for a minute, and then admitted, “Gee, I never thought of it like that.”
“By the same token, Jack, it's a great thing to observe and learn by watching, but if that's all you do, then sometimes you miss the information that adds to your knowledge. Reading and studying is a terrific way of adding to the things you learn visually. If Daniel read more, you might find out how these families interact, or how they came to be in the zoo, or what they do when not sleeping like many of them are now. If we had days to stand here and do nothing but watch them, perhaps that wouldn't be necessary , but ...”
“But we don't,” Jack interrupted. “You're right, Grandpa. Danny, I'm sorry that sometimes I tease you about all the book reading and stuff, but I just want to see the lions, not just that sign there.”
“I know, Jack. I do read too much. I mean, I concentrate too much on it. I want to see the lions.”
Hammond watched as the two watched the pride of lions for several minutes, and then Daniel glanced down, skimming the information in front of him.
“European Lions were exterminated around 80-100 A.D. Poor Lions,” Daniel said sadly.
Jack, however, was not going to let Daniel get upset about something that happened thousands of years ago.
“Lets go see the elephants.”
Jack dragged Daniel off in the direction of the elephant compound. After the elephants, they saw bobcats and snow leopards, Siberian tigers, various species of monkeys, wolves and bears, and finally the pandas.
“Grandpa! We forgot the giraffes!”
Daniel looked horrified, as if they didn't feed the animals, they'd starve. Hammond knew it was pushing it, but they hurried over to the area where the giraffes were, and Daniel was able to feed his crackers to the tall creatures, giggling when the long neck leaned forward to the railing and took the cracker from his hand.
“Jack, you have to do this.”
“Okay,” he answered, not needing to be asked twice.
A few minutes later, they heard the announcement that the zoo was closing, and Hammond had to admit he was relieved.
~This is exhausting trying to keep up with those two ... but ... okay, it's fun.~
He quickly took them to the gift shop and bought them each a stuffed toy. Daniel chose a fox while Jack decided on a monkey.
“Why a monkey, Jack?”
“I don't know. I just like monkeys. How come a fox?”
Daniel shrugged and finally answered, “I think foxes are interesting and smart and ... I just liked how it looked.”
They took their time returning to the car and driving back to the base, the boys too preoccupied with their new toys to wonder why the General seemed to be in absolutely no hurry to return. Eventually, the General decided it was safe to head back. By the time they parked and went through the security checkpoint, the party should be set up.
“We haven't been on this level yet,” Jack said, seeing the big “17” on the gray elevator door.
“That's right, Jack. This way.”
A minute later, they were at the meeting room. Hammond opened the door, and Jack and Daniel walked in to loud yells of “Surprise!”
The room was packed full of personnel. They saw Sam and Teal'c right off, and then Lou, and even the Marine from the commissary earlier. Janet was there, too -- ~without needles; that's good,~ Daniel thought.
They saw two huge banners draped across the room One said, “Happy Birthdays, Danny” and the other had “Happy Big Brother Day, Jack” written across it.
“It's not my birthday,” Daniel spoke sadly, thinking they'd made a mistake and would take the big cake he had spotted away.
“DannyO'Neill,” Teal'c called out.
Daniel's reflex action was to move behind Jack just a tad, which was okay because Jack's first reaction to take a step in front of his younger brother.
~They are so cute,~ both Sam and Janet thought at the same time.
Teal'c approached cautiously, and then knelt down to sit on his haunches.
“DannyO'Neill, I am very sorry I made a bad choice this morning. I did not mean to frighten you. Where I come from, things are different. I forgot that. I offer my sincere apologies.”
Daniel moved out from Jack's protection and smiled.
“It's okay. We were ... misbehaving anyway.”
“DannyO'Neill, we missed celebrating your birthday for many years while you were with your parents ...”
“Birth parents,” Jack corrected, adding, “They were wonderful. Danny loves them, but ...”
“But I have new parents now, too, and Mommy and Daddy would want that.”
“That is so. We missed your birthdays while you were with your birth parents, but we wished for you to know that you are loved.”
Daniel had a gigantic smile on his face as he flew into Teal'c's arms.
“I love you, too, Teal'c.”
“And you, O'Neill,” Teal'c faced the young Jack. “You are an honorable big brother, and we wish to celebrate that as well.”
“It's not easy being my big brother, but Jack is great at it. Billy's good, too, but Jack is the best of bestest!”
“Ah, Danny,” Jack smiled shyly as he spoke.
The two boys hugged as the room awed. As he hugged Daniel, Jack spotted two large piles of presents. He whispered in Daniel's ear, “Danny, I think we have presents.”
“Presents? Really? For us?”
Daniel couldn't believe it. He was sure he had to be imagining things. What caught his attention first though were the cakes. He dragged Jack over to a table laden with food. In the middle stood a large cake in the shape of a pyramid with “Happy Birthdays, Danny” written underneath. Next to it was a cake in the shape of an ice hockey pitch with little players, nets and even umpires on it. Underneath was written “Happy Big Brother Day, Jack.”
“Wow! Jack, this is almost as good as what Mom and Dad got us for Christmas.”
“Double wow,” Jack said as he admired the both cakes, trying to decide which one to attack first. ~No, presents first.~
Daniel began to examine the pyramid cake from every angle and, in a move that made Jack proud, he covertly used a finger to grab hold of a big mound of icing, promptly stuffing it into his mouth.
Mumbling as he licked it, “Tastes good, J'ck,” young Daniel decided the fluffy icing was so good that he took another lick. He attempted a third until Janet swatted his hand. She gave him a death stare. Slowly, he backed away, wiping his sticky hand against his pants leg.
“Jack?” he said as he practically stumbled against his brother.
“Sometimes our friends can be realllllllll scary.”
Jack laughed, then dragged Daniel over to the presents.
“Come on, Danny. It's present time. We can open them now, can't we, Grandpa?”
The General nodded, and the two boys immediately delved into their respective piles of gifts. Daniel began by carefully unwrapping his first present, trying hard not to tear the paper.
~Uh oh, we could be here all night if he carries on at this pace,~ Sam thought, eyeing the large pile of presents they'd managed to collect.
When personnel heard of their plans for the two boys, they'd enthusiastically welcomed the idea and the opportunity to lavish attention on the much loved archaeologist.
“Danny, what did I teach you on Christmas morning?”
“Oh ... yeah ... I forgot! Sorry!”
The young boy laughed and began to rip off the paper, his blue eyes sparkling with excitement. His hands flew about wildly as he stopped paying attention to being careful and instead focused on getting to the treats inside the paper and boxes!
“Much better!” Jack issued his approval.
Jack, himself, had no hesitation in ripping the paper off his presents and had already discovered he'd been given a model airplane by his Uncle Lou. He ran up and hugged Lou enthusiastically.
“What did you get, Danny?”
“Ooooh, a train set. Thank you, T!” Daniel launched himself at Teal'c, flinging his arms around the Jaffa's neck.
The two continued to unwrap their gifts, each boy hugging the people who had given them the presents, even those that they didn't know very well. Eventually, the two were surrounded by wrapping paper and gifts, huge smiles on their faces.
Janet took a lot of photos of the two boys as they partied the night away. Her most recent was of Jack and Daniel looking at each other, both boys radiating happiness. Daniel had ribbon all over him, some in his hair and some around his neck, and Jack had some bows stuck to him that Daniel had teasingly affixed to his clothing.
All around them, as Janet snapped the picture, were stacks of gifts. The SGC had done themselves proud, taking up a collection in a record time of thirty minutes. Four of them had gone to the closest store with toys and spent every penny.
The flash lighted up the boys along with games like Battleship, Boggle, and Yahtzee in the foreground. There were action figures like G.I. Joe, Harry Potter, and Buzz Lightyear scattered around, and then there were water guns, skateboards, and portable CD players for each of them. Finally, Jack had been given a Spy Tool Kit and another train set, and Daniel an acoustic guitar and basketball. The two boys had hit a bonanza, and usually what one got, so did the other.
“How about we play some party games?” Sam suggested.
The two boys immediately ran up to her and waited expectantly.
“We're ready,” they spoke in unison.
“Let's start with the pinatas.”
Teal'c brought out two pinatas, one in the shape of an Egyptian mummy, the other in the shape of a baseball jersey. They hung them from the ceiling, blindfolded Daniel, and then handed the boys yardsticks to hit them with.
“Harder, Danny,” Sam shouted.
“Almost, Danny. You can do it,” Jack encouraged.
“That's it, Son. One more blow should do it,” Hammond said with pride.
“Yo, well done, Danny!” Lou laughed as the pinata ripped open, the candies falling to the floor.
“Your turn, Jack,” Daniel said as he scooped up his pinata goodies.
“C'mon, Jack. One whack!” Lou challenged.
“You are doing well, O'Neill,” Teal'c stated.
“Well done, Jack!” Hammond smiled as he watched Jack's goodies hit the floor.
With the chocolates and other candies collected and placed in a bag for the boys to enjoy later, they played Pass the Parcel with Sam, Teal'c, Lou, Janet, General Hammond and a couple of Marines.
Next up was Musical Chairs, a game that Teal'c just couldn't grasp the logic of.
“I do not understand the point to this game, MajorCarter.”
“What's the point of any children's game, Teal'c? It's to have to fun.”
Then they played the Chocolate Game. Teal'c had donated one of his hats, Sam a scarf and gloves, and the General a pair of sunglasses. A block of chocolate was placed in the middle of the circle, and they all threw a dice. Whenever someone rolled a six, they got to dress up and eat as much chocolate as they could with the knife and fork before someone else rolled a six. Sam watched Daniel all dressed up, scarfing down chocolate without a care in the world and wondered yet again how no one could have wanted such an adorable boy.
After that game was concluded, Teal'c brought out a plate of flour that had been compressed into a jelly mold. Sitting on top of the compressed flour was a single jelly bean.
“Okay, boys, we all take turns cutting off a slice of flour. Whoever makes the jelly bean fall, has to eat it without using their hands,” Sam explained.
There hadn't been many volunteers for this game, so only Sam, Teal'c, Jack and Daniel played. Appropriately, it was Daniel who made the jelly bean fall, and he enthusiastically stuck his face in the flour to find the jelly bean. Looking at his flour covered smiling face, every single person in the room fell in love with the sweet looking shaggy-haired child.
Finally, the party came to a close. Lou and Sam helped the General lug all the presents into Hammond's car. After their good-byes, Sam and Teal'c watched the three drive off.
Teal'c stared at Sam, sensing a sadness in her. His hands clasped behind his back, he tilted his head as he stated, “You will miss them.”
Sam gave her friend a look, then looked away, and quickly looked back at him again, sighing. She hadn't wanted to think about it tonight.
“They are adorable, Teal'c. It's so hard to remember sometimes that they are the Colonel and Daniel. They're both so ... young and free. They don't know anything about the Goa'uld or Replicators. Daniel hasn't lost Sha're, and the Colonel didn't watch his son die. Watching them now, I don't know what I should feel, or want.” Sam took a cleansing breath, and said with a more upbeat tone, “I've never seen Daniel laugh so much.”
“Nor have I.”
“I almost ... it sounds horrible to say, Teal'c, but a part of me almost wishes they'd stay like this. Brothers -- crazy, insane, troublesome, devious little ... angels.”
Sam knew she was again getting too emotional for the setting of the SGC so she decided to make a quick departure. With a smile, and placing her hand on Teal'c's upper arm, she said, “Good-night, Teal'c.”
By the time they arrived home, Jack and Daniel had both fallen asleep in the car. As Hammond opened the door, Daniel woke up.
“He's asleep, Son.”
“Yes. Let's go inside, and you can get into bed.”
“Okkkkkkkay ...” his yawn interrupted his response.
Hammond picked up Jack and carried him inside the house. Within minutes, both Jack and Daniel were tucked into bed, fast asleep.
On this night, the boys would rest through the night, dreams of trains, pinatas, and chocolate goodies filling their sleep and bringing smiles to their faces.
Sam greeted the female with a smile. Valderi was one of the oldest of the local villagers, but Sam had no idea how old she really was. She looked fifty or so in Earth years, but Sam's impressions were that the woman had lived much longer.
Valderi didn't seem to have an official title. In fact, Sam hadn't found anyone who claimed a leadership role. Instead, rules and laws seemed to be handled within families, passed down from generation to generation.
Sam was fascinated by the culture, and she knew Daniel would be, too ... if adult Daniel were around to learn more of the civilization which turned out to be a bit more complex than they had first assumed.
“Major Carter! We welcome you back.”
“Thanks. Um, Valderi, we're still trying to find out what happened to the Colonel and Daniel, and ... well, how long it lasts. Is there anything more you can tell us about this legend?”
“It is not a legend. It is our way.”
“I thought someone said ...”
“Many do not believe. It is old world, but being old does not mean it is not real. There are many followers who believe in the legend of the ultimate lesson.”
“Well ... can you explain this to us now? We really need to know as much as you can tell us.”
“It will be my privilege to assist.”
Valderi's village was the one closest to the Stargate, so Sam hoped she might know more, not just about the legend, but perhaps something about the geography of the area where Jack and Daniel had changed from adults to children, anything that might give Sam a clue about the region. She still didn't know if what happened to her teammates was caused by the legend or something physical, some alien thing or place.
This was Sam's last chance to find out more. This was the fourth trip back to the planet, and there just didn't seem to be anything useful coming from the visits.
As a result, Hammond had said that after today, they had to move forward, so Sam knew she couldn't let anything get by her. She had decided that Valderi was her best hope for finding out details about this legend.
While she learned what she could, Teal'c took more photos and samples from the area where they had been told Jack and Daniel had been seen before their miraculous change. Though they still hadn't had any luck, they hoped a new sample selection might reveal something they had missed the first time around.
As part of that, Teal'c went further inside the cavern to do his work and also included a wider range in the area Jack was said to have been playing when he had changed from an adult to a child.
“Okay, so, tell me everything,” Sam requested.
“Do you think they'll like it, Jack?” Daniel looked uncertainly at his brother as he asked the question.
“Course they will. Now lie down so that I can draw around you.”
Daniel lay down on the large piece of cardboard that they'd placed on the floor.
“I still think we should just make a mummy card for them.”
“Trust me, Dannyboy, they'll like this more. I know I would.”
“Absolutely. Now be still.” Carefully, he traced an outline of Daniel on the cardboard. “Okay, you can get up now.”
Daniel eagerly shifted his position and instructed, “Okay, your turn.”
They repeated the process with another piece of cardboard, this time, Daniel doing the tracing.
They stared at the pieces of cardboard, and then Jack handed Daniel a box crayons.
“Jack, this was a dumb idea. I can't draw.”
“Sure you can. Just think of it as a pyramid or a rock. I've seen you copy those out of books.”
“They're artifacts, not rocks, and I can't draw people.”
Jack shrugged as he spoke, “Neither can I, but trust me, it doesn't matter. Adults always go nuts over things that kids make, even if they're rubbish. You want to thank everyone for the party, don't you?” Daniel nodded. “It'll make their day, Danny. Anyway, making bad stuff and giving it to adults it part of being a kid.”
“Okay,” Daniel responded as he began filling in the outline of himself.
The two had decided to make life size “thank you” cards of themselves. They figured they could get the General to put them someplace so that those who were at the party would see them and know that they loved the party and appreciated all their toys.
“Major. Teal'c.” General Hammond greeted the two returning members of SG-1. “Did you learn anything useful?”
“A little, Sir.” Sam sighed. She wasn't sure whether to be pleased or sorry about what they'd found out. “We still don't know how to turn them back or if it can be done. According to Valderi, the way it works is that one day they'll revert back to normal. Apparently, it all depends on what Daniel and the Colonel were thinking when it happened, what they wanted, and what they learn while they're in this form.”
“Very well, Major. We'll debrief in half an hour.”
“Where are they, Sir?”
Sam couldn't help asking. Truth be told, she missed the little boys. She was growing quite fond of the young versions of her friends.
The General smiled, understanding the question. He was enjoying having the pint-size versions of his flagship team around, too. They gave the place a breath of fresh air and reminded everyone that sometimes they did take things too seriously.
“They asked for cardboard, pens, scissors and crayons, then shut themselves up in their VIP suite and requested, well, Daniel requested and Jack ordered, that they not be disturbed. We haven't seen hide nor hair of them all morning.”
“Is there a guard on their door, GeneralHammond?” Teal'c asked warily, looking relieved when the General nodded, laughing out loud as he did so.
“Sir, I have to ask ... crayons?”
“I had Sergeant Davis pick up a couple of boxes.”
“Bet he liked that,” Sam commented as they all separated to go about their business.
“Jack? Danny? Can I come in?” Sam tapped lightly on the door.
“NO!” came two voices in chorus.
Daniel scrambled to the door.
“We're doing something, Sam. It's a ... secret.”
“Oh, well, okay. Do you need anything?”
Daniel looked at Jack who smiled.
“Cookies and Pepsi?”
“Coke,” Jack demanded.
Sam laughed and responded, “I'll see what I can do.”
“How are they, Major?” Hammond asked when she entered the briefing room.
“Working hard on some secret project. They requested a snack, and I just dropped off a couple of sandwiches ... and cookies,” she smiled. “They wouldn't open the door, though, until we were at the end of the hall. They were so cute -- stuck their heads out, looking both ways and while Daniel kept looking, Jack ran out, grabbed the food, and then wham, they slammed the door and locked it. I can't wait to find out what they're doing in there.”
“Are you sure it is wise to want to know?”
Sam fidgeted with her clasped hands that she had on her lap in front of her. Chuckling, she considered the question. Finally, she responded. “Yes, I do want to know. I'm a sucker for punishment.”
The General asked the obvious, “Did you check the security cameras?”
Sam tilted her head a bit sideways, not answering for a few seconds.
“Actually ... Sir, apparently, they found the camera and ... well, they've covered it up.”
“What? How could they reach it?” Sam just looked at the General. Blocking the images on camera was small fries to these two boys. Hammond quickly realized it was a bit of a silly question. “Major, what did they cover it up with?”
“A piece of cardboard that says 'Go away' on it ... Sir.”
Hammond wanted to laugh. The young Jack and Daniel were certainly creative and, he had to admit, very entertaining. They were definitely rays of sunshine to those who worked within the gray corridors of Cheyenne Mountain.
“Let's get down to business, people. Tell me more about Valderi's comments.”
“General, the inhabitants of the planet are mixed on whether the legend is factual or ... just a legend, but those that believe, like Valderi, are confident that it's not at all harmful.”
“Does she know anyone who has gone through this?”
“Well, that's hard to say. They think of this ... event as sort of a lesson, and it's considered an extremely personal event. As a rule, it's not discussed openly. The lesson is supposedly learned and then passed on by example. For instance, if one of the inhabitants was too focused on their job, ignoring their family, they might go through the lesson, be reverted back to childhood and be reminded of simpler times or priorities that mean more to the survival of their souls versus moving ahead. When the lesson was learned, that inhabitant would show their thanks by making changes in their lives -- a new job, spending more time with their kids, or maybe it might be as simple as just learning to be more patient with others.”
“I really don't understand this, Major. How can they not know what's happening when people disappear for who knows how long while undergoing this ... lesson?”
“It's not that they don't know, General; it's more that by common consent, they don't discuss it. The choice is ultimately left to the individual, to make the changes or remain the same person.”
“MajorCarter, what would be the purpose of DanielJackson and O'Neill becoming children?”
Sam looked over at her teammate as she answered, “Teal'c, I think the Colonel answered that already when he told you that he had to teach Daniel how to be normal little boy.”
“Major Carter, is it possible that Jack, the child, knows what is happening?”
“No, Sir, I don't think so. According to Valderi, the scenario created is very real to the participants and is as logical as possible, based on the knowledge obtained about the person. That is, they've been put in this situation, and the only way it can be valid is if they really believe they are who they are.”
“But I've become their grandfather and Major Ferretti their uncle. Why?”
“Because you're close to both of them, and so when they were reverted to their current ages, accommodations had to be made. For example, I could easily have become an aunt. The Stargate was necessarily explained away as some transporter device. Whatever is part of their exposure is explained to make sense in their current reality, no matter how far from the actual truth it may be.”
Sam paused for a moment, and then added, “Sir, I think we need to remember that they are children. They don't need absolutes. Whereas the adult Jack and Daniel would have a lot of questions and demand answers, as children, they are much more accepting. Things are ... because they are.”
“Then how do you explain Colonel O'Neill's comments?”
“General, I think you know that the Colonel has always felt like that. He ... took Daniel in, adopted him in a crazy kind of way, from the beginning. I think he has always tried to do that -- get Daniel to lighten up, get his nose out the books.”
“It does seem logical, GeneralHammond. O'Neill is extremely protective of DanielJackson. Those traits and patterns are part of his character. He would not abandon them, not even as a child.”
“I think you're right, Teal'c,” Hammond spoke. He leaned forward, his hands now on the table, entwined. “So, we don't know how long this could last?”
“Not without knowing what the adult versions are after.”
“O'Neill would want only for DanielJackson to learn how to play.”
“Probably, but Daniel ... I don't know, Sir.”
Jack munched on a cookie and eyed his handiwork. He looked enviously at Daniel's drawing.
“Yours is much better than mine, Danny. Help me?”
Jack's praise meant a lot to the young Daniel. He smiled brightly, hugging him, and saying, “You're the bestest big brother, Jack.”
Jack finished his cookie and picked up the scissors.
“If I cut out yours, will you finish mine?”
“Okay. What color shoes do you want to be wearing?”
Jack thought for a minute. He looked at the cardboard figure he was holding. Daniel had drawn himself with blue sneakers.
“Blue ... so we'll match.”
Daniel grinned as he grabbed the blue marker, eager to please his brother. “Blue sneakers coming up,” he chirped happily.
“So there's a possibility that they might never turn back into their older selves?” the General asked.
“Valderi wasn't sure, but ... yes, it does seem to be a possibility, Sir,” Sam answered. “Apparently, there are rare occasions when the people concerned don't turn back and simply grow up naturally ... again. At least, that's what the legend says.”
General Hammond looked at Sam and Teal'c. The future could turn out to be a tricky proposition.
“Sooner or later, we're going to have to tell them that their parents aren't coming back.” Hammond looked at his desk. ~Neither is Billy.~
Hammond had checked it out privately. William C. O'Neill had been missing in action in Vietnam since 1967. Jack's older brother had been honored with the Air Force Cross for his heroism, but he never returned home, believed killed, though it couldn't be proved, as he saved his brothers in arms.
“Can we not wait a while longer before telling them anything?” Teal'c asked.
“We can wait a few more days, but we really need to start moving on. Children need routine, and we'll have to start thinking about schools to enroll them in.”
“Won't they be considered security risks, Sir?”
“Perhaps. They'll certainly have to be adopted by Air Force personnel with the appropriate clearance.”
“Will you not adopt them, GeneralHammond? They do believe that you are their grandfather,” Teal'c asked, though he considered it a foregone conclusion that the General would adopt the children if things got to that point.
The General looked at the two remaining members of his flagship team.
“I'll certainly consider it. In the meantime, we need to decide what to do about the status of SG-1.”
Sam and Teal'c exchanged a glance.
“Could we wait a little longer, Sir, before we make any changes?” Sam asked, her eyes pleading for patience.
“Major, did Valderi give you ... an average ... something typical or usual in terms of how long this might last?”
“In most cases, General, it's just a day, sometimes two, but then, there have been longer ones as well -- a week, month, or, like I said, those who choose not to revert back.”
“Well, General, I think it's tied in to the lesson they are supposed to learn, but it's also what they want. If Daniel ... I mean, if some part of him wished to experience childhood, then his lesson may be learning to be a child and adolescent. I ... Sir, I'm sorry. I just don't know.”
“How about the samples you brought back?”
“So far, nothing much. From what we can determine, it's just a velvet material. There is a strange crystal-like substance meshed in with it, but I think it's just the way that headrest is. I'm continuing to run different tests on both the velvet and crystal substance, but right now, there's nothing I can pinpoint or even speculate to.”
Hammond thought for a moment, then recalled one of the first conversations he'd had with the young Jack and Daniel.
“Major, the boys believe their parents will return in one week. Is it possible that could be their timeline to return to ... normal?”
“It could be, but again, General, there's just so many twists and turns to this legend that ... well, I ...”
Sam trailed off, not really sure if any conclusions could be drawn. Hammond saw her hesitation and made a decision.
“We'll give it one more week. Teal'c, I want you to make sure the training for the new recruits continues uninterrupted. Pull in Major Ferretti and Colonel Reynolds if you need assistance.”
“Major, SG-5 brought back an interesting device from Kugloran. I'd like to begin examining and testing it, see if it serves any usefulness for us.”
“The boys will continue to stay with me. My daughter and granddaughters left on vacation this morning so I won't have to worry about that for the next few days. However, Major, I do have an obligation tomorrow evening so Jack and Daniel will be staying with you.”
“Not a problem.”
“Thank you. Dismissed.”
They all stood.
“Major,” Hammond said, turning back around. “If I don't adopt them ...”
“I believe there'll be a line, Sir.”
“Me? I ... I don't know, Sir.” Sam remembered her own words about the boy that no one wanted -- the original boy that was Daniel. She wouldn't, couldn't abandon him, or stand by and see him separated from the brother he loved. “Yes, Sir. In a instant, Sir!”
Hammond was signing his name to some new orders when his phone rang. Putting down his pen, he picked up the telephone and answered, “Hammond.”
“Grandpa, you can get us now. We have a surprise!” Jack exclaimed over the phone.
Hammond surprised himself by having an instant smile on his face upon hearing the sound of young Jack's voice. He was getting used to being called “Grandpa” by the two boys, and more than that, he liked it. He replied, “I'll be right up,” and then hesitated only a brief moment before proceeding to the VIP room.
Hammond knocked on the door and heard giggles.
“Okay, what have ...” Hammond began to laugh.
“Hi, Grandpa,” Jack and Daniel said at the same time, each one moving their cardboard figures in a life-like movement.
“So this is what you've been doing all day!”
“It's our thank you!”
“Do you think they'll like it?”
Hammond smiled reassuringly.
“Yes, Danny, I think so!”
“We don't know where to put it, Grandpa. We wanted to thank everyone, but we don't even know their names.”
“I know just what to do with it.”
The boys watched as Hammond took the cutouts and handed them to an SF, quietly giving him instructions. When he was gone, Hammond phoned Sam and Teal'c, requesting they meet him and the boys in the commissary in five minutes. There was a surprise to be seen!
“Are you going to show us what you did with our thank you?” Jack asked.
“Yes, Son, I am ... right now.”
Hand in hand, the three of them walked along to the commissary, meeting Sam and Teal'c in the doorway.
“The boys have a surprise for everyone, Major, Teal'c.” The General smiled at them. “After you.”
Sam and Teal'c walked in to find themselves face to face with life size drawings of Jack and Daniel. Hammond had ordered the cards to be placed on the wall so that when personnel entered, the first thing they'd see would be the cutouts.
The life size figures had the two boys smiling widely. Bubbles showed their thoughts. Jack's said, “Thank you very much for the neat presents,” while Daniel's said, “We love you, even if we don't know all your names.”
“It's a thank you for our party,” Daniel told them earnestly. “Do you like it?”
Jack nudged Daniel as he smirked, “Of course they like it. Don't you?” he asked with a trace of anxiety.
Sam and Teal'c stood speechless for a moment, then Sam turned and grabbed them both into such a tight hug that they began to squirm.
“That's the nicest card I've ever seen,” Sam told them. “Thank you guys. Everyone is going to love them.”
“Indeed.” Teal'c added. “I am honored to receive such a card.”
Jack nudged Daniel again, his voice confident as his said smugly, “Told you they'd like it.”
Sam couldn't resist giving them each another hug.
~I'm definitely going to adopt them if General Hammond doesn't. I love them both.~
“Jack, we don't have enough room here,” Daniel grumbled.
After receiving hugs and thank yous from virtually the entire SGC staff for their cards, General Hammond had told them that they had to entertain themselves for the rest of the afternoon because Lou, Sam and Teal'c all had work to do.
They were back in the VIP suite. They'd brought back some of their presents from the party so that they could have things to play with, including their two train sets. Since they'd each been given a deluxe set with lots of extensions and accessories, there was a lot of track, and the VIP room wasn't big enough to set up their model railway properly.
“The commissary would be perfect,” Jack suggested.
“How do we get past the sphinx out there?” Daniel asked, gesturing to the door where the SF stood.
Jack thought for a moment, then gave Daniel an evil grin. He picked up his unfinished glass of milk from that morning and told Daniel solemnly, “Another oldie but goodie, Danny, is this one.”
He opened the door and pretended to trip, emptying the milk down the front of the SF's uniform.
“Why you little ...” the man spluttered before remembering who he was talking to and what the consequences would be if he said anything he shouldn't. Jack looked at him innocently.
“I'm sorry, mister. Is there a bathroom nearby where you can wash out your uniform?”
“I'll have to change. Do you two promise to stay here until I send someone back in my place?”
“Cross our hearts,” the two boys promised, each crossing their fingers behind their backs as they swore.
Daniel really didn't see how that negated their promise, but Jack was certain it did, and it was certainly useful, especially as adults seemed to be unaware of it.
~Besides, if Jack says it's so, then it's so!~
Naively, the SF hurried off to change, and as soon as he disappeared from sight, Jack and Daniel gathered up their train sets and sped off to the commissary. Within ten minutes of arriving there, they'd begun setting up their trains, with every personnel present enthusiastically joining in.
“I believe we made progress, Mike.”
“I agree, George.”
Another general was visiting the SGC to discuss Earth's defenses and coordination between the different military services. Their meeting concluded, they were walking to the commissary so that the visiting general could get a bite to eat before catching his plane back to Washington, D.C.
“Aren't the corridors a bit sparse, George? Last time I was here, I remember the place being quite crowded.”
“I have to agree. I don't know ...”
Noise from the commissary drew the two men's attention. It was laughter, and lots of it ... and then the sound of “chooooo” and train whistles.
“What the ...”
The two Generals stood in amazement at the door to the eatery. Track was everywhere, and two trains were speeding all around them. Tables and chairs had been pushed aside, and Airmen and Marines were taking turns piloting the trains around the curves, through the tunnels, and over the bridges.
In the middle of the action stood Jack and Daniel, big smiles on their faces as they pointed out how the trains moved.
“Trains in the commissary, George? ... and who are the boys?”
Hammond shook his head as he called out for Sergeant Hicks who was in charge of the commissary. Suddenly, seeing the two authority figures having entered, the Airmen and Marines snapped to attention.
Jack and Daniel noticed the change and looked around.
“Jack, it's Grandpa!”
The two boys ran to their grandfather, each grabbing hold of one hand.
“Come play with the trains, Grandpa,” Jack said.
“Yeah, it's so much fun. Come on,” Daniel said, using all his strength to tug the Major General forward.
“These are your grandchildren, George?”
Hammond nodded. ~Well, they think they are, and soon, they very well could be, and right now, what they think is more important than the technical truth.~ Still, Hammond felt like he was between a rock and a hard place, not sure whether to discipline the boys because of the visiting general, or just go with the flow.
He was assisted in his decision by Mike who, believing they were his friend's grandchildren and thus surely there was a good explanation for their presence, smiled and asked, “Can I drive the locomotive?”
“Sure,” Jack said, still tugging on Hammond.
“At ease,” Hammond ordered, and then for the next twenty minutes, the two high-ranking officers and the various SGC personnel gathered around and continued to play with the train sets.
“This has been great fun, George. Your grandchildren are terrific. Not sure bringing them to the SGC was wise, but that's your call. I need to go.”
“You never did get your meal,” Hammond said with a bit of laughter in his voice.
“I could stand to lose a pound or two anyway. Give me a call the next time you're in D.C.”
“Will do. Have a safe trip back, Mike.”
Hammond looked at his two charges after Mike exited.
“What am I going to do with you two?”
“I have a suggestion,” Daniel offered.
“And what would that be?”
“Feed us! We're hungry!”
Hammond laughed. Young Jack and Daniel were a handful, but having them around had been delightful, even if a bit nerve wracking, thus far.
“Pick up your train sets, and then we'll go home.”
On the way home, the trio stopped at McDonalds. Hammond was amazed at how the two boys were ... just boys. They played in the special playground for a while, and then devoured their Happy Meals, delighting in the small toys that came with the meals.
Back at Hammond's house, Jack and Daniel watched television for a while, and then the General agreed to play a game with the boys before bed.
“Let's play Monopoly,” Jack suggested.
“No, Scrabble,” Daniel pleaded.
“Okay, you two, that's enough. We'll play Scrabble for half an hour, then switch and play Monopoly for another half an hour. Then, bed,” the General told their departing backs as they ran off to get the games.
“Burlesque,” Daniel said happily as he lay down his tiles in between others already on the board to form the unique word.
“What does that mean?”
Jack didn't like Scrabble, and the General didn't blame him. There was something rather humiliating at being beaten at this game by an eight-year-old.
“It means parody or satire.”
Daniel grinned as he looked at his new tiles.
“Haven't we played for half an hour yet, Grandpa?” Jack whined.
“We don't have to play anymore, Jack,” Daniel said softly.
Immediately contrite, Jack jumped up and hugged the younger boy.
“I didn't mean it like that, Danny. I love playing with you. I'm just not good with words,” Jack explained.
“We could both play together against Grandpa,” Daniel suggested, causing Jack to beam at the idea.
“Great idea, Danny. Can we, Grandpa?”
The General gave an inward sigh. Getting beaten at Scrabble by an eight-year-old Daniel Jackson was one thing, but being beaten by a nine-year-old Jack O'Neill was something else. He smiled at the two hopeful faces.
“Of course, you can.” ~I can get used to humiliation.~
When the allotted time was up, the General had been soundly trounced by the two boys. He wondered if he'd fare better at Monopoly.
“Which piece do you want to be, Danny?” Jack asked, giving his younger brother first choice.
“The car? Is that okay?”
Jack smiled as he nodded, and then looked hopefully at his grandfather as he asked, “Can I be the dog, Grandpa?”
“Sure, Jack. I'll be the hat.”
“To cover your bald head, huh?” Jack teased.
“Jaaaack!” Daniel instantly chastised his brother, punching him in arm.
“Ouch, Danny. It was just a joke.”
“But it's not nice to make fun of people.”
“I wasn't making fun. I love Grandpa.”
“I know that, Jack, but you need to think about what you say. Sometimes, words hurt,” Daniel bowed his head, staring at the game board, as he finished his comment.
“I'm sorry, Danny.”
“I'm not the one you teased.”
Jack went to Hammond and gave him a big hug.
“I was only kidding. I love you, Grandpa George.”
“I know you do, Son, and I wasn't offended. It was funny, but your brother is right. If you ever aren't sure about how something sounds, put yourself in the other person's shoes, and ask yourself how you'd feel if they said it to you.”
With a smile, the threesome began the game.
After playing for half an hour, the boys reluctantly agreed to get into bed on condition that they left the game set up to be continued another night. So far, the game was close, no clear winners in sight. Jack, however, was pleased that he had acquired both Park Place and Broadway. Hammond, unfortunately, had only scattered possessions. Meanwhile, Daniel was purchasing the smaller properties, already establishing hotels on Baltic and Medittereanean.
“Jack, are you asleep?” Daniel whispered as he lay in bed.
“No, I'm not tired.”
Jack crept out of bed and wriggled in beside Daniel. They stared at the ceiling, thinking hard of something they could do, and then Jack said, “Yes!”
“I know what we can do. Let's make another fort. We can use the mattresses off the beds and the sheets and blankets.”
In the moonlight, Jack could see Daniel's answering grin, and the two hopped out of bed to begin their fort construction.
“This is great!” Daniel spoke with pride as he looked at their fort.
“We need snacks!”
“Yeah, that was hard work, Jack!”
“But we did it, Danny. Together, we can do anything!”
“We're ... brothers! Nothing's better than that!”
“Do you think Grandpa is asleep yet?”
“Let's find out. I want to warm up a piece of pizza.”
“I want some of our chocolate candies from the pinata.
“Oh, that's a good idea. Let's go.”
Quietly, the two sneaked through the house. The General was in his study, but he was dozing in his recliner, a book lying across his chest and some forties big band music playing softly on his CD player. The two boys smiled at each other and headed for the kitchen.
Soon, the two were back in their bedroom, arms full of various food items. They went inside their fort and began to munch away.
“Do you think Mom and Dad miss us?”
“Are you sure? I mean, they haven't called us or anything.”
“They can't, remember? It'll only be a few more days, and then we'll see them.”
“I love Grandpa, and Sam, and Teal'c, and ... but I miss them, Jack. I miss our house and our dog and our cat.”
“Don't forget the fishes!”
Daniel laughed, saying “And I miss our fishes, too, especially Pluto.”
“Pluto is so funny. I love it when he comes up to the edge of the tank and makes this big face, like this.”
Jack put fingers at each side of his mouth as if to stretch it. He held his eyes open as wide as he could and then made a puffing motion with his cheeks. Daniel laughed so hard he spilled his chocolate milk into a small bowl of popcorn.
“Let's taste it!” Jack took a bite of the chocolate milk popcorn mixture, chewing slowly. “It needs ice cream!”
“Yeah. Be right back.”
Daniel shrugged and waited for his brother to return. Sure enough, Jack returned with two bowls of ice cream. He then took Daniel's chocolate milk popcorn and mixed it in with each bowl.
“There. Try it.”
Daniel took a taste of the mixture and chuckled.
“It's ice cream corn.”
As they snacked, Jack changed the subject.
“Hey, Danny, when we get home, maybe Dad will let us set up the train set in his study.”
“I don't think so, Jack. He likes to read in there. It would be too noisy.”
“I think he'd play with the trains, just like Grandpa did. I know! He could set up the trains in the garage!”
“That's a good idea, Jack. I bet Dad would do that.”
“I think so, too. Mom would probably like them better outside.”
Young Daniel quieted, solemnly taking a bite of a miniature chocolate bar.
“Mom kisses us goodnight every night.”
“She loves us.”
“My birth mommy did that, too.”
“That's because she loved you, too.”
“I never said thank you to Mom and Dad for adopting me.”
“Yes, you have, silly.”
“How?” Daniel asked, totally clueless.
“Well, I heard Mom and Dad talking one time, and Mom said that every time you smile and hug her that it's a gigantic love bubble and thank you, and Dad said he agreed, that every time he picks you up, and you put your arms around his neck, that it's a love bubble thank you, too.”
“That's what they said. You know grownups, Danny. Sometimes, they talk funny. Anyway, the point was that they said every smile and laugh made them love you more.”
“I can't wait to hug them again.”
“Jack, what if we made them cutouts of us, too?”
“Oh yeah! We could make a set for Dad to take to work, and Mom, too. They'd never be without us!”
“They wouldn't think it's ... silly, would they?”
“No. They love us.”
“Like we love them,” Daniel said proudly.
“We'll have to see if Grandpa can get us some more cardboard and supplies.”
“I'll miss Grandpa. He loves us, too, Jack.”
“I know. We have the bestest grandparents, Danny.”
General Hammond silently closed the door, deciding to let the boys be boys and spend the night in their crudely made fort of beds and sheets. Maybe he should have taken away the loads of food they had snaffled from the kitchen, but he didn't have the heart.
~No matter what happens, your parents are dead. I'm not sure how I'm going to explain that to you if you both remain children. And if you don't ... will you even remember all that love you just spoke of?~
“Jack, I've been thinking,” Daniel said as they began making new cutouts of themselves the following day.
With an early morning phone call, General Hammond had already made sure they had all the supplies they needed in the VIP room even before they got there. The two boys didn't even question or wonder why it was there so early, when they had just asked their grandfather for more cardboard on the way to the Mountain.
“Oooh, that's always dangerous,” Jack joked. Daniel hit him. “Ow. Okay, okay. What were you thinking?”
“We could go find Mom and Dad. Grandpa sends people through the Stargate all the time. All we'd have to do is sneak into the gate room and run through before they close it down. Even if we don't end up in Africa, we'd still have an adventure.”
“I don't know, Danny. The gate room is pretty heavily guarded. I don't know if we can sneak in there.”
“There must be a way. We can at least try, can't we?” Daniel looked hopefully at Jack. “I'm sick of reading about all these places; I want to go see them. Maybe we could go to Egypt, and I can show you the pyramids! They're fun, Jack. We could climb them together.”
Jack's excitement grew.
“Wow, that'd be so cool, or maybe we'll end up in England. We could go see the Tower of London where all those kings and queens got their heads chopped off.” He noticed Daniel's jaw drop, not in terror at the beheadings, but in shock that Jack actually knew about it. “What? I read,” he said a little defensively.
Daniel immediately gave him a hug.
“I know, but you never admit to it.”
“Aw, but you're different, Danny. We don't have any secrets from each other.” Jack was rewarded with a huge smile. “It's a great idea. We just need to figure out a plan!”
“Maybe we could drop in on Sam or see Uncle Lou. Uncle Lou probably knows when the next missions are,” Daniel suggested.
“Or we could go see Grandpa. You can distract him while I find a list of schedules.”
“How do we get into the gate room though?”
Daniel frowned as he tried to remember the lay out of the room, but Jack came up with the easy answer.
“The element of surprise, Dannyboy. No one will be expecting us.”
“Jack, they'll notice if we're in there. Hey,” Daniel's voice lilted in enthusiasm as an idea came to mind, “you know those MALP things that they always send through first?”
“Yeah. What do they do anyway?”
Daniel shrugged and continued with his idea, “Who knows? But maybe they're hollow, and we could sneak into one of them.”
Jack's face brightened as he got another idea, “Or find a trip where they're going to collect samples. We could squeeze into some of those large boxes they take.”
Daniel grinned, his whole face radiating with excitement as he spoke, “We have to go see Grandpa.”
They opened the door and spoke to the SF outside.
“We need to see, Grandpa,” Jack ordered.
“Sorry, kids, your ... grandpa is in a meeting.”
“Then we'll wait in his office,” Daniel informed him sternly.
The SF hesitated, and Daniel crossed his fingers behind his back again as he uttered the fib, “He said we could.”
“Okay, then,” the SF said as he led the way to the appropriate level.
“Good thinking, Danny,” Jack whispered as they followed. “I'm so proud of you.”
“It was nothing, Jack. It's what kids do!”
Jack smiled. His brother had come far in the past year. There was still a ways to go, but the Daniel they had met in New York would never have suggested the trip through the Stargate.
~Progress, Dannyboy. You're almost there.~
“Don't touch anything you aren't supposed to,” the SF said as he shut the door.
“Danny, lean against the door and listen. If you hear anything, tell me.”
Daniel nodded and got into position as Jack went to Hammond's desk and began to shuffle through papers.
“Jack, don't mess up his desk. He'll notice.”
More carefully, Jack continued his search, finally noticing something that looked like a list right by the red phone. He picked it up and started to read it.
“Danny, I found it. They have two missions scheduled.”
“Does it say where to?”
“I don't know. It's just a bunch of letters and numbers. Why don't they just call it England instead of P-whatever all these numbers and letters are?”
“Military, Jack. They like to give code names to things.”
“Secrets. That's right.” Jack read the page. “Here's one SG-7 are going on. Danny, it's in two hours, and it's to PR9-005, wherever that is, but it says it's basic recon and science testing.”
“That'll work! What's a recon?”
Jack thought, his mouth a bit crooked, and his eyes looking to his side.
“I think it's just making sure no one will steal their stuff.”
“Jack, someone's coming.”
Jack put the paper back and scurried to a chair. Daniel ran over to the chair next to it, and then both boys sat smiling, their hands clasped together in front of them as the door opened.
“Hey, what are you two doing here?” Sam asked as she moved to the desk to drop off a report.
“We wanted to talk to Grandpa.”
“He's in a meeting. I think he's going to be a while.”
“Let's go back to our room, Danny.”
Sam laughed as the boys “ordered” the SF to escort them back to the VIP room.
~That is definitely the Colonel!~
“So that's the plan, Danny.”
“I like it. You're a good planner, Jack!”
“You're great with the ideas!”
“We make a good team.”
“We sure do! We have about twenty minutes to go. This is going to be so much fun,” Jack said excitedly.
“Even if it's not Africa, maybe we can ask directions.”
“Yeah. That'll work!” Jack reminded his brother, “Remember, we have to be really quiet and incon...incons... what's that word?”
“Inconspicuous,” Daniel stated.
“Yeah. We have to be that. Just blend in and move quietly. They won't be looking for us or expecting us to be there.”
“I'll bet they leave that MALP thing and those boxes sitting there a long time before they go through.”
“Timing will be everything.”
Daniel put the finishing touches on his cutout for his Dad.
“Do you think he'll like this one?”
“Danny! You drew you with a baseball glove!”
“I like baseball. I'm just not very good at it.”
“You will be. You wanna play Little League? We can be on the same team.”
“They'll make fun of me.”
“No, they won't. You just have to try and be confident, and I'll be right there with you. It'll be fun.”
Daniel thought, weighing the pros and cons.
“Okay! I want to be a shortstop. Do you think I could do that?”
“Sure, you can! We'll talk to Dad, and I bet he'll take us to the park every night to practice.”
“Let's go, Jack. We don't want to be late.”
They opened the door and heard the SF stifle a groan before plastering a fake smile on his face.
Jack stepped to one side of the room as Daniel hovered in the doorway looking beseechingly up at the Marine. He read the name tag -- Dobbins.
“Mister Dobbins, could you come and help us move the night stand, please? We need more floor space.”
They could almost see the relief on the man's face when he realized that was all they wanted.
He stepped into the room, and as he did, Daniel caught a glimpse of the guard's security card. He nudged Jack to point it out, and then, with Jack standing by the door and Daniel by the SF, the two pointed to where they wanted the night stand to go.
As soon as Dobbins bent over, Daniel swiped the security card without the Marine being aware of it. Then, as the man began moving the furniture, the two boys dashed out the door, closing it. Daniel handed the card to the taller Jack who immediately fed it through the mechanism that locked the door.
The two boys fled, making a beeline for the equipment room, figuring that they had very little time before the SF got the door unlocked and sent for reinforcements. Miraculously, they managed to make it there undetected.
“There are lots of MALPs and boxes here, Danny.” Jack looked at all the equipment surrounding them. “But this one is set apart from the others. It looks like it's going to be used soon.”
Alongside the MALP was a small, six-wheeled, remote-controlled truck, otherwise known as FRED (Field Remote Expeditionary Device) loaded with large plastic containers.
The two boys grinned at each other. Jack began to open one of the crates on the truck.
“Let's empty this big crate. I think we can both manage to squish in there.”
Quickly, they emptied the crate of its equipment, hiding the instruments they were taking out behind the other MALPs in the room.
“Danny, you ready?”
Daniel grinned at Jack and climbed into the crate. Jack squeezed in after him and lowered the lid.
“Not very comfortable,” Jack whispered.
“Hopefully, we won't have to be in here very long,” Daniel whispered back. “Let's think of places that we want to go to if we end up in England and work out how to find Mom and Dad if we get to Africa.”
“I hope we get to Egypt. I want to see your pyramids.”
Daniel smiled at that, and the two settled in to wait for their adventure to begin.
General Hammond slammed the phone down so hard that Sam winced. She'd come in to give the General a report, and they'd been interrupted by the ringing phone. She really hoped it wasn't what she thought it was.
“I swear, Major. Those two are going to be the death of me, and we really have to work on security around here. They are two small boys, for Pete's sake. How can they possibly keep giving us the slip?” He sighed. “Organize a search, Major. Enlist the help of non-essential personnel only. I don't want this base interrupted more than it has to be.”
She left, hiding a small smile. ~He must be thinking that retirement is looking pretty good at the moment.~
General Hammond sat at his desk for a few minutes wondering if he should engage every one at the SGC in the search for the two young troublemakers.
~That would probably be overkill.~
He glanced down at his desk and couldn't help smiling at the number of inquiries that had begun to come in about the fate of the two young children. So far, there were a number of offers from SGC personnel to adopt the two ~despite all the chaos they've been wreaking on the place.~
Glancing at the clock, he saw it was time for SG-7 to depart on their mission. He stretched and made his way to the control room to see the team off.
“Have a safe mission, Colonel. Report back in five hours.”
“Yes, Sir,” Colonel Rogers acknowledged, and then turning to his team, “Let's move out.”
Various pieces of equipment were herded through the Stargate, followed by the SG team. When the Gate shut down, Hammond returned to his office, waiting for news of his grandchildren.
“Captain, let's unload these.”
“Uh, actually, Carol, I think we should decide the best place to set up first. I'm not sure yet if that's here or maybe over closer to those rocks.”
“Why don't we go check it out?”
The two SG-7 team members headed off. Two others were already scouting ahead and setting up a perimeter. The area by the MALP, FRED, and other equipment became quiet.
“Jack, let's go.”
Very slowly, they pushed up the lid. Each boy looked around, and seeing the coast was clear, they got out of the container and ran into the forested area in front of them. In their haste, they forgot to put the lid back on the box.
It was several minutes later when SG-7 reconvened by their supplies.
“Carol, did you already take out some of the equipment?”
“No, Captain, why?”
“How'd the lid come off?”
“Not just that, but the container is empty.”
“Maybe we loaded the wrong thing.”
“But how did the lid get off?” the Captain asked.
“No idea. We'd better do an inventory and make sure we have everything we need.”
“See to it.”
“General, they are not anywhere in the SGC.”
Sam squirmed. The General did not look happy.
“Major, there is no way they could have left the base. They have to be here somewhere.”
“Sir, in the last three hours, we've searched every inch of the base ... twice.”
“Search it again, Major, and this time, make sure you check all the places you didn't check the first two times.”
Sam left the room and met up with Teal'c who noticed the look of discontent on his teammate's face.
“He was not happy with your report?”
“That's an understatement, Teal'c. I just don't know where they could be.”
“Where do you think we are, Jack?”
“It's a forest. Hmmm ... maybe in California. Do these look like redwoods, Danny?”
Daniel looked up at the tall trees.
“I don't think so.”
“Are you sure?”
“Jack, these trees are purple. I've never seen a purple tree before.”
“Maybe we're in Mexico. It's very colorful there. Yeah, maybe we're in that Terrified Forest.”
Daniel chuckled as he corrected, “Petrified Forest, not terrified.”
Jack shrugged, mumbling, “Whatever, but maybe we're there.”
Daniel shrugged, too, deciding not to tell his brother that the Petrified Forest wasn't even in Mexico. Instead, he said, “I was in Mexico once, but I don't remember trees.”
“What do you remember?”
“Hot. It was very hot.”
Jack decided they couldn't just stay where they were so he tugged on his brother's arm and led him further into the woods, certain they'd find their way to a city sooner or later.
“Major, I don't see Jack and Daniel with you?”
It was a question, a statement, and a reprimand, and it was times like this when Sam wondered why she had ever thought the Air Force was such a wonderful thing.
“No, Sir. They aren't anywhere in or on Cheyenne Mountain.”
“GeneralHammond, we have searched everywhere a child might hide. I concur with MajorCarter that O'Neill and DannyO'Neill are not here.”
“Then where the blazes are they?”
“General, it's time for the check-in by SG-7,” Sergeant Davis reminded.
“I'll be right there.”
Davis exited, and after a moment to regroup, Hammond walked downstairs to the control room for the report from Colonel Rogers. As he listened to Rogers, Hammond's mind was still on his missing grandchildren and the course of action he'd need to take next.
“And that's about it, General. Carol thinks we can wrap it up in two days. Captain Forelli wants to explore deeper into the woods as there are some unusual characteristics about the forest on this planet.”
“Very well. Anything else?”
“Yes, Sir. We're missing some equipment we'd like you to send through.”
“Missing equipment? Explain.”
Rogers read off a list of items that were not on the FRED.
“Why didn't you take these items with you?”
“We did, Sir, or we thought we did, but the container was empty.”
Sam perked up, almost going from a totally casual stance to one of attention. As the General wrapped up the conversation, Sam moved forward, interrupting.
“Sir, an empty container. How big?”
“How big, Sir?”
Hammond suddenly knew what Sam was thinking, and he cringed.
“Six by four by three,” came the puzzled reply.
“Colonel, Jack and Danny are missing. The likelihood is that they were in that container. I am sending Teal'c through the Gate immediately to try and track them,” the General said. He saw Teal'c nod and hurry off to change. “He'll be followed by every available person I have. I want you to coordinate the search. Colonel, you need to remember that these are two little boys who have no idea they are on an alien planet. I know the temptation is to think of them as having the knowledge of Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson, but they don't. Use extreme care and caution when you find them.”
They ended the transmission, and Hammond turned to Sam.
“Major, were there any natives on that planet?”
Sam shook her head as she responded, “Not that we know of, but the UAV only has limited range. Sir, what concerns me is that this planet gets to temperatures well below freezing level at night. The rapid drop in temperature is one of the things SG-7 was setting up equipment to measure.”
“I want every available person ready to go through that Gate in thirty minutes, Major,” the General ordered, then hurried off to cancel his meetings for the afternoon. He would be the first one through the Gate when the rescue teams went through.
“How far do you think we've walked, Jack?”
Jack scrunched his face up in thought.
“Maybe a couple of miles. I thought we'd have come across a city by now.”
“Maybe I should climb one of these trees and see if I can see anything.”
Jack looked at the tall trees doubtfully.
“I don't know, Danny. They don't look very easy to climb ... and they're really high up.”
Daniel was straining to see ahead.
“Look, Jack -- a river.” He grinned. “Race you.”
Without warning, he took off, Jack in hot pursuit. They reached the river at the same time and fell on the bank laughing.
“Jack, maybe there are fish in the river.”
Both of them immediately rolled onto their stomachs to peer into the water.
“I don't see anything, ” Jack said a little disappointed.
“Wait a bit longer. You're the one who always says fishing is an art form.”
Jack gave Daniel a playful thump on the arm as he explained, “That's because Grandpa says that, too. He'll make a fisherman out of you yet!”
“Are we really going to spend the entire summer in Minnesota with Grandpa Bill?”
“Some of it. We do it every year. It's lots of fun.”
“I can't wait!”
Anticipation about their plans with grandparents other than Hammond ran high as they chatted away on the edge of river. They watched for a little longer and were just about to give up when Jack saw something.
“Look, Danny! Did you see that? I think it was an eel.”
“Baby,” Jack baited.
“Bully,” Daniel responded. Then he grinned. “Want to try and catch it?”
“Sure. We need something sharp.”
“But we don't have anything.”
“Grandpa Bill says that out in nature you have to use the tools that nature gives you.”
“What tools?” Daniel asked.
“We need to look around, remember our goal, and use our imagination to see what might work.”
The two boys turned and sat down, side by side, looking over the area. At the same time, they saw a long, thick twig.
“I bet we could use that,” Jack finally said.
Smiling, Daniel stood up and ran to the fallen piece of tree, examining it closely.
“I think we could, too, if we can sharpen this, but how do we do that?”
Jack checked for his knife, then he remembered he had taken it out of his pocket when he changed clothes the night before. His cherished knife was now at Hammond's house. Jack looked around again, searching for another method to hone the item.
“I know. See that rock? We can rub the branch against it and make it sharp.”
“Grandpa Bill tell you that?”
Jack shrugged, and then hesitantly admitted, “I read it in a book.”
Daniel grinned, and then the two boys set about to carry out their task.
“Do you all understand what's at stake here?”
A round of nods and verbal yeses ensured.
“The two boys, Jack and Daniel, do not understand the danger they are in. When you find them, you have to take care not to tell them they are on an alien planet. We don't know what harm that could do to them.”
Hammond nodded at Sam who spoke up next.
“Based on the information Teal'c, Colonel Rogers, and his team have provided, we believe Jack and Daniel headed into the forest. Using the survey data previously retrieved, we've divided the forest into seven search areas. You've all been assigned to one of those areas. Keep in touch with your team leader.”
Sam paused, looking at the General.
“Look, guys, it's the Colonel and Daniel we're talking about here, and they are two very creative, imaginative little boys right now. Don't assume anything, and when you find them, they might be scared.”
“Don't worry, Major,” Lou Ferretti spoke up. “We'll find the little rascals without harming their psyches.”
Sam saw Lou's smile, and knew he was trying to make her feel better.
“Move out,” Hammond ordered.
“I don't think this is working, Jack,” Daniel commented as he looked down at the stick he was holding.
Jack had managed to sharpen it a little, but it was a long way from looking like anything but a stick.
“It's supposed to work,” Jack grumbled.
Daniel sighed and looked around the forest spotting another stick with a fork in it. He let go of the stick he was holding to have a closer look.
“Hey!” Jack protested as the stick he was trying to sharpen toppled over.
“Oops, sorry.” Daniel looked sheepishly at Jack as he picked up the forked stick. “Jack, if we break off these bits here we could try and pin the eel down.”
“That could work. Is there another one?”
They hunted around for a little while and eventually found another forked stick.
“All set?” Jack asked.
Daniel nodded, and they stepped into the river to look for the eel.
“Wow, its fast,” Daniel exclaimed as he thrust his stick at it and missed.
“It's got a funny looking head, too,” Jack let out a groan of disappointment as he missed as well.
The eel seemed to disappear for a while after that.
“Jack, do you think it's funny that we've only seen this one eel? Shouldn't there be more fish? Regular fish?”
Jack shrugged. Just then the eel came flying towards them, making a loud screeching sound. It was quick reflexes and years of playing baseball from practically the time he had learned to walk that allowed Jack to catch the squealing eel before it hit him in the face, but the force of the creature pushed him backwards several steps.
“JACK!” Daniel yelled, running to his brother's side.
Jack struggled with the strange fish, and Daniel, too, grabbed onto it as it continued to screech and squirm. The eel was too strong for them to hold onto, but they were afraid to let go.
“Danny, throw it back towards the river. On three. One. Two. Three!”
With loud groans, the boys worked as one to throw the wiggling fish back towards the river. They watched as it hit against some rocks, a mournful sound coming from it as something green oozed from the creature as it bounced a couple of times. Then, it fell limply onto the bank of the river.
“Jack, are you okay?” Daniel looked at Jack, both of their faces pale.
“Yeah. That's weird though, Danny. It was like it wanted to attack me. I thought piranhas were the only man-eating fish around.”
“Except sharks,” Daniel clarified.
“Some sharks,” Jack corrected with a grin, the color returning to his cheeks. “Come on, lets take a closer look at it.”
As they kneeled along the bank and looked at the eel, they saw it was still moving.
“At least it's stopped squealing,” Daniel commented as they peered at the writhing creature. “Should we put it back? We don't want it to die.”
“Or we could cook it. Grandpa Bill says fish always tastes the best when you caught it yourself.”
“Oh, I didn't catch it though, you did,” Daniel looked disappointed as he talked.
“We both did, Danny. It was a combined effort. You got it to come at me, I caught it, and then we both tossed it.”
“That was a neat move. Will you teach me?”
Teal'c was leading the search in one area when he heard the unmistakable squeal of a Goa'uld symbiote. He also began to sense their presence. He clicked on his radio.
“GeneralHammond, we must exercise extreme caution. I believe there may be Goa'uld symbiotes on this planet like the ones that exist on P3X-888.”
“Just what we don't need. Any sign of Jack and Daniel?”
“Not yet. I am headed towards the river.”
“Keep me advised. Hammond out.”
“Jack, it's still moving. It's definitely still alive.”
“It looks strange, Danny.”
“I have a funny feeling about this. I think we should leave it.”
“I thought you wanted to put it back into the river?”
“I thought you wanted to eat it?” Daniel countered.
“It just ... doesn't look like a fish, Danny.”
Jack leaned over and touched it, and the eel squealed some more, attempting to leap towards Daniel, but not quite being able to lift itself into the air.
“Get back, Danny.”
“You, too, Jack.”
Both boys backed away a few feet from the creature. Just then, the eel began to thrash around violently, making loud noises.
“Jack, let's go.”
“I'm going to kill it. Be right back. I'm going to get that stick.”
Daniel stayed where he was, transfixed on the funny-looking eel. As Jack picked up his stick, he saw the eel suddenly begin to fly through the air towards Daniel who was stunned to stillness.
“DANNY! DANNY, DUCK!”
Just then, a blast blew by Daniel, zapping the attacking creature and burning it to a crisp.
Jack ran to his brother and hugged him tight.
“Are you okay?”
“I ... I think so.”
“O'Neill, DannyO'Neill, are you both in good health?”
“Teal'c, what was that funny fish?”
“It was the strangest looking eel, T,” Jack added.
Teal'c looked at the two boys, clutching on to each other for dear life.
“It tried to kill us,” Daniel added, his voice trembling.
Teal'c handed his staff weapon to one of the Marines who was searching with him. Then he moved forward and picked up both of the boys.
“Do not worry. You are both safe now. The ... eel is dead and will not hurt you.”
“I don't like it here,” Daniel said.
“T, is this England?”
“I think it's Transylvania, Jack. Everything is weird there,” Daniel said, laying his head on Teal'c's shoulder.
Teal'c said nothing as he began the trek back to the Gate, motioning for the Marine to radio in.
“General Hammond, this is Hanson.”
“We've found Jack and Daniel. They're safe. We're en route to the Stargate now. ETA two hours, fifteen minutes.”
Sam paced up and down the path that led to the Stargate, passing General Hammond who was pacing in the opposite direction.
“Sir!” Sam pointed to the approaching team. “It's Teal'c with the boys.”
“Grandpa!” Jack exclaimed.
“Don't Grandpa me. Teal'c, put them down. ATTENTION! AND THAT MEANS YOU TWO!”
They'd seen others do it, so suddenly Jack and Daniel stood as straight as they could.
“What in Heaven's name possessed you two to go through the Stargate? You didn't have permission. You hid equipment, valuable equipment that delayed others from doing their jobs, and you risked your lives.”
Hammond paced, his voice commanding.
“Do you have any idea how many people have been scared to death that the two of you got hurt today? I had to pull over sixty personnel off regular duties, IMPORTANT duties, just to search for you. Your parents pay taxes, taxes that support this facility, and instead of us doing something to help mankind or keep this country safe, we've spent one full day searching for two very irresponsible boys. I'm very disappointed in both of you. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
“We're ... <sniffle> we're ... <another sniffle> ... very, ve...<sniffle>...ry ... <sniffle> sorry, Grandpa,” Daniel sobbed.
“What Danny said. We're sorry.”
“You could have been killed. That ... fish ... was very dangerous.”
“It didn't look like a piranha,” Jack sniffled.
“Danger comes in all shapes and sizes, Son. How would you have felt, Jack, if that thing had hurt Danny? And you, young man, what if Jack had been injured by that creature? All because you two misbehaved and couldn't do as you promised you'd do.”
More sobs, each boy attempting to dry their increasing tears with their shirtsleeves while still standing at attention. Sam watched, practically in tears herself. Hammond had sent all the rescue personnel back, so the only ones who had heard the dressing down were SG-1, Ferretti, and Janet. Finally, the Major General sighed. He walked over to the two boys and knelt down, placing one hand on each of their arms.
“Boys, don't you understand? You scared us today. You're both so bright and imaginative, but you have to start doing what adults tell you to do, for your own protection. This is a dangerous place.”
“Is it Trans...Trans...<sniffle>...sylvania?” Daniel asked.
“Transylvania?” a confused Hammond asked as he looked over at Teal'c.
“It can't be England,” Jack stated softly.
“No, it's not England or Transylvania. It's a forbidden place for little boys,” Hammond said sternly.
“You're really mad at us, aren't you, Grandpa?” Daniel asked in a tiny voice.
“No, Son. I'm not mad. I'm very grateful you're both safe. I love you both very much, and I was just very concerned you'd be hurt.”
Hammond pulled the two in for a long-lasting hug. As she watched, Sam wiped away a tear of her own. Military or not, this was one time she wasn't able to contain her emotions.
“Let's go home,” Hammond said softly.
The boys looked at Sam who went to them and hugged them quickly.
“We're sorry we scared you, Sam,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, we're sorry,” Jack added.
She held them, squeezing them both. With a smile, she asked, “Hey, you two want to help me dial the Gate?”
Sam saw their teary faces light up, so she nodded and led them to the DHD.
“You two can take turns. I'll tell you what to hit. You have to be very careful.”
“We promise,” both boys said excitedly.
“Okay,” she smiled at the two eager tear-stained faces before starting the procedure, “Jack, you press that button.”
“Geez, it's stiff, Danny,” he said as he pressed the first symbol.
“You're turn, Danny. Press this one.”
Sam tapped the second chevron symbol. Daniel had to use both hands to press it down. They each took turns pressing the different symbols until the address had been completed.
“Okay, now this is the really fun part, so how about we do it together?” Both boys nodded. “We'll press the center button together.”
“On the count of three, Danny?” Jack asked his brother.
Daniel nodded, and Jack began counting -- “One, two, three.”
Together, the brothers O'Neill pressed the reddish-orange center, and the Stargate kawooshed into life.
“Wow! That's so awesome, Jack.”
Daniel's eyes were wide as he watched the kawoosh ebb and then stared at what looked to him like a large puddle of shimmering water. Taking them by the hand, Sam walked the boys back over to the General and the others.
“Let's go home,” Hammond ordered.
The others started heading back for the Stargate when Daniel tugged on the General's hand.
“Grandpa?” Tears had started to slide down his cheeks again, making his eyelashes damp. “Please don't be mad at Jack, Grandpa. It was my idea to go through the Stargate. He wouldn't have done it if it weren't for me.”
“Danny, why did you want to go through the Gate anyway?”
General Hammond knew he should probably wait to have this conversation back at the SGC, but he really wanted to know what on Earth had possessed the two to do such a crazy, dangerous thing.
“I wanted to find Mom and Dad,” Daniel let out a sob, “I miss them. I didn't mean to scare you or cause trouble. Please don't be mad at Jack.”
The General blinked back his own tears as he swept the small boy up into his arms. Daniel wrapped his legs around Hammond's waist, wound his arms around the older man's neck and buried his face in the General's neck and began to sob in earnest. Spotting a lone rock, Hammond sat down on it and rubbed Daniel's back murmuring reassurances.
Jack was just about to step through the Gate with Sam and Teal'c when he turned to make sure Daniel was okay and saw the General sit down, Daniel in his arms. He could tell from the shaking of Daniel's body that his brother was crying. Breaking away from Sam, he ran back to Daniel and threw his arms around as much of his brother as he could get to.
“Danny? Don't cry. What's wrong?”
Daniel kept his nose buried in the General's neck, but reached out an arm for Jack.
“It's all my fault. I could have got you killed. I love you, Jack, and you might've died ... and I miss Mom and Dad.”
“Danny, it's okay. See, I'm just fine, and so are you, and we're going home now, aren't we, Grandpa?”
“Yes, Son, we are.”
“Mom and Dad will be back in two days, Danny. We can wait until then, and we're going to have such fun. Remember what they promised us?”
Daniel nodded as he answered softly, “Ice cream and story time.”
“Ice cream and story time?” Sam asked from behind them.
“Whenever an O'Neill has something to tell or share, like from a vacation or even just when we do something good in school, we have a special family time. Whomever is telling the story picks a place to tell it, so sometimes it's on the floor in the living room or in Mom's sewing room or outside on the lawn. We all sit down together in a circle, eating as much ice cream as we want, and then we tell the story about what happened.”
“It's a lot of fun.”
“Mom and Dad will have lots of stories, Danny, and so will we.”
“Ice cream and story time will last all night!”
“All week! It'll be a blast!”
“Jack, do you think they'll punish us?”
Sam and the General watched Jack scrunch up his face as he thought, remembering the past few days. He took a heavy breath as he finally answered, “Probably, but only because they love us, and we have been a little naughty.”
“A little?” Sam said with a chuckle, earning her a glare from Jack.
“Sorry,” she said out of the side of her mouth.
“But then they'll hug us silly, huh?”
“Lots and lots, Danny. You know how they are when they are only gone for one day. This will be seven whole days. We probably won't be able to breathe!”
Daniel laughed softly.
“I hope so.”
“It's okay, Danny,” Jack rubbed his brother's back. “We were just ...”
“Being little boys?”
“Okay, let's try this again,” the General said, and finally, they walked through the Stargate and were surprised when the room was full of some fifty, worried personnel, none of whom had needed to stay, but all of whom wanted to remain, just to see for themselves that the boys were okay.
Wiping away his tears, and still in Hammond's arm, young Danny whispered, “Wow. For us?”
“All for you and your brother,” Hammond said, putting the boy down.
Jack immediately grabbed Daniel's hand, and they walked down the ramp.
“We're sorry about causing all the trouble. Thank you for searching for us,” Jack said, adding, “You did great because you found us!”
Everyone laughed, and then Hammond took the youngsters to the infirmary where they endured another checkup.
“Doctor Janet, you've already examined us,” Jack whined.
“Well, you just remember that. Every time you step through the Stargate, you get a physical.”
“Every time?” Daniel automatically scooted closer to Jack on the exam table they were sitting on.
“Ow,” both boys said in unison, causing Janet to laugh.
“Maybe I should rearrange my schedule,” Hammond said, unsure about leaving the boys with Sam for the night.
“Sir, they'll be fine, and I know just the thing to get them back on track.
“Do I want to know?”
Sam smiled and responded, “Probably not, Sir. It's just a little ... payback, but it'll make them laugh and forget all about today.”
“I wish I could believe that.”
“General, you know how kids are. Today seemed long and scary. By tomorrow, they'll have something new to focus on. It'll be forgotten.”
“Ice cream and story time.” Hammond shuffled some papers. “I wonder if the O'Neill's really did that.”
“I wouldn't be surprised. Most of what Jack and Daniel use as their history has some basis in fact. The Colonel never talks much about his personal life, but I know he had a very happy childhood.”
“That he did. He's told me that much himself.”
Sam thought again about the strange legend.
“Sir, I really think the Colonel is Daniel's teacher during this experience. He's said more than once that he has to teach Daniel how to be normal kid, and the more Daniel becomes that, the closer they come to fulfilling the legend.”
“I thought it depended on what they were thinking at the time.”
“According to Valderi, it does, and that's the part we just don't know. I'm concerned, General, what might happen when ... if, you tell them the truth, or at least about their parents not coming home.”
“What do you mean?”
“I hesitate to suggest this, but I think we should talk with Janet and, oh gawd, forgive me, Daniel, maybe Doctor MacKenzie.”
Hammond saw the hesitation on Sam's voice and the anguish in her voice at mentioning the psychiatrist.
“Major, off the record, and I need you to be completely honest with me based on what you know.”
“Yes, Sir. I'll ... try.”
“That experience a few years back when Doctor Jackson was placed in the psychiatric ward at the hospital due to Ma'chello's invention. It created tension around here for quite a while between Doctor Jackson, Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Fraiser. Would that be a fair assessment?”
Sam sighed as she considered her answer. It really wasn't much of a secret. Pre- and post-mission exams during that time were usually silent affairs, and everything was done very professionally, names and titles being used most of the time.
“Yes, General. It was a little tense for a while.”
“But they did resolve their differences with Doctor Fraiser?”
“Yes, Sir, they did, not too long afterwards. It ... took several weeks, but finally, they worked it out.”
Sam looked nervous, afraid the General was going to ask for details.
“Don't worry, Major. I'm not asking to invade personal domain. What about with Doctor MacKenzie?”
Sam exhaled, shaking her head.
“Sir, I'm afraid not. I mean, they pretty much think he's ... well, they ... on second thought, General, please don't consult with Doctor MacKenzie. I don't think they'd ever forgive us.”
Hammond couldn't help but chuckle, just for a second. Then, an amusing thought occurred to him.
“You know, Major, I bet those two would have Doctor MacKenzie wondering what his name was.”
Sam laughed again, and led into another thought, “Sooooo ... hmm ... maybe it would be ... beneficial, Sir.”
“Let's schedule some time with Doctor Fraiser tomorrow to discuss potential ramifications of telling the boys the truth.”
Sam was about out the door when Hammond called out, using her first name, which was a rarity.
“If they need anything, I want you to call me.”
“You're going to adopt them, aren't you?”
“I wouldn't give them up for anything, and if you agree, we'll set up an agreement that should anything happen to me, they'll go to you. If you ...”
“Yes, Sir,” Sam beamed.
Sam and the boys ate dinner, played some games, and watched some television, but it was still early when they both fell asleep on the sofa.
~You've had a long day, haven't you? Look at you two. I'm so confused. Part of me misses the two men that are such a big part of my life, and part of me doesn't know what I'd do if you two little boys weren't here any more. And Daniel? Geez, you're so happy. I've never seen you just ... be free like this. I'm not sure I want that to end. And you, Sir. The big brother. What Daniel would have given to have grown up with a big brother like ... you.~
Sam stopped her thoughts, suddenly wondering if she had hit upon what Daniel might have been thinking when the lesson of the legend had begun. Maybe he had been watching Jack playing with the children, as Sam had been told by the villagers, and just maybe he wondered what it would have been like to have grown up with Jack.
Sam smiled as she finally reached down to pick up Daniel. Both boys were already in their pajamas. The sleeping boy automatically nuzzled into her neck, his arms going around her. Carefully, she walked into the bedroom and tucked him in. She placed a kiss on his forehead.
~I love you, DannyO'Neill, and you, too, Daniel Jackson.~
She returned to the living room and repeated the procedure with Jack, the same thing playing out. Jack, in fact, held on to her even tighter.
~Not quite so tough, are you, Jack? Just a little boy. You were a happy kid. You just had stuff happen when you got older that almost took away that inner child.~
She tucked him in, also kissing him on the forehead.
~Yes, Jack. I love you, too, as the protective big brother, or as my CO. You're a good ... man, and heaven knows, whether your Danny's big brother, or Daniel's lover, you live to protect him. He's safe, Jack. You don't have to worry so much. We'll all work hard to keep him ... laughing.~
Sam backed out of the room, turning off the light, and closing the door.
It was 3 a.m. when Sam's alarm went off. She had a schedule to keep. She began by checking on the two boys, and sure enough, they were sound asleep, snuggled close together, protecting each other from the darkness of the night.
She went to the kitchen and grabbed her supplies.
“Okay, boys. One submarine job, coming up!” Twenty minutes later, she stood admiring her handiwork. “Oops, one last thing.”
She retrieved her camcorder and placed it so that it covered as much of the room as possible. Satisfied with the result, she crept back to bed.
When she got up the following morning, she made as much noise as possible, then took a second camcorder she'd borrowed from the SGC and stationed herself outside the boys' bedroom window.
An arm poking into his back eventually woke Jack up. He looked at Daniel and laughed. Daniel was wearing a helmet of what looked like whipped cream. He swiped two fingers through the substance and licked them.
~Wet.~ Jack felt the creamy substance on his head, becoming aware that he, too, had a foamy helmet on. As a result, their pillows were completely gooey and sticky.
He took in the rest of the room, smiling as he did so.
“Danny. Wake up! Danny!”
He shook his brother on the shoulder several times.
“J'ck. Sleepy,” Daniel said, yawning.
“Danny, Sam submarined us!”
Daniel's eyes flew open, the blue orbs twinkling with delight. The first thing he saw was Jack's creamy helmet, now dripping down onto his brother's face. Daniel giggled.
Next, he looked around to see that they were completely encased in string. He gave one of the strings an experimental tug, and a second later, they were caught in a large downpour of chocolate syrup that ran all over their bodies and pajamas.
Daniel used his tongue to take in some of the brown goo, and sighed contentedly at the taste.
~Yum. Love chocolate.~
They laughed at the sight of each other and looked eagerly around to see what else Sam had done. There was nothing else visible, and they looked at each other a little disappointed.
“Lets go find her,” Jack suggested, and quickly, the two raced to the door and tried to open it, only to find the door handle was covered in oil, and they couldn't get a firm grip on it. Their hands slid round and round in their attempt.
Then they heard a buzzing noise and noticed a cardboard box had been placed beside the door. As they watched, it flew open and hundreds of feathers flew into the air to cover them both from head to toe, the whipped cream and chocolate helping the feathers to stay in place.
The two laughed again at the sight of each other and looked around excitedly to see if there was anything else to surprise them.
Outside the window, Sam grinned, catching everything on video. There were definitely times when it paid to be a military scientist. She activated another remote control, and one of the closet doors slid open.
The two boys were clearly torn between wanting to back away from whatever she had in store for them and their innate curiosity as to what it was. Curiosity won out, and holding on to each other, they moved forward slightly just as she pressed another button. She laughed as a cloud of flour literally erupted from the closet, enveloping them in white mist.
They giggled like Sam had never heard them laugh before, and she knew her submarine mission had been a complete success.
“You look funny, Jack,” Daniel said.
“So do you!”
“Sam did good! I didn't know a girl knew how to submarine.”
“Sam knows how to do everything. She's smart.”
Sam decided it was time to let them know she was watching, so she tapped on the window. Plus, she had one more surprise in store for the two lads.
With big smiles, they ran to the closed window. Sam mouthed, “Open it,” so together, Jack and Daniel undid the lock and opened the window. As soon as they did, a bunch of eggs fell down on them, cracking open, yellow yolk and egg whites dripping down their bodies, blending in with the flour and chocolate, not to the mention the feathers.
“Gotcha!” Sam beamed with pride.
The boys were laughing even harder now, doubling over in laughter, holding their abdomens.
“We're like a cake, Jack!”
“We just need to be put in the oven and baked.”
“I could arrange that,” Sam said. More laughter ensued as she added, “And I got it all on tape.”
“Yeah! Can we watch?”
“After you both take a bath, and we clean up this mess!”
The children took a nice, long bath while Sam began the clean up. Her guest room was a mess, but it was well worth it in her opinion. Soon, Jack and Daniel returned to their room, towels wrapped around them.
“Uh, Sam,” Jack said. “We need to get dressed.”
“Sam!” Daniel blushed.
Giggling, Sam exited the room so the boys could have their privacy. Once dressed, they had breakfast and watched the videotape. Sam had added it to the tape of their submarine job on her, so they could compare. In the end, they decided both covert missions were well done.
“It's a tie!” Daniel proclaimed!
“Okay, I'll accept that,” Sam agreed. “We need to go guys, and please ...”
“We know. We won't go through the Stargate.”
“See,” Daniel said, holding out his hands, “we aren't crossing our fingers.”
“DANNY! Don't give away our secrets,” Jack chastised.
“Oops,” Daniel said, quickly hiding his hands behind his back.
Sam chuckled as she reassured the two, “Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me.”
The boys spent the first two hours playing with some of their toys in their VIP room. After that, Hammond brought them up to spend time with him in his office, just watching and observing. He let them ask questions and examine anything they wanted to. Of course, he had already made sure that anything classified or which revealed the true function of the Stargate had been locked up.
They had a great time. Hammond glanced at his watch. They had an appointment with Janet soon, and then some decisions to make. He wasn't sure about MacKenzie yet, and wanted to get his Chief Medical Officer's opinion first. Just in case, he had made an appointment with the psychiatrist for that afternoon, shortly after lunchtime.
“Grandpa?” the General looked down to see Daniel looking at him a little anxiously. “What's wrong? We haven't been bad, really we haven't.”
Hammond pulled the young boy onto his lap.
“I know, Danny. I was just thinking about something. You and Jack have been very good today.”
He smiled at Jack who grinned back. Just then there was a knock on the door, and Janet, Sam and Teal'c entered the room. They all smiled at the sight of their CO sitting behind his desk, Daniel in his lap.
“Boys, would you like to spend a little time with Teal'c before we all go and have lunch?”
“Okay,” they agreed happily.
They each took hold of Teal'c's hands and left with the tall Jaffa, asking him all about the tattoo on his forehead.
Hammond gestured to the two women to close the door and sit down.
“Doctor Fraiser, I need your advice on whether it would be a good idea to have Jack and Daniel talk with Doctor MacKenzie. Major Carter ... Sam is here because she has agreed to be the boys secondary caregiver should anything happen to me.” Hammond sighed. “If things stay as they are, I will be adopting them, so we need to make a decision about what to tell them about their parents. How fragile do you think their mental state is?”
Janet winced. Ever since the episode with the Ma'chello bugs, she'd been wary about making referrals to MacKenzie. It had taken her a long time to win back Daniel's trust and even longer to win back the Colonel's. However, she had an obligation to do her job which in this case was to either make a recommendation or not.
“Teal'c, can you give us a tattoo like yours?” Daniel asked, looking at the Jaffa with huge pleading eyes.
“Please, T?” Jack begged as well.
Teal'c wasn't sure of the best course of action, but these two small versions of his friends were even more persuasive than the older versions. He sat on the bed in their VIP suite and gazed at them. They had just discovered the box of face paints that they'd been given at their party and were anxious to try them out.
“Very well, but may I suggest that you create your own symbol, perhaps something to mark your bond as brothers?”
Teal'c was not willing to give the boys a tattoo marking them as slaves of Apophis, no matter how temporary it might be.
“Yeah, Jack. We can make an O'Neill family symbol, ” Daniel said excitedly. He grabbed a piece of paper and began drawing, Jack peering over his shoulder.
“We could add a smiley face to it,” Jack suggested.
Carefully, Daniel added the smiley face to the symbol enclosed by an oval. With satisfied grins, they handed the paper to Teal'c.
“Please, T. Draw us tattoos!” Jack pleaded.
“Very well.” Teal'c took the pot of gold face paint that Daniel handed him. “Who shall be first?”
“Danny, you go first,” Jack said generously.
Teal'c began painting, and Daniel scrunched his nose up and giggled in response.
“You must not move, DannyO'Neill.”
Teal'c waited for Daniel to still and continued to paint. Ten minutes later, the two had matching tattoos, an oval with what they believed was the chevron symbol for Colorado Springs, but was in fact the symbol for Earth, and in the middle of the symbol was a smiley face. The two grinned at each other and then at Teal'c.
“We're blood brothers, and T's our friendship brother,” Daniel declared.
“Our tattoos declare it to be so!” Jack added and saw Teal'c's surprised look. “Hey, I read.”
Daniel smirked as Teal'c just looked even more surprised. Jack looked offended at this, not realizing that the Jaffa's surprise was at how much he had sounded like his older self with that last remark.
“They are normal, healthy, intelligent boys, General Hammond. Regardless of their current age, they are Jack and Daniel. They are still the people we've known, but the events of their past have changed, but clearly, the change hasn't been harmful.”
“Janet, what happens when we tell them their parents are dead?”
“More to the point, Doctor, do we tell them the truth?” Hammond asked.
“I don't know, Sir. I'm sorry, but this is outside of my expertise. My gut instinct is yes, that honesty is always the best way, but even this is different. Daniel believes he's been adopted. Do we have the right to take that happy memory from him?”
“Exactly, Janet.” Sam's voice was full of concern. “How do we tell those two little boys that they aren't brothers?”
With a heavy sigh, Janet remarked, “Sir, I know Doctor MacKenzie has a ... conflicting past with Jack and Daniel, but whether it's him or not, I think you need another opinion. I am not qualified to answer these questions.”
Hammond exhaled loudly. He had been hoping for something more concrete, but all they'd come up with were more questions. He looked at Janet and Sam and decided he needed one more thing from them.
“This is off the record. I'm not asking for your opinions based on science or medical knowledge. I want your gut feeling. The two of you know Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson as well as anyone does around here. Gut feeling. Do I tell them the truth, or do we just say their parents have died? Major Carter?”
“Sir, it's not just the O'Neill's. Jack and Daniel have talked about their older brother, Billy, their Grandpa Bill, and ... who knows who else they have some joined knowledge of.”
“And don't forget, they think Major Ferretti is their uncle,” Janet added.
“So the truth seems to be the best way.”
The three sat silently.
“It seems so wrong, General,” Sam finally said. “We'll be destroying their entire world.”
“If we lie, you're also talking about getting a base full of personnel to conceal the lie, and what about the city? They may not be social animals, but both the Colonel and Daniel are very well known.”
“Then ... there's the Colonel's house, Daniel's apartment, and all of their things ...” Sam's words were cut off.
“It's a Pandora's box,” Hammond said sadly. “Maybe we do need to consult with Doctor MacKenzie.
“For Jack and Daniel, or for us, Sir, and the guilt we're all going to have?” Sam asked pointedly.
It was a question that left all three of them staring at each other.
“Grandpa, Grandpa,” Daniel came flying through the door, Jack right behind him, and Teal'c bringing up the rear.
“DannyO'Neill, did I not tell you to knock and wait for your grandfather to answer before entering his office?” Teal'c asked the young boy.
“Sorry, T. I forgot,” Daniel said unconvincingly.
He reached out and grabbed Jack's hand, both showing their foreheads to the General.
“Look, Grandpa. We've got our own tattoos, just like T's. It shows that Jack and I are blood brothers!”
“It's going to be the O'Neill family tattoo. Maybe Billy will want one, too,” Jack pondered with a grin.
At the sight of the two happy grinning boys, Sam blinked back her tears, and Janet concentrated on the floor. How could they destroy such happiness? Hammond simply drew the two into a hug and looked sadly over their heads at the two women.
He mustered up all his resolve, plastered a happy smile on his face, and looked down at the two smiling faces. He could see that the boys had picked up on the tension in the room and were beginning to look anxious.
“Who feels like lunch?” he asked with false cheerfulness. “I hear they have Frog in a Pond for dessert today.”
“I was not aware the US Air Force served frogs, GeneralHammond.”
“They're not real frogs, are they?” Daniel asked looking a little horrified.
“Course they're not, Danny,” Jack gave Daniel a playful nudge, “You remember frog in a pond. Billy made it for us over summer. Blue Jell-O and chocolate frogs in the middle. Frog in a Pond!”
“I remember now. We ate too much Jell-O and got sick. When it came back up you could see the ...”
“Okay, you two,” Hammond cut in before they were treated to a description of regurgitated Frog in the Pond and lost their appetites, “Let's all go and have lunch. We want to tell you all about a doctor that I want you too see this afternoon.”
The two moved closer together.
“Not more needles,” Jack stated firmly, “We don't need more needles.”
“No, a different kind of doctor. He's just going to talk to you both; ask you how you feel about things.”
“Oh, they mean a crazy person doctor, Jack. Remember in New York, those State people wanted to make me see one, and Dad wouldn't let them?”
Jack glared at everyone and wrapped his arm firmly around Daniel's shoulders. He looked remarkably like the Colonel, getting ready for battle.
“We're not crazy.”
Hammond squatted down so that he was level with them.
“We know you're not crazy, Son. Neither of you are. We just ... it's for a project I'm working on. It would really help me a lot, but I tell you what. I didn't know about what happened in New York, so ... if you two really don't want to, I won't make you. I would like you to consider it, though, because it's important to me.”
The two looked suspiciously around at the adults, then glanced at each other and shrugged.
“Okay, Grandpa, but only if we can do it together,” Jack said, using what was unmistakably his Colonel tone.
Daniel nodded his agreement. The debate settled, the six of them made their way to the commissary for lunch and had hot dogs, followed by Frog in a Pond. Then the General took the boys to see Doctor MacKenzie.
“Now, boys, this should only take an hour or so. When Doctor MacKenzie has finished, he'll bring you back to my office.”
He hugged them both tightly, praying that he was doing the right thing.
“Doctor, a moment of your time, please.”
Hammond and MacKenzie walked out, Hammond closing the door behind them.
As soon as the door closed behind the two men, Daniel grinned at Jack and extracted a lipstick from his pocket. He waved it at Jack and pointed at the model of the human head displaying the different areas of the brain that was sitting on MacKenzie's desk.
“I think Mister Potato Head needs some make up!”
Jack grinned, delighted with Daniel's progress.
“Way to go, Danny. You're doing so great at this. Billy is going to be soooo impressed.”
Daniel smiled at the praise and began applying the lipstick to the model head.
“One word of warning. All I'm asking for is an opinion on how we should go about this if Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson remain their current ages. I'm not looking for complicated psychobabble. They've already endured a lot, and they have more to go through. I value your opinion, Doctor MacKenzie, or they wouldn't be here, but I am also highly aware of your history with the Colonel and Doctor Jackson, and that is why I am reminding you of your mission here.”
Hammond was focused and intense as he spoke, every part of the Major General rank he held radiating from him. “Those two are little boys. Normal, sweet, innocent children, and right now, they're a little scared.” Hammond stepped close to MacKenzie, almost in a threatening mode, “If Jack and Daniel come back the least bit upset, this will be the last assignment you do for the SGC. Is that understood?”
Hammond stared the doctor down, and then walked away. He wasn't sure he had made the right decision. What could MacKenzie possibly say that they hadn't already thought about.
~It's a no-win scenario, no matter how we play it.~
“Okay, Jack. Daniel.”
“DANNY,” both shouted out at the same time.
“Sorry. Danny. We're just going to talk. Let's start with you telling me about the last few days. Just ... let me know how you got here, why you're here, what you've done ... that kind of thing. I'll just listen.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look and a shrug, and then they recounted just about everything they could remember that had happened over the last few days.
“Okay, so let's go back a bit. Your parents told you that they were going to Africa, and you'd be staying with your grandpa for a few days.”
“For a week,” Daniel clarified.
“And the Stargate? They told you that it did what?”
“Don't you know anything?” Jack smirked. “It's a transporter. It takes you from one place to another.”
“It's a secret, Jack, remember? Maybe he doesn't know.”
Daniel looked at MacKenzie skeptically. The psychiatrist smiled in response.
“I know all about the Stargate. It's okay, Dan...ny.”
Daniel rolled his eyes at the way MacKenzie had spoken his name.
“So did your parents use the Stargate to go to Africa?” The boys shrugged. “How did they get to Africa?” Jack and Daniel looked at each other blankly. “Let's try this. When your parents left, did they just leave you all alone, abandon you ...”
Jack and Daniel both stood up, each shouting, “THEY DID NOT ABANDON US!”
“They'd never do that!”
“They love us!”
“They went to Africa.”
“Through the Stargate.”
“We want our grandpa!”
Their words were spoken together, making it almost impossible to know who said what or even what they said. MacKenzie envisioned himself receiving a pink slip with his next paycheck.
“Boys, boys! I'm sorry, okay? I didn't meant to imply that your parents abandoned you. Please calm down,” he said, trying to placate them.
He gulped as they exchanged a glance, then sat back down, continuing to glare at him.
“What exactly do you do here?” Daniel asked.
“I ... ah, talk to people ... help them feel better.”
MacKenzie gave them what he hoped was a winning smile as he answered. Apparently it wasn't.
“Well, you're not doing a very good job so far,” Jack snapped as he put his arm around Daniel, having moved to sit in the same chair as his brother.
“Ah, I'm very sorry, boys. So did your parents hand you over to anyone, give you instructions? What happened on that plan...place?”
“What were you going to say?” Daniel asked as he glared at MacKenzie with suspicion.
MacKenzie wondered if a job in the private sector would be so bad after all. Maybe he should quit medicine all together, become a CPA like his mom had wanted him to. He took a deep breath.
“Let's move on, shall we?”
The two simply shrugged their shoulders and waited for his next question.
“Tell me about Mister Teal'c.”
“It's not Mister Teal'c, it's just Teal'c,” Jack stated, shaking his head.
Daniel added, “Don't you know anything?”
MacKenzie decided to ignore Daniel's question and asked, “Don't you think that's a little unusual, and what about the tattoo on his forehead?”
“What's your point? Don't you like tattoos?” Daniel asked, wondering exactly why his Grandpa thought this man might be of any use to anyone.
“How do you explain it?”
Jack and Daniel exchanged another glance.
“Why would we explain it?” Jack replied, his confusion evident.
“How do you explain the fact that you have short hair?” Daniel asked the psychiatrist a second later.
“I like my hair short. It's practical.”
“Maybe T likes his tattoo,” Jack retorted. “Maybe it's impractical.”
Daniel added, “Or maybe it's a logo, or a symbol of family. Or haven't you ever been a part of something with other people where you all share something in common?”
“Like that thing there,” Jack pointed to a college fraternity symbol on a plaque. “Betcha you have that on a shirt or something.”
“Yeah, betcha you do,” Daniel agreed.
MacKenzie sighed. ~Where did I put those CPA books anyway?~ “Very well. Let's move on.” Two shrugs met this statement. “What year do you think this is?”
“Why don't you pick up a newspaper and see?” Jack answered, getting bored with this entire meeting.
“Please, boys, just answer the question.”
Daniel rolled his eyes as he humored the man, answering, “2003.”
“And when were your parents born?”
The two shrugged.
“Mom's forty-two and Dad's forty-five. You work it out,” Jack responded.
MacKenzie took a deep breath.
“So, Daniel, what can you tell me about New York? How did it come about that the O'Neills adopted you?”
“I hate you!” Jack shouted at MacKenzie as tears began to trickle down Daniel's cheeks at the memory of his parents death.
Jack turned to Daniel, hugging him.
“Jack, why would Grandpa send us here?”
“I don't know, but he did, so there's a reason. Grandpa loves us.”
“Maybe he doesn't know this guy is a quack.”
“We'll tell him,” Jack said angrily, glaring at MacKenzie.
“Look,” MacKenzie leaned forward. “I'm only trying to learn more about you.”
“By making Danny cry? By asking us stupid questions about what year it is?”
“You don't understand my job. I need to ask questions. All you have to do is answer them.”
“Why?” Daniel asked, suddenly getting some resolve.
“Why do you have to ask questions?”
“I told you. It helps me to make people feel better.”
“How? It helps me to get to know them. Sometimes people don't really understand themselves, and they need me to help them to solve their problems.”
“Because I know how to help them.”
“By asking questions and getting to know them better.”
“What makes you think you're good at it?” Daniel continued his interrogation.
MacKenzie totally forgot he was battling a child ... a child genius. He began to fidget.
“I am good at my job.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Because I've helped a lot of people.”
“Show me someone you've helped. Have them come in here.”
“I can't do that.”
“Because anything that goes on in here is confidential. Confidential means ...”
“We know what it means,” Jack interjected. “Go on, Danny.”
Jack was enjoying this part of their meeting. He knew Daniel was about to get the upper hand. ~That's my brother! Best negotiator for anything, especially for late night candy and ice cream!~
Daniel asked again, “Why can't they come in here?”
“If you've helped them, then wouldn't they want to let others know you've made them feel better?”
“It's not quite as easy as you seem to think it is.”
“Yes, it is. Either there is someone here who thinks you're doing a good job and is willing to say so, or there isn't. So which is it?”
MacKenzie was beginning to sweat. His tone became more forceful as he spoke again, “Okay. Let's get back to talking about you.”
“Because that's why you're here.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, your .... Daniel ...”
“DANNY!” two voices shouted at the same time.
“Look,” MacKenzie tried again. “Do I need to explain to you again that your grandfather asked me to talk to you?” The boys said nothing. The psychiatrist sighed. “Let's try something else. Let me try and explain the idea of family and the importance of love, and then we can talk about that.”
“Oh, would you? And ... go slow,” Daniel challenged.
Jack sniggered, “Good one, Danny.”
“Thank you, Jack,” Daniel said, a big smile on his face.
“We know all about family and love because we have a family, and we love them, and they love us. What more is there to know than that family and love are the same thing?” Jack asked.
Daniel sat up a little as he asked, “Do you have family?”
Irritated, MacKenzie snapped, “Of course, I do.”
Daniel looked sympathetically at him, asking, “Do they love you?”
MacKenzie decided to ignore that question and try and return to the matter at hand.
“Look, if you understand how important love and family are, then you realize that by not cooperating with me, you aren't really showing much love for your grandfather are you?”
Jack began to bristle at this insult, but Daniel patted his shoulder.
“It's okay, Jack. I think Doctor MacKenzie is jealous of us.”
MacKenzie tried to control his emotions as Daniel sat forward and gazed at him, his face full of sorrow for the psychiatrist.
“Are you married, Doctor MacKenzie?” Daniel's voice was soft and gentle, emoting genuine concern.
MacKenzie looked towards a painting on the wall and wondered just when he'd lost control of this session. He looked back to find Daniel still staring at him. He felt like his soul was being examined and sighed.
“I was married, but I'm now divorced. However, my marital status is completely irrelevant here.”
Daniel wriggled forward on his seat a little and leaned forward even more.
“Is it? Maybe you find it hard to see other people happy? Maybe it's just too hard for you to see families like ours when you haven't got a family of your own.”
MacKenzie looked up to find Jack now looking at him with sympathy, too.
“You have no idea what you're talking about,” he snapped angrily. “This is about your lack of cooperation with me and thereby letting your grandfather down.”
MacKenzie watched with astonishment as Daniel slid off the chair and walked around to pat him on the shoulder.
“It's okay. If it makes you feel better to try and attack our love for our family, you go right ahead. Jack and I know how we feel so it doesn't really matter what you say.”
With that, Daniel walked back and sat back down next to Jack who whispered in his ear, “Do you really think that's why he's doing this?”
“I think it has to be. Otherwise, he really is a complete quack, and we need to tell Grandpa that this guy is a hopeless, crazy person doctor,” Daniel whispered back.
MacKenzie glared at them. He couldn't hear what they were whispering, and he was sure it was about him. That CPA job was looking better and better.
“Boys, I've noticed you seem very ... close. Don't you think you're a little old to be hugging each other so much -- holding hands, that kind of thing?”
“Mom and Dad say that showing affection is a good thing, no matter how old you are. They hug and kiss us all the time, and they hold our hands,” Jack responded a bit angrily.
“Yeah. They told us people shouldn't have inhibitions. My birth parents said the same thing. They always held my hand.”
“Remember the baseball game last season, Danny?”
Daniel beamed with confidence as he faced the psychiatrist and said, “Yeah, our big brother Billy held our hands at the baseball game. He didn't feel funny about it. He said it was because he loved us and wanted to make sure we didn't get lost with all the people.”
“Some folks stared,” Jack admitted, “but Billy said that's because they're insecure.”
Daniel challenged their adversary, his voice strong as he asked, “Are you afraid of hugging someone or holding hands?”
“Danny,” Jack whispered, leaning over, “maybe no one wants to hold his hand?”
“I think you're right. He's inhibited, afraid to show his emotions.”
“I just don't think anyone loves him.”
MacKenzie realized he was getting nowhere. He sighed once more and decided to try a different tack.
“So boys, where do you go to school, and why haven't you been going there this week?”
Jack sighed loudly, his head tilting back to lean against the top of the chair back as he looked up at the ceiling. His voice was full of exasperation as he spoke.
“We told you. Mom and Dad are on vacation. They would never leave us alone. Billy is in school, so they wanted us to be with Grandpa. It's the only place they knew for sure we'd be safe, and they always want us to be safe.”
“What about your Grandpa Bill? Why not stay with him?”
MacKenzie was sure he had the boys with that question, but Daniel just shook his head.
“We spend summertime with Grandpa Bill. Mom and Dad thought this would be a good time to visit with Grandpa George because we don't get to see him very much.”
“And Uncle Lou, Danny.”
“Yeah, and Uncle Lou. He has a family,” Daniel smirked.
MacKenzie coughed before speaking again.
“Let me ask you a theoretical question. That means ...”
“We KNOW what it means,” Jack said, aggravated again.
“What do you think would happen to you if something happened to your parents?”
Jack looked at Daniel, whose smile had dropped to a sad frown. He'd had enough.
“I don't like you. I feel sorry for you.” He stood up, walking to the edge of the desk. “You think that just because they call you a doctor that you know stuff. You don't know anything. You don't make people feel better; you make them feel worse. No wonder you're divorced. I bet if you had spent time trying to be a family, to know about love, you might still have a wife. Stop taking out your pain on us. We're done.”
Jack reached for Daniel's hand and pulled him up. He looked again at MacKenzie.
“We are brothers. We've always been brothers, and we will always be brothers. We have parents who love us, and a family that would do anything for us.”
“And we feel the same way,” Daniel added.
“Yeah. We don't want to talk to you anymore.”
Jack led Daniel towards the door, and MacKenzie envisioned himself checking the want ads.
“Wait. Please, wait.”
“No,” came the response from both boys as they opened the door.
Outside the door, Teal'c stood, his hands clasped behind his back. Seeing the boys, he looked at down at them, immediately noticing the upset looks on their faces.
“T, we don't like him. He keeps making Danny cry. We want to see Grandpa.”
Teal'c's head rose up. He looked at the psychiatrist with intensity, causing the man to back a few steps, glancing over towards the model head, finally becoming aware of the “improvements” he knew Jack and Daniel had made to it.
~That CPA job is looking better all the time.~
“Very well. DannyO'Neill, are you okay now?”
Daniel nodded, and informed Teal'c that MacKenzie was “a very unhappy man.”
Taking the boys by the hand, Teal'c led them to Hammond's office where both Jack and Daniel flew to their grandfather as he sat behind his desk. From their tight holds, Hammond knew instantly that it hadn't gone well.
“GeneralHammond, I believe it would not be wise to allow Doctor MacKenzie to talk with O'Neill and DannyO'Neill again.”
“Thank you, Teal'c.” Hammond watched the Jaffa leave. “So, tell me all about it.”
Jack and Daniel made themselves comfortable on Hammond's lap, leaning back against his chest, each with one of the older man's arms around his shoulders, and told them of their interview with MacKenzie.
“I don't think he's a very good doctor, Grandpa,” Daniel finished up saying.
Hammond noticed that there was no trace of anger or resentment in the child's voice. It was just stated as fact.
Jack was not so diplomatic -- “He's a quack, Grandpa. He made Danny cry!”
“I think he needs to see a crazy person doctor, Grandpa. He has ... issues.”
Hammond chuckled lightly, then kissed the tops of their heads and ruffled their hair.
“I'm sorry to have put you through that, boys, but I thank you for doing that for me.”
“Its okay, Grandpa. Did it help you?” Daniel leaned a little further into Hammond's embrace.
“Yes, it did.” ~Now I know for sure that MacKenzie has to go. I still don't know what we're going to tell you about your parents, though.~ “What do you say we leave here early and go have some fun?”
The two boys brightened up immediately.
“Can we leave now?” Jack questioned.
“Are we going home?” Daniel wanted to know.
Hammond smiled as he answered, “Not immediately, Danny. I think you'll like it though. Come on.”
An hour later, all three were wearing warm clothes, and Hammond was watching as Jack led a wobbly Daniel around the empty ice hockey rink. He'd called in a favor from a friend, thinking that the boys would need some light relief after their session with MacKenzie.
“Ow!” Daniel fell over on the ice once more, and Jack helped him up yet again.
“You're doing really well, Danny. Last year you didn't even know what ice hockey was.”
“I'll never be as good as you though, Jack.”
“Aw, I'm not that good.”
“You are so! Do you think I'll ever be as good as you?”
“Course, you will. I'm teaching you!”
Jack grinned confidently at his brother as they continued on. As they skated back towards him, Hammond looked at their radiant faces and smiled, seeing the good time the two were having.
As he watched, Hammond reviewed the last few days in his mind, replaying the various conversations about the legend. In a couple of days, the week would be over, and if the two boys were still boys, then tough decisions would have to be made.
Hammond was momentarily distracted by the two boys, their laughter filling the rink. Both had fallen down a couple of times as they had tried to help the other up. It reminded the Major General of an old vaudevillian act. He chuckled, too, as he saw them finally get back up on their feet and skate around some more.
In the end, he decided that they didn't necessarily have to tell the youngsters anything. Whatever had wrought this change in them seemed to accommodate necessary facts, like the Stargate. Maybe it would fit their missing parents in, too. Perhaps all the worry over the how the boys would react was unnecessary.
~We don't really know much about this legend or how it's supposed to end. As far as we can see, it hasn't been harmful. Anything complicated has been explained, and the boys are happy enough. Maybe there's something to be said for just going with the flow ... at least for now.~
After a few more minutes, the trio left for home, the boys talking the entire trip home about the big rink and how much fun it was to have it all to themselves.
They had a calm night, Hammond grilling some steaks for dinner, after which they continued their game of Monopoly started earlier in the week. Jack was a bit frustrated that both Hammond and Daniel seemed to never land on his very luxurious blue properties, avoiding the high hotel rents, but yet he seemed to always land on Daniel's little dark purple properties, and Hammond was doing well with his associated holdings of the railroads and scattered possessions like St. Charles Place and Marvin Gardens.
After an hour, Hammond had some business to conduct, so the two boys watched some television and then read for a while before the General tucked them into bed, reading them a story that had them falling asleep in no time at all.
~The only real question is how I'm going to explain you to Tessa and Kayla. Everything else, we'll just tackle as time goes by.~
With each hour, the General was becoming more calm with his decision. No matter what, he would make it work, and he also knew he could rely on Sam and Teal'c for any assistance. Even Lou Ferretti had made it abundantly clear that he and his wife would be there whenever needed. It seemed no one wanted the boys to suffer or feel alone.
The next day was the seventh day. It was a bit of a landmark. Hammond had used it as a guideline, based in part on what the villager Valderi had said and on random comments that had come from Jack and Daniel, including the well known fact that their parents were due back at the end of the day.
They had eaten breakfast and gone into the SGC early as Hammond had a meeting with Pentagon officials first thing that morning. Jack and Daniel were once again in their VIP room. They had brought backpacks full of things to the SGC. Hammond assumed the packs were full of toys.
“Okay, help me up, Jack.”
Jack kneeled down, allowing his brother to step on his shoulders.
“Wait, Danny. Take off your shoes.”
They began again. Daniel stepped up onto Jack's shoulders and carefully stood up as tall as he could. Daniel then put the things in place above the door.
“Make sure the string is in place.”
“It is. Okay, Jack. You can put me down now.”
The boys ran back to the middle of the room to review their efforts. With a high-five of congratulations, they waited, knowing that the SF at the door would be checking on them soon.
“This is going to be so funny, Danny.”
“I want to see them, General.”
“Senator Kinsey, with all due respect, this is none of your business,” Hammond argued.
“With all due respect to you, Sir, this IS my business. Anything that effects the security of this nation is my concern, and having the leader of SG-1 compromised by an alien device is definitely something that effects our country.”
“They are children, Senator.”
“I demand to see them, General, and if necessary, we can use that red phone you always like to shove in my face.”
Hammond said nothing, and Kinsey knew he had already gotten the order. The president wanted a first-hand report from Kinsey about the potential security risks if Jack and Daniel remained children, and he wanted a second opinion outside of Hammond. It wasn't personal, but the President knew how close the SGC leader was to the two “children” in question.
“Very well. They are in one of the VIP rooms. I'll take you to them.”
“Jack, it should be soon,” Daniel said, looking at the clock.
“Let's go over here. We'll get the best look from here.”
After another minute, the boys heard noise outside their door. They smiled in anticipation.
“Step aside, Airman,” Kinsey ordered, almost shoving the man aside to open the door.
Kinsey opened the door, “Well now, what do we have ... WHAT THE ...”
Jack and Daniel burst into laughter as eggs, maple syrup, and flour poured down on the man who had opened the door.
Though he knew he shouldn't, the Airman snickered. The sabotage job had been intended for him, and he was relieved the buttinsky Senator had pushed him out of the way. As Kinsey cursed, the Airman saw the General glance his direction. He was sure he was about to be reprimanded, but instead, Hammond gave him a covert smile.
Kinsey's suit was ruined, and his face looked like a batter mix. Yellow egg yolks dripped down the blue material of his jacket. The syrup ran all through his white hair, down his face, draining from his jacket to the floor. The white flour was everywhere, the boys having used a full five-pound sack for their deed.
“You two haven't changed.”
“Neither have you, Mister Scrooge,” Jack said.
“Yeah. You need to lighten up, Mister Scrooge,” Daniel added.
“Scrooge? Now wait a minute. My name is not Scrooge.”
“Yes, it is,” both boys said in tandem.
Jack added, “We remember you from when we were here before. He is Mister Scrooge, isn't he Grandpa?”
Hammond wanted desperately to answer in the affirmative, and Kinsey saw him hesitate. His anger boiled over.
“My name is Kinsey.”
“You need to see that crazy person doctor.”
“Grandpa, can you call him? Mister Scrooge needs to learn about family and love, too, just like the quack doctor,” Daniel said.
“Get me out of here,” Kinsey barked, turning and heading for anywhere that he might clean up.
Hammond looked at his two charges.
“Are you mad at us, Grandpa?” Daniel asked.
“I should be, but ...” Hammond just shook his head. “Have the Airman help you to clean up this mess. Where did you get all this?” Jack and Daniel exchanged a guilty look, and suddenly the General knew the answer. “Is this what you brought from home?”
Two young heads nodded, and Hammond just shook his head, but he still couldn't hold back a smile. He looked at the Airman, ordering, “Help them to clean this up, but make sure they do most of it themselves.”
“I'll be back soon. I need to check on ... Mister Scrooge.”
“They what?” Janet laughed, her daughter Cassandra by her side.
“They thought Senator Kinsey was Scrooge.”
“I wonder if they'll know me.”
“I'm sure they will, Sweetheart. Let's go see. Excuse us, General Hammond.”
Janet had brought Cassandra to work with her, specifically to spend some time with Jack and Daniel. Though now a teenager, Cassandra had been asking about her two favorite uncles for several days. With Hammond's permission, Janet had told her daughter what had happened, and the young girl had requested to spend some time with them. Again, Hammond approved so, having checked in the General, Janet led her daughter to the VIP room.
“Cass, they didn't really know me. I was introduced to them as Sam's friend, so I'm not sure if they'll know you or not. Just ... be prepared. And don't forget ... Danny, not Daniel.”
“Jack, Danny,” Janet entered the room, now devoid of any residue of the Kinsey/Scrooge sabotage job.
“Hi, Doctor Janet.”
“Wow, she's pretty,” Daniel said, seeing the teenager.
Cassandra blushed as Janet smiled with pride.
“This is my daughter, Cassie. She's heard all about you and would like to spend the morning with you, if that's okay.”
“Sure,” Daniel approached, taking the girl's hand. “Would you like see our train set? It's really cool!”
“I'd love to, Danny,” she said, letting him lead her over to where the set was only partially set up.
“We don't have enough room in here for everything, but we hooked up just a part of it,” Daniel explained.
Janet watched for a few minutes, and then excused herself. Cassandra continued to spend the morning with her two very young uncles, and was enjoying every minute of it. They were youthful, but still very intelligent and nice ... and just like always, they were fun to be around.
The boys took to Cassandra right away. They loved that she didn't look at them funny, stumble over Daniel's name, or try to ask them questions. They just laughed, talked, and played. The three of them had a great time playing various games as the morning wore on.
“Hold on a few minutes, guys. I need to call my boyfriend,” Cassandra said after looking at her watch.
It was almost noon, and Cassandra needed to touch bases with her boyfriend about their plans for later that day.
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Sure do. His name is Dominic. He's cool.”
Cassandra reached over for the phone and dialed out. Once her boyfriend was on the line, she sat at the edge of the cot, leaning forward, the phone at her right ear. Her long hair hid her face, something she found convenient when wanting even the illusion of privacy.
As she sat now, the long strands of hair effectively shielded her from seeing the boys. Her left hand was also held close to her face. She laughed, covering her eyes at one point, and then her mouth. She blushed from Dominic's comments, grateful the young boys couldn't see her ... she hoped.
Suddenly, Daniel had a bright idea. He whispered to Jack, who chuckled and whispered back, “Danny, you're a real kid now!”
Daniel smiled even brighter, and then carefully, the two began to act out Daniel's idea. Jack covertly monitored the teenager's movements while Daniel stealthily crawled under the bed. With his mission accomplished, Daniel became the lookout, watching the girl's every motion as Jack found some string and worked on his part of the plan.
With Cassandra engrossed in her phone call, she didn't even notice what her uncles were up to. There were a few nervous moments when her hand came up to run through her hair, but mostly she was too busy chatting to Dominic to notice that anything was amiss. By the time she'd hung up the phone, the two boys were innocently setting up their Twister game.
“Let's play Twister,” Jack suggested.
“Okay,” the teenager agreed.
As she stood up, her body began its motion to move towards them. In fact, she almost fell straight to the ground, the momentum of her upper body propelling her forward, but she quickly regained her balance.
~What did they do?~
Looking down, she saw her shoelaces had been tied to the feet of the cot. She gave her uncles a mock glare, and Daniel failed to hide a giggle.
Sitting back down again, Cassandra bent forward to untie her shoelaces.
“You two think you're cute, don't you?”
“Who, us?” the two said at the same time, acting totally innocent.
Her shoes properly tied once again, Cassandra began to walk towards the two lads when she was unexpectedly pulled back.
“Ouch! Whoa, what was that?”
As she tried to look behind her, she realized strands of her long hair had been tied together with a combination of string and rubber bands to the other side of the bed. She couldn't help herself, laughing at the antics.
“How did you two do that without me noticing?”
Daniel looked extremely pleased with himself as he responded, “Jack taught me.”
“And Billy taught me.”
Jack grinned and high-fived his brother, prouder than ever of the younger boy.
Cassandra shook her head, a movement which her hair only just allowed. She knew she should be angry, but the thought of her Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel doing such child-like things amused her.
“Do you think you could untie me now?”
The two pretended to think about it.
“I don't know, Jack. She is a girl after all.”
“And?” she asked.
Cassandra was puzzled as to what that meant, which puzzled Jack and Daniel who exchanged an exasperated look with each other at Cassandra's ignorance.
“Girls are supposed to have their pigtails tied. You didn't have pigtails.”
Daniel's tone suggested that this was extremely thoughtless of Cassandra -- “So we had to improvise.”
“Who told you girls had to have their pigtails tied, Danny?”
Cassandra looked suspiciously at Jack who pretended to be extremely offended.
“It wasn't me!”
“It wasn't Cassie,” Daniel agreed. “It was Billy!”
The two giggled. Cassandra was glad Janet had explained who Billy was.
“Poor Danny,” she pretended to be sympathetic. “You haven't got just one older brother to be a bad influence, you've got two,” she finished, the triumphant tone to her voice making it clear that this was a very good thing. Daniel beamed at her.
“They're the best brothers.” He hugged Jack. “But Jack's the bestest.”
“Bestest? Is that a word?”
“Jack says it is,” Daniel said with a smile.
“I'll have to look that up in the dictionary,” Cassandra teased.
“It's in the O'Neill family dictionary,” Jack said firmly.
Daniel chuckled. He knew it wasn't really a word, but Jack had explained that being a kid also meant using special kid words, and “bestest” was one of those.
“Yeah, and it's one of Jack's words, so if Jack says it's a word, it's a word, and even if it's not, he's still the bestest brother,” Daniel said sincerely.
Cassandra smiled delightedly as Jack blushed at the praise. She'd never seen her Uncle Jack blush before.
“So, you two, will you untie me now?”
“Okay,” the both said, moving to untie the teenager.
They then played Twister and just hung out together. The more time they spent together, the more the boys liked the teenager, and she adored them.
“Is Doctor Janet a good mom?” Daniel asked innocently.
“Sure. We don't always agree on everything, but she listens, and we compromise.”
“She's scary when she has all those needles and things,” Jack added.
“Well, she leaves those here. At home, she's ... just Mom.”
“Our mom takes us to the park every day. Did Doctor Janet do that with you when you were a little girl?”
“Sometimes, but ...”
They looked at her clueless.
“Well, see, Mom is my adoptive mother.” Cassandra saw Daniel sit up very straight, even more interested in her comments now. “My birth mom died when I was just a little older than you, Jack, but Janet, Mom, took me in, and she's been Mom ever since.”
“Cassie, can I ask you something?” Daniel asked softly.
“Do you ever feel ... guilty?”
Jack suddenly sat up straighter himself.
“Guilty about what?”
“My parents died last year.”
“I know. I'm sorry, Danny.”
“But I have a new mom and dad now, and they love me, and I love them, and ... and ... well, sometimes I ... I love my birth parents and ...”
“Oh, Danny,” Cassandra moved over to the young boy and held him. “Listen to me now, okay?” She felt him nod. “Your birth parents want you to be happy. They are in Heaven right this second, looking down on you, and they want to hear you laugh and see you smile and know that you are learning and loving and ... and just living your life as best you can.”
“You don't feel guilty?”
“No,” Cassandra shifted a bit so Daniel could see her eyes and expression. “My mom was the best. I loved her ... I still love her, and no one, not one soul, including Janet, can ever be her, but the wonderful thing about people is that we have a really large capacity to love. I had lots of room left to love someone else, and Janet ... she's never tried to be my birth mom. She's just been my ... mom now. I wouldn't trade her in for anything. I know ... I know, Danny, that your birth parents are tickled pink that the O'Neill's found you and made you part of their family.”
“They are,” Jack said, adding, “And they don't try to be Danny's birth parents. We have pictures and things all over the house.”
Cassandra saw the smile on Daniel's face and the nod in agreement at what Jack was saying.
“Right, so see, you're very lucky because you have so many people who love you, Danny, and you should never, never, never, never, ever feel guilty about that.”
“Do you think ... I mean, in Egypt, I didn't get to play very much, and we ... what we did was different. Would they be angry? I mean, do you think they're disappointed in me?”
Jack wasn't sure exactly what Daniel meant until he remembered back to when he was only four or five. His brother Billy was several years older than he, and while they were alike in many ways, they were also very different.
One day, after Billy had been praised for excelling in a debate class exhibition, Jack had wondered if his parents might have been disappointed in him. After all, he wasn't very good with words. Billy was much better than he was in that department.
He remembered having become quiet and a little afraid, until his Mom and Dad had taken him to the park the next day to sail a boat Jack had made with his Dad. As they had watched the boat glide along in the water of the lake, Jack's Dad had said something that had meant a lot to youngster.
“Son, I'm glad we have this time together, that you like sailing. You know, your older brother never has never been into the water or building things, but you're different. You like to work with your hands, and you enjoy the peacefulness of the ocean.”
“That's right, Jack,” his mom had said, putting her arm around his shoulder. “While your father and I can enjoy Billy's talent with writing and public speaking, we love our time with you just as much, building this boat or that model airplane you two made a few months ago, and you know how much I love the ocean.”
“Do you understand what your mother is saying, Jack?”
Young Jack had been a bit timid, his eyes down on the boat, but then he had looked up with a big smile on his face. He said, “You mean that it's okay that Billy is good at some stuff, but I'm good at other stuff?”
“Right,” both parents had answered at the same time.
Jack's dad had added, “We love both of our boys very much, and there's nothing wrong with being different. Billy can excel in certain things, and you can excel at others.”
“Not one thing wrong with having interests and abilities that are different,” his mother had said, a huge smile on her face. Then she had added, “I'm so proud of you, Jack.”
Now, listening to Daniel, Jack made the connection. He had been afraid of disappointing his parents, of letting them down, of not being as good as Billy, and therefore, displeasing them. That day in the park, his parents had told him as lovingly as they could that it was perfectly okay, natural even, to be unique. He hadn't let them down. In fact, he had given things to his parents that Billy couldn't.
~I understand now, Danny.~
Jack did understand, though he wasn't sure how to express it or say what he had come to know. His new brother had resisted becoming a regular kid, afraid that his parents would think badly of him, not approving of his new lifestyle. What Jack knew, but was having a hard time putting words to, was that Daniel needed to know it was okay to mix his talent and ability to study and learn with the more playful antics of childhood.
~Ah, Danny. They aren't disappointed. They love you, just like Mom and Dad do. It's okay to like different things. Billy and I do. You can still study and play, too!~
Young Jack listened as Cassandra tried to make young Daniel understand.
“No! Danny, your birth parents were archaeologists, and that world, going on digs and living near the pyramids ... wow, that's exciting. It is play, Danny, but it's a different kind of play. There weren't very many other children around, were there?”
“Na-uh. Just me most of the time.”
Cassandra had an idea. She remembered a few scattered stories she had heard over the years. Of course, Daniel was usually very private about his upbringing, but every now and then, some new tidbit would slip out, and so now, she had a brainstorm.
“Danny, why did your parents leave Egypt?”
The young boy thought and thought, and then answered, “They had an exhibit at the museum in New York.”
“Couldn't anyone have done that exhibit? I mean, couldn't they have just sent the information to someone else? Did they personally have to come back to America and set it up?”
“I ... they said we were going to live in New York for a while.”
“Long while or a short while?”
Daniel thought some more, his brain accessing things he'd never really thought about.
“Mommy just said we were going to stay in New York for a while. Daddy wanted to take me to a baseball game, and ...” Daniel stopped, looking up at Cassandra. “I think we were going to stay for a long while. Mommy was going to enroll me in school, and Daddy said ...” the young boy stopped again, a tear rolling down his cheek, “he said we were going to join the Boy Scouts. I forgot, Cassie. I for...got,” Daniel began to cry.
“Danny ...” Jack moved to hold his brother who had already gone into Cassandra's embrace, so now Jack just threw his arms around Daniel's back. “It's okay, Danny. See, they wanted you to be a kid.”
“Jack's right, Danny. They brought you home so you could do all the things little boys do.”
“I am a little boy.”
“Yes, you are,” Cassandra said reassuringly. “You are an exceptionally bright, adorable ... normal little boy.”
After a couple of minutes, Daniel moved out of Cassandra's embrace and threw his arms around Jack. Sniffling still, he said, “Thank you, Jack, for helping me to learn how to be a regular kid.”
“That's what brothers are for, Danny.”
“I love you, Jack.”
“I love you, too, Danny. You're a great brother.”
Cassandra had tears rolling down her cheeks. She visited with them some more, and then left, having to meet her mother for lunch.
Janet and Cassandra were off-base at a local restaurant. There wasn't much of a crowd so they were the only ones for several tables over.
“Mom, what happens if Jack and Daniel stay little boys?”
“General Hammond says he'll adopt them.”
“Daniel is so happy.”
“Yes, he is.” Janet noticed her daughter had a funny expression on her face. “Cass, something wrong?”
“It just ... I'm happy for Daniel, the child Daniel who finally gets to be a little kid, but ...”
“Mom, adult Daniel, I mean ...” Cassandra looked around, making sure no one else was around, “Uncle Jack and Uncle Daniel ... they ... together, they're ... Mom, you do know, don't you?”
Janet spoke sternly, “Cassie, all I know, and all I CAN know is that Jack and Daniel are best friends.”
“Okay,” Cassandra tried a new angle, “as best friends, they have a closeness that is pretty special. I'm just wondering which ... relationship Daniel wants the most ... the normal childhood with his big brother, Jack or adult Daniel with the painful past, but with his ... best friend, Jack.”
Janet put down her menu and shook her head. She didn't know the answer. Of course, technically, she didn't know anything. She had heard rumors. She knew what she could infer from some physicals, but she'd never asked, and they had never told. Fact or fiction, it wasn't her business to speculate, and she'd done her best not to think about it.
In fact, she hadn't, not at all, not until lately when Cassandra had begun to ask about it, or hint about there being more to the relationship between Jack and Daniel than met the eye. She wasn't really sure she wanted to know, and wasn't sure how she'd feel about it if she did know.
“Cass, we don't have any control over whatever happens, so why don't we not worry about it, and just let nature take its course.”
Cassandra nodded, knowing that meant her mom didn't want to talk about it anymore, but she couldn't help agonizing over it a little.
~You had such a miserable childhood from what little I know, Uncle Daniel, but with Uncle Jack, you're happy. I know you are. I don't understand why it has to be such a big secret. It's so darn obvious that you love Uncle Jack, and vice versa. I think it's great you're a happy little boy now, but I still wonder if, all things considered, you'd rather have that, or go back to what you had with Uncle Jack. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just have this feeling that what you and Uncle Jack have is too special to end up being forgotten.~
“Cassie, what did you want, Dear?”
Cassandra had been so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn't hear the waitress asking for her order. She shook off her feelings and proceeded to place her luncheon order, silently praying that things really would work out for the best.
Jack and Daniel had lunch with Sam and Teal'c and then returned to their VIP room where they began to play with more of their toys.
“Jack, we haven't tried out our skateboards yet,” Daniel said, catching sight of them tucked under one of the beds in the VIP room.
Jack grinned in anticipation.
“We can't try them out here. Think we can persuade the guy outside to let us try them out in the corridor?”
“Maybe ... if we look really pathetic and hopeful.”
They exchanged a grin, each grabbed a skateboard, and then opened the door.
“Jack, he's not there.”
Daniel looked up and down the corridor, but there was no sign of the SF that was supposed to be keeping watch outside there door. Jack gave his younger brother an evil grin.
“Lets see if we can make it down to Sam's lab; show her how well we can skateboard.”
They set off and managed to make it as far as the level of Sam's lab when Lou Ferretti caught them.
~It is so tempting to join in with them, but somehow I think that might be pushing the General too far.~
Lou looked at the two happy boys and shook his head.
“Come on, dangerous duo. Back to the VIP room with you two before your grandfather hears about this latest escapade.”
“We weren't ... escapading. We were skateboarding,” Jack said a bit defiantly. Daniel chuckled. “What?”
“Jack, riding our skateboards was an escapade, like an adventure. That's what Uncle Lou meant.”
“I knew that. I just ... wanted to give him a hard time.”
Soon they were back in the VIP room, playing with their toys, having a great time. After another hour or so, they decided to color for a while.
“Here, Jack. This is for you.”
Daniel handed Jack his colored drawing.
“Wow, Danny, this is great!”
It was a self-portrait of the two of them, two boys, smiling brightly, their arms around each other. Next to himself, Daniel had written, “Just another little boy,” and next to the figure of Jack, he wrote, “The best big brother ever.”
“I'm going to ask Mom to frame it.”
Daniel's smile grew even bigger.
“You've learned how to be a little boy, Danny,” Jack said proudly.
“Only because of you, Jack.”
The two looked at each other, and suddenly, both knew there was something they had to do -- now.
“We need to go through the Stargate ...” Jack began.
“...to meet Mom and Dad,” Daniel finished.
“Let's go tell Grandpa.”
General Hammond had managed to calm down Senator Kinsey and had been reviewing personnel assignments when Jack and Daniel had run into his office, both speaking a mile a minute. He told them to relax, and asked them to speak one at a time. He was astonished at what he heard. He looked at the two boys in front of him.
“You need to go through the Stargate?”
“We have to meet Mom and Dad,” Daniel said earnestly.
“And we have to go now,” Jack added.
“But where do you want to go? The Stargate goes to lots of places ...”
“Where Mom and Dad left us. Please, Grandpa, we have to go now. It's really important. They'll be worried if we aren't there,” Daniel pleaded.
Hammond sighed. He was afraid the boys would be devastated when they returned to the planet and found that their parents weren't there. On the other hand, maybe the alien technology or whatever it was would explain their parents continuing absence.
~I guess it can't hurt.~
“Okay, but Sam, Teal'c and I are coming with you,” Hammond told them.
Hammond didn't often go through the Stargate, and this would be twice in one week, but he wasn't comfortable putting this responsibility off on anyone else. These were his grandchildren.
~Amazing how much it feels that way.~
The General needed to be with them on the planet, especially if the boys waited for their parents who then didn't show up. He called Sam and asked her to notify Teal'c. In the meantime, on the off-chance this might be the last time he'd have two cute little boys to hug, Hammond asked if they'd like to have an ice cream in the commissary.
Bright, smiling faces gave him his answer.
“But we have to go right after that, Grandpa. It's getting late,” Jack said fairly forcefully.
The boys indulged themselves with two scoops of their favorites and had a great time with their grandfather. By now, the SGC personnel were used to their presence, and the two boys were pretty much the center of attention, many having forgotten they were once the intimidating Colonel O'Neill and the genius Daniel Jackson.
Hammond sat across from the lads, smiling. He was beginning to make plans for the three of them. He felt strangely reawakened to a new life. His granddaughters were the joy of his life, but they weren't there every day. Jack and Daniel were.
As they headed for the gate room, Sam and Teal'c heard their names called.
“Hey, you guys have a mission? Something happen? Not on the report?”
“Hi, Lou. No, Jack and Daniel say they need to go to the planet, so the General is taking them through.”
“Then, let's go,” Lou led the way.
Sam smiled at Teal'c, whispering, “He loves those little boys, too.”
“MajorCarter, I believe there are few in the SGC who do not ... love them.”
“I think you're right, Teal'c.”
“Uncle Lou!” the two boys exclaimed, running up to him for a hug.
“Major Ferretti, didn't your team just return from ...”
“Uh, yes, Sir,” the Major was still in his gear from his mission, “but I was just headed for the locker room when I bumped into SG-1. With your permission, General, I'd like to accompany you through the Stargate.”
Hammond nodded, well aware that Ferretti knew what this day was, too.
The Major General looked up at the control room where Sergeant Davis awaited his order to engage the Stargate.
“Dial ... the O'Neill rendezvous site.”
“That sounds funny,” Daniel said with a laugh.
Two minutes later, the group of six set foot on P4X-590.
“Let's go, Grandpa!”
Valderi accompanied the visitors back to the site where Jack and Daniel had last been seen as themselves, playing with the children. The two boys led the way, laughing and chatting as they went.
“We had fun here,” Jack said.
“We sure did.”
Jack and Daniel looked at each other, smiling. They both knew their parents would be there very soon. They turned to face their friends. Jack spoke first.
“Mom and Dad will be here in a minute. Danny and I have had a great time, and ... and ... I'm not good with words, Danny,” Jack nudged his little brother.
“And we just wanted to say thanks because you've all been so wonderful.”
“It sounds like you're saying goodbye,” Sam said.
The boys smiled, and it was Jack who said, “Never say goodbye, but we have to go with Mom and Dad.”
The boys walked over to Lou, each giving him a hug.
“You're a great uncle, Uncle Lou. Thanks for teaching Danny basketball,” Jack said, Daniel adding a nod.
“T!” Daniel reached up to the big Jaffa, who immediately bent down to pick him up. “Thanks for showing us all about tattoos. It's fun to have our own family crest, something to bond us together forever.”
“And maybe that crazy doctor guy will learn something about letting people be who they are. He was obsessed with your tattoo, T!” Jack mentioned, his tone a bit perturbed at the memory of their session with the psychiatrist.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow, having no idea what that remark meant.
Sam knew she was next, and she found herself uncharacteristically crying on a mission. She had come close to being overemotional at the SGC during the past week, but now she couldn't stop herself from showing the previously well-guarded emotions. Whether they were adults or children, she loved Jack and Daniel, and whatever was about to happen would be pivotal.
“Gawd, I'm military, for crying out loud,” she said as she knelt down and hugged both Jack and Daniel at the same time, holding each of them very tightly.
She didn't know what was about to happen, but if the O'Neill's didn't show up, two little boys were about to be heartbroken, and all Sam knew was that right this second, she already was. She found herself wishing for a miracle -- she wanted to meet their parents and watch them go off and live a normal, happy, and healthy life.
“We love you, Sam,” the boys spoke together, each one giving her a kiss on the cheek.
They did the move at the same moment, so that their lips touched her cheek at precisely the same instant.
“Don't cry, Sam. Everything's okay,” young Daniel tried to reassure his friend.
“But, Sam, crying is okay. It's healthy even. You shouldn't be afraid to cry, even if you are military.”
Sam nodded at the young boy who was her CO.
“I love you both so much. Be good.”
Daniel threw his arms around Hammond, Jack joining in.
“You are my grandchildren, and no matter what happens, you always have a home with me. I want you both to know that.“
“We do,” Daniel said with a smile.
“We love you, Grandpa,” Jack said.
“We love you loads and loads and loads,” Daniel added.
After another hug, the two boys stepped back, wiping away their tears of happiness.
“Danny is better with words, but thank you for helping him to be a normal kid, and thank Cassandra for us, too, because she helped a lot.“
“Lots,” Daniel agree.
“Mom and Dad are great. We're really happy with them,” Daniel stated, looking at the rest of his extended family.
“And we always have each other,” Jack put his arm around his little brother.
“Blood brothers,” Daniel said, “and real brothers.”
“Always, Danny. I love you.”
“Love you, too. He's the bestest big brother.”
“And Danny's the bestest little brother there EVER was.”
The two brothers hugged as their friends tried not to cry like babies.
As Valderi watched the visitors and began to ask Sam and the General a question, Daniel whispered in Jack's ear, “Race you.”
The two set off, heading for the spot just yards away where their parents had left them. They reached the overhang where the velvet patch was situated and were immediately enveloped in a flash of bright light.
A second later, Jack and Daniel found themselves standing in their BDU's, their packs beside them on the ground, staring into the astonished faces of General Hammond, Sam, Teal'c, Lou, and Valderi.
As the memories began to return, Daniel blushed bright red. Neither he nor Jack yet recalled everything from the past week, but with every moment they were their adult selves, the events of the past seven days slowly surfaced, beginning with something Daniel felt incredibly embarrassed about.
**Jack, we wrote our names on the Stargate!**
**Not to mention all the rest of the stuff we did. Geez, Danny, it's coming back in pieces, but I can't believe what I'm remembering -- the stuff we did. I'm surprised Hammond didn't ship us off somewhere.**
“It was fun, though, wasn't it?” Daniel couldn't help but grin and speak the words out loud.
Jack grinned as well. “It was a ball.”
**I love you, Jack.**
**Love you, too. Geez, I love you.**
“Colonel! Daniel!” Sam said, still fighting her tears.
“Oh, gawd,” ~I'm sorry Sam.~
**Jack, I never even knew what submarining was.**
**Well, you do now!**
They walked over to where the others were, and there was a moment of awkward silence before Jack grinned and said, “Thanks for looking after us, guys.”
“You remember what happened?” Sam asked, not sure if she wanted them to or not.
She had mixed emotions at the return of her teammates. She was happy to have them back again, but she missed the two little ragamuffin versions of her friends. They'd be sorely missed by everyone at the SGC.
“Yeah,“ Jack grinned at Lou. ”How're you doing, Uncle Lou?“
“Careful there, Pal,” Lou answered with a grin of his own. He'd miss the kids but he was happy to have his friend back.
Daniel looked at General Hammond.
“Thank you, Sir, for being a grandfather to us. I never knew what it was like to have a real grandfather before. I ... I feel like I know now.”
The General smiled at him, doing his best to hide the loss he, too, still felt.
“You're welcome, Son. I was honored to be your grandfather, even if it was only for a week.”
Daniel smiled and seeing the light in his eyes, Hammond realized that they hadn't lost the two boys they'd come to love. Those two young scallywags were still here, inside their friends.
“Teal'c,” Jack stood in front of his friend who in a not very subtle movement placed his staff weapon behind him, out of reach.
“Hey!” The others laughed at the affronted look Jack gave the Jaffa. Teal'c simply raised an eyebrow then twitched his lips into a quick smile and grasped Jack's arm.
“It is good to have you back, O'Neill.”
“O'Neill,” Daniel said softly, looking at Jack.
“And it is good to see you as well ... DannyO'Neill.”
Everyone laughed, and Daniel just blushed, but then he grew serious.
“It's a good name ... a very good name, Jack.”
They declined Valderi's offer of dinner and began making their way back to the Stargate. After a couple of minutes, Daniel stopped dead in his tracks.
Daniel looked at Jack, his face white as he remembered their little escapade through the Stargate.
“Jack, we went fishing for a Goa'uld symbiote!”
It wasn't an excited or amusing comment, but one of disbelief, and for a moment, fear, fear of what their youthful ignorance had almost cost them. He couldn't believe the narrow escape they'd had. If Jack's reflexes had been any slower, he would have been turned into a Goa'uld.
Jack was still Daniel's best friend, no matter what, so he went up and hugged his lover, figuring that under the circumstances such an action was acceptable.
“I'm okay, Danny,” he whispered very softly so that only Daniel could hear. “We're both okay.” He pulled back and gave Daniel a grin. “But lets not try it again, huh?” He turned to General Hammond. “Sorry for doing that to you, Sir.”
“As you said, Colonel, just don't do it again.”
Arriving at the Stargate, Sam looked deviously at her two teammates.
“Hey, guys, wanna help me dial?”
Her grin was huge, and the two didn't know whether to kill her or hug her.
Sam started to dial when Jack interrupted.
“Whoa, there, Carter. You issued an invitation. We're gonna take you up on it.”
“We are?” Daniel asked in surprise.
“We are ... one more for the road ... Bro.”
Daniel laughed, and then he and Jack walked over to the DHD.
“Show us how ... Mom,” Jack teased.
“Very funny, Sir.”
Jack was serious, however, so with a snort, Sam began what turned out to be a recreation of their earlier experience, and just like before, Jack and Daniel hit the big red button at the center together to engage the Stargate.
“Let's go home, Danny.”
“Let's go home, Jack.”
The debriefing was long, and was still going on, when Janet entered, having just completed a surgery.
“I'm sorry. I was in the OR, but I heard you two were ... back!”
“Come on in, Doctor,” Hammond invited the physician.
“How do you feel?”
“Fine,” Daniel said.
“Just peachy, Doc.”
“Doctor Warner checked them out before the briefing. He gave them a glowing report.”
“Well, I still want to ...”
“No more needles,” both Jack and Daniel said at the same time.
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said, realizing how they had sounded.
Everyone laughed, including Janet.
“We'll wait a couple of days, but I do want to do a complete exam before your next mission. How about your memories?”
“We remember everything,” Jack said.
“That must be a bit disconcerting.”
“I don't know yet,” Daniel responded.
“Doctor, do you think we should have them see ...”
“NO!” two voices rang out in unison, prompting more laughter.
**Me? You're doing it, too, Danny.**
“Now boys ...” Hammond gave a wry smile as the others in the room laughed at his slip of the tongue.
“Ah, Colonel, Doctor Jackson,” he corrected himself, “Can you tell us how this change on P4X-590 occurred? We learned from a local legend that there was something that the people on that planet used to use to change adults temporarily into children so that they could remember the importance of play.”
“We think the length of the change and the form it takes depends on the person's thoughts when the change takes place,” Sam explained, and then asked, “Do you remember what you were thinking when the change occurred?”
“Jack was playing with the kids on the planet ...” Daniel smiled at the memory.
“I was babysitting, not playing!”
Jack did his best to look indignant, but gave it up when he saw the skeptical looks he was getting. He waved his hand for Daniel to continue.
“I was wondering what it would have been like to be a child in a family like Jack's. They were playing Kick the Can, and I didn't even know what that was. I was watching Jack, thinking how incredible it would have been to grow up with him when he was nine or ten, to have him as a big brother, even just for a day, or ...” realization struck, “a week. I wished for it.”
Daniel stared at the table.
**I love you, Danny.** Daniel's head flew up, and he smiled at Jack.
**Love you too, Jack.**
“So the Colonel was transformed into a child because you wished for it, Doctor Jackson?”
“Actually, Sir, I wished for it, too,” Jack admitted, smiling at Daniel's astonishment. “I ... know about Daniel's childhood, and I wanted him to experience the storybook happiness that I had as a kid growing up, even if just for a day, or a week.”
“That's it!” Sam looked around at everyone. “They were given a week for Daniel to experience being a kid, a kid in a happy home.”
“It was a good week,” Daniel said softly.
Seeing that everyone could do with some time to adjust, Hammond gave SG-1 48 hours of downtime, and Janet agreed to postpone her examination of them until they returned to the SGC.
Privately, Jack and Daniel agreed to meet at home in an hour. Both Jack's truck and Daniel's car had been taken care of by Sam and Lou during the week, and both vehicles were still in the SGC parking lot. Before going home, each needed to check their messages and take care of a few things.
As he walked back to his office, Jack passed the Marine that had hassled them in the commissary. He glared at him and was gratified to see the man snap off a salute and then speed up his pace to get away from Jack as quickly as possible.
Jack smiled. ~Don't worry, pal. I foresee a special assignment as a ... water boy ... for SG-11 in your future.~
“Daniel?” Sam walked into her friend's office, carrying a brightly wrapped package.
“Sam, did you by any chance ...?”
Daniel trailed off, but Sam guessed what he'd been about to ask.
“I made sure your fish were fed, Daniel.”
Daniel smiled in relief as he uttered, “Thanks.” He ducked his head a little and stared at his desktop as a blush began to creep up over his cheeks. “Ah, Sam? Sorry we submarined you.” He looked at her with a wry grin, and she laughed.
“Don't be, it was kinda fun to be a kid, and I got you back!”
“You did!” Daniel laughed.
Sam noticed it was a hearty laugh. Most of the time, even the young man's laughter was reserved or restrained, but this was free and full of fun. She wondered if being a child for a week would have a lasting effect on the adult Daniel.
He continued, “Thanks for taking care of me when I ate too much ice cream, too, and for the birthday party, actually for the whole week.”
“You're welcome, Daniel. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. You were very cute kids.” Sam grinned as Daniel blushed again. “The birthday party was Teal'c's idea, though. He felt bad for locking you in the cells.”
“Oh yeah. How could I forget, but we had it coming. I can't believe you were all so patient with us.”
“It wasn't that hard, Daniel. Both of you were .... very adorable children.” She handed over the package. “Open it tonight with the Colonel.”
Jack entered the Jaffa's quarters, noticing his friend was setting up his candles for meditation. He took a seat in the corner.
Teal'c looked at Jack and hid a smile. With Jack O'Neill, it was easy to see the kid he had been.
“Ah, Teal'c, sorry we stole your staff weapon, played dress up with your Jaffa armor, made a fort out of your candles, ran off ... just sorry.”
“You are forgiven, O'Neill. It was good to see DanielJackson so happy.”
“Yeah, it was.” Jack looked at the Jaffa with gratitude. “I hear it was your idea to throw that party for him. Thank you. It means a lot to both of us.” Teal'c inclined his head as Jack continued, “Of course, I can't believe you locked us up in the holding cell.”
Teal'c raised his eyebrow as he responded, “There are many more punishments I could have devised, O'Neill.”
Jack jumped up. ~Never play with a Jaffa.~ “You know, come to think of it, locking us in the cell was a good choice. Well done. I ... think I'll be going now.”
“As you wish, O'Neill.”
The two exchanged a final look, one of gratitude from Jack, and another of understanding from Teal'c, and then Jack exited.
“Hey, yourself!” Jack responded.
In the entranceway of their home, for the first time in a week, Jack and Daniel kissed. It was soft, tender, and full of love. They didn't want to rush anything, but they stayed in each other's hold, their hands on each other's waists, sometimes wrapping around to caress the other's back.
“It was a little weird being a child, and your brother, but very nice,” Daniel said, a smile on his face.
“Yeah, it was. Danny, listen, we have a lot to talk about over the next couple of days. I don't think we should rush it.”
Nodding, the archaeologist agreed.
“Me, either. Actually, Jack, I think we need to take care of some things. I feel like we have a lot of unfinished business out there.”
Jack nodded, asking, “Hammond?”
“Definitely number one on the list. Jack?”
“He really treated us like his grandchildren. I mean, remember when I was invisible because of the crystal skull we found in the alien tavern?”
“Like I could forget?”
“Well, when the General was in his office, and Kayla called, I remember watching him, listening to his voice. Jack when he laughed, it was with his whole body. The smile on his face was ... so loving, and he was so gentle while he talked to her on the phone.”
“He loves those girls.”
“Jack,” Daniel's eyes were a bit misty as he looked straight into his lover's brown eyes, “that's how he was with us. When we were all together, playing the games or ... when he read us a story, he had the same look, the same gentle, caring tone. We were ... Gawd, Jack. I felt like I had really had a grandfather, and I don't think he was acting.”
“He wasn't, Angel.”
Jack placed the palm of his left hand on the younger man's cheek, softly embracing it.
“As crazy as it was, for one week, you and I were Hammond's grandkids, and I don't believe he faked a moment of it.”
“We need to thank him, Jack.”
“We will. Danny, I ... I think, too, we might want to be a little distant, though. He might feel it's a little ... awkward.”
“He's a good man.”
“That he is. Come on. Let's go.”
“Come on in.”
Jack and Daniel walked into General Hammond's house, a place that they had called home for a week as young boys. They stood a bit nervously as Hammond led them to the living room.
“Have a seat.”
“General,” Daniel started, “I don't even know what to say.”
“You don't have to say anything, Son.”
“Yes, I do. You took us in, gave us a home. You didn't have to do that.”
“He's right, General,” Jack added. “What about Tessa and Kayla?”
Hammond smiled as he explained, “That's why you were with Major Carter that first night, but right now they are out of town with their mother.”
Daniel chuckled as he looked over towards a game table the General had in the room. In fact, he stood up and walked over to it. Their Monopoly game was still set up, everything in the same place as it had been the last time they played.
Seeing Daniel pick up the car token that he had used, Hammond asked, “Son, do you have any idea how humiliating it is to lose Scrabble and Monopoly to an eight-year-old boy?”
Hammond laughed loudly, admitting, “I'm not. The truth is, I had fun.”
“General, what were you going to do if Daniel and I stayed kids?”
“There were lots of offers to adopt you.”
“There were?” Jack was surprised. “You mean Daniel?”
Daniel's glare was unmistakable.
“Doctor Jackson is right, Colonel. Everyone who wanted you, wanted you both. You may have been little hellions, but everyone adored you.”
“Not quite everyone,” Daniel said. “Oh, gawd, Jack. I stole a wallet.”
Daniel shut his eyes at the memory.
“You gave it back, and apologized,” Jack said firmly.
“Yeah, but ... I have to do it again.”
Suddenly Jack grinned as he looked at Daniel and the General. He spoke one word -- “Kinsey!” -- and both men joined him in laughter.
“Senator Kinsey wasn't very happy, but I must say that seeing him looking like cake batter is a sight this old General will never forget.”
“We called him Scrooge,” Daniel moaned in regret.
“If the shoe fits ...” Jack said with a laugh.
“Why don't you two come with me. You can take this stuff off my hands and decide what you want to do with it.”
“Stuff? Oh, the toys,” Daniel remembered.
The three continued talking as they moved towards the bedroom.
“I'm sure Carter wasn't on that list ...” Jack said tentatively.
“She was number one in line.”
Hammond nodded, adding, “And the Ferretti's.”
“That would have been a big hardship on them,” Jack said quietly.
He knew how hard it was for Lou and his wife, Carolyn. The fact that his friend was willing to take in two children touched Jack deeply.
As he passed by a table that had mail on it, something caught Jack's attention.
Daniel had been a few steps ahead of Jack. He turned and walked to his lover.
Jack let out with a small chuckle, not a “ha ha” laugh, but more of a “what do you know” type of release.
“Look at this.”
Suddenly, Hammond realized he had been abandoned. He turned and saw his 2IC and Head of Archaeology huddled together, reading something. He knew what it was -- papers from his attorney regarding custody of the two boys. Sighing, Hammond returned to where they were.
Realizing Hammond was again at their side, the two looked at the General.
“What can we say, General?” Jack said softly, “except ... thank you.”
“It's a big house. I have lots of room. Now, if you'll stop snooping in my business affairs, we can deal with the clothes and toys.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jack said obediently.
**We would have had a good life here, Jack.**
**The old goat was going to adopt us, Danny. Geez, it would have been fun.**
They walked into the room they had shared for several days, each sitting down on their respective beds. Daniel ran his hand over the mattress.
“It made a great fort.”
Finally, they got down to business.
“Any idea what you want to do with all these things?”
“Actually, General, we do. There are a few shelters we donate to, and I know there are plenty of kids there who would love this stuff. What do you think, Daniel?”
“I agree. Maybe the Irish lady's shelter. Molly is her name, isn't it?”
“Yeah. Molly would really appreciate these things.” **One of these days, Daniel, you're going to come and meet her.**
Daniel didn't want to discuss the shelter right now, but he had to admit, that for the first time, he was considering joining Jack in more of his activities with the children. He'd participated in various events over the years, but he never fully committed to it, not totally, but now, he felt like maybe, just maybe, he was finally free and able to give of himself with children who were going through what he once had.
**Jack, I'm keeping my silver fox I got at the zoo.**
**Ditto, Love, with my monkey. We can put them in the study or take them to the cabin.**
**Study. I want them to be close, a ... reminder of our ... childhood.**
**I love the way you think.**
As he looked over their boyhood possessions, Daniel asked, “General Hammond, do you have some boxes we can use to pack this stuff up?”
“I'll be right back.”
Jack and Daniel laughed over their antics while at Hammond's house as they gathered together their toys. Jack noticed soon, though, that Daniel got quiet.
“Jack, maybe it's selfish, but ... I want to keep this. I mean, they bought these for us. Maybe we could ...” Daniel was almost afraid to say the words, but it was what he wanted, so he decided to go for it, “play with it sometime.”
“That's a great idea. I don't think anyone would mind.”
“Mind what?” the General asked as he returned with the boxes.
“Sir, we're going to keep the train sets.”
Hammond laughed his approval, and then helped the two pack everything into boxes. As they stood outside after the boxes were loaded into the back of Jack's truck, Daniel looked at Hammond.
“General, I ...”
A few tears escaped. Hammond moved forward, and the two hugged, a final, necessary occurrence before returning to reality.
“You were a wonderful, loving grandson. I was very proud of you ... Danny.”
“Thank you ... Grandpa.”
Jack worked hard not to lose control of his emotions. He smiled, saying nothing, but he also hugged the General. Just before pulling out of the hug, he whispered, “Thank you again for helping him to be little boy. You made him happy. Me, too, for what's it worth.”
“That means a lot, Jack.”
“See you in forty-eight,” Jack said as he moved to the driver's side of the truck. “Ah, General ...”
“No, Colonel, this is not going to help you to get your way in the future.”
“Just ... thought I'd ask, Sir.”
“Go home, Colonel.”
As Hammond moved towards his house, he stopped, looking back at Jack and Daniel. He smiled as he observed them. The two men were friends, good friends. In fact, Hammond had already ordered his conscious mind to forget the closeness he had witnessed during the evening.
The ease of their casual conversation inside the house hadn't escaped his notice, be it about the shelters “we” contribute to or the things “we'll” keep. Throughout the entire conversation that evening, there had been a lot of “we” and “us” terminology, much more than normal.
As a Major General in the Air Force, Hammond couldn't afford to think about that, so he had ordered the thoughts to disappear into the deepest recesses of his mind. Instead, he focused on being glad the two men were best friends, and having no other family, at least had each other.
Having successfully repressed the thoughts he knew he couldn't have, Hammond saw they were still watching him. For some reason, Jack hadn't started the truck. Something had been left undone, and somehow, they all knew it.
Hammond took a breath and returned to stand near the Ford F-350.
“Jack. Daniel. We have a piece of unfinished business.”
“We do?” Jack asked.
Daniel had a huge smile on his face as he opened the door to the truck, not even waiting for the Major General to issue an official invitation.
“Let's go, Jack. My Baltic is going to blow your Park Place to Kingdom come.”
**Stop it, Jack. Think children.**
**You're no fun.**
**I will be when we get home.**
**Oh, in that case, you're on.**
The two followed their adoptive grandfather into the house where they spent the next forty-five minutes finishing their game. Daniel won, which wasn't a surprise to anyone, but somehow, finishing the game brought a closure and peace to all of them, and saying goodbye was easier the next time around.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked Daniel once Hammond had closed the front door, and they were alone inside the truck.
“Yes, but ... you know something, Jack? General Hammond was more of a grandfather to us, or me anyway, even before this past week than Nick ever was.”
“Jack? Grandpa Bill. Is he real?”
“Very. I'll tell you all about him.”
“I already know. If what I remember is real, it's like ... it's like I do know him.”
“He's real. Where to next?”
“We should thank Lou, and if we wait to do it at the SGC ...”
“Yeah, I know ... not the right place.”
Just as they pulled up at the Ferretti's, Daniel's cell phone rang.
“Daniel, it's Janet. I meant to give you and the Colonel something before you left the base, but I got tied up. Would it be all right if I dropped by for a few minutes this evening?”
“Um, to the apartment?”
“Have you moved?” Janet laughed as she spoke.
“Uh, no. I'm ... Jack and I are going to have one of those,” Daniel rolled his eyes as he spoke, “hockey and pizza nights. We ... want to ... reminisce about ... driving everyone crazy this past week.”
“So you'll be at the Colonel's?”
“Yes. You can come by there in about two hours, if that works out for you.”
“Thanks. I'll see you two then.”
“What was that all about?” Jack asked as Daniel put his cell phone away.
“Janet. She has something for us.”
“Just as long as it's not ...”
“Needles!” both said together as they got out of the truck.
“Lou, how were you going to explain it to Carolyn?” Jack asked about the potential adoption.
“I don't know, but I would have. She has a big heart. It would have been okay.”
“You went above and beyond the call, my friend.” Lou shrugged it off, as if it were nothing. “I mean it, Lou. It means a lot that you'd do this, that you'd even think about it.”
“Hey, I was your uncle! No way could I let some stranger take you two.”
Jack and Daniel said their thanks again and headed for the front door.
“Wait a minute! Don't move!” Lou suddenly called out as he disappeared from their view to another room of the house.
Jack and Daniel chatted as they waited.
“Yo, Daniel ...” Daniel looked up just in time to see Lou holding a basketball. The Major nodded and tossed the ball towards the archaeologist. “Let's shoot some hoops.”
“I ... I ...”
“Come on ... Danny. Let's play.”
Daniel smiled at his lover, then looked at Lou.
“I'm still not very good.”
“That's okay, Doc. You will be.”
The three friends went outside and spent thirty minutes shooting baskets, Daniel steadily improving as they progressed.
Back in the truck, on the way home, Jack asked, “Was that fun?”
“Yeah, it was, but don't get any ideas, O'Neill, I do not want to play hockey!”
The older man just laughed as they continued their drive home.
As soon as they stepped inside their front door, Jack pulled Daniel into his arms and buried his nose in his lover's neck. Daniel did the same, and for several minutes, they simply enjoyed holding each other. Eventually, they pulled back a little so that they could look into each others eyes.
“I've missed you, Jack,” Daniel smiled. “Does that sound crazy?”
“No,” Jack caressed Daniel's cheek. “It wasn't the same. I missed you, too.”
They leaned together as one, their mouths meeting as they became reacquainted with the taste and feel of each other.
“We'd ... better ... stop now,” Jack pulled away, “or else Janet is going to get a whole lot more than she bargained for when she drops in here.”
“Gawd, I forgot,” Daniel grinned. “When she leaves?”
Daniel didn't need to be more specific. Jack knew that as soon as the SGC Chief of Medicine left the house that he and Daniel would make a beeline for their bedroom.
“You better believe it, Dannyboy.”
They ordered a pizza since neither felt like cooking, and it would add truthfulness to Daniel's hockey and pizza story. They'd just finished eating when the doorbell rang.
“Hey, Doc,” Jack greeted Janet.
“Hello, Colonel, Daniel.”
“Janet, I'm at home. I think you can call me Jack.”
“Okay, Jack, Daniel, I wanted to give you these.”
She handed over a stack of photographs. Jack grinned as he perused the four by six candids.
“These are great, Janet,” Daniel peered over to look at the photos as Jack flipped through them. “Look how cute you were, Jack.”
**Were, Danny? Were?**
**Are! I meant are!**
Jack glared at him. Janet watched the interaction between the two and suspected Cassandra had been right in her observations. These two were not just close, there was a feeling of unity about them. Still, it was something she couldn't afford to think about, so she quickly shoved those thoughts out of her brain.
“Aw, Daniel, look at you! I'm going to get this framed.”
Jack separated a photo of Daniel swiping icing from his pyramid cake. He'd managed to get a little on his nose, his eyes were sparkling, and he radiated happiness.
**You really were a kid, Danny.**
**Thanks to you, Jack. I needed you to show me the way.**
After chatting with Jack and Daniel for a while, the petite doctor stood up to leave, but shuffled her feet a little awkwardly.
“Janet?” Daniel questioned softly.
“I ... I just wanted to say I'm sorry about Doctor MacKenzie. I knew you wouldn't like the idea, but he is a psychiatrist, and we were so worried about what would happen when your parents didn't return, what we'd tell you, how you'd cope ...”
Everything came out in a rush as Janet tried to explain, all the while hoping that this wouldn't cost her two much-valued friendships.
“Janet, its okay. We understand. We don't hold it against you, although I think MacKenzie doesn't deserve to keep his job. The man's incompetent.”
“That's an understatement,” Jack stated. “But we don't blame you, Janet.”
“I think half his problem when it comes to you, Daniel, is that even on a bad day, you can run rings around him. He seems intimidated by your intelligence. He told me a little of your interview with him. He wasn't happy to have been bested by an eight-year-old.”
Jack smirked. Daniel just shrugged and gave Janet a goodbye hug.
“Oh, by the way, Jack,” Janet stopped in the door, “I have a patient in the infirmary who'd like you to stop by when you get back to the SGC.”
Jack looked at her with confusion.
“Private Bones. Ring any bells?”
Daniel realized what she was referring to and started to laugh. Jack was still clueless.
“He's missing a hand, Jack,” Daniel explained.
With a boyish smile, Jack acknowledged Private Bones.
“Ah, the skeleton incident. Sorry, Doc.”
“No, you're not,” Janet challenged.
Jack grinned, admitting, “Nope, I'm not, but I will come by and fix it for you.”
“Don't worry, I already had Sergeant Siler to do it. I still want old Boney around for a while yet.”
Still laughing, Janet left. Jack locked the door and again drew Daniel into his arms.
“It seems like forever, but it's only been a week,” Daniel said softly.
“I think we need to talk.”
Daniel nodded. Though the two desperately wanted to make love, at the same time, their experience was so different and new, and still so fresh in their minds, that they knew they needed to discuss what had happened and the choices they had made.
With a smile, Jack put his arm around Daniel's waist and led him to the patio door. They climbed the ladder and chose to sit side by side, their arms hooked in the other's, and their hands laced together. They were connected and still able to have space if they needed it and could look into the other's eyes, something that was extremely important to both men.
“So, Love, tell me what you didn't say in the briefing,” Jack requested.
“Actually, that's what I remember. Watching you play.” Daniel sighed and looked up at the stars now filling the Colorado night sky. “I wanted to know what that would be like, just for a while, and I thought about what a neat big brother you'd make, so I ... wondered about it, growing up with you.”
“We would have had a ball, Danny.”
“We did, Jack. It was ... everything I would have wanted. It was ... the bestest, wasn't it?”
“Oh yeah. The SGC didn't stand a chance.”
“Jack, it's going to be so embarrassing for a while.”
Jack started to agree, but then he changed his mind.
“No, Danny. We were kids, doing what kids do. We have nothing to apologize for or feel guilty about.”
“It's ... the first time I really felt ...”
“Danny, you learned how to play. I'm so proud of you. I hope you keep that with you, remember what it's like. Let go, Love, of all that sadness.”
“Jack, it felt so real. I mean, Grandpa Bill. I remember us in Minnesota at the cabin, when it was his cabin, and teaching us, both of us, Jack, how to fish. Well, you already knew, but I was there, and he was putting the pole in my hand. I fell ...”
“... in the lake, and he jumped in and saved you, and then ...”
“And then ... Grandpa just showed me again.” Jack smiled, knowing what happened next. “... and then I caught a fish.”
“Your first fish. Jack, how can I, we, remember something that didn't happen, and remember it as if it did? I mean, I have a year's worth of memories. Every day ... there is something. I remember ...”
Daniel hesitated, so Jack leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the lips, just briefly, for encouragement. He finished Daniel's sentence for him ... “Mom and Dad?”
Daniel nodded and continued, “Yeah. I remember them ... holding me and ... tucking me in, reading me stories, just like my real parents used to do. It feels so real.”
“Danny, I think the memories are there to help you remember the feelings. It's not the events, it's the love and freedom they gave you to be a normal kid. It's okay to smile, you know.”
“Yes, for me. You have the most beautiful smile, Angel, and a laugh that makes me so happy, and I get to hear it and see it a lot, but no one else does. You lock yourself away with those self-hugs, and I know we've worked beyond a lot of that, but maybe ... maybe if you can remember ... Mom and Dad, it'll help you be ... a kid.”
“I know what you're saying, but I'm not a kid anymore.”
“Sure, you are. I am. Danny, it's not about being responsible or professional, it's about being yourself, and for crying out loud, Daniel, if you want to laugh, laugh ... and don't tell me you do, because you don't, not at the SGC.”
Daniel took Jack's words to heart as he pondered them.
“I ... liked being Danny O'Neill.”
“It suited you.”
“I think it's the name.”
“Being an O'Neill means becoming certifiably nuts,” Daniel teased, adding, “After all, that explains all the shin-kicking, pigtail-tying, submarining ...”
Jack laughed as Daniel listed their adventures, and Daniel began to laugh, too.
“Gawd, Jack, it was fun. I felt ... free, so free, and so wanted and loved. I had this long list of people who loved me.”
“Love!” Daniel looked at Jack with uncertainty. “Love you. Look, I know that here, on Earth, you haven't met my folks, or Grandpa Bill, or Billy ... but I know in my heart that they love you.”
Jack kissed his lover again, more passionately this time, but he was surprised when Daniel began to chuckle and then actually burst into laughter.
“What?” Jack asked defensively, wondering why his soulmate was suddenly laughing at his kisses.
“Isn't this a little ... incestuous?”
“In... DANIEL! For crying out loud!”
Daniel laughed even more as Jack shifted, starting a tickle attack. Daniel sank to the roof deck flooring as the older man hovered over him, his fingers working away with care and purpose. The laughter was freer and heartier than Jack could recall, but he was sure Daniel would “give” soon.
Instead, hysterics continuing, Daniel managed to reach around his lover's neck, pulling him down into a good-humored kiss. The kiss got Jack thinking about things other than tickling the younger man. They kissed for several minutes as their passion grew.
“Jack, I loved being a little boy. I loved being your little brother. I loved everything we did, all the trouble we got into, the absolute pyramid-full of love that flowed through me ... I loved it all. And yet, all things considered ...”
Jack nodded, whispering, “All things considered ...”
All things considered, Jack and Daniel resumed their love affair in full force. They made love on the roof deck, then again in their bed, and again in the shower.
“All things considered,” Daniel said contentedly as he fell asleep on his partner's chest.
“All things ...” Jack fell asleep, full of love for the young man in his arms.
Jack woke up first the next morning and gazed lovingly at the face of his soulmate. He wished that all of Daniel's memories of growing up in foster homes could be replaced by memories of growing up in Casa O'Neill.
~I loved being your brother for a week, Danny, but I'd rather be your lover.~
He caressed Daniel's back and then noticed that sleepy blue eyes were watching him. He smiled.
“Hey, yourself.” Daniel grinned. “We have a week to make up for.”
Jack grinned as well and drew Daniel in for a kiss which rapidly led to another round of lovemaking as they endeavored to make up for their lost week. Afterwards, they lay in their usual positions, Daniel's head on Jack's chest, his left hand playing with the silver chest hairs he adored, his left leg hooked between Jack's.
“So what were you thinking about when I woke up? You looked ... pensive,” Daniel said as he sat up a little so he could look into Jack's eyes.
“I was wondering ... did the year's worth of memories replace your existing memories for that time?”
Jack's eyes were hopeful. He'd like nothing more than to erase Daniel's memories of sitting in that New York Museum where his parents died, just waiting for someone to notice him, not to mention all the foster homes.
Daniel shook his head with a sad smile.
“I seem to have two sets of memories for that year after my parents died. The bad ones, and the ones that I will treasure always, of being rescued by the knight of my heart and taken back to his castle ... no wait, that makes me sound like a storybook princess. Scrap that and stop laughing, you ... Bozo!”
“Bozo? Ah, Love, great choice!”
They both laughed, and then Daniel asked, “Jack, do you have all the same memories I do?”
“I think so. I have a double set, too, one that I know is the reality, and another of ... another ....” Jack groaned, not sure what to call it.
“I know what you mean, Babe.”
“Well, whatever you call it, they are there, like that one you mentioned of us with Grandpa Bill in Minnesota. Oh, and I remember Christmas when Mom gave you that bookshelf, and she wrapped it.”
“Oh gawd,” Daniel laughed. “I got lost in the wrapping paper.”
“Yeah, one minute you were there, the next all we saw were ribbons and Santa and his reindeer.”
Daniel chuckled as he buried his neck against Jack's shoulder.
“It's so real.”
“Maybe it was, Danny. In its own way, these memories are real. We know they didn't ... happen in our physical existence, but ... geez, they're only good, and I like having them.”
They spent the morning taking care of the odd jobs around the house that had mounted up over the week. It was late morning when the doorbell rang, and Daniel opened the door to find Cassandra standing on the porch.
“Uncle Daniel!” the teenager exclaimed as she moved forward and gave him a warm hug.
“Hi, Cassie,” Daniel returned the embrace and called out to his lover, “Jack, Cassie's here.”
Jack opened his arms for a hug, and Cassandra obliged, wondering yet again how anyone could be so blind as to think these two men were just friends.
~They are way, way more than that. They're the other half of each other. Geez, its so obvious, always has been. Stupid laws.~
“Um, I just came over to help Jack with the yard work and stuff,” Daniel explained.
“Right,” Cassandra said, knowing it was a lie, but also knowing she wasn't supposed to bring up sensitive topics.
“Would you like something to drink, Cass?” Jack asked.
“No, I just wanted to see you two ... back as ... you two.”
“We appreciate you're visiting us when we were ... children,” Daniel said with a shrug.
“Geez, you two were so cute. What little devils!”
“Hey, watch what you say about your elders,” Jack chided teasingly.
“Well, my elders don't normally tie my shoelaces together and my hair to the bed.”
Daniel couldn't help it. He laughed. He remembered Cassandra's expression and the job they had done.
Suddenly, Cassandra laughed, too, and then she said, “Uncle Daniel, I love it when you laugh!”
“So do I, Cass,” Jack added, barely able to stay put and not take Daniel into his arms.
Cassandra didn't have that limitation, so she went up to the young man and hugged him herself.
“Laugh some more.”
Daniel wasn't very touchy feely with anyone but Jack, but now, he held Cassandra close. He didn't know what to say, but in that moment, when he visualized their handiwork, he hadn't been able to keep the laughter in.
~And why should I? Maybe ... maybe that was part of the lesson?~
“Hey, Cassie, um ...” Daniel led her to the sofa where they sat down, Daniel holding her hand, “I really need to thank you for what you told me about your mom and Janet.”
The teenager smiled as she responded, “No need to thank me, Uncle Daniel. I just said the truth. Loving Janet as my mom doesn't betray my birth mother and ...” Cassandra paused.
She had had a thought over the last couple of days, and now she decided to move boldly forward, “... and being happy now doesn't betray your parents. You wouldn't have wanted me to be miserable my whole life because of what happened on Hanka, would you?” Daniel shook his head. “So, do you really think your own parents would want you to be miserable for your entire life? I think, and this is just my opinion, silly teenager that I am, but Uncle Daniel, I think your parents would want you to be happy,” Cassandra looked at Jack purposely as she continued to speak, not missing a beat, “and I think they'd want you to grab that happiness wherever you find it, even if it wasn't where they found it.”
Jack coughed, feeling very nervous at his adopted niece's stare, but she just smiled.
“I'm just saying being happy is a good thing, that's all.”
“You're right, Cassie, about a lot of things. Thank you,” Daniel said, squeezing her hand.
“Well, I've got to go.”
“Dominic?” Daniel asked.
Cassandra blushed slightly.
“I really need to have a talk with that young man,” Jack said in his command tone.
“Oh, no you don't, Uncle Jack,” Cassandra stood, shaking her head, and holding her hand out as if to keep Jack back.
Cassandra left, and Jack and Daniel returned to the living room and prepared to go back outside.
“Jack, do you think she knows?”
“I don't think we want to think about it.”
“I guess not, but she sure is growing up.”
“That she is, Danny.”
“I think ... she's right about something.”
“The guilt thing?”
“Jack, my parents were young when they died. They had a whole life ahead of them, and they lost it all. We always talk about me, and my loss, but what about them? Maybe ... maybe they would have had more children, or maybe Dad would have been recognized for his work, or Mom. I think ... sometimes, when I have moments that I start to feel ...”
Daniel nodded and continued, “I remember them, that they're dead, and that they can't be happy or sad or ... anything anymore, so ... what ... what right do I have to ...”
“Daniel,” Jack moved forward, placing his arms on his lover's upper arms, holding firmly, “You have a right to be happy, and Cassie IS right. No way in Netu would Melburn and Claire Jackson want their little boy to be miserable because they died. They would so not want that. They love you, and they want you to ...”
“Smile and laugh?” Daniel asked.
“I'll ... work on that, if you'll help me.”
“I'll always help you, Angel. Always.”
The rest of the day passed quietly, and it was as they were lying on the sofa in the living room that Daniel remembered the package Sam had given him the previous afternoon. He retrieved it from the study and gave it to Jack.
“You can open it. Sam said I had to open it with you.”
Jack opened the package, finding several DVDs inside along with a letter that read, “Thought you might like these. I started collecting these on the first day thinking that when you turned back into yourselves you might like to see them. Enjoy.”
“Do we dare?” Jack asked, laughing.
“I don't see how we can't!”
Daniel grinned at Jack, knowing what was on the DVDs would probably be embarrassing, but anxious to see his lover as a small boy again. Jack, too, wanted another glimpse of the young and playful little Danny. Daniel put the first disc in the player, and an empty SGC corridor appeared on the screen.
“Did she access the security camera footage?”
“Looks like it.” Jack grinned, full of pride at having the best team at the SGC. “Way to go, Carter.”
Daniel poked him.
“As 2IC of the SGC, should you be endorsing this?”
“If I get to see little Danny again, absolutely.”
Jack threw his arm around Daniel's shoulders and pulled him closer as their youthful selves appeared in the corridor.
“You were the cutest little kid, Danny.”
“Nope, that honor goes to you, Love. Just look at you.”
The screen showed Jack playing with the skeleton in the infirmary. There was another shot of them sneaking out of Teal'c's room carrying the heavy staff weapon between them.
“I can't believe we blew up part of the SGC,” Daniel said as he burrowed into Jack's side in embarrassment at their antics.
Yet, he couldn't bring himself to regret them. They'd been fun moments.
“I can't believe that even as a kid, you didn't like Paul. And look, you've corrupted me!”
Daniel laughed at the sight of the two boys on the television screen glaring at Major Davis. Jack looked proudly at the junior version of himself.
“Just goes to show, even as a kid I was a good judge of character.”
Daniel was about to reply, but lost his voice when the next image came up on the screen. It showed General Hammond walking along the corridor of the SGC carrying Daniel in one arm with Jack hanging onto his jacket.
“He really was our grandfather,” Daniel said softly.
“He still is in all the ways that matter,” Jack kissed the top of Daniel's head.
“Jack, the cutouts!”
“Geez, forgot about those. I wonder if they're still in the commissary.”
“We need to go get them.”
Daniel motioned as if to get up, but pausing the disc, Jack pulled him back.
“Danny, so what? What if they are still there against the wall?”
Jack's expression was sincere and earnest. He wanted the cutouts, too, and he knew the teasing that was bound to happen once they returned to work would include the cardboard figures, but ... he was proud of them and of what his lover had learned during that week.
Relaxing a little, Daniel's momentary panic faded, as did his embarrassment. Still, they were adults again, and he wanted to make sure they got the cutouts before anyone could throw them out or deface them.
“All things considered, Jack, everyone was very good to us. So ... big deal if it's still there for everyone to see.”
“Right.” Jack paused a few seconds. “We'll get them when we're done watching this.”
Daniel laughed. There were limits to being adults-turned children-turned adults!
“We need to go by the apartment anyway to get the mail.”
They snuggled back together and continued to watch the images of their week as children.
Jack and Daniel continued to get greetings as they walked the corridors of the SGC. Though it was almost 10 p.m., the place was fairly busy.
As they headed for the commissary, Jack caught sight of Doctor MacKenzie. Jack gave the doctor a smug look that was almost a challenge. In fact, the smug expression turned to a grin, adding to the dare, but MacKenzie took one look at the Colonel and then at Daniel and made an abrupt about face, quickly darting into an elevator. Jack laughed as he saw the psychiatrist pressing desperately against the buttons to get the elevator door's to close before Jack and Daniel got much closer.
“I don't think he's going to be much of a problem anymore.”
Daniel had to laugh, but he said, “You know, Jack. Maybe he really does have issues, like I did. I mean, maybe we should give him a break.”
Jack shook his head in amazement at the man he loved, more impressed than ever with the incredible well of forgiveness, understanding, and tolerance that he had for others, even those who had wronged him repeatedly.
Finally, they entered the commissary.
“Uh, Jack. They aren't here.”
“I can see that, Daniel,” Jack said, walking further inside, and looking carefully on all four walls of the room.
“Maybe they threw them away?”
Jack crunched his face as he thought, groaning into the comment, “No, I don't think they'd do that.”
“I'm an intimidating Colonel, Daniel. They wouldn't dare do anything to those cutouts.”
“Oh, I forgot. Scary Colonel.”
Daniel tried to hide his chuckle, and then decided not to. His laugh earned a glare from his lover.
“Hey, I thought you wanted me to laugh more!”
Jack laughed, too, and then asked, “Okay, Laughing Boy, what do we do now?”
“Ask the General?”
“Good idea. Let's go leave him a note.”
They headed for Hammond's office.
“Jack, the light in his office is on. You don't think he's still here?”
“Looks like it.”
Jack knocked on the door of his CO's office, and when Hammond answered, they went in.
“Sir, George, what are you still doing here? It's 2200.”
Jack sat down in one of the chairs, making himself right at home. Daniel sat down, too, albeit a little more hesitantly.
“I do know what time it is, Jack, and you two are supposed to be at home. You still have another twenty-four hours of downtime.”
“Daniel and I were talking, and we remembered the cardboard cutouts we made of ourselves. We thought we'd swing by the commissary and pick them up, but they're not there. Would you ... know where they are ... Sir?”
Jack's question had slowed in pace as a crazy thought occurred to him. At least, he thought it was crazy, until Hammond's expression and demeanor changed. If he didn't know better, Jack would think the General was ... embarrassed about something.
“I took them home. I wondered if you'd mind if I kept them?”
Jack looked at Daniel and grinned at his lover's astonishment. Daniel was still finding it incredible that the General had cared so much about them.
~It's no surprise to me, Danny. Well, not about you, anyway. Me, now that is a surprise.~
“I think we'd like that, Sir,” Daniel said, smiling at Hammond, but also feeling a bit embarrassed himself.
“Me, too,” Jack said and then couldn't resist adding, “After all, you can never get too much of Jack O'Neill.”
Hammond shook his head, and Daniel gave Jack's arm a thump.
“Go on, you two. Get out of here. Oh, the second set of cardboard cutouts you made are still in the VIP room.”
“The ones we wanted to give to Mom and Dad,” Daniel said, having briefly forgotten about them.
Jack grinned at Daniel's words and tone as did Hammond. The comment was so casual, so matter-of-fact. Daniel tilted his head slightly at the realization of how his words sounded, and then he smiled.
He admitted softly, “They ... seem like Mom and Dad to me now.”
Jack fought the urge to take his lover into his arms, and was grateful when Hammond interrupted the poignant mood by suggesting, “Maybe you'd like to take those home?”
“We'll pick them up on our way out.”
“Better make sure there's nothing else left in there, Jack. I haven't had anyone clean the room yet.”
“Thank you, Sir. Goodnight.”
“Sixty-four of them, and I think you used them all,” Jack teased as he looked at some of the drawings they had colored during the past week.
“Everything used to seem so ... gray,” Daniel responded softly.
“We're taking these home,” Jack said.
Daniel gave him a funny look, but Jack had already packed the box away along with some other toys that had been in the room. The young man envisioned multiple coloring sessions with his crazy lover.
~Oh, well, it'll be fun.~
“Hey, you're smiling.”
“I was ... imagining ... I mean, what you're going to do with those crayons.”
“We'll do what kids do. Any objections?”
Daniel laughed, shaking his head. He didn't have a one.
“Jack, look at these.”
Daniel held up their cardboard cutouts, eventually standing them up in front of his body.
“They're so small. Sometimes, I don't even remember being this ... small.”
“We were little boys. Little boys are little, Daniel.”
“It's so weird. All of this ... is weird.”
“Danny, your portrait. We're framing this.”
Jack was holding the crayon drawing of the two boys, the one Daniel had made just the day before.
“Just another little boy,” Daniel whispered, watching Jack carefully pack it away.
A few minutes later, they turned the lights out on their VIP room. Jack carried the boxes of toys, clothing, and other items that had accumulated there while Daniel carefully carried the two cutouts.
As he walked the corridors, it occurred to Daniel that a week and a half ago he would have been too embarrassed to walk through the SGC carrying a cardboard cutout of himself. Now, however, he found himself reveling in the feeling of being loved. Between his family at the SGC, his memories of his year with the O'Neills, and the love of his soulmate, he was feeling treasured and valued ... and, he had to admit, happy. He prayed that it would last.
“Jack, where are we going to put these?”
“I don't know. How about the garage?”
“We can't leave them out.”
“We'll box them up. Danny, you don't want to get rid of them, do you?” Jack asked as he watched Daniel scoot them gently into the back of the truck.
“No. I want to keep them. They were ... a very special present ... for Mom and Dad.”
The two headed for their home. Once there, they added some of the toys and clothing to the pile that Jack would be taking by Molly's shelter the next day. Observing his lover, Jack smiled as Daniel kept a few things for them, shrugging when he caught Jack grinning at him. Then, they carefully put away the cutouts, making sure they'd be protected from any potential water damage.
They enjoyed a late night snack under the stars as they sat outside on the patio deck and then went to bed, making love before falling asleep.
It was three hours later when Jack felt Daniel nudging him gently.
“Jack, wake up.”
“Hmm ... wha...what? Something wrong?” Jack asked as he struggled to return to a conscious state.
“No, nothing's wrong.”
“Danny, why are you awake?” Daniel smiled. “Danny?”
“Jack, I ... I want to play.”
“Yeah ... with our train sets.”
“Now? I mean, Angel, wouldn't it be better to wait until morning?”
“Don't be such a fuddy duddy, O'Neill. I want to play. Let's play.”
Jack was thrown, but only for a second, by the mischievous grin. This is exactly what he'd waited years to see and hear. Grinning, he answered, “Well, let's go!”
Putting on their sweats, the two spent the next little while setting up the train sets in their living room.
“My train is faster than yours,” Daniel challenged.
“Okay, what's the bet?”
“I win, and I get your caboose.”
“Danny, my caboose is yours regardless.”
Daniel laughed as he said, “The caboose on the train.”
“Okay, and if I win, what do I get?”
“On your train?”
Daniel grinned devilishly. Almost red-faced, he said, “If you want that one instead.”
“You're on, Engineer Boy.”
While their neighbors slept, the two adults once again reverted back to childhood, a choice purposely made as they remembered that the gift of play is to be cherished, nurtured, and enjoyed, regardless of age, even at three in the morning. As their trains chugged over the tracks, through the tunnels, and over the bridges, Jack and Daniel laughed, knowing that now they were both children at heart.
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