Thanks for the Memories by devra

Warning: Thanks for the Memories is a Little Daniel story that deals with many things, one of them being how Jack manages to come to terms with his past relationship with a now aware, six year old Daniel. A Daniel who now lives in his life and his spare bedroom. It is a story of love, family and discovery. Yes, it's slash, but in words regarding their life before, not in actions. There isn't, I do not believe, any ewww factors in this, none of my betas or alphas would have permitted it. I wanted to try/attempt to handle this in true Jack (and Daniel) fashion.

“Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn't know you left open.” –John Barrymore

Manips by JoaG
Illustrations by Wilma


Jack groaned, trying to force the beeping alarm clock back into his dream, but it refused to go along quietly, instead, cutting through his subconscious with a blaring wake-up call. Growling, he slapped at the offending object and after two clumsy tries, finally succeeded in putting the clock out of its misery.

"Daniel," Jack hissed, "time to get up."

Daniel mumbled something under his breath and with eyes closed, he slid out of bed and shuffled out of the bedroom.

Once upon time, Jack hadn't needed an alarm clock, his internal, ticking, military alarm clock had always done its job, until about three months ago, when all of Daniel's intelligence, wit and charm had been bent and folded to fit into the mind and body of a six-year-old child; a bespectacled, smaller than average, tow-headed six-year-old child.

Daniel held himself together during the day. He was the epitome of decorum. Doctor Daniel Jackson. Still possessing the ability to think circles around the majority of SGC personnel, both military and civilian, even if he did come up to their kneecaps, attended briefings sitting on two huge Budge reference books, or had to throw in the occasional nap to make it through the day. Big or small, he was still Doctor Daniel Jackson, possessor of three Ph.D.s and speaker of over twenty languages.

It was during the night; the so aptly named bewitching hours when Daniel clashed with the six-year-old housing his emotions. In the beginning, Jack had been overwhelmed and stunned at the intensity of emotions buried in this pint-sized person and had spent many a sleepless night, mindlessly rocking Daniel, until tears were reduced to hiccupping hitches of breath and the two of them fell into an exhausted sleep. Some nights were better than others, but even so Jack would lie in bed, awake in the dark, just listening and waiting. Other nights, like last night, an intense nightmare would draw Daniel to seek comfort and he would come into Jack's room, crawl into bed and fall asleep. There was an invisible line down the center of the bed, sort of like the invisible line dividing Jack's day into two parts. Daniel's friend by day. Daniel's parent by night.


He did the shit, shower and shave routine and pounded on Daniel's bedroom door on his way to the kitchen. "If you don't move your ass, we're not going to have time to hit the Coffee Shack on the way to the mountain."

"Give me a sec."

"Your second's up."

"Ha. Ha." Daniel flung the door open. "I'm ready. See?" He held out his arms for inspection.

Jack's gaze drifted over Daniel, into the bedroom. "You didn't make your bed."

Daniel snorted. "You made yours?"

"I don't have to," Jack replied haughtily.

"I thought military men were all anal neat freaks."

"I think outside the box, in case you haven't noticed. I'm different from the average military mind set." Jack smoothed down his tee shirt, proudly patting his chest so the chain to his dog tags rattled.

"You're living with the man who used to be your lover who is now a six-year-old." Daniel pushed up his glasses and stared innocently up at Jack. "Honestly, you're so far out of the box that—"

Jack shook his head. "You're incorrigible. I have enough ewww thoughts of my own when I think about—"

Daniel shuddered. "Don't think about it. I mean you're—" He pointed to Jack. "And I'm a mere babe in the woods."

"If you say the world 'old', Daniel, I'm going to carry you into the SGC. Over my shoulder…or… or… or… better yet, cuddle you like a baby."

"You wouldn't. Would you? Pick me up?" Daniel backed away from Jack. "I mean, not with those knees."

"Is that an 'old' crack?" Jack gave off an evil cackle, making claw-like gestures with his hands, seeking out Daniel, playing ignorant to the murderous looks from the miniaturized one.

"Sometimes I wonder who's six, Jack, do you know that?" Daniel ducked under Jack's outstretched left arm. "Let's go, I want my coffee."


The backseat of the Avalanche resembled a traveling office. Bless Siler and Carter for stepping in and adding a few extraordinary things like a lap tray attached to the back of the passenger seat similar to the ones used by airlines. There was a cup holder built right into the tray, just right for a child's morning cup of coffee. The two had thought of everything, except for one important item.

"Daniel." At the red light, Jack tapped the rear view mirror. "I can see you."

He pushed his glasses up with the eraser end of the pencil. "Huh?"

"Don't go all innocent on me. You tossed that paper onto the floor."

"Paper?" Daniel leaned over far enough that the booster seat appeared in danger of tipping.

"Sit up!"

"Light's green."

"Just so you know, one of your chores is to clean the truck this weekend."

Daniel snorted. "Does that mean you're going to give me an allowance, too?"

"No, you make more than I do. I'm thinking it's about time you paid room and board." Jack made a left onto the road leading to the mountain.


Jack caught the wide-eyed blink and Daniel's hidden-behind-an-allergy-swipe of his nose in his trusty rear view mirror. Jack had done it, moved the conversation from kidding to crossing the line in less than sixty seconds. "Ooops." Embarrassed, Jack flashed a smile into the rear view mirror. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way it must've sounded."

"It sounded pretty shitty, if you must know."

Jack sighed, wishing for the thousandth time Daniel would just talk to him and he wondered if his occasional snide remarks were more of the Freudian slip than innocent faux pas. Was he possibly goading Daniel? Hoping the nighttime emotions would make a daytime appearance so Daniel could finally face what had happened to him instead of just accepting it, as he accepted all the other obstacles Fate had placed in his life's path. Leaving the 'gate as an adult and returning in the body of a kid had to be one of the top three suckiest things that had happened to Daniel, coming in right behind his orphan and widower status.

In the beginning, Jack had been busy dealing with his own sense of loss and deprivation, and gladly accepted the fact Daniel quietly made adjustment concessions, which allowed him to privately grieve for what had been and what he had lost. By the time Jack had come up for air, Daniel was living in his house and had locked and thrown away the key to his mental anguish.

"Jack, you missed the turn off into the parking lot. Do you want me to drive?"

Jack snarled good-naturedly and did a U-turn.

"You know memory is the first to go." Daniel began to stuff his paperwork into his oversized backpack.

"You know everyone under that mountain thinks you're a pain in the ass."

"An ass?" A burst of giggles poured forth. "Oh, Jack," he mimicked in an annoyingly singsong voice. "They take one look at this cherubic face and the only word that comes to mind is 'sweet'." Daniel was still giggling when Jack pulled into his assigned parking space and turned off the motor.

The laughter had stopped by the time Jack opened the rear passenger door. He grabbed the backpack on Daniel's lap and slid it onto the asphalt, pointedly ignoring Daniel's cavernous yawn in his left ear as he leaned over to unbuckle the seat belt. Missing hours of sleep were hard enough on an adult, but the havoc they played on Daniel's system had been the reason, on more than one occasion, for Fraiser to threaten Jack. Something about a little kid with dark circles and a wan, washed-out complexion kind of irked the doc.

"Fraiser's gonna make you take a nap today." Jack stepped to the side, allowing Daniel to slip out of the truck on his own.

"I have a full schedule today. Meetings—" He checked his watch, shaking his head. "I'm already going to be late to the first one." Daniel looped his hand around his backpack and began to drag it along.

Jack forcibly zipped his mouth shut, biting back comments that had to do with White Rabbit, scurrying, and Alice in Wonderland and instead, scooped up the backpack. In four strides, Daniel was left in his wake. Jack turned and began to walk backwards. "Come on, slow poke. Meetings, etc. Remember, you have a full schedule?" He checked his own watch and t'sked, shaking his head. "Memory is the first to go, you know that, Daniel?"


Daniel was reaching for his backpack even before Jack dropped it onto the floor. "I need--"

"You need to remember to eat lunch. Take a nap—"

"You need to stop treating me like I'm a child, Jack."

He bent down and cocked his finger towards Daniel. "In case you haven't noticed," Jack whispered, "you are a child."

Daniel grabbed two files from the backpack. "I'm a child in stature only. Up here," Daniel tapped his temple with the corner of the folders, "where it counts. I'm still me. I'm still thirty-nine."



"We're fine." Jack had adapted Daniel's trademark "fine" when anyone asked how the two of them were managing and with Fraiser, he never even waited for her to ask, the word just sort of rolled off his tongue. He looked up from the paperwork on his desk and offered her a smile and a chair.

She didn't fall for the sentiment behind the smile, but she accepted the chair. "Sir."

"Somethin' on your mind, Doc?" He leaned back in the chair, taking comfort in the familiar squeak of the need-to-be-oiled springs.

"Explain fine."

He placed the back of his hand across his forehead. "No fever. No cough." Jack stretched his arms and legs. "No injuries. And unless some calamity has befallen Daniel since I dropped him off in his office this morning, he's pretty much okay also." He sighed. The chair gave a loud squeak of complaint as Jack shifted his weight. "Under the circumstances, I'm thinkin' fine is an acceptable word."

Standing, she gave him a true smile. "I'm trusting you, sir, to let me know when you lose the fine."

"You'll be the first to know. Promise."

"Colonel?" She had gotten as far as the door.


"Please make sure Daniel takes a nap today."

Jack snorted. "Daniel's thirty-nine years old, short of slipping the guy a mickey, I'm not really sure how to get him to close his eyes."


Daniel was ready to admit defeat. He needed a nap. He rubbed his eyes, trying to ignore the couch's siren song and forced his attention back to the monitor. The meeting had gone on longer than expected, which had set Daniel's well-planned day on its ass, and the translation he had promised SG-8 by early afternoon was going to be late.

Clearing his throat, Daniel sat up straighter, took a swig from his water bottle, then tried again, managing to keep his attention glued to the first two lines, working on the word formation and making good progress until he came across the last two words of the third sentence, which in his bleary-eyed state, translated as street crossing, which even in the context of the paragraph, made no sense. Sighing, he tried again. And again. He kept one eye on the sentence and the other on the clock in the bottom right- hand side of his computer screen. Cross... maybe it wasn't cross, maybe it was—

"Please tell me you ate lunch?"

Daniel was kneeling on the chair, going nose to nose with the monitor, head tilted, trying to formulate the word combination from a different angle. "I ate lunch."

"You did?" Jack moved a few folders aside, searching for food scraps.

Daniel cocked his head to the left. "No, I didn't."

"Then why did you say you did?"

"Because you said, and I quote, 'please tell me you ate lunch', so I'm telling you I ate lunch." Daniel fought the two hands on his shoulders pulling him back to an upright position. "Hey."

"Stop that, you're making yourself cross eyed."

He ripped his glasses off and scrubbed at his face, mumbling behind his hands.

"What did you say?" Now, a gentle touch tugged his hands away from his face.

"I said go away. Please go away. I need to finish this translation. The meeting ran long. I haven't had time to eat lunch, pee or... or... He clamped his lips together, horrified that he had almost admitted to Jack how tired he was and that he needed a nap.

"Can't help with the peeing or the translation, but I can get you some lunch if you want."

Lunch would mean peace and quiet while Jack went off to the commissary. "Lunch would be good. Turkey on rye with mayo and a bag of chips. Or maybe macaroni and cheese? Or lasagna? If you get me the lasagna, just get me the roll, not garlic bread... and tea... I'd like iced tea. Three sugars..."


Daniel had proudly controlled his emotions when Sha're had died and when he'd handed Shifu to Oma to raise. So could someone please explain why the sight of a sorry, sad looking turkey on white bread with lettuce and no mayo on the plate in front of him was causing his eyesight to blur through a watery curtain of tears?

"I'll admit, it's pretty sad looking." Jack rotated the plate, flicking at a wilted piece of lettuce sticking out of the bread.

Daniel nodded, unable to trust his voice. He was pissed. Angry at Jack for failing. Angry at himself for even getting angry at Jack. It was bad enough Jack bore witness to Daniel's tears. There was no way in hell he wanted to shed a tear here at the SGC. Not under the fluorescent lights, with the security cameras as front row center voyeurs when he fell apart over a stupid turkey sandwich.

Plate and all, Jack tossed the turkey sandwich into the garbage and slapped a Cadbury chocolate bar in front of Daniel, his hand pinning it to the opened book. "I'll let you have dessert first, but you just gotta promise not to rat me out to Fraiser."

"Promise," Daniel mouthed.

"I'm going to work some colonel magic and get you something you can consider to be a lunch, instead of—" Jack gazed at the garbage then cupped his hand over his mouth, blowing out a comical rendition of taps.

"Thank you, Jack."

"No problem, buddy. Just remember the promise you made to me regarding Fraiser and eat it slowly."

Daniel's fingers caressed the wrapper. It was taking the utmost restraint, refraining from ripping the covering off and stuffing the entire thing in his mouth. "I'll destroy the evidence."

"You mean like tear it to shreds, right? 'Cause I'm getting a visual of you eating the bar, and setting fire to the wrapper, the alarms going off and the whole SGC becoming engulfed in flames all because I gave you a chocolate bar to make up for a disgusting turkey sandwich."

"Shredding, Jack. Promise to shred."


Daniel sucked the melted chocolate off his fingers, then swiped his tongue along the inside of the wrapper just to make sure he hadn't missed an iota of creamy goodness. As promised, he ripped the wrapper into unrecognizable pieces, then watched with a heavy heart as they fluttered into the garbage pail. He failed miserably when he tried to turn his attention back to the translation. Instead of satiating him, the chocolate had fiercely awoken not only his hunger, but his thirst as well. The iced tea Jack had brought with the pathetic sandwich beckoned, but prolonging the taste of chocolate in his mouth for as long as he could was even more tempting. Shifting in the chair, Daniel pressed the heel of his hand into his stomach to quell the growling. "Quiet," he ordered, pulling a reference book closer.

Making a notation, he plodded forward, latching onto a paragraph where the translation flowed. He was making excellent headway, lost in the visuals and the success of connecting ancient words into coherent thoughts.

"Doctor Jackson?"

If he ignored the intrusion, maybe it would go away.

"Doctor Jackson?" Awkward throat clearing now followed his name.

"Yes?" Rude as it was, Daniel refused to look up. It had taken him enough time to enter into his linguistic mindset, there was no way he wanted to be distracted, determined to prove he could multi-task no matter what his size.

"Colonel O'Neill is in a meeting with General Hammond and he asked that I deliver this to you."

Exasperated, Daniel tore his gaze away from his work and looked up at the airman, who appeared more than uncomfortable standing in his office with a grease-stained, white paper bag in his outstretched hands.

"Is that my lunch?"

"Yes... um... sir." The man flashed Daniel a smile and searched for a place to deposit his delivery.

"I'll take it." Daniel kneeled on the stool and stretched out his hands, sniffing appreciatively at the smell of garlic.

"Lasagna. Colonel O'Neill wanted you to know it's from Amice's to make up for the—I believe it was a turkey sandwich?"


The translation was forgotten three minutes after the airman left, two minutes after Daniel opened the bag and a second after he pulled out a wad of cheese and shoved it in his mouth. Jack tried for balanced meals, when and if the two of them arrived home at a reasonable hour. Fresh fruit, veggies and chocolate milk now filled Jack's fridge, but as much as they tried, more often than not, both he and Jack fell into the fast food trap or bowls of cereal for dinner. But this. Amice's white seafood lasagna was a decadence missing from Daniel's diet. He ate slowly, alternating between his fingers and the fork.


Jack was elated. He really shouldn't be, he should be upset, and he tried to wipe the smile off his face, but it was stubborn and refused to leave. Offworld. SG-1 was going offworld. Okay, he admitted with a sinking feeling, SG-1 sans one archeologist was going offworld. A diplomatic mission that mere months ago would have bored him shitless, but now, after being Earthbound since Daniel's "honey I shrunk the archeologist" adventure, Jack was chomping at the bit for even the most mundane mission.

With a bounce in his step, he entered Daniel's office, surprised to find it empty and dark. He backtracked and turned on the overhead lights. "Hello, what's this?" Jack's smile broadened at a portion of lasagna sitting atop an opened book. "Don't mind if I do."

Daniel came back in just as Jack was licking the paper plate clean.

"Hey! I was saving that."

Guiltily, Jack dropped the plate into the garbage pail, stuffing it down and out of sight. "You left it out in the open. There was no note, nothing. So I figured..."

"You figured wrong." He glanced longingly at the garbage, then tossed two folders on his desk. "I hadn't realized I need to hide my lunch when I leave my office."

"At least you got lunch," Jack groused. "I was in a meeting with Hammond... Can I finish your iced tea?"

"It's warm, but help yourself, because you're just going to drink it anyway."

Jack finished the remaining tea in one gulp, his face crinkling in confusion when Daniel checked his watch. "Got a date?"

"No, got a meeting with Lee to go over his findings—"

"Ohhhhh, sounds truly interesting, Daniel, but I need to..." Jack waved towards the door. "I'll see ya around eighteen hundred hours. Be ready." He wagged a warning finger at him.


Five fuckin' minutes from the house. Five minutes. He couldn't help but growl in frustration as Daniel power napped in the back seat. Great. A five-minute snooze would prolong bedtime until the wee hours of the morning. "Daniel," he hissed. Keeping one hand on the wheel, he stuck his other hand between the seats and attempted to prod Daniel to wakefulness. "Wake up!"

Daniel groaned, whined and tugged his legs from Jack's reach. "Stop."

Jack pulled his arm back and maneuvered into the driveway, accelerating so the Avalanche thumped over the apron then stopped short in the hopes of jolting Daniel awake. And it did, jolt him into awareness, though not in the manner in which Jack had hoped. Daniel screamed, instantly awake, fighting against the confines of the booster, struggling to undo the seat belt even before Jack had the truck in park.

"A minute," Jack begged, Daniel's feet angrily kicking the passenger seat with enough force that the seat bounced forward.

"Out. Now." Daniel managed to unlatch the belt and was crawling across the seat just as Jack flung open the rear door. He reached in, grabbed Daniel by the shirt and dragged him, all kicking arms and legs, out of the truck.

"Why?" he sniffed pathetically into Jack's neck.

"I don't know, sport." Jack rested Daniel's ass on the hood of the truck while Daniel leaned his upper body against Jack. "Sometimes life sucks."

Daniel yawned and sniffed again. "And sometimes six-year-old kids need a nap."

"And sometimes six-year-old is stubborner than a thirty-nine year old." Jack rubbed his back. "Nightmare?"

Daniel shrugged. "Daymare. Obviously, I don't need nighttime to be terrified. And just so you know, stubborner's not a word."

"Neither is daymare, but if the shoe fits, wear it."

"It hurt when they made me young."

Jack's hand stopped, then started up again. Kind of like his heart. Daniel had never spoken about the transformation process, insisted he didn't remember and hadn't a clue why he'd been the one chosen. "I'm sorry, we didn't know. Fraiser never found anything and you never said—"

"That's okay," Daniel admitted sleepily. "I don't always know." A small, lethargic hand came up to tap on his temple. "Don't... remember either. Sleep..."

This yawn was deeper, and Jack felt incredibly guilty. "Sleepy?"

"Yeah," Daniel replied breathlessly. "Sleep makes me remember." He shuddered in Jack's arms. "Hate sleeping."

"Yeah, I noticed that sleeping isn't in your top ten." Jack waited for Daniel to answer. "Hey, I'm thinking maybe it's time to have Fraiser take another look at you."

Wide-eyed, Daniel gazed at Jack with an expression filled with the need and want only a child can have.

"It's okay... Fraiser will make it better—" Stupid. Stupid. Stupid, O'Neill. He should have zipped his lips, been a silent partner on this trip down Daniel's memory lane. Because with his words, he saw Daniel draw the shutters.

"No!" Daniel pushed away from Jack, sitting up straighter, glaring at him. "I'm fine. Janet gave me a perfect bill of health. It's just been a long day." He slithered from Jack's grasp, sliding off the hood of the truck, dropping down to the driveway before Jack could stop him. "I'm okay," he reassured Jack when he landed on all fours.


Daniel fiddled with his grilled cheese sandwich, biting each half into smile shapes before pushing the plate away. "The lasagna was filling." He threw his napkin over the plate. "Excuse me, I have work to do."

"Clean up first."

Blinking Daniel studied him. "I always do. You don't need to remind me. I'm small, Jack, I'm not a kid."

"If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck..."

Jack was positive whatever Daniel mumbled under his breath when he rushed past him wasn't along the lines of 'happy birthday'. He sat back in the chair with a groan. What the fuck was up with him anyway? Mr. I-want-nothing-to-do-with-anything-emotional was going for the gold medal in the category of Daniel-goading.


Courteously, he knocked on the closed bedroom door, but he didn't wait for an answer before barging in. "Would it help if I apologized?"

"I don't know what you want from me." Daniel kept his eyes glued to the monitor, the light casting a strange shadow across his face.

Leaning against the work desk, Jack crossed his arms over his chest. "Honestly, you want to know?"

Daniel nodded, tearing his gaze away from whatever had been captivating his attention and turned in the swivel chair to face Jack.

Jack fingered a silly, childlike cup on the top shelf then shoved his hands into his pocket at Daniel's silently mouthed warning of 'put it down'. "I want you to get mad."

Daniel's snort was a cross between a sob and a sound of utter disbelief. "I can't get mad. I can't afford to lose control."

"Why?" Jack insisted. "You're human. You can get mad. Angry. Upset. No one will think the less of you."

This time there was no ignoring the self-depreciating snort. "Look at me, Jack." He patted his chest. "Last time I looked, there was less of me. And as much as people pretend to respect me, this is all they see. And it sucks. And it hurts. And most times I just want to throw in the towel and have a temper tantrum. Or yell. Or stick out my tongue. Tell you I hate you. Do you have any idea how hard this all is for me? And all that I've lost?"

"Daniel, I—" Jack felt about four inches tall and prayed Thor would choose this exact moment to beam him up.

"I miss you, Jack." Daniel reached towards Jack then seemed to catch sight of the size of his hand, and it fell into his lap. Daniel dropped his head with a painful thunk onto Jack's shoulder. His sigh tickled the underneath of Jack's chin. "Maybe I should go and stay somewhere else. My being this size has got to be—difficult for you, too."

Initially, when Daniel had been downsized, he had, without thought, stepped forth and figuratively slung Daniel over his shoulder to take him home. Within a week, Jack had seriously wondered what had been his state of mind when he'd made that decision, but to hear Daniel say what he'd thought, hurt. "We do our best work watching each other's sixes... we're a team." He squeezed Daniel's shoulder. "We'll get through this."


"We'll get through this." Jack's parting words echoed in Daniel's mind. Jack was into long term planning, and Daniel, well, he was into just getting through each day keeping his emotions in check. He was paralyzed with fear over the thought of staying this size and reliving his life, and he refused to even go down that road.

He took off his glasses, tossed them onto the table and scrubbed at his eyes. He was tired, but sleep had become the demon, images taunting him in his dreams, hanging on until he reached full awareness, then disappearing. Janet had said PTSD, Mackenzie had agreed. Jack, Sam and Teal'c had remained conspicuously silent. For once in his life, Daniel was afraid to rock the boat. Terrified if he pushed the issue the messages his dreams were trying to convey, his hours at the SGC would be cut back and a padded room would be his next address.

Today had been different, though. Instead of making those placating shushing noises and rubbing his back to quell his fears, today, Jack had listened. Today, Daniel had remembered more than bits and pieces after he'd awoken. There had been images as well as the fear. Napping in the backseat, he'd recalled pain and sympathy that had nothing to do with Jack, and everything to do with the inhabitants of the planet.

He had no time for this. Daniel stuck his glasses back onto his face and returned to the project at hand. He was concentrating so intently on the information contained in the folder before him and the information displayed on his monitor, he didn't even realize he was frustratingly chewing his way through a number two pencil. He jumped when his computer announced incoming mail, looked at the gnarled pencil in his hand, then tossed it away in disgust.

Saving and closing his document, Daniel switched over to his email, more than ready to take a break. Smiling at the email addy, he opened the email quickly, his smile broadening at Rose's words. She missed him. Hoped he was doing well and that it was only his work that was keeping him so busy and not something more sinister. It was wordy and chatty, a façade over her worry.

Three months ago, he and Jack had come up with the ruse that Daniel was indefinitely out of the country and would only be corresponding with her through email, while Jack could maintain telephone contact with his mother. Daniel hated it. Hated not being able to talk to her, hating even more that he was lying to her. He wasn't stupid, he was well aware of the necessity of their subterfuge, but that still didn't make it easy. Except for the 'miss you sentiments', Daniel's email to Rose was mainly filled with lies. "I'm sorry, Rose," he whispered, hitting send.


He opened a single serving orange juice, stuck in the straw, closed the fridge door then leaned against it while drinking.

"You want some cookies?"

Daniel looked up at Jack and shook his head.

Shrugging, Jack stuck his hand in the cookie jar, took out two chocolate chip cookies, kept one and offered the second to Daniel. He took it, hating Jack for knowing him so well, for knowing his no sometimes meant yes. Daniel hated Jack for making subtle changes in his house to accommodate his size. There were individual water bottles, single serving juice packs, cutting down Daniel's need to reach into a high cabinet to get a glass. Coincidentally, a week after Daniel's downsizing, Jack's fridge bit the dust and he purchased one with the freezer on the bottom. Silently, a step stool appeared in both the bathroom and the kitchen and the pole in his closet had become a perfect height. Like Jack wanted Daniel to get angry, Daniel wanted to ask why Jack's adjustment to this smaller, younger Daniel seemed so easy.

"Rose emailed me."

"I know you hate lying."

"I do."


"You need to call her."

"I will." Jack stuck his hand back into the cookie jar and pulled out another cookie. "I'll call as soon as I get back."

"Get back?"

Jack's silence was answer enough and Daniel bristled. "Get back from where, Jack?"

Shit. Shit. Shit. He could just hear the words running through Jack's brain, because from the deer in the headlights expression on Jack's face, this was so not how he had wanted to break the news to him.

"SG-1... I mean not all of SG-1," he said with a guilty stammer. "Carter, Teal'c and I are going—"

"I don't care where you're going." Daniel crushed the juice box and tossed it, along with the cookie, into the garbage. "You knew after your meeting with General Hammond today. You knew on the ride home and while we were eating dinner, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty damn positive, if you hadn't blurted it out, I'd be finding out about your travel plans only as you were stepping through the 'gate. I'm short, I'm not stupid and I'd appreciate it if we're going to get through this, as you kindly reiterated early, if you could at least respect my intelligence."


Daniel flopped down on the bed. Well, short of kicking and whining, his behavior in the kitchen had been an impressive temper tantrum. Embarrassed, he pulled his pillow over his head and covered his face. He knew Jack would give him space, but the kind of space he desired was his own home with a door he could lock. Autonomy. Daniel was stuck between jealousy and anger knowing that Jack was going offworld, but there was also that little bit of hurt at the excitement in Jack's eyes over a journey that didn't include him.


Jack found the check affixed to the TV in his bedroom. Sticking his finger under the tape, he slowly and carefully detached the check from the screen. "Crap." More of a scribble than a precise handwriting, he had no problem deciphering the amount or the signature. It was the two words printed in the bottom left hand corner on the line next to memo that drew his attention. Rent. Food.

Jack crumpled the check, took a step towards the door, then stopped by the dresser and leaned on it as he carefully unfurled the check. Understanding why Daniel needed to do this was a hell of a lot different than agreeing with why he did it, but he would try. Make a concerted effort. Be supportive. Take a step back and remember the friendship, not that he'd lost a lover. Maybe it was time to finally think about what Daniel had lost in all of this.


Cautiously, Jack opened the bedroom door, smiling at the lump on the bed. Still dressed, Daniel was sleeping. Glasses askew, tee shirt riding uncomfortably up his back, sock-covered feet curled into themselves, a sign that even in sleep, Daniel was cold.

"Come on, sleepy head, let's get you ready for bed." Jack had neither the courage nor the heart to wake a sleeping Daniel and force him into pajamas, so he gently removed his glasses, pulled down the shirt and pulled up the covers. Daniel slid downward, tugging the covers up to his nose.

Keeping one hand on the bed, Jack leaned over Daniel. Then stopped, horrified at what he caught himself doing. He had been going to kiss Daniel. As a father would kiss his child. As he would've kissed Charlie.


Jack wasn't sure if he'd really been sleeping, all he knew was now he was awake, lying on his back. Staring at the ceiling. Listening and categorizing the house's night sounds. Nothing out of the ordinary, but something seemed off.

The door to Daniel's room was still closed and he paused and placed a hand against the wood in thanks. The living room, kitchen, dining room and deck were devoid of anything that should be tingling his senses. He found the reason for his discomfort in the den, bundled under the afghan, shoved into the corner, trying to make himself invisible.

"Bad one?"

The area where Jack calculated Daniel's shoulders should be located raised themselves up then down in a blanket-covered shrug.

"Want to go back to bed?"

There was adamant negative head movement under the blanket.

"Okay, no problem." Jack waited a few moments. "Want me to stay with you?"

Daniel hesitated, then drew the covers down, nodding at Jack.

"I'm going to sit in the recliner." He patted the well-worn leather of the chair. "Right here." He sat and flipped up the chair. "See."

"Okay," Daniel replied softly. "Right there."

"Not going anywhere." Jack sat back on the chair with a sigh of contentment and watched Daniel studying him under hooded lids. "Sleep. I promise I'm not going anywhere."


Daniel was asleep on his back, snoring heavily for a little kid, and Jack made a mental post-it to have Fraiser check his allergy medication. Jack shook his shoulder a number of times before getting any response. "Time to shower."

"You first," Daniel grumbled, turning onto his side, flapping his hand down his body in search of the blanket pooled on the floor.

"Ya got fifteen minutes to sleep while I shower." Jack said. "Make the most of it."


Jack had deposited Daniel in his office, then grabbed the two of them some breakfast. There hadn't been enough time to stop for food, but they weren't truly late, so Jack opted for commissary food. They ate in relative silence, Daniel doing more pushing around the plate than actually eating.

As soon as Daniel's attention became more focused on his computer than the pancakes in front of him, Jack began clearing the desk, throwing away the remains of their breakfast, slowly scraping the plates into the pail in Daniel's office. "I'll be home before—"

"Dinner, I know, you've mentioned that a few hundred times."


"Please don't feel badly, Jack. You, Teal'c, and Sam—" His voice caught in his throat and he ducked his head, embarrassed. "SG-1 is too valuable to keep on Earth babysitting me."

"We weren't babysitting. We were—"


"Adjusting, Daniel. We were adjusting."

"Guess I'm still adjusting, otherwise I'd be walking up the ramp with you, huh?" Daniel hopped off his chair and slam dunked his hated, one little container of milk a day, into the garbage. "Sorry, none of this is your fault."

"It's not your fault either." Jack caught a shocked Daniel mid stride and plunked him on top of a pile of books on the work bench. "It sucks not being able to blame someone."

Blue eyes narrowed, growing old with anger and frustration. "Please don't pick me up like this. Not here." He slid down, taking two of the books to the floor with him.

Jack bent down and grabbed Daniel's shoulders just as Daniel was going for the books. "I'll be home for dinner," he said softly. He reached over, adjusted the glasses and smoothed down Daniel's errant cowlick. "I'm sorry."

"Me, too," Daniel said, skittering over to Jack and getting as close to him as possible without crawling into his lap.


"Doc?" Jack walked into her office after knocking lightly on her opened door.

"Sir? Everything okay? Is Daniel..."

Jack waved away her concern. "Fine, everything's fine. Daniel's fine. I'm fine. I'm just a bit..." Jack looked over his shoulder. "Nervous," he whispered. "First time going offworld since Daniel's been..."

"I understand. I'll keep an eye on him."

"It's not even a twenty-four hour mission. So I'll be home before dinner but would you just, you know... keep an eye on—"


Red-faced, he gave a sharp nod. "Don't let him know I asked you."

Fraiser made a cross over her heart. "Promise, it'll be our little secret. He'll never need to know."

"I owe you one," Jack said.


Daniel wasn't sure whose decision it was for him to stay in his office and not give SG-1 a send off when they went through the 'gate. Daniel was pretty sure it wasn't his choice, but he didn't remember arguing with Jack. Maybe because he was grateful. He knew he was being left behind, even if it was only for a few hours, and he more than understood the reasoning behind the decision, but that didn't make it hurt any less.

Glancing at his watch, he played the 'what are they doing now?' game until the numbers blurred from allergy-itchy eyes. He took off his glasses and scrubbed at his eyes. As an adult member of SG-1, Janet had perfected the correct combination of antihistamines keeping his allergy attacks to a minimum, now that he was small, she'd had to start all over at the beginning and it sucked. Big time. They either didn't work or they zonked him to the point of lethargy, or worse, falling asleep. He grabbed a wad of tissues from the box Jack always made sure was on his desk and blew his nose, tossing the tissues over the side of the desk into the garbage pail. He pulled the box closer to him, opened the folder on his desk, and went back work.


Sneezing, he reached for the box of tissues. "Damn," he uttered when his hand came up empty.

"It would seem I have impeccable timing."

"Janet." Daniel looked up, smiled, then searched his desk for a stray tissue to wipe his nose. He found one under a stack of papers and wiped his raw nose with the crumpled tissue.

She dug her right hand into the pocket of her lab coat and tossed a tiny packet of tissues onto his desk. "Reinforcements."

"You're a life saver," he mumbled behind the wadded up tissue he still held to his nose to stop the flow.

"Why didn't you come to me and tell me that your allergies were acting up? The Colonel should have mentioned that you weren't feeling well." Daniel bristled and sat up straighter. "Excuse me? These are allergies. I've had them my whole life. I don't need Jack to report to you, I'm more than capable—" To his chagrin, Janet sat on the stool opposite him. "I'm not insinuating you're unable to take care of yourself." "Thank you, I appreciate that," he said snidely. "I need you to understand something, Daniel. What happened to you is beyond my realm of understanding." She folded her hands demurely on a sheath of papers. "And I need to—" She swallowed hard. "Make sure—" He caught a sneeze in the crook of his arm. "That your allergies aren't masking something else." "Trust me. They're allergies, Janet. Speaking from experience, that's all they are." Daniel shuffled papers around on his desk, doing anything to avoid looking at her. "Actually—" This time he captured a sneeze in a hastily grabbed tissue. "Actually, Daniel, this is the SGC. I shouldn't have to remind you that things are not always what they appear to be." "These are allergies," he said indignantly. "And what if they're not?" He threw up his hands in surrender. "Fine. You want me to go to the infirmary..." Daniel jumped down from the chair. "We'll go the infirmary. You can satisfy your curiosity. I can prove I'm right and both of us can get on with our day." "I'm not going to torture you," Janet said. She stood and smoothed down her pristine lab coat. Daniel snorted, snatching the tissues off the workbench, shoving them into his pocket. "Seems like torture to me when I'm on the receiving end of a needle."


He breathed for her. Exhaled. Inhaled. She checked out his throat, ears and eyes while Daniel kept his gaze trained on the infirmary clock. He coughed. Janet wrote in his chart. He sneezed and Janet shook her head, making another notation. Janet clicked her pen shut and stuck it behind her ear. "Did you take an allergy pill today?" This morning seemed like hours ago even though the clock said otherwise. Morning. This morning he had been preoccupied with Jack leaving. "No." "Daniel... to get the correct regimen you need to take the medication." He left the infirmary. Not angrily. He just left and waited by the elevator, fidgeting from leg to leg expectantly, waiting for Janet to be at his heels. Surprisingly, she wasn't and Daniel couldn't help but feel more than a tad victorious.


One minute he was concentrating on the monitor, the next minute he was sucker punched with a blinding headache. Daniel hadn't experienced a headache of this intensity since being downsized. Foolishly, and obviously incorrectly, he'd believed that maybe their absence had been a positive attribute to being six. Wrong. Daniel knew the drill. He saved his work, powered down his computer, slid off the chair and with lids at half mast, he stumbled around the room, flicking off the lights, until his office was bathed in darkness. By rote, he found a bottle of pain killers in his top drawer, and literally forgetting he was shorter and much lighter than the adult version who had last used this medication, he popped a whole instead of a half, dry swallowed it, gagging as it stuck before painfully traveling down his esophagus. Daniel gave a few impressive heaves over the garbage pail before acknowledging what went down was not coming back up no matter how nauseated he felt. Once the undulating floor slowed to a slight wave, he walked in the direction of the couch, holding onto furniture for support. Finding the couch by accident when his knees made painful contact with the frame, he dropped onto the cushions, toed off his shoes, then pulled the afghan around him as he scrunched up, trying to escape the pain.


A deep grumble and a curse roused him, but didn't wake him. At the moment, sleep was a better comfort than the voices surrounding him.


Janet had warned him to wait, that she would turn on the light, but General Hammond had just plowed into the darkened room, taking only a few steps. "Damn it."

"Are you okay, General?"

"Yeah, just caught my funny bone on the edge of the desk."

"Don't move." Cautiously, using the light from the corridor, Janet back up a few steps and flicked on the overhead lights.

General Hammond scanned the room, getting ready to shake his head when the two of them spotted Daniel. His eyes filled with grandfatherly concern and he hesitated. "Waking him up isn't going to change SG-1's situation."

Picking up the opened bottle of meds on the desk, Janet read the label and shook her head. "I'm not sure waking him up at the moment would even be a possibility, sir."


"Painkillers." Annoyed at her blinders when it came to Daniel, forgetting what had taken years to learn; the necessity to read between the lines. With Daniel, the obvious was never the obvious. Angrily, she slammed the bottle onto the table. Like a puppy, one never knew what Daniel was going to get into until the mess was made, the garbage spilled, the couch destroyed or the important papers ripped to shreds. "These were probably left over from when he was—" Stepping over stacks of book on the floor, she made her way to the couch and sat, immediately checking out his pulse and respirations. His heartbeat was slow and steady and his breathing, allergy congested. "Daniel?"

"Should I call for a gurney?" The general stood at the head of the couch, his fingers close, but not touching Daniel's head.

Shaking her head, she tapped his cheek. "Give me a second. Daniel?" Janet rubbed her knuckles against his jawline, heartened when he slowly opened his eyes.

"Son." General Hammond's voice was filled with concern.

Lifting his head back, Daniel smiled sleepily at the General, his eyes crossing in the middle before drifting shut.



"The pills? What about the pills?"

Eyes closed, his brow furrowed. "Pill. One pill. Bad headache. Feels better now. SG-1 home?"

Janet looked up, catching the general's eyes which had saddened imperceptibly. He shook his head, holding his hand up and she nodded, understanding the unspoken message. "It won't be long now." Not exactly the truth, bordering on a lie, stretching the information they did have until it was as tight as a wire. " 'K." Daniel turned on his side, snuggling back into the couch and with the lack of inhibitions that only the very young possess, stuck his feet under Janet's ass. "I'll stay here," Janet volunteered. Hammond took a step towards the door, then hesitated, making his way back towards the couch. Reaching out, she grabbed his hand and squeezed.

Teal'c growled and threw himself against the bars holding SG-1 captive. The guards surrounding their prison jumped, spitting out nervous laughter before mimicking Teal'c's display of temper. "Not that I don't agree with you, T, but this isn't getting us anywhere." Teal'c gazed at the 'gate. "I do not wish to go anywhere but back to Earth." "Yeah, me neither." Jack turned to his 2IC. "Carter, any idea what the hell happened?" Shaking her head, she ran her fingers up and down the bar, stroking it seductively. "I don't see a lock, sir. No way in. No way out. The last thing I remember is walking up the ramp—" "Are we positive this is PX--?" Jack stood in the middle of the cage and rotated, " 'Cause this certainly doesn't resemble the travel brochures. I remember reading about friendly natives who were going to welcome us with open arms. I don't see any open arms anywhere." "Sir?" Carter whispered, sidling up to him. "I think you're making that man angry." "What the hell did I do?" Jack asked innocently. "Shut up!" The crowd parted, bowing as they made an opening, allowing a smaller than average, powerfully built man, to make his way to the head of the crowd.

"Ahhh. Finally. Head Honcho Guy."

"Silence!" The so-called leader waved an impressive weapon in front of the cage.

Jack's glance slid to his teammates. "Have either of you ever seen a weapon like that before?"

"I have not."

Carter just shook her head, a look of scientific reverence clouding her eyes. "That weapon doesn't match the level of development of this world." She drew a breath. "There's nothing on this planet that would indicate—"

"We've been duped?" Jack said getting directly to the point.

"It would appear so."

"Big time, Colonel."

The leader laughed, brandishing his weapon. "It would appear you are quite taken with this."

Jack shrugged nonchalantly.

"Would you care for an up close and personal introduction?"

"We would not."

"The Jaffa speaks. Welcome, Teal'c," he said, nodding, but when he looked up there was anything but greeting in his narrowed eyes. "And you, Major Carter, cat got your tongue?"

"I'm sorry," Carter responded, "I don't believe we've been properly introduced."

He ignored her question and began to count. "One. Two. Three. Three? Where, may I ask, is Doctor Jackson?"

Thankfully, home. Taking a nap. Eating lunch. As far from this situation as possible. "Doctor Jackson decided to sit this dance out."

"Pity," he said powering up his weapon. "I'm sure he'd find this quite interesting."


Daniel awoke, dry-mouthed, groggy and more than a tad confused when he heard a female voice call his name as opposed to Jack. Infirmary? Injured? The hand on his shoulder was soft, but insistently pulling him from the sleep his body was still craving.

"You need to wake up, Daniel," the voice chided.

Janet. Infirmary. For confirmation, he tried to open glued together eyelids because the bed he was lying on was too soft to be of infirmary quality. Raising lethargic hands, Daniel rubbed away the crud then coughed, which brought it all back with a rush. His office. Allergy attack. Headache. Pill. Uh oh... pain pill. Lifting his hands, he examined them. Small. He was little. Little people shouldn't be taking big people's medication. Janet was going to be pissed if she wasn't already. "Hi," he managed to choke out, ignoring her assisting hand as he struggled to sit up.

"That was pretty stupid."

His addled brain couldn't agree more, though the now-gone blinding headache made his transgression into stupidity more than acceptable. "Headache's gone," he said. Daniel knew that was a lame excuse, but at the moment, beggars certainly weren't choosers.

"We need to talk."

"Look, I'm sorry." He gestured towards the bottle still on his desk. "I forgot. Sometimes I forget. Take the bottle, okay?"



"General?" Wide-eyed, his glance slid between the two of them. "I took a pain pill and you reported it to the general?" he hissed angrily. "Don't you think that's a bit of overkill?"

"I called him when I saw you were waking up. He... we needed to talk to you."

"Talk to me?" He was slow on the uptake, he knew he was, and he slammed his eyes shut and forced himself to concentrate. He was missing something. He rewound the day, replaying it back at fast speed, trying to shut out the general's approaching footsteps.

Daniel's eyes flew up. He knew. "SG-1. Are they..."

"They're missing."

Daniel squinted at his watch, horrified to realize that he'd slept over six hours. "How long? Why didn't you wake me?"

Janet sat next to him on the couch, sliding her arm along the back, offering comfort without touch. Jack would often do that after a particularly bad mission. But that was a lifetime ago. "It's bad." Drawing his knees up to his chest to protect his heart, Daniel repeated the two words, turning the statement into a question. "It's bad?"

"They've missed two check-ins—"

"Have you tried—"

"The 'gate no longer locks on the coordinates. We manage six chevrons and then nothing. Walter's running a second diagnostic as we speak, but we haven't had this difficulty with any other offworld teams."

Daniel exhaled. "Okay. So their lack of communication could simply be a problem with the 'gate on their end, it doesn't necessarily mean—"

"The general and I thought you should know."

"That's my team." Daniel was taken back not only by her placating voice, but by the hand that slipped off its shelf on the back of the couch and landed on his shoulders. No fair. Janet wasn't playing by the rules, and the general, with that look in his eyes, wasn't playing by the rules either. He didn't need coddling, he needed facts. "I appreciate you telling me." Daniel unfolded his body and got off the couch, grabbing his shoes and slipping his feet into them. "I'm going to go up to the control room." Slowly, he tied his shoes, double knotting them, because tiny fingers weren't as cooperative as adult ones.


Sitting next to Walter, the two of them were sipping mugs of hot chocolate. Both of them, Daniel was sure, would have rather have coffee, but with Janet around, hot chocolate was his beverage of choice, and Walter, being the good guy he was, joined Daniel. He was running through the MALP and UAV readings and the initial reports from SG-3. Friendly people. Untapped minerals. Willing to share. Treaty. Yadda yadda, as Jack would say. No different from a million other worlds.

"I'm sure it's just a 'gate glitch, Dr. Jackson."

Daniel raised his cup in a salute. "I hope so." Putting the cup down on the console, he pulled his knees up to his chest and rested the open folder on them, beginning for the thousandth time, at the beginning.

Somewhere towards the end, Walter refilled their cups with coffee. "Shhh, don't tell anyone."

"Thanks," Daniel replied with an appreciative grin. "Secret is safe with me."


Daniel sneezed, sneezed again and a tissue magically appeared in front of his face in time for him to capture his third sneeze. Nodding a thank you to Walter, he blew his nose and stuffed the tissue up his sleeve for safe keeping. He had tried to ignore the building tickle in his throat and itch of allergies, but they seemed to be catching up. Frustrated, he slammed the folder shut. "I'm going to the infirmary, call me if you—"

"I promise to find you," Walter said.



"Janet." Daniel sneezed.

"Headache's gone, but your allergies are still bugging you." Janet patted the nearest bed. "Why don't you hop up here and let me take a look."

"You took one look already today, I just need—"

"Humor me."

Hopping up was easier said than done so he pulled the chair over, climbed up on the chair then hopped onto the bed. "See how easy it is to forget I'm small, Janet?"

"You made your point."

Daniel tolerated her examination. "Well?" He waited until she put the stethoscope around her neck before talking. "Diagnosis?"


"Told ya." Pulling the tissue from his sleeve, he blew his nose. "Told you that the first time I was here today."

"Be right back."

Daniel watched her go, concentrating on nothing but swinging his feet and watching the sheet move with the breeze he created.

"Here you go." Janet handed him a pill and a cup of water.

"Can't I have a blister pack?"

"I'd rather monitor your medication intake, Daniel."

He squared his shoulders and glared at her. "Ahh... it's a trust issue. Alright. I'll admit it, I screwed up with the pain pill, but it was a mistake."

Janet sighed.

Daniel echoed her sigh, his glare melted into defeat and he took the pill and the cup of water.

Janet checked her watch. "We're going to be leaving in a few minutes."

Daniel crumpled the paper cup and tossed it into the trash, Janet's words sinking in as the cup sunk into the garbage. "We're? As in me and you?"


"Okay, I'll get my stuff. I have the key in my backpack—"

"Key to what, Daniel?"

He slipped off the bed, going down was always easier than going up. Daniel straightened, smoothed out his shirt and pants, stamping his feet so his cuffs would fall into place. "Key to my house," he said, giving Janet a quick once over as if that was the stupidest question in the world.

"Do you need to pick up anything from the house? I mean, we can swing by there... oh yeah, I guess you need to get toiletries and pajamas and something for tomorrow—"


"Yes, Daniel."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Well, I don't have any of your things at my house."

Daniel blinked at her a few times. "Why do I need things at your house?"

"The general and I discussed—"

"Discussed what? Me?"

"You can't stay at the colonel's house without adult supervision."

"I am an adult."

"Not to the outside world, Daniel. To the neighbors, the people on the block, you would be a child living alone in the house. Child Protective Services would be called before you had a chance to even take off your jacket."

"So, your solution is for me to stay with you."

"It makes the most sense."

Daniel pushed up his glasses, then slowly shook his head. "Not to me, it doesn't."


"I'm not too sure I understand, son."

Daniel sighed. It was embarrassing enough to be sitting across from General Hammond in a chair where his legs didn't reach the ground, but to stutter out his complaint, tripping over words, was mortifying.

"Maybe you need to take a breath and try again. What's this about you're not wanting to go to—"

"I don't want to go to Janet's house." He quickly amended the statement. "It's not like I don't appreciate the offer, but—"

Hammond nodded slowly with a thoughtful tap of his fingers on the desktop.

Daniel could feel himself relax under the general's caring scrutiny. "I'd like to go home."

"That's unacceptable."

"Huh?" Daniel had been positive he'd won the battle.

"Doctor Jackson." Hammond leaned forward, hands folded on his desk. "Daniel. I'm sorry. Your staying alone in a house isn't permissible for reasons you, yourself, are well aware of."

Defeated, he hung his head, staring at shoes, noticing that the lace on the left boot was in danger of becoming undone. "I don't want to stay with Janet." Daniel brought the shoe up to the edge of the chair and concentrated on retying and double knotting the errant shoelace. "Staying with her seems..." He shrugged, unable to find words that wouldn't sound insulting or unappreciative to the general.

"How about a compromise?"

Daniel's head shot up, his attention drawn from his shoe to General Hammond, terrified that the general was going to offer his house in exchange for Janet's. "Compromise?"

"A VIP suite, this way you'll have the ability to maintain your independence." The general paused. "To some degree, you understand."

Daniel mutely nodded.

"I'll make arrangements for an airman to drive you home to pick up some things."

"Thank you, sir." He slid off the chair, and actually made it to the door before being struck by a horrific thought. Abruptly Daniel turned. "Could I possibly ask for the security cameras in the VIP to be disabled?"

Daniel saw the hesitant pause as he mulled over the question. The general chewed on his lips as if he was fighting to keep them closed and not to question Daniel over his request. In the end, he gave a tight nod.


With the airman waiting in the living room, Daniel had no choice but to hurriedly stuff things into a duffle bag. A mindless task. Or rather, a task he was performing mindlessly because if he stopped to think about why he was doing this, he'd come apart at the seams. And while the VIP suite wasn't the optimum solution, Daniel truly appreciated Hammond recognizing his needs and he refused to disappoint him by crying over something he had no control over.


Standing in the middle of his room, a ball of socks in both hands, he contemplated packing both pairs. There was already a pair in the duffle bag, but Daniel felt like he was jinxing Jack, Sam and Teal'c if he packed more than two. Superstition? How could packing three pairs of socks mean they would be gone for three days? Daniel stuffed one pair into the bag then pulled out the third pair of pajamas. Not willing to tempt fate, he stuck the extra pajamas and socks back into his drawer.


The VIP suite was cold, or at least cooler than Daniel was used to and he pulled the blankets up his body, trying to get into a position where he was optimally covered and could still turn the pages of the book he was reading without exposing too much arm to the air.

This six-year-old body was tired, and coupled with the allergy medication he had taken, he was struggling just to read and comprehend. The trusty pen and pad had fallen to the floor a few paragraphs before and he had neither the strength nor the inclination to retrieve them. If he knew his mind would shut down when his body did, Daniel would gladly close the book, the lights, his eyes and go to sleep; but he was afraid. His dreams were hard enough to deal with on a good night, Daniel couldn't even begin to imagine what nightmares awaited now.


Daniel's screams were muffled, buried against the mattress. Burrowed under the blankets, the yells echoed and reverberated in the enclosed cocoon and even after they died down, he lay panting in the blanket's enforced darkness, shaking badly, his whole body was quivering from the tips of his toes to his chattering teeth. Snuffling through a stuffed nose, he wiped his eyes on a pillow already damp with moisture.

"Ridiculous," he hissed, pushing down the blanket and flopping onto his back, daring the shakes and the tears to go back where they'd come from. Funny thing was, Daniel lost the dare and while the shakes lessened a degree, the tears continued.

Okay, he could do this. Logically. Without Jack's presence, there would be no comfort to send his body's reactions to his nightmares back into hiding, but really, he wasn't a kid. He was thirty-nine. An adult. Taking a deep breath, he tried sorting through his memories of the dream. Jack. In an unfamiliar/familiar room, Daniel remembered he'd been yelling Jack's name. Not familiar like the SGC, but eerily familiar, as if Daniel had spent time there. Strangely, he could sense the room's details, but he couldn't physically see the arched doorways or the high ceiling or covered windows. He just knew they were there. And there were others. Not his team. From Daniel's point of view, these others didn't have Daniel's well being in their top ten list. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried for more, struggling in the darkness, pounding the bed in frustration when the only thing that followed was emptiness.


Daniel blinked innocently behind his juice glass when his yawn captured Janet's attention. She shook her head, stopped her forward motion, plopped her breakfast tray down on the table and sat in the chair across from him.

"Sleep well?"

"I slept okay. Not great," he amended. "Okay," Daniel added with a wry smile. "I slept okay. Worry sort of prohibits a good night's rest."

"I understand." With an evil smile, Janet handed Daniel one of the two Styrofoam cups on her tray. "Just don't abuse the privilege."

Daniel sniffed and practically whooped for joy at the illegal coffee. He forced himself to take a sip, not a gulp, and the little bit that went down his throat was heaven. It was sweeter and lighter than what he usually drank, but Daniel surely wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Obtaining coffee for Daniel had been Jack's forte, something he always got a kick out of, as he relied on his special ops training every time he'd snuck the forbidden nectar into Daniel's hands at the SGC.


The extraordinary niceness wasn't confined to just Janet, and returning all the pleasantries from the entire SGC was starting to wear thin. Between the worry, the false smile he stuck on his face the entire day, the sorting through the pile of work on his desk and Janet's allergy medication, Daniel fell into bed that night exhausted, and literally, for the first time, slept without a nightmare.

Problem was, he woke the next day dragging and in an evil temper. His worry was short circuiting all the niceties people were extending. No one saw it. From Siler to Janet to General Hammond, they weren't seeing a pissy Doctor Daniel Jackson, all anyone was picking up on was a child who was out of sorts. Annoyingly, he was placated with forgiving smiles and pats on the head.


"Nothing?" Daniel rolled the chair next to Walter, giving him a brief nod of thanks when he held it in place so Daniel could sit.

Walter glanced over his shoulder. "I was waiting for you before I dialed again," he whispered, pulling Daniel's seat closer.


When the seventh chevron failed to lock, it was the pity on Walter's face that was Daniel's undoing. "Thank you." Daniel jumped down from the chair so fast it scooted across the room, narrowly missing a passing technician. Saying 'thank you' had been hard enough, there was no way Daniel could manage an apology past the lump in his throat.


The inane thought came to him in the elevator and continued while he was sorting through photographs taken by SG-5. He needed more socks. Underwear. Maybe pajamas. Without thought, he picked up the phone and commandeered an airman and a car.


It was easier than he would have thought possible. The driver and car from the motor pool dropped him off at Jack's house.

"I won't be long," he promised the driver.

"I'll wait."

"No, I'll be a while and it's unfair for you to sit outside waiting. I'd feel much better," Daniel turned on a hundred watt angelic smile, "if you'd allow me to call you when I'm done."


The house was too quiet, stuffy, and as Daniel leaned against the closed door, his eyes captured the dust motes drifting in the air and he sneezed. "Crap." The next sneeze was louder than the first and rocked him to his core. Sniffing a suddenly clogged nose, he shook his head at his own weakness and dragged his duffle bag into the bedroom. Leaving the empty duffle bag on the bed, Daniel stood by the side of his bed, contemplating the next course of action.


Daniel felt calmer and closer to Jack in the house than he did at the SGC. There was a pot of coffee brewing, the bills were spread out on the table in front of him and a dust-cleansing breeze was blowing in from the opened kitchen window. The quiet of the house had been cut by the muffled background sound of the washer and dryer and the living room stereo was playing some nondescript preset radio station.

Sadly, Daniel was swelling with pride at his independence. He was well aware that he could function as Daniel Jackson, Ph.D., but he had needed to prove, at least to himself, that even though he was living at the SGC, he was capable of surviving.

The peanut butter sandwich on slightly stale bread was enough to quiet his growling stomach, and he concentrated on paying the bills, a task he'd done before when he'd been taller and older. His name was on Jack's checking and savings account and vice versa and they'd never changed the arrangement. Admittedly, the name on the check no longer resembled his signature, but it was close enough to plead something like a broken arm if anyone questioned the illegible scribble.


Overconfidence was his undoing. That and the fact that recently shortened people are terribly off balance when carrying heavy items up a flight of stairs. Though Daniel huffed and puffed, he had managed to fill the basket with the load of clean towels from the dryer and was struggling to carry them up the stairs. The corner of the large bath towel slipped from the basket, but without a free hand to stick it back in, with each step Daniel took, it slid out further. "Damn." He bounced the basket a few times, trying to readjust its weight. Daniel was so intent on attempting to retain the towel's placement that he wasn't paying attention to how much of the towel was hanging over the side until his foot got tangled in the dangling corner.

Daniel and the basket fell forward with enough force that the plastic basket hit the step in front of him and rebounded, the weight of the towels, coupled with the plastic, hitting him full force in the chest, sending him backwards, down the flight of stairs.


Batting down the towel covering his face, Daniel moved cautiously. His head ached and he wondered how angry Jack would be if he told him he didn't feel well and wanted to stay home today. The nauseated feeling in the pit of his stomach blindsided him and he barely had enough time to sit up before he puked his guts up.

He sat for a few minutes, spitting and coughing into the towel, until all he was left with was a hollow, empty stomach, a pounding headache and a lap full of vomit. "Jack." No way was he going to cry. Feeling lousy was certainly not a reason to cry. "Jack." Maybe Jack was sick also, and that's why he wasn't answering. Maybe Jack needed him. Pushing the vomit-covered towel and plastic basket to the side, Daniel slowly stood, swayed and connected all the dots by the time he had his feet anchored to the ground. "Oh." No, Jack. No anyone, just him and a mountain- sized headache, an empty basket, a pile of now dirty laundry and based on experience, a concussion.


Moving slowly, he dumped the towels back into the basket then dragged it over to the washing machine, dumping the whole load, vomit and all, back into the washer. The ground moved for a moment, and he shut his eyes and held onto the washer for dear life, praying that he wasn't going to lose his stomach lining with this round of nausea.

With eyes at half mast, he climbed the stairs, holding onto the banister for dear life. All thoughts of independence swept away, replaced with feelings of stupidity. At the top of the stairs, Daniel remembered why he'd come home in the first place, and he shuffled like an old man into his bedroom, haphazardly opening drawers and stuffing articles of clothing into the duffle bag.

He gagged twice as he shoved a pair of socks into the bag until he gave in and clamped his hand over his mouth and swallowed bile. He refused to vomit again and steadfastly ignored the enticement of his pillow and bed, and swung the now overstuffed bag over his shoulder, the weight of it offsetting his already precarious balance, and he stumbled to the right, banging against the dresser. Nothing like adding insult to injury. Daniel dragged the heel of his palm along the sore spot.


Daniel picked up the phone and dialed, holding the receiver away from his ear as it rang.

"Infirmary. Fraiser."



He slid down the refrigerator door and sat on the floor. "I fell." God, his head hurt.

"Are you in your office?" There was an edge of controlled panic to her voice.

"At Jack's house." He would not cry. He would not cry. He would not cry. "Could you come get me?" Daniel swallowed back a sob. "Please?"

"How badly are you hurt? I'm going to send an ambulance—"

"No," Daniel screamed, the mere sound of his own voice sending waves pain through his aching head. "I need it to be just you."


Like a bat out of hell, Janet took off, leaving a message with the general's aide and turning over the infirmary to Warner. Neither man had been too happy and Janet was eternally grateful she wasn't in the aide's shoes when he had to tell Hammond where she'd gone. Thankfully, he was on a conference call with Washington and had left orders not to be disturbed. Sometimes Daniel's fortuitous timing surprised even her.

Literally, she was going to kill him. Treat him first, then tear him limb from limb after reading him the riot act. She was too old for this. Being the mom to a teenager was worse than an infirmary full of complaining, whining, military men, but Daniel? Janet snorted. Daniel made Cassie's mood swings and teenage angst seem like a walk in the park.

This whole situation was against her better judgment. She should be riding in the back of an ambulance equipped with medical necessities—oxygen, IVs, a red spinning light on the top so people would get out of their way as they sped-key word sped-to the hospital. She should not be pulling up to the colonel's house with her measly black bag of medical tricks to treat the unknown just because Daniel asked her to. Who was the adult in this situation? The professional? At the moment, as she walked through the unlocked door calling Daniel's name, Janet was pretty damn sure it wasn't her.

She took it as a good sign that she wasn't stepping through puddles of blood by the entrance. "Daniel?" Admittedly, though, it wasn't a good sign that there was no answer when she called his name. Military training to the forefront, quickly Janet assessed the situation.



She found him in the shower, sitting on his ass, hands over his head, knees tucked up against his chest. Naked and so very small and vulnerable, Janet winced at the water's cool temperature when she turned the nozzle to the off position. He was on her in a flash; all wet and slippery arms and legs, sobbing, clutching blindly at her. The weight of his body sent her backwards until her ass hit the countertop.

"I'm here," she soothed, grabbing a towel from the nearby rack and awkwardly attempted to cover Daniel's shivering body. "I need to examine you." Janet drew the towel over his wet hair, noting the nice sized goose egg behind his right ear.

"Ow." He clung to her tighter the moment she hit the bull's eye.

"Yeah, I'm sure that hurt." Janet turned around, so the countertop was under Daniel's ass and slowly she lowered him, prying his arms from around her neck once he was settled. Wrapping the towel around his waist, she then draped it across his lap. "That's better."

He blinked at her, the movement forcing the moisture pooled in his huge eyes to turn into tears and slide down his cheeks. "I threw up," he said softly, his gaze traveling over her shoulder.

Following his line of vision, Janet took in the pile of kid-sized clothes thrown over the hamper. "That was the reason for the shower?"

"I smelled." Bending at the waist, he wiped his nose on the corner of the towel, then dropped his head again her chest with a sigh. "My head hurts."

"I bet." She patted his bare back, then took his shoulders and gently prodded him to sit up straight.


Janet couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, you know the drill."

"My name is Daniel Jackson. My birthday is July 8th and I'm thirty-nine years old, no matter what people think." He scrubbed at his eyes and continued, "I paid the bills, made myself lunch. Did the laundry and turned on the stereo."

In a move so similar to the grown up Daniel, the child before her dropped his head in defeat. "I fell down the stairs," he whispered softly, his bent head aiding the tears' gravity and they fell onto Janet's hands as she held the towel against his legs.

"And then?"

He touched the spot on his head with the lump, grimacing as his finger made contact. "I hit my head. On the floor. I woke up and vomited on the clean towels I was bringing up the stairs. They're in the wash."

Sticking her hand under his chin, slowly she lifted his face. His eyes were glassy and a tad unfocused, but he seemed to be holding up his end of the conversation, totally unaware that he was crying as he spoke.

"I'm tired."

"I know you are, honey." Drawing the pads of her thumbs under his eyes, she wiped away his tears, her own eyes prickling in sympathy.

"I screwed up."

"You won't get an argument from me."

"I'm going to be confined to base for the rest of my life, even after I get taller."

She reached over, snagging another towel from the rack, wrapping it around his shoulders. "General Hammond's not going be happy."

"I thought I could do this, Janet." Daniel waved his arms around, the towel slipping.

Janet moved it back up, using the edges to wipe his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"I want my team home." He hiccupped.


"I want Jack, and... and... Sam." Congestion was winning and Daniel was having a problem drawing a deep breath. "I want Teal'c." He shook his head. "I don't want to be alone again."

"I'm here for you."

"No, you're not," Daniel said sadly. "You're not in this house. This is my home. I want to be here. This is where Jack is. Was." The color blanched from his face as he gazed at Janet in horror. "Did something happen to Jack? Why are you here?"

Party time was over. Janet scooped Daniel up and walked out of the bathroom into his bedroom. She sat on the bed, hugging Daniel, towels and all to her chest. "I'm here because you called me," she crooned, slowly rocking back and forth. "You fell, remember?" She could feel his nod against her chest. "SG-1 is offworld."

"Missing. SG-1 is missing." Clinical. His voice was too flat and lacking inflection, though Janet could feel his tears. "My head hurts." Daniel fisted her shirt. "I want to stay home tonight. No base. No infirmary. Here."


While Daniel drowsed on the bed, Janet rummaged through the drawers until she located a pair of child's pajamas. Dressing him was like dressing a limp rag doll and it wasn't until she was buttoning up a too-big pajama shirt that he roused and touched his face.


Janet hadn't a clue, but she smiled. "I put them away for safekeeping. I figured with your headache, the last thing you'd want to do is read."

"Smart." Daniel dropped his hands atop her fingers, clumsily trying to assist in buttoning. His movements were sluggish and uncoordinated. He was overtired, emotionally wrung out, concussed... and for the first time, Janet realized as she worked the buttons around Daniel's fingers, Daniel Jackson was six years old.


He allowed her kiss to his forehead, but grimaced when she mentioned giving him something for the headache and nausea. "It's too early to go to sleep."

"You said you were tired." Janet ripped off the blood pressure cuff and stuffed it back into her bag.

"I want my glasses." Daniel leaned over, squinting at the bedside table. "Where'd you put them?"

"No glasses." Janet moved two pillows behind Daniel's head and shoulder, fluffed them, then positioned him so they supported his back. "Wearing your glasses certainly won't help the headache or nausea. I'm going to get you some juice. A Tylenol."

"Two." Daniel held up two fingers, squinting first at them, then at Janet. "This is a two Tylenol headache."

"How about I turn off the light and turn on the—"

"Light. Just turn off the light. Nothing else."


Calling Cassie wasn't a problem. Her daughter hid her joy of having the house all to herself behind her concern for Daniel's well being. The general, on the other hand, required a bit of Southern charm.

"Neither Doctor Jackson's actions nor yours are sitting very well with me at the moment. However, if you feel it is medically within his best interest to stay where he is for the time being, I will bow to your expertise. But by tomorrow morning at oh-nine hundred hours, I expect to see you sitting in the chair across from my desk. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir. Tomorrow." She'd take one hour at a time, Daniel taking precedence over any meeting.


She checked the medicine cabinets, finally locating the Children's Tylenol on the top shelf in the cabinet next to the sink in the kitchen. Loudly, Janet cursed Jack O'Neill as she hauled a chair over to the counter, reached up and snatched the bottle.


For a moment, Janet panicked when Daniel wasn't in his bedroom. "Daniel?" Leaving the juice and the Tylenol on his dresser, she checked the hall bathroom first before trying the colonel's room. "Daniel." This time his name came out on a sigh as she stood in the doorway, shaking her head.

He was sprawled, face down, looking incredibly tiny, smack in the middle of the colonel's king-sized bed, surrounded by pillows.

"Hey." Janet sat, slipped off her shoes, then slid over to Daniel. "More comfortable in here?"

Without opening his eyes, Daniel sniffed the pillow under his head. "Smells like Jack." He stroked the pillow, tears leaking out from under his closed lids. "I miss him."

Janet left Daniel to his tears and went back to his room, not for the Tylenol and juice, but to pull the quilt off his bed and bring it to him. Dropping it over his body, Daniel whimpered in deep appreciation as he curled himself smaller under the covers.


As Daniel slept, Janet called the infirmary, taking reports over the phone. She gave out orders, thankful that it was a quiet evening under the mountain. Searching through the cabinets, she ate a bowl of cereal for dinner, drank a large glass of orange juice and cheated on her diet with a large bakery chocolate chip cookie, practically licking the crumbs off the napkin.

Daniel was right, it was early. Too early to go to sleep, but she went back to the bedroom anyway and crawled onto bed, lying atop the covers, back up against the headboard, one hand on his chest, forever the doctor as she counted his respirations, like insomniacs counted sheep.



She awoke with a jerk, horrified that she'd fallen asleep at her desk. "Sorry," Janet apologized quickly, holding tightly to the hand patting her arm. "I'm up."

"My head hurts."

"Daniel?" Squinting in the darkness, she remembered as Daniel crawled up her body and settled heavily against her. He wasn't really awake, nor was he sleeping, Daniel seemed to be hovering in between. "Ready for the Tylenol?"


Sleepily snuggling against her, smaller than Cassie had ever been, protectively, Janet reached over and covered Daniel with the quilt. "You fell," she softly whispered.

"Jack's not here."

"No, he's not. I'm here for tonight, okay?"

Daniel's answering sigh let Janet know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it really wasn't okay for Janet to be Jack's stand-in.

"Are you hungry?"

"No." Daniel reached around, grabbed the quilt, and slid off her lap back onto the mattress. "Jack's offworld."

"Yes he is, sweetie."

"Do you know, he couldn't wait to go offworld? To leave me?"

Oh, crap. Janet lay down so she faced Daniel. Don't cry, she prayed. Please. But as always, Daniel refused to listen and a tear flowed from the corner of his eye and over the bridge of his nose.

"Don't cry, honey." When all else failed, honesty was the best policy.

"I don't know what else to do. I hurt. My head hurts."

Janet smoothed back his hair. "I'll give you the Tylenol, that should help."

Smiling sadly, he pushed back her hand. "My heart hurts, do you have something for that? Or in your bag of tricks, is there a cure for making me big again? Or how about wiping my memory so I'll just be a kid, because it hurts too much to remember the before time."

She reached out towards him again, forcing back her surprise as Daniel skirted around her comforting touch.

"No. For once—" Furiously, Daniel swiped at his eyes. "I'd like someone to please grant me the dignity to mourn for what was. For whom I used to be. And if I want to shed some tears and blame it on a concussion or the fact that Jack's missing, as well as the rest of my team, I'm asking that you allow me to. Alone."

The mother in her wanted to argue. Letting him know she was the adult, gather him up into her arms and ad nauseum, force placating 'everything will be fine' noises down his throat. The doctor in her wanted to lord over him, medically treating his physical symptoms, in the hopes his mental anguish would diminish. The friend in her won out, and she gave him a gentle smile. "If you need me—"

Daniel closed his eyes, dismissing Janet.


"You're late."

She squinted at the microwave's clock. Not only was she late for her meeting with General Hammond, but she needed a shower, her clothes were badly wrinkled and she'd stubbed her toe trying to get to the phone before it woke Daniel. "Daniel had a bad night, sir." Leaning against the counter, she rubbed her foot.

"Did you ever consider that maybe Doctor Jackson belonged in the infirmary?"

"Could you hold on a minute?"

"Do I have a choice?" The tone of the general's voice was that of a man who'd come to understand that more often than not, he needed to make concessions. "I'll be right here... waiting."

She tiptoed down the hall, limping slightly, then peeked around the partially closed door. Daniel was fast asleep. Snoring loudly through an allergy and emotionally stuffed nose. Janet had spent the majority of the night standing on this side of the door, listening to quiet murmurings, not always in a language she was familiar with.

"Sir." Janet waited. "Daniel's sleeping. And we—you and I need to talk."

"Hence the meeting set for oh-nine hundred hours."

"This is beyond the reprimands I'm going to garner for leaving the base." Janet felt guilty. Incredibly guilty, as if she was betraying a friend's confidence. "This is about Daniel."

"Is he—"

"Concussed and recovering. My concerns are with his mental wellbeing at the moment."

"Doctor Fraiser, you and Doctor Mackenzie argued, quite eloquently I might add, why Doctor Jackson should be allowed to continue with his work at the SGC. Do I hear of hint of doubt in your voice?"

"If at all possible, General, I would prefer not to discuss this over the phone."

"Thirteen hundred hours, Doctor Fraiser. No later."


For all the times she rued Cassie having her license, this wasn't one of them, and she kissed her daughter lightly on the cheek, then relented and gave her a big thank-you hug for bringing over clean clothes and toiletries.

"Okay, Mom." Cassie stepped back, slipping out from under her mother's arms. "It's only clean clothes. Not the holy grail."

"Smart mouth."

Cassie rolled her eyes. "I'm a teenager, comes with the territory." Her gaze raked over Janet's rumpled form. "Don't take this the wrong way, mom, but you look like—"

"I slept in my clothes?"


"Daniel had a rough night." Janet sighed. "SG-1's MIA—"

"Oh, no." Cassie's eyes grew misty and she flung herself into Janet's arms. "Tell Daniel I love him."

"I will."

Cassie stepped back, wiping her eyes on the back of her hands, regaining composure. "If you need me—"

"I promise. I'll call. Like I did now." Janet patted Cassie's cheek. "My baby's all grown up."

Embarrassed, Cassie blushed and looked over her shoulder. "Mom, please. I'm not a child."


Janet felt a million times better after a shower and a fresh cup of coffee. She was on her second cup when Daniel walked into the kitchen, dragging, yawning, but looking a bit more together than last night.

He sat. She stood and poured another mug of coffee, liberally adding sugar and enough milk to lighten the drink to a pale shade of beige. "Here you go." Janet set the diluted caffeine in front of Daniel.

"Thank you." Tentatively, he smiled at her.

Popping two slices of bread into the toaster, Janet scowled at him. "Don't think I don't know that the Colonel sneaks you coffee when my back is turned."

"I wasn't thanking you for the coffee," Daniel said. "I was thanking you for allowing me space last night."


Daniel scrambled into the back seat and buckled in.

Janet grimaced. "Promise me you won't tell Colonel O'Neill I drove without you being in a car seat?"

"Booster seat," Daniel corrected. "Car seats are for babies. I promise not to mention it to Jack if you promise not to mention the concussion."

Janet drove in silence, one eye on the rear view mirror, one eye on the road. "You okay, back there?"

"Yeah. Headache's down to a dull roar, I could go for another piece of toast and I'm betting General Hammond's pissed."

"Should I lie or do you want the truth?"

"The truth."

"There are drugs for the headache, you'll have another piece of toast, the general is angry and you're spending the rest of the day where I can keep an eye on you."

"The infirmary?"

"You can have jam on your toast and we'll send out for pizza for lunch."


Janet hated pineapple and she definitely hated pineapple on her pizza, guess they were going to order more than one pie. "Hawaiian it is."


Thirteen hundred hours on the dot, she knocked on the general's door, bearing a gift.

"Come in."

Janet put the tray on the general's desk. "I hope you haven't had lunch yet, sir."

"Is this a form of bribery, Doctor?"

"No, not at all. Bribery would have involved an ice cold beer. That's just soda, sorry."

"I could have sworn my doctor told me to watch my diet. For some reason, I believe pizza was under the 'don't eat' category." He motioned for her to sit.

"Occasionally, some rules are made to be broken." Unable to meet his eyes, Janet fingered the rivets on the arms of the leather chair. "No word from SG-1, sir?"

"Not as of thirty minutes ago."

"I was wrong. Leaving yesterday. Not bringing Daniel back. Daniel's leaving. From start to finish, everything was against protocol." Janet was nervous, asking General Hammond if she could adopt Cassie type of nervous. "I hope you won't hold my actions against me when I make my next request, and be aware, sir, that Daniel is in the infirmary all tucked in, eating pizza, and he's unaware of what I'm going to ask you."



"Please," he requested, "Just come right out and say it, my pizza's getting cold."

"Daniel went to the colonel's house to prove his independence." The pizza in her stomach lay heavily and she'd wished she'd paid attention to her instincts and taken an antacid before this meeting. "And he failed, miserably."

"And he's in the infirmary because of his failure?"

"Sir, he's in the infirmary, because I wasn't too sure what to do with him."

"Explain." Hammond pushed the pizza to the side, no longer tempted.

"Daniel is both an extremely independent and private man who is having a difficult time dealing with the child in him, who is neither independent nor private. With the colonel's presence, and the presence of SG-1, they gave Daniel the support he needed to maintain his adulthood."

"And without them?"

"I spent the night comforting a child, sir. Not an adult. As much as it was devastating for me to watch, it was a million times more devastating, and if I may share, embarrassing, for Daniel to experience this loss of control. SG-1 is MIA, and at the moment, to some degree, so is Daniel and if SG-1's status changes for the negative, we're going to lose Daniel as well.

There was a flash of fatherly pain in the general's eyes, and Janet examined her skirt, allowing him composure time. "I take it you have a plan?"

"I recommend we contact Rose O'Neill, sir, the colonel's mother." Janet became aware she was leaning forward, and she forced herself to sit back, relax and watch with shock the expression on the general's face. Whatever he'd been expecting, obviously calling in Rose O'Neill hadn't been it. "General?"

"You expect me to sanction Colonel O'Neill's mother coming to baby sit?"

Okay, maybe anger wasn't what she'd be expecting. "Daniel's expertise is an important foundation of the Stargate program, or that his—"

"There is no need for you to inform me of Doctor Jackson's worth to the SGC. To this entire program." He rested his elbows on his desk and leaned forward, staring. "But, you, yourself, just stated that we're dealing with a child."

She had. Though Janet had prepared her approach all day, she realized she'd painted herself into the proverbial corner. "Since he's been downsized, not counting today, Daniel has spent exactly one day in the infirmary, which has been at my insistence. He's had sessions with Doctor Mackenzie, as well as the psychologist who had treated Cassie, and you've seen the videos, read the reports. Daniel has held it together because that's what he needed to do to survive. That's what he's always needed to do, and I'm sorry to say, that's what we expect him to do. And he's done it because SG-1 has been the glue."


Hammond strode down the hall, intently studying the lines under his steps, arms swinging, deep in thought, a man on a mission. The doctor's plan was incomprehensible and he honestly wasn't sure as to why he was even considering it. He stopped by the infirmary entrance, surprised. He'd been concentrating so hard he hadn't even been cognizant of the steps it took for him to arrive at his destination.

Straightening his shoulders, he smoothed down his already perfectly pristine shirt. Fortifying himself with a deep breath, he stepped over the threshold and was quickly directed to a bed in the farthest corner of the room. Daniel was small, and George truly couldn't understand why he'd never noticed it before. Was it because Daniel's intelligence was still intact or could Doctor Fraiser be right, and SG-1, by their own infallible acceptance of Daniel, had clouded his judgment?

Daniel was lying on his side, glasses crooked, a finger marking his spot in the book tucked against his stomach. George shook his head; the book probably weighed more than Daniel did. A yellow legal pad with a chewed up pencil sans eraser was held in place by Daniel's blanket-covered knees. The book, the pencil, the glasses, the legal pad, hell, even the writing on the pad went a long to way convince George that Daniel was still Daniel, but as he stepped closer to the bed, he saw there were the dried tracks of tears marking the young boy's face. It was all the evidence he needed.

Unable to squash his grandfatherly instincts, George pushed back a lock of hair hanging in Daniel's closed eyes. "I'm going to fix this for you, son, the best way I know how." George felt his own eyes burn when Daniel blindly reached out and captured George's large hand in his much smaller left one, and squeezed.


"Excuse me?" Rose blinked at Janet and General Hammond in surprise. Admittedly, she was beside herself with worry, which was possibly the reason she wasn't truly comprehending what either of them were trying to tell her. What had begun as any normal day was now ending with her in another state, standing in the middle of Jack's living room, without Jack and with information regarding Daniel that she was finding impossible to wrap her mind around. Janet was nervous and General Hammond was trying not to be nervous, which Rose believed was just increasing Janet's tenseness. "I think you need to run this by me again. It seems to have lost something in the translation."

Janet looked towards the general, who began speaking after taking a deep breath. "Doctor Jackson, while on a dig, using notes left by his grandfather, discovered that the fountain of youth is not a myth."

"You already told me that, which, if you must know the truth, is akin to telling me nothing. I've also been informed that my son, Sam and Teal'c are missing. So Daniel's been lying to me in the emails he's been sending me from wherever the hell he's really been."

"Yes, Rose." Janet reached out, dropping her hand when Rose stepped backwards. "Daniel's being lying to you."

"I don't think Daniel's alone in this." Rose glared at the two people in front of her. "You're only going to tell me what you want to disclose."

"I'm sorry, but the answer to that question is going to be yes." The general licked his lips. His awkwardness was apparent and he looked towards Janet for help, and finding none, he continued. "I hope that will be enough, because Daniel needs you."

"Is Daniel incapable of making this request?"

"He's a child," Janet stated, averting her eyes.

"Excuse me? A child? Daniel's regressed? I thought that Jack had said Daniel's recovery was permanent."

"No. No." Janet was quick to reassure her. "Daniel's a—child."

"A child? As in someone who is young? Small?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Rose stomped off into the dining room, opened a bottle of whiskey and poured three shot glasses' worth. "Come here," she ordered, waiting until they approached before moving two of the glasses towards them. "Drink. I don't want any crap that you're on duty. I want both you to finish these—" She pulled out of the chairs and sat down. "I'm going to leave my glass on the table and not drink until you're done weaving this tale. Then I'll drink."

They drank simultaneously, but it was the general who told Rose the story. "Daniel was on a dig in South America, using his grandfather's notes as guidance and he discovered the fountain of youth. So, while the essence of Daniel is intact..."

"He's a child?"

"A six-year-old child. Small in stature. Blonde. Blue eyed. With glasses. Physically, he's an adorable little child." Janet ran her finger along the empty rim of her glass. "Mentally, he's Daniel."


While at the mountain in the general's office, Daniel had taken the news about Rose with a nod. There had been no temper tantrum. No outburst. Nothing. Until Janet buckled him in the car and they began the journey to Colonel O'Neill's house.

Janet increased the speed of the windshield wipers. The drizzle had turned into a torrential downpour five minutes after leaving the mountain. She ventured a quick glance into the back seat. The compliant Daniel from the general's office was gone, replaced by an angry Daniel. Arms crossed over his chest, lips pursed, ready to face the enemy. Which at this moment, due to proximity, happened to be her.

"How dare you!" Daniel met her eyes in the mirror and kicked the empty passenger seat. "Calling Rose was not your decision to make."

"Daniel, it was the only decision we could make. The only option open to—"

"He's not dead, is he?" There was a touch of hysteria in Daniel's voice. "Do you know anything more than I do? You brought Rose in here to soften the blow? Tell her face to face—"

Janet managed to keep her eyes on the road, and with one hand on the steering wheel, she stuck her other hand between the two seats and squeezed the closest thing she could find, his shoe. "I'm sure the colonel's fine. Little or not, I personally guarantee we're not going to harbor a secret like that from you."

"But keeping a secret like Rose's arrival is okay?"

"Can you try and see it from our point of view?"

"No." Daniel said, gluing his gaze out the window into the rain. "Not until you see this from my point of view. I'm not a kid–"

"You're behaving just like one."

"You're treating me just like one. Making decisions for me. Taking the decisions out of my hands. No discussion." He placed his hand against the window, opening and closing the fingers. "All I wanted was to be consulted." Lifting his hand, Daniel angrily scrubbed away the impression left behind. "You know what this experience has taught me? Whether I'm six, eight or thirty-nine, it's still degrading to have people believe they know what's best for you."

Janet's stomach sank at Daniel's words. Neither she nor the general equated this with Daniel's first childhood. "We didn't think."

"No, you didn't." Daniel's bark of laughter echoed in the car. "If you think I'm pissed, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when you told Rose why she was in Colorado."


Rose paced the floor in a room as familiar as her own living room. Janet and the general had left, and Janet would be returning soon with Daniel. Obviously, Janet needed the time alone with him to fill him in on whatever lies they were feeding Rose. And Rose needed the time alone to come to terms with the lies she had been fed. The idea of Daniel being small was the plot of a bad science fiction movie. And Jack. Her Jack. Rose sucked in her lips to stifle the sob, but she couldn't hold back the tears. Hastily, she wiped her eyes. There was no time for that. Grabbing her suitcase, Rose walked down the hall and opened the door to the spare bedroom. Stopping in shock, she dropped her bag on the floor. "Oh, god." It was a child's room, overrun with Daniel's presence. Archeological magazines were in a basket by the small desk. Small chair. Even the bed. While there were no Disney decorations, no cartoon comforter, there was no doubt this was the room a child lived in. The room Daniel lived in.


The voice was young, and there was no mistaking the tenor and pitch of a child. Slowly, she turned.

Neither Janet nor the general had exaggerated. This child fit their description perfectly. Rose eyed him warily, her gaze raking him over from head to toe. He stood still, chin held high, allowing her inspection.

A little finger pointed to the opened door behind Rose. "This is my room, you're welcome to sleep here, but I thought maybe you'd be more comfortable in Jack's room. The bed's bigger. The bathroom's in there—oh—you know that. Sorry."

Rose didn't budge and remained silent, and while she hated herself for it, the scenario was still so incomprehensible.

His grown up stance faltered, and the large blue eyes behind the glasses filled with moisture. "I understand. This is tough." He cleared his throat. "I'll give you some time to settle in," he said simply before skirting around Janet and heading back towards the living room.

Janet watched the child go then turned to Rose in confusion. "I thought you'd—"

"Welcome him with open arms?" Rose shook her head. "He said he understood." Rose pointed down the hallway. "And if that's truly Daniel, he will understand."

"That's really Daniel."

"You may know that. The general may know that. But what's important is that I need to know that. He has to convince me."

"We thought—I thought..."

"Thought what? That I'd clean up this mess?" Rose was angry and tired. "It's better if you leave."


"From what he says, this is his home. He has more right to be here than I do."

"He needs you."

Rose shook her head. "The other Daniel needed me. And I needed him. This child? I think you need me here more than he does."


Janet saw herself out. Rose didn't care. This was wrong. How they got her here was wrong. Telling her this child was Daniel was wrong and expecting her to open her heart to him was wrong.

There was a cup of steaming tea by an empty chair in the kitchen. The teabag was still in the cup, the squeezable honey bear was next to the napkin and spoon, and a nice sized slice of crumb cake was sitting on a plate.

"Would you believe me if I told you I didn't know they'd called you?"

Rose sat, then pulled the sugar bowl towards her.

"I already put two teaspoons in."

"You know how I like my tea?"

The child nodded. "I'm sorry; I microwaved the mug of water and didn't put the kettle on. I'm sorry the cake is store bought and not baked from scratch. I'm sorry the farm stand where you bought that great honey hasn't opened yet. I'm sorry I'm little. I'm sorry Jack's not here. And I'm sorry I lied in all those emails, but telling you Jack was missing—" Daniel stopped, grabbed a napkin and rubbed his eyes. "Telling you Jack was missing would have made it real. So I—"

"You lied, Daniel."

"I lied. I'm sorry and I'll understand if you want to get on a plane and go back home."

Rose was silent and Daniel just sighed deeply, his head bowed.

"I need to unpack." She pushed her chair away from the table, ignoring the sound it made as she hurriedly dragged it away from the table.


There really was no room in the dresser in Jack's room. The drawers were crammed full of Jack's clothes. "Sorry, Jack," Rose apologized as she tried to rearrange things to give herself at least one drawer.

She tried not to pay attention to the sounds from the kitchen. The opening and closing of the fridge door. Water running. Dishwasher opening and closing. A light switch flicking off. Blissful silence. She managed to fold a nightgown, place her robe at the foot of the bed, throw two pairs of socks in the drawer before the crying started. A child's tears. Rose abandoned her task and headed to the kitchen.

The kitchen was dark, lit only by the one light over the stove, but there was enough illumination for her to see what he was doing. Scribbling on the moisture sodden panes of the French doors. Rose squinted and took a step into the kitchen. Not scribbling. Tic tac toe boards. "Oh, Daniel."

He turned in a flash, wiping his eyes. "Rose. I'm sorry. I cleaned up. If you want, I can make you another cup of tea..."

She pointed to the door. "I remember those—"

"Me, too." Daniel looked towards the window, embarrassed. He used the hem of his tee shirt to clean the window. "You always won. The only way I can win is if I play alone."

"You don't need to play alone anymore." Rose bent on creaking knees and opened her arms wide. "I'm here, mhuirnin."

That was all it took and Rose rocked on her heels for a second as Daniel slammed his weight into her, uttering her name as he wound his arms around her neck.



Rose remade the tea, using the kettle this time. Daniel made himself hot chocolate and she watched as he moved with efficient ease around the kitchen. She smiled as he placed the cake box and a handful of napkins on the table.

He caught her watching and ducked his head. "Jack adjusted things for me after he caught me standing on the counter trying to reach something. Something about the next step after grey hair was baldness."


Daniel was reaching for his second piece of cake when Rose grabbed his hand. "How about if I call and order us some food?"

"Cake's not food?"

"Only if it's made from scratch do I consider it a meal replacement."

"Oh, but I don't think you need to order anything. Janet went shopping..."

Rose hadn't really been paying attention, but now she stood and began to forage through the cabinets, the fridge and the freezer, all of which were filled to capacity. "I think shopping would be an understatement."

"Yeah, Janet never does anything halfway." Daniel got up and opened the bread drawer, removing a plastic bag of rolls. "Knowing Janet, there's ham or—"

"Found it."

Daniel pulled out a step stool and he and Rose worked side-by-side making dinner. It was when he reached across the counter and withdrew a knife from the wooden block that Rose stopped him. "Oh, no, you don't." She plucked the knife from his hands. "I don't want to go bald either. Now scoot and set the table."

Rose ate. Daniel picked. She talked. He listened. She smiled. He tried to reciprocate, smiling where he thought he should, nodding in response to conversation.

"I'm going to go take a shower." Daniel cleaned up his place, put away some of the items on the counter and left, leaving a puzzled Rose in his wake.


Damn, as much as he didn't want to admit it, he was overjoyed to see Rose. It had been fun for a while, and then it truly dawned on Daniel that darkness had fallen and with darkness came bedtime and sleep. And sleeping, in Daniel's book, equaled nightmares.

Dealing with a nightmare in the VIP suite minus security cameras was one thing, dealing with nightmares with Jack's mother less than twenty feet away was already setting him on edge, and he wasn't even in pajamas.

Wrapping his dripping body in the large bath towel, he scrunched up into the corner near the toilet with his cell phone and called the SGC. "This is Doctor Jackson, can you put me through to the control room, please."


"Walter, it's Daniel."

"Doctor Jackson, hold on a minute, okay?"

Daniel heard rustling, then Walter's voice speaking to another person, before he came back on the line. Daniel appreciated that Walter didn't cover up the mouthpiece, like he was hiding something from Daniel.

"Sorry, paperwork. You know how it is."

It seemed funny to be smiling in the bathroom, wrapped in only a towel, but Walter treated him just like he always had, and it made Daniel feel good and normal and not like a little kid. "I don't mind paperwork, it's the triplicates that get me."

"I never press hard enough to go through to the all copies and then it just gets returned for signature."

"Any news?" Using his feet, Daniel began to furl and unfurl the corner of the ugly beige bath rug.

"None, sir."

At least Walter didn't say 'don't call us, we'll call you'. "Thank you," Daniel said, thanking him more for the treatment and respect he'd shown Daniel than for the lack of news.


"I have nightmares," he blurted out to Rose as he cleaned his glasses on his tee shirt. He stuck them back on his face, then pushed his still wet hair off his forehead before it dripped again on his glasses.

Rose looked up from the magazine she was reading, and took in his bare feet. "I snore."

She wasn't getting this. Rose didn't understand. Not that he understood the depth and horror of his dreams either, but he needed to warn her.

"Go put some socks on your feet."

Defeated, Daniel left the room. Rose didn't believe him at all.


This was now bordering on cruel. Rose wouldn't go to sleep without Daniel being in bed first, even if she was nodding off and snoring at the end of the couch. He couldn't really push it anymore and he forced a yawn. "Time for bed, I guess."

Daniel was more than capable of closing up the house, checking the windows and doors, but he knew Rose wouldn't be comfortable with that, so he just sat on the couch while Rose walked around, making sure everything was secure.


Daniel lay in bed reading, forcing himself to concentrate, running his finger along the page, mouthing the printed words. He'd already jerked awake a few times and found it harder and harder to comprehend the words two inches from his nose.

The choice had been made. Daniel knew and as much as he fought against the bindings and pleaded for reasoning, there wasn't going to be any rescue. No one was saving SG-1's collective asses this time. There was a sadness in his captor's eyes, in their expression and a caring to their touch which was in direct contrast to the pain ripping through Daniel's body.


His screams had woken her out of an exhausted sleep, and she caught Daniel in the hallway, trying to escape from whatever demons were chasing him. At first, little fists pummeled her thighs, without enough force to do damage, but still Rose tried to restrain him, calling his name and holding him tightly against her, until he slowed down, stopped and looked up at her, terror in his eyes. "Rose?"

Unable to speak, she nodded, tears springing into her eyes when he lifted his arms to her. This was a child standing before her, and all her residual anger melted away in his need. Mothering instincts kicked in, overriding her touch of arthritis, and she picked him up and carried him far from the monsters in his room.

They sat in the dark living room, huddled in the recliner. Rose held Daniel in her arms, shaking as much as him. She truly wasn't sure if he was awake, eyes still closed, whimpering, but he kept patting her arm as if to check her solidness. "I'm here."

"It hurt," he gasped, pulling himself into a tighter, smaller ball.

"Where? Show me," she gently ordered as her hands began to travel over his body. She earned no moan or complaint from Daniel, all he did was push aside her efforts and snuggle closer.

"Not now. Then. Before." Heavy lids rose, but his half smile was far from reassuring. "Only a dream."

She rested her cheek on his sweaty head. "Only a dream," she repeated. "I should have listened to you."

"Told you so," he slurred. "Sorry. Wake you?"

"No, I was up," Rose lied, not having the heart to tell Daniel otherwise.

He grew heavier in her arms, his breathing deepening as the minutes moved on. Asleep, he was dead weight against her, and Rose didn't trust her ability to maneuver to a standing position without dropping him. So she stayed, flipped the lever on the side of the chair and eyed the afghan on the back of the couch with longing.


Rose awoke with empty arms and the afghan covering her body. She plunked the seat into an upright position, chastising herself for sleeping so deeply that she hadn't even awoken with Daniel. Stiff and sore, she shuffled down the hallway, hand on her lower back, massaging the aches. Next time there was a nightmare, Rose was going to steer Daniel either back to his bed, Jack's bed, or at least the couch, because recliners and elderly mothers don't mix well at all.

The house was bathed in dim light and shadows, dawn was approaching, and while Rose was an early riser, today she was tired, which was why she shoved Daniel gently to the side when she found him the middle of Jack's bed, fast asleep. "You gotta share, mhuirnin."

Daniel just dragged the pillow under his head and plastered himself up against Rose's body in response.


He was already deep in work, sequestered in his room, typing away at his computer when Rose got out of the shower. He'd been out of bed by the time she'd gotten up, and she was again annoyed at herself for sleeping so heavily. "Morning."

Daniel flashed a smile then went right on working, squinting at the monitor.

"Maybe this will help." Rose pushed his glasses down from their perch on his head.

Shoving them up his nose, he absently thanked her, using his finger to skim a line of text in the book to his right.

"I'm going to make breakfast."

"I already ate, thank you." He tapped the edge of his empty cereal bowl with his pencil. "Coco Puffs. I like Coco Puffs."

"I'm glad, but a bowl of that—"

"Two bowls," Daniel said proudly as if two bowls of the sickeningly sweet cereal was better than just one.

"Two bowls," Rose repeated with a sharp shake of her head. "It's certainly not the breakfast of champions, Daniel."

He shrugged away her concern. "It was what I wanted." He used his pencil to mark his spot in the book and then slammed it shut.

"Okay." Rose took the hint, tried not to appear hurt and backed out of the room. Adjustment. This was going to be a horrific adjustment and she was willing to give Daniel some leeway before his ass ended up in the time out chair.


Daniel hated Coco Puffs with a passion. Jack had always gotten a chuckle out of the fact that 'choco boy' couldn't stand something so chocolaty because he loved the stupid cereal. Janet had probably bought it thinking it was Daniel's choice, so this morning when he saw it in the cabinet he decided to give the chocolate stuff a second chance. Two bowls, like he'd told Rose, just to feel a little closer to Jack, but it hadn't worked, he still hated the artificial taste, and even worse, he felt sick to his stomach.

After vomiting for the third time, Daniel was ready to admit defeat and throw in the towel. Obviously, this was more than two bowls of Coco Puffs not agreeing with his sweet tooth. He flushed the toilet, got up on the stool, washed his face, rinsed out his mouth, brushed his teeth and walked right into Rose who was standing outside the bathroom door.

"Something you'd like to share?"

"Hopefully not my germs," Daniel said. He dragged himself back into his room and onto the bed with Rose right on his heels. He'd never admit how wonderfully cool her hand felt against his forehead and cheeks.

"You have a fever."

"I'll be okay. I just need to sleep." Daniel tugged the blanket up over his shoulders, arranged one pillow and stuck his second pillow under his stomach. "I'm fine."


He was annoyed when Rose woke him, because strangely enough, fever and all, Daniel was sleeping without nightmares. She sat at the edge of the bed, doing annoying things, straightening the covers, moving the hair from his forehead—being just like Jack. Or maybe Jack was just like her. Apple-tree sort of thing. "Please stop that," he ordered, pushing her hand away as she went to stroke his cheek. Too Jack-like.

"Janet said there was a stomach virus going around at work."

Daniel groaned. "You called Janet?"

Rose said nothing, she just glared at Daniel. "I'm not the enemy."

He tried to glare back, but he couldn't match the intensity of Rose's scrutiny. "You're fixing my blanket, taking my temperature by touch—" He gazed towards the dresser. "You've brought a nice tray with a glass of apple juice, Tylenol and—" Daniel levered himself on his elbows, peering upwards toward the tray, "toast." Flopping back down, he groaned. "I cannot even fathom drinking juice, eating toast or swallowing a chewable tablet without puking up my guts. I will begrudgingly admit that I am not fine, and I'm annoyed that you woke me to try and ply me with foodstuffs and medication that will make an appearance no more than five minutes after being swallowed."

Rose stood and stole a kiss before he could object. "I'll leave the door open a crack just in case you need me. Go back to sleep. The tray's here in case you change your mind."

Daniel turned away from her. Hating Rose at the moment. Instead of drawing comfort from her Jack-like ministrations, it hurt. Badly. Closing his eyes, he buried his face in the pillow before she could question his tears.


It wasn't bad enough that he woke feverish and dry mouthed, but topping it off with stuffed sinuses because he couldn't keep his emotions in check made him short-tempered and cranky beyond the short-temperedness and crankiness that always went hand in hand with being sick. Daniel sneered at the tray still on the dresser. The toast was cold, the apple juice wasn't and the combination didn't thrill Daniel's stomach at all.

Dragging his body into the kitchen, he rubbed his hands along his forearms. Cold and goose bumpy due to the fever, he wanted something warm for the chills and wet to quench his thirst. But by the time he got into the kitchen, the decision on what to eat or drink was just too much of an effort so he gave up, went into the living room and plopped onto the couch, disgusted.

Rose appeared just minutes into his self-pity party. "Janet called while you were sleeping. General Hammond... and Walter." Rose put a bowl of soup and glass of iced tea on the coffee table.

"Walter!" Daniel sat up straighter. "What did he say?"

"That he dialed the number and there was still no response."

Daniel dropped backwards. "Oh."

"He said he'd try again tomorrow."

"And tomorrow. And tomorrow—" Daniel clamped his mouth shut; loose lips sank ships and spilled military secrets, and instead he reached for the tea. It was cold, very cold, and felt great going down. It was only Rose's warning throat clearing that made him stop gulping it down.

"There's more where that came from." She cocked her head towards the table. "Have some soup." Rose didn't wait for an answer and exchanged the glass for the bowl, sitting at the edge of the couch while he had three spoonfuls.

He waited for her objection, but was pleasantly surprised when she took the barely touched soup and gave him back the tea, which he finished in two more gulps.

Without asking, she got up, took his glass, and went into the kitchen. She came back with two grape Tylenols in one hand and a half glass of iced tea in the other.


Daniel could feel himself drifting, but he was just too damn tired to get up off the couch. Too lazy to vocally thank Rose for the afghan she spread over his body, but coherent enough to thank her with a smile. She smiled back in understanding and sat next to him on the couch, her gentle, cool fingers running through his hair.

Daniel patted the unopened book in her lap and she laughed.

"I left in such a rush that I didn't grab a magazine in the airport. Or one from home." She picked up the book and studied the front cover. "I found this on Jack's bookshelf." Opening the book to the front cover, she adjusted her glasses. "Master and Commander." Rose laughed. "Yeah, right up Jack's alley, I'm thinking." Rose turned the pages, then cleared her throat. "Chapter One. The music-room in the Governor's House at—"

Daniel didn't have the heart to tell Rose that he had hated this book in the Patrick O'Brian series. Actually, he hated all of them. Jack had devoured the majority of the series and had pushed and prodded Daniel to give O'Brian a try. He couldn't get into the author's style of writing and Daniel had never made it past page fifty, much to Jack's chagrin; but having someone read to him seemed to open up the story line in a different light, and Daniel moved closer, focusing on the rise and fall of Rose's voice.


Daniel's eyes began to close around page fifteen, which was a good thing because Rose's voice was giving out about the same time. Mentally marking her spot, she closed the book, leaned forward and placed it on the coffee table. Displaced by Rose's movement, Daniel complained in his sleep, rearranged his body and pulled the afghan up around his shoulders. "Sorry," she whispered, then blotted the beads of sweat on his forehead with the tissue from her pocket. Cooler, she noted, not fever-free but definitely cooler.

He pushed her away, trying to spread out along the couch.

"Don't worry," she said, standing. "I get the hint." Admittedly, she was thirsty and more than a bit hungry. The day had gotten away from her, and this morning's breakfast seemed like a million years ago. She grabbed Daniel's dishes and headed towards the kitchen, her thoughts centering on heating up the rest of the soup.


There was an odor in the air that burned his sinuses. His breath caught in his throat and he fought the bindings, ineffectually attempting to flip his body from side to side, kicking out and cursing as his captors stood silently at the foot of the bed. "Please," he gasped, as the air seemed to become heavier and permeate his every pore, his vulnerability increasing a hundred fold as he lay naked and panting. Daniel kicked out with his feet, the movement accomplishing nothing. So secure in their ability to hold him captive, his torturers never even flinched.

Nausea was building up and erupted, spilling down his chin and his chest before he turned his head to avoid choking on his own vomit. He puked again, bile rising up and overflowing, splattering onto the floor.

The heaviness of the air dissipated and turned suddenly frigid, his breath sending puffs of smoke signals up into the air. His balls retreated upward, searching for body heat, his teeth began to chatter, and the tears and sweat peppering his face froze on their downward flow.

The first prick of pain was swift and caught Daniel by surprise. He paused in his struggle to see if he'd imagined it. But it came again. And again. The frozen air turned to invisible daggers piercing his skin, their penetration deepening and speeding up with every inhalation of air. Daniel screamed, arching his back, trying to extricate himself from the fingers of pain dancing down his spinal cord. Daniel peed himself, but his embarrassment was lost in trying to escape the agony. He jerked his shoulder to the right, then jerked again, bringing his hip and leg into the motion, but there was no escape.


Janet, bless her heart, had bought a bag of the corn muffins from the store in town that Rose loved. A buttered corn muffin would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup. Lowering the flame under the soup, Rose stepped to the side, sliced a muffin, warmed it in the microwave then cheated on her perpetual diet and slathered butter across the golden yellow insides.

Rose ate the muffin while stirring the soup, the simple act of making sure it didn't stick to the bottom of the pot almost soothing. She was pouring the hot soup from the pot into a bowl on the counter, when the sound of Daniel gagging, then vomiting, interrupted her. "Damn." She dropped the pot on the counter with a thud, narrowly missing the half-filled bowl. She made it to the entranceway of the kitchen, in time to see him vomit one more time, but it was the scream that caused her to stop in her tracks, an inhuman scream of pure anguish and pain as his back arched off the couch and as he twisted his body. Daniel and the afghan toppled sideways off the couch before Rose could reach him.

"Daniel." She dragged the coffee table to the side for better access. He was crouched on his knees, his hands on the floor in the puddle of vomit.

"Get. Away. Rose."

"I'm not going anywhere." Rose ignored the fact that Daniel shrugged off her hand. "You need to get up. We'll clean you up—"

"No!" He sat up suddenly, leaning against the couch and wrapped the afghan around his waist in one swift movement, but not before Rose caught a view of his damp crotch. "I'll clean this up—"

"You shower. I'll clean this up."


"You can do the laundry, how's that?"

"I'd rather clean the floor, if you must know."


He began to shake the second he closed the bathroom door. Being all too familiar with Rose's modus operandi, Daniel probably had about eight minutes of privacy before she came a-knocking. He needed to pull himself together. Turn on the water and wash away the vomit. Puking was bad enough, wearing his puke was horrible, but, damn, peeing himself over a stupid nightmare—Daniel ripped off his sweats and tossed them into a corner. He hadn't peed himself since he was three.

He adjusted the taps then tentatively stuck his hand under the spray and pulled it back immediately, the water reminding him of the needles from his dream. He coaxed his hand out from under his armpit, slowly sticking it under the water, trying to convince the appendage that it wasn't a painful dream, just a shower.

While he waited for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to fade, Daniel stood under the stream of water until he was positive it was safe to reach for the shower gel and wash. He didn't just wash, he scrubbed countless times, washing his hair with some sweet smelling vanilla almond honey stuff that he usually ignored, but for now, smelling like a baking cake took precedence over smelling like puke. He turned off the water, stepped out of the shower, then wrapped himself in a big towel before he realized he'd forgotten clothes.

"Daniel?" Her knock on the bathroom door was loud, precise and probably right on schedule.

"I'm fine, Rose."

"I'm sure you are, but would you like some sweats? I—"

"Leave them by the door, okay?" Daniel's humiliation was now complete.


Rose wasn't sure how to approach Daniel with this. It wasn't in her character to just avoid issues, but right now, under a rock seemed the safest place to be. The floor was clean. The furniture moved back into place and she was back in the kitchen, working on a scrambled egg instead of the soup.

"I'm thirty-nine."

Rose concentrated on sliding the egg onto her plate. "So I've been told."


Rose pushed her plate to the side, put the pan in the sink then turned to Daniel. "I don't know how to treat you." She grabbed a towel, wiped her hands, then spent an inordinate amount of time folding it just right. "I mean, look at you." She waved her hand towards Daniel. "You look like an adorable six-year-old, and I'm fighting every mothering instinct I have not to grab you and hug the stuffing out of you."

"What's stopping you?"

"Your eyes," Rose said softly. "Those eyes have seen too much to be a child's. Your eyes and the way you speak convince me that you're a child in stature only, and I remember all too well the thirty-nine year old Daniel's need for space."

Daniel's expression was a mixture of surprise and relief. "Thank you."

Rose nearly threw her resolve to the wind when a little hand grabbed hers and squeezed. "You're welcome," she whispered.


He slept for a few more hours, but he still had dark circles under his eyes. Rose bit back a comment as Daniel sat playing with his cinnamon toast, licking the cinnamon and butter off the bread. Strangely enough, she didn't remember that being a habit of adult Daniel, but she didn't want to overstep her boundaries. There was still a slight stain of fever on his cheeks, but he was more animated than she'd seen him all day, talking while he destroyed his toast, moving from licking into tearing the triangles into tiny pieces, abstractly swinging his feet.

As she listened, Rose realized something. Daniel was totally unaware of his childlike actions. The toast licking and the feet swinging were so outside his realm of adult thinking that they weren't even registering with him. But this was how his mind was allowing his body to adjust. Like the autistic child who needs sensory input to deal with his place in the world, Daniel's body was subconsciously performing childlike nuances to adjust. To survive.

He shoved the last piece of toast into his mouth, following it up with his finger. Daniel licked all the butter and cinnamon off the digit, then finished the rest of his juice. He slid out of the chair, then turned and grabbed his napkin and glass. He crumpled the napkin and shot it into the garbage, missing by a mile. He laughed, shook his head, put the glass into the dishwasher, then slam dunked the napkin. "I'm going to be in my bedroom working, okay? If you need anything, just call."

"I will."


She brought him two Tylenol twenty minutes later and caught him nodding off, his chin propped up on his cupped right hand. "Gotcha," she said, smiling to soften his embarrassment.

Catlike he stretched, smiling lazily back at her. "I shouldn't be tired."

Putting the Tylenol and a bottle of water next to his computer, she placed a hand on his forehead. "Temperature."

"Oh," he said.

"Take your medicine. Drink some water. Save your work and go to bed."

Daniel gave her a lazy salute, picked up the Tylenol and stuck them into his mouth. He chewed, then scrunched his face in disgust. "Yuck." He grabbed the bottle of water and drank enough to wash the taste away.

She stood guard as he saved his work, closed his book, powered down his computer and yawned again. He left the room to go to the bathroom and Rose sat on the edge of his bed, unsure of whether she should leave or stay. The decision was made for her when Daniel shuffled back into his room, crawled up the bed and scooted under the covers. He took off his glasses, folded them neatly, then placed them by the digital clock on his night table.

"Goodnight, Daniel." Rose flicked off the light and walked to the door

The light in the hallway illuminated the room enough for Rose to see the disappointment on Daniel's face; but he said nothing, he just blinked at her. Rose was missing something, she knew it, but she wasn't sure what the hell it was, and from the look on Daniel's face he wasn't sure if he knew what it was either.

"Night," he said softly, curling up on his side.


She was lying in bed, watching TV. Maybe not really watching, more like staring at the screen, lost in thought.


Daniel was standing in the doorway, a book in his hands.

She pushed herself into a sitting position. "Mhuirnin, is everything okay?"

"I couldn't sleep." He held the book out towards her. "Would you like to read some more?"

Rose patted the bed. "Sure."


He snuggled against her, working his way under her arm, pressing tightly against her side, the warmth of his slight fever seeping through her nightgown. Absently, she stroked his hair as she read. Twelve more pages into the story and he took the book from her hands and placed it on the bed. "We're both falling asleep."

"You noticed?"

"Yeah, I think repeating the last line of the paragraph might have been a dead giveaway."

"Sorry." Her apology was swallowed up by a yawn.

"Don't be." Daniel said. He threw his arms around her neck and hugged. Tightly.

For a moment, Rose sat there, arms to her side, then she buried a smile against his shoulder and hugged him back.

"You forgot to kiss me goodnight," he said solemnly when he broke the hug.

She kissed him lightly on the cheek. "It won't happen again, promise."


It was early in the morning. Too early for Rose to be up, but early enough for the morning shift at the SGC to be settling in. He'd wanted to speak to Walter, but the call was routed to the general first. Apologetically, General Hammond explained, slowly, as if Daniel was truly a child, that the Appropriations Committee had received a report about the daily dialing to attempt to make contact with SG-1. The general had tried to butter him up with soft words and apologies, but all it came down to was that they had put a kibosh on dialing the 'gate daily to a locked out destination. And if that hadn't been a low enough blow, it now seemed, for the time being, that Daniel's work hours at the SGC were being curtailed. Daniel had argued to silence at the other end of the phone, and when he paused in his ranting he could hear General Hammond shuffling papers, basically just allowing Daniel to blow off steam. It was both degrading and humiliating and he slammed the phone down.

Daniel fought the urge to throw the phone, but that would be infantile, and he was pretty sure that General Hammond would be calling a bit later to just check on things. Spitefully, he wanted to run to Rose and share that Hammond had given up searching for Jack, Teal'c and Sam. He scrubbed away hot, angry tears.


He remembered to take clothes this time into the bathroom. He washed up and dressed, even slipping on a pair of socks for Rose. Cautiously, he opened the bathroom door and listened. Noise from the kitchen. Rose was up. With head held up high, he confidently walked into the kitchen. "Rose."

She was looking out the glass doors, her line of vision showed Daniel she was busy studying the overgrown patch of garden. He really needed to work on it, have Jack get him—his heart constricted. "Rose." This time when he called her name, he was taken back by how plaintive and childlike his voice sounded.

"It will be okay, mhuirnin," she answered without turning around. "General Hammond called when you were in the shower. I think to apologize. To see how you were doing." Rose's gaze left the window and she turned to face Daniel. "How are you doing?"

"I'm—I'm..." He stared at Rose. Unable to blink or breathe. Frozen. Once again he'd lost his family and his best friend. "I never said goodbye." Emotions erupted. Exploded all over the kitchen, shoving adult Daniel to the ground and hauling him from the room, leaving in his place, a frightened, needy, little boy.

Rose descended on him in a second, all hugs and kisses, comforting noises and shushing. But he would have none of it, and he fought her, screaming and kicking, sobbing and choking on tears.

He was eight and his parents had just died. He was thirty and ridiculed by academia. He was thirty-four and he'd lost his wife and family. At thirty-five he lost his wife's child to one older and wiser than he. Then in a flash, he was thirty-nine and he just lost his lover, his best friend and his family; once again an orphan without autonomy and freedom. And he screamed at the injustice of happiness torn from his grasp then stopped, suddenly, and stared at Rose's face, her own eyes filled with tears. And he saw, reflected in those eyes, so like Jack's, sympathy and for the first time Daniel realized he was trapped, not only physically in the body of a child, but emotionally as well.

He pushed Rose away, denying his need for comfort, but she fought back, gripping him tightly, her voice on an even keel as Daniel's elevated in pitch, until there was no more place for him to go and he dropped his head on her shoulder. Every nerve ending was exposed and rubbed raw; he knew he was trembling, and even though he willed himself to stop, he was unable. Rose's gentle arms and soft voice amplifying his lack of control. She was the adult, he was the child. So many emotions. Too many feelings he'd kept locked away and buried. Humiliation. Fear. Sorrow. Rejection. A myriad of others Daniel couldn't, wouldn't even label. He was drowning, his airway clogged with mucous and tears, his breathing just a series of painful hiccups.

Daniel felt Rose move from a kneeling position to a sitting one and he protested when she tried to force him to follow her lead. She gave up and he scooted away, backing up against the wall.

"I won't leave you."

"I'm six. You're—" He couldn't say the word without tears.

"Old. I know. But I'm here for now and I think for once we shouldn't look towards the future." She opened her arms, but he stayed pressed against the wall. She flashed him a smile, dropped her arms, grabbed the cabinet door and pulled herself to a standing position.

"No!" He screamed, launching himself at her. "Don't go anywhere," Daniel sobbed. "I won't make you promise to stay forever. I know you—"

"Stop it!" Rose commanded, grabbing his hands. "I. Am. Here."

Daniel felt as he had when he'd been a lifeboat for all those psyches. Small and insignificant, ruled by the emotional rollercoaster of the others who'd occupied his body, except now, his reasoning was being squashed and sequestered, not by a dozen personalities, but by an emotionally crippled, out of control boy. Rose released his hands and he slid to the floor, sobbing, pooling himself at her feet, wrapping his arms around her ankles, holding on for dear life.


Rose was trapped, unable to figure out how to disengage herself from Daniel without making it appear she was pushing him away. Words, Daniel understood words.

"Daniel." She called his name, forcefully, but without anger. "Daniel," she repeated, slowly moving her ankles back and forth. "I need to—" His arms tightened imperceptibly. "I need to see you, okay?" She bounced on her heels and he opened the circle enough. Holding onto the counter for balance she stepped out of his grip. "Come," she said, bending down and rubbing his back, reaching for his hand, physically stopping him from curling into a fetal position.

She'd hoped to get him to respond enough to go into the living room, where there were soft couches to sit on, but he was still quietly sobbing, his anguish buried in the kitchen floor. Daniel was a hundred percent correct on one point, she was old, too old to pick him up from this position, so she cautiously stepped over his body and sat facing him, her back pressed up against the wall, and opened her legs into a "v" shape with Daniel in between. It was that mountain/Mohammed approach and Rose sat patiently with tears streaming down her face, rubbing her knees against Daniel, letting him know she was here for him.

Daniel shifted and Rose held her breath as he turned then crawled up her body, making himself as tiny as possible, tucking against her torso. "I got you," she said, wrapping her arms around him and folding her legs to capture him against her.

Amazingly, at her words, he cried even more tears, clutching at her shirt, wiping snot and tears against the cotton material. She rubbed his arms. Repeatedly. Placing kisses into his sweaty hair, rocking him as he clung to her.

The tears slowed, stopping, appearing now as an occasional whimper until Daniel grabbed her hand and dragged her sleeve across his face.

"I think you'll be doing the laundry."

She saw the start of a sweet smile, but Daniel faltered, the smile turning into a nod. He kept her hand intertwined with his, tucking the possession tightly against his chest. The trembling had moved on to occasional tremors.

Daniel shifted his weight. Rose shifted as a countermove, but she was uncomfortable, the floor was unforgiving. Add to that old bones and Daniel's weight, she could feel her body stiffening.


One would have hoped that shedding the copious amounts of tears that he'd shed, would've been cathartic. Wrong. His eyes were gritty and swollen, his chest burned as if he'd swam thirty laps in an Olympic-sized pool and what was worse was the tsunami of emotions skimming the surface. At least he wasn't too far gone to know that Rose shouldn't be sitting on the cold kitchen floor.

Slowly, he extricated himself from her and with a heavy stuffed head, he shuffled into the living room, filled with a mixture of relief and surprise when he didn't hear Rose following. Daniel curled into the corner of the couch, resting his arms on the bolster then dropped his head into the pillow they made.

Rose appeared, and he closed his eyes. There was the swipe of a warm washcloth across his exposed cheek and he couldn't help but sigh in appreciation. First lifting his chin, he gave Rose more space to work with, then finally turning onto his back, eyes still closed, allowing Rose to gently wipe the warmth across his face. She captured the tears as they snuck from under his closed lids, continuing until the warmth had turned cool and the tears stopped.

"There's still hope..."

Daniel wanted to scream at her to shut up and quickly stuck a mental finger in the plug of the emotional dam he was working frantically to repair. There was no hope, and while he, as an adult, was able to deal with sadness and despair, a child-sized Daniel was not. "There is no hope," he spoke in a voice that was but a whisper.

"From what General Hammond said, Sam's father—"

"Jacob?" It hurt to talk. "General Hammond mentioned Jacob?"

"You didn't hear?" Rose shook her head. "The general mentioned you'd hung up, but I thought... I thought he'd told you."

"Told me what?" Daniel insisted.

"That Sam's father was going on a reconnaissance mission to extricate the team from the situation. His words. Not mine."

"Jacob?" Daniel pushed himself into a sitting position, annoyed. "Why didn't you tell me?" he demanded with an angry punch to the side of the couch.

Rose sucked in her lips, her gaze wandering off to the kitchen. She looked at Daniel then back towards the kitchen, wringing the washcloth in her hands. "You really didn't give me a chance to talk."

Embarrassment slammed into Daniel's solar plexus. He'd thought the general had given up and behaved as if there'd been no hope. He'd reacted as a child clinging to Rose for guidance and protection and size notwithstanding, Daniel was not a child.


After the emotional temper tantrum, Daniel called the general, apologized and listened to the whole explanation of Jacob attempting a rescue of SG-1, the general's apology that Daniel would work from home until the majority of this mess was straightened out with the added promise of an airman who would deliver any books Daniel required from his office.

He felt stupid and angry at his inability to keep all of his emotions on an adult level. If he thought as an adult, why the hell couldn't he act like one? Work was good. He could work in his room, tolerating Rose's continuing inability to pop in and out of his bedroom without disruption.

Clearing his throat, he blew his nose from the box of tissues Rose had brought into the bedroom on her most recent visit. He'd acknowledged her with a smile, absentmindedly nodding when she mentioned something about going out later then turned his attention back to the translation on his monitor. Working was so much easier than being sociable.


He jumped when Rose touched his shoulder.

"I knocked, you grunted, I presumed—"

"Sorry." He stuck his fingers under his glasses and rubbed tired eyes.

"Let's go."

He blinked at her confused. "Go where?"


"Out? But I'm working on—"

"The beauty of a computer is that one has the ability to save work."

"I can't go... I'm in the middle of—"

She put on the face that Daniel hated. The Jack face, the one that said without words that there was no excuse good enough for Daniel to escape whatever bright idea Jack had up his sleeve. Like a Clint Eastwood marathon. Or fishing... or – "This doesn't involve Jell-O in any way, shape or form, does it?"

"Should it?"


Daniel never realized how much the wind whipped around the back seat in a convertible, and while it was uncomfortable, the heat of the afternoon sun made up for his discomfort. He raised his face to the sun. Rose drove his Thunderbird like a pro, shifting smoothly, and Daniel smiled at the image of her as she drove, sunglasses and a kerchief around her hair, tied at her neck like some fifties movie star.

"Are you okay back there?" Rose's voice was distorted, lost in the rush of air.

"Okay," he echoed, giving her the thumbs up. Conversation was a moot point, so he relaxed, let his mind wander and pretended all was right with his world.


"You're kidding."

"No," Daniel replied, his eyes widening. "Jack and I—we're too busy to—I never knew this place existed." The name of the place burned a hole in the pit of his stomach, but the view before him was breathtaking.

"Garden of the Gods—" Rose unfolded the map the woman in the information center had given her. "—Is one of Colorado Springs' Treasures." She skimmed the paper, running her fingers down the printed columns. "There's a trail we can walk. Over—this way. Come on." She offered Daniel her hand and he hesitated exactly one second before accepting.


Daniel was quieter than any child should be, hiking the trail with her, never complaining, accepting her offer to rest with just a smile. But his eyes scanned the horizon, nodding as she pointed out the rock formations as if this wonder didn't belong on Earth, especially in the middle of the city he'd called home.

"Amazing, huh?" Rose asked as they drew to the last marker along the trail. Admittedly, the spring in Daniel's step had slowed, and Rose took pity on his short legs and slowed her steps to match his.

"I need to bring my camera... next time," he implored, gazing up at Rose.

"There are plenty of trails to explore." She checked her watch. "We'll get an earlier start next time, bring a lunch. Make it a picnic."

"I'd like that." He released her hand and walked over to a copse of trees and wove his way in and around the trunks. Returning back to the trail, he walked next to Rose, but didn't take her hand. "I have work to do, you understand? I can't always—"

"Of course not. Next time would be like a vacation day. I'm sure you have vacation days."

Daniel kicked a pebble along the path. Hard. Watching it bounce off the trunk of tree. "Jack and I went to Hawaii on our last—yeah, we have vacation days."

"We'll look at the calendar. Pick a day. You'll call the general and request that day off."

Daniel just nodded, as if requesting a day off was torturous.

"Maybe by the time we pick a date, Jack, Teal'c and Sam may be home and they can come with us?"

"Jack would enjoy it here," Daniel said softly, his voice still ragged from this morning. He ran his hand over an outcropping along the path. "Sam, too."

"And Teal'c?"

"Teal'c would come just because he enjoys being with everyone."



Daniel nodded, curling his feet underneath him as Rose checked his seat belt.

Rose ignored Daniel's rolling eyes over her ministrations. "Me, too." Rose didn't put the convertible roof of the car down, the late afternoon air was cooler and the sun was sinking too low to provide any warmth. "Chinese?"

"Sounds good."


"Let me order," Daniel said, craning his neck over the top of the huge menu.

Rose was a simple eater. Meat. Potatoes. Chinese food being no exception. Usually an order of vegetable lo mein was her fare. Beef and broccoli was stepping out of her safety zone. "Okay," she said hesitantly.

"Trust me."

Closing her menu, she gave Daniel the go ahead with a nod of her head. She rolled her eyes as Daniel waved the waiter over.


Rose knew she was staring. It wasn't polite. But damn. She gave a shallow nod to the waiter as he put a bowl of steaming soup in front of her, then chatted to Daniel before putting down his soup, bowing respectfully and hurrying back off to the kitchen.

Daniel's head rotated to follow the man's progress. "This is a nice place."

"You ordered in Chinese..."

Daniel blushed. "It really wasn't very good—Mandarin actually. I've been—"

"You ordered in Chinese."

Daniel put down the spoon he'd just picked up. "I'm sorry, did I embarrass you?"

"Shocked me." Rose tucked her napkin onto her lap. "Amazed me." She picked up her spoon, scooped up some soup and blew away the steam.

Daniel looked first to the right, then left, before leaning over the table as much as his booster seat would allow. "I'm a linguist, Rose, it's how I earn my living."

It was Rose's turn to blush. "I know. I've just never—"

"Heard it spoken from a six-year-old's mouth?" Daniel said.

"No. I was going to say I've never seen you in action."

Properly chastised, Daniel slurped up a mouthful of soup.

Rose followed. "Wow. This is—"

"Delicious," Daniel finished with a smug nod. "Would I ever steer you wrong?"


The piece of sesame chicken slipped out of Rose's chopsticks for the fourth time and landed in her honeyed shrimp and walnut mixture. She growled in frustration.

"You can use a fork."

"No, I cannot use a fork," she mimicked, glaring at Daniel's fingers. Small or not, his five digits had managed to guide the chopsticks through his food, clear the majority off his plate and were now just chasing around a few small grains of brown rice. "Show off."

He dropped his chopsticks onto his plate, threw up his hands in surrender and smiled. A big smile. One of the first true smiles of the day Rose had seen. And on that face in front of her, all eyes and glasses with a handful of ragged strands of hair falling into his forehead, Rose realized there had been peace in Daniel's demeanor during dinner that she'd rarely seen in him as an adult.

"Wait, I have an idea." Daniel lifted his ass and emptied out his pockets, dumping their contents on the table. Slightly flattened chocolate kisses. Some change. Two tiny pebbles. A rubber band. Some scraps of paper and the smallest cell phone Rose had ever seen. "I don't know why I didn't think of this before." He stuck out his hand and waggled his fingers at her. "Give me your chopsticks."

Curious, she handed them over and watched with interest as Daniel rubber banded the tops together. He gave them back, and with a wave of his hand, encouraged her to try again.

"That's how my Dad showed me how to eat with chopsticks. Go ahead, it really works."


Most of the food went into white containers for them to take home. Rose could have eaten another plateful, but Daniel had leaned back in the booth and watched her lazily under heavy lids. So she pushed away her plate, claiming she was full.

"Don't fall asleep."

"Not sleeping. Just relaxing." Daniel yawned as he rested his head on the cushioned door panel.

"Tell me another one."


But true to his word, Daniel stayed awake on the drive home and even helped her carry one of the bags into the house.

"Between Janet's shopping," he said as he tried to find place in the packed fridge for two containers, "and me forgetting I'm now the proud owner of a six-year-old's stomach, I'd say we never have to see the inside of a store for a while."

Rose chuckled as she emptied her bag of containers onto the counter. "Works for me."

Daniel gave her lopsided grin. "I see where Jack got his love of food shopping from." He yawned. "Think I'm going to shower, then see if I can make a dent in what I was working on before I was so rudely interrupted." He winked at Rose.


She waited until she heard the click of the bathroom door and the shower before she snuck over and unfolded the flaps of one of the containers still on the counter. Yes! The honeyed walnut shrimp. Sticking a piece of shrimp in her mouth, she gave an appreciative hum, then followed it up with a sweet section of walnut, dripping some sauce on the counter in her haste to shove it into her mouth.

Rose noticed the blinking answering machine as she tore off a section of paper towel, and hesitated all of one second before hitting the play button. Out of seven messages, two were an advertisement for a satellite dish company. One was to renew Jack's fishing magazine and the following four were from Janet, becoming more insistent towards the last message regarding where the hell were Rose and Daniel.

Rose called at the number Janet left. "Daniel and I were out for the day," Rose answered snippily the second Janet answered the phone. "I wasn't aware I had to report our comings and goings."

"I was worried. I tried Daniel's cell phone—"

"Daniel had his cell phone on him. I saw it. Tiny thing. Black—"

"That's it," Janet sighed. "Probably not charged, knowing Daniel, with about ten voice messages from me."

Rose cleaned up the counter and closed up the containers, her appetite gone.

"I'm sorry. Truly sorry," Janet said in response to Rose's silence. "But with Daniel there are extenuating circumstances, try to see it from my point of view."

"Try to see it from mine, okay? He's barely got a grip, Janet. He needed to get away today and just be—"

"A kid?"

"Normal. He just needed to do normal things. We went out for a walk then to dinner. He's in the shower right now. I'll tell him that you called—"

"Rose. Please don't be angry."

She was. Angry. Unsure why, but she was. Maybe because it was Janet's intrusion. Maybe it was a slap in the face that reality still existed. One where Jack was missing and Daniel was trapped in a child's body. "I'm not angry. Honest. I'll make sure Daniel keeps his phone charged. And about Jack? I'll tell Daniel—"

"Jacob, Sam's dad, is going to do his best."


"Hey," Rose said as she entered Daniel's room. "I thought you'd be hard at work."

Daniel was already under the blankets, opening his eyes when Rose stepped up to this bed. "Tired," Daniel yawned. "Tired enough to admit that I'm too tired to even open up the document."

"Smart." Rose leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Daniel touched the spot she'd just kissed, and it was his turn to smile in amazement. "You didn't forget."

"I never break a promise, Daniel. Remember that."


Not quite human fingers skimmed his face. A gentle touch, cool to his warm skin and an image of dinner with his parents under the full moon of an Egyptian night skittered across his mind. He smiled in his sleep, comforted by the crystal clear laughter of the two people in the world who loved him unconditionally. As one, his parents reached for him and Daniel left his seat willingly and sat on his mother's lap, his father pulling the two of them even closer than before.

"All things are possible," his father said, an unfamiliar voice emanating from an all too familiar face, with eyes that filled with tears as he laid a hand on Daniel's head. His mother agreed with a nod of her head, her lips placing a gentle kiss to Daniel's temple. "You must give freely. Remember how to be a child," she said, her voice as unfamiliar as his father's. But there was no fear. No question as to why they sounded as they did. There was just an overwhelming sense of peace and he snuggled deeper into his mother's arms, not caring if he was too old for this embrace.


Rose stood over Daniel's bed, the cordless phone pressed to her chest, hesitant to wake Daniel, the beatific expression on his face holding her back from disrupting his happiness. But the voice, though gentle, had been demanding, bordering on insistent.

She put the phone on the night table, unconcerned for the length of time the General would be holding. "Daniel." Rose ran a hand over his face and he leaned into her touch with a sigh, his smile deepening. "I'm sorry, mhuirnin," she whispered, "but you need to wake up."

Daniel opened his eyes and for a second the smile from his dreams carried over into wakefulness, but then the fog lifted and he blinked up at Rose. "Jack?"

She shook her head and held the phone out to him. "I tried to explain to General Hammond that you were sleeping—"

He scooted up in bed, grabbed the phone, glanced first at Rose, then at the bedroom door, inviting her to leave.

She left, burying her anger and hurt in short precise steps, closing the door not so gently in her wake. Rose knew the rules as far as asking questions, but that didn't mean she had to gracefully accept the bullshit that was being shoveled.


There was something so comically sad about a little child dressed to go to work, briefcase in hand, books under his arm, that Rose wasn't sure if she should laugh or cry. Daniel looked like he was playing dress up in his daddy's clothes, uncomfortable and unsure as he stood in the kitchen, shifting from foot to foot.

"I have to leave." He stood on tiptoes, put the books on the counter and the briefcase on the floor before accepting the glass of orange juice from Rose.

"I'll drive you."

"No, the general sent a driver for me." He reached for the triangle of grape jelly-covered toast Rose handed to him, licking the jelly off before biting off the three points. Daniel finished the juice, stuffed the last piece of toast in his mouth then gratefully took the napkin she offered and wiped his mouth. Placing the glass on the counter, Daniel reached for his books then changed his mind and flung his arms around Rose's legs, gazing up with her with a worried look on his face.

"You'll be okay?"

"I'll be fine, mhuirnin. And you?"

The worry shifted off his face and Rose saw the hint of a smile. "I'll be fine."

"I'll clean. Cook. Do laundry. Watch TV." She gave Daniel an exaggerated wink. "I'll take your car for a drive, maybe visit—"

"You won't read anymore of the book, right? You'll wait? For me?"

"Book? Oh, the Master and—I promise. I'll wait for you. I'm sure there's an Archeological or Fishing Digest magazine that will hold my interest."

Daniel giggled.

And Rose laughed at the sound.

And Daniel giggled even louder as Rose's hands found a ticklish spot, but he abruptly stopped at the sound of a horn honking. Embarrassed, he let go of Rose's legs, slid his books off the counter, and picked up his briefcase. "I'll call you."


Daniel had forgotten his lunch. No, wait, that was wrong. Rose had forgotten to give him the lunch she'd made for him and she stood at the front door, bag in one hand, car keys in the other, feeling pretty damn stupid. What did she think she was going to do? Run to his work at Cheyenne Mountain, wave the brown paper bag under someone's nose and have them call Daniel so she could hand it to him? Chastised by the mere visual of her being an overbearing parent, Rose dropped the keys on the counter and slunk back into the kitchen to place the bag in the fridge.


"Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel looked up from the notes. "General Hammond, sir."

Daniel had begun working the minute he'd entered the SGC. Protocol probably would have been to attend a face-to-face briefing with the general, but he'd figured the cryptic information he'd received over the phone, as well as the notes on his desk, should have been enough. Obviously he'd been wrong. "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't realize that—"

Very carefully, General Hammond cleared a space on Daniel's desk and put down a mug of hot chocolate with a handful of marshmallows and a sprinkling of chocolate shavings. He pulled over a stool and sat down.

Warily, Daniel eyed the steaming mug.

"It's for you." Hammond pushed aside a few more papers and steered the mug even closer to Daniel. "Progress?"

The chill in the mountain just seemed, well, chillier, and Daniel wrapped his hands around the mug for warmth. "Gumara, the Triwan gentlemen from PR4X31 was very forthcoming with information, though it did take a bit of convincing that I was able to—" Daniel looked at the expression on Hammond's face and skipped a handful of points. "I'm making progress, sir." He threw a finger up, halting the general's interruption. "I more than understand that time is running out, but I'm truly making progress. Doctors Whitney and Scavo are with him now in the VIP room, taping the actual succession of words—" Daniel took a sip of hot chocolate, then picked up a marshmallow in a pincher grip and shoved it in his mouth. "I know you may not believe this, General, but the Triwans are a peaceful people. The fact that they've sent an emissary who is more than willing—"

"SG-9 is going to be executed by sunrise."

"I haven't lost track of that fact, sir," Daniel replied indignantly. "I'm just saying they don't wish SG-9 to come to any harm, and have sent Gumara to assist us in locating the faux pas that SG-9 had the misfortune—"

"Misfortune, Doctor Jackson? All four members of SG-9 have been locked away in a prison with a death sentence hanging over their heads. I would say misfortune would be an understatement."

"I'm making progress."

Hammond stood. "Drink your hot chocolate before it gets cold." He made it to the door before turning. "Doctor Jackson... son, I know that we'd discussed you only working from home, but this situation demanded someone with your expertise." The general paused.

"I'll let you know the minute..."

"Carry on." Abruptly, the general exited Daniel's office.

General Hammond still had faith in him, no matter what size he was.


The control room was all whoops and hollers when SG-9 came down the ramp. Daniel had found their translation error with fifty-eight minutes to spare and had carefully penned a letter of apology and handed it to Gumara, who'd accepted it with a bow and disappeared through the 'gate. Twenty minutes later SG-9 dialed home.

Daniel was perched on his knees watching the excitement through the window, the adrenaline rush dissipating with every congratulations and pat on his back. He was fading fast and he needed to get away before he made a fool of himself by drooling and snoring all over the control panel.


Janet was pissed, and when things calmed down, the general was going to get an earful. The infirmary was fully staffed and waiting for SG-9. Janet, at the moment, was more concerned with a Daniel who was trying very hard not to pass out from exhaustion in the control room.

"Hey," she said softly, bending into his line of vision.

He blinked at her, rubbing his nose. "SG-9's home." Daniel stated the obvious with the barest hint of a smile.

"I know." She rubbed his arm in congratulations.

"I have a briefing to attend." Daniel gazed around the control room "I think the general—"

"Knows you need to get some sleep," she said, finishing the sentence.

Janet had stopped by Daniel's office periodically throughout the day, into the night and into the early morning hours, watching him work, feeding him, making sure he checked in with Rose, though the last few phone calls Janet had made, telling her that Daniel was under her watchful eye and would be spending the night at the mountain. Rose hadn't been happy. Unlike her son, she didn't have a poker attitude with regard to her emotions, but Janet would grovel later. Daniel was past tired, his adult brain had shut down, leaving behind a child's confusion. She offered him her hand. "How about I take you somewhere where you can close your eyes for a little while?"

"Just a little while," he said, ignoring her hand.


Janet was tired, her shift should've been over hours ago, but she couldn't leave Daniel. He'd gotten lost in the need to bring SG-9 to safety. No one, including Daniel, had been watching out for him. Except her.

He was asleep on his feet, swaying as Janet ran her passkey through the reader to unlock the door to a VIP suite. "Come on," she said with a gentle tug to his arm.

Daniel halted at the opened door, a look of panic slowly spreading over his face. "Rose?" He tugged Janet backwards.

"All taken care of, honey."

"She's not mad? I told her..."

Janet swept a lock of hair of Daniel's forehead, and lied. "Of course she's not mad." Maybe it wasn't a lie, Rose wasn't mad at Daniel, though Janet was damn sure she and the general were going to get an earful from Rose about the care and feeding of a six-year-old Daniel.

Steering him away from the bed, Janet tried not to notice the tears hugging the corners of Daniel's eyes.

"Please. I just want to sleep. You bring me—"

"Bathroom first. Brush your teeth. Wash your face."

He headed off the bathroom with a snort of displeasure, closing the door forcefully in her face.


One part of his mind was strenuously objecting to Janet undressing him for bed. Unbuttoning his shirt, removing his shoes, pulling off his pants, but another part of his body cooperated as a limp toy, too tired to do anything, and more than grateful someone else was at the helm. Stripped down to his boxers and tee, he curled up in bed and snuggled under the covers.

He turned his face upward, smiling into the heat of the Egyptian sun. He clenched and unclenched his toes in the sand under his bare feet, doing a dance of pure happiness. His parents were just a few feet away and he waved enthusiastically, his happiness fading when they didn't acknowledge his greeting. Daniel ran to where they were only to find them further away. A game. This was a game? He waved again and ran to their current location only to find they'd moved even further out of reach. The pain slammed into his guts as he went to open his mouth and call out their names.

The Egyptian sand morphed into an all too familiar sterile environment. Cold leeched into his every pore and he growled in anger, fighting the restraints that held him to the table. "Enough," he yelled, his spittle finding its mark on the alien standing closest to him, who, for some strange reason, appeared disappointed. Daniel stopped and stared. They all appeared to be disappointed. "What?" he hissed, bucking his hips, "sorry I'm not dead?"

Elongated fingers skimmed across Daniel's chest and his heart began to beat wildly, painfully, feeling as it was ready to burst from his chest, but still the expressions of the beings hovering around him didn't change.

Nausea was building, even though Daniel was damn sure there was nothing but bile in his stomach. Groaning, he slammed his mouth shout, wishing he could just massage his aching stomach or curl into a ball. The nausea came in waves, painful and cramping, until his whole world centered on the agony. His concern for Jack, Teal'c and Sam faded into the background and the faces gazing down at him melted away, leaving Daniel's focus only on the pain, the restraints and the hopelessness.


He hit the floor with a thud, struggling against the covers trapping him. Frantically, he pushed the binding blanket off his body, then stumbled towards the bathroom, keeping his stomach contents under control until he hit the toilet, and then nothing. The phantom pain and nausea disappeared, leaving him standing, shivering and blinking in the harsh light of the bathroom, feeling stupid.

Grabbing his covers on the way back to bed, he stopped, gazed at the bed, then realized there was no way in hell he wanted to go back in there. He yawned, rubbing his eyes. The problem was, he was still tired. Plucking the pillow away from the mattress, he dragged the blanket and the pillow over to the table and chairs in the suite. He tucked the pillow against the arm of the chair, then squeezed his body into the space reserved for someone's ass. Shifting once, twice, until he found a position that was comfortable, with the blanket over his head and his arms pressed against his stomach.


He woke to Janet staring at him with concern.

"You look tired," he commented, throwing the ball into Janet's court before she had a chance to reprimand him.

Putting down the tray she was carrying, she gave Daniel a shake of her head. "I wouldn't talk, Daniel, have you looked in the mirror?"

He snorted. "Not recently. I'm too short."

Janet tried to hold back a smile and lost the battle.

Ignoring her smile, he scrabbled up onto his knees and grabbed a plate of pancakes, taking two of the four and flipping them onto the other plate. "Too much," he said, flooding his two with syrup.


Daniel hadn't realized how hungry he was and he was almost sorry he'd given Janet two of his pancakes.

"Did you hear what I said, Daniel?"

"No," he answered honestly, running his fingers though the pool of syrup on his plate.

"General Hammond wants to see you after breakfast."

Daniel drew a glyph in the syrup. "I want to go home. Rose must be wondering where the heck I am."

"I know you do, honey, but he needs to see you first."

"Of course," Daniel replied harshly, scrubbing his hand with a napkin, picking at the pieces that adhered to the stickiness of the syrup on his fingers.


He sat yoga style on the chair in the general's office, waiting for him to finish a briefing with SG-5. The door between the two rooms was slightly ajar, and Daniel cocked his head, listening impatiently. Daniel was playing a game on his cell phone when General Hammond walked in.

"Doctor Jackson."

Reluctantly, Daniel turned off the game and flipped the cell phone shut. "I never knew there were games on this." He waved the tiny phone at the General. "And you can get even more levels if you download the extended versions from the internet." He noticed the expression of tolerance on his CO's face and his voice trailed off. He shoved the cell into his pocket. "Sorry, sir, I'm sure you're not interested in an extended version of Bejeweled."

"Can't say that I am, son, but this will be quick." Hammond leaned forward. "I didn't get a chance to thank you—"

"I was just doing my job. Actually," Daniel said, focusing on a loose thread on his pants, "I should be thanking you."

Hammond's brow tugged downward in puzzlement. "I don't understand."

"For believing in me, no matter what my size. That means a lot to me—" He picked at the thread. "Faith is a powerful motivator."


Daniel waved at the airman who'd dropped him off, fitting his key into the lock, turning it and pushing on the door, allowing his laptop case and books to slide to the floor before walking into Rose's waiting arms.

He smothered a sleep-deprived giggle into Rose's shoulder.

"What's so funny, mhuirnin?"

Daniel shrugged, his giggles intensifying.


"Understatement." He stepped back, wiping away the tears under his eyes, and exhaled loudly, then rolled his eyes. "Sometimes this body betrays me... I used to be able to get by on very little sleep."

Rose shook her head. "Did you ever think that maybe you're betraying this body?"

"I was here first," Daniel replied indignantly. "Big me. Thirty-nine year old me."

Rose rubbed his belly. "First the thirty-nine year old you had to go through the six-year-old you to get to be—"

Daniel held up his hand. "I'm too tired to follow this line of reasoning." He walked away and then came back and kissed her cheek. "I'm taking the thirty-nine year old and the six-year-old into the shower."

Rose grabbed his hand and kissed the palm. "Make sure you both remember to wash behind your ears."


By dinnertime, Daniel was pissed. Rose had dragged him around the house all day, tired as he was, making him help her prepare a marinade for dinner. Sandwiches for lunch. Work in the garage sorting through the recyclables. Do laundry. Scrub potatoes. Every time he got near the couch or a chair, she would either call him or literally drag his ass up. So by the time they actually sat down for dinner, he was cranky and tired.

"Don't just stare at your food, eat it."

Daniel crossed his arms over his chest.

"Oh." Rose cut a piece of roast beef. "Cranky and tired?"

He sneered at her.

"Hmmmm," Rose hummed after she put her fork into her mouth. "Heavenly. You know, you really should—do you need me to cut up your food for you?"

Daniel growled as he picked up his knife and fork, slicing slowly through the meat, dragging it across the mound of mashed potatoes and gravy before his forkful found its way into his mouth. He made it halfway through his plate, eating on autopilot before Rose took pity on him.

"I'm going to run you a nice bath; you can clean off the table."

Daniel gazed at her through narrowed eyes, unsure if he was too exhausted or too pissed to start an argument about child labor laws.


Begrudgingly, he cleaned the table. Put dishes in the sink and stuck his finger in his mouth when he cut it on the serrated edge of the tin foil box. He pulled the stool over, rinsed off the dishes, put them in the drain board, then stuck them in the dishwasher, wrapping a paper napkin around the still bleeding slice on his finger.

"You didn't need to clean the whole table, Daniel, honey," Rose said from the doorway. "Just the table, I would've done the rest."

"You're welcome." Daniel jumped off the stool, shoved it to the side and stomped past Rose into the bathroom.


Didn't make a difference how old he was, Daniel loved taking a bath. Many times in his life, water had been a luxury, and he was always appreciative of the ability to stretch out in the tub and just revel in the pure simplicity of a bath. The tub was filled to the top with bubbles and Daniel slid down, letting them cover his chest and tickle his chin. Pursing his lips and blowing, he created a path of bubbles in front of him with bubble mountains on either side. Cool.

Skimming his hands over the bubbles, he formed waves and allowed his fingers to surf along the bubbles. Wiggling his toes, Daniel had to honestly admit how much better he fit in Jack's tub now that he was downsized. He slid down under the water, then popped back up, sputtering as he gathered all the bubbles in the tub up to him and began to construct a beard and mustache. Building pyramids out of the white stuff was next on the agenda, and he was just putting the finishing touches on the Sphinx when Rose's knock on the door interrupted his concentration.


"Water getting cold?" Her voice was muffled through the closed door.

Angrily, Daniel slapped the water, splattering the bubbles everywhere. The water hadn't been cold until Rose had mentioned it and now it was so uncomfortable, Daniel could feel goose bumps traveling up his arms. "I'm getting out now."

"There are towels on top of the radiator along with a clean pair of sweats."

Daniel jumped out of the water and lunged for the warm towels, uncaring of the water trail he left in his wake. A bath towel engulfed him as a kid and it felt damn good to snuggle into its warmth. Dropping it to the floor, he picked up a second and let the towel leech all the moisture from his body without even making an effort to dry himself.

Reluctantly, he dropped towel number two on the floor and slipped into the sweats, wiggling in joy as their heat soaked into his body.

Using his bare feet, he scrubbed the towels along the floor to clean up the puddles, then holding the sodden towels at arm's length, he dropped them into the dirty laundry. He grabbed the socks draped over the radiator, but didn't put them on, worried that the not completely dry floor and bath mat would make the socks all squishy. He let the water out of the tub, then opened the bathroom door, shivering at the blast of air conditioning.

Daniel shuffled into the living room and Rose patted the couch. He walked over slowly, then sat, leaning into her as he put on his socks. She opened the book with one hand and with her free hand, pulled down the afghan and wrapped it around Daniel.

She began to read, and part of Daniel, the part that was tired from lack of sleep and relaxed from the bath, cuddled closer to Rose and overpowered the thirty-nine year old part of his psyche that was objecting to him sitting on the couch with his lover's mother, allowing her to read him a bedtime story.


Daniel forced his mind elsewhere. Millions of light years and a lot of years away from an alien planet that believed torturing him would be their entertainment for the day. Egypt was nice. A whole lot nicer and he spun his wheel of memories, a little put out when it stopped on the day of his eighth birthday. Deeply into his subconscious, he buried the fact that his parents would be dead in a few months, and reveled in the smiles on his parents' faces as they watched in anticipation as he opened his gifts. An adult set of archeological tools. A new journal. A Mont Blanc pen like his dad used. Drawing pencils and a sketchbook. A chocolate cake. Candles. His happiness created a cocoon around his body, shielding him from the alien's onslaught against his body.


Daniel lasted all of two pages into the book, but Rose gave it one more page, her voice slowing down then stopping all together at the gentle, even breathing. Closing the book, she stuck it into the couch cushions.

Daniel's whimper drew her attention.


"Fine." He nodded, pulling the blanket up to his shoulders.

"I'm glad one of us is, mhuirnin." Well aware that settling in was the wrong thing to do, Rose threw caution to the wind and made herself comfortable. She really should be dragging Daniel to bed, but she couldn't, not just yet.

Her faith, while misguided and misplaced at times had been her companion her whole life. Faith would bring her son and his friends home alive, because at this juncture in her life, she refused to contemplate the alternative.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," she whispered, fingers gently tracing the rounded cheeks. "But just for a little while, I'm going to enjoy your childhood, okay?" He was deep enough asleep to offer no protest when she pulled his hand from under the blanket and studied the little fingers, t'sking in sympathy at the cut on his pointer finger. It had been years since she'd held a little child's hand in hers, or been loved and trusted enough to feel the weight of a sleeping child, or been able to run fingers through hair as soft as spun gold, or to be close enough to inhale the scent of a just bathed child. Rose's face bore more wrinkles, her eyes required bifocals, an occasional liver spot graced her hands which shook with age, her joints ached, and her heart hurt with loved ones that had moved on, but this, right here, felt good. Too good. Like coming home. The only problem, this wasn't home. This was a facade. Daniel wasn't Charlie, but he was still a child in part, and he needed love and security. And her. Suddenly the years stripped away, like a stupid cartoon calendar, and Rose felt not only decades younger, but she felt needed.

Daniel tucked Rose's hand into his and dragged it under the afghan, plastering it against his heart. He smiled deeply in his sleep, highlighting a well-hidden dimple that age and heartbreak usually hid.


Daniel was dead to the world. Little as he was, he was still too heavy for Rose to carry and she couldn't even rouse him enough to guide him towards his bedroom, so she tucked the afghan tightly around him and under the couch cushions, securing him. She kissed his cheek, then grinned through a curtain of tears when he snuck a hand from under the blanket and caressed the area she'd kissed with a sigh of contentment and a hint of a smile.


He seemed none the worse for wear. Daniel was chatty this morning, all nervous energy, tapping his finger on the bowl while he swung his legs and stirred his cereal into a whirlpool of colors.

"That's not really breakfast."

Daniel looked at the bowl, and he honestly seemed shocked at the contents. "It's Fruit Loops," he accused Rose, as if she'd poured a bowl's worth of the sickeningly colored rings for breakfast and forced him to eat. "I'm not hungry." Hurriedly, he jumped off the chair, wiped his mouth and seemed to be on a mission to exit the kitchen in record time.

Rose might be old, but her reflexes were still pretty damn good and she stuck out her hand and grabbed Daniel's arm before he left. "What's your hurry?" She pointed to the bowl on the table. "I'll make you something else."

He stared at her hand, the bowl and the way out of the kitchen. "I have work to do. I had information emailed to me—General Hammond called this morning—"

"I didn't hear the phone ring."

"It rang. I was already in the kitchen and got it on the first ring so it wouldn't wake you." He gave an imperceptible tug on his arm, his brow furrowing in confusion when Rose refused to release him.

"What time was this?"


"Daniel," Rose said glancing over her shoulder at the microwave clock, "it's eight now... I've been up since seven thirty—just how early was this call?"


"You said that already."

"Six thirty. General Hammond wanted to make sure that I was aware of the files being emailed to me. As a matter of fact, a courier is coming to drop off paperwork that goes along with the files."

Rose huffed. "I would have thought that the general would understand maybe you would need some time. First he tells you to stay home. Then he orders you—" Rose shut Daniel's objection up with a stern glance. "Orders you," she repeated, "to go back to work. Then sends you home. Then calls you at an ungodly hour to tell you there's more work on the way—does he think you're a human yo-yo?"


"I have a good mind to call him up—"

"Rose!" Daniel's voice held more than a hint of hysteria.


"I lied."

She dropped his arm, rubbing the spot she'd held. "You don't have work to do?"

Suddenly the tiled floor between Daniel's feet held an enormous amount of interest.


He shrugged.

"What did you lie about, mhuirnin?"

"I called the general."


Daniel nodded, his gaze drifting over to the throw rug by the sink.


"I forgot about Jack yesterday."

Gently, Rose rested her hand on the bowed head. "They all were there in your heart, Daniel, you just needed to get a job done. They understand."

He raised his head and her hand fell to his shoulder. "I don't understand. I shouldn't be thinking of other things, I should be doing what I can to—" He fell silent when Rose squeezed his shoulder a little harder.

"So you called the general," Rose said, derailing his train of guilt. "What did he say?" The tears were instantaneous and Rose felt her own eyes fill in response. "Daniel?" Surely, Janet would have called her, the general wouldn't have given bad news to a little Daniel.

"They haven't heard from Jacob—Sam's dad."

"Maybe he—"

"It's taking so long. Too long."

"As long as they come home, I don't care how long it takes, Daniel. Me. You. We can do this."

"No. No." Daniel said, quickly throwing his arms around Rose and hugging her. "You're right, it's okay. It'll be fine. I'm sorry I made you worry."

She hugged him back, then pried Daniel's arms from around her and made him stand directly in her line of vision. "We're here for each other. Okay? Do you think you can remember that?"

"It's hard," he confessed. "Not you being here, but me being this size and relying on other people. I hate having to depend on others."

"I know you do and I know that my being here is a double edged sword."

He grabbed her hand and held it tightly, opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it and just smiled instead. "I wasn't lying about the work. It helps me knowing General Hammond still believes I'm Daniel."


Rose dusted. She vacuumed and wondered if Daniel thought she only saw him as a child. Throwing in a load of laundry, she pondered her role in all of this and if she truly saw Daniel. While folding the towels, she came to the conclusion that there had to be a happy medium in all of this. Somewhere, somehow, everyone involved with Daniel, including Daniel himself, had to meet the needs of both the child and the adult.


"Look what I found." Rose planted the floppy stuffed camel on the keyboard in front of Daniel. "Lumpy."

"Lumpy." Daniel stroked the neck. "Thanks. Where did you find him?"

"In the closet. Stuck in a corner, actually." She patted the stuffed toy's head. "I figured he could use a friend."

Daniel awkwardly handled Lumpy, moving him from hand to hand and Rose felt just as awkward as Daniel, sorry that she'd brought the toy out.

"How about if I just put him on your bed?"

Nodding emphatically, he handed the toy to Rose who put him at the head of Daniel's bed.

"Safekeeping, okay."



She dragged him out of his room for lunch, and she was a little surprised that he came willingly. Sitting on his knees on one of the chairs, he tucked into the tuna sandwich with a voracity that made Rose smile. He picked off the crust and tore each half of the sandwich in half again. He used his fingers to pick off any tuna that had escaped from the sandwich, stuffing it into his mouth.

He probably would have licked the plate if Rose hadn't stopped him. "Save room for dinner. Janet's going to be joining us."

"Oh." Daniel's plate clattered back to the table. "Why?"

"Why not?"

"Just checking to make sure she doesn't have an ulterior motive."

"She's your friend."

"And in her eyes I'm a child first and Doctor Jackson second, so I think it's fair for me to ask if there's an ulterior motive to her having dinner here."

"I invited her. Is that a problem?"

"No." Daniel traced the diameter of the plate. "No problem. I'm sorry."

"You're going to play nice, aren't you?"

Daniel stuck his tongue out at Rose in response.


Once the courier dropped the file off after lunch, Daniel disappeared. Again. Though his door was open and Rose could hear mutterings and humming as she passed in the hallway, he was one with whatever research he was submerged with and felt no need to be sociable.

She was just about to call him into the kitchen to help with setting the table when he appeared by her side, Lumpy tucked under his arm. "Nice of you two to join me."

Daniel put Lumpy on the counter and pushed him towards Rose. "He was in the closet for a reason, you know."

"How would I have known, Daniel, Lumpy can't talk."

"Very funny."

"Watch the attitude, mister."

He apologized, but Rose was pretty positive he wasn't sorry.

Rose picked up Lumpy and cradled him in her arms. "Would you care to share before I stick him back into the closet?"

"The Daniel that Jack gave the toy to was luckier than I am."

Oh, crap. Rose O'Neill had done it again, stuck her nose somewhere where it shouldn't have been. Lowering the flame under the sauce, then placing Lumpy on the counter, she grabbed Daniel's hand, tugging him towards a kitchen chair. Sitting, she pulled him into her lap. "Why was Lumpy's original owner luckier than you?"

"He was an adult in size but not up here." Daniel tapped his forehead. "He didn't remember what he'd lost. I'm an adult in my head, but not in size, and I remember it all. Everything. All of it."

"So that other Daniel, he had the better deal?"

Daniel nodded. "So you understand?"

Rose hugged Daniel closer. She really wasn't sure if Daniel was conveying that he was jealous of the other Daniel or that Lumpy was a reminder of a painful period in Daniel's life, either way, she would abide by his wishes and make the camel do another disappearing act. Glancing over to where Lumpy sat on the counter, Rose was trying to comprehend why she felt incredibly guilty about sending the toy into hiding.

With a kiss to the top of his head, Rose gently pushed Daniel off her lap. "How about you set the table and take out the ingredients for salad, and I'll just put Lumpy back where he came from?"


Daniel was acting weird when Janet came to dinner. Rose couldn't put her finger on but if she were to describe his behavior, the first word that came to mind would be 'clingy'. He hung onto Rose, shadowing her every step, glaring at Janet as if she'd become the enemy. It was confusing Rose, and based on Janet's expression, she wasn't only confused, she was hurt.

"Daniel," Rose said as she handed him a tray with coffee mugs, spoons, napkins and dessert plates. "Why don't you bring this into the living room, Janet and I will bring dessert in as soon as the coffee is done."

"Rose," he whined, glancing at Janet. "Why don't we bring it all in together?" He slid the tray onto the table and sat back down. "I can wait."

Janet smiled at Rose. "I'm just going to go to the bathroom, I'll be right back. Excuse me."

Rose was grateful for Janet's exit, thankful that she was giving her the privacy to get to the bottom of Daniel's behavior. "Would you care to explain?"

Daniel began to fold the napkins on the tray. "I figured me, you and Janet would go into the living room together."

"That's not what I mean, and you know it, Daniel. You're too smart for this."

"The first time I was eight, when my parents died, I had no choice where I ended up. I don't want that to happen again."

"Jack's coming home, Daniel."

Daniel used the napkin in his hand to wipe away his tears. "You don't know that."

Rose placed her hand over his. "I don't know it, but I believe it. I have to believe it."

"I'm out of faith, Rose."

Rose's heart broke. "I won't let anything happen to you, Daniel. I'll stay. Forever." Rose refused to mention the reason she'd take up permanent residence would be because Jack would be gone. "Janet's not here to take you away."


"She doesn't have to promise, Daniel," Janet said from the doorway. "I'm here just to have dinner. Enjoy an evening with friends who are going to keep me company because Cassie isn't home. There is no ulterior motive. This is your home and Rose is your family."

"You're my family, too, Janet," Daniel said softly.

"I'm glad. I love you, you know."

Daniel nodded. "Me, too." He slid off the chair, clean napkin in hand and handed it to Janet. "I think you need this."

"No, this is what I need." She grabbed Daniel and hugged him. He squealed in delighted surprise and Janet winked over his head at Rose, who winked back at her.


He managed a big piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk, then excused himself. The cake had made him uncomfortably full, and he gave in to the lethargic feeling of stuffiness and yawned hugely.

Toeing off his shoes, he sat on the chair in his room and powered up his computer. Basically, he just needed to read over his notes before sending them over to General Hammond.



He jerked when she laid a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, Janet." He rubbed his eyes as if she were an apparition. "Sorry, I got caught up—"

Squeezing his shoulder, she leaned in and dropped a kiss to his cheek before he could pull away. "I just wanted to say goodbye."

"Goodbye," he echoed. "About before—"

"I'm your friend, Daniel, and I'm always here if you need me, but your place is with Rose." Janet descended on him again for a large sloppy kiss to his cheek.

"Janet," he whined, feeling himself blush as he wiped away her handiwork. "Please."

"I can lick my finger and get rid of that little lipstick smudge I left behind, do you want me—"

"Ewww. No. Back away from the archeologist. Go. Shoo." He slid to the opposite end of the chair, gazing up at her in horror, his blush deepening when he realized she was only pulling his leg. "Poor Cassie," he lamented, with a shake of his head. "Do you make her life a living hell as well?"

"I'm a mother," Janet preened, smiling. "That's what I live for." Her smile slipped a bit. "Don't work too late, okay? And tomorrow? Go out and have fun with Rose."

His arm swept the work on this desk. "I need to finish—"

"You need to listen to me. Enjoy your day, doctor's orders."


It wasn't that late, but obviously it was late enough and Daniel should have known better than to get involved in the second set of files, but the pictures of the obelisks with the cuneiform writing had been too entrancing to wait until tomorrow. Problem was, he kept nodding off at the keyboard. Not even ten thirty, he was pissed that it was still early, and this body was refusing to allow him to push it past its limits of endurance. Even the last two lines he'd typed were absolute gibberish. He deleted it. Shut down his computer and pouted in the privacy of his room. The thirty-nine year old part of his brain was still awake and working. The six-year-old portion of his brain had had enough for the day and was holding his thirty-nine year old intelligence hostage until it had some sleep.

He'd compromise. He set his alarm for a three am wake up call, then stuck it under his pillow, so the shrill beeping in the middle of the night wouldn't wake up Rose. The six-year-old would have a nap, a long enough stretch of sleep to keep him happy and quiet.


"Goodnight." He'd found Rose down in the den, watching a gardening show on TV and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

"Goodnight, Daniel," she said distractedly, her gaze fixed on the TV screen. "I'll be in bed as soon as this is over."


He dreamed of Jack. A younger Jack, who didn't live with him. Or with Rose, but with Sara and a little boy who Daniel recognized as Charlie, in a house that wasn't familiar to him at all. He stood to the side, an awkward intruder, watching a family interact. Jack looked at Daniel and waved, and Daniel waved back but stayed on the porch, smiling and motioning for Jack to continue his game of catch with Charlie. Jack shrugged, but didn't motion him forward, not that Daniel would've gone anyway, because the scene before him didn't call for Daniel at all. He was a guest here. A voyeur to Jack's happiness.

He sat down and watched, soaking in the family normalcy, so intent on studying the three of them that he didn't even notice the stranger who stepped from the house and made himself comfortable next to Daniel.

"Hi, son."


"Nice family, huh?"

The inflection, the set of the eyes, the shape of the face were all familiar, but it was the smile that tipped Daniel off. "They look very happy, Mr. O'Neill."

"They are. That Charlie boy has made me and my wife feel young again." He shouted and hooted. "Nice throw, Charlie." The older man shook his head, his smile broadening. "Check out Jonathan, my Rose and I were worried about him, never believing he'd smile again. Came back all broken from what those bastards did to him. We were scared. Really scared." Leaning forward, he pulled a white handkerchief from his back pocket and hid his tears by loudly blowing his nose.

Charlie's laughter at one of Jack's antics rang clearly in the spring day. "A child's laughter has amazing healing properties."

"I can see that," Daniel agreed with a nod. This was a Jack he'd never seen. Carefree and younger without the galaxy's fate resting on his shoulders and where the only snakes Jack had ever heard of were the ones that lived on Earth. Daniel was saddened that this Jack was lost to him forever.

The front screen door banged open and an impatient voice overrode the laughter on the lawn. "Dinner's in five. Charlie, come in here and wash your hands and face—Johnny, you, too—" Rose looked down and smiled. "Hi, Daniel."

"Rose." This was a Rose without the pain of loss and sorrow. Not young, but not sad, either. A Rose who was unaware of the deaths and sorrows that awaited her family.

"Staying for dinner? There's more than enough."

"No, Rose, but thanks."

Jack's father stood, pocketed his handkerchief, then went to Rose and put an arm around her waist. Pulling her close, his kiss to her neck elicited a girlish giggle. "I was just telling the young man—"

"No need to tell Daniel anything," Rose said, "he sees it all, don't you, mhuirnin?"

"I see how happy Jack is. How content. He's very lucky."

"At this moment in time, we all are," Rose said, resting her head on her husband's shoulder. She winked at Daniel as if sharing a private joke. "Daniel knows to enjoy the good times while you can, because before you know it, happiness is gone in a blink of an eye."


An annoying, persistent muffled sound tugged Daniel from the company of family and the warmth of a spring day. "Rose," he whispered, still trying to hold onto the dream, but the alarm had other ideas and continued its jarring buzzing. Snaking his hand under the pillow, he found the right switch and the sound stopped. Daniel turned onto his back and stared upward into the darkness, sorry that he'd set the alarm. The dream was lost. Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to return to the O'Neill's front yard, but there was nothing there. Just darkness. Disheartened, Daniel put the alarm clock back on the night table, got up, turned on his computer and sat down to work.


The thrill of the hunt was gone and Daniel just plowed through the translation. The files that had piqued his interest last evening were flat and boring in the early morning hours. His head hurt and his eyes burned, but Daniel refused to give in, punishing his thirty-nine year old self for setting the alarm.

By five thirty he'd finished the work and the promising cuneiforms on the obelisks turned out to be nothing but disappointing mile markers. Frustrated and unhappy, he crawled into bed and shut his eyes. Then opened them. Then shut them. Counted to ten in English. Then in Abydonian. Greek. Ancient Greek. Latin.

Grumbling, he threw the covers aside. Admitting defeat, he crept out of his room and into Jack's room, where Rose was sleeping on her back, snoring loudly. He tiptoed over to the closet and cautiously opened the closet door, and stepped inside. Patting around the floor, he found what he was looking for, then rolled his eyes at the item. He tucked the treasure under his arm, then reversed his footsteps until he was finally back in his room.

Exhaling loudly, and feeling more than a tad stupid, he crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up over his and Lumpy's shoulders. "I hope you're happy," he snarled at the aloof toy, settling them both down to sleep with a growl of exasperation.


Rose had slept later than normal. She'd gotten sucked into the gardening show, which unbeknownst to her had been running a marathon which ended around two in the morning. The house was quiet, and she was more than a little embarrassed that she'd slept past nine in the morning. She brushed her teeth, washed her face and ran fingers through her mop of hair. Hopefully, Daniel had helped himself to a bowl of cereal for breakfast.

But there was no cereal bowl in the sink, or a sign of a spoon or any evidence that Daniel had eaten breakfast. She felt incredibly guilty and an apology was already on her lips when she opened the door to his bedroom. For a split second, and it was only for a second, she was positive, time blurred and the child in the bed was her grandchild, and in the moment in time, her heart swelled with pride and love. Charlie was under the covers, fast asleep and the stuffed animal sitting guard on his pillow was his favorite brown teddy bear, Harold. It didn't make a difference that she was older, and the house was neither Charlie's home nor hers, all she could focus on during this wrinkle in time was that she was going to be able to hold her grandson one more time. Hug him and tell him that she loved him. But the magic was lost in Rose's confusion when Charlie stretched, reached for Lumpy, then dragged the stuffie under the covers.

"Oh," she said, covering her mouth with her hand, smothering her grief. Charlie didn't have a camel, Charlie had a bear; a brown Harold bear that was buried with him on a hill under a tree in a cemetery.


Her hand shook as she poured herself a cup of tea, and more of the hot liquid ended up on the counter than in the mug. Is that how she saw Daniel? A replacement for Charlie? A second chance? Another go round? How unfair was that? To Daniel and to Charlie's memory.

Balancing the plate with one hand and the cup with the other, she shuffled over to the table and sat down, gazing through the glass doors to the garden beyond the deck. Maybe what she'd seen had been a gentle push, more than a sign, for her to show Daniel a happy childhood than it had been to show Rose what she'd lost when Charlie died.

"I think we both overslept."

Rose looked over her shoulder at the sleep-mussed Daniel, standing next to her, still in pajamas and barefoot. His face wore the temporary scars of pillow and blanket creases and his hair was pointing to various corners of the kitchen, but she made no comment about Lumpy, who was tucked under this arm. "Oversleeping would be an understatement, it's almost lunch time."

"Brunch," Daniel yawned, then climbed into her lap and settled in, resting his head on her chest and settling Lumpy against his stomach.

Rose hesitated and her arms hung in mid-air, unsure. "Brunch," she repeated, playing it safe and giving Daniel just a one armed back rub.

"Too late for breakfast. Too early for lunch. Brunch. My treat." Curling up tighter against her, Daniel didn't give the impression he would be moving any time soon. "Movie?"


Daniel looked up at Rose and shook his head. "I'm asking you out on a date, woman. Brunch and a movie. I pay." His brow furrowed in confusion. "That's a date, isn't it?"

Rose hugged Daniel, tightly. "Yes, it's a date."

"Was that yes it's a date or yes, for me and you going on a date?"


That was strange, and honestly, Daniel, didn't want to delve into how strange it was. Lumpy. Rose's lap. Cuddling. He'd gone into the kitchen just for breakfast, but there was something so distant and lost about Rose as she sat staring out the window, and he'd known words weren't going to make it better. Crawling into her lap, complete with Lumpy, had just seemed right. Then. In the kitchen. Now as he stood under the shower, it just seemed strange.


Brunch was delicious, though Daniel found it a bit disconcerting to order from the children's menu. Jack and he'd rarely gone out for dinner, most of their meals not cooked at home consisted of drive thru, take out menus, or eateries where Jack would leave the truck at the curb, the motor running and hurry in and out of the store.

"Good?" Rose smiled at him over the rim of her teacup.

Daniel dragged the last of his stuffed French toast through the puddle of syrup on his plate. He chewed thoughtfully, swallowed then broke out in a grin. "Delicious." He licked the prongs of his fork. Thirty-nine or six, the meal that he'd just eaten would have satiated even his sweet tooth.

"Drink your chocolate milk."


"Don't press your luck." She nodded towards his glass. "Drink your milk."

Daniel drank, scrubbing the napkin furiously across his face to erase any sign of a milk mustache.

Rose smiled.

"What, did I miss a spot?" Daniel leaned back, clutching his napkin to his chest. "You're not going to lick your finger and clean my face, are you?"

"Not in a public place, I wouldn't dare, I have too much self-preservation."


Daniel and Rose exchanged glances, then both looked up at the sky, protected from the rain by the restaurant's overhang. "Was it supposed to rain?" Daniel asked, sticking his hand out into the downpour for confirmation.

"I didn't think so."

Besides the rain, the temperature had dropped and Daniel fought and failed to hide his shiver.

Rose pulled him close. "Want to go home instead of the movies?"

He didn't want to go home, but the thought of driving to the gazillion-plex movie theatre and puddle jumping through the parking lot didn't sound appealing. "Brunch was good."

"I have an idea," Rose said. "Stay here."


"Stay!" She retrieved the keys from her purse, then pulled her sweater up and over her head. "Hold this," Rose ordered, shoving her purse into Daniel's arms. "I'm going to get the car, you wait—"

"No, that's not fair."

"So when you get to be tall again, you can throw your coat over the first mud puddle you see and be my knight in shining armor."


"Valet parking?"

"Yes," Rose said. "Valet parking."

"The mall has valet parking?"

"Yes, Daniel," she sighed, "the mall has valet parking."


"Because sometimes old ladies don't want to walk halfway across the parking lot with packages. Or when there's snow. Or women with strollers, toddlers and packages. Or old ladies who have short people with them wearing no jackets and who hate walking in horrific rain storms."

"No. I meant why are we at the mall?" Daniel hated the mall, and not just a little. A whole lot. Enough to give him a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach as the guy came over and opened the door to the Thunderbird.

"Wow, nice car." He whistled, popping his head in.

"Be careful," Daniel growled.

"Sure, kiddo," the guy laughed. "I'll make sure I'll take good care of your grandma's car."


"Get over it, Daniel." Rose ran her fingers through her hair.

"He called you my grandmother." Daniel wiped away the moisture from the glass door where they were standing and peered out into the rain. "He better be careful of my car."


"You never answered my question." Daniel dug in his heels and didn't move, even though Rose kept tugging on his shirt. "What are we doing in the mall? I don't want to go to the mall. I hate the mall."

"I never would've noticed, Daniel." Rose said with a sigh of exasperation as she steered him over to a bench and sat. "You've complained enough and we've barely been here ten minutes."

Daniel sat an arm's length away from Rose and began to swing his feet, stopping suddenly, embarrassed that everyone could see they didn't reach the floor. "Why are we here?"

"You need clothes."

Daniel shook his head.

Rose pivoted to face Daniel, "Yes, you do. I wash your clothes and I keep seeing the same things over and over again, and I haven't even been here long."

"I don't need anything." He plucked at his shirt. "This is fine."

"I'm not saying it's not fine. I'm saying I'm tired of seeing you in this blue striped tee shirt."

"What's wrong with this shirt?"

"You've worn it a number of times."

"I like it."

"Did you pick it out?"



"Donations. From people that I work with. Gently used—it's okay, Rose. They're just clothes."

"But they're not your clothes."

"Clothes don't make the man." Daniel sat back in shock. "We're at the mall to go shopping? For me?" Daniel hung his head. "No," he said softly.

Rose slid across the bench. "Why?"

"Because if I buy clothes to fit this body, to hang in the closet, to fill the dresser drawers, it means permanence."

"No, it doesn't, mhuirnin, it means comfort and being able to pass on gently used clothing to someone who really needs it."

Daniel smoothed down the blue striped shirt. He hated the way it felt against his skin, rough and scratchy no matter how many times it'd gone though the wash and dry cycle and though he'd admitted to Rose that clothes didn't make the man, he'd lied. It wasn't as if he shopped based on name brands or dollar signs, Daniel bought for comfort. Tactilely feeling his way through jeans and shirts before buying them. Taking so much time that Jack had refused to shop with him. "I can pick out what I want."

"Of course you can."

"I don't want any kids' shirts." Daniel plucked the front of his shirt. "Nothing with super heroes or Disney characters or cute little sayings."


"My clothes, my money." Daniel insisted on withdrawing money from the ATM, it was easier to have the cash on hand than to try to explain to a clerk why a six-year-old had either a debit or an American Express Platinum card.

"Here, it probably looks a little more normal if you pay for whatever I buy." He handed Rose a wad of twenties. "I took out five hundred dollars. I wasn't sure if that would be enough." He slipped the ATM card back into a tiny wallet, then looked up at Rose. "I've never bought kids' clothing before."

"Five hundred?"

"I need more? Five hundred's the limit for withdrawal in a single day."

"No. No." She stuffed the money into a side pocket inside her purse and zipped it up tightly. "I was going to say it's excessive."

Daniel winked at her. "So I'll treat you to dinner after."


First, they assessed the mall, walking endlessly up and down the corridors.

"Daniel, it's a bookstore."

"Just for a second."

"On the way back. When you're done. And please wipe your drool off the front window."

"Very funny." He glared at her and she glared right back. "I hate you," he teased.

"Go ahead inside then," she invited him with a sweeping motion of her arm. "But remember," she whispered, "I'm holding the money."


"Can I help you?" a middle-aged woman asked Rose.

"I need some clothes."

"Excuse me?" the woman said, her eyes widening as they drifted down to Daniel.

"Grandson," Rose interjected with a not so gentle squeeze to Daniel's shoulder, signaling him to keep his mouth shut and just play along. "He's very precocious." Rose ignored the evil look Daniel sent to her.

"I see. How cute is that?"



"Six. He's six," Rose interrupted, pretty sure Daniel was going to sporting bruises from her crushing fingers. They had tried three other stores, all of which Daniel had walked out of, declaring the clothes too childish. He'd refused to even step foot in any of the department stores and Rose had to threaten Daniel with no bookstore and a trip to the 99 cent store to buy clothes to even get him in here.

"He's pretty tiny for a six—"

Rose used both hands to keep Daniel in place.

"He's right here," Daniel hissed at the saleswomen. "And would prefer not to spoken about in that manner. If you want to say something to me, please address me. My stature is genetic and I can assure you that I'm going to be six foot—ow, Rose." He swatted at her hand. "That hurts."

"Your grandson calls you Rose?"

"She's not my—"

"Does there seem to be a problem here?" A younger woman came over, with glasses, frizzy hair and a pen as well as a picture dangling from her nametag.

"Do you work here?" Daniel inspected her suspiciously through narrowed eyes.

"Camille," she said, extended her hand to Daniel. "And you are?"

"Daniel Jackson." Daniel looked upwards. "And this is Rose."

"Pleased to meet you, Daniel. Rose." She shook hands with both of them. "Don't worry about it, Peggy," Camille said with a tight, dismissive nod to the put out saleswoman. "I think I can help Daniel."

"Thank you," he whispered as the woman walked away with a huff.

Experimentally, Rose lessened her death grip.

"So, do you work here?"

Camille squatted down then glanced over her shoulder. "Don't tell anyone," she whispered, "but I own this store."

Daniel looked around, nodding. "I'm impressed."

Camille laughed. "Me, too."


"Is he driving you nuts?"

Camille shook her head, showing Rose the two shirts she was holding. One in each hand. "Which one?"

To Rose, they both looked like something the adult Daniel would wear. "I think if you tell him the blue one brings out his eye color, he'll kill you."

"Yeah, I thought the grey one also. Be right back." She hung the blue shirt on the rack outside the dressing room, then knocked on the door. "See if you like this one, we have it in a few colors."

The door opened a smidgeon and a small hand came out, grabbing the hanger and shirt like a baby bird would grab a worm from their mother. "Thank you—oh nice."

"I thought you'd think so."

Rose motioned Camille over. "Thank you."

"Oh, no. Daniel's a pleasure. He knows what he wants. He's outspoken, intelligent, and of course," she said, "it doesn't hurt that he's absolutely adorable." She stopped, took a deep breath, her fingers straying across a display of folded shirts. "Daniel's got an old soul."

"Truer words were never spoken," Rose agreed.


"You were very patient with me," Daniel said solemnly, extending his hand.

"I have one more thing to show you, and if Rose wouldn't mind—"

Rose waved her hand, sitting on one of the numerous, cushioned benches around the store. "Go right ahead."

"I think you're going to like these. I haven't put them out yet and I would appreciate your opinion on these." Camille pulled a step stool from under the counter, stepped up three steps to the uppermost step, and skimmed her fingers over a stack of boxes until she found the one she wanted.

Reverently, she opened the box. "Touch this, Daniel."

Rose watched with interest as Daniel looked first towards Camille for permission before running his finger down the folded up garment.

"Oh." He touched again, his gaze bouncing between Rose and Camille. "Egyptian cotton."

Camille nodded. "I thought you'd appreciate them."

Daniel's voice sounded as if he'd discovered the eleventh wonder of the world. "Egyptian cotton pajamas?"

"Eight hundred count thread."

"Are they for sale?" Daniel glanced at his pile of clothes on the counter, probably willing to trade them all in for a pair of pajamas.


"In my size?"

"These are your size, but they're blue. Rose mentioned that you don't—"

"I don't care." Daniel reached into the box and scooped the pajamas out, hugging them to his chest.

There was a look of euphoria in his eyes, and Camille smiled at Rose, satisfied, but there was something about the intensity of Daniel's stance that was ringing all of Rose's alarm bells. "Why don't you give the PJs to Camille so she can ring up the damage?"

"Do you have another pair of these pajamas? I don't care if they're in blue."


"Thank you for shopping at my store, Daniel. Hope to see you again."

"Don't take this the wrong way," Daniel said, "you're very nice and I appreciate the time you devoted taking care of me as opposed to..." Three pairs of eyes slid in the direction of the first saleswoman who'd greeted them.

"My aunt?" Camille answered with a knowing smile. "I know, she's a bit rough around the edges."

"Thank you," Daniel continued diplomatically. "You treated me with respect and I appreciate that."

Rose took the large shopping bag off the counter and handed Daniel the smaller with the two pairs of pajamas.

"You're wise beyond your years, Daniel Jackson." Camille held the door open. "A gentlemen and a scholar, hard enough to find in someone in their thirties, a treasure in a child as young as you are."


They got as far as the promised bookstore, before Rose realized Daniel was crying. "Come here, honey." She herded him towards the nearest bench, put her packages down and sat. Daniel mimicked her actions, but didn't release his grip on his bag. "Want to talk about it?"

He just shook his head. "Just give me a moment." First he rubbed at one eye, and then the other, never relinquishing his grip on the bag, leaning away from Rose as she leaned into him. "Please."

Pulling his knees up to his chest, he crushed the bag against him. "Why don't you go into the store?"


"Please, Rose, I just need a minute."


She stood by the bookstore's magazine display, gazing through the glass, watching as Daniel composed himself. Rose observed with a hint of sadness as the six-year-old incrementally disappeared, replaced by the thirty-nine year old. Sliding off the bench, still holding the bag, he one handedly smoothed out his pants, shook out each leg then made his way towards the store. The bounce in his step was gone. The little hop skip as Daniel danced circles around her while he talked and walked was being covered up by the adult Daniel's not so great posture. The slight shoulder slump, head down, once again a caricature of a child trying to be an adult.

"Hi, Daniel."

"Find anything interesting?" He nodded towards the magazine racks.

"Thought I'd go for a magazine as opposed to a book, but there's a lot to choose from and it's kind of hard to make a choice."

"Maybe I can help."


She bought two magazines, and Daniel bought nothing, though Rose had followed him around the store for the better part of an hour, watching and just keeping her mouth shut as he picked up a book, put it down, then repeated the same thing two feet later. "Ready to leave?" Rose asked when the found themselves once again by the store's main entrance.

"Can we go home?"

"Sure. Would you like an ice cream first? Something to eat? It's been a long time since brunch."

"An ice cream."


Daniel couldn't walk, balance the ice cream and the bag at the same time, so Rose commandeered him to a bench close to the exit. He didn't just eat the ice cream; he sucked it up, licking around the plastic cup. Rose eventually placed a restraining hand on his arm. "I'll get you another one."

"It was good," Daniel said simply, getting up and throwing the cup in the garbage.

He stood by Rose, staring while she finished the rest of her treat. "I'm not sharing, Daniel, so you can just go sit until I finish."

Grumbling, he went and sat back on the bench. He wiped his hands on his pants, then stuck his right hand into the bag he was holding and pushed aside the tissue paper to finger the pajamas.


The bag sat next to him while he was in the car, once again his fingers stroking the material he'd pulled out. He was humming a song Rose was unfamiliar with, looking out the window into the still nasty day. She gave him privacy even though his sadness was burning a hole in her heart.


"Want me to help put away your new clothes?" Rose felt awkward and out of place, Daniel letting her know she wasn't wanted in his room without saying a word.

Finally, Daniel put the bag on the floor, but exchanged its comfort for a self-hug, simply shaking his head in response.

"Okay. Don't leave them in the bag, though."

"I'm going to take a shower... bath. I'm going to take a bath." And he hugged himself even tighter.


The clothes were still in the bags on the floor but Daniel was fast asleep on the bed, still involved in a self-hug. He looked uncomfortable and cold, scrunched into a tight ball on top of the covers, sockless, wearing the pajamas he'd been so enamored with.

Rose felt his cheeks and his forehead, because there was no reason besides sickness to explain why he was sleeping, but even in sleep Daniel demanded isolation, and pushed her hand away. "I get the hint, mhuirnin. Just remember," she said with a gentle sweep of hair from his forehead, "I'm not far if you need me."


Freezing. He was freezing. Naked in the sterile environment, his folded clothes in the corner were mocking him. He was exhausted, his screams reduced to mere whimpers of protest.

"Why do you fight us? This is not a battle."

"No," Daniel hissed, adamantly shaking his head, avoiding the fingers that sought a resting place on his forehead.

Confusion overtook the alien features. "Do you not want to help your friends?" The brow furrowed, deep in thought as if searching for an answer. "The ones you think of as your fa… family?"

Daniel stopped. "What's wrong? What have you done to—?"

The torturer stepped back, horrified. "We have done nothing. You came through the circle with the pain. Each of you. And we are procuring the cure."

"We. Were. Not. Sick." Daniel struggled again. "And if we're sick now it's because of something you've done. Let me see them. Before I submit to anything, I want to—"

"Why do you struggle? There will be less pain if you allow the cure to proceed naturally."

"Naturally?" Daniel squeaked. "Explain what is natural to be tied naked to a table with needles—"

"You are an intelligent being. We are intelligent beings. We wish to be allies."

"Friends do not treat friends like this."

"Your pain is of your own doing."

Frustrated, Daniel gave up. "Do what you need to do. I'm done fighting."

Instantaneously, the frigid air was swept away, replaced by warmth and sunshine. A feeling of peace and tranquility overtook Daniel. Vivid images of his childhood appeared before him and he could feel himself drawn into their seductive clutches. Enticement of happiness so close he could taste and feel it. So encompassing and overpowering that reality melted away.

"No!" Daniel screamed, pushing his voice to the limit. Seduction. Enticement. Alluring. Like Hathor's pheromones, these people were trying to control him. Saving Sam, Jack and Teal'c wouldn't come from images that were over thirty years old.

"We are truly sorry this is such a hardship for you."



She'd known he wouldn't sleep through the night, which was why she'd taken her time going to bed. Preparing a late, but light supper, watching some TV, now she was sitting on the couch, under the afghan, reading one of the magazines. "Daniel?" Rose repeated, getting the same response as when she'd called his name the first time. Nothing. Standing before her, looking right through her, shaking hard enough that she could see the tremors without even laying a finger on him. "Are you cold, mhuirnin?"

"Freezing." His teeth were chattering and his arms were tightly wrapped around his body, as if forcing his body heat to stay where it belonged.

She tossed back the knitted blanket. "Come on under."

Daniel threw himself at her, and Rose gasped at the temperature of his body. He was literally a block of ice, from the tip of his nose to his toes as he tucked himself against her. "This might help." Rose arranged the blanket around the two of them. "Better?"

He shivered against her, even as she wrapped her arms around him. "Does anything hurt?"

"I'm cold."

"I know that, honey. Anything else bothering you, your head? Throat? Ears? Stomach?"

"Don't think so."

Under the blanket she rubbed his arms, feeling the goose bumps under the soft cotton. "These PJs feel nice."

He nodded, then gave a heavy sigh, relaxing just a bit.

"Feeling better?"

"Still cold. Not as bad."

She slid her hands to his back, trying to massage the stiffness out of his muscles. "Relax. You'll warm up quicker if you relax."


Distraction might be the best way. "Don't hate me but these pajamas make your eyes bluer."

"Jack said the same thing."


"A long time ago." Daniel sighed. "Seems like a long time ago."

"Jack bought you pajamas?"

"Like these, but bigger. 'Cause I was bigger."

"Ah," Rose said, patting Daniel's back, feeling the soft cotton. All the pieces now falling into place. "You bought the pajamas because they reminded you of Jack?"

"I thought they would help. But they don't. All I feel is small and lonely when I wear them. Insignificant."

"I'm sorry."

"And I'm going to tell them I'm tired of fighting. Too exhausted," he yawned against Rose, "to fight anymore."


Daniel got up on his own about fifteen minutes later, just as Rose was prepping her body to be stiff and sore in the morning. He yawned, stretched and kissed her quickly on the cheek. "I'm going to bed." He got up, took about two steps, then turned towards Rose and smiled. "Thank you."


Daniel slept in. Late. Really. Really late. By eleven thirty, Rose had checked on him, felt his forehead and adjusted the blanket countless times. He never moved. Not a flinch or a groan or a sigh or whimper of protest. At twelve on the dot, she put in a call to Janet.

"Daniel's sleeping." No greeting. Nothing. She just got right to the point.

"Is he sick?"


"Is he sleeping because he's sick?"

"There's no fever. I've checked." About a million times, Rose wanted to add.

"Have you tried waking him?"

"No. I've felt his forehead. Fixed his blanket. Made sure he was—"

"Apple didn't fall far from the tree.''

"Wish people would stop saying that."

"Rose, tell me what you want me to do."

Rose felt the heat of sudden inexplicable anger flush her face. "I don't know, Janet." She was positive her voice was laced with unaccustomed sarcasm. "I'm not the doctor. I don't know the real reason why Daniel is a child. I don't know what goes on where you work. Maybe I just wanted to reach out to see if anyone was out there." Rose slammed down the phone, then stared at it, mortified. "Oh, shit." Shocked at her own anger, she shuffled backwards and collapsed onto the kitchen chair.


She dropped her head. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

The phone rang but Rose didn't make a move to answer it, she just laid her cheek against the small hand Daniel had placed on her. She sat immobile, bereft at her own inability to handle her emotions. He gave her a lethargic smile, looking half asleep, adding fuel to the fire of guilt building in her chest.

The phone stopped ringing just short of the answering machine picking up, then began again, this time stopping when Daniel answered it. "Janet," he mouthed at Rose, holding the phone in place with a two fisted grasp.

Rose averted her gaze from his, embarrassed.

"No," he said. "Just tired." Daniel nodded. "Yes, I'll make sure to tell her." He paused and Rose wished the tiled kitchen floor would just open up and swallow her whole. "Back to bed." Daniel rolled his eyes. "Positive. I'm fine. Eat. Drink. Be merry." He dropped his own gaze, properly chagrined by whatever Janet had said to him. "I'm sorry. Yes, I know, sorry. Okay." He yawned. "Sorry," he apologized. "Soon as I hang up the phone." Daniel sighed. "I promise, Janet... and Janet?" Daniel turned so now his back was to Rose, speaking so softly she was unable to make out the words. Just when Daniel turned around to hang up the phone, there was no mistaking the brightness in his eyes.

"Okay." Daniel asked, sitting in her lap without waiting to be asked. "I'm okay. I don't want you to worry, I'm just so tired."

She rocked slowly. "I'm sorry I woke you." Rose wrapped her arms tightly around his scrunched up body and rocked a little harder.

"It's okay to be angry." Daniel glanced upward, meeting Rose's eyes, and he cupped her cheek, offering her comfort.

"It's not okay to be angry at Janet. None of this is her fault."

"It's not Jack's fault either, but right now I'm angry at him for leaving me. And you."

"No news?"



"I'm going back to bed now. Please," he implored studying her. "Don't worry. I'm just—"



Rose's comment was cut short when Daniel placed his fingers lightly across her lips. "If I don't feel better tomorrow, I'll have Janet run some blood work. I promise."


She shadowed him as he went back to bed, worry gnawing at her insides as she tucked him in and kissed his forehead. Concern for him as he grinned at her, then tugged Lumpy into his arms. Concern for why Janet didn't seem worried. Concern for her son. And Rose's selfish concern for herself, as she gazed at Daniel's peaceful face, and at her ability to be the mother to a six-year-old child at this stage of her life.


His stomach woke him. And once he opened his eyes he realized he was thirsty. Parched, headache-dehydrated thirsty. Smacking his lips, he tried and failed to produce spit to wet his throat. He rolled onto his side, sat up and let his legs dangle off the side of the bed, trying to get his bearings.

Thankfully, his sleep had been dreamless. A void that he'd happily lost himself in, and based upon the darkness of his room, he'd been lost for almost the whole day.

He held up his pajama pants with one hand on his walk to the kitchen.

"How're you feeling?" Rose asked, looking up at Daniel.

Unbelievably, Daniel yawned, then laughed at Rose's look of shock. "I feel like Rip Van Winkle." He opened the fridge, grabbed a bottle of water, fumbled with the screw on lid for a few minutes before admitting defeat and handing it to Rose. "Could you do the honors?"

She grabbed the water bottle and reeled Daniel in, hugging him to her chest, crushing the bottle between the two of them.

Daniel felt an out of character giggle build up and he buried it in her cashmere sweater. "Hug's nice," he gasped theatrically, "but I need water." Leaning backwards, he held his neck. "Water."

"You need a haircut, Daniel Jackson." Rose smoothed his too long bangs from his eyes.

Daniel grabbed her hand. "I'm glad you're here with me, Rose. I don't think I would be able to wait for Jack by myself."


Daniel sat, practically drooling as he watched Rose prepare him something to eat. "Are there any chips? Pickles?"

"Patience is a virtue." Rose cut the sandwich in quarters, then went to the cabinet and took out the bag of chips.

"Tell that to my stomach." Frustrated he dropped his head into the pillow of his crossed arms. "It's complaining very loudly."

"Tell your tummy to keep its complaints to itself. I certainly don't want to listen to it when and if you manage to get to sleep tonight."

He yawned on cue. "Strangely enough, I think I'll be able to sleep with no problem." Daniel reached for the plate and grabbed a quarter off even before the plate hit the table.

"Slow down," Rose warned, gently smacking his left hand as he reached for another quarter of sandwich. "You still have some left in your other hand."


He was full and satiated, having opted for milk and a small piece of cake instead of another sandwich.


He yawned, then nodded slowly, rubbing his stomach. "Yup, though I feel like a bear set for hibernation." Yawning again, he ducked his head away from Rose's scrutiny. "Honest, I feel fine. Look," he said, offering her his head, "no fever. No aches. Pains. Nothing. Let's just chalk this up to thirty nine years of shitty sleeping finally catching up to me."

"Language," Rose warned, placing her lips against his forehead.

"See? What did I tell you?"

"Remember, Daniel," Rose said with a huff. "No one likes a snotty child."

"Not snotty. Precocious." He got down from the chair and grabbed his plate and cup, leaning into Rose. "And don't lie, 'cause I know you like me."


"Come on." Rose extended a hand to Daniel just as he began to get comfortable on the couch.

Looking down, he plucked his pajama top. "I know these are really nice, but I'm not dressed for a night on the town, Rose."

She grabbed his hand and tugged him down the hallway. "You wanted to read. We're going to read in bed, because in case you haven't noticed, I'm a tad too old be to falling asleep on the couch. Or worse, having to drag a sleeping, heavy six-year-old to bed."


Rose sat on Daniel's bed, pillows propped behind her back, with the book on her lap. Daniel couldn't see the book, curled on his side, but that was fine, just listening to her voice was enough.


Daniel may have insisted he loved the book, but he didn't seem to last more than a few pages every time Rose read it. She skimmed a hand over his forehead, still finding it hard to believe that someone could sleep as much as he had today without feeling sick, and as she carefully climbed from the bed and covered Daniel up, Rose's expectations of being able to sleep through the night without being awakened by a sick Daniel were nil.


Awareness came suddenly, followed by surprise then a small bloom of a smile at the morning light brightening up the room. She'd slept though the night and based on the house's silence, Daniel was still sleeping.

And he was. Sprawled across the bed, he and Lumpy were sharing the pillow. Rose blew them both a kiss before leaving the room. A bath. Soaking in a tub. Relaxing. A little morning down time before starting whatever the day would bring. She grabbed towels and clothes, ready to begin the day with a little selfish "me" time.


She came to the conclusion, while soaking in a tub full of some masculine smelling bath gel, that in the situation she was now in, she couldn't think ahead. Living and surviving each day was the only way both she and Daniel were going to get through this. She had strength, and though Daniel was physically, and sometimes – even though he would never admit it –mentally six, he had his own well of strength.


Daniel fidgeted, his ass was numb from the hours he'd spent sitting in his office staring at his computer screen, his head ached, and his eyes burned. He tossed his glasses off to the side and buried his face in his hands, groaning at his inability to make heads or tails out of these translations. He felt frustrated and ashamed. People were counting on his expertise, and he was producing nothing.


He jumped at the sound of Jack's voice, lifted his face and searched for his glasses. "Not now, Jack," he said, fumbling to put them back on, wondering if by his lack of coordination, he'd fallen asleep for a minute or two. "I'm trying to—"

"You need to go home, Daniel."

Daniel snorted and gave his head a slight shake. "That's rich, you know. You telling me to go home." He sniffed, wiping his nose on the sleeve of his cotton pajama shirt. "You haven't been home in weeks... and I've had to---"

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."

"You left me behind," Daniel shouted, not caring about the SGC personnel passing in the corridor. "Far behind."

"I know."

"You got what you deserved because you couldn't wait to leave me. You got punished, stranded from home..." Daniel reached for Lumpy. "But why did I have to get punished also? I lost my parents, my wife, my lover and my years... wasn't that punishment enough? Why did I have to lose you, too?" He refocused on the monitor, ignoring Jack, but unable to ignore the tears blurring his vision.

One second Jack had been standing in the doorway and the next, Daniel was enveloped in a strong hug, his face pressed into Jack's midsection. He wiped his nose on Jack's shirt and looked up. "This doesn't make it better, you know."

"I know," Jack said. "And saying 'I'm sorry' doesn't work either."

"Not now, it doesn't."

"What would make it better?"

"Come home to me. With Teal'c and Sam."

"We can do that."

Daniel blinked. "Just like that? All I had to do was ask?"

"No. I had to wait for Dorothy to finish with her ruby red slippers, then we had to convince Carter to put them on her feet, even though they didn't match what she was wearing..."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Don't be an ass, Jack."

"Hey," Jack leaned down and kissed Daniel on the nose. "You need to believe, Daniel, because sometimes miracles do happen."

"Sam clicked her heels three times and—"

"Jacob found us." Jack shrugged. "Okay, it wasn't as easy as the ruby slippers way of traveling, but we figured beggars sure as hell can't be choosers."

"You're coming home?"

"Coming home, Daniel. Leave the porch light on, we're on our way home."


Daniel made his bed, placing Lumpy at the head. He gave the guy a little pat on the head, then embarrassed, pretended to flick a piece of dust from the stuffie's back. The pajamas were so comfortable he couldn't bring himself to get dressed, but there was a chill in the air, so he put a sweatshirt on right over the top and stuck his feet into a pair of socks. He wiggled his toes. So much for the teasing hint of summer, sometimes he hated Colorado.



The house was quiet, and Daniel didn't want to risk waking Rose so he slid across the wooden floor, skating across the smooth surface, familiarity allowing him to avoid all the squeaky boards on his way to the kitchen.

He was hungry. Starving. Cereal would be the quickest and easiest way to fill his stomach, but that wouldn't be enough. He just knew it.


Rose walked in just as Daniel was taking a bite of his peanut butter sandwich. "Morthin'," he mumbled around a mouthful, grabbing his glass and washing it down with a gulp of chocolate milk. "Morning."

"Morning." Rose bent down, kissed his cheek.

Daniel switched his concentration from the food in front of him to Rose. He sniffed the air. Then sniffed her. "You smell like Jack." He dropped the sandwich, grabbed her, burying his nose in her freshly washed hair.

"Jack? Really?—" Rose pulled back just a little.

"Cassie bought that for him. Big basket of it, and Jack didn't want to hurt her feelings, so he used it... on occasion. Whenever the occasion happened to have Cassie." He sniffed the air around Rose. "And then he realized how much he did like it, and mentioned it to her. Next thing you know, Jack gets the gel for every holiday and some not so holidays, like Columbus Day. When you go into the bathroom check under the sink, there's enough bottles of that stuff to keep Jack smelling like that until the next millennium."

Rose lifted her hand and sniffed. "So I don't need to replace the amount I've used?"

Daniel inhaled deeply then chuckled. "I don't think that would be necessary."


Daniel was glowing. There was no way to describe the look on his face as he tucked into his cereal the second he finished his peanut butter sandwich. "Do you want to share?" Rose filled the kettle and put it on the stove.


Yup, there was something. Daniel was smiling around the spoon in his mouth.

"You look like the cat that swallowed the canary."

"Ewww. That's a disgusting analogy." He went for another spoonful of cereal, hesitated, then laid down his spoon. "Jack's coming home."

"He is?"

Daniel nodded vigorously. "Yup." Daniel smiled slyly, picking up his spoon and stirring his cereal. "He told me."

"Who told you?" Rose lit the stove under the kettle.

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Jack told me."


Daniel nodded again. "Jack."

"Jack's home? Well, not home, here. Home in Colorado Springs?"

Daniel gazed at Rose as if she'd grown a million heads. "No, Jack's not here."

"Daniel." Rose drawled out his name. "If Jack's not here in this house. Nor here in Colorado Springs, how do you know he's coming home?"

"He told me. Last night. In a dream."

"A dream?" Daniel's conviction in his nocturnal precognitions wasn't trickling down to Rose.

Daniel opened his mouth, closed it, then dropped his head, concentrating on making a whirlpool out of his cereal and milk. "It's okay if you don't believe me."

"I didn't say I didn't—"

His smile was slow in coming and tinged with sadness. "You don't have to, I can see it." He pointed at her with his dripping spoon. "In your eyes."

"I'm—" Rose was at a loss for words.

"I understand, you don't have to believe me," he repeated with conviction, "but miracles can happen."

Rose studied a thirty-nine year old trapped in a six-year-old's body, then remembered a regressed and miraculously recovered Daniel, not to mention her encounter with a living, breathing, flying balloon, and suddenly the leap of faith she took to envelope Daniel's dream was more of a hop than a leap. "I trust in you."

He paused as if he was contemplating her answer. "That'd work," he decided with a shrug of his shoulders, then went on eating at if Rose had just told him the weather was sunny and not that Jack had come to him in a dream.


Rose drank her morning tea, had some toast while Daniel ate breakfast and kept silent. Eventually, he gazed up at her, his brow wrinkled and lips pursed.

"Something on your mind?" Rose asked cautiously.

"Yeah," Daniel answered with a shake of his head. "Not sure if I want another peanut butter sandwich or another bowl of cereal."

"Oh, is that—"

"All?" Daniel finished her sentence. "Yeah, that's all. Nothing more. Nothing less." He leaned over, patted her hand, and then pointed outside. "Look, it's a beautiful day and Jack's coming home." Daniel surprised Rose with a guffaw. "Okay, I'm still small, but two out of three isn't bad. And you're here with me. So that's a good thing. You with me." He picked a floating piece of soggy flake from his empty bowl and grimaced. "Can I have another sandwich?"


Rose really didn't believe him, but that was fine, it really was. He tried to contain his enthusiasm, but keeping emotional control was much easier as an adult than it was as a child, and he could feel the heat of a blush working its way up his neck when Rose smiled indulgently when she caught him humming loudly while working on his computer.

Sitting back in the chair, he brought his knees up to his chest, rested his chin on the flat surface of his knees, then stared at the screen.

'Jack's coming home'. He smiled as the mantra danced through his brain.. "Teal'c, Sam and Jack are coming home." Futilely, Daniel tried to rub away the burgeoning smile on his knee caps. That his family was returning to him was more important than him being big again. If someone had given Daniel the choice of turning back into an adult sans Jack, Teal'c and Sam, or staying a kid with them by his side, the answer, as Jack would say, was a no brainer. He powered down his computer and went looking for Rose.


He found her sorting the laundry and sat on a pile of unwashed towels. "It's nice out today."

Good naturedly, Rose glared at him then threw a pair of white socks onto a growing pile. "That it is."

"It's getting closer to summer."

She waved a dirty sock at him. "Get off the pile before your tush gets wet."

Sighing, Daniel stood on the pile then clambered on top of the dryer. "It's too nice to be sorting laundry."

"It is." Rose threw in the last pair of white socks, added a hefty capful of bleach, then turned on the washer. "What do you have in mind?"

"Work in the garden?"

Rose hesitated.

"Never mind." Daniel positioned his body to jump down from his perch.

"What do you mean, never mind?" Rose placed her flat of her hand against his chest. "It's a great idea. Go and change your clothes... oh, please don't wear any of your new things."


Daniel worked side by side with Rose. Cleaning out the flower bed, raking up the branches and leaves left over from the winter. He built up a sweat and worked slowly, but never faltered.

Stepping backwards, leaning against a rake that was taller than he was, he surveyed their hard work. "Jack'll be surprised."

Rose shook her head, "If he's anything like his father, when it comes to his garden, Jack will be meticulous enough to complain that we've missed a spot."

"That's okay." He gave Rose a mischievous wink. "Both you and I will know that he'll be wrong."


By two, Daniel's stamina was flagging and he was more than grateful when Rose wiped the sweat off of her forehead, claiming if she didn't eat something she was going to swoon.

Daniel handed her his rake, then trailed behind as she went into the garage to put the tools away. "Swoon? You are so not the swooning type."

Rose hung up the rakes. "I can swoon with the best of them, want to see?"

Daniel giggled, clamping a dirty hand over his mouth.

Rose huffed. "I'm going to take that as a no."

Daniel's giggles turned to muffled laughter behind his hand.

"Last one to the shower's a rotten egg." Rose teased, starting towards the connecting door.

Daniel ran ahead, skirting around Rose then stopped, turned and blocked her way. "There's two bathrooms in this house. Why do we have to race?"

"Party pooper," Rose complained, pulling a leaf from his hair.


The shower felt great, invigorating. Lunch of soup, some cut up fruit, cheese and crackers hit the spot and Daniel was melting into the chair, relaxed. "That was good. Do you still feel the need to swoon?"

"Not at the moment." Rose wrapped the cheese and pretty much trashed everything else left on the table. "Enough," she said wiping her hands on the towel. "We have an errand to run."

"Where are we going?"

"It's a surprise."

Gripping the sides of his chair, Daniel gazed suspiciously at Rose. He didn't want to go anywhere. He was relaxed. Relaxed people belonged at home, not running errands. Errands would make him cranky. Rose didn't want him cranky, maybe he'd better warn her. "I don't want to go anywhere," he said bluntly. And I don't do surprises very well."

"Trust me," Rose said with a waggle of her fingers towards Daniel. "You'll like this surprise."


"This is your surprise?" Daniel bent down and examined the box. "This? What does it do?"

"Trust me."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "That's all you've been saying, you know. That and that very evil Jack-like grin on your face. You know, whenever he wears a grin like that, I know there's going to be—"

"I don't remember you being such a worrywart."

He plucked at his clothes and moved his hand up and down the length of his body. "Hello, Rose. Don't you think I have reason to maybe worry just a teensy bit? I mean, look what happened when I let my guard down."

She cackled before turning and finding a salesperson to help her.


He dragged a French fry through the ketchup, then used it as a pointer. "I don't think I've ever seen you eat fast food, let alone McDonald's."

Rose dragged a French fry of her own through the ketchup and used it to challenge Daniel. "I'm sure you're familiar with the saying, 'when in Rome'?"

"Very familiar." Daniel licked off the ketchup, then stuck the fry in his mouth. "You know," he said, using the next ketchup covered fry to paint designs on his opened burger wrapper . "I'm still not sure exactly why you dragged me to all those stores, spending hours examining those things, finally buying one that looked exactly like the first one you looked at."

"You of all people should understand little nuances. The cover. The color. I was looking for a particular one."

"And you found it in the four hundredth store we visited."

"Watch the attitude, buster," Rose warned, stealing one of his fries. "Or I'll steal your Happy Meal's toy."

Daniel grabbed the bag and held it to his chest. "No way! Teal'c's going to love the blow up sword."


Daniel helped Rose carry the box to the deck. While it wasn't heavy, it was awkward, but Rose didn't complain that Daniel had to take two steps for Rose's every one. The box slipped out of his hands with a thunk. "Sorry." He rubbed his arms, the early evening still bore a chill in the air.

"Go put on a sweatshirt, then bring me my sweater." Rose sat on the chair, pulled the box between her legs then began to open it, pulling the pieces out. "Go," she said, noticing Daniel was still standing by the door. "I got this covered."

"Wait. Please. I want to read the instructions. Teamwork."


It was Daniel's idea to put the fire pit on the grass rather than the deck, and the two of them dragged the Adirondack chairs to the area by the garden. He hovered around Rose as she set up the pit, put in the blocks of wood then lit them. They caught fire after two attempts, creating a circle of warmth around Rose and Daniel.

He felt a weight on his shoulder and looked up into Rose's smile. "Meet with your approval?"

"Jack's going to love this." Daniel warmed his hands over the open fire pit. "Give him time and he'll figure out how to throw some steaks on the flames."

"I've got something better." She pushed Daniel towards the chair. "Sit," she ordered. "Do not move. I'll be right back."


"Was that better?"

"Oh, yeah." Daniel licked his fingers. "Chocolate. Graham crackers. Marshmallows. Food of the gods."

"S'mores?" Rose finished up the last bite of her treat. "Never exactly heard of them described that way. To me—they're just damn good."

"Hmmm," Daniel drawled, then cast a sideways glance at Rose, whose gaze was glued upward, searching the heavens. He stood up, walked to her chair and crept onto Rose's lap, his back to her front, his head tucked under her chin. Picking up her hand, he pointed towards the sky. "North Star. Orion's Belt."

"What's it like out there, Daniel?"

He glanced over his shoulder and gave her the 'you've got to be kidding me' look.

"Humor an old woman, okay? You're a kid, use your imagination. Pretend you're a space explorer."

"My imagination?"

"Yup, your imagination. Just a story, Daniel. A once upon a time sort of thing."

Daniel hesitated, then guided her hand to a far corner of the night sky. "See that tiny speck over there?"

He could feel Rose's nod against his head.

"Once upon a time there was a little planet called Abydos that circled around that little pinpoint of light. My wife was from there. My brother-in-law and father-in-law still live there."

"Oh." Rose gently stroked his head with her free hand. "And what about your wife?"

"Sha're. Sha're's buried there."

"I'm so sorry, mhuirnin."

"Me, too." Daniel dropped Rose's hand and Rose helped his self-hug along by wrapping her arms around him. "Jack hated Abydos. He loved the people. Hated the planet. No green. It was a desert world. I loved it. To me it was like coming home. Part of my heart still lives there. So," he said, snuggling closer to Rose. "To answer your question, Rose, what's it like out there? It's heaven and hell all rolled into one."

"And Teal'c?"

"Teal'c's my friend, like Sam is."

"But where's Teal'c—"

"With Jack. At the moment, Teal'c's with Jack."

Rose changed tactics. "And Jack, where's he?"

"On his way home."


"Yes, Rose?"

"Are you telling me no more questions?"

"Yup, the politest way I can think of." He sat up and looked into her eyes. "Is it working?"


"Story time’s over," Daniel said with a sigh.


The fire was mere embers when Rose spoke. "I promise," Rose said as she rubbed Daniel's arms. "What you told me, I won't tell Jack. It'll be our secret."

"I told you, no more stories," Daniel whispered. "Anyway, Jack knows about Sha're, Rose. He was there when we first met."

Rose sighed. "Is that supposed to be a ha ha, very funny or are you just that tired?"

"Ha. Ha." His response was long and drawn out followed by a yawn. "I was sort of going for the humor aspect. Didn't it work?"

"I trust you." She hugged him even harder. "I believe you and I believe in you."


That night Daniel dreamed of Abydos. He sat cross-legged on the sand, his back against a dune, and he glanced upward and smiled at the twin moons hanging overhead, appearing even larger to his six-year-old mind. Daniel had forgotten how expansive the universe was, but sitting under the stars brought it all back. The feeling of insignificance coupled with the sense of home.

Using his finger, Daniel tracked the path of a falling star until it blinked out of sight. With an exhalation of peace, he turned his attention back to his surroundings. "Sha're."

"Dan'yel." She walked the few feet until she was directly in front of him, then kneeled in the sand, regally adjusting her robes. "Thank you for remembering me with kindness and love, my Dan'yel."

"I'm sorry. For everything—" He scrubbed away tears, blinking at the sand trail left behind by his fingers.

Sha're reached forward and used the edge of her sleeve to brush the sand from his face. "There is no need for tears or for regret. I am happy, look."

Daniel looked where she was pointing. Blinked. Then blinked again. Staring wide at the figure standing less than eight feet away. Wearing robes. Long hair. Glasses. "Me." With eyes like saucers, he glanced at Sha're, then at the figure. "That's me. Or that was me. I mean the me that—"

She cupped his cheek. "It is the you that lives in my memories."

"Hey, Dannyboy."

Daniel's head whipped to the side. "Jack?"

"The one and only." He touched the rim of his baseball cap. "Sha're."


Jack waved at the other Daniel, who hesitated before returning the wave.

"You were such a geek, Daniel."

"You were such an ass, Jack."

"Language," Jack warned, then shook his head in commiseration at Sha're's giggle. "Okay, now that we've established that fact, I think it's time for us to go." He extended a hand to Daniel. "Are you ready for me now?"

Daniel raised his hand for Jack to pull him up, surprised when Jack went even further and scooped him into his arms. Daniel wrapped his legs around Jack's waist and his hands around his neck.

"Take good care of Dan'yel."

"I will," Jack promised, wrapping his arms around Daniel, anchoring his position.

Daniel used his chin to point to his other self. "He loves you very much, you know. He's not great with telling you, but he—"

"I know, Dan'yel. He has shown me in many ways how important I am to him. He will be very proud of you."

"There will be times that he won't be proud."

"He will always be proud, as I am always proud of you."

Daniel inhaled deeply as she stepped in to kiss his cheek, praying he wouldn't cry, committing to memory the fragrance of Abydos in her skin, then buried his head against Jack's neck. "I want to go home. This hurts too much. Take me home."


"You are home, Daniel. It's just a dream."

"A dream?" Slowly, he opened his eyes, blinking in confusion at the surroundings, pulling the blanket up to his chin.

"Yes, a dream." Rose smoothed the hair off his face. "You were talking in your sleep. I came in to make sure you were okay."

He reached for Lumpy, patting the bed, searching for the wayward stuffie, gratefully accepting him from Rose's hands. "Jack's coming home," he said, his eyes sliding shut, just as a smug, self- assured smile lit up his face.


"I'm sorry, Rose. I totally forgot all about this. I'd promised Cassie ages ago—"

"Don't worry." Rose pulled down the tee shirt Daniel was struggling with, smoothing it down, straightening out the hem. "Janet and I are going to have a girl's day. And… it's a great way to celebrate your birthday."

"We're not celebrating my birthday. I don't want to celebrate my birthday."


"Please," he begged, trying to not get emotional. He was what? Forty? Seven? It was much easier to pretend that today was like any other day, no matter what Rose said and no matter how many times he had to remind her that he wanted nothing to do with a birthday. "Your day with Janet sounds like fun," Daniel said, turning away from Rose to stare into the mirror behind his door, running his fingers through his too long hair. He blew an errant bang out of his eyes. "I need a haircut." He tugged at the hair that had once again fallen into his eyes. "Badly."

"You look fine." Rose knew enough to keep silent and leave off the fact that Daniel looked like a walking, talking ad for Lands End or Abercrombie and Fitch.

"I don't think I want to go."

"You promised Cassie."

"Yeah, but that was before Jack and—what if Jack comes home while I'm at the carnival with Cassie?"

Rose patted Daniel's pocket. "You have your cell phone."

Daniel nodded.

"And it's charged?"

"Yes." Chagrined, he dropped his head, studying the tips of his shoes, probably remembering the rather scathing reprimand he'd received early this morning from General Hammond. Rose hadn't been privy to the conversation, but she'd seen the bright eyes after the conversation's conclusion.

"So there's nothing to worry about."

Daniel looked at her as if she'd grown another head.

"I'll rephrase that. In case of an emergency, use the cell."

"I have a GPS tracking device imbedded under my skin," Daniel answered solemnly.

"Stop trying to pull my leg, Daniel," she reprimanded, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear.

"I'm not."

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?"

"It always made Jack feel better."


"Ready, Daniel?"

"Ready." He gave Cassie his car keys. "I hope you don't mind, Rose, I figured that since Janet is going to be here, in case of an emergency—"

Rose forced a smile, trying not to picture a teenager driving that car. She would keep silent.

"You're not going to drive that car, young lady."

Thankfully, Janet had no such qualms about voicing her opinion.

"Mom," Cassie hissed, elongating the word into two syllables, her sideways glance was enough of a giveaway to Rose to see that Cassie still saw Daniel as the adult. "I know how to drive Daniel's car."

"She does, Janet. I taught her. Remember?"

"Oh, I remember," Janet glared at the two of them, obviously there was a story buried under this subterfuge that Rose couldn't wait to hear.

"I barely dented the fender," she turned towards Daniel. "Isn't that right?"

He flashed Cassie a quick smile, not really answering her question, then turned towards Janet and Rose, his hands extended in supplication. "It's okay, Janet. Honest."

She hesitated.

"Please?" He turned on the charm, all eyes, dimples and smiles which as an adult had been bad enough, but as a child, it was a showstopper.

"I'm not going to regret this, am I?"

"No," they answered in unison.

"It if makes you feel better, Mom, I won't even put down the top."

"You won't?" Daniel pouted.

"No, she won't," Rose said, shooting Daniel down with a wagging finger aimed right at him. "And don't go with the 'please' or those big eyes either, that's not going to work with me."



"Crap. I meant crap."

"Go!" Janet said pointing at the door. "Before the two of us gain back our sanity and change our minds."

"Stop!" Rose yelled the second the Cassie flung the door open. They stopped.

"Turn around," she ordered and watched as they exchanged a glance before turning. "Do I have your attention?"

They nodded.

"Good. I love you," she said. "Now go and have a good time."


"I'm too old to be the mother of a teenager."

Thankfully, Rose hadn't yet taken a sip of tea, because her snort would have sent it spewing right onto Janet. "You're too old? What about me, at the moment I'm a guardian to a child."

"Maybe we should be drinking instead of having tea?"

"You have wine?"

"Wine. Beer. Something a little stronger? Name your poison." Rose stood and got two glasses from the cabinet.


They sat on the couch, the half-empty wine bottle on the table to the right of Janet's bare feet. Rose slipped her feet out of the sneakers, then propped her feet up on the other side of the bottle, wiggling her toes. "Oh, that feels so much better."

Janet drained her glass, put it onto the table, then sunk lower into the couch. "Cassie and Daniel better behave themselves."

"They will," Rose answered confidently. "Otherwise we'll have to kill them." She finished her wine, then began to palm the stem of the wine glass. "Daniel believes that Jack and everyone—"

"Are safe. I know. Daniel mentioned it to the general who in turn mentioned it to me—"

"I believe him."

Janet looked at Rose as if she were weighing her words carefully. "Either Daniel has manufactured this delusion to help him get through the day, or he's right."

"He's right." Rose didn't try to hide her anger and she slammed her feet onto the floor and began to slip on her shoes, stopping only when she felt Janet's hand on her arm.

"I hope he is, but even if Daniel is right, it doesn't mean that the colonel is going to show up anytime in the near future. It could take awhile... weeks."

"I'll be here with Daniel," Rose said, relaxing just a bit. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"

"I just worry, Rose."

Rose patted the hand still holding onto her arm. "Comes with parenthood. One of the perks."

"Lucky us," Janet commiserated. "Oy," Janet grunted as she leaned forward and grabbed her glass and the wine bottle. "I think I need another drink."


Rose and Janet were enjoying a decadent pizza with the works when Cassie walked in with Daniel in tow. Eyes half closed, he leaned against Cassie and smiled at them.

Rose put her pizza down and returned his smile. "You look like you had a good time."

He rubbed his nose against Cassie then yawned in response.

"That's just gross, Daniel." She pushed him away, sighing when he wouldn't budge and just whined at her.

"Someone's tired." Janet got up and knelt in front of Daniel, kissing his reddened nose.

"Hate that." Quickly, he covered up his nose, then tried to bury his whole face in Cassie's thigh.

Cassie endured him with an eye roll. "He's tired. Cranky. He's not hungry, believe me. Daniel had a frank, some zeppoli, an Italian ice—I drew the line at the sausage and pepper hero, 'cause he'd never forgive me if I let him throw up in his own car."

"He's right here," Daniel said, gazing up at her. "And the sausage smelled so good. And she wouldn't even let me have cotton candy."

"Oh, the horror," Rose quipped.

"Don't lie, Daniel, I gave you some of mine."

"Yeah, but I wanted the pink... you had the blue..." He pushed his hands into Janet's face. "Look, it turned my hands blue. Check out my tongue." Daniel stuck out his tongue, crossing his eyes as he futilely attempted to look at the color. "Ith boo."

"I never would have even noticed if you didn't point it out," Janet lied. She placed a hand on his forehead.

"I don't have a fever. I'm sunburned."

"That's because you refused to put on the sun block. Would you believe he threatened to have a temper tantrum if I even pulled the tube out of—"

"I didn't want to look like a nerd with that stuff smeared all over me."

"News flash, Daniel, you are a nerd."

"Cassie," Janet reprimanded.

"Really?" The word was wobbly and thick with emotion. "Did I embarrass you today? I tried to be—"

"No. Never." Cassie was quick to reassure him and she ignored her mother's hardened glare and gathered Daniel up in her arms. "You could never embarrass me."

Rose and Janet exchanged glances.

Daniel sniffed and this time Cassie remained silent when he wiped his snotty nose across her shoulder. "Even when I yelled really loudly when the Ferris wheel got stuck at the top?"

Cassie giggled. "Thomas Esposito is the captain of the football team, Daniel, and he screamed louder than you."

"Is it okay that I'm a geek?"

"You're not a geek. You're a nerd, nerd. Nerds are cooler than geeks."

"You don't have to try and make me feel better," Daniel said, pulling away from Cassie and wiping his eyes. "You're in good company. Jack even thinks I'm a geek."

Gently, Cassie touched his cheek and Rose's heart warmed at the tenderness the young girl showed towards Daniel.

"I love you, Daniel."

"I love you, too, Cassie." He wagged a finger at her, a little half smile shining through his tears. "Though I'm thinking for that nerd remark, you can't drive my car again for a long time."

"Hey!" Cassie was indignant and looked towards Rose and her mom for support. Janet just shrugged, stood up and smoothed down her pants.

"If you can't do the time, Cassie, don't commit the crime," Rose offered before returning the pizza to her plate.

"Come on, short man." Cassie offered Daniel her hand. "Let's leave the women to their pizza." She cupped a hand over her ear. "I think there's a shower and a pair of pajamas calling your name."

He took her hand, but shook his head. "I don't want to go to bed."

"Did I say bed?"

Both Rose and Janet shook their heads.

"See, I didn't say bed." She swung their conjoined hands. "I said shower and pajamas. I thought we'd play some chess after you got jammified."

"Jammified is not a word."

"In my world, it is. Ask my mom. Mom, don't you tell me to get jammified?"

"I do." Janet's attention was drawn to the mixture of mushrooms and onions on her pizza.

"See, Daniel?"

"It's not a word."

"Is too."

"Is not."

Rose clapped her hands. "Children."

"Hey! I'm a young adult. I'm not a child," she huffed.

"I'm a middle aged adult—just short."

"Doesn't matter, you're both behaving like children. Daniel, go take a shower and get jammi—put on your pajamas."


Cassie dropped down in the chair, she looked disheveled and exhausted.

"Are you okay, honey?"

"Daniel. Wore. Me. Out." She groaned. "I don't think I can move."

Rose laughed. "He gave you a run for your money?"

Cassie's groan was louder. "Oh, that's an understatement."

"My poor baby." Janet gave her daughter's knee a sympathetic pat.

Cassie glared at her mother from under heavy lidded eyes. "Are you being condescending?"

"Me? No. Never." Janet waved away her accusations.

"We're just being empathetic," Rose added. "Would you like some pizza?"

Cassie nodded vigorously, rejuvenated and reached for a slice. "Every time I tried to get something to eat, something caught Daniel's interest. Oh, that's not true—" Cassie reached for her mother's glass of iced tea and slid it in front of her, ignoring Janet's objection. "I managed to eat half a cone of cotton candy before Daniel wanted it. He managed two handfuls, complaining the whole time, mind you, before it ended up on the ground. Then I spent twenty minutes trying to convince him that it was inedible. He's so stubborn!"

"Am not," Daniel said from the doorway. He crawled into Cassie's lap and took a bite of the piece of pizza still dangling from her hand.

She held the pizza out of Daniel's reach, pushing him off her. "You're still damp, munchkin."

"Don't call me that," he objected wholeheartedly as he tucked his feet under his ass.

"I am not a bed," Cassie growled, and mouthed a silent thank you to her mother when Janet took the pizza from her outstretched hand. She rested her head on his, digging her chin into his scalp.

"Stop that," Daniel whined and tried to maneuver away from her.

"Come on." Cassie stood, holding Daniel. "I don't think I could concentrate enough for a game of chess. Got any good videos to watch?"

Daniel leaned sideways, then gazed wide-eyed at Cassie. "Wow. You're carrying me."

"Oy." She adjusted him. "Not for long. You're heavy. Let's go find a soft place where I can drop you."

"Bed," he commanded. "Jack bought me a TV for my bedroom with a DVD player in it."

"Cool beans. My mom wouldn't even let me have—"

"Watch it, young lady," Janet warned, wagging the pizza slice at her.

Daniel snorted. "You're in trouble..."


Rose watched them leave the kitchen, their good-natured squabbling giving her cause to smile.

"You're quiet."

"I'm in awe over Cassie."

Janet's face glowed. "Yeah, she's pretty special."

"She is." Rose got up and brought the box of tin foil back to the table and began to wrap the pizza, handing Janet the one Cassie had nibbled on.

"There's more," Janet said, gathering up the used paper plates and napkins. "Something else you want to say. I can see it."

"I'm jealous of the ease in which Cassie relates to Daniel. There's no fear of hurting his feelings. No fear of saying the wrong thing. Doing the wrong thing." She plopped down onto the seat with a sigh. "I'm afraid. Of treating him too much as an adult. Or too much like a child." She busied her fingers with smoothing out the tinfoil. "I'm afraid of failing him. Doing the wrong thing. Saying the wrong thing."

Janet chuckled. "Isn't that what parenthood is all about? Isn't that what we were discussing earlier? Rose, honey, cut yourself some slack. This is far from a—" Janet made air quotes—" 'normal situation'."

"I know that, it's just that—"

"Daniel loves you. And you love him, and as in any family situation, that's half the battle."


Cautiously, Cassie entered the living room, grimacing when the first step down squeaked.


She shushed them with a quick finger to her pursed lips. "Daniel's asleep. I don't think he made it past the opening credits of the movie." Cassie plopped down on the couch between Rose and Janet, resting her head on her mother's shoulder.

"Tired?" Rose asked.

"Understatement. Beyond tired." Cassie yawned and Janet stopped her just as she went to toe off her shoes.

"You're just a bit heavier than Daniel," Janet explained with a pat to Cassie's thigh. "There's no way I can carry you if you decide to take a snooze here on the couch. So I'm thinking it's time for the Fraiser women to bid a fond farewell and a thank you, then head on home."


"Janet and Cassie leave?" Daniel mumbled as Rose brought the blanket up around his shoulders.

"Yup. Just a little while ago."

"It's not late." Daniel squinted at the clock.

"No, it's not," Rose agreed, sitting at the edge of the bed. "But you wore Cassie out."

"We had fun."

"So did Janet and I."

"I'm glad." Daniel eyes drifted shut. "Jack's coming home, you know. Sam and Teal'c also."

"I know, sweetie," Rose said, running a finger over his sun burned cheeks. "Soon."

"The porch light? Is it on?" Daniel yawned. "He told me again to make sure the porch light is on."

"It's on," Rose promised.

Daniel opened his eyes and blinked at Rose. "Just checkin'."


There'd been no transition. Daniel had been asleep and now he was awake, smiling into the darkness.

Slowly, Daniel slid out of bed, trying not to bounce with enthusiasm. The house was quiet and dark, Rose's very Jack-like snores informing him that she was fast asleep. He wanted to tell someone. Well, technically, he'd already told Rose and she'd believed him to an extent, but she really didn't believe him. He felt stupid, but Daniel really needed to say the words out loud so he held Lumpy up to his face. "They're coming home today, I just know it," he said to the toy, trying to smother his joy in the camel's side.

Daniel threw a pair of sweats over his pajamas, slipped on socks and held his breath as he made his way down the hallway to the bathroom, sliding along the floor. He peed, washed up, and brushed his teeth.

It was just past one in the morning and the last thing he wanted to do was to wake Rose and have her shuffle him back to bed, so he did everything with exaggerated cautiousness. In the kitchen, he picked an envelope of brown sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts from the box Jack had bought in a moment of floundering weakness when Daniel had first been downsized, claiming that all kids loved them. Considering this had been a jumbo box and there was only one sleeve left after Daniel took his, it was an educated guess that Pop-Tarts were the favorite of one fifty something colonel. He opened the fridge and took out a bottle of water, walking the door back and closing it. With the Pop-Tarts and water in hand, he went to the living room and sat on the couch, facing the door to wait for Jack.


Adrenalin pushed Jack as he maneuvered the car through the dark, still sleeping neighborhoods, windows rolled down, enjoying the rush of familiar Colorado night air. Jack had borrowed a car from the motor pool, turning down the general's offer to have an airman drive him home.

SG-1 had been welcomed home amid shouts of joy and a nice sized crowd in the 'gate room, sans Daniel, who, they had learned, was at home with his mother. His mother! Upon hearing that, urgency had been of the essence, the need to return to his home a physical ache.

Admittedly, the shower had been a godsend, the physical had been a given but Jack had been hoping that the general would take pity on the three of them and save the debriefing for tomorrow or the next day, or sometime in the near future. No such luck. The meeting had been long and tedious, and Jack had understood the reason for it, but the whole time he'd been itching just to get home. The general had noticed his impatience, but still the debriefing had run for almost ninety minutes and he'd practically kissed the man when the general had called it, informed them that he expected their reports within forty-eight hours, and welcomed them home.


The seasons had changed during the time he'd been offworld. The blackness of the night was unable to hide hints of summer. The fullness of the trees, the lushness of grass and the occasional splash of color, though the night air was cool against his face.

He was itching to get home. The traffic lights had never seemed as long, nor had the stop signs seemed so numerous. This drive was like a nightmare where the closer he got to the exit, the more obstacles stood in his way. Maybe he should've called, but it was late. Truthfully, he'd been both surprised and disappointed to not see Daniel at the SGC and had mixed emotions to know that Daniel was with his mother, and a bit unnerved to think about what was waiting for him at home.


"What the hell—?" Jack stopped in his tracks, his key already stuck in the door, when his peripheral vision captured the lump that was tightly curled to fit into the seat of the wicker chair on his postage stamp-sized front porch. "Where's my mom?" Outside. Sleeping. Hours before sunrise. On a cool night. Without a jacket. If you added all the clues together, Jack's heart pummeled, landing somewhere around his ankles. "Shit." He picked up Daniel, who didn't wake but snuggled against him, limp and heavy in his arms. Jack managed one step before the door flung open and a wild-haired, elderly woman in a nightgown and slippers confronted Jack.

"Put him down," she demanded, waving a cell phone at him.

Jack squinted. "Mom?"


"Are you threatening me with a cell phone?"

"Jack?" she repeated, her eyes glistening with moisture.

"Jack?" Daniel stirred. "Jack!" Monkey like, Daniel switched his center of gravity and flung his arms around Jack's neck, wrapping his legs around his waist. "You're home... I knew you'd be—Rose!" Daniel yelled at the top of his lungs. "Where's Rose?"

"Over here, Daniel. In my nightgown. Looking for you, mhuirnin."

"I'm sorry." He twisted his head, trying to find Rose, but gave up and buried his face in Jack's neck. "Home. Home. Home. You came home to me."

"I did," Jack said, tempering his own enthusiasm over the strangeness of this scenario. "Would either of you care to—"

Daniel captured Jack's face with two, very cold, tiny hands, then stuck his face into Jack's. "Teal'c? Sam?"


"Then where are they? How come they—"

"Enough." Rose pried one of Daniel's hands from Jack face, then rubbed it between her hands. "You're freezing, young man."

He tugged his hand from Rose's grip, tucked it inside Jack's partially opened jacket, and began to cry.

"Hey, it's okay." Jack shifted Daniel's weight and rubbed his cheek against the tears. "I didn't picture my homecoming taking place on the porch. Let's go—"

His mother blocked his way, throwing her arms around him and Daniel. "Damn you," she hissed into Jack's ear, her tears joining Daniel's, compounding his guilt.


This wasn't exactly the homecoming he'd imagined. Okay, sitting on the living room couch had been a good first step, but Jack had pictured something a bit different. A scenario that featured whooping, hollering, bouncing on the furniture and a reprimand or two for Daniel to curtail his rambunctious behavior. He was completely bowled over and at a loss to make amends to the quietly sobbing, clinging child who was hanging onto him for dear life.

"Mom?" He drew her attention and pointed to Daniel, his eyes wide, his shoulders shrugging, questioning Daniel's behavior, though the fact that his mother met his gaze with tears in her own eyes, certainly wasn't helping.

"I don't know why he was outside."

Okay, that didn't work, and her answer just left him feeling more frustrated. "Why the tears, buddy?"

"You're home." He lifted his head and blinked at Jack. "I'm glad you're home." Daniel patted Jack's cheek. "I missed you." He tucked his head back under Jack's chin with a sigh of what Jack took as contentment, but curiously enough, Daniel was still crying softly.

"He's right, you know." Rose wiped her eyes with a tissue, a smile of embarrassment gracing her face when she realized she still had the cell phone in her hand. "Ooops." She tucked it into her robe pocket.

"Who's right?"

"Daniel. We did miss you and we're glad you're home."

"Me, too." He rubbed his thumb over Daniel's temple and worked his way down to swipe away the tears on the smooth cheeks. "No need to cry anymore, you're going to get stuffed up."

Daniel shifted. Twisted, turned and maneuvered until he was sitting sideways in Jack's lap, facing Rose. "Too late. Already stuffed up." He sniffed in to demonstrate. "See?"

"Maybe you shouldn't have been outside."

Ahh, spoken like a true mother. "Care to explain what you were doing outside? In the dark? Sleeping? Outside?"

"You said outside twice," Daniel said, pulling Jack's arm around, then across his body.

"And you didn't answer the question either time." Rose sat forward on the recliner. "You had me worried. Very worried." She patted the pocket with the cell phone. "I was one step away from calling the general. Janet. I didn't know where else to turn. I thought you'd—"

"I'm sorry; I just got bored waiting for Jack inside—and I wanted to make sure the porch light was on..."

"Waiting for me? How the heck did—did Hammond call you?"

"No one called me... I just knew."

"You knew?"

"He knew," Rose agreed.

"You knew he knew?"

"I knew he knew."

Daniel sniffed then giggled. "The two of you sound very silly." Daniel found a loose thread on Jack's shirt and tugged on it. "I love you," he whispered low enough for only Jack to hear. "And this is this best birthday present ever."

Pretending to brush a speck off his pants, Jack bent his head slightly, bringing it just level with Daniel's ear. "Love you, too… sorry I forgot the card and bow."


"He's sleeping, you know."

Grimacing, Jack rocked from side to side, trying to bring feeling back into his ass and his arms, which were numb from Daniel's weight. "Two seconds ago you were sleeping, also."

"Your snoring woke me up."

"Mom. Daniel... he seems to be—"

She nodded. "In touch with his inner child, yeah. Some days more than others." His mother yawned. "Sorry," she said waving away the evidence of her exhaustion. "It's been a long couple of hours—"

"I'm not sure if I should say I'm sorry or thank you."

"Neither." She got up and planted a light kiss on Jack's head and another on Daniel's temple, followed by a gentle sweep of her fingers across his forehead. "Never got around to getting him a haircut."

Jack grabbed her hand and squeezed. "Go to bed, Mom. See you in the morning."

She looked out the window. "It is morning, son."

"Yeah, it is," Jack agreed with a sigh, thinking the light of the morning never looked so wonderful. He rubbed his mother's hand across his cheek, then released it. He slunk down on the couch, cradling Daniel against his chest, extending his legs onto the coffee table.

"You're going to hurt in the morning," she warned with a sad smile.

"I'll survive," Jack said, not disputing the truth of her words. "I'm sure it's nothing an Advil or two and some Ben Gay won't take care of."

Rose shook her head and left the room.

Jack closed his eyes, ignoring the aches in his muscles and concentrated on the rise and fall of the emotionally congested lungs lying flush against him. "We're gonna be okay, Dannyboy." He used a nickname that, if Daniel had been awake, would've been grounds for murder. Closing his eyes, he relaxed, opening them the second he felt the displacement of air as a blanket wafted over him and Daniel. "Thanks." Tucking the blanket around them, he raised his eyes in question as Rose sat on the recliner, plunked it into the reclining position and covered herself with an afghan.

"What?" she asked, tucking her own covering around her body and closing her eyes. "What can I tell you, misery loves company."


Jack groaned, pushing and moving away from whatever was poking him in his right ass cheek, his hand flopping at the offending nuisance. He patted along its length, slowly coming to awareness. His head fell to the side, supported by the back of the couch. Daniel. Stretching and squirming on the couch, trying to shove his two little feet under Jack's butt for warmth.

He transferred the blanket from himself to Daniel, who immediately stopped moving and burrowed under the covers. His mom was still sleeping, snoring lightly. Daniel was snuffling through clogged sinuses and Jack was awake. Surprisingly coherent. Experimentally, he stretched out his limbs. Stiff, but definitely not as bad as he'd imagined he'd be.

Easing himself off the couch, more in deference to the two other sleeping people in the room as opposed to aching joints, Jack stretched his arms over his head and bent from side to side to work out the kinks before quietly making his way to the bathroom.


It was a beautiful morning. Jack leaned forward, resting his body against the deck railing, inhaling deeply the smell of the freshly brewed coffee from his mug intermingling with the freshness of the day.

A weight thudded against his thigh. "Morning," Daniel said, tugging at the blanket that was slipping off his shoulders.

Jack set his mug down on the railing, adjusted the blanket around Daniel, then dropped his arm around his shoulders, pinning the blanket in place. He drew a deep breath, filling his lungs with Earth air. "Feels great to be able to breathe Colorado air again."

Daniel stiffened. "Oh god, Jack, I never even asked–"

"Nothing really to tell." Jack tightened his grip as Daniel began to drift away from him. "Honest. Bounty Hunter. SG-1. Disabled ship. Carter took her time fixing it... you know, same old, same old... it just took a long time. Truthfully, it was boring watching Carter pretend to fix something and spout techno—well, more technobabble than usual. Thankfully, Tok'ra Jacob rode into town, got rid of the bad guys and saved the day. I'll let you read the mission report when it hits the NY Times' Best Seller List." He jerked when Daniel elbowed him in the leg. "Ow, watch those elbows, they're sharp and bony."

"You're lucky," Daniel snorted, "that my reach isn't longer or higher."

"Satisfied? Now you know how I spent my vacation."

"I missed you."


"I drove your mother crazy."

"She probably loved every minute of it."

"I found this really interesting inscription—"

"You, Daniel. How did you do?"

Daniel hesitated.

Jack moved his coffee to the side, then picked him up, blanket and all and planted his tush on the railing, much to the short guy's chagrin.



"No, you're not."

"No," Jack agreed, "I'm not. I thought about you all the time. So did Teal'c and Carter. Don't minimize and degrade our worry with your typical cookie cutter 'I'm fine'."

"But I am fine."

Jack glared at Daniel.

"Okay... physically I'm fine," he amended, then yawned. "Maybe a bit tired, but I'm physically fine. It's the other—I didn't do well."

Jack cupped Daniel's chin and gently forced him to make eye contact. "It's okay. You being short is going to be an adjustment."

"Understatement of the year, Jack." Daniel pushed Jack's hand away and zeroed his gaze on the blanket's design, tracing it with his pointer finger. "I cried."

"You cried when I was here, also."

Daniel zatted him with an evil glare. "I cried for you, Jack. For Sam. For Teal'c. I lost control. I became the little child whose parents died. I became angry because my life was no longer my own. Someone else was once again making decisions about where I was going to live. How I was going to live. I lost my autonomy. Do you have any idea how hard I've struggled for that? Thirty-one years of my life, I fought to remain Daniel Jackson." Daniel snapped his fingers. "And in a blink of an eye, I lost it all and no one saw me anymore as Doctor Jackson. All they saw was a six-year-old playing dress up. And you know what the worst part was?"

Jack shook his head. "What?"

"I couldn't even check in the mirror to see if they were right... and... and... I began to believe them and it feels so wrong. And I don't know how to make it right anymore."

"Could it be you're trying too hard to be a grown up?"

Daniel shrugged, pulling the loose string on the blanket so hard it left a pucker of material behind. "I shouldn't have to try. Adulthood and maturity should come naturally. Why isn't this coming naturally?" He dropped his forehead on Jack's chest with a painful thud.

Jack placed both arms around Daniel's slumped body. "We're in virgin territory here, buddy. Maybe you need to talk about your feelings?"

"Oy," he said, smothering his displeasure against Jack's chest. "Stick the knife in and turn it, why don't'cha."

"I'll be right here. Listening. You need to be patient with me also. Big Daniel, I could read pretty well, but it took me years to get my Daniel-speak just right. I need some time to get this little—"

"Short." Daniel lifted his head and gazed at Jack. "Short sounds much more politically correct."

"Short," Jack corrected with a nod. "I need to get this short Daniel-speak perfected."

Daniel smiled tentatively.

Jack's smile wasn't as tentative.

And in response, Daniel's smiled slowly broadened. "Thank you."

"Hey, no thanking me yet, I haven't done anything."

"That's where you're wrong."

"After all these years, Daniel, you should know I'm never wrong."


Oy, but he was wrong. Big time. He kept getting his signals from Daniel mixed up, approaching him when he didn't want comfort, helping him when he didn't need help, until by early afternoon, Daniel had barricaded himself in his bedroom, computer on, door closed, leaving Jack an emotional wreck.

"You're trying too hard."

"That's what I told Daniel."

"Hmmm." Rose barely looked up from the book she was reading.

Jack flopped down on the couch. "I thought I wasn't trying hard enough."

Using her hand as a bookmark, she closed the book, then turned sideways in the chair. "Step back. Follow his lead. And allow him to be a child."

"He's not a child."

His mother gave an evil chuckle. "There's a child there, son. Buried under all that protest and as much as it hurts you—"

"Hurts me?"

"Jack, I'm your mother, stop bullshitting me. Daniel being this size isn't easy on you, you can't turn off your feelings—"

"Mom! He may be Daniel up here," Jack tapped his temple. "He's a child. A kid. Short. He's six, for crying out loud. I can't even think of him that way and the thought of—" Jack growled in frustration. "And I cannot believe I'm having this conversation with my mother. No, I cannot believe my mother is having this conversation with me."


"Mom, please. In my own way, I've mourned for what was. What happened to Daniel was no one's fault—"

"Then stop blaming yourself."

"I'm not."

"You are. Barely giving him a chance to breathe, to show you what he can't do, what he can do and when he needs you by his side. You're smothering him."

"We were doing okay before I left."

"Were you? Were you really? Nightmares. Tears. I think the two of you were fooling everyone except yourselves. Daniel hates being smothered. Always did. You, more than anyone else should know that. I'm disappointed in you." She pointed down the hallway with her book. "Go apologize, and Jack? One more word of wisdom, pay attention to your instincts."


Jack had thought he'd had it all under control and being away had blurred his memory. Distorted what he remembered so that he stupidly believed coming home would be the answer to all his problems. He knocked on Daniel's door and entered without waiting for an answer.

"You said you'd listen to me." The words were out of Daniel's mouth before Jack had one foot in the bedroom.

"You said you'd be patient with me."

Daniel tore his gaze from the monitor and smiled at Jack. A huge smile. Breaking the little face in two, huge in its joy and understanding. "Guess we both screwed up." Daniel lifted his hands up to Jack.

Jack hesitated.

"Okay," Daniel said slowly. "I find there are times when the child in me demands things. Like now. Big Daniel is dying of embarrassment here, but the short guy is so wanting you to pick him up and give him a hug."

Jack took a step forward, then stopped. "Is this a trick question?"

"Sorry to say, no." He shrugged his shoulders.

"Hey. Hey... wait." Jack grabbed Daniel, hugging him, stopping only when Daniel grunted. He loosened his grip, moving his hands under his arms to lift him up.

"You tell anyone this," Daniel whispered in his ear, "and I'll make sure those pictures when you put on the dress and makeup on PX8R457 get plastered to the commissary wall. In color. Eight by ten. Huge photos."

"Whoa, just a second—I did that because you said it was their custom." He moved his fingers lightly up Daniel's back, getting a giggle for his efforts. "It was their custom, wasn't it, Daniel?"

"Don't ask. Don't tell, Jack."

"You little shit," Jack said, laughing out loud as he hugged Daniel even tighter.

"Not little... short. I'm a short shit."


He caught his mother just as she was about to carry down a basket overloaded with laundry. "What do you think you're doing?" Tugging it out of her grip, he started down the stairs with her at his heels.

"Where's Daniel?"

"Working in his room." Jack dropped the basket on the floor, then opened the washing machine.

"Why is Daniel working?"

Jack stopped, sorting the whites from the towels. "Because, Ma, Daniel enjoys working. Like some people enjoy watching TV, Daniel enjoys studying, as weird as that may sound."

Rose joined him in separating the clothes. "I know that, I just thought—"

"What? That we'd be pitching a ball in the back yard? Going to the park? Joining a—"

She threw a wet towel at his abdomen, which bounced off and dropped to the floor. "There's no need to take that attitude with me, Jonathan O'Neill. What I meant was I thought he would be glued to your side and—"

"Me, too," Jack said sadly. "I thought that... never mind what I thought. I'm taking my signals from Daniel. If he says he wants to work. I'm letting him work."

"He's six."

"He's Daniel first," Jack argued.

Rose started the washer, put in a cup of detergent, scooped up the pile of towels before Jack could stop her, then slammed the lid down as soon as she was finished. "He's a child with all the memories of his past life. He's terrified about losing his independence and you're terrified of him becoming too dependent on you. Get over it, Jack. He's not Charlie. Daniel doesn't need a father figure to help him become an adult; he's already been an adult. He needs your strength and your guidance now. He needs you to be an adult for him."


The whole situation had been better when Jack had had blinders on, before he'd been captured. Before his mother came and stuck his nose in the truth, like a dog who'd shit on the living room carpet. Jack had been letting Daniel make the rules. Daniel still had all his Ph.D. brain cells intact, giving him the mental appearance of still being a thirty-nine year old. Appearances, according to his mother, can be deceiving.

He stood before Daniel's closed bedroom door for the second time in less than an hour, his confidence ripped to shreds by his mother's words of wisdom. Previously, Jack had known the direction of the conversation, hat in hand, an apology all wrapped up and ready to be dispensed, now he was up a river without a paddle, hesitant to enter the room with only really bad metaphors as a shield.

Once again he knocked, and once again he entered without waiting for permission. "Daniel—" Jack stopped short. Daniel was sleeping, sitting up the computer. His head was hanging to his chest, bobbing lightly with every breath, his glasses were at the very tip of his nose and his fingers were resting on the keys. And he looked not only uncomfortable, but very, very young and Jack felt very incompetent. "Oh, crap, Daniel," he whispered, gently lifting the fingers off of the keyboard and placing them on his lap. Then, Jack moved the chair, actually lifting it so the legs wouldn't scrape along the floor until Daniel was facing him.

Daniel leaned into him with a grunt. "Not tired."

"Of course, you aren't." Jack pulled him into a standing position and walked him to the bed. "You're already sleeping."

"Oh." Daniel climbed into bed, sprawling out and Jack's heart found its way up to his throat as Daniel pulled Lumpy from under his pillow and shoved the stuffed toy under his chest. Damn Daniel for once again adjusting to the curve ball life had thrown him.


Rose was sitting at the kitchen table, pencil in hand, studying the Sudoku box of numbers. He opened the fridge, took out the container of OJ, shook it then went to take a drink before quickly glancing at her. Feeling guilty, he reached for a glass.

"Little boys who have spent the night waiting for the most important person in their lives to return home, need to take naps." Rose tapped the eraser end of the pencil against her lips, shook her head, then erased two boxes.

He drank his glass of juice, put the container back in the fridge, the glass in the dishwasher and kissed the top of her bent head. "What makes you think Daniel's sleeping?"

Rose snorted, adjusted her glasses, patting Jack's abdomen. "I'm a mind reader."

Jack pointed to the upper right hand square. "How about putting a—"

"Arrgghh... don't tell me," Rose admonished, clocking him with the pencil. "I want to figure it out for myself. Half the joy is the challenge. Don't you appreciate things much better if you figure them out for yourself rather than being spoon fed the answer?"

Jack sunk into the chair next to her. "Mind reader. Philosopher."

"I'm a woman of many talents," Rose said, filling a two into the spot Jack had pointed out. "You mean, after all these years, you didn't know that?"


The dream had been disturbing, leaving in its wake, like so many of his nightmares usually did, a profound sense of discomfort as well as a borderline headache and growling stomach. And cranky, definitely cranky as he got out of bed and stubbed his toe on his computer chair. "Ow," he said, automatically reaching down to rub the injured digit. He smacked the chair in anger.

He grumbled all the way into the kitchen, climbed onto a chair and stared at Jack and Rose, who in turn stared at him. "What?"

"Well, it would seem someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed after their nap."

"I can't work here."

"Why?" Jack asked.

"Working in a bedroom isn't conducive to productivity." Daniel scrubbed at gritty eyes.

"Why?" Jack repeated. "Because you have a tendency to fall asleep?"

Daniel glowered at Rose's smirk before she hastily hid it behind the newspaper. "No. I need my books, and my—" He yawned.

Rose chuckled behind the paper.

"Maybe you miss your office couch?" Jack hedged, gently poking Daniel in the side.

Daniel tried to stay resolute. He needed to go back to the SGC. The files in his office had been on his desk too long. Hammond was cutting him an excessive amount of slack, Daniel knew it and he felt like he was taking advantage. "I need my books. My research material—" He began to tick the items off on his fingers. "Oh." Daniel turned his hands around, examining the fingers and palms from all side. He dropped his hands onto the table and fanned out the fingers, smiling awkwardly at Rose and Jack. "Sometimes I forget. Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about, buddy." Jack covered Daniel's hands with his, making them disappear under their expanse. "Your brain's still thinking like an adult, it's only fair to think your body should be right along with it."

"Well, it sucks." He gazed guiltily at Rose. "Sorry."

"I've heard worse, especially from old Jack here." Playfully, Rose fanned him with the newspaper.

"Old? Did my mother just call me old?"

"You're trying to distract me."

"Yes, we are." Rose blinked at Jack. "At least I am. What about you, son?"

Jack squeezed his hands. "Hammond gave me some downtime. Carter and Teal'c also, and I know you want to work. Hell, you need to work, it's what makes you you, but do you think you could work from home just a bit longer, maybe until our downtime is up because—" Jack cleared his throat. "Because Teal'c and Carter really missed you and want to spend some time—"

"I missed them, too."

"That's what I thought," Jack said, squeezing his hands even tighter. "So you can suffer working out of the bedroom just a bit longer... and then we'll all go back to work together..."

"The general—"

"I think it'll be okay with him."

"You spoke to him before you spoke to me?" Daniel could feel the anger building. Once again, decisions taken from him. Decisions made for him.

Jack looked over his shoulder at his mother, then at Daniel. "I had no right, but I thought we could take a little vacation and do things like—"

"Not fishing?"

Jack hesitated. "You really don't want to go fishing?"

"Why are you surprised? I didn't like fishing when I was tall, why should I like fishing being short?"

Rose snorted.

"Hey, I could use some help here, Mom."

"Don't look at me," she said with an exaggerated flick of the newspaper. "I hate fishing."

Daniel took in Jack's injured expression and he could feel the laughter building, bubbling and when it burst forth, it surprised him, but the smile on Jack's face only encouraged his bout of silliness until the three of them were laughing way too loudly, erasing the reason why Daniel had been cranky.


Daniel sat on the couch sandwiched between Sam and Teal'c. Sam was all touchy feely while Teal'c's stoic, silent presence was so smashed up against Daniel's body that he was practically sitting in Sam's lap. Jack was sitting across from them with this dopey smile on his face, and Rose was in the kitchen, humming loudly, the rise and fall of her voice occasionally drowned out by the mixer and the banging of pans.

While the laughter in the kitchen had surprised him earlier, Daniel was even more surprised, shocked even, at the tears he'd shed when he'd seen Sam and Teal'c walk through Jack's front door.

"I think my mom's making dessert... anyone for dinner to go with that dessert?" Jack sniffed the air as if he could already smell whatever Rose was baking. "Steaks. Grill. Corn. French fries. Salad... "


"You do not like ketchup, Daniel Jackson."

"I used to not like ketchup, Teal'c... now," Daniel sighed, "now I like... change that, love the stuff. It's really strange and disheartening."

"Maybe now you're just covering up the taste of the Colonel's cooking?"

"Hey... hey! Just for that, you have to cook."

Smugly, Sam smiled, like the cat who'd swallowed the canary. "That would be such a hardship, sir." Her voice was tinged with sarcasm.

With Sam at the helm, Daniel knew his ketchup intake would be cut in half.

"I've been played, haven't I?"

"Like a viola, O'Neill."

"That would be like a violin, Teal'c." Daniel laughed loudly for the second time today.

"Are they not both stringed instruments?"


Daniel got up on his knees and stole the last fry from Jack's plate, swept it through the lake of ketchup on his plate and popped it in his mouth, while Jack was trying to convince Teal'c of the merits of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with regard to Nurse Ratchet and Janet's love of oversized needles.

"I know she was a nurse but she had... has, the same qualities as—you stole my fry."

Daniel shook his head, trying not to swallow.

"Don't deny it..." Jack swiped the edge of Daniel's mouth with his thumb, shoving the evidence in Daniel's face. "Ketchup."

"He's going to choke, sir. Daniel, swallow whatever's in your mouth," Sam ordered.

Daniel swallowed.

"Are you happy, Carter? Now he's destroyed the evidence."

Teal'c waved a fry at Jack. "O'Neill, I would gladly share one of my fries with you."

"Thanks, T. But it's the principle of the thing. First it'll be a fry and the next thing is Daniel's face will be plastered in the Post Office on a wanted poster."

"Oh, I can see it now, Jack, Daniel's going to be the next hamburgler."

"Even my own mother has turned against me. What is it that Daniel's got that I haven't got, Mom?"

"He's cuter than you are."


Daniel just gave up and sat on the floor instead of struggling with the plate and the glass of chocolate milk. Originally, he had thought he would put the dishes on the coffee table, sit on the couch and lean forward, but after losing the first bite of cake to the floor because he misjudged the distance, he felt this would be the better solution.

Picking up the piece of the cake that had hit the floor, Daniel looked around then popped it in his mouth, licking his lips to catch every crumb. He swept the remaining pieces under the couch and scrubbed away the remaining chocolate with his napkin.

He could hear voices overhead, an explosion of laughter and a high-pitched giggle, followed by an all too familiar admonishment. Janet's motherly sternness made him smile. Cassie and Janet had joined them for dessert and so had General Hammond. A house overflowing with friends and family, filled to bursting, and Daniel had withstood the revitalized exclamations over being back together until he began to experience the familiar suffocating adult smothering of too much of a good thing. He'd grabbed his cake and milk, made a quick and quiet getaway, taking the steps one at a time on his way to the den.

The cake was delicious and Daniel cut a piece off and eyed it, sniffed it, then stuck it in his open mouth, chewing slowly, savoring the richness of the chocolate.

"Mind if I join you?"

Daniel shook his head, then gulped a mouthful of milk to wash the cake down. "No, sir."

General Hammond lowered his body to the couch with a grunt, then placed his cake and glass of milk on the table. Picking up the milk, he saluted Daniel. "This type of cake calls for a cold frosty one." He toasted Daniel's glass with his.

Daniel waited until the general put down the glass and picked up the cake plate. "Sir... General Hammond... I request permission to come back to work."

The general put the plate down with a sigh. "There was never any problem with you going back... your coming back to work, son, at the SGC." He looked up. "But those people up there, they need you here."

Daniel began to break the cake off into little pieces, picking them up with his fingers and popping them in his mouth. "What if I need to be at the SGC?"

"Don't let your work define the man you are."

"I'm not a man, General, which is the problem."

"Can you explain to me, Doctor Jackson, how working at the mountain will make you a man?"

"I'm not sure. But, please, General, with all due respect, could you stop asking me questions I can't answer."

"Of course I will, son, as soon as you stop making requests I can't grant." He sliced off a big piece of cake from the triangle on his plate. "I need you to remember, Doctor Jackson, to me, you are more of an adult than many people I encounter on a daily basis. Anyone who renders a judgment based solely on your appearance has my sympathy."

Daniel remained silent, humbled at General Hammond's words, watching as he tasted the forkful of cake.

He chewed, swallowed and gave Daniel an uncharacteristic wink. "Good stuff." He picked up the napkin and wiped his mouth.

"Good stuff." Daniel matched the general's forkful, tentatively smiling around a mouth full of chocolate.


Eventually, everyone came down to join him and General Hammond. Daniel had enjoyed it at first, helping himself to another small piece of cake, smiling and laughing in unison until the cake lost its flavor two bites in. He put the dish down, backing away from the ruckus. He squished his body into a space between the TV and the bookshelves when the loudness became too consuming and he wondered where the headache had come from. A Tylenol, that's what he needed. Two Tylenol would be better, but the stairway seemed to be so far away and there was no way he could figure out how to get from here to there without drawing a crowd.

"Headache?" Jack held onto the bookshelf and knelt down, blocking Daniel's field of vision.

"Yeah. Needle in the head sorta thing..."

Jack smiled at the inference but not before Daniel caught the worry in his eyes.

"I'm fine, it's just a headache. And sometimes a headache is just a headache."

"You could also be tired."

"Tired." He was tired, he shouldn't be, he'd napped, but just the mere mention of the word seemed to sap him of strength. "I could be tired." Glancing over Jack's shoulder, he shook his head. "I can't go to sleep, everyone's still here. And if you say I have a headache—"

"Janet will be all over you like wool on a sheep..."

"Wool on a sheep?" If he pressed his pointer finger directly onto his temple, it alleviated some of the pressure behind his eyes.

"Sue me, I suck at analogies." Jack dropped a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "How about you take some of the dishes to the kitchen," he whispered. "I'll follow with the rest. Make the excuse that we're going to do the dishes... I hand you a Tylenol or two, some water to wash it down and we'll take it from there."


Jack watched Daniel as he slowly made his way up the stairs. "Sit," he ordered his mother when she got up to help him gather the dirty dishes. "Daniel and I got it covered."

Daniel was sitting at the table, his pile of dirty dishes right in front of him. Face down, his head was pillowed in his crossed arms. Jack found the children's Tylenol, went for three, found a bottle of Snapple in the back of the fridge, popped the top of the cold drink then tapped Daniel's arm.

"Here, this should help."

Bleary eyes took in the proffered medication and drink offering. Moving with lethargic slowness he took both, and grimaced at the taste of Tylenol the second they were in his mouth. He snatched the drink from Jack and gulped down just enough to make the taste disappear before handing the bottle back with a sigh. "Think I would rather suffer with the headache."

He looked like he was hurting. Big, Jack would've made excuses and sent his ass to bed. Short, the only way he was going to go down was kicking and screaming. "How about I get the rest of the dishes, you just stay here and rest your eyes."

"No... just give me a minute."

Jack flicked the kitchen light off, adding ambiance to Daniel's minute. "You can start helping by loading the dishwasher, how's that?"

Daniel lifted up his right hand and gave Jack the okay sign.


This time he waved away Carter's help as he balanced the dishes and the cake. "Daniel and I got this."

She followed him to the stairs, blocking his path. "No, sir, you've got Daniel's ass covered." Her lips did that crazy smirky thing that drove him nuts. "Give me more credit than that," she hissed, leaning into his space.

He grumbled nonsense under his breath, going more for the annoyed pitch rather than actual words, stupidly hoping to steer Carter away from him and back to the center of the room where Fraiser was entertaining everyone with a story about living life with a teenager, much to Cassie's embarrassment. But his 2IC didn't ruffle easily. Grabbing the cake that was balancing precariously on Jack's stack of dishes, Carter began to walk up the stairs before Jack could stop her without drawing attention.


Her footsteps softened. "Oh." She glanced over her shoulder at Jack. "He's..."

Jack walked around her, gently laid his plates on the counter and walked over to Daniel, who was in the same position Jack had left him. "Sleeping, yeah."

Carter placed the cake on the counter, then moved next to Jack. Tentatively, she reached out a finger to touch him, then quickly drew it back. "I don't want to wake him."

Daniel didn't move as Jack rubbed his back. "I'm thinkin' he's down for the count. Daniel," he whispered.

"Ooof. Hey!"

Carter hip checked him out of the way as she bent and picked up Daniel even before Jack could sputter a word of protest. Daniel settled against her with only one mumble of protest, fisting her shirt and holding it against his body.

"Let me..." Jack reached towards Daniel.

"No, sir." She sidestepped his hands. "I've got Daniel." Carter pointed to the hallway with her chin. "I'm just going to tuck him into bed." She winked at him. "You get to do the dishes."


Daniel wasn't heavy as much as he was awkward. Dead weight, slumped trustingly against her caused her to make three attempts to figure out how to get him into bed without dropping him. Something was wrong, though. Sitting at the edge of the bed, Sam willed her arms to release Daniel so she could tuck him under the blankets, but no matter how much her brain cajoled her arms, her grip on Daniel didn't lessen. Why? Why couldn't... no, make that why wouldn't she release Daniel?

The longer she sat on the bed, the heavier he became and the more comfortable Sam felt bearing his weight. Except for Cassie, she really wasn't comfortable around children. Not that she didn't love them, she did, she adored Mark's kids, but they scared her with their trust and their love. The innocence. And she had a guilty fear of knowing the danger that existed in the heavens above.

So why was this different? One word. Daniel. Daniel made this different. He was no wide-eyed innocent. He knew the danger. Had faced the danger and had overcome. Daniel knew her and her shortcomings and loved her despite them. Because of them. He was her teammate. Her confidant. Her coworker. Her friend. She already had earned his trust; she didn't have to prove a thing. There was nothing Sam had to hide from him.

Daniel's mind was one she knew as well as her own. An adult mind in a child's body. She knew it was horrifically frustrating for Daniel, and Sam fought a shudder thinking what if it had been her, but there was a part of her, the part that wouldn't release its hold on Daniel, that had begun to gently rock back and forth, that believed this little child in her arms was some type of blessing in disguise.



"Ah, Carter, perfect timing." He tossed her a dishtowel, stuck his hands into the large pot, then cocked his head at the trays and pots in the dish drain. "Dry."

She caught the towel. "Is that an order, sir?"

"Least of two evils," he said, withdrawing his hands from the pot and flexing them. "Unless you want dishpan hands."

"Drying is definitely more acceptable."

"Wimp." Jack plunged his hands back into the pot and began to scrub while Sam started to dry a large tray. "He's sleeping?"

She inspected the tray, then rubbed at a water spot. "Daniel never even opened his eyes. I slipped off his shoes and pants, left him in his boxers, socks and tee shirt, covered him with nary a skip in his breathing."


"Why are you thanking me?"

"I shouldn't be thanking you?"

"No, sir. You shouldn't be thanking me for helping you with Daniel."

"Really?" He seemed genuinely confused. He snatched the towel from her grip and wiped his hands. "Why?"

"Because he's not just your responsibility. It takes a village to raise a child." Sam laid a hand on his forearm. "You, me, Teal'c... everyone downstairs... we're that village, sir."

"This may be reversible."

"From your mouth to god's ears, my grandma used to say. But just in case—" Sam cleared her throat.

"I know. Village. Neighbor."


Sam backed out of the bedroom, shut the door and promptly stepped on the colonel's foot.

"Ow, Carter," he yelped. "Watch where you're going!"

"Where I'm going?" she hissed, keeping her voice low. "What the heck were you doing stalking—"

"Not. Stalking." He tested out the foot she'd stepped on. "Hovering. I may have been hovering, but I definitely wasn't stalking."

"So why were you hovering?"


She shook her head.

"No, huh? Not buying that?"

"Nope. I'm thinking you're being a little overprotective."


"I was just saying goodbye, sir. That's it. I wasn't throwing a party with balloons and noisemakers and not inviting you. Nor was I waking Daniel up. I just wanted to say goodbye." She shrugged. "I better get going, I'm sure Teal'c's already waiting in the car." The colonel pulled her into a hug when she attempted to skirt around him and he hugged hard. Hard enough to take not only her breath away but to force tears into her eyes at his unusual display of affection.

"I miss him, too," he whispered in her ear.


"Village my ass," Jack complained under his breath.

"Jack." Daniel pushed up his glasses before turning towards Jack. "I'm spending one night at Sam's house, you're not sending me to the evil foster mother who's going to lock me in the closet."

"Which foster parent locked you in the closet?"

"Aaargh." Daniel took out his frustration out on the tee shirt he was trying to pack and angrily stuffed the poor unsuspecting article of clothing into his carryall. "It was an analogy, Jack. Nothing more. Nothing less." He looked up, catching Rose's gaze. "Could you please keep him under control?"

"You had foster parents who locked you in closets?"

"You aren't helping, Rose."

"You brought it up, Daniel." Rose carried his pajamas from the dresser to the bed.

"Thanks." Daniel rolled the PJs into a ball so it could fit into the space left. "I didn't mean anything by what I said... " He turned his attention from the bag to Jack and Rose. "And now if I deny anything, you're going to think I'm lying and if I tell you I spent my formative years in a closet you're going to hunt the person down and—never mind." He went back to packing. "I'm just going to Sam's," he said softly. Okay, this was totally weird, he was just going for an overnight trip, across town... to Sam's... why did he suddenly feel nervous? Anxious? On the verge of tears? Emotions that he was pretty sure had nothing to do with the closet at Mrs. Burns' house.

"Don't forget your cell." Jack placed it in the side pocket of the carryall, zipped it up, then patted the indentation. "This way you can call whenever you want. Day or night."

"Or you can call me?" Damn, where the hell did that need in his voice come from. This was Sam, for god's sake.

"You'll do fine," Jack promised. "Just one word of advice, bring home your dirty clothes, do not let Carter wash them, we don't need them shrinking any tinier."

"Jack!" Rose reprimanded, but not before Daniel had flashed him a grateful smile for reminding him this was Sam, whose house he had spent many wonderful hours at. She was no different. He may be short, Jack was telling him, but he was still the essence of who he had been, and so was Sam. And though they would all make the usual "open mouth, insert foot statements," Jack was just gently reminding him that the more things had changed, the more they remained the same.


Daniel waved goodbye as they drove away in Sam's car and he gave her a thumb's up when she checked him in the rear view mirror.

"Why do I feel like I'm kidnapping you? And right at this moment, my picture is going up in the post office as a wanted criminal."

"Double whammy? Rose and Jack? I'm surprised they let you leave without frisking you."

Sam laughed. "The colonel did ask me if I had a zat to protect you, just in case."

"He's just watching my six." Daniel felt a bit guilty not sticking up for Jack.

"He told me we should go home and just stay in the house—"

"Okay, he's just a tad overbearing."

"And Rose?"

Daniel didn't think it was appropriate to let Sam know that Rose had slipped him a twenty dollar bill and the number for the local taxi company just in case he wanted to come home. "Rose? Where do you think Jack learned it all from?"


"The grocery store?"

"Sorry," Sam replied sheepishly, grabbing a cart. "The cupboard is bare." She looked at the cart then at Daniel. "You don't want to—"

"Not on your life."

"I was just checking. Do you want to hold onto the side of the cart?"

"No. I'll just walk along side the cart rendering my opinion. With a yea or a nay regarding your food choices."

"You're a bit bossy, aren't you?"

Daniel waggled his eyebrows at her. "Just testing the waters."


"I don't do breakfast."

"I do." Defiantly, Daniel stood, arms crossed, feet spread, blocking Sam's forward motion with the cart.

"We'll go out for breakfast."

"Short or tall, Sam, I like my breakfast and I don't want to go out for it. Cereal's okay."

"Really? A box of cereal? I don't need to go all Julia Child and make you fluffy pancakes—"

"No. Jack makes the pancake and waffles, you can give me a box of cereal."

"I can do that."


"Daniel, this is the second time we've gone down this aisle."

"That." He pointed to the top shelf. "I can't reach it without standing on—"

"Don't stand on anything but your two feet. I'll get it."

Sam stepped around Daniel and grabbed the box of granola cereal.

"Not that one. Yuck... That one crunches like rocks no matter how long you let it sit in the milk."

"O-kay." She put the cereal back. "Which one?"

"That one. The one with all the little boxes of cereals—not that one, that has the healthy samples—the one on the left with the Fruit Loops and—"

"Tons of sugar?" Sam tossed it in the cart.

Daniel stood on the bar and reached into the cart, withdrawing the cereal Sam had just put in and studied it, turning it over and over in his hands as they walked down the aisle. "You can have the—which ones would you like?"

"Cinnamon Toast Crunch sounds almost edible."

He threw it back into the cart with a sigh. "This comes from someone who eats blue Jell-O with whipped cream?"

"I like blue Jell-O."

Daniel jumped on the back of the cart, faced Sam, and held onto the sides for dear life as she made a hair pin turn that a NASCAR driver would be proud of. "Hey, I wouldn't do me bodily harm."

The cart came to a screeching halt right in front of the bakery. "That was for the Jell-O remark," she smiled sweetly at him. "Now, what cookies do you want?"


"This is good." Daniel pulled apart his sandwich, trying to make the most out of what was left on his plate.

"You've never had Fluff and peanut butter?" She refilled his glass of milk. "I definitely took the Colonel as to being a fluffernutter fan."

Daniel licked his fingers. "Nope. Guess he feels he needs to feed me nutritious meals."

"Put it on whole wheat bread and the sandwich becomes wholesome."

Daniel laughed. "You're a bad influence, Sam."

"I try."


Daniel watched her clean up the kitchen, arrange the fruit in a bowl and tie up the bag of bread. "Sam, what was it like being a sister?"

"A sister?" She turned, leaned against the counter and hugged the bread to her chest. "What brought that up?"

Suddenly afraid he'd crossed the line, Daniel shrugged.

"It's okay." She dropped the bread into the drawer, sliding it closed with her hip. "You can ask; it just came out of left field, that's all."

"Just thinking how lucky Mark was," Daniel quietly replied.

"I don't think Mark thought so, always having a little sister tagging along. My mother tried to explain to me that my older brother truly didn't want me as his shadow, but there were plenty of times I would slip away—"

"What did Mark do?"

Sam smiled at memories that Daniel wasn't privy to. "Mark would scowl. Yell. Threaten, but in the end—he always gave in. He was my parent when our mother died. Took me under his wing. Gave me my first drink. My first joint. Took me to my first concert. My first driving lesson. And I was the buffer between him and my dad. Anger. Arguments. Over everything. And then Mark left. Moved to California. He left me. Our home. And I tried to be what my father wanted. What my father wanted from Mark. I went into the military."

"I'm sorry." Daniel got up and hugged her, wrapping his arms around her legs. "I didn't mean to—I'm sorry."

She reached behind her, detached his hands and kneeled down, his hands still in hers. "Don't be, joining the Air Force was the best decision in the world. It may have been done for the wrong reasons, but it was so right. In the end, I got my father back, my brother and his family, I've gone into space, I've traveled the universe, and saved the Earth a few times." Sam kissed his cheek. "And I've made a good friend or two in the process."


"So—what do you think?"

"You do have a death wish."

"Daniel, we go through the Stargate for a living. Our molecules are—" She waved her hands through the air as if that explained the technobabble. "How can you possibly be afraid?"

He wasn't afraid. Daniel was actually thrumming with excitement. He didn't have the heart to remind Sam that at this moment in time he was no longer traveling through the Stargate, which made the invitation to ride on the back of her motorcycle even more wonderful. "I'm not afraid." Reverently, he ran his fingers along the chrome handlebars. "I just meant that Jack was going to kill you if ever found out."

"I'm not going to tell him." She smiled wickedly at Daniel, then tossed him a child-sized helmet from the shelf by the garage door. "A present. For you."

Daniel slipped it on, then patiently waited while Sam adjusted it. "Just so you know, I've ridden a motorcycle before. When I was big and when I was short, the first time around."

"An old pro?"

He nodded, the helmet sliding up and down with the motion.

She tightened the strap one more time then reached back onto the shelf where the helmet had come from and held out a child sized leather jacket.

He was overwhelmed to the point of speechlessness.

"It's okay, Daniel." She tapped his chest with the jacket. "I can't have you riding on the back in a sweatshirt, you're much too cool for that. Come on, let's put this on you and get started, there's this great donut shop I want to take you to."


At first the shock was great, the rush of wind sucking the air from his lungs, the landscape whizzing by at sickening speed. Just like 'gate travel. And it was great and he loved it. He closed his eyes and allowed the sensation to wash over him.

Their bodies swayed with the bends and turns and Daniel hated that Sam was holding back. He wanted to pound on her back and scream in frustration because she was playing it safe for him. And he didn't want to be safe and protected, he wanted to be grown up, tall enough to whisper in Sam's ear, "go faster," but he couldn't, so he bit back his frustration, kept his eyes closed, picked a mission from memory and pretended.


Proudly, Daniel stood, leather jacket, helmet tucked under his arm, mirroring Sam's stance as she eyed the selection.

"See anything you like?"

Eyebrows raised, he turned to her. "Actually, I think the more appropriate question would be, 'see anything you don't like'."

"Looks pretty yummy?"

Stupefied, Daniel nodded. "Are we going to eat here or take home—"

"I thought we'd eat here and take some home to Rose and the colonel."

"My treat." Daniel stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. It was stupid, really, the ID in there meant nothing to anyone except him. But it was for security; the wallet came with him everywhere, and his keys. Jack knew and had said nothing and Sam didn't even blink an eye.

"Treat? Let's see—what the most expensive thing on the menu?"

"Can I help you?" the middle aged man behind the counter asked. The donut shop wasn't crowded. Mid-week, early afternoon, he and Sam were the only patrons.

"I'll have a chocolate glazed donut with Butterfinger—no, make that Snickers topping."

"Got it... what about sugars? We have—"

Adamantly, Sam shook her head. "That's enough sugar for him."

The man chuckled at Sam. "Yeah, he looks like a bundle of energy. Keep your mom on her toes, young man?"

Daniel bristled. "My mom is—" He was going to say dead, but Sam drew his attention with a fake cough. "That's putting it mildly. Most of the time my mom doesn't even know what I'm up to."

Sam kicked him.

"Ow!" He glared at her.

"Sorry, it was an accident."

"It wasn't an accident—"

"Stop trying to distract me, I'm trying to order."

"I'm not distracting you—I was talking and I wasn't done ordering. Can I have a café Florentine to go with the donut?"


Daniel nodded. "The caffeine helps with my asthma attacks. Doctor's orders."

"Daniel—" Sam hissed.

"Small, could you make that coffee a small?" He turned to her and smiled innocently. "What do you want to order?"


Sam looked over her shoulder, checking out their distance from the man behind the counter before she leaned over the table and invaded Daniel's space. "Is this how you made the colonel grey?" She plopped back into her chair with a growl of exasperation. "You're going to make me old before my time."

"Would you have rather I called you mom?"

"You know, if I did have a zat on me..." She snapped her fingers.

"And what would you tell Jack? Rose? Teal'c? That you lost me?"

"Nope. That you annoyed the shit out of me and I just had to do away with you. They'd understand. Totally." Sam picked an Oreo crumble off her donut and popped it in her mouth.

"I love you, Sam," Daniel blurted out. Horrified, his gazed darted around the room, as if searching for someone else to lay blame.

"Daniel..." Sam placed her hand on top of his.

He slid his hand out from under her grip. "Oh, god, Sam." The donut had lost its appeal and he pushed it away.

Using her free hand, Sam pushed it back.

"You and Cassie are the only two who treat me like me. Everyone else tries, but they don't always succeed and honestly, I..." Sam blurred, Daniel could feel the tears curtaining his vision and he took a breath, then another, rolled his eyes skyward, making sure he wouldn't blink until the threat had passed. One more deep breath seemed to do it. Bless Sam for remaining silent. Daniel's voice was stronger. "I need things."


"Things, you know." Daniel rolled his hand, hurrying Sam's thought processes along. "Like a hug. Or a ki—a story read to me. I need to know I'm not alone. I'm thirty-nine, why am I feeling those things? Why do I need those things?"

"Because you're human. And humans desire contact with the people around them."

"I'm an adult."

"I know. But maybe, and this is a real little maybe, your heart hasn't caught up with your brain."

Daniel could actually feel the color drain from his face. "No."

"Why not?"

"Because sometimes my emotions overpower my intelligence."

"And what happens then?" Sam asked softly.

"I become that needy eight-year-old orphan again."

"No, you don't," Sam insisted, getting up from her side of the booth and going to sit next to Daniel. She threw caution to the wind and slung her arm around his shoulders, pulling him closer to her. "You're not that orphan boy anymore. You have family that loves you. Friends that will always watch your six." She kissed his head. "And your heart. Because this time, when you need that kiss," Sam kissed his head again," or just a plain hug, I can guarantee you, there will be someone there for you, Daniel."

"I'd ask you to promise but that sounds really lame."

"We could pinky swear." Sam crooked a pinky at Daniel. "I never, ever break a pinky swear promise."

Daniel held out his pinky and the second Sam locked her finger around his, he scrambled onto his knees, tucked their joined hands between their bodies, buried his face in the familiar smell of her leather coat and cried.


Afterwards, Daniel was subdued and fragile, eyes downcast, eating his donut in silence. Sam wondered if somehow she'd pushed too far.

"You want another donut?" She nudged him back to reality when she caught him staring across the restaurant at the menu board.

He gave a sorrowful groan. "Brain says yeah. Kid stomach says no."

"Smart stomach." She picked up his coffee cup and shook it. "There's still more."

"I'm finished. Though tonight, while I'm lying in bed, I'm going to kick myself."

"Time to go?" She slid out of the seat without waiting for his answer and grabbed their garbage. Daniel followed her out of the booth, but headed off towards the counter, backtracking to grab both of their helmets.

"Decisions, decisions, huh." Sam retrieved their helmets from Daniel the second he began to swing them by their straps, way too close to the glass cases for her to feel comfortable.

Retrieved of his burden, Daniel flashed Sam a smile of thanks, then pressed his nose to the glass.

"Try, this." Sam handed Daniel the menu.

"A dozen would be enough."

"Yes, a dozen would be enough."

"How about this. This. And this." He pointed his choices out to Sam.

"He's reading that?" The guy behind the counter nodded his head. "Wow. How old are you, little fellow? Four?"

"Of course I'm reading this. I'm not—"

"Six." Sam stepped between Daniel and the man. "He's six."

"Small for his age."

Daniel peeked around Sam. "Believe me, this height thing is only temporary."

Sam waved a hand behind her back and based on Daniel's Goa'uld expletive, she'd found her mark. "He's a genius."

"Excuse me... can I please order?"


Sam waited while Daniel secured the box of donuts in the saddlebag, stepping back and letting him struggle with the buckles until secured.


"Yes?" She resisted the urge to tug on the straps.

"Do I look four to you?"

She sighed.

He sighed and began to fiddle with the zippers on his leather jacket. "Fifteen. I hit my growth spurt at fifteen. I remember 'cause Mr. and Mrs. Broughton, who I was living with at the time, had a fit that I kept outgrowing my clothes. I cost money. Too much money for them."

"And what about before you were fifteen?"

He looked everywhere but at Sam. "I was short. Very short. Below the percentile the experts relied on to measure height and weight. Glasses. Short in stature. Long hair. Gangly. At thirty- nine, I was just getting comfortable with my body and now I'm six. Six. Couldn't they have at least gone for fifteen so I could look you in the eye?"


Sam rode mindlessly, concentrating on the little hands holding on. The bike gave an imperceptive weave to the left when one of those little hands began to pound on her back. She gave a quick check in her side view mirror and veered into a diner's parking lot. Daniel was scrambling to get off the bike before the kick stand was in place.

"Whoa." Sam seized him by the scruff of the jacket as he began to take off towards the diner. "Stop!"

"Pee. I gotta pee. Now!" He was dancing, panicking.

She grabbed his hand, ran, and didn't even ask permission to use the bathroom when the two of them burst into the diner. Following him as he threaded among the patrons, Daniel handed her his helmet, as a runner would hand off a baton, just before he pushed through the door marked 'Men's'.

Leaning against the wall between the Men's and Women's bathrooms, Sam took off her own helmet and smiled at the mother and little boy, also around six, going to the bathroom.

"You're much braver than I am," the woman whispered to Sam as she held the Women's room door open for her son. "In today's day and age, I would never think of allowing him to go the Men's room by himself." She gazed at Sam's leather jacket and the two helmets. "But then again, I see you're more of a risk taker."

Sheepishly, Daniel exited, apologizing profusely even before the door swung close. "I keep forgetting my bladder is smaller." He took the helmet from her hands and placed it on his head, leaving the straps hanging. "Phew. I feel soooo much better. Thank you."

She watched him walk towards the door while she stood in shock. Stupid. She was plain stupid. The woman was right, she was taking risks with Daniel, and Daniel had hit the nail on the head when he said she treated him like Daniel. She did. Sam treated him like he was a thirty- nine year old man. Which he was, mentally. But that body, that little boy who housed her best friend in the universe, was a child. With a child's inability to protect himself. With a child's frailty and fragility. What the fuck had she been thinking when she'd strapped that helmet on his head?


She was overly cautious on the ride home, fearful of her own skills, even more fearful of the other drivers as they whizzed by, honking. Earlier, she had suggested stopping off to rent a movie, but now, she rode right past the store, just wanting to get Daniel to her house, padlock the door, cushion all sharp corners and secure the cabinets with locks. Sam was being ridiculous, she knew it, and Daniel would kill her if he even suspected what she was thinking, but as her dad used to say when things didn't go her way, 'tough shit'.


"Something's wrong." Daniel eyed her warily as he handed her his helmet, then shrugged out of the leather jacket.

His cheeks were pink tinged from the wind and there was a touch of chocolate right in the corner of his mouth. He looked young, incredibly young. "Nothing's wrong," she lied.

"Come on, Sam. Don't kid a kid."

She hung up the helmets and the leather jackets on the two side by side hooks and made a show of rubbing her forehead. "Headache. Sorry."

"Why didn't you say something—we could've stopped and—"

"What, call the colonel and have to explain me and you on the motorcycle? That would have gone over well. Two aspirin. A glass of wine and I'll be good as new."

Daniel put the box of donuts on the counter and Sam could feel his eyes boring into her as she took the aspirin. "I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry for? I'm sorry we didn't stop to get a movie."

"Why do people feel the need to entertain me? I would've been happy just being home, ordering in dinner—oh, don't get me wrong, I loved the helmet, the leather jacket and motorcycle ride—I just..." He scuffed his sneaker along the grout in her floor. "I just want you to be honest. If I was big and you had a headache, you would have begged off and I would've understood."

Sam sank into the kitchen chair. "I didn't have a headache until I met someone in the diner."

"Someone you knew?"

She shook her head. "No, someone who made me feel stupid and irresponsible. The headache came hand in hand with my stupidity and irresponsibility."

Daniel smirked at her. "You're neither stupid nor irresponsible. Even Jack would have a good laugh over that."

"He wouldn't be laughing if he heard about the motorcycle."

"Oh... maybe he would rant and rave at first, but he trusts you with his life and with mine."

"I wanted you to love me. I wanted to be the person in your life who would always walk the line just to make sure you were never bored. Do the unexpected." She grabbed a napkin and began to shred it into tiny pieces. "The motorcycle. That was nuts."

"I needed that motorcycle. And the donut shop. And whoever made you feel stupid and irresponsible didn't know what they were talking about." Gently, he touched her face in an action way too grown up and mature for the child-sized Daniel. "You're my best friend. And today, you did what a best friend should do... you cared enough to listen to me."


Incrementally, Sam relaxed. The feeling of impending doom lessened in the security of her home. The Colonel had "tsk'd" and sighed when Daniel accidentally spilled the beans when he called to tell them about their donut gift, but the two of them had survived his wrath and Rose's browbeating. Survived and laughed, then toasted their adventure with two bottles of Snapple.


"Go to sleep."

"You sound like Jack," Daniel grumbled sleepily as he futilely attempted to crawl into a small space on the couch. Opening one eye, he glared at her. "And that's not a compliment."

"I didn't think it was. But it's late. Taking you for a motorcycle ride was bad enough, allowing you to stay up past your bedtime is grounds for court martial."

Thankfully, Daniel digested her words in the manner she intended and smiled. Slowly, but it was still a smile. He sat up, stretched, stood, wavered a tad, sighed heavily, then gazed at the TV longingly.

"If you can tell me what's on, which will be an indication that you've been semi-conscious for the past fifteen minutes, then you can stay up."

"Goodnight." Daniel surprised her with a kiss to the cheek before shuffling off to sleep in the spare bedroom.


Sam hadn't stayed up much longer than Daniel, though she would never admit that to him. She checked on him once before she went into the bathroom and one more time just before she got into bed.

The bed in the guestroom wasn't that big and neither was Daniel, but he was curled into a corner of the bed, no different than if he was an adult. He always seemed to conserve space and energy, and it wasn't something that had even registered or affected her when he was an adult, but now, he looked lost and lonely.

She sat at the edge of the bed, then shook his shoulder. "It's okay." Sam physically shifted Daniel to the center of the bed. "Let's move you on over to the middle."

"I'm fine," he said, and without even opening his eyes, he slid back to the spot he'd previously occupied.

He may have been fine with it, but it bothered Sam. She wasn't exactly sure why, but she felt it would be wrong to leave him. He looked uncomfortable, so she tried again, with pretty much the same results. Frustrated, she sat down on the chair next to the bed. Annoyed that he wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing. What she wanted him to do.

Sam was unsure if her hand flew to her mouth to stifle a groan or a burst of laughter. Daniel wouldn't do what she wanted him to do? She sounded like her mother, the woman who always made Sam wear a sweater because she was cold. Ohmygod, how did she go from being Daniel's friend to feeling this sudden tsunami of maternal instincts for him?

Sleep. That was it. Her sleep addled brain was making her feel things that she really didn't feel. Experience and seeing things that weren't really there. Right now, she was going to sleep and dream of scientific equations and motorcycles without little boys riding shotgun.


Sam had fallen asleep, the problem was her inability to stay asleep. She was too hot, the room was too cold, the bed was too soft, the pillow was too hard, and as much as she tossed and turned, there was no comfortable spot to be found. Anywhere.

Restless nights went with the territory. Going through the 'gate, dealing with what SG-1 dealt with on a daily basis made uninterrupted sleep a rarity, so she did what she usually did on nights such as these. Got up. Peed. Washed up and avoided the mirror. Poured herself a small glass of wine and headed to the living room to bore herself senseless with an infomercial.

"Oh." The reason for the wine forgotten, she left the glass on the table in the hallway before entering the darkened living room. Daniel was asleep on the couch, not the bed where she'd left him. On her couch, covered with an old blanket and an even older pillow and that's when it hit her.

This couch had been Daniel's comfort zone whenever he'd stayed the night. He'd hated the bed in the spare room with a passion and he once confessed that fact to her after too many glasses of wine. And this was where he'd sleep, pressed up in the curve where the cushions met the back pillows, covered with an old blanket and pillow Sam always kept in the linen closet for the occasion.

Somewhere during the night, this younger version of Daniel remembered what she'd forgotten, and he had managed to drag the pillow and blanket from the linen closet over to the couch. This was why Daniel refused to sleep in the middle of the bed; his body was seeking the place of familiarity that his mind had forgotten.

Sam went to her bedroom and dragged out her own quilt and pillow to the living room, curled up on the chair, sticking the pillow under her head and tucking the blanket around her body. She remembered the wonderful nights' sleep she would have on this very chair, with this very blanket and pillow, with Daniel close by. Live and learn, she decided as her eyes began to close. And listen. Maybe Daniel could teach her a thing or two about the wonders of being young, as long as she remembered to listen.


Sam jerked awake, the crash still reverberating in her sleep addled brain. Instinctually, she reached for her weapon, then dropped back onto the chair with a sigh when she realized this was her living room and not an offworld mission.

"Don't worry," Daniel yelled from the kitchen. "Nothing broke."

"I'm really glad," she shouted back.

"The bowl didn't break a lot. It's just a little chip. Shit! Ow! Sam, where are your band aids?"


She'd been prepared for the broken bowl, the mess of milk on the counter, the little boxes of cereal stacked like a pyramid on the table, and she even kept her cool at the amount of blood. What shocked her, though, were Daniel's tears as he watched her inspect his bloody fingers.

"It's okay."

"I broke your bowl. I ruined breakfast. I made a mess. You got blood on your pajamas."

"It's all fixable," she soothed, carefully washing the cuts with a towel, the blood bubbling to the surface the second Sam swiped it away. "These are a little too deep for a band aid. I think you may need a butterfly."

Tears hovered on his lower lids, spilling over when he blinked. He sniffed, then wiped his face against his shoulder. "Stupid cuts... this body is blowing them out of proportion. They really can't be that deep to hurt this much."

"Scale of one to ten."

"I'm looking at them. They can't hurt that much," he repeated

"How much do they hurt? One to ten, Daniel, come on."

His lower lip trembled and he gazed at Sam in disbelief. "Ten. And a half. How is that possible?"

"I don't know. Maybe you feel things differently... like pain."

"I hate this... Not you," he was quick to amend. "I hate this body. What was done to me..."

"Hold this." Sam grabbed Daniel's left hand and pressed it atop the wash cloth wrapped around his right hand. "I'm just going to get the bandages."


She spread a clean towel on the kitchen table, boosted Daniel onto a chair and carefully unwrapped the dishtowel.

"Your hands are shaking."

She clenched her trembling hands into fists, exhaled, then slowly opened them, fanning her fingers.

"You're still shaking. Sam," he said, sniffing in noseful of mucous, trying not to look at the blood sliding down his fingers. "You've done butterfly bandages a hundred times... ninety nine of them on me."

"I'm sorry." She clasped her trembling fingers together, as if concentrating in prayer.

"You're sorry? Why are you sorry?" He glanced at the counter then the floor. "I broke your bowl. Messed up your counter—"

"I'm sorry I can't fix this."

"We need to call Janet?" Shocked, Daniel looked down at his injured handed. "You can't fix this?" He began to pull his hand back, leaving a streak of red across the towel. "It's okay, it really doesn't hurt—I'm sure—" He fumbled for the washcloth and started to clumsily rewrap his hand.

"No." Sam snatched his wrist and slowly guided the hand back onto the towel. "I can fix your hand. That I can do—but I'm sorry, I can't fix you. I can't make you tall. Or take away the nightmares. All my degrees and I can't help you. All this technology at our fingertips and there's nothing I can do for you." Sam's emotional strength betrayed her and a tear escaped, languidly sliding down her cheek.

"No one can fix me, Sam, and I'm sorry if I made you feel guilty. Sometimes my fear just spills over into anger and frustration." He hiccupped back a sob. "Please don't cry," he begged, sticking his injured hand under her nose. "Fix me?"


Sam ignored her better judgment and gave Daniel an adult Tylenol for the ache, but even now the bandaged hand was sitting in his lap while Daniel struggled trying to eat a bowl of cereal left handed. Frustrated, he threw the spoon down, and pushed the bowl to the middle of the table.

"How about some toast?"

"With jelly?"

"Whole wheat, white or English muffin?"



Sam ate her English muffin with peanut butter. Daniel ate his with jelly. Actually, that was wrong, Daniel was licking the jelly off his English muffin.

"Sam." He finally took a bite, his tongue catching the specks of jelly in the corner of his mouth. "You know, sometimes I wish I was like the other Daniel."

"Other Daniel?"

Daniel took another bite and chewed slowly. Maddeningly slow.

"When I was big. Grown up in size, but my mind was, you know..." Daniel made a spiral motion with his pointer finger then pointed upwards. "Out there." He dropped the uneaten portion of the muffin onto his plate, then pushed it away. "Maybe it's better not to know what's wrong. Not to understand why people are staring at you. Having no inhibitions. Saying what you want to say, not having to pretend. I hate pretending that I'm a kid."

"And I hated thinking all of your knowledge was gone." Sam was angry, and she pushed her plate away with force. "My heart broke for the other Daniel and for me, too. I thought I'd lost my best friend. How dare you compare the two? You don't remember what it was like." She pounded her chest. "I remember. The Colonel, Teal'c, Janet. We all remember. So don't you dare compare the two..." Oh shit... Daniel was staring at her. Shocked. "I'm sorry," she stuttered.

"Don't be," he said softly. "I didn't realize... I mean, I did realize, I guess I was just being selfish."

"No, you weren't. I was just being..."

"A friend?" Daniel's face melted into a smile. "Treating me like a friend. Not holding back?" Daniel's smile broadened.

Her smile was forced. Truthfully, the other Daniel had scared her. A child with knowledge would grow up eventually. A Daniel without, would never have matured emotionally and intellectually. And when Daniel had been the other Daniel, his mere presence had forced her to step outside her comfort zone and face how much worth she placed on intelligence. Sam was shallow enough to admit her work and her intelligence defined who she was. Without intelligence, she was nothing.

She took stock of this Daniel, who was smiling indulgently at her before continuing on biting his English muffin into a smaller circle. He was intelligent, still the same Daniel, but there was more. This Daniel wore his heart on his sleeve, quick to smile, to cry, to show emotions. This Daniel, for the moment, silenced her ticking clock.


Daniel eyed the motorcycle, his bandaged hand held close to his body, the box of donuts tucked under his arm. "Sam?"


"Why not?" Daniel pouted, caught himself then sucked his lower lip in.

"Why not?" She laughed as she steered him towards the car. "Surely you jest. The bandage on your hand is going to sentence me to a lecture and a serious bunch of finger wagging... the colonel can and would kill me with his bare hands if I rode up with you on the back of the motorcycle. Never mind what Rose would do to me." Sam opened the rear passenger door and stepped to the side, accepting the box of donuts as Daniel tried to get into the back seat without using his right hand.

He accepted her kiss with a tolerant sigh, but averted his head when she took over the task of buckling the seat belt. Sam guessed now was as good a time as any. "I'm going to tell the colonel to have Janet look at your hand."

Slowly Daniel nodded, then rested his hand on the box of donuts Sam placed next to him. "I just feel so stupid. I mean, I knew I was going to cut myself because I didn't have the dexterity to manipulate the pieces of pottery... I mean, bowl."

Damn, he'd waited until he got into the car? "Daniel, this has nothing to do with your abilities to be an archeologist."

"It affects my ability to function in the field if I can't... I cut myself picking up a broken bowl in a kitchen."

"Look, take it for what it was. An accident. Household accidents account for—"

"It's not going to work, Sam."

"Okay, what if I talk to Janet who'll talk to General Hammond about allowing you to have Occupational Therapy a few times a week to build up—"

"I'm not injured. Any type of therapy is for when you're injured."

Gently, Sam tapped the bandage. "You are."

"It's not going to work. I'm not going to work, at least not out in the field, not anymore."

"Honestly, I'm not comfortable having this discussion in the car like this."

"Oh, I'm sorry. You're right. I should be having this discussion with—"

"No." Sam stood, placing her hand on her lower back. "I just meant the way I was leaning into the car was uncomfortable... not that I—"

Daniel crooked his finger at her and she bent, stifling a groan. "Don't take this the wrong way, Sam, but you've definitely been hanging out with Jack too long."


Jack had that look on his face. The same one he had when Daniel would return from a mission with another team, injured. "It was an accident."

"I know. Both you and Carter already told me that." Jack shoved his hands into his pockets and paced around him and Sam. "Daniel, answer me this. How did you get the bowl that fell? You know, the one that you cut your hand on."

"Fingers, Jack." He shoved the box of donuts at Jack as he completed a circuit around them. "Look, we brought donuts. Sam took me to this great place."


Jack nodded distractedly, checked out the address on the box. "A little far. Must have been a nice ride."

"It was." Daniel held his tongue as Sam grabbed his good hand and squeezed. He wasn't that stupid, he certainly didn't have a death wish.

Jack shook his head and handed the box off to Rose, who was watching the interaction with an expression of amusement on her face. There had been the immediate concern when she noticed the bandage, but it was her son who was now entertaining her.

She flipped open the box and peered inside. "Oh... these look great."

"They are," Daniel replied enthusiastically. "Especially the—"

"Eh!" Jack shoved a finger in Daniel's face. "No distractions. Answer the question. The bowl that fell onto the floor and shattered? How, pray tell, did it even get into your hands to begin with. From the counter? The dish drain? The dishwasher?" Jack paused. "You will note that all the things I mentioned are within your reach, Daniel."

"The cabinet."

"The cabinet... hmmm. I've been in Carter's kitchen. How did you reach the cabinet?"

"Daniel?" Sam asked. "How did you reach the cabinet?"

"I jumped?"

Rose snorted. "Sorry."

"Okay, I pulled a chair over. Stood on the chair. Kneeled onto the counter—"

"You didn't tell me this, because, why, Daniel?"

"You didn't ask?"

"You didn't ask, Carter?"

"No, sir. I was distracted by the amount of blood."

"How much blood?"

Daniel stamped his foot.


"Look. I'm sorry, but honestly, it's not like I've never done anything stupid before in my entire life. Big or small. I'm sorry I stood on the chair. Sorry the bowl broke. Sam and I have already discussed my dexterity concerns—"

"Dexterity concerns?" Jack turned towards Sam. "Dexterity concerns?"

"It's a discussion for another time, sir."

"Has Fraiser looked at your hand?" His gazed whipped back to Sam. "Carter, has—"

"No, sir. She hasn't. I was going to call her—"

The phone was in Jack's hand before Daniel could stop him.


"Not now, I'm calling Fraiser, then I'm hauling your butt—"


"Infirmary. Don't put me on hold... damn."


"What? Talk fast; they put me on hold–"

"Hang up the phone."

"No, I'm calling Fraiser or whoever's on duty today."

"Hang up the phone, Jack. I'm asking... please, hang up the phone. Now."

Daniel heard none of Jack's conversation with Janet because he left the kitchen, stomped off to his room and slammed the door. And stood there staring at the door, chest heaving, the tears in direct contradiction to his anger. The door stayed closed, his breathing regulated and the anger dissipated. Now he just felt stupid. Incredibly stupid. Stupid with a side order of embarrassment. Daniel used the bandage to wipe away the tears and a tissue to blow his nose. Tossing the used tissue into the garbage, he squared his shoulders and had one hand outstretched to open the door when Jack barged in, the door missing Daniel by mere fractions of an inch.

"Shit." Jack grabbed Daniel. "Are you okay?" He looked over his shoulder at the opened door. "I didn't clip you with the—"

"I'm fine, Jack. Like I was fine when I walked into the house."

Jack had the decency to look contrite. "I'm sorry. I sorta went overboard."

"Overboard? That's putting it mildly."

"I'm trying to apologize."

"Sam. Did you apologize to her?"

"Carter was much more gracious than you. I said 'I'm sorry, Carter', and she said 'No problem, sir', and we're good to go."

"So you think I'm giving you a hard time?"

"You come home. Bandaged..."

"I wasn't the mummy, Jack. Sam has med field training and experience. I trust her and she's my friend."

"I got scared. Angry. So I—"

"So you blew it all out of proportion, refusing to listen to anyone?"

"Yeah. That's it in a nutshell. Overbearing to a fault. I always was when it came to you Daniel... to all of SG-1."

"I accept your apology."

"Good, then you really won't be pissed to know that Janet is stopping by here on her way home from the mountain." Nervously, Jack fingered the bandage on Daniel's hand.

Daniel placed his good hand on Jack's. "It's okay."

"Then I'm forgiven?"

"I already accepted your apology, don't push your luck."


Daniel sat on the kitchen counter, eyes wide as Janet poked and prodded his unbandaged fingers. Three pairs of eyes stared intently over her shoulder.

"Will whoever is breathing their hot breath down my neck please take two giant steps backwards," Janet demanded, her smile only visible to Daniel.

Fixated on his fingers, he couldn't return the smile. They looked red, swollen and they hurt to look at.

"You did a nice job, Sam."

"I had an excellent patient."

"Janet?" Daniel's voice was low, and embarrassingly tremulous. "Do you think we could do this without an audience?"

"You heard him." Janet glared over her shoulder. "Shoo."

Daniel heard scuffling and complaining, but when he looked up, the three Musketeers had left.

"They're gone, Daniel."

"I know." There was no conviction in his voice

"You're looking for privacy? A closed door?"


"How about, after I treat your fingers, I'm sure you could find something interesting in your room to show me."

Daniel clicked his tongue at her and winked. "Wanna come up to my room, young lady, and see my etchings?"


Janet sat on his bed. Daniel paced. Sat and then jumped up to pace some more. Janet grabbed him. "Stop. Talk."

"I can't."

"I'll start, but I need you to sit."

Daniel sat on his desk chair. Not really facing Janet, not really facing his monitor.

"Your hand looks fine. The fingers are a little swollen and red, I'm going to leave some antibiotics just to make sure no infection sets in."

"It hurt." Daniel wiped a smudge off his monitor.

"Where, let me see?" Immediately, Janet was off the bed, checking out his fingers.

"Not now." He tugged his hand from her grip. "It did hurt when I cut it. All out of proportion. My happiness is way too happy and..." He looked up and Janet. "I get all emotional," he whispered, "over stupid things, like cutting my fingers on a broken bowl." Daniel's gaze settled somewhere around Janet's kneecaps. "And over not so stupid things. SG-1 missing. It seems my brain is willing, but this body refuses to listen. There are no barriers. None. It's like something's broken. Something inside and no matter what happens, my guts and my heart end up on the floor." Daniel lifted his head, captured by the expression on her face. "You're smiling. Why are you smiling?"

"There's nothing wrong with you or your body."


"No." Janet squatted down in front of him. "It's childhood."

"I'm not a child."

Janet made a lemon-sucking face. "No. Not really. Your brain isn't, but your chemical make up is that of a child."

Daniel glared at her through narrowed eyes. "I hated my childhood the first time around. This time I have tears. Nightmares..."

"And people that love you. I wouldn't even begin to imagine how difficult this is for you. And you don't want empty platitudes or reassurances. But we want to help. You have a whole houseful of people who are probably standing with their ears pressed up against the door trying to listen in. We're going to bend the rules, break them and probably fold every regulation at the SGC for you. Do you know why?"


She kissed his cheek then pinched it as she stood. "Because you're so incredibly adorable."

He snarled at her. "You know, since I've been shortened... my sympathy definitely lies with Cassie. I was hoping for a touch more empathy."


Daniel wasn't too sure how this happened. Jack had his king cornered on the chessboard... not yet checkmate. There was one more move he could make, but he was unable to see it. He leaned forward. Squinting.

Jack yawned. "I'm tired, Daniel. Come on, let's call it a night." He cupped his hand over his ear. "Listen, I think even my mom is snoring."

Daniel blinked at his watch, taken back by the time. Sam and Janet had left hours ago, and he and Jack had gotten caught up in a chess game or three. Rose had given him his antibiotic. A glass of juice, a handful of crackers and a kiss before heading off to bed. "It's late."

"We'll leave the board just as it is, and you can destroy all of my self-respect and win tomorrow. Deal?"

Daniel scowled. There was a checkmate here somewhere. Why wasn't he seeing it?

"Daniel, you're drifting."

"Am not."

"Yeah, you are."

"No... I'm just..." He yawned. "Drifting."


"We really need to look into getting you a better place to sleep." Daniel snuggled under the covers, trying to remember getting from the living room into the bed. He peeked under the blanket. Pajamas and everything. He really must be tired.

"The pull out couch in the den is fine." Jack smoothed down the blanket, giving Daniel back his hand.

"I could sleep on the pull out couch. This body is short enough to miss those annoying metal pieces that stick through the too thin mattress. I'll sleep on the couch," Daniel repeated. "And you could sleep here."

"Given the choice, I'd rather go for too thin mattress with poking metal bars than this."

"Than this?" Daniel said defensively, pulling the covers up around his chin. "What's wrong with my bed?"

"I never liked this bed. Ever. I bought it at an odd lot store and I swear it's just weird. The mattress was always way too narrow for me." Jack threw his arms open wide.

"You tell me this now? I never seemed to have a problem with this mattress."

"That's because you usually were sick, injured, passed out from exhaustion or too drugged up on pain killers to notice its imperfections. See, me, I need lots of room to move around. Look, I'll show you."

Without an invitation, Jack stretched out next to Daniel, squishing him to the very edge of the bed. Jack's feet hung over the end and his elbows dug into Daniel.

"Ow." At least a third of Daniel's body was hanging off the side of the bed, and he was afraid to move, but there was no escaping Jack.

"See?" Jack slid back, then heaved his body off the bed.

Daniel yelped in surprise as Jack moved him back to the middle.

"See, I need to stretch out."

"I remember you hogging the bed. The blankets... yeah, you need to stretch out."

Jack moved to the doorway and gave Daniel a slow nod. "Sleep well. If we play our cards right, I think we can convince my mom to make fresh blueberry waffles for breakfast."

"Yum," Daniel said around a yawn, closing his eyes just as Jack shut off the light.


"I'm sure the answer is here." Jack tossed a folder on Daniel's overflowing desk. "You just have to find it."

"Daniel Jackson has been unable to find the answer that we seek. Do you believe he has lost the ability—"

"Daniel?" Jack smirked. "Mere months ago I would have never agreed with you, but now, T, I'm thinkin' our boy has lost his touch." Jack threw his arm over Sam's shoulder. "Well, Carter, looks like SG-1 only has one resident genius."

Daniel was too busy trying to find the right answer to even talk to his teammates. Damn, it was right in front of him amid these folders and memos.

"I’m thinking Daniel’s even forgotten that we used to be…" Jack made a crude hand motion. "Makes me feel really wanted." He began to hum a few bars of "If You Can’t be with the One you love, love the one you’re with," as he pulled Sam even closer.

Sam rolled her eyes at her commanding officer’s juvenile antics. "Sir, I'm thinking his inability to locate the answer to such a simple problem may very well be the reason General Hammond has restricted his 'gate travel."

"No, Sam." Janet picked a donut from the box on the table. "It's not his lack of intelligence that's prohibiting his 'gate travel. It's his loss of limb."

Loss of limb? Daniel looked down at his right hand…

Heart pounding out of his chest, Daniel shot up in bed, slamming his lips shut against the building scream. He brought his bandaged hand up to his nose in the darkness. Dream. It was just a dream. No. Not a dream. It was a nightmare. A slam-dunk-make-you-want-to-vomit nightmare. He breathed through the nausea, which helped his stomach, but didn't make the visuals disappear. Or the feeling of inadequacy or the lack of self-worth.


Leaning forward, he moved a chess piece, played the moves out in his head, then slid it back. Then tried it with another piece. Then another. Two more pieces and he still couldn't obtain the checkmate he knew was right in front of him.

The bishop was in his left hand, ready to take down the whole board in one fell swoop.

"I thought I left you in bed." Gently, Jack took the piece from his hand and placed it back on the board. "You'll find the answer in the morning, after a good night's sleep."

"No such thing as a good night's sleep anymore."

"Nightmares still bothering you?"

Daniel shrugged. "Still is the operative word. Nightmares are still there."

"Have you mentioned them to Fraiser?"

Daniel shrugged again.

"Work with me, Daniel, okay?"

"No, I've mentioned it to her. What's she going to do? Give me sleeping pills? Six year old bodies do not take sleeping pills." He leaned forward again, examining the board from the right. "The nightmares will disappear in time. They usually do."

"Do you want to talk about them?"

Daniel looked up at Jack. Even though his eyes had adjusted to the lack of light in the room, Jack was just a mere outline, his expression bathed in shadows. "No, I don't want to talk about them."

"Okay, you don't want to talk about your nightmares. You don't want to go back to sleep. How about a midnight snack?"

"I think it's after midnight."

"Picky. Picky. How about an after-midnight snack?"



Daniel's ass was on the counter, his hands around a mug of instant hot chocolate with freeze-dried marshmallows. "I wonder what chemical keeps the marshmallows—"

"Eh," Jack warned. "You don't want to go there. This was easier, quieter and quicker than making the real stuff. Just remember not to mention to my mother that I'm letting you drink a box full of chemicals." Jack clinked his mug against Daniel's. "To keeping secrets."

"You know what I miss the most about being an adult?"

"Driving? Seeing yourself in the mirror?"

"Sleeping with you. Having sex with you. Sharing that part of me—"

Jack poured the remainder of his cocoa down the sink, grabbed Daniel's and did the same. "This conversation is null. Void. And wrong on so many levels." He eyed Daniel suspiciously. "You don't feel anything down there—I mean..." Vehemently Jack shook his head. "Forget I even asked. Time for bed."

"You wanted to know if I wanted to talk about my nightmares."

"Huh? You had a nightmare about you and me and—" Jack scanned the room "— S. E. X?"

"No, Jack, I didn't. I had a nightmare about..." Silently, Daniel cursed his body's betrayal and he awkwardly swiped the tear with the bandaged hand. "You thought I'd forgotten about us. About what we used to be. Who we used to be. And I want you to know, I didn't forget. I remember the emotions, if not the feelings, if that makes sense."

"Makes sense," Jack slowly repeated.

Daniel tapped Jack's chest. "In here, this was my home. My safety and security net."

"It still is, you know. Just in a different way."

"I'm sorry for all you've lost, Jack."

"We've all lost in this situation. Some differently than others."

"Am I a burden?"

"No more than you ever were before. You're still a pain in the ass. You never sleep. You whine."

"I never used to whine."

"Believe me, you used to whine. And pout. And complain."

"I did not."

"Should I call Carter and Teal'c now? In the middle of the night and ask them if you used to whine?"

"No. But we will call them in the morning." He yawned.

"Bedtime signal!" Jack scooped him off the counter. "See, I love this aspect of you being short... even if you do object. I can carry you off to do my bidding."

"That's not funny," Daniel said, wrapping his arms around Jack's neck and his legs around his waist.

"Wasn't meant to be funny. It was just a very colonel-like observation."

Daniel buried his head into Jack's neck. "Would you read me a bedtime story?"

"A bedtime story?"

"Yeah, there's an article in my new Archeology Today magazine."


Jack woke up stiff and sore, groaning loudly as he untangled his body from its cramped position on Daniel's bed, the boring Archeology Today magazine sliding to the floor. "Oy." He stood slowly, a hand on his lower back while he shook out each leg to restore feeling. Jack hobbled into the kitchen, following the odor of fresh waffles and Daniel's laughter.

Passing the chessboard, Jack stopped, looked then smiled. Checkmate.

"Morning, everyone." He kissed his mother's head and ruffled Daniel's hair. Little kids shouldn't look as tired as Daniel did. Dark smudges like kohl made Daniel's eyes appear sunken, and though he had a huge smile as he helped Rose with the crossword puzzle, he was as pale as the newspaper his mother was scrutinizing.

"Morning, Jack." Daniel held out his empty plate. "Another waffle, please?"

Jack speared a waffle from the plate on the counter, poured a more than healthy amount of syrup on it, then handed the plate back to Daniel.

"Thanks," he said, then went back to the crossword puzzle.

"Morning, Jack." Rose erased the answer she'd just put in. "Help yourself. There's more batter in the bowl if you want to make yourself some fresh waffles."

Daniel tried to shear off a piece of waffle with his fork, but gave up and just harpooned the entire thing. Dripping syrup and all, Daniel began to gnaw on the edges. Rose looked at Daniel over the rim of her glasses, Daniel gazed at Rose over the rim of his glasses and Jack turned his back on both of them and went about making himself a batch of fresh waffles.


"I don't want a bath."


Daniel was tired. And when he was tired, even though it took more effort, he, if one could believe it possible, become even more stubborn. Didn't make a difference if he was big or small, his heels would dig in and nothing short of a block of C-4 could get him to budge. Like now.

"Look, Daniel, buddy. My mother is cleaning the kitchen, my job was to get you unsyruped—"

"There's no such word." He crossed his arms and defiantly stared up at Jack.

"Is now."

"I don't want to be a chore. If I need to take a shower... or a bath, I'll take one. I don't need one."

Jack pulled a two-inch piece of napkin from Daniel's hair, then handed it to him. "It was stuck to your hair." Jack sniffed the air. "Did you know that syrup, when dried, makes a wonderful adhesive? Hmm..." he contemplated. "I wonder if Siler knows that. A natural crazy glue."

Daniel snarled at him before stomping off into the bathroom and slamming the door. Loudly.


"It wasn't me, mom," Jack shouted. "It was Daniel." Jack waited until he heard the water running before he took off to plead his innocence to his mother.


Daniel came out of the shower looking less sticky, but no less tired. "My bandage is toast." He plopped his hand onto the table, a puddle immediately forming around the sodden bandage.

"Crap." Jack peeled back the wrap.

"I did that already," he waggled his fingers. "They look all better."

"Thanks, mom." Jack accepted the clean towel from his mother, exchanging it for the wet bandage he removed. Daniel was right; his fingers looked better, wet, but definitely not as red as yesterday. He dried them gently, and Daniel leaned into Jack with a heavy sigh of exhaustion.

"Here, mhuirnin." Rose placed an antibiotic and a glass of juice on the table. She prodded him when he hesitated, and kissed him lightly on his forehead when he complied. Daniel backed up until his ass made contact with Jack's knees, then glanced pathetically at him over his shoulder. So pathetically, that Jack stopped what he was doing and picked Daniel up. Daniel settled in Jack's lap.

"Umm, Daniel?"

"Tired." He yawned, then began to curl into himself, whining in protest when Jack stopped him.

"No, just let me finish drying and checking out your hand."

"I got it." With loving care, Jack's mother dried each digit individually, patting them down, inspecting them thoroughly.

Daniel nodded, his chin digging into Jack's chest. "Tired," he repeated with yet another yawn. "Shouldn't be tired. I just woke up."

"You were up all night playing chess." Jack shook his head at his mother's inquisitive glance. "Later," he mouthed.

"Checkmate. Did you see?"

"Told you the answer would be waiting for you."

"Didn't want to wait," Daniel drawled, the one syllable word stretched out into two.

"Close your eyes, okay?"

"Jack, honey," Rose said, as she tucked Daniel's hand against his body. "They are closed."

"Sleeping?" Jack whispered.

"No," Daniel answered for Jack. "Not yet."

Jack adjusted Daniel's limp body. "How's that?"

"Now I think he's sleeping."

Jack waited. "Yeah, I think he is."

"Almost." Daniel unbent a leg that Jack had just adjusted, grunted and groaned until he found a comfortable place for it. "Now he's sleeping."

Slowly, Jack slipped out the hand he'd used to protect his family jewels from moving legs, breathed a sigh of relief and glanced heavenward to give thanks. He moved his hand under Daniel's shirt, taking comfort in the rhythmic rise and fall of sleep. "What?" Jack whined at his mother's smug expression.

His mother continued to smile.

Jack's mood darkened. "Don't say it." He shifted the sleeping body. "He's not Charlie."

Rose sat back, offended. "I never said he was. Jonathon?"

"Shit." He turned his face from his mother. Talk about opening up a Pandora's box. "I'm not sure about this, Mom. I fucked up so badly the first time... how do I... why do I deserve a second chance?"

"Maybe it's not only you who's getting a second chance, honey."

"But how do I give Daniel what he needs? My fatherhood skills—"

"He's never asked you to be his father. A friend. A guardian. Someone who loves him unconditionally."

"I don't think I can—"

"Because you're so afraid of failing?"

"Look at my track record."

"Shut up," Rose hissed. "Just shut up. What happened to Charlie was an accident."

"It was my gun."

"Did you shoot him?" Angrily, she swiped at the tears running down her face. "Pull the trigger?"

"I left the gun where he could find it."

"On his bed? In his room? Charlie, bless his soul, needs to have taken some responsibility in this. He was in your room. Going through your drawers. He was an eight-year-old boy. Inquisitive. Curious. Don't make him out to be a saint. Nor are you the devil incarnate."

"I can't forget."

"Where did I mention the word forget? I didn't. You need to remember him with love. His good attributes and his faults. You have a lot of love to give the sleeping child you hold in your arms. Don't shortchange him or yourself because of fear.

"You've lost more than anyone should love in a life time. Your son, your marriage, your father and the man who used to share your bed and your life—"

Jack could feel the unaccustomed heat of blush travel up his face. "Mom!"

"It needed to be said, Jack. Clean the slate. The past will have a whole bunch of memories, both good and bad, but the people who live there need to be remembered with love and not a longing for what was."


The silence between them was comforting and Jack was enjoying the weight of a drooling, sleeping, muttering pint-sized Daniel in his arms.

"Enough!" Rose stood. "We have too much to do to just sit around."


"We," Rose said. "Put the poor kid to bed, then make sure he didn't leave the bathroom a disaster."


Reluctantly, he put Daniel into bed, covered him and in a moment of weakness, Jack found Lumpy and stuck the stuffed animal in Daniel's arms. Jack was rewarded with a sleepy smile and a strangely not so nice déjà vu feeling settled around his heart. For a second, he actually contemplated snatching the toy from Daniel's clutches and throwing it out in the garbage. With his fingers mere inches from the camel's neck he pulled back, deciding to leave the past where it belonged and cut Lumpy some slack.


His mother was in the throes of some sort of crazy hormonal nesting mania. They'd washed the windows. Dusted, swept and scrubbed their way into the kitchen.

Jack balked as his mother pointed to the garbage pail and the refrigerator. "Awww... I hate cleaning out the fridge."

"It shouldn't be bad, just use your organization skills."

"I don't have organization skills, mom."

"A shortcoming I'm trying to fix. Go. Clean. I'm going to throw in a load of towels."

Growling, Jack opened the fridge, yelping in joy when the phone rang. Hopefully it was a polltaker, someone wanting to know if he wanted to re-mortgage his home or, hell, he'd even take a wrong number.


"Teal'c." Jack closed the fridge door then leaned against it. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I have been conversing with Major Carter."

"Yeah?" Jack did a mental hand roll, trying to prod Teal'c because he absolutely hated having to play the pulling teeth conversation with Teal'c.

"It would appear that Major Carter and Daniel Jackson had a sleep over."

Well, damn. The Jaffa was jealous. "It really wasn't anything." Jack tried to rationalize as to why he felt guilty.

"I, too, would like to have a sleep over with Daniel Jackson."


"I will pick him up later this afternoon. We will have dinner together and I will return him tomorrow."

Damn. Jack had just gotten Daniel back. But Teal'c wasn't requesting Daniel's presence, the big guy was hurt enough to be ordering it. "Where's Daniel going to sleep?"

"We will manage. My quarters are large enough to accommodate a second bed. Or a sleeping bag."

"So you're taking Daniel camping?"

"There will be no fire, O'Neill. Just two friends sharing dinner. I will also procure a movie."

"Popcorn. Do not forget popcorn or chocolate covered raisins..." Daniel shuffled into the kitchen, rubbing barely opened eyes. He had bed head and the creases on his face bore a striking resemblance to the pads on Lumpy's hooves. Shoving Jack to the side, he fought with the fridge door.

Jack shoved the phone into his hands, picked him up and sat him on the table. "I'll get you something to drink. Teal'c's on the phone for you."

"Hey, Teal'c." After that, Daniel's side of the conversation consisted of head nods and 'okays'.


Once again, Daniel was packing a bag. "Teal'c sounded hurt that I spent the night with Sam."

"Yeah, I kinda got that impression also." Jack handed Daniel a little plastic bag which contained his toothbrush, toothpaste, a bottle of children's Tylenol and the bottle of antibiotics. "Don't forget to take one of those before you go to bed."

"What? You're not going to give Teal'c a list of instructions?"

"No, I am." Rose put a pair of freshly folded pajamas in Daniel's overnight case.

"What are you going to do tonight?"

"Jack doesn't know it," Rose whispered, "but he's taking his old mother out on a date tonight. Dinner. Movie."

"Who's paying?" Jack asked, throwing in an extra pair of socks.

"Don't let him con you, Rose, with his 'I didn't cash my paycheck' speech. He has direct deposit, linked right to his ATM card which has a VISA logo and is accepted everywhere."

"In that case, I'm going to make reservations at that French restaurant Sam suggested."

"Whoa, wait. Carter suggested a French restaurant?"

"An expensive French restaurant." She patted Jack's shoulder. "What's a good time for you? Six? Six thirty?"

Jack groaned in response.

Rose left with a waggle of fingers then stuck her head back into the room even before Jack could verbalize his French restaurant hatred. "Oh, and I'll check to see if you have to wear a suit."

"A suit? Suit?" He pointed a finger at Daniel. "This is all your fault. ATM card? If I were you, Daniel, I'd be afraid. Very afraid." Jack stopped. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Taking some work with me. I presume that we'll be sleeping at the SGC, so I thought I would run to my—"

"Office? Nope." Jack plucked the folders from Daniel's hands and tossed them onto his computer desk. "You're spending time with Teal'c. Not with artifacts or with your inbox. Play nice. Be nice."


"I am sorry you are not permitted to sit up next to me, Daniel Jackson, but O'Neill informed me—"

Daniel squirmed, trying to see through the rear view window. "It's the law. Though I'm sure Jack didn't put it quite so eloquently."

"O'Neill did not. He mentioned torture and things I would prefer not to repeat in the company of a child."

"I am not a child, Teal'c." Daniel hated that he was starting to feel and sound like a broken record. Maybe he could talk Jack into having a tee shirt made up saying 'the wearer of this shirt is not a child'.

"Please forgive me. I did not mean to imply that you were."

"I know you didn't."

"I did not wish to offend—"

"Teal'c." Daniel counted to three before continuing. "Please, it's me, just short. I'm not a child. Okay, I'm in a child's body which may be a bit disconcerting, but I'm still Daniel Jackson. Shrunk. Compact. Miniature..."

"I get the photograph."

"Photograph? Ahh, picture. You get the picture. Good. Now do you have any plans for today?"


"Give the man your shoes, Teal'c."

"My footware is new, these shoes..." Teal'c held up the battered, two-toned suede shoes. "These are pra'tic nah."

Loosely translated, Teal'c had just called the shoes a piece of shit. "You'll get your own shoes back at the end, honest."

Teal'c glanced down at Daniel.

"Trust me on this, Teal'c, okay?"

Teal'c bowed and reluctantly handed his shoes over to the kid behind the counter. "I will do as you ask."

"Lane 20," the kid said. "Do you need bumpers?"

"Do I look like I need bumpers?"

The teenager's glance slid from Teal'c, down to Daniel. "You two aren't from around here, are you?"


"Now we have to pick out a ball."

"Do we get to keep this ball?"

"No." Daniel was rolling the balls up and down the wooden stands. "Try this one." Daniel tried to pick up the 16-pound ball.

Teal'c hefted it up with ease. "And I am to throw the ball at the white statues?"

"Yeah. Kinda. Sorta."

"Are we going to share this ball?"


Thankfully the lanes were computerized. Daniel punched in all the information then pointed overhead. "See. There we are. I go first, you go second."

"Daniel Jackson, may I inquire as to the objective of this game?"

"To knock the pins down."

"But they appear to be retrieved immediately. That machine is—"

"It's a game. The object is to see which one of us can knock down the most pins."


"Yes." Okay, maybe taking Teal'c bowling wasn't one of his more brilliant ideas. Daniel pushed Teal'c towards the circle of molded chairs. "Sit. Watch. Learn." Daniel tried not to be embarrassed as he picked up the yellow swirl ball with the star from the carousel. The ball that the attendant had pointed out was for 'little kids'. He'd had a choice of yellow or pink; yellow won, hands down. He walked back to where Teal'c was sitting. "See, you put your fingers in the holes like this and hoist the ball up like this and then..." Daniel walked to the second set of marks on the floor, compensating a bit for his height. He glanced over his shoulder at Teal'c who was actually eyeing Daniel as if he were crazy and not short. "Then you walk up, swing the ball and roll it down the lane. You want to hit the head pin to the right or left. It's easy. Watch," he repeated as he began his walk.

Daniel had bowled sporadically in college and one of his foster families belonged to every league imaginable, and he had impressed Jack with his bowling prowess one rainy day when they had ended up at the bowling alley out of boredom. So the ball was lighter, his legs and arms were shorter, how hard could this possibly be?

He released the ball and ended up on his hands and knees. His balance was obviously shot to shit. Mortified, he stared in horror as the sickeningly yellow ball hugged the gutter, taking out the ten pin. He had no speed. What the hell happened to his speed?

Daniel lowered his head and banged it gently on the alley.

"Are you ill, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c's voice was boomingly loud, overpowering the ruckus of the bowling alley.

"Fine," he yelled. "Just fine." Daniel stood, wiped his hands along his thighs and pasted a smile on his face.

Teal'c stood. "Is it now my turn?"

"No. Everyone goes twice. Two chances."

Teal'c sat. "Your ball has been spit back onto the circle."

"Oh... what? Never mind. Thanks." This time Daniel slowed his pace up to the line, came to a dead stop, swung the ball, then cringed in disbelief as the ball slipped from his fingers during the upward arc and flew through the air. It landed halfway down the lane, then bounced four times before taking down another three pins.

Dejected, Daniel sat on the chair behind the scoring table, trying to ignore the well lit, perfectly formed four in the first box right after his name, illuminated on the ceiling for all to see.

"The machine scores for you?"

Daniel nodded.

"The machine returns your ball to you?"

Again, Daniel nodded.

"The machine resets the pins for you to throw your ball at?"

"Yes, Teal'c," Daniel sighed.

"Then where is the enjoyment to this game?"

Daniel snorted. "Try throwing the ball and then you tell me."


Okay, knowing Teal'c as long as he had and being a linguist, Daniel should have realized that 'throw' was exactly the wrong word to use. "Stop!" Daniel yelled, standing on the chair when Teal'c grabbed his bowling ball and in three strides was up to the brown line with the ball balanced on his shoulder like a shot put.

He scrambled off the chair and ran up to Teal'c, trying hard not to fall on the slippery surface.

Slowly, Teal'c lowered the ball. "Is there a problem?"

He swallowed. "Yeah." He waggled his fingers at Teal'c. "Could you gently lower the ball?"

Teal'c brought the bowling ball down to Daniel's eye level.

"Fingers. Here and here. Remember?"

Teal'c placed his fingers where Daniel requested. "Now I may throw the ball?"

"No. Look." Daniel pointed to a few bowlers a lane or two down. "See?" While their forms weren't the greatest, they would give Teal'c the basic idea.

Teal'c nodded. "I believe I understand."

Daniel patted his arm. "Then go for it." He trotted back to his seat, settled in, then ducked for cover as Teal'c brought his arm so far backwards, Daniel had visuals of it slipping from his fingers and decapitating not only him but the people working the snack bar directly behind him.

But Teal'c maintained his grip and the ball literally sailed down the alley, barely touching the finely polished wood, breaking all land speed records as it headed for the triangle of pins. Daniel swore the pins fell down, passed out from fright even before the bowling ball made contact. Even a place as noisy as the bowling alley, the sound of Teal'c's strike was deafening.

Teal'c strutted back to Daniel. "You are correct. I do believe I enjoy this balling game."

"Bowling, Teal'c. The word is bowling." Teal'c reached for his ball, which had just returned to the carousel.

"Wait." Daniel unfolded himself from the chair. "You don't go again."

"I do not understand. Did you not say that everyone receives two chances?"

"Sorry. I wasn't clear enough." Daniel pointed to the reflection of their game's scores. "See that 'X'... that means you've knocked down all the pins and there's no need for you to go again."

"But the pins have been reset."

"Reset for me." Daniel hefted his bowling ball over the lip of the carousel. "It's my turn now."

"I am confused, but I trust you, Daniel Jackson, so I will wait until you tell me my time has arrived."


Daniel struggled along with a sixth frame score of fifty-five. "I'm going to order us some fries and pizza."

"I do not believe that combination is healthy."

"Don't ask, don't tell. And if you keep silent, I promise to make them cheese fries."

Teal'c bowed. "My mouth will remain sealed."

Daniel ordered while Teal'c bowled the next frame, scoring his sixth strike.

"Wow," the man behind the snack bar counter man remarked. "That friend of yours is some bowler."

"Beginner's luck."


By the time the waitress brought over their food, their lane had drawn a crowd. Murmuring and talking among themselves, they were silent when Teal'c bowled, clapping only as the pins collapsed from fright.

"Time to take a break." Daniel pulled Teal'c over to the little table holding their lunch, pointedly ignoring the groans of disappointment.

Teal'c used the red plastic fork to capture a French fry, dragging it through the cheese before eating. "This is a strange phenomenon. I did not realize that bowling was a spectator sport."

"Bowling," Daniel said, plucking the cheese off his pizza, then sticking it into his mouth. "Usually isn't a spectator sport. You're just bowling incredibly well and people are just attracted to perfection."

"I am far from perfect."

"You may not be perfect," Daniel said, pointing to the scoreboard. "But your game is."


Jack was going to be pissed, Hammond would purse his lips together in such a way that you knew the man was mentally drawing and quartering you. Sam, Janet and Rose would get a giggle out of Teal'c posing with the bowling alley manager under the banner "Perfect Game." Daniel took out his cell phone and used the camera feature to grab this pose for posterity, then emailed it to Jack, with the text message 'how I spent my afternoon'.


"That was quite enjoyable, thank you."

"You're welcome, Teal'c." Daniel struggled with the seat belt and it took him two tries for it to snap into place. He pretended not to see Teal'c watching him in the rear view mirror, starting the car only when he heard the click of the belt.

"I do believe I would like to bowl again. Do you think General Hammond would consider an SGC bowling league?"

"That's something you'll have to bring up with him."

"I only ask this because the manager inquired if I belonged to such a league. I told him I did not and he appeared to be concerned that my talent as a bowler was being wasted."

"Just think, if you retire from battling the Goa'uld, you can have another career as a professional bowler."


He dropped his carryall onto the sleeping bag, then followed it down. Thankfully Teal'c wasn't afraid, like some colonels Daniel knew, that he would break not having a mattress under his body. "This is great." Daniel made snow angels in the material of the sleeping bag, then turned on his side. Given half a chance, if he allowed himself to close his eyes for five minutes, Daniel knew he'd be asleep in seconds. Nope. Wouldn't do. He sat up with a jerk. "So what's on the agenda? 'Cause if you have something to do, I could go down to my office—"


"No? No, you have something to do or no, I can't go down to my office?" If Daniel didn't know better, he would think that he'd hurt Teal'c's feelings.

"I have plans. Two movies. I have popcorn and chocolate covered raisins, as O'Neill suggested."

"Okay. Sorry, I just didn't want to be a—"

"You are not a bother, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c laid a hand on his bowed head. "You are my friend."

Daniel reached up and placed his hand on Teal'c's. "Thank you."


"There is a problem with my choice of movies?"

Daniel held a DVD box in each hand. "Over the Hedge and Cars?"

"They are not to your liking?"

Damn, there was that hurt look again on Teal'c's face. "No, they're fine," Daniel quickly amended, handing them back to Teal'c. "I just thought you would want—"

Slowly, Teal'c shook his head. "Star Wars? I believe your previous words to me after we watched the movie at O'Neill's house was that you would rather undergo interrogation by the NID, naked, than watch Star Wars one more time. I believe you even mentioned you would be willing to—"

"Enough," Daniel said, throwing his hands up. "I'm sorry, I'm sure I must've had a drink or two because that was... rude."

"I do not believe alcohol played a part in that conversation."

"Sorry." Daniel handed Teal'c the Cars DVD. "Let's start with this one."


Daniel Jackson watched the movie stretched out on the sleeping bag. Teal'c was glad he'd chosen this mode of sleeping, because he felt comfortable sitting next to his friend rather than crowding him in a fold out bed. The movie was entertaining, but towards the end, Teal'c could not help but notice Daniel Jackson's agitation. He nodded dejectedly when Teal'c inquired as to his health. "Are you uncomfortable?"

"No. Fine." He fidgeted, pressing his hand to his stomach. Smiling embarrassingly when it growled loudly, Daniel eyed the bag of popcorn with longing.

"I do believe a visit to the commissary will be in order. I, too, seem to require sustenance."


Teal'c was confused. Daniel Jackson possessed what O'Neill referred to as a personal space issue, always maintaining a respectable distance among people. But this Daniel Jackson remained attached to his side their entire trek to the commissary, even when receiving and returning enthusiastic greetings from passing SGC personnel.

The commissary was fairly quiet, and for that, Teal'c was grateful. "Would you care to have a seat, and I will make a food choice for you?"

"Thank you, but no." He grabbed Teal'c's hand. "I'd like to come with you."

Teal'c bowed, out of respect as well as to hide his astonishment of the little hand gripping his fingers.


Daniel stood on tiptoes, trying to see the selection of food while Teal'c shielded his body from any prying, curious glances.

"Dr. J!"

"Mrs. Finley, hi." Daniel's smile was broad.

"What's the matter, honey, nothing appeals to you?" The woman's glance bounced from Daniel to Teal'c. "Mr. Teal'c, I'm so happy to see you."

Teal'c inclined his head. Mrs. Finley had been part of the kitchen staff as long as the SGC had been in existence. A good woman, proud, strong, taking no nonsense from the patrons of her commissary.

"How about you two boys have a seat and I'll bring you out something special?"

Daniel hesitated. Gazed upwards at Teal'c, then shrugged.

She waved them away from the line with a flick of her hand. "Go sit. I got something you're both bound to enjoy."


Puppy-like, Daniel shimmied with anticipation, blowing away the steam billowing up from the bowl.

"Careful," Mrs. Finley warned, exchanging a glance of understanding with Teal'c. "It's very hot."

Behind fogged up glasses, Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. He inhaled euphorically.

"It would appear, Mrs. Finley, once again your kitchen expertise has appealed to Daniel Jackson."

"I'll take that as a compliment, Mr. T. There's more where that came from, so feel free to give a holler if you want more soup or biscuits. You're my taste testers." She slid Daniel's glasses off his face, wiped them on her apron, the folded them next to his napkin. "Now you can see what you're eating."

"The smell is more than enough." Experimentally, Daniel sipped the soup at the end of his spoon before tucking into the broth in front of him.

"I'm taking that as a 'yes' you do like it?"

Daniel nodded.

"I am most curious as to this round object floating in the soup."

"Matzoh ball. Can't have chicken soup without 'em." Mrs. Finley nudged Teal'c. "Compliments of my Jewish grandmother on my father's side. Try it."

Teal'c was taken back by the texture and the taste. Looks were deceiving. "It has a most appealing consistency."

"Two thumbs up, thank you both. This isn't going to be available for general consumption until lunch tomorrow." She pulled more napkins from the dispenser and placed them between their bowls. "Enjoy."


Teal'c had two bowls of soup to Daniel's one, but Daniel stole half of Teal'c's biscuit and was using the piece to chase the tiny carrot pieces around the bowl. "Do you know what I miss the most, Teal'c?" Daniel gave up and used his fingers to grab the carrot. "I miss driving. I hadn't even thought about how much I miss it until that movie. Sorta makes me pretty pathetic."

"I do not believe missing something which had given you a sense of independence would be considered pathetic."

Daniel opened this mouth, closed it, then went back to sopping up the remains of his soup with a piece of biscuit. "Maybe we should've watched Over the Hedge first; I really don't believe I have too much in common with displaced animals." He smiled tentatively at Teal'c. "Though one never knows."


Teal'c had never heard Daniel Jackson's laughter lacking such inhibition. As an adult, his friend's expressions of joy had always been restrained, but here in Teal'c's quarters, his friend's joy was contagious, and Teal'c caught himself smiling at his exuberance. "I take it from your reaction that this was a good choice," Teal'c stated confidently, proud of his movie selection.

Daniel blushed, his expression sliding into seriousness. He shifted on the sleeping bag, his fingers dancing over the material until they found a loose thread, a nervous habit he truly needed to stop. "Would you mind if we turned the movie off?"

Teal'c reluctantly did Daniel's bidding. "I am truly sorry."

Daniel ignored his words and concentrated on tugging the length of thread.

Teal'c began to light the candles in the room, flipping off the overhead lights. Gracefully, Teal'c lowered his body onto the floor, shifted, adjusted his legs, compensated for the closeness of Daniel's sleeping bag and closed his eyes.

He sensed Daniel's movement, felt him settle across from his, sliding close enough until his knees were making contact with Teal'c's legs.


Time took on distorted flow during kel’no’reem, and Teal'c was unsure how much had passed when Daniel's low keening pulled him from his plane of meditation.

"Daniel Jackson?"

He was panting, eyes closed, hands still resting on his knees, legs crossed, frozen in a state of meditation. "Forget." The word rode the crest of a breath.

"You are here at the SGC. In my quarters." He and Daniel Jackson had meditated many times and Teal'c had never encountered this type of nightmare.

Daniel arched his back then crumpled forward like a marionette with severed strings, mumbled words rendered unintelligible as he collapsed.

Teal'c scooped him up, hugging him tightly to his body, gently running his hand over Daniel's sweaty face. "You must awaken, Daniel Jackson. This is merely a nightmare, nothing more. You are here at the SGC," Teal'c repeated.

He scrambled for purchase, clawing his way up Teal'c's tee shirt until he was sitting, his body pressed against Teal'c's chest. "They told me to forget." Daniel ineffectually slapped Teal'c. "But you. You need to remember. You. Jack. Sam."

Teal'c dragged the sleeping bag over Daniel, awkwardly tucking it around them. "Remember what?"

Daniel's high-pitched giggle bordered on hysteria. "Everything old is new again. N'oublie pas."

Teal'c wished he could reach the phone in his room. "I do not understand."

Frantically, Daniel said a different word. "Ricordarsi di."

"I am sorry, Daniel Jackson, I do not understand."


That Goa'uld word Teal'c understood. "What do you wish me to remember?"

Tears leaked from still closed lids. "They said you would know. Sam. Jack. You. They said you would know—" Daniel drew a deep, shuddering breath, then opened his eyes, blinking in confusion.

"You are awake."

"Do you remember?" Beseechingly, Daniel searched Teal'c's face.

"I remember that you are Daniel Jackson. That you are my friend, my teammate and—"

"Thank you, Teal'c," he sighed, then shook his head. "But I don't think that's the answer."

"Then for the moment I am at a loss on how to answer your question. Forgive me." Ashamed, positive he'd failed his friend in some manner, Teal'c focused on a candle by the door, unable to meet the hopelessness in Daniel Jackson's gaze. "We will search out the answer to your question together."

There was no answer and the guilt ate away at Teal'c. "I am truly sorry," he whispered.


Still in Teal'c's arms, Daniel Jackson slept. Teal'c had never received absolution for his failure nor had his friend continued speaking. He now suspected that Daniel Jackson had never truly awoken from his nightmare, and that his conversation with Teal'c had been nothing more than an extension of this night terror.

He muttered in his sleep, and Teal'c easily shifted positions until Daniel Jackson settled down again. Holding him, holding a child in his arms, brought back memories of a different time, a different child, and his heart constricted over the countless opportunities to afford comfort to Ry’ac that Teal'c had missed. Early on, he had forced his child to be a man and rein in his emotions, because of who he was, and what Ry’ac was training to be. Only during the night, while his household slept, Teal'c would stealthily slip into his son's room, lift the slumbering child from his sleeping mat and clasp him to his chest, apologizing for what his future would hold.


The candles had burned to nothing, the room bathed in darkness, and still Daniel Jackson slept on, coming aware slowly as Teal'c adjusted the sleeping bag around him. He pushed it away. "Need to get up." His words were slow and lethargic.

"It is still night."

"Pee. Need to pee."

Teal'c released him, but from his sitting position, he still held onto his elbows when the child swayed. "I do not believe you are fully awake. Do you require assistance?"

"Peeing I can do. It's just a little dark in here... could you point me in the direction of the bathroom... I mean, I remember—" He stopped abruptly. "Remember?" He turned towards Teal'c "Did I have a nightmare?"

"You did."

"Was it..."

"I believe it was a nightmare. Nothing more. Nothing less."

"Okay..." He truly did not appear convinced but his need to urinate took precedence over finishing the conversation. "Bathroom?" he squeaked urgently as he grabbed his groin.

Teal'c picked him up, expertly maneuvering around his room, flung open his bathroom door, flicked on the light then propped him in front of the toilet bowl. "I believe this is the relief you seek."


The light from the bathroom guided Daniel Jackson back to his sleeping bag. Teal'c knew he should remind him to wash his face, brush his teeth, change into sleep attire. But as he shuffled to his bedroll, it appeared that just finding his place to sleep was draining enough.

He smiled at Teal'c and crawled into the waiting sleeping bag, burrowing down until only the top of his head was visible.

"Good night, Daniel Jackson. Sleep well." He paused, then zipped up the side of the sleeping bag. "I will try to remember whatever it is that you need."


Jack walked around it, his lips curled in distrust. "You call this what?"

"A fire pit," Rose answered, buttoning up her sweater as she descended the deck stairs.

"Fire pit," he repeated with a nod of his head. "And what exactly does it..."

"Ambience. A place to sit outside under the stars. You know, Daniel thought it was wonderful."

"Daniel. Thought. It. Was. Wonderful."

"Yes, he did," his mother replied impatiently. "I showed him how to make s'mores—"

"You can make s'mores with that thing?"

"Yes, Jack."

"Can we... do you have the ingredients?" Jack lifted the lid on the wrought iron fire pit. "Let's get this puppy burning."


"Great idea, Ma." Jack slid down in his chair and gazed towards the heavens.

"Thank you." She leaned over and patted his hand. "Every now and then this brain still manages to produce an exemplary idea or two."

He grabbed her hand and squeezed, trying to ignore the fragility of age in her fingers. "We've missed a lot of time, you and me."

"Mistakes were made and fixed." She squeezed his fingers in return. "There's no use crying over time we can't get back."

"I'm not making the same mistakes as I did the first time around." Jack dropped her hand and concentrated on the overhead stars. "I'm going to retire."

"Are you looking for my approval? Because that I can't give. You love whatever you do, son."

"I love Daniel more, but the problem is going to be convincing Daniel that I'm retiring for me. To make it right... fix some mistakes. A lot of mistakes. I did a lot of soul searching when I was away and what I found was that I'm an asshole."

"No, you aren't, and I'm your mother, I would know if you were one."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Jack leaned over and kissed her cheek. "You always knew the right words to make me feel better."

"You're afraid of Daniel's reaction, aren't you?"

The laughter that burst forth was loud. "I'm that transparent?"

"I know Daniel. He's never going believe your reason for retirement." She paused and looked over at Jack. "Wait... did you give me a clear cut reason as to why you're retiring?"


His mother pinned him with a look over the rim of her glasses that stripped years away from Jack's confidence.

"Okay. Maybe not exactly clear cut, but for now it's the best I can do."

"Word of caution, Jack, darling, Daniel's a linguist and if you don't work on your retirement presentation, he's going to tear you to shreds. He'll never forgive you if you can't convince him that you're retiring for you, and not to take care of him. I wish you luck."

"Why are you wishing me luck? Where are you going?"

"I think it's about time I went home."

Jack squinted, bringing the night sky into focus. He concentrated on Abydos, wondering if Hammond would allow him to kidnap Daniel and bring him to the home of his heart.

"You're not going to ask me to stay?"

Jack turned his head and now squinted at his mother. "If I did, would you stay?"

"Ask me."

"Would you stay, just for a while longer and take a trip with Daniel and me to the cabin in Minnesota? I need you."

"The cabin?"

Jack held his breath. The cabin her father had built. The place where he and his mother had parted company after a horrific argument all those years ago. He could remember her expression with sparkling clarity just before she slammed the door in his face and drove away.

"Is the lake still devoid of fish?"

"It's the art of fishing, mom, not the actual act of catching the fish."

"Bull shit."

"So, should I take that as a yes?"

"Of course, son, I'll go with you, if for no other reason than it'll save me a trip to have to identify your body after Daniel kills you when he finds out you're retiring."

Jack started to say something, then stopped, wondering how much his mother knew about the life he was retiring from.


"These waffles are delicious, Rose O'Neill."

"Even better than Jack's," Daniel piped in, jumping when Jack kicked his leg. "Ow. Rooooose, Jack kicked me. Better yet. Teal'c, Jack kicked me."

"O'Neill," Teal'c growled.

Daniel giggled when Rose smacked Jack with a dishtowel. "Hey! What about Daniel, he insulted my honor."

"Daniel, would you please tell Jack you love his waffles."

"I do love his waffles." Daniel dragged a piece of waffle across his plate, using his fingers. "I just love Rose's better."

"I would have to concur. While O'Neill's waffles are quite delicious, Rose—"

"Enough... it's that secret ingredient that she won't share with me, okay? That makes all the difference? Blame her and not me if my waffles aren't perfect." He put down his fork. "Speaking of perfect, what's this I hear about Teal'c bowling a perfect game?"




Daniel glanced toward Rose, who just smiled and shrugged. "You've convinced Rose to come along?"

"Actually, it took no convincing at all."

"No?" Daniel asked the question of Rose, not of Jack.

"None at all," Rose admitted.

"We're driving? That's like a fifteen hour trip—"



"Ummm... I thought I'd log in some flying time. I spoke to Joe Camden and he's going to let me borrow—"

"We're flying in a private plane? Please tell me we are not flying... that you're not flying—"

"You don't trust me?"

"Oh, don't pull that whole puppy dog, trust thing," Daniel said, pushing against Jack's leg. "We're not talking waffles here, we're talking—"

"How come you never mentioned you'd be the one flying when you enticed me to go to the cabin?"

"The travel time will be cut in half, which means if we leave tomorrow by sunrise, we'll be there by early afternoon and we won't have to listen to Daniel ask a million times 'are we there yet'?"


"Are we there yet?" Daniel asked sarcastically as he slid under the blanket sharing the backseat with him. He doubted Jack even heard him over the drone of the engines and the fact that he was too busy explaining to Rose the workings of the plane to pay attention to him. Daniel had slept horribly last night, tossing and turning, and stupidly thought the adult Tylenol he'd snuck when no one was looking before they left the house would have taken the edge off his adult sized, sleep-deprived headache. Wrong. Though it wasn't the pill that was sitting so uncomfortably in his stomach, it was the glass of water he'd drank to make the pill go down. Sloshing back and forth, and up and down with every air pocket Jack managed to find.

Maybe it would help if he closed his eyes and allowed the vibration of the plane to work to his advantage. His backpack was on the floor in front of him, and he'd stuck Lumpy in as an afterthought, which meant the stuffed toy was right on top. Daniel fluffed and plumped the brown camel into shape, patted it down against the armrest, the dropped his head onto his hump. Best part about being this size was his ability to fold and bend this body into tight spaces and sleep just about anywhere.


The lack of motion and noise woke Daniel and he sat up, groggy and disorientated, blinking through the window at the unfamiliar landscape. The corner of his mouth was drool encrusted and he had to peel Lumpy off his face.

"Well, look who's up."


"Car's all packed and I just relieved my mother from her hobby of watching Daniel sleep to go get us some coffee from the snack bar. How about you and I make a bathroom run before we begin the next step of our journey?"

Daniel didn't even realize he had to pee until Jack brought it up. He shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, I could make a bathroom stop."

Even the walk in the cool Minnesota air to the airport building didn't clear Daniel's head and he found himself stumbling, trying to keep up with Jack, slamming into him when Jack stopped to open the door. "Whoa." Jack turned and bent down, facing Daniel. "Still sleeping?"

Embarrassed, Daniel backed up a step. "Sorry, mind was still back in Colorado."

"Ya think?" Jack said good-naturedly. He grabbed Daniel's backpack off his shoulders and slung it effortlessly over one arm. "This should help you stay upright and on your feet."


They went to the bathroom, then the three of them sat at the snack bar for a little while, Jack and Rose chatting with the waitress while Daniel fought the urge to cross his arms on the counter and drop his head onto the pillow they created.

"Want some hot chocolate instead of the coffee, mhuirnin?"

He shook his head and reached for the water the waitress had left by their place settings. "Water's fine." Daniel finished his glass and reached for Jack's, only to have his hand pinned into place against the countertop.

"You can drink this, only if you promise to make another bathroom break before we head out."


He shared a freshly baked corn muffin with Rose, made one more trip to the bathroom and they were once again on their way. He took a book from his backpack and settled in to read, ignoring Jack's whining that he should pay attention to the wonderful landscape right outside his window. Never missing a sentence, Daniel flipped Jack the bird and kept on reading.

He sneezed, dug out a tissue from his backpack's side pocket, then blew his nose. Using the tissue as a bookmark, Daniel closed both the book and his eyes, enjoying the wave of cool Minnesota air from Rose's opened window that washed over his heated skin.


Daniel sat on the stool, swiveling back and forth, watching Rose prepare a stew. Thankfully, the last nap in the car had refreshed him to the point where he could sit up and carry on a semi-coherent conversation, and had downgraded his headache to bearable.

Rose paused, wiped her hands on her apron, and gazed at Daniel.

"What?" He looked over his shoulder.

"Are you feeling okay?" She made a move to walk over to where he sat, only to be distracted by Jack with an armload of firewood and the blast of cool, moist air he brought in as companions from outside.

"It's summertime, for crying out loud. Where's the heat? It's damp and cold." He flexed his legs as he walked into the living room. "Feels like we're in for some rain... and if this keeps up, I'll be fishing with long johns under my shorts."

Daniel rushed around Jack and slammed the door shut. Coughing, he leaned against the door, very grateful for the fire Jack was starting in the living room. "Maybe we should turn on the radio and listen to the weather?"

"We have a warm house, a fire going in the fireplace, food, running water, and family, does it really make a difference if there's a rain storm?" Rose chopped some carrots for the bubbling stew and threw the slices in the pot.

"Yes, it matters if it rains," Jack mimicked. "I want to go fishing. Take the boat out on the lake. Catch some fish."

"There's no fish in the lake," Rose whispered at Daniel.

"I know."

"Hey, stop talking about me and my fish." He looped his arm around his mother's waist and tugged her towards the living room. "Enough. Cover it. Lower the heat. There's a movie and a fire waiting for us."


He could hear it in Jack's voice that he was annoyed and disappointed that Daniel kept drifting off during the movie. "Hey," he said with a knock to Daniel's shoulder for what seemed like the fiftieth time. "I got this movie just for you."

"Sorry." Daniel battled with his eyes to keep them open.

"National Treasure. You're going to love the ending. All those artifacts. Come on, Daniel." Jack dropped an arm around his shoulder and shook him. Then stopped and the hand around his shoulder worked its way up to Daniel's forehead. "When were you going to tell me you didn't feel well?"

Daniel pulled away, right into Rose's concerned face crowding his space. "Just because I don't want to watch a movie doesn't mean that I'm—"

"You're sick, Daniel."

"Feverish," Rose agreed.

"Just tired."

Jack's hand was joined by Rose's. "Over a hundred," she projected.

"Easy. Let me take your temp—"

"I thought you wanted me to watch the end of the movie?"

"Yeah, that was before you said you were sick."

"I never said I was sick." His gaze bounced from Jack to Rose, causing his headache to step up just a notch. "You said I was sick."

"Having a fever constitutes sickness."

"Having two people hovering over me like I have the Spanish influenza constitutes annoyance."

"Is he always this pissy when he gets sick?"

"Yeah, he is, you should know that by now."

"Hello." Daniel skirted out from Jack and Rose's clutches, and stood before them. "He is right here," he said, pounding his chest.

"Yeah," Jack said, reaching out a hand and pulling Daniel towards him.

Daniel resisted, then gave up with a sigh and allowed Jack to guide him onto his lap. Jack's body heat was unexpected and pleasant against Daniel's skin, and he found himself leaning even closer.

Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel. "Yeah, he is right here and yeah, he is sick."

"I hate it when you're right," Daniel said. One minute Daniel had been dressed, sitting on Jack's lap with two people breathing his air and the second he closed his eyes and began to drift, he was embarrassingly stripped, shoved into pajamas, wrapped in a blanket with a pillow under his head, Lumpy tucked into his arms and his ass stuck on the couch.

"You're being ridiculous. The two of you."

"Humor us," Jack said, removing Daniel's glasses, then handing them to Rose, who folded them and gently placed them on the table to the side of the couch. "Why don't you try and sleep."

"You keep waking me up. Besides," he said struggling to sit up, "I've slept enough for the day. Pfft, I've probably slept enough for a few days."

"Do this for me, okay?" Jack pressed a hand to his chest and pushed him back onto the couch. "Don't make me drag my mom out to the dock to be my fishing companion because you're too sick."

"God, please, no," Rose begged. "Do not make me go with Jack to fish in the fishless lake."

"Oh ye of little faith." Jack turned to his mother and shook his head. "There's fish in that lake. Honest, I'm going to prove it to both of you."

"Me?" Daniel cried from the depths of his pillow - blanket - couch prison. "What did I do?"

"Guilt by association," Rose answered. "Now go to sleep," she said with a kiss to his forehead. "I'm going to feed Jack and when you wake up, there'll be some soup, toast and tea with your name on it."

Daniel gave up the fight with a soft Abydonian curse and closed his eyes.


Jack accepted the bowl of stew from his mother before peering out the kitchen doorway.

"Sit," she ordered, sitting with her own bowl of stew. "I don't think he's going anywhere."

Reluctantly, Jack took the seat closest to the door and if he leaned just the right way, he was able to see the mound on the couch that was Daniel. "He's sick."

"He's a man in a child's body. Children get sick."

Jack picked up his spoon, then put it down. "Maybe I should call Fraiser. Wake Daniel up. Give him Tylenol. Juice." He put his hands around his bowl of soup. "Maybe I should just take my dinner in there—"

"While you were gone, Daniel got sick, a twenty-four hour thing. He survived. I survived. Time, Tylenol, juice and tea cure all the world's evils."

"Why didn't you tell me he got sick?"

"For the same reason you didn't tell me of Daniel's run in with the Fountain of Youth?"

"Touché, mom, you always manage to know—"

"Yeah, I do, don't I?" Rose replied sheepishly. "I'm sorry. You would've thought I'd have learned from my mistakes to just think before the words fly out of my mouth."

"Hey, like mother, like son. It's really not such a bad trait. Though there are plenty of times—"

Daniel's cough from the living room, loud and harsh, brought their conversation to a halt.

"Think I'm going to put the kettle on for tea." Rose stood and opened the cabinet over the sink. "Where's the honey?"


Like two idiots, Jack and his mother sat on the kitchen chairs they'd dragged into the living room, their backs to the fireplace, their bowls of stew on wooden snack tables, watching Daniel sleep.

Years of sleeping with Daniel had given Jack an almost sixth sense when it came to diagnosing Daniel "I'm fine" Jackson. In sleep, the scrunched eyes, closed so tightly that even the six-year-old Daniel had crow's feet, were indicative of a headache. Licking of lips, like he was doing, meant that nausea had followed him into slumber. Restlessness was a definite sign of fever. So much for Jack sleeping tonight, or for fishing tomorrow, or for a worry free vacation.

"It could just be a twenty-four hour virus," his mom said, reading his mind.

Jack contemplated the couch, took a spoonful of stew, chewed, then shook his head. "It's Daniel." The fact that she accepted those words was answer enough.


There was no precursive gagging. There was no plaintive cry of 'I'm going to be sick'. There was only the unmistakable sound of vomiting just as Jack was cleaning the stove and his mother had her hands in a sink full of soapy water.

"Crap!" Jack threw down the sponge and grabbed the roll of paper towel. His mother cursed as well, drying her hands on the dishtowel as she brought up the rear.

Standing in front of the couch, the blanket pooled at his feet, his shirt and pants streaked with vomit, Daniel looked six. He looked tiny. Bedraggled. Scared. And sick. Very sick. But what surprised Jack was that for the first time since Daniel had been downsized, he looked lost.

His mother brushed past him, rushing to Daniel's side while Jack stood there, shocked at the fact that Daniel was a child. A real, honest to goodness child. This wasn't Doctor Jackson, genius extraordinaire, who had been shrunk. The pint sized person gazing beseechingly at him while his mother wiped up the mess, was a kid.

Suddenly, Jack couldn't breathe. He panicked, retreating into the kitchen. No good, because he could still hear the child's congested, apologetic sobbing. He grabbed his coat off the hook by the kitchen door and ran from the warmth of the house.


He chopped wood until he couldn't chop anymore. Until his hands became too soaked with sweat and moisture from the pouring rain to even safely grip the handle and until there were no more logs to be chopped. There was no more reason to stay outside, unless he wanted pneumonia. He had no choice but to face his fear.


She was waiting for him, Daniel sitting on her hip, his arms around her neck, his head pressed just under her chin. Daniel looked sick, eyes at half-mast, barely awake, his mother looked exhausted, and Jack felt like a rat who'd deserted a sinking ship. "Mom..."

"Go shower. Change, and don't throw your wet clothes on the floor."


"Just shower, we'll be here when you get out."


There's only so long you can hide out in the shower until the water turns cold or parts of one's anatomy shrivel up into unrecognizable forms. Jack pushed the limits past that and by the time he stepped from the shower, he was shivering. He toweled off in record time, donned the sweats and socks he'd stuck by the heater, and enjoyed their warmth for a second before stepping out to face the inevitable.



"There's hot chocolate on the stove. Help yourself." The two of them were on the couch, Daniel's head on Rose's lap, his body under a blanket, eyes closed while she slowly massaged his temple.

Jack didn't move towards the kitchen, but waved a hand at them. "How's he–"

"Sick. Upset. He asked for you."

Jack retreated once again to get a mug of hot chocolate.

"There are only so many places you can hide in this cabin, Jack."

Jack jerked and a splash of hot chocolate flipped over the side, onto his hand. "Damn!" Putting the mug down on the counter, he stuck the burnt area into his mouth.

"Run cold water over it," his mother ordered from the living room.

"I'm fine." For good measure, Jack stuck his hand under cold water.

His mother snorted. "Yeah, you and Daniel. Now come in here and let me take a look at the damage."

Obediently, Jack turned off the water, gently dried his hand, then presented it to his mom patiently withstanding her tsking and ministrations. "I'm sorry."

"Daniel's not Charlie."

"We've had this discussion before, mom." He sat on one of the chairs left over from their Daniel-watching dinner. "I never thought Daniel was Charlie. But he's a kid, mom. A kid. Let's not forget my track record with kids."

"You're afraid of failing."

"You keep saying that. No, I'm afraid of not being able to withstand the hurt if anything happens to him. I can't do it again, Ma. I'm chicken. I'm afraid of how much I need him."

"Jack, honey—"

"Aww, jeeze, mom." Jack blinked away whatever speck of dust had settled in his eyes. "He's a kid. I'm an adult, so explain to me why I—"

"Because you love him. Because Daniel, in his own way, is healing a part of you that's been broken for a long time. Stop fighting it. Enjoy it. Both you and Daniel have a second chance. Most people aren't that lucky; don't screw it up because you're afraid of failure."


Daniel woke up enough to take two children's Tylenol and a glass of apple juice, but he adamantly refused to sleep in his own bed, crying and coughing that he wanted the couch.

"Go to bed, Ma. I have it under control."

"Where are you going to sleep? On the recliner? On the chair? So Daniel and I have to listen to you complain all day tomorrow?" She winked at Daniel, who blinked lazily in return. Jack wasn't even too sure how much of this conversation Daniel actually comprehended because he gave them the same attention as he did the logs burning in the fireplace.

"I'll bring in the blow up mattress. It's really cool."

Rose gave Jack a grumbled. "Cool? What are you, twelve? And may I remind you," she added with a huff. "I've seen an air mattress."

"Ahh, but you haven't seen this air mattress. Wait and see."


She stood and surveyed the monstrosity that took up more than half of the living room floor. "Okay, you win, it's cool."

"See. Told ya." Jack opened his arms. "Give me a hug then go to bed, Daniel and I are tired."


Jack crawled up the mattress, flipped over onto his back and crossed his arms behind his head. "Can't believe it's raining outside." A flash of lightning, followed by a low rumble of thunder, made Jack pause. "It could be worse... we could be having a snowstorm. Though a snowstorm in this part of the country is a beautiful thing, not like in Colorado Springs where the dirt and the grime darken the white stuff even before you have a chance to make snow angels."

"We've never made snow angels." Daniel's voice was husky and deep, and sounding way too old to be coming from that size body.

"Never? I guess that's something we have to rectify. Angels, snowman, snowballs, snow forts—"

"I hate the snow. I hate the cold." Daniel coughed.

Jack waited.

Daniel coughed again. "I really hate the cold."

Jack held up the blanket in invitation. "Would you like to be closer to the fire?"

Daniel dragged his own blanket and pillow over to Jack and the air mattress, climbing over him to get closer to the fire. And as he settled in, plastered against Jack's back, he could feel the heat of Daniel's fever and the rattle of congested lungs through his sweats.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said.

"For what? Getting sick? Pfft. I've thrown up a time or two on this rug—don't worry."

"No. Not for getting sick."

"Then for what?" Jack reached around and grabbed a hot, tiny hand in his.

"For this. For being needy."

Jack was glad Daniel couldn't see his face. "Then I have to apologize also."


"I need you, Daniel..." Jack cleared his throat and rubbed his face on his pillow. "Before we stretch this out to a full fledged ad nauseum discussion which becomes a Hallmark moment that embarrasses the both of us and leads to an awkward silence... could we, you know... just... maybe..."

"I love you, Jack."

Damn the linguist for always having the last word.


Daniel knew if he moved around enough on the air mattress, the slight jostling would be enough to wake Jack.

Jack turned on his side to face him. Rough, calloused fingers felt deliciously cool against his face. "Shit, Daniel, you're burning up. Why the hell didn't you wake me?"

"I just did." His voice was the voice of an elderly man who'd smoked his whole life. And it hurt. Low in his throat. Actually, he hurt all over. Tears filled his eyes and flowed when he blinked.

"Don't cry. I wasn't yelling. Yelling at you, I mean. I was just... I am pissed... not at you... at the situation." Jack used the corner of the blanket to wipe away Daniel's tears. "I didn't mean to yell," he said softly.

"I get sick too much."

"Kids get sick," Jack said, using his mother's words. "It's nature's way of building up your immune system so you don't get sick a lot when you're an adult."

"I already was an adult."

"And now you're not."

"Easy for you to say, you don't feel like crap."

"No, I don't, but knowing you, you like to share the wealth, so I'll probably be feeling like crap within a day or two."

"Share and share alike." Daniel's chuckle turned into a coughing attack and he fought to catch his breath, gasping for air as Jack propped him into a sitting position and rubbed his back. "Thanks," he squeaked.

"Think we should call Fraiser?"

"Why? To ask her to fly out here?" Daniel pressed the heels of his hand to his temples, then slowly shook his head. "We'll survive. We always do."


The survival thing was easier said than done. Daniel knew from the expression on Jack's face his fever was high enough to cause worry. He wrapped his arms around his knees for warmth and shifted his position on the kitchen counter where Jack had plopped his ass to take his temperature. "It's just a virus."

Jack slid the thermometer back into the sleeve then looked out the back door. "It's still raining."

"Does having a fever mean I get out of fishing?"

"Stop it!" Jack yelled, threatening him with the thermometer. "Just stop it!"


"Good, you should be sorry," Jack huffed, tossing the thermometer on the counter.

"Why am I sorry, Jack?"

"Because you're six. You're sick. Your body needs rest and Tylenol and fluids. Stop being so goddamn stubborn and pretending there's nothing wrong. Do what you're supposed to do."

"Nice bedside manner."

"See, this is what I'm talking about... stop fighting, Daniel."

"When I got sick as an adult, you allowed me space to slink away to recover."

"Because that's what you needed."

"And what do I need now?"

"Me. Someone to take care of you."


"Yeah, oh." Jack ran his hands over Daniel's goose bumps.

"You mean something like this will speed up my recovery time?" Daniel put out his arms for Jack to pick him up.

"Yup. Journal of Medicine. Page 345... Recovery time is cut in half when child allows himself comfort."

Daniel didn't fight when Jack nudged his head down onto his shoulders.

"See, this isn't so bad."

"I really don't feel good."

"I know, Daniel," Jack said softly, winding his way around until his hands were under his pajama top.

"But this makes me feel better." He turned his face away and coughed. "Remind me of this when I get big again, to let you take care of me."


Daniel was getting worse. He'd left every vestige of adulthood behind about an hour ago and steamrolled right into childhood. He was whiney and weepy, clinging to Jack's sweats, refusing to sit, lie down or cooperate with any suggestion.

"Walking the floors is not helping you and it's killing my knees." Jack grabbed a square of paper towel off the roll. "Blow."

Daniel averted his face and dropped his head down on Jack's shoulder with a thunk. "I'm cold." He coughed, no longer burying his germs. "And I'm tired."

"Me, too. So how does a nice warm bath, an even warmer towel, some Tylenol, juice, air mattress, blanket, pillow and fire in the fireplace sound to you."


Rose stood in the hallway, within earshot but out of view of Jack and Daniel. As hard as it was, she kept herself scarce, literally hiding in her bedroom with her ear pressed up against the door, making a concerted effort to let Jack handle a sick Daniel.


Rose heard a splashing sound—Jack testing the water.

"C'mere." The two words were playfully stuck together. "Trust me on this. Look, you don't have to do any work. "I'll do it all. Your job is just to sit in the bath. Give me your hand... see... told you so. That's right, lean on me. Foot please. Other foot."

Now there was frantic splashing followed immediately by Jack's voice.

"I know it's a shock," he said soothingly. "Sit down. On the count of three. One. Two... good. Lean back, see, I put that silly sea shell blow up thing for you to lean against. Yeah, the one Carter gave me for Christmas."

There was a low murmur, too hoarse and low for Rose to pick up. Then Jack's laughter. "Yeah, I think everyone got one that year. I don't know why I got the pink one. You got a blue one? Trade ya.

"Relax. Works better if you relax. Wish I had a sponge instead of this hand towel. Remember the time we came back from PX83R12—"

Daniel spoke, again too low for Rose to hear. She didn't want to jeopardize her eavesdropping by moving closer, but Jack's answer intrigued her.

"I remember designations... and that one just stuck in my mind. 'Cause you and Carter came back covered in that funky blue rash with that fever—where was I going with this? Oh yeah. You complained to Fraiser about a sponge bath to bring your fever down, but remember how good you felt when it was done?" Jack snorted. "That's what I thought."

For a while the only noise was the gentle splash of water.

"Hey, this is better than what my mom used to do. They didn't know any better, and when you had a high fever they would give you alcohol rub downs. Shock one's poor systems into seizures."

Rose bristled. It had been the way back then.

"Ahh. Alcohol baths and rectal thermometers, those were the days. But by the time Charlie was born, things were different. Lukewarm baths to bring the fever down... No... I missed a lot of Charlie's babyhood. Thank you. I guess there were moments when I shone as a father—and moments when I didn't."

Jack had been a good father. He was a good man. A caring man. But there were so many regrets. Too many. And nothing Rose or anyone said could convince her son otherwise. This was a path he'd need to travel alone.

"Hey, no falling asleep on me."

Rose slid back towards her bedroom upon hearing the distinct clunk of the drain opening, then hesitated, waiting just a little while longer.

"Wait. Let me help." Jack chided. "Don't need to explain to my mom why you have a bump on your head from slipping in the bathtub. Hey, don't laugh. Most accidents in the home happen in the bathroom."

There was rustling, coughing, and low, murmured, indistinguishable words of comfort from Jack. "Better now? Good. Let's get you all dried then into a clean, warm pair of sweats. And socks, of course. No way are these ten little toes sucking any warmth from my side of the bed."

This was as far as Rose was going. With her hand on the doorknob, she turned it slowly and silently. It was time to retreat back to her bedroom. She'd seen and heard what she'd needed. Jack was going to be okay, but maybe Rose had been wrong. Maybe Jack didn't need to travel this road alone, maybe all he needed was Daniel by his side. A soothing balm of friendship and childhood to heal all open wounds.


Daniel wasn't sure what was going on, but emotionally, he was out of control. Daniel hated every whine, moan and groan that came out of his mouth during the afternoon. "Stop it." He slapped Jack's hand away when he went to take his temperature for what seemed like the umpteenth time in a span of minutes.

"Just checking, 'cause I figured there had to be a reason for your behavior. Hell, Mom is hiding in the kitchen just to escape from your attitude. You're like a PMSing Carter."

Sucking in his bottom lip and refusing to blink couldn't stop the tears.

"Crap, Daniel." Jack knelt down so the two of them were eye to eye. Jack's hands skirted up and down his body as if searching for a physical reason for the tears.

The tears just fell harder.

"I'm at a loss here."

"Me, too," Daniel replied softly.

Jack picked him up, and Daniel pounded his chest. "Picking me up isn't the answer."

"Right now it was either picking you up or swatting you on the ass. I figured this is the least of two evils."

Daniel stopped, stunned, and stared at Jack. "Please put me down," he begged. He struggled against Jack's arms.

Instead, Jack sat on the couch, Daniel still in his arms. "I'm sorry." He released his hold just enough for Daniel to leave if he wanted. Jack dropped his head on the back cushions of the couch and shut his eyes. "I'd never hit you. I promise."

He could leave. He could get up and go. His options of where he would be able to run in the cabin were limited, and Daniel ran down the list in seconds flat and gave up. "I know you'd never hit me." Wiping away his tears with the back of his hand, Daniel relaxed against Jack.

"Thank you for, you know... believing that I'd never—"

Daniel reached behind Jack, grabbed the afghan and awkwardly covered the two of them.

"I've got it," Jack said, adjusting the cover. "I think we both need a nap."

Daniel's head hurt, his sinuses were clogged with tears and his eyes were gritty and burning. "I think I can fit a nap into my schedule."


"You're never going to let me be, are you?" Daniel spat the question at the alien standing by his bedside.

"Not until the last piece falls into place."

Daniel fought against the bindings. "Taking lessons from Oma?"

"This is not a punishment. Others are not viewing it as punishment. Why are you?"

"Because," Daniel spoke through gritted teeth. "It hurts. Whatever you're doing is hurting me."

"That cannot be helped. And for that we are truly sorry."

"And my friends. Where are my friends? My teammates?"

"They are well."

"Show me."

"You will see them soon. And all will be as it once was."

"What's that supposed to me—" Daniel gasped, whatever reprieve he'd been granted from their torture was finished. Daniel may have imagined the sensation, but it felt as if the alien touched him in apologetic sorrow.

"They will remember the joy. You will forget the pain. And the wrongs will be righted."


Daniel awoke with a start, jerking up so fast, he clocked Jack in the jaw. Shocked, Jack released his hold on Daniel who, along with the blanket, dropped to the floor with a thud.

Jack leaned over, peering down at Daniel, one hand still on his jaw. "Are you okay?"

Daniel scrunched up his face, rubbing the top of his head that had made contact with Jack's jaw. "I think so." He leaned into Jack's legs. "I had a nightmare."

Jack placed a hand on his head, his fingers threading through Daniel's hair. "Want to talk about it?"

"No." He rubbed his hand over the front of his body, the pain from his nightmare not yet a memory. "Just a nightmare." He pointed at Jack's chin. "Sorry about that."

Jack touched the lump on Daniel's head. "Sorry about that."

"Accidents happen," Daniel said, wrapping his arms around Jack's legs.

"Yeah, they do."


"Look what I found in the back of the closet."

Jack added another log to the fire, then glanced up at his mother, laughing when he saw what was in her hands. "Trouble? Ever play Trouble, Daniel?"

As annoyingly vocal as he'd been earlier, since the little snatch of a nap and the nightmare, Daniel had been uncharacteristically silent. Dinner had been a two sided affair, he and his mother eating and talking, while Daniel pushed his food around his plate.

Daniel had taken a shower after dinner and had been sitting in the corner of the couch, watching Jack as he'd added logs to the fire. He turned his gaze towards Rose, but didn't answer the question.

"Let me see." Jack wiped his hands on his pants, then took the battered box from his mother. He blew on it, laughing at the cloud of dust that swirled in the air.

"I guess it's been awhile." She waved the dust away.

"Ya think? Probably the last time we were up here with Charlie." He dropped the box on the coffee table. "Let's play," he ordered, really not caring if all he got from Daniel was a perfunctory, disinterested glance.


"Daniel, you can't move your piece out." Jack picked up Daniel's green peg and moved it back to his home strip.

"Why not? Both you and Rose got your pieces out."

"That's because we popped a six, sweetheart."

"Did you tell me that?"

"Yes," Jack said slowly, "though it is debatable as to whether you were paying attention."

"I was... I just must have missed that part."


"Yes! Another six."

"Nope." Jack stopped Daniel's hand. "No can do. Even though you popped a six, the other guy you took out last turn is still sitting on the—" He looked towards his mother for the word he wanted.

"Exit," she said.

"This green guy is still sitting on the exit space, which means that the guy you have in your hand has nowhere to go."

"But I got a six."

"And he's," Jack tapped the other green peg. "Blocking the way."

"So what do I do with him?" Daniel waved his hand with the green peg.

"You put him back in one of the home spaces."

"So what do I do with my six?"

"Move another peg."

Daniel scowled. "I think you're making up rules as we go along."


Daniel had crawled onto the air mattress for 'just a minute' and had fallen asleep in less than sixty seconds.

"Thanks, mom." Jack covered him up, then went to join her as she cleaned up the table. "He needed that."

"What?" She raised the nearly empty bowl of cereal. "This?"

"All of this. The game. The snack. I think he enjoyed it all."

She gave a very unladylike snort. "What tipped you off? The happy dance or the shouting when he won his third game in a row?"

"The smile on his face. It's been a while since he's laughed."

"It feels nice to have laughter here in the cabin." She stroked the box lovingly. "It's been a long time."


The next day dawned hot and sunny and after breakfast, Jack dragged a hoarsely protesting Daniel down to the dock, convincing his mother that fresh air and sunshine would go a long way to aid in Daniel's recovery, ignoring the frantic miming Daniel was communicating to her to convince her otherwise.

An hour later, Daniel had his shoes and socks off and his feet in the water. He began to splash.

"Stop that, you'll scare away all the fish."

Daniel rolled his eyes.

"You know fish hate splashing."

"Fish also hate worms stuck at the end of hooks, Jack. It sorta kills them."

"You know, to a fish, ten tiny wiggling toes in the water look like ten tiny little worms."

Daniel gave a mock yawn.

"The fish will swim right up to wiggling toes."

"What fish?"

"This fish." Jack poked an unsuspecting Daniel, who jumped, pin wheeled, reached towards Jack and failed. He fell into the water with a splash.

"Aw, crap." Jack leaned over the deck. Sputtering, Daniel grabbed his hand and pulled. Off balance, Jack had nowhere to go but straight into the lake.


"Is Daniel still in the shower after your little swimming exhibition? Were the two of you trying to catch the fish with your hands?"

Jack nodded, then dropped into the kitchen chair with a groan. "Oy. Not so young anymore."

Rose kissed the top of his still damp hair. "Preaching to the choir, son." She handed him a mug of coffee laced with just a little something to ease the aches and pains.

"Thanks." He took a sip, then toasted her. "Mom..."

"Don't you dare say it," she warned. "You're not too old. Loving doesn't stop when one gets old. Nor does the need to be loved."

"Nice speech," Jack said. "But I just wanted to know if there was anymore crumb cake left over."

"I hate when my philosophic gems are wasted."


The cabin was quiet. Rose had gone to take a nap. Jack had begun to read, but he kept looking over at Daniel, who, with the blessed agility of the young, was sitting yoga style on the couch, engrossed in a magazine.

"I'm going to retire." Jack hated preambles, why waste time beating around the bush.

Daniel nodded but didn't look up, though Jack had to admit that he'd made some breakthrough when Daniel reached for a tissue to blow his nose, which meant he had interrupted his train of thought.

"I've already spoken to Hammond about it. I wanted to tell you before I broke the news to Carter and Teal'c."

Daniel looked up. "News?"

"News," Jack repeated.

"What news?"

"I'm retiring news."

Daniel's face went white, the healthy blush of this morning's outdoor activities were gone in a flash. "Tell me that you were thinking of retiring before I was made into a child. I need you to tell me that." Color was returning to Daniel's face, but it was the flush of anger.

"The thought has crossed my mind. I'm not young anymore. I'm pushing my body."

"But it was just a thought, now it's a reality? A done deal? Don't you think you should have consulted me?"

Jack sighed. "No."

Daniel threw the magazine he'd been reading across the room. "Bullshit."

"E-nuff." He sat up straight. "You need to stop and listen to me."

"What's there to listen to? Apparently, you've already made your decision."

"Listen, in case I'm mistaken, you being the linguist and all, means shut up and let the other person talk."

"Go ahead. Talk. I'll listen." Daniel pursed his lips, crossed his arms and flung his body against the back of the couch.

"I'd be lying if I denied thinking of Charlie when I look at you." There. He'd said it. The one truth everyone had chosen to ignore.

Daniel's defensive posture melted. "I'm—"

"Eh." Jack said, throwing up a finger. "You're still in listening mode and don't you dare say the word sorry because this isn't about you, it's about me."

"Okay," Daniel said softly.

"It's like Heaven bent down, took my hand and smacked me upside the head with it. Made me look around and see what's important. You're important. Your knowledge. Your genius. I can't help you with what goes on inside your head. But I can be a guardian. Watch your six. Make sure you put your own life into perspective. Give you what you didn't have the first time around. A happy childhood.

"I'm in a win-win situation. If you wake up tomorrow and you're an adult again, I get back the person who hogs all the covers and we look back on this time as another blip on the SG-1 radar. And if you stay a child, this time I can watch a child grow up and reach adulthood. Either way, I've gotten the brass ring."

"For me? You'll give it up for me?"

Jack shook his head. "For me, Daniel."

"But, the SGC needs you."

"So do you."

"I can—"

"I'm retiring from SG-1. I'll be at the SGC on a limited basis. Running training classes. Overseeing selection of personnel. Making sure I'm glued to your side in case Hammond gets the strange idea that you can go through the 'gate."

"Did the general mention sending me through the 'gate?" Daniel gave a little bounce on the couch.


"He did. Didn't he? I betting it's PX4R9654, the one with the deserted temple that appeared to be an exact replica—"



"Honest, George didn't mention anything about traveling through the 'gate."


"I promise to put in a good word for you, though."

"Ahhh... It's that friends in high places type of thing. Thanks, I think I'll submit a power point presentation to go along with your good words."

Jack gave Daniel the thumbs up. "The general just loves those presentations."

"Are you being sarcastic?"

"Me?" Jack innocently asked. He intercepted the pillow that Daniel threw at him and stuck it behind his head.


Jack went to check on Daniel before he turned in for the night. Slowly, he opened the bedroom door, the hall light directly behind him allowing him enough illumination to see clearly into the room.


"Hey." Jack walked into the bedroom and sat at the edge of the bed, his hand automatically going to Daniel's forehead.

Daniel tolerated Jack's obsessive behavior with silence.

"It's late." No fever, but that didn't stop Jack from pulling the covers up to Daniel's shoulders.

"I had a great time today."

"I'm glad."

"I don't think Rose thought it was such a great time. She had to clean up our mess."

"Just water."

Daniel giggled. "Never would have thought it was ‘just water’ by the way she complained about it."

"She never complains. My mom just gripes with love." Jack stood, then ruffled Daniel's hair. "Go. To. Sleep."

"Jack." Daniel grabbed his hand.

"Is everything okay? Are you—"

"Shut up and just listen. You remember what listen means?"

"Listening here."

Daniel took a deep breath. One hand still held onto Jack while his other hand searched for Lumpy.

"Here ya go."

Daniel released Jack's hand and wrapped both arms around the stuffed toy. "Thank you."



"I'm here, ready to listen."

"Oh. Ummm... you know that brass ring analogy? Works for me, too. Seems that for the very first time in my life, there's a pot of gold just for me, no matter which end of the rainbow I'm standing at."


Rose looked down at the little boy by her side. He was so tightly pressed against her that a slip of paper wouldn't be able to fit between them. She placed her hand on his bent head, carding her fingers through his hair. "Nice haircut."

Obsessively, Daniel patted down the newly trimmed hair. "It feels strange."

"Jack only took you yesterday, it'll take a while to get used to... it was kind of long." Rose would never admit that she missed the shaggy look, not after she'd griped to her son and Daniel to get it trimmed.

"You don't think it's too short, do you?"

"I think it's perfect. Just make sure Jack remembers to take you periodically for a haircut so you don't look like Cousin It."

"I will." His reply was so soft that Rose barely heard it above the airport din.

"Come with me."

"But Jack—"

"Will find us, don't worry." She pointed to an empty bench against the wall. "I need to take a load off these old, aching feet."


Daniel sat on the bench, scanning the sea of people.

"Jack just went to park the car and then grab me a newspaper for the flight home." She slid her suitcase under the chair, then patted Daniel's knee. "Don't worry."

At her touch, Daniel folded. He pulled his legs up to his chest, then buried his face in his knees.

"Thank you for making Jack smile," Rose said, putting her arm around his shoulders.

He turned his face towards her, and Rose was more than a bit shocked to see he was crying.

"Colorado isn't your home. I know that." Daniel's voice was tinged with anger and it was loud enough that more than a handful of passersby turned to gaze at the two of them. Daniel stared back, then lowered his voice. "Damn you," he hissed. "For loving me so much it hurts when you leave."

"I have to go home, Daniel."

"I know!" he yelled, jumping off the bench, planting himself in front of her. "I told you I know you have to go home. I just don't want you to." Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he sniffed defiantly.

Rose dabbed at her eyes with a tissue from her pocket. "I love you, too, Daniel Jackson."

He used the hem of his tee shirt to wipe his eyes. "I love you, too, Rose O'Neill." Glancing around the airport terminal, Daniel offered her the softest of smiles, too old and too knowing in someone as young as he. "Seems like you and I are always at airports saying goodbye."

"I can recall a memorable hello." And Rose remembered the uncomfortable man and beautiful woman who had picked her up on her first trip to Colorado, and in some ways the six-year-old boy who stood before her with the red-rimmed eyes was more mature than the Daniel Jackson she'd first met. "So that yelling and stamping your feet, was that a temper tantrum?"

"Hey." Daniel sidled up near her until he was sitting in her lap. "I didn't stamp my feet."

"Picky-picky. Okay, no to the stamping of feet. Yes, to the temper tantrum?"

"Yeah," he said, playing with the buttons on her sweater, "I guess that was a temper tantrum."

"Okay, I just wanted to make sure."

"It was nice having you with me."

"It was nice being with you, Daniel."

"If I say something, you won't get mad?"

"Never, mhuirnin."

"Thank you for seeing me as me... and not as a replacement for Charlie. I think with Jack, sometimes the lines sort of blur. I'm not mad or anything about that, I understand, I really do... but I just wanted to thank you for not doing that."

Rose couldn't speak past the emotions lodged in her throat.

Daniel turned and beseechingly caught her gaze. "You won't tell Jack, will you?"

"Nope," she said.

"We have a bunch of secrets, me and you, don't we?"

"We do, and I'm –there's Jack," she whispered in Daniel's ear. "I'm glad I have someone like you to share my secrets with."


Daniel stared out the side window watching as the airport disappeared into the distance. Getting smaller. Like him. He studied his hands. Making them into fists, then spreading the fingers wide apart. Touching his knees he bent them, feeling the bones move under his fingers. This body was becoming familiar to him. Almost too familiar. Too comfortable, and it seemed that only in his nightmares could he remember being an adult.

"You're awfully quiet back there." Jack glanced up into the rear view mirror.

Daniel caught his glance and gave him a smile. "Just thinking."


He shrugged. "Going back to work. You not going back to work. Rose going home. Me and you going home."


"At first, I didn't want Rose to be here when you were missing. And now I wish she hadn't left."

Daniel closed his eyes and flung his arms over his face. "You say adjustment. I'm thinking confusion."

"You say potato. I say—"

"Potato also."



Daniel was in his room, trying to sort through email and prioritize. He fell into a natural rhythm and it didn't matter if he was big or small, the joy of learning and discovery stripped away his age.

They'd been wrong. Both of them, ignoring his size like a pink elephant in the middle of a crowded room. Rose had pretty much pointed out the pink elephant and invited it to dinner, forcing both of them to face their realty. With all of its shortcomings. Some of it sucked. Losing his independence and autonomy. Losing his relationship with Jack. Losing his ability to always be in control of his emotions. But other aspects, things Daniel was even embarrassed to admit to anyone, evened the playing field. Jack's smile. Being read to. Tucked in. Cared for. Loved unconditionally. Being a child.

"Stop it, Jackson," Daniel growled out loud, tapping his forehead. Warning his memories to stay where they belonged. In the past.

"You're talking to yourself."

Daniel took the bottle of Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea that Jack held out to him. "No snack?"

"That's right, no snack, Mr. I-ate-two grilled sandwiches and two sides of chips for lunch."

"Cassie will give me a snack."

"No, Cassie will not give you a snack. Cassie is under strict orders not to feed you anything."

"I could starve."

"I doubt it. We're all going out for dinner tonight."

"My choice?"

"No, Daniel. Sheesh. My choice. It's my semi-retirement dinner. My retirement. My choice."

Daniel put down his bottle, then stood on the chair, coming close to being face to face with Jack. "I'll go with you to talk to Teal'c and Sam. Help explain to them that I'm really not the reason—"

"No. You stay here with Cassie. I need to do this on my own." He winked at Daniel. "I don't really need you watching my six on this."

"I'll understand if you change your mind."

"No mind changing. Actually, my knees are already celebrating."


Leave it to Jack to choose a barbeque as his semi-retirement dinner. Daniel had pulled a chair onto the grass, all the way across the lawn and sat there, Lumpy in his lap, watching his friends. They overflowed the deck actually, and he wondered if there was a foothold situation back at the SGC, who would be there to hold the monsters back. The cleaning crew?

Sam came out to join him, took Lumpy from his grip, then sat on the grass to the left of his chair.

"Nice party," she said.

Daniel snorted. "If you go for the charred meat cuisine. Honest, I was going to push for Szechwan Garden, but Jack insisted - his retirement, his choice."

Sam patted his knee with Lumpy's nose. "Maybe we'll sneak away later and pick up some honeyed walnut chicken."

"Spring rolls?"

"Cold noodles in sesame sauce?" Sam paused, then laughed. "Obviously this is going to be your treat."

"Dinner everyone," Jack yelled enthusiastically from the deck.

They sighed in unison.

"Can't think how we'll be able to sneak out without anyone missing us. How about Chinese for lunch tomorrow?"

"I guess. Sam?" Daniel grabbed Lumpy's leg as she stood.

"Oh, I'm sorry, here you go."

"No. It's not that... are you angry at me because Jack retired?"

"Semi-retired. He'll still be at the SGC—"

"You know what I mean."

She squatted down in front of Daniel. "Angry with you? No, how could I be, because if the situation were different and you were living with me..." Her eyes filled with tears for a second, then she blinked them away. "I'd retire for you, Daniel, so I can't be angry at the colonel, because I wish I were walking a mile in his shoes."


Daniel sat in Teal'c's lap, drifting, his friend's body heat, in addition to the heat from the fire pit, warmth enough in the chill of the summer night air. He moved slightly and Teal'c accommodated him by shifting his bulk.

"Is there something you require?"

"No. I'm fine." And he was, truly, silently thanking Rose for, as clichéd as it sounded, putting him in touch with his inner child.

"Attention, everyone."

Daniel opened his eyes when Jack nudged him with his knee.

"Good, nice to know I can still capture Doctor Jackson's attention."

Daniel fought the urge to flip Jack the bird in mixed company. "This better be good."

"Ah, but it is." Jack latched onto Sam, who was just walking past him. "Carter," he said, throwing his arm around her. He drew a breath, then stopped. "I do have your attention, don't I?"

"Of course, sir, but I would make this fast, 'cause I do need to use the bathroom."

"You know, I don't get any respect... where was I? Oh, yeah. Daniel, you stay awake, Carter, you cross your legs or something and just give me a minute." He patted his tee shirt, searching for something. "I thought I had a speech in here somewhere..."

"Colonel," Hammond's voice reprimanded his 2IC. "Hurry up before I start to fall asleep."

Jack gave the General a mock salute. "I'm hurrying, sir... Ahh, here it is." He pulled out a crumpled napkin. "Carter, this is for you."

She held up her own napkin, wrapped around her glass. "I have one, sir, but thank you anyway."

"No. No," Jack said, shoving it into her hand. "Read this."

Reluctantly, she took it from Jack and unfolded it. "SG-1... and there's a dotted line."

"Well, yeah." He leaned over. "See... As soon as you sign on the dotted line, SG-1 becomes yours."


"As in commander of. You just need to fill in two spots, then you're good to go... you and Teal'c."

"Mine?" Sam repeated, stupefied.

"Indeed," Teal'c said, his slight bow bending Daniel. "I will be honored to serve on any team that Major Carter leads."

"Oh and about that Major thing? How does Colonel Carter sound to you?" Jack was beaming.

"Sir?" Sam looked towards General Hammond.

"Don't worry, Carter, the big guy said it's okay." He waved towards the General. "Isn't this Colonel Carter okay with you, General? Didn't I fill out all the necessary papers in triplicate…"

Daniel giggled at General Hammond's soda can toast. "In triplicate," the General echoed.

Sam pulled back, a look of shock on her face. "You filled out paperwork for me, Colonel?"

"Don't say I never gave you anything, okay?"


Daniel jerked when a bubble of champagne tickled his nose. "Are you sure, Jack?"

"Just a sip. A celebration of sorts. For me. For Carter. For you. And hell, even for Teal'c." Jack waved his glass around the crowd all celebrating with their own glasses.

"A celebration," Daniel breathed. "A full circle for me." He took a sip of the bubbly, giggled and toasted his friend. "Thanks, Jack, for thinking of me."


Jack turned, a bowl of chips in one hand, dip in the other, smiling at his own domestication.


"Carter, do me a favor and open the door—"

"Permission to speak freely?"

"This is a barbeque… my semi-retirement barbeque… if you can't speak freely here, where can you speak freely?"

"I'm honored."

"You deserve it. You've deserved your own team for a few years."

"I never wanted my own team, being second in command to SG-1 was more than enough."

"If this is all about your feeling inadequate or unable—"

Adamantly, she shook her head. "Not at all. I just wanted to let you know. I'm keeping the seat warm for you," she blurted out then looked over her shoulder. "Just in case Daniel ever returns to adulthood in the near future..."

Jack pointed his chin towards the door. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, okay? For now, this is what's best."


Daniel was sitting, rocking back and forth on a chair that wasn't a rocker, using his finger to stir whatever champagne was left at the bottom of his glass.

Jack bent down in front of the chair. "How ya doing, kiddo?"

"Look, Jack," he said, raising the glass up for Jack to see. "Sam. Cassie. Feretti. Everyone was thinking of me." He hiccupped, giggled, then went to take another drink.

He plucked the glass from Daniel's fingers. "Yeah, I can see that."

"Hey." Daniel tried to reach up for the glass, but his hands didn't seem to want to listen to his commands.

Jack handed Daniel's glass off to Sam with a mumbled reprimand that Daniel couldn't follow, but his words forced a grimace to her face. More words were exchanged and Jack turned to Daniel with an expression that would have sent Daniel running to his room if he could get his legs to cooperate.

"Carter said you told her you hadn't had any champagne. And you said the same thing to Feretti, Cassie... should I go on?"

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Daniel moaned, holding his stomach.

"I'm sure it did, my man, but now your group of little white lies seems to be coming back to bite you in the ass. You're looking a bit green around the edges. How about if I say your goodbyes and you head off to get ready for bed?"


Jack wanted to yell. Scream and ask Daniel what the hell he'd been thinking, but the poor kid looked so pathetic sitting on the bathroom floor.

"I screwed up," he said, leaning over and flushing the toilet. "And I just threw up."

Ahhh... so he'd missed the action. "You know something, Daniel. I screwed up too," Jack admitted. "I should have been watching."

"I should have known better."

"You're six. I should have known better."

"I'm thirty-nine, no change that, I'm forty."

"Yeah, but your body thinks it's six."

Daniel smelled like vomit. He needed a shower. But Jack mentioned none of it as Daniel raised his arms to be picked up. Jack lifted him up with a groan. "You're going to be the death of me, Daniel Jackson."

"Can I shower in the morning?" Daniel gave a hippopotamus sized yawn, his vomit breath enough to fell a platoon of Jaffa.

"Showering in the morning is fine." Jack plopped Daniel's ass on the counter. "But you need to brush your teeth and wash your hands and face."

"Slave driver." Daniel sat slump-shouldered.

Jack rolled his eyes, grabbed a washcloth, wet it, soaped it, and cleaned Daniel's hands and face. Tossing the wet cloth into the hamper, he prepared Daniel's toothbrush, then handed it back to him. "This is where I draw the line."

Daniel brushed his teeth, spit, and gagged.

Jack froze. Last thing he wanted to clean up was vomit in the sink.

"Wipe that look off your face," Daniel said when he regained his composure. "I'm okay."

"Not fine?"

"No. I need two Tylenol. A glass of water. My pajamas. A good night's sleep. Then I'll be fine."


Carter met him the second he stepped one foot on to the deck and Jack was quick to reassure her before she even asked. He was still quick enough to snag Fraiser's elbow as she tried to skirt around Jack and head towards the house. "What? Are the two of you tag teaming me? He's fine. Already in pajamas, sleeping." No need to mention the vomiting incident.

"I have no idea what possessed me to give him a glass of champagne."

"It's the eyes."

"The eyes, Colonel?" Fraiser looked at Jack like maybe he was the one who needed to be in pajamas and sleeping.

"He's right, Janet." Carter nodded slowly. "Those eyes. Daniel's eyes. They aren't the eyes of a child."

"Old eyes, Carter. Old soul. You forget, sometimes. I forget, sometimes. Hell, I thought Daniel had an old soul when he was thirty-nine. I'm confused more times than not."

"Daniel's always done that, sir."

"Yeah, he has."

Janet's expression softened, her look of wanting to zat him melded into one of sympathy. "Oh, I so pity you when Daniel becomes a teenager." She flashed a look at Sam. "Both of you. I think the only one who's going to have a backbone as far as Daniel is concerned is going to be Teal'c."

"And you, Doc? What about you?"

Janet shrugged. "You said it yourself, it's all about the eyes."


Daniel groaned as Jack shook him awake.

"Rise and shine, Dannyboy. Time to make the donuts."

"Don't take this the wrong way, Jack. But I hate you. Truly. Truly hate you."

"I know," Jack said, whipping the cover off Daniel's body. "And I know maybe we should've waited until the weekend to celebrate. Oh wait! Maybe you shouldn't have lied and—"

Daniel sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Don't go there. Eww. I need a shower."

"You have about forty minutes before Carter comes to pick you up."

Before Daniel could even interrupt or draw a breath, Jack just continued. "I'll be in later, I'm helping her go over the list of contenders for the spots on SG-1, we'll do lunch and I'll take you home. Because you need to be home at a respectable hour. If you rely on Carter you'll be home way past your curfew each and every time."

Daniel blinked. "I have a curfew?"

"Shower. We'll discuss that later... like when you're thirteen." Jack made a mental note of the word Daniel mumbled under his breath. He was positive it was Goa'uld and a physical impossibility.


"I need a cup of coffee... you?"

"No. I had my allotted cup this morning with breakfast and after last night's transgression, I'm thinking I better not push Jack. It was bad enough he mentioned curfew this morning. Afraid if I cross the line again, he'll start talking timeout chair or make me stand in the corner - had enough of both of those to last me two childhoods."

He threw her a bone, a hint of what his childhood had been, but Sam wasn't about to even think of sticking her foot in the door.

"Do you think I could have an iced tea, though?"

"It's still caffeine." She pulled into a parking spot at the corner coffee shop.

"Yeah, but it's a grey area."

"Small iced tea." Concessions could be made until grey areas were cleared up.

"And a chocolate chip muffin."

"I thought you said you had breakfast."

"It's for later."

"Before or after the Chinese food for lunch?"


"Crap." Daniel wiped away the chocolate fingerprint he left in the corner of the report, succeeding in only smearing it further. He looked at the clock in the corner of his computer and blinked. Somewhere along the line, both he and Sam and forgotten about lunch. He remembered Jack coming in, waving, annoying him for a moment or two, then nothing. No Sam. Teal'c. Or Jack. No lunch. He'd grabbed the muffin when his stomach had protested loud enough to interrupt his train of thought, but he hadn't checked the time until now. It felt good to get back to work.

"Ready to leave?"

Daniel jumped at Jack's intrusion, cleaning his hands on his pants. "I can't believe it's that time already."

"Yeah, I know. For someone who retired, I was kept hopping today. Oh, and Carter sends her apologies about lunch. Tonight for dinner in about an hour. Her treat. At home. Give you just enough time to wipe off the chocolate traces."

"Sorry, I was hungry and kinda got lost in what I was doing."

"Yup. Time sure flies when you're having fun."


By the time Carter showed up with Chinese food, Daniel was already in pajamas and dying of hunger. He'd been pacing back and forth, driving Jack nuts, but he couldn't help it. He was salivating; the muffin had been a long time ago. Every time he opened the refrigerator, Jack was on him in a flash. This time instead he reached for the phone.

"Put the phone down, you're not calling her again."

"Maybe something happened. Aren't you even worried or concerned. Sam could be..."

"You called her fifteen minutes ago and she was waiting for the order to be filled."


"Are you inferring that Carter is unable to make it—"

Daniel slammed the phone down. "I'm not inferring anything... I'm just..."

"Hungry. Yeah, I got that idea. Why don't you set the table—"

Daniel raced out of the kitchen the second the door bell rang. "I've got it."


Jack pointed to the uneaten fried wontons on Daniel's plate and the small mound of cold sesame noodles. "Thought you were hungry?"

Daniel put his hand over his mouth and burped. "Excuse me." He pushed the plate towards Jack. "Help yourself. I'm full. I think I already had..."

"Two dishes worth," Sam said.

"Don't remind me." Daniel dropped his head on the table. "I'm never going to be hungry again."

"Good, we'll definitely save on the food bills around here."

"I guess that'll mean more of the chocolate cake for us, sir." Sam stood and began to gather up all the white containers.

Slowly, Daniel lifted his head. "I don't remember you bringing in a chocolate cake, Sam."

She pointed to the counter. "No offense Daniel, but you were so focused on these little white containers, I could have brought a platoon of Jaffa into the colonel's kitchen and you wouldn't have noticed."

Daniel burped again this time louder.

"Making room for dessert?"


The cake looked great. Smelled even better, but Daniel begged off, his stomach rolling uncomfortably at just the sight of Jack and Sam eating the rich treat.

"So what's your opinion, Daniel?" Sam used her fork to point to the two folders in front of Daniel.

He tapped the folders. "Both of these people are excellent candidates for the linguistic position on SG-1."

Jack gazed at Daniel over the rim of his coffee cup. "Carter knows they're both excellent candidates. I know they're excellent candidates, even though they're science geeks. What she wants is your honesty."

"Science geeks? Sheesh, Jack, even after all these years."

"Just ignore him, Daniel," Sam whispered.

"I get no respect," Jack grumbled into his coffee mug.

Daniel hesitated, trying to decide. He looked up when Sam tapped his hand. "No one can replace you."

"It's not an ego thing," Daniel said softly. "You're asking me to choose another member of SG-1, someone who I have to trust with your life. And Teal'c's life. It's not easy."

"I know it's not," Jack said. "Trust me, I understand." He pointed to the folder closest to him. "Tell us about this guy first."

In the end, Daniel had chosen Doctor Ryan Harrell, because, well, because he trusted him, and in the end that's what mattered.


This was Sam's idea, a barbeque to allow the passing of the baton, as Jack had called it, to the newest members of SG-1. The weather was beautiful; hot, the sun directly overhead, a perfect summer day, in Daniel's book.

He was sitting on the blanket in the middle of Sam's backyard watching Jack torment Sam as she stood over the grill. He couldn't hear anything, but from the way she was threatening him with the utensil in her hand, Daniel was pretty damn sure whatever Jack had said, hadn't been appreciated. Daniel laughed as Jack tried to wrestle the hamburger flipper from her grip.

"Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel looked up and shielded his eyes against the sun. He shook his head and sighed. "Ryan."

"Daniel," Ryan corrected.

"That's much better." Daniel patted the blanket then pointed to Sam and Jack. "Come on, sit down and watch the entertainment.

Even as Ryan lowered himself to the blanket, his smile was slow in coming.

"You're going to do fine." Daniel knew Harrell was going to be a great addition to SG-1. Steady as a rock, genius IQ, a linguistic powerhouse and a damn good shot, to boot.

It was the fourth member Daniel had misgivings about. The one Sam and Jack had chosen. The man who was now on the deck with them, freely adding his two cents on grilling techniques, Colonel Cameron Mitchell. Excellent military record, highly decorated, Daniel couldn't argue with that. What didn't sit well with him was Mitchell's cockiness. The ease in which the man slipped into his new position on SG-1 coupled with Mitchell's familiarity with people he wasn't familiar with irked Daniel. A lot.


He and Daniel left just after dessert, Jack wasn't sure why, but the mood seemed to have shifted and he sort of felt like a fifth wheel. He was old and tired, seeing things where there weren't any. Jack turned over the day's events on the drive home and came up blank as far as justifying his feelings. The evening was still warm and when Jack opened the door, he was hit with a wave of hot, stuffy air. He waved it to the side with a groan. "I'm going to turn on the AC and sit outside until the house cools off." Daniel followed him, but kept on going when Jack took a seat on the steps of the deck. He got the watering can from the shed, filled it from the outside spigot and began to water the plants.

"I'm going to get a beer, do you want an iced tea?" Jack shouted across the yard.

Daniel stopped, looked at Jack as if he spoken and foreign language, then nodded.

He downed the beer quickly, trying to wash away the heat of the day with it, but Daniel hadn't even come to get his iced tea. Instead, he had continued watering, refilling the watering can at least three times. One last swig, and the bottle was now empty. He placed it to the side, slapped his hands on his thighs and stood. Stretching out kinks, he snagged Daniel's now lukewarm bottle of iced tea. It was now Mohammed/mountain-time.

Jack exchanged the watering can for the iced tea. "I'll finish."

"There was a finality about today."

"You felt it also?" Jack put down the watering can and took back the iced tea, shook it, popped the top and handed it back to Daniel, who did nothing but stare at it.

"It hurt. More than I thought it would." Daniel's right thumb began to peel the label off the bottle.

"So, are we jealous?"

Daniel stopped. "Jealous." He said the word as if he was trying it on for size. "Maybe we are."

Jack sighed. "Maybe. Just a little." Jack flipped the bottle top from the Snapple bottle in the air. "Okay, maybe just a lot. Damn!" he said when the bottle top missed his outstretched hand.

Daniel snorted. "Great. Now when you mow, that little round piece of metal will become a lethal weapon. Remind me not to be outside next time you bring out the mower." With one hand still holding the full bottle of Snapple, Daniel held out his other hand to Jack. "Let's go in. I'm sure the house is cooled off enough for you."

Jack took his hand. "For me?"

"I went to bed with two quilts on because of your need... fixation to make the house the temperature of a meat locker—"

"Oh, come on, Daniel, it doesn't take a genius to realize cold should equal more blankets. I mean, what have you got against the cold?"

"Egypt. Abydos. Either of these ring a bell?"

Jack opened the sliding glass door and was assaulted by a wave of frigid air. "Ahhhhh."

"This is how you like to torture me, isn't it?"

"It's what I live for, Daniel." Jack made a show of rubbing his hands together and blowing on them. "Better get out the thermal underwear."

"Get it out? Living with you, Jack, I never put them away."


Daniel was sitting up in bed, partially hidden by the pile of quilts on his bed, headphones in his ears. He didn't look up when Jack entered the room. He did look up, eyebrows raised, when Jack removed the top quilt and began to fold it.

"What are you doing?"

"I took pity on you and lowered the AC before bedtime." He dropped the quilt on top of the chest at the foot of the bed, then opened a drawer and tossed a tee shirt at Daniel. "I think the long sleeved sweatshirt might be overkill now."

Expressionless, Daniel slowly removed his headphones, and changed shirts.

Jack grabbed the discarded sweatshirt before Daniel could toss it to the floor and put it on top of the quilt. Then he grabbed his hand before Daniel could reach for the iPod headphones. Still holding onto the tiny hand, Jack sat at the end of the bed.

"I don't want you to think I didn't understand your feelings about the changes in SG-1. I do."

"I know you do." Daniel crawled into Jack's lap. "And I'm sorry if I came across as ungrateful, but every time I think I've adjusted, something else just comes along to prove that I haven't."

"Well, there's one good aspect of not going through the 'gate."

Daniel groaned. "I don't really want to know what it is, do I?"

"A PMSing Carter with a P-90."

"I'm not going to tell her you said that. Though I think Teal'c is more deadly after eating a beef enchilada MRE."

"I have an idea; maybe we should prepare an instructional booklet on the care and feeding of Carter and Teal'c."

"Anyone ever tell you that you're evil?" Daniel chuckled.

Jack kissed the top of Daniel's head and kept silent, rocking slightly. The slight movement was enough to send Daniel over the edge into sleep, but Jack kept rocking, the swaying as comforting to him as it was to Daniel, because there was no way in hell he'd ever admit to Daniel, he was a jealous and as hurt as Daniel was about the ending of SG-1 as they knew it.


Jack hated the first day of school. Nothing reminded him more of Charlie than the sign of those damned yellow school busses picking up the kids. Memories of an anxious kindergartener, flanked by two even more anxious parents, assaulted him as they drove to meet Carter and Teal'c for breakfast at the Pancake House.

He tapped the wheel impatiently as the bus in front of him waited for the mother to smother her little boy with kisses before he climbed into the bus. "Forcryingoutloud."

"Don't worry, Sam and Teal'c will wait for us—"

Jack gestured out the front windshield. "I wasn't complaining about that, but about the mother who was plastering a million kisses on her poor kid before sending him off to school. Now all the other kids will be making fun of him, calling him 'mama's boy'..."

"Are you saying the poor kid is going to be scarred for life because he had a caring mother?"

"That mother was way past caring. That mother was like—"



"Yes, Jack?"

"Shut up, okay?"


"Yes, Daniel," he sighed.

"The bus is gone, you can drive now."


They got stuck behind three more busses and by they time they sat down for breakfast, Jack was in a foul mood.

"Jack's in a horrible mood," Daniel warned the second he walked up to the booth that Teal'c and Carter were sitting at. He slid into the seat next to Teal'c. "I'm sitting here for protection."

"I hate being late," Jack growled, lying.

Carter slid over, getting as close to the window as possible. "I hate that you hate being late, sir."


Jack wandered around the grocery store, the morning's breakfast lying heavily on his stomach, trying to ignore every end cap's display of school supplies. Carter and Teal'c had taken Daniel to the mountain and suddenly here in the grocery store, Jack was overcome with a feeling of aloneness. He began to rush, buying haphazardly just to get out of the store, filling the cart to capacity and beyond.


The bags were strewn all over the kitchen. Jack was sitting on a chair, nursing a beer that was truly way too early to be having, feeling sorry for himself.

He jumped, fist raised, at the gentle touch to his arm. "Ahhh, jeeze, Daniel," he said, lowering his arm. "After all these years, you should know not to do that. I could've..."

Daniel dropped his backpack then threw his arms around Jack's middle, resting his head on his belly.

"Hey, buddy," Jack said. He pushed Daniel away, suddenly alarmed. "Are you hurt? Sick?"

"I wanted to come home."

Jack felt Daniel's forehead. "You are sick."

"Not sick." Daniel climbed up Jack. "I just wanted to come home."

"You never come home on your own volition. Why today?"

Daniel patted Jack's chest. "You needed a friend."

Crap. Jack put his arms around him and rested his chin on Daniel's head. How the hell could he have forgotten? This was Daniel. His best friend. The person who'd always shown up at Jack's house 'just because', with takeout and a six-pack when Jack needed his presence. Because he knew. Daniel always knew. "Thank you."


Daniel was rude to the airman who dropped him off. He knew he was, but he was unable to help himself. He answered all the questions in chopped, short sentences, until eventually the man just stopped talking. Good. The last thing Daniel wanted to do was talk.

He struggled up the walk, weighed down more than usual by his overloaded backpack and his anger. Pissed enough that he couldn't be bothered looking for his key and just pounded on the door, kicking it in when Jack didn't answer fast enough for him.

Jack had insisted that every personnel that drove Daniel home wait until he gave the okay before driving back to the mountain, and this one was no exception. Waiting, gathering fodder, Daniel was positive, to discuss over the proverbial water cooler. Frustrated, he again kicked the door hard enough to leave scuff marks. His right leg was wound up to deliver another resounding kick when Jack opened the door, and for a man with bad knees, he deftly stepped out of the range of Daniel's foot.

Jack gave a thumb's up to the driver, who sped away, and Daniel skirted around Jack, knocking him with his backpack. "You should be very thankful you didn't kick me."

Not bothering to answer Jack, Daniel pounded up the three steps to the hallway, entered his bedroom, slammed the door, and if he'd been bigger, Daniel would've tossed his backpack across the room. Instead he had to be satisfied with the resounding thud it made when he dropped it to the floor.

"I take it your meeting with the general didn't go well?" Jack stood in the doorway, one hand on the dresser, one hand on the doorknob.

"Maybe General Hammond would've been more receptive if I'd had support."

"Nope, wasn't gonna happen and I told you that from the beginning. The initial reports, MALP reading and UAV findings were not—"

"Yadda yadda yadda, not conducive to sending a six-year-old Daniel Jackson through the 'gate. I got it. SG-11's going. Based on my work. My study. My translations of the obelisks surrounding the 'gate, and Hammond chose to send them."

"Good, you'll read their reports."

"I don't want to read their reports. I want to go. Reading their reports is like reading the reviews and not seeing the movie." He was shouting. He knew he was shouting, he could hear himself losing control.

"Let me give you a hint, Daniel, if you ever want to go through the 'gate again, I'm thinking shouting at the general when he tells you no, isn't a good idea."

"I didn't shout, Jack. But you wouldn't know that, because you were here." No, Daniel hadn't shouted. He'd begged and pleaded, stopping short of dropping to his knees and clasping his hands together when he'd caught the look of pity sweeping across the general's usually stoic features.

"Daniel, I couldn't back you with something I didn't believe in. Or felt that it wasn't in your best interest or safety—"

"So you hid at home. Fine. Got it. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get my reports together in a cohesive manner to email to General Hammond for his briefing with SG-11."

"He didn't ask you to attend the briefing?"

"He did. I chose not to."


He was squashed into the farthest corner of his room. A tiny hidey-hole to the left of his desk, just him, the dust bunnies, a lost pencil, a discarded paperclip and his cell phone. He hit the speed dial for Rose.

It took three rings and he was just about to flip the phone closed, when Rose answered.


Daniel couldn't help but smile. "Hi, Rose."

"Mhuirnin, what a surprise."

Daniel knew the next question before she even asked it.

"Is everything okay? Are you okay? Jack?"

"All fine, Rose."

"You don't sound fine to me."

Daniel could hear her moving around. A chair being pulled out, the scraping of the legs across a linoleum floor unmistakable even over the telephone wires. "Honest, I'm okay."

"You don't sound okay."

"Disappointed. I expected someone to behave a certain way, to back me up, but..."

"Jonathan must have had his reasons."

"I didn't mention Jack."

"You didn't have to."


"Was your safety involved?"

"I'm mature enough to make decisions regarding my own safety."

"Daniel, if you're making this call to gain my sympathy, you're not going to get it. Even without all the facts, if your safety was involved, I'm siding with Jack on this one."

"Does this mean I can't run away to your house?"

"Yes, that's exactly what it means. Go talk to Jack. I swear I'm not too sure who's more stubborn."

Daniel sighed.

"Say goodbye to me now, and go talk to Jack."

"Goodbye, Rose."

"I love you. Remember, Jack loves you, too, even though you're too angry at him to even see past the nose on your face."


"I'm still angry I can't go." He'd found Jack in the dining room with a roll of papers spread out on the table.

"I don't blame you. But we're not holding you back because we're getting a thrill outta pissing you off. We care about you, Daniel."

"I know." He didn't mention that Rose had told him the same exact thing. Curiosity got the better of him. "What are you looking at?"

Jack motioned Daniel to his side of the table. "Come take a look."

Daniel kneeled on the chair by Jack's side. "They're plans."

"Yup," Jack said. "Architectural plans."

"I can see that." Daniel wasn't truly ready to forgive Jack just yet and he made sure to tinge his question with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Disappointingly, Jack didn't rise to the bait. "I'm thinking the back of the house needs to be pushed out."

"The back of the house? The bedrooms?"

"My room, yeah, some changes. Your room... look." Jack began to show Daniel the extensive remodeling. "I figured after the holidays..."

The built-in bookshelves. The desk. The work area separate from the sleeping quarters. The walk-in closet. He was being handed a room to grow up in. A place to hang his hat forever and ever. Damn, Jack. He wanted to be angry with him.

"And if your situation reverses itself..." Jack placed his hand over the area Daniel's bed was going to be in. "I have a great place to put up a huge flat screen TV and you have a place to work."

Daniel gently pushed Jack's hand aside and traced the area it had been covering up. From the bed to the closet to the bathroom to the bookshelves, he traced the lines on the drawing with his fingers until his eyes blurred with tears. "I hate you," Daniel whispered to Jack, but there was no feeling behind the words.

"I know you do," Jack commiserated with a gentle squeeze to Daniel's shoulder. "But there were too many dangers. Please believe me," he begged, "eventually the time will be right. Maybe not now or two months from now, but soon, I promise you."


Jack exchanged a parental glance of understanding with the General over Daniel's head. General Hammond, who was facing Daniel, was trying very hard not to smile at Daniel's exuberance. Jack tugged on the strap of his backpack to get his attention. "Why don't you check out the FRED one more time to make sure—"

Daniel was gone before Jack finished the sentence.

"Thank you, General."

"For what, Colonel? Doctor Jackson is just doing his job and you're doing yours." He winked at Jack, his eyes crinkling in amusement. "And since I'm sure you've read the mission reports like you always do, I'm pretty damn positive there's a fishing pole among the paraphernalia that's been packed on the FRED."

"Pole, lures, some frozen bait and maybe even a be—"

Hammond cleared his throat.

"Sir, a book or two to keep me company while I fish."

Hammond clapped him on the back. "That's just what I thought." He gave the signal to Walter in the control room and the 'gate began the dialing sequence. "Godspeed, Jack, and make sure that Doctor Jackson enjoys his visit to PX4183."

"Is that an order, sir?"

"Damn straight it is, Colonel."


Three days on the aptly nicknamed Paradise Planet and Jack was smugly satisfied that Daniel was having the time of his life. Perfect temperature. Perfect ruins. Accompanied by two SG archeological teams and a handful of marines to watch their backs, this was a little piece of heaven. The only glitch was Jack's enforcement of meals and bedtime.

"This is degrading," Daniel groused as he slid into his sleeping bag. "I'm not even tired."

"Doctor's orders. And since Fraiser scares me more than you do, I'm making sure I'm abiding by her 'three meals a day and a reasonable bedtime' orders." Jack shoved his finger into Daniel's face when he began to sputter. "Watch it, or you'll be taking the naps she wanted."


The days progressed and Daniel tanned, a smattering of freckles cropping up across his nose and cheeks, his hair lightening under the sun's rays. For an hour a day, Jack would kidnap him, always under protest, and drag him to the lake less than a quarter of mile from camp. Daniel would keep him company while he fished, eating lunch and sharing the morning's discoveries. Sometimes, the morning's escapades would take their toll and Daniel's body would betray him and he'd fall asleep. He'd wake, halfheartedly blaming Jack.


Fourteen days flew by and even the marines were uncharacteristically silent as they helped the scientists pack up their equipment. There was talk that night of staking out plots of land and settling here upon retirement. No one wanted to leave and as the others sat around the fire, Daniel pulled Jack off to the side.

"I want to go down to the lake."

"It's dark."

"You know the way even in the dark."

He did, and against his better judgment he gripped Daniel's small right hand in his and guided them through the trees to the spot where they'd eaten lunch for the past two weeks. "Good enough for you?"

"Perfect." Daniel released his hand and dropped down on the ground, leaning against their tree. He gazed up at Jack. "Won't do me any good to beg for another few weeks?"


"Few days?"

"Sorry, Daniel." Jack sat down next to Daniel. "Be—"

"Thankful for what I had. I know. And the pictures we took and the videos will keep me busy for awhile."

"So this planet holds one of life's greatest mysteries?"

"I'll let you know." He pointed up into the clear night. "I miss this, looking into a night sky that doesn't belong to Earth."

Jack put his arm around Daniel and pulled him in closer. "Want to carve a 'we were here' in the tree?"

Daniel laughed. "That's just so wrong."

"I didn't say it was right... I just wanted to ask if you wanted to do it?"

"Damn straight I do."


They slept that night under the tree, next to the lake, out in the open but within shouting distance of the camp. Daniel fell asleep mid-sentence, but Jack stayed awake until the sun rose, sorrier than he would ever admit to Daniel that they were leaving the planet today.


Daniel dragged behind Jack, playing with the zipper of his coat, his mind still back in his office, following Jack's feet as he and the shopping cart weaved around the crowd in the grocery store. Jack stopped short and Daniel plowed into him, bouncing back two steps. Daniel sighed, seventy-two hours later and life had settled back into routine as if they'd never gone offworld.


Daniel shook his head.

"What are you going to have for breakfast in the morning?"

"Buy oatmeal."

"Oatmeal?" Warm oatmeal with a dollop of syrup sounded really appealing right now. Soothing to his scratchy throat, the result of just too many meetings today.

"Forget it, cereal's fine." At this point Daniel didn't care. He just wanted to go home to his backpack full of work. Coming back to find half the department out sick pretty much sucked and for the past three days, Daniel had been fighting an uphill battle to clean up his desk, and disappointingly enough, he hadn't had a chance to even look at his notes from their two-week hiatus. "Why didn't you go food shopping during the day? While I was at the..." A warning glance from Jack shut him up.

"I was finalizing the plans with the architect and the meeting took longer than I expected. I'm sorry." He ruffled Daniel's hair. "I know how much you hate this."

"You hate it also."

"I do... you just whine and complain more than I do."

"Then if that's the case, I want oatmeal. Tonight, for dinner."


"Really," Daniel repeated. "But the kind you have to make, not the instant open the pouch, add a cup of boiling water."

Jack grumbled good-naturedly. "All right. I think I can manage that."


Daniel reached for the container of juice.

"Whoa, that makes number three."

He coughed, ignoring Jack's raised eyebrows. "Did you read the instructions on the oatmeal box?" Turning the spoonful of oatmeal upside down, he shook it a few times, the oatmeal adhering to the spoon like glue. "It's a little pasty." He coughed again. "Hard to swallow... keeps getting stuck going down."

Jack poured him another glass of juice. "Don't complain to me if you're up tonight, running to the bathroom."

Daniel nibbled some oatmeal off the end of the spoon. "Don't take this the wrong way, Jack, but you are such a mother."


The need to pee didn't wake him up because he didn't sleep. He spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying to escape from the annoying dry cough, burrowed under the covers so he wouldn't wake Jack. And that was how he fell asleep, just as his room was brightening with the rising sun, skootched down under the covers, with his pillows blocking the opening.

He woke up to someone's hands moving down the length of his body. "Are you under here?"

Jack. Oh, joy.

"Can you breathe under there?" A rush of cool air wafted into Daniel's hiding place as Jack lifted the edge of the blanket.

"I can breathe," Daniel croaked.

"Nice voice." Gently, Jack pushed the covers down, exposing Daniel's face.

Daniel blinked in the bright sunlight, coughed, then groaned. "What time is it?"

"Zero nine hundred hours with a balmy outside temperature of twenty-four degrees."

"I hate the winter."

"No, you hate Christmas shopping more."

Daniel fought for Jack to release the covers from his grip so he could go back to sleep or at least hide from the man. He'd forgotten. A Freudian slip of the mind that he and Jack had planned to start shopping early this year. Jack's idea, not his. "I have too much work to do." The frog in his throat seemed to have taken up residence.

Immediately, Jack's free hand fell upon Daniel's forehead. "No fever."

He coughed. "No fever. Just annoyingly dry winter air in the house."

"A fish tank," Jack crowed triumphantly. "How about a fish tank?"

He hadn't had fish in years. It was bad enough when too much time offworld led to disgusting growth under the tinfoil in his fridge, but it also led to dead fish floating in the tank. "Fish would be nice, I liked having fish. Maybe we could put a tank in the new bedroom—" Daniel shook his head. "No, I have work."

"It's Saturday."

"And I have work to do."

"Daniel... look, I understand, but Fraiser—"

"All right!" Daniel tore the blanket from Jack's grasp and tossed it aside. "I'm getting up. I don't need the riot act read to me. I don't need the working conditions reiterated once again. I got it."

"Stop it!"

Daniel stopped and pivoted slowly. He hadn't heard that voice from Jack in a while. This was the mission voice, the 'you better stop in your tracks voice', his 'danger, Will Robinson voice'.

Jack drew a deep breath before he began. "I understand you're under time constraints. That the department has been hit with sickness."

Just because Jack wasn't physically at the SGC, it didn't mean that Jack didn't know what was going on under the mountain.

"We'll compromise. Morning we'll spend shopping. Then lunch. Then you can have the rest of the day to work. How's that?"


That worked out really well. The lack of crowds had given them ample time and choices to make a big dent in their list. Before lunch, at Jack's insistence, they stopped by the pet store and ordered a tank and stand, then fought over who was going to pay for it, much to the amusement of the person behind the counter who snorted at his own mirth when he made a comment about credit card companies giving cards to anyone, no matter how old they were.

When Jack won the argument by sheer size and speed, handing the guy his credit card before Daniel had even pulled out his wallet, Daniel left in a huff to become one with the tanks of fish in the back of the store. He tapped the glass of the tank with the black mollies, sniffing back stupid tears of frustration.


Jack craved a diner burger, so he made the choice for lunch. Daniel hated the diner. Hated the place mat and crayons they handed to him, sliding them over to Jack as soon as they sat, exchanging them for Jack's normal sized, adult paper mat.

Jack had busied himself with the puzzles on the mat while Daniel stared out the window, watching the comings and goings of the traffic.

Daniel grabbed another napkin from the dispenser and blew his nose, tears were not only embarrassing, but they did a job on his sinuses. He crumpled the napkin and added it to the growing pile in the corner of the table, ignoring the concern in Jack's eyes. "Sinuses." The cough caught him unaware and he rode it out, accepting the water glass Jack handed to him. "Post nasal drip," he added when finished.

"Sounds like you need an allergy pill."

He probably did, but they zonked him and he needed to stay awake and work. "I just need to go home."


Even without the allergy pill, Daniel was finding it hard to concentrate and he was more than grateful when Jack interrupted him with a mug of hot chocolate and a sliced apple with peanut butter. "Thanks."

"You barely ate lunch and you sounded like you could use something to drink. You're coughing. Heard you all the way in the living room. Are you sure you still don't want an allergy pill?"

"No. No pill." He raised the hot chocolate. "This should do the trick."

Jack sat in silence, watching Daniel eat.

"I'm okay."

"I know you are, I'm just trying to figure out how to word an apology about what happened in the pet store. I didn't mean to just take over. It just happened."

"You just took over."

"Yeah." Jack looked everywhere but at Daniel. "I'm going to have to work on that, aren't I?"

Daniel sighed then coughed. "Yes, you are." He leaned forward and patted Jack's thigh. "But I can do patience. Honest." He coughed to seal the deal.


He should've taken the allergy pill, at least then he would have had a reason as to why he fell asleep face down on his legal pad while in the middle of a translation. Sitting up, Daniel slowly peeled the soggy with drool, yellow lined paper from his face. Disgusted, he threw the pad onto the table and went in search of Jack.


"I'm sick."

"Hold it a minute." Jack set the dial on the dryer and pushed it in, then turned to face Daniel. "What did you... you look like crap."

"I'm sick," Daniel croaked, trying to clear his throat. "I'm sure I've caught whatever's going around." He coughed, then backed away from Jack. "I have no fever. Though based on recent experience, I'm giving you ample warning that I'm going to get cranky and whiney." He coughed again, holding his hand up to stop Jack. "I'm fine. I'm just sick."


Somewhere in Daniel's convoluted, genius, sick-addled brain, that last line made sense. "Well, since you have it covered... thanks for the warning, by the way. What's your next step?"

Daniel thought a moment. "Call Janet. Let her know. Get in pajamas. Lie on the couch."

"Anything else?"

"Soup? Is there any of Rose's soup in the freezer?"


The sweats felt great, warm against his chilled body and he arranged his blanket the length of the couch. He gave Jack a wave when he caught him peering at him from the kitchen. Absently, Jack waved back, more intent on the phone he had pressed to his ear.

Janet, Daniel was positive. And based on the speed at which Jack appeared to be speaking, he'd connected with Janet's answering machine and not Janet herself. Hopefully, Jack would just give her the need to know information, that he'd been stricken with the virus that had decimated the archeological and linguistic departments.


Daniel exchanged the remote for the mug of soup Jack handed him. "Thank you." An adolescent boy had nothing on his voice. He stuck the mug of soup under his nose, using the steam to unclog clogged nasal passages. He tolerated Jack's try for nonchalance as he skimmed his hand over Daniel's forehead, pushing his hair to the side. "No fever," he squeaked.

"No fever," Jack repeated with a nod, sitting down on the couch with Daniel. "That's what I told Fraiser." He sought out and squeezed his foot. "You can rest easy. Eat the soup. It's Saturday night, she's probably out on a hot date so she's not going to call and see how you're doing."


Daniel pounded the pillow in frustration. Every time he drifted to sleep, he woke himself up coughing.

"Try this." Jack picked him up, blanket and all, and plopped him onto the recliner. He adjusted the setting so Daniel was somewhere between sitting up and lying flat. Jack went back to the couch and picked up the remote. "And I'll try this." He lowered the volume and turned on the closed captioning. "And for good measure..." Jack flicked off the light by the couches. "Now close your eyes," he ordered.


He woke up to Jack's 'I told you so' face inches from his. "Morning?"

"Yeah, buddy, but I'm thinking it's the chair for you most of the day."

Pulling up the blanket, he coughed into the material. "No argument from me."


He lost the day. In the blur of the drone of the TV and being force fed liquids from a persistently hovering Jack, the day escaped and slid into early evening. Daniel pushed away the glass of juice Jack offered.

"Fraiser said to ply you with juice."

"Ply. Fraiser. Juice. Call?"

"Frasier sends her regards and her sympathy. She ordered rest, fluids and to make sure you don't get me sick."

"I'll try."

By the quick raise of Jack's eyebrows, it was obvious that he was perplexed by Daniel's two-word answer.

"Sorry," he apologized. "No energy for a sharp-witted quip." Daniel had barely moved the entire day. He'd gotten up to pee with a Jack shadow, but other than that, Jack had brought all his meals and liquids to where he lay on the recliner. "Where's Sam? Teal'c. They okay?" He leaned into the cool hand Jack swept across his forehead.

"Carter and Teal'c are fine. They're a safe distance from you. Smart people. How're you feeling?"

He was cold. Achy. His chest hurt. His head hurt. Thinking was just a tad easier than speaking. Hopefully, Jack could read his mind.

"I bet you feel like crap."


"I have my moments."


Daniel remembered juice and Tylenol. Walking to the bathroom half-asleep with Jack glued to his elbow. He remembered fighting with Jack about going to sleep back in his own room because he had work to do. He remembered Jack winning the argument by just picking him up and setting his ass back down in the recliner. He had protested feebly while Jack had smiled indulgently. Annoyed, he'd covered his head with the blanket and went to sleep.


Sickness sleep is never restful, and Daniel tossed and turned as much as the chair would allow for what seemed liked most of the night, waking fully when an impossibly dry throat made it painful for him to gather enough spit to swallow. Cautiously, he slid off the chair, not even thunking the chair back into position, keeping one eye on Jack to make sure the man never stirred.

Daniel tiptoed quietly into the kitchen, stopping every few steps just to check to make sure Jack was still snoring. He fought the urge to cough, only giving in once he was in the kitchen, burying the sound in a wad of napkins he scooped off the table. Afraid of every sound, for good measure, he coughed one more time into the napkins before laying them in the garbage.

He walked the fridge door open, holding his breath, hoping none of the bottles on the door made any type of clanking noise. Thankfully they were silent. The angel of good fortune was sitting right on his shoulder because an opened bottle of Snapple was on the shelf. But just as he was reaching for it, he was distracted by a container of mixed berry orange juice which suddenly sounded much more appealing.

And it was, and it tasted great, soothing and refreshing. In quick succession he downed two glasses and was carefully pouring his third when his body betrayed him. He began to cough. Dry hacking that hurt. Without warning he vomited, the juice regurgitating as fast as he'd downed it, splattering the floor, the chair, appearing to be much more than the two glasses he just drank. The juice opened the floodgates, and standing in the kitchen, in sweats covered by vomit, he upchucked every foodstuff that Jack had forced him to ingest for the past eight years.


"Shit!" Jack bolted upright. Certain things always penetrated sleep. A ringing phone. The sound of a klaxon. A nightmare. A firing gun. A cock poking him. A rock under a sleeping bag. Out of the ordinary sounds off world. Out of the ordinary sounds while on Earth... like a vomiting child. What the hell? "Daniel?" Even in the dim light, he could see the recliner was empty.

He ran towards the sound, which had changed to a heart rendering coughing choking combination. The kitchen... what the heck was Daniel doing in the... "Crap." Jack stopped dead, the smell alone made him want to puke all over his own bare feet. Daniel was crying, trying to wipe the mess off his pajamas, oblivious to Jack standing there, coughing and gagging as he grabbed napkins from the table to use instead of his hands.

"It's okay." Jack tried to speak without breathing and he flicked on the light to see exactly how to maneuver around this minefield. He managed two steps before he heard it, an unnatural wheeze on both exhalation and inhalation, and suddenly Jack didn't care if he was stepping in last night's dinner with no shoes. "Come on, buddy," he said, picking Daniel up, soggy napkins and all.

Daniel was hot. Much hotter than he'd been when Jack last checked, and the wheeze was more pronounced now that Daniel was up close and personal. Holding Daniel, he slipped on his ratty, only-for-outside sneakers, balancing against the counter to make sure the two of them didn't land on their prospective asses.

One handed, he grabbed his cell phone and keys off the table by the door; screw the wallet, he was outta hands. Thankfully, the Avalanche's doors opened with the remote, and compliments of last year's Christmas gift, he was able to start the car the same way while he locked the front door.

Illegal as it was, there was no way he was strapping Daniel into the back seat. "Gonna ride shotgun tonight, Dannyboy."

As soon as Jack buckled Daniel into the front seat, he curled into the chair, shivering so hard his teeth were chattering. He leaned across Daniel and threw his keys and cell phone onto the driver's side. "Give me a second, okay?" Jack opened the back door and removed the folded blanket by Daniel's booster seat. He whipped around to the front and spread the blanket over Daniel. "I know the blanket's cold from being outside, but it'll keep you warm."

Daniel nodded, twisted the edge of the blanket in his right hand, then closed his eyes. He coughed, then whimpered, pulling himself into an even smaller ball.


Jack drove with one hand, dialing Fraiser's number with his other. "Come on. Come on. Come on," he muttered under his breath while the phone rang.

" 'ello."

"Woke you. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry."

"Colonel? What's the problem?"

Bless the woman, from sleeping to CMO in under ten seconds. "Daniel's sick—"


"Fever. Vomiting... a lot. He's wheezing when he breathes. What the hell's going on? He wasn't like this—"

"I'll be over—"

"I'm on my way to the SGC."


"Twenty minutes. Maybe sooner."

"I'll alert the infirmary you're on your way... and Colonel... I'm putting both of you in isolation until I can validate that whatever's wrong with Daniel isn't from the planet."

"I know the drill."

"I'm sure you do, sir."

The heater in the car was blasting and Jack tried not to think of the smell which was becoming more and more overpowering the longer he drove. He shut off the vents closest to him and cracked the window a few inches for a breath of fresh air.


Fraiser and her team met the Avalanche in the parking lot. They were decked out in hazmat gear and Jack felt incredibly naked in just his smelly sweats, not to mention the elastic on his sweatpants was old and had settled somewhere around his ankles, giving everyone a clear view of his sockless feet that he had shoved into his ratty old sneakers.

"Passenger seat," he said to Fraiser when she laid her gloved hand on the handle of the back door. Jack pointed downward, peering in through the window. "Curled on the front seat."

She gave him booties and a mask and mimed for him to put them on. He was leaning against the truck, putting on the booties just as Fraiser signaled for her team to bring the gurney over, then opened the passenger door.

"Wait," Jack pleaded, trying to intervene, tripping on the oversized shoe coverings.

"Daniel. Can you open your eyes for me?"

Her voice was soothing, her gloved touch gentle, but it was obvious that Daniel processed something entirely different when he opened his eyes.

"No," he screamed hoarsely, popping up in the seat. "Get 'way." He became a mass of kicking arms and legs.

Jack could see him fight the seat belt and he pushed Fraiser out of the way. He stuck his head into the passenger door, capturing Daniel's hot face between his two hands. Daniel stopped moving at Jack's touch, but his eyes were wide with panic, focusing on something over Jack's left shoulder.

"Sir, I don't like the sound of his breathing and I really—"

He flipped his head to the left. "Back off," Jack hissed at Fraiser. "Please," he added softening his voice just a tad as he turned his attention back to Daniel. "We're at the SGC and that strange looking person in that lovely outfit is Fraiser, and all those people are the infirmary staff. They're afraid you and I are contagious; hence the reason for the hazmat suits. Following me so far?"

The face cupped in his hands nodded slowly.

"Just checking. You're sick, and she just wants to give you a ride to the infirmary to check you out. Will you let them?"

Again he nodded. Jack slid a hand down and released the seat belt. He pulled Daniel into his arms and walked towards the gurney. Daniel stiffened as Jack went to lay him down, but he talked him through it, soothing words, calming words, reminding Daniel the number of times he'd taken this ride to the infirmary. Daniel was okay with the oxygen mask; he fingered it, but left it in place. He looked at the pulse ox meter with interest, then let it be.

"We've cleared the corridors down to the isolation room, but Colonel..." She gazed at the mask he still held in his hands.

"I think everyone else should be wearing these and not me... or you." He tapped Daniel's oxygen mask. "Because we smell kinda ripe."

"Can't smell a thing," Fraiser replied with an innocent twinkle in her eyes. "Okay, folks," she said, "time to get a move on."

Daniel lasted maybe three feet before he ripped off the mask. "Where are you taking me?" His head whipped from side to side.

Fraiser tried to put the mask back on but he slapped her hand away. "The infirmary, remember?" With a roll of her hand, she motioned for the gurney to keep moving.

"Where's my team?" He began to buck and cough. "What have you done with—"

"Here, Daniel. I'm right—"

"No!" The scream was hoarse and nightmarish. "A lie," he gasped. "Like before. It's not alright," he gulped, trying to find oxygen to fill his lungs.

Fraiser reached across to strap him down, pulling back when he went to bite her. Two corpsmen came to her aid. One held down Daniel's kicking legs, the other, his shoulders, effectively blocking Jack as the gurney moved forward.

"Jack... Help." Daniel's movements began to increase in intensity as the gurney continued on its journey.

"Let me get this mask on him again."

"Get away from me!"

"This will help," Janet tried to reason.

"I. Want. To. See. My. Team."

"I'm here," Jack repeated. He'd had enough and he shouldered past the corpsman closest to him and picked Daniel up. "I'm here," he repeated softly in Daniel's ear as he climbed onto the gurney with him, turning a blind eye to Fraiser's glare at his interference.

"Get off!" Daniel screamed, kicking him. "Leave. They can't find you here. Please, Jack. Go save Sam and Teal'c," he pleaded, looking at but not seeing the familiar corridor. His arms gave way and he dropped to the gurney. "Run," he said, staring at the ceiling. "It's too late to save me."


The motto of the SGC, Jack decided as they rode the elevator, should be 'when the going gets tough, you just figure out what the hell will work and go with it'. The corpsmen were standing at attention by an empty gurney. Daniel was in Jack's arms, with a pulse ox and oxygen mask attached to his face, while Fraiser held the wires and trappings.

"His fever's not high enough to trigger delusions."

Jack watched the numbers on the elevator. "No, it's not."

"I'm thinking his little display was bordering a bit more on the—"

Jack was saved from responding when the elevator door opened.


Jack skipped the second bed in the room, and instead chose the chair by Daniel's bed, the towel he'd used to dry his hair draped around his neck. The shower had helped cool his anger toward Fraiser over the sedative she'd given Daniel. In the shower, he'd punched the walls in frustration, but once out, dried off and dressed in a clean pair of scrubs, sanity returned.

"I'm sorry." He grasped Fraiser's hand as she walked past him.

The biohazard suits had been replaced by gowns and gloves, and it made reading her body language and eyes a tad easier. She was still annoyed with him, Jack could tell by the set of her shoulders and how she clutched Daniel's chart to her chest, but it was her eyes that let Jack know she understood. "Don't ever step between myself and a patient again, sir. Next time, I won't just point in the direction of the shower, I'll throw you in the brig."

"Does that mean you accept my apology?"

Her eyes crinkled above her mask. "I understood your actions," she looked over her shoulder at the bank of monitors by Daniel's bed.

She was thinking that Jack had been thinking of Charlie, but he hadn't been. Truthfully, Jack hadn't thought of his son the entire time, until just now when he saw the flash of pity in the Doc's eyes. When he'd stepped between Fraiser and her loaded syringe, the only thought on his mind had been Daniel, and how much he hated sedatives because it brought back memories of his sarcophagus addiction. But right now, if the pity card would get him out of the dog house, he'd play it. With a silent apology to Charlie, he squeezed Fraiser's hand before releasing it. "Thank you," then nodded towards the bed with his chin. "Any news?"

"We're running blood work on both of you. Daniel's being hydrated. I'm giving him oxygen. We've taken a chest x-ray..."

"So the answer is..."

"No answer yet. I'm sorry."


He jerked awake when Daniel coughed.

"Colonel, why don't you lie down?" The nurse recording Daniel's vitals pointed to the empty bed in the room. "Doctor Jackson's going to be asleep for another hour or so."

"How's he doing?" Jack moved his neck from side to side, trying to work out the kinks.

"The same," was her noncommittal answer. She appeared young and new, her eyes above the mask unfamiliar to Jack.

Jack patted the arm of the chair. "Naw, the chair is fine, keeps me within arm's reach."


The next time Jack opened his eyes, someone was waving a mug of coffee under his nose.


Sans gown and mask, she nodded. "The one and only."

Jack sat up with a groan and gratefully accepted the coffee. "Not contagious?" he asked as his brain cells once again began to function.

"Not contagious as in off world contagion. Contagious as in Earth virus. Acute bronchitis with a side order of the stomach virus circulating around the archeological department."

"Leave it to Daniel to get two for the price of one." Jack took a sip of coffee, painfully embarrassed when the liquid sent his stomach asking for more. Loudly.

"I'll have some breakfast sent up."

"So Daniel's gonna be okay?"

"Daniel's going to be fine, sir."

"So we can go home."

"I didn't say that. A few more days—"

"But you said—"

"I said I'd send up breakfast for you. I said Daniel was going to be fine. Key words, 'going to be'."

Jack plucked at the flimsy scrubs. "Can I at least change into some clothes that aren't see through when standing under a strong light?"

"Eat breakfast. Become one with the bed over there for at least three hours and then we'll talk about a change of wardrobe."


"This sucks," Daniel whined at he pulled at the nasal cannula.

"It's what all the best-dressed archeologists are wearing this year at the SGC." Jack guided Daniel's hand back to the checker board on the rollaway table.

"I want to go home."

"I know you do."

"Why can't I?"

To the whiney, complaining, nothing-was-keeping-him-occupied-for-more-than-ten-seconds, six-year-old child in the bed, Jack mentally stuck out his tongue and answered 'because I said so, that's why'. What he did say, with a hint of a smile and an understanding pat on the shoulder was, "You still have a fever and a cough. And up until yesterday, you managed to throw up on everyone."

"I want to go home." Idly, Daniel pushed the black checkers around the board, totally changing the game status.

Jack sighed, louder than he meant to, and Daniel looked at him, his expression a cross between hurt and surprise. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

Daniel sighed, then cleared his throat, coughed, then sighed again, deeper than the first time.

Jack grimaced. "Did my sigh sound like that?"

"A million times worse."

Jack rolled the table to the side then stood. "Shove over."

Daniel slid over with an evil grin. "Janet hates when you do this. Messes up all the leads."

"I'll be careful." Jack climbed into bed, holding up the leads, then draped them across his and Daniel's bellies. He listened. "All the beeps seem the same."

Daniel coughed. "That's your medical opinion?"


Daniel sighed, moved closer and rested his head on Jack's bicep.

"See now? That was a better sigh."

"This still sucks."


Jack had no feeling in his left arm. His shirt had an ever-widening drool spot, and at the moment he would've sold his soul for a TV and a remote in the room. Out of boredom, he began to hum.

"Isn't it a little early for holiday cheer, sir?"

"Carter." He hid his embarrassment behind a smile.

She smiled not at him, but at Daniel, who was plastered against him. "How's he feeling?"

"Whiney and cranky. Fever's stayed down, so did today's meals and he wants to go home." Jack shifted, but to his dismay Daniel shifted right with him.

Reaching out, she adjusted the blanket over Daniel's shoulders, her movements tender to the point of appearing almost unCarterlike. "When can he go home?"

"Rumor has it Fraiser's thinking of releasing him just in time for me to catch all the Thanksgiving Day football games."

"That's three days away." She fixed Daniel's nasal cannula, even though it appeared to be perfect. "He's going to be pissed."

"Him? Three days isn't enough time for me to defrost the turkey and stuff it?" He laughed out loud at Carter's look of confusion. It was so rare that he was able to pull the wool over her eyes, that he wanted to savor the moment. "I'm kidding."

Absentmindedly, she began to finger the IV lead.

"Spill, Carter. I really have to pee and I can tell there's something on your mind."

"Is he truly sleeping?"

"Trust me on this," Jack groaned as he tried to flex the fingers of his hand. "He's sleeping."

"Christmas, Colonel. It's about Christmas."

Jack reached up and grabbed Lumpy, who had been resting at the top of the bed. With precise movements, he replaced himself with the stuffed animal, then slid off the bed. Daniel grumbled, coughed into Lumpy's side and Jack stood, hand ready, waiting to soothe him back to sleep. Slowly, he backed away from the bed, signaling for Carter to follow him.

"We don't do Christmas," he explained once they were a respectable distance from the bed.

"We did, before." She glared at him. "Remember?"

Jack rolled his eyes. Christmas had never been a big holiday for SG-1. They'd celebrated it by being offworld. It had been much easier to pretend that a family-based holiday didn't exist when one wasn't around to get caught up in the trappings of the season. It's not to say they didn't exchange gifts, they did, but usually it was over a pizza and beer night without a tree or a string of tinsel in sight, sometime in January. "Not remembering."

She sighed and Jack was amazed how a sigh could convey so many emotions. Right now with Carter, he was going for pissed with a hint of annoyance. "When Daniel was small," she tapped her temple, "mentally, we did Christmas. And presents. And dinner."

"Yeah... but that Daniel," Jack jabbed his finger towards the bed. "Does. Not. Remember any particular memories. So it doesn't count."

"We remember and that counts."

"So you have the tree and all the trimmings at your house?"

"Daniel doesn't live with me, sir. He lives with you."

"I don't do Christmas." Jack wouldn't have believed that his 2IC was capable of such an ugly face.

"You were humming 'Silent Night' when I walked in."

"Boredom. Yesterday, I was humming a Beatles' medley."

"You're doing Christmas, sir, if Teal'c and I have to buy the tree and—"

"Are you telling me that Teal'c is in on this?"

"Of course he is."

"And Daniel. Explain to me how you're going to convince Daniel that we're going to be having Christmas."

"Not me, sir. You. You're going to convince Daniel that we're celebrating Christmas this year."

"Me? That's not fair."

"You're whining, sir."

"I know I am."

"I have no sympathy. Look." She pulled him closer to the door, gazing over her shoulder to make sure Daniel was still asleep. "I'm pretty damn sure Daniel didn't have too many merry Christmases growing up. So let's give him a nice memory, at least from a child's point of view. Just this once, and we'll see how it goes."

"It's not going to go well, Carter."

"Sir, you've saved Earth more than once, you've eaten dinner with the President and are close friends with Thor. I think you're more than capable of convincing a six-year-old child that we should celebrate Christmas. Oh, and Colonel—"

"Carter, need I remind you that Daniel is not six? He's Daniel. And he's an adult."

Carter pointed to the bed. "And may I draw your attention to the adult who is sleeping with a stuffed animal. Who spent last night crying because he wanted his own pillow? This Daniel giggles. I don't remember a grownup Daniel giggling. And, sir?"

Jack had the feeling he wasn't going to like this. "Yes?"

"Consider this payback for having your house and your truck cleaned of vomit hours after the fact."


"I'm thinking of putting a Christmas tree by the fireplace."

Daniel looked up from his Thanksgiving dinner plate of Chinese food, stared at him, then put the plate down on the coffee table. "I think I've just lost my appetite."

"It won't be a big tree."

"But it will be a tree. And then it'll snowball and we'll have decorations and lights and—"

"And that would be bad because, why?"

Daniel flopped back against the couch and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're going to do this no matter what I say, aren't you?"

"I think it's time."

Daniel dropped his hand from his face and turned to face Jack. "It won't be a big tree."

"Not a big tree. Honest. You can even pick it out."

"When I tell you to stop with the decorations, that enough is enough..." Daniel leaned over and picked up his plate. "You'll listen?"

"I'll listen."

"We won't have any of those ridiculous Snoopy blow-up figures on the lawn or any plastic soldiers?"

"No blow-up figures. No plastic soldiers. Maybe a wreath or two. Some lights. A little—"

"Eh." Daniel pointed a chopstick at Jack. "Stop."



"You want more?"

Daniel shook his head.

"Sorry it wasn't turkey."

"This was fine. Really." Daniel handed Jack his plate.

"I'll be right back." He moved the remote out of Daniel's reach. "I'm going to watch football."

"And me?"

"You're going to wait patiently until I come back with dessert."


"Mmmmm," Daniel mocked. "Fortune cookies with a side order of meds. How appealing."

"Works for me. Works for Fraiser. And they'll work for you after you take them."

He took the fortune cookie Jack handed to him. Cracking it open, he went to pull out the fortune.

"Stop. You know better, that it's bad luck to read the fortune without taking a bite of the cookie."

"It's going to make a difference? It's not exactly like my luck's been great. But if it makes you happy..." Daniel took a nibble, then pulled out the fortune.

"What's it say?"

"Character is built upon the rubble of dreams."


"Oh, is right," Daniel crumbled it up and threw it at Jack. "I'm thinking the meds are more appealing than the fortune cookies."


"Where is Daniel Jackson?"

"Sleeping, downstairs. In the den. Bastard made me change the station so he could watch the History Channel, two seconds into the show, he falls asleep and I end up watching it, missing the first half of the game. Could you please..." Like a thundering herd of buffalo, Carter and Teal'c took off down the stairs, leaving Jack and his arms full of leftovers and dessert they'd brought from Fraiser's house. "If they wake him up," Jack said to the tin dishes as he put them away in the fridge. "They can listen to him whine and complain."

"He was neither whining nor complaining." Teal'c had a limp, dead-to-the-world Daniel in his arms, with Carter right by his side.

"Aww, jeez, didn't anyone teach you to let sleeping children sleep?"

"They did not."

"Nope, never heard of that one either, sir."

"So what do you intend to do with him now that you have him?"

"I do not understand why we have to do anything with Daniel Jackson, because it appears that he is sleeping."

"But if he was sleeping, why did you...?" Jack threw up his hands. "Never mind."


Daniel was pissed and awake, which was in direct contrast to Jack being half asleep, and he lazily tracked Daniel as he paced the kitchen floor, hands poking in the air for emphasis. "Sam and Teal'c were here and you didn't wake me?"

"Oh, believe me, it wasn't for lack of trying on either Teal'c's or Carter's part."

Daniel deflated and flopped into the chair across from Jack. "I'm sick of being sick. Do you realize I've been sick more times since I've been smaller than the amount of times I died when I was bigger?"

Jack shuddered. "That analogy is just so wrong. You do know that?"

"I don't care, it's the truth."

"You're whining."

"If you can't whine when you're sick, when can you whine?"

"Keep this up and Santa's gonna put coal in your stocking."

"See, I knew I was going to regret this whole Christmas thing."


"I hate the winter," Daniel groused as he struggled with his gloves. He averted his cough as Jack bent to straighten his hat.

Janet had allowed him limited hours at the SGC and by the second week in December, Daniel was ready to crawl out of his skin.

"Maybe you should stay home today; you were coughing last night in your sleep."

"No." Daniel adjusted his backpack while Jack put on his coat. "I'm fine. I need to be out of this house. No offense, Jack, but these four walls, the Christmas tree. The decorations... it's a bit..."

"Wonderful, isn't it?"

"No," Daniel said drawing out the word into two syllables. "No offense."

"None taken. Just if you start to really cough... "

"I promise I'll haul my butt into the infirmary."

"Fraiser can reach me on my cell phone." Jack waved it at Daniel, then stuck it in his pocket, grabbed the keys and held the door open for Daniel.

"You should have listened to me," Daniel commented. "Ordered the rest of your Christmas presents online. Beat the crowds." He waited for Jack, hunkering down even as he walked, giving the blast of winter chill less of an area to reach.

Jack pulled him closer, altering his steps so they were in sync with Daniel's smaller ones. "I'm tactile, Daniel. After all these years, even you should know that. I like to touch and feel what I buy. Looking at images on a seventeen inch—"

"Nineteen inch," Daniel corrected as he climbed into the back seat of the Avalanche.

"You know what I meant, stop being a brat."

"It's what I live for." Daniel tried to suppress a cough and failed.


He took the ever-present water bottle from the side of his back pack and chugged down half of it before the fire in his chest was extinguished. "I promise," he squeaked. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "I promise. Butt. Infirmary. Janet."

"Maybe I should just stay home today. Maybe you should just stay home today. I'll have your work couriered—"

"Go shopping. If it will make you happy, I'll stop by to see Janet before I even go to my office. Besides, if you wait any longer to go shopping, you're not going to be able to find any of the gifts I put on my list."

"Gifts? As with an 's'? And there's a list? I don't remember seeing any list."

Daniel just rolled his eyes and tolerated the Christmas CD that Jack stuck into the player.

Even Teal'c was getting into the act, asking Daniel about the etiquette of properly addressing a Christmas card. He'd caught Sam humming Christmas carols and last night Jack was on the internet looking up holiday recipes.

Okay, he had opened the door and allowed the Christmas spirit into the house, but it was strange, and was making Daniel more than a bit nervous because he was looking forward to the holiday. And it scared him, this anticipation. The counting down the days. Wrapping in his room the gifts for his friends. His family.

"Hey, watcha thinking about back there?"

"Do you think we can beg Rose to share her vegetable lasagna recipe?"

"Maybe to you," Jack said. "Me? I don't think so. Why?"

"For the Christmas Eve dinner."

"I thought we were going to Fraiser's?"

"We are, it's just Cassie's on this new vegetarian kick and I thought she'd really enjoy it."

"Better start begging tonight, gives you a little over a week to get my mother to fall victim to your charms."


"Jack said I had to get my ass into the infirmary before I started work today." Daniel cringed, Janet's expression spoke volumes. "Language, sorry."

"No, it's a little more than language." Already, she had her stethoscope in her ears, his shirt out of his pants, and the cold bell pressed against his back.

He breathing was shallow, so as not to cough. Front. Back. In through his mouth. Out.

Annoyed, she pulled the ear pieces out and stood in front of him. "You obviously look worse than you sound."

"That's good. Right?"

"Honestly. What I'd love to do is force you to stay here and sleep. Have you looked in the mirror?"

"Sorry, not recently." He didn't need to mirror to give him a visual of how draggy he actually felt. "The stool only gets me up to the sink, the mirror's a few inches higher than that and I'm a few inches shorter."

"Coughing keeping you up at night?"

"No, but from Jack's complaints, it's keeping him up."

"Using the inhaler?"

"Yes. I'm doing everything I'm supposed to, following all your rules down to the letter, which is a Catch 22, because with cutting my hours here, my inbox is—"

"Overflowing." She sat on the gurney next to him and he felt awkward. Uncomfortable. His attention was drawn to a cuticle, which he worried while Janet did a visual examination.

"Just say it, Janet. Tell me whatever you're thinking. You never held back before."

"You're burning this body out. Physically exhausting it. That's the reason you're getting sick and the reason your recovery time is slower."

Awkwardness gave way to anger and Daniel slid off the examination table. "I'll schedule a nap during the day."

"That might help."

"I was only kidding."

"I wasn't. There are things that you need to do, that seem to have fallen between the cracks. Vitamins. Fresh air. Regular meals. Healthy meals..."


Janet sat up, straightening her shoulders. "What do you mean, 'or'?"

"If I don't do these things, what's going to happen? You're going to report me to the general..." Daniel made air quotes, "or are you going to cut my time at the SGC even more, enforcing my naps."

"Neither. I won't have to do anything because you're going to be spending more time in the infirmary than in your office. Or home."

Janet was serious. Eight years with a woman who'd cleaned up your bodily functions, stuck tubes in every orifice you owned, seen you naked more times than the man you lived with and Daniel felt pretty damn secure when reading her facial expressions. "You're making this my decision." This was no question. This was a statement.

"Yes, I am, because you have to understand and recognize your body's limitations."

"And if I refuse?" Daniel challenged.

"Then I guess you and I will be seeing a lot more of each other."


Daniel waved at the airman just before he walked over the threshold into the warmth of Jack's home. Jack wasn't home, he'd gone Christmas shopping, but the airman didn't know that, because Daniel, to not arouse suspicion and a babysitter until Jack got home, had placed a call from his cell phone, carrying on an extensive, one way conversation with the answering machine and making the appropriate sympathetic noises when the answering-machine-Jack mentioned a headache that was forcing him to bed, and that Daniel should use his key to let himself in.

With his coat, hat and gloves still on, his backpack still flung over one shoulder, Daniel stepped down into the living room. There it stood, as promised, the not so big, that turned out to be massive tree, next to the fireplace. Real. The overpowering smell of pine tickled his nose. Already, the tree had stood there for over a week, but Daniel had pretty much ignored it until now, and though he tried to hold his ground, it was impossible not to.

Tentatively, he approached the tree, until he was close enough to touch it. And he did. With gloved fingers reaching out, Daniel touched an ornament. He jumped back, giggling nervously when it began to play music. Warily, Daniel inspected all the ornaments, some of them sparking a tinge of memory that he was unable to fully grasp. Assessment over, he offered the tree a respectful nod before giving in and flicking on the switch to light it up.


Jack hated shopping. And he especially hated shopping during the holiday season. He approached shopping as he approached a mission, like it should be a walk in the park, and like most missions he ended up frustrated, annoyed and tortured. Never mind the hot and tired and his feet hurt aspect.

The young cashier ran his purchases over a scanner. "That's all you're buying, sir?"

"Yeah..." he said slowly, checking his cart just to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.

She giggled nervously. "I'm sorry, just at this time of year, most people don't just buy—"

Jack looked around and she was correct. Most of the carts surrounding him were piled high with toys. "Yup, that's it."

"Okay. Can I interest you in some batteries or..." She picked up a stuffed moose sitting to the side of the cash register. "Max the Moose. He's only six dollars with any fifty dollar purchase." The young girl shook the moose so the bells around his neck jingled and for a split second Jack contemplated saying yes, until he remembered with shocking clarity, another Daniel's remark to him a lifetime ago when he'd tried to replace Lumpy with something brighter and fancier.

"No, thank you," he said, flashing her a quick smile.

She read off the amount owed, accepting Jack's money with an air of pity, probably towards the poor child who was going to be the recipient of his meager purchases. She should only know.


He grabbed the two plastic bags from the grocery store from the back seat, then shut the door with his hip. Lazy man's dinner tonight. Store-bought roast chicken, mixed veggies, corn bread with a side of macaroni and cheese. The gifts would stay in the truck until Jack had an opportunity to clear a shelf off in his closet, away from short, curious archeologists.


"What the—" Jack stopped and stared at the tree, wracking his brain, trying to remember if he'd even looked at it this morning, never mind turned it on. "Daniel?" He dropped the bags, dinner forgotten as he rushed to the base of the tree, trying to wrap his brain around the 'hows' and 'whys' Daniel would be curled up underneath it, complete with his quilt, pillow and Lumpy, sleeping, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

His hands flew over Daniel's body, throwing back the blanket to the distress of two ornaments that lost their lives when they smashed into each other on their descent to the floor. No fever. The congestion in his chest was no different than it had been. Jack sat back on his haunches when Daniel slowly opened his eyes.

"Hi, J..." Daniel tried for Jack's name, but gave up and smiled at him instead.

"Daniel? Care to explain?" His arm made a wide circle encompassing Daniel, his accoutrements and the tree.

"I was sleeping."

Jack conveyed his 'no duh' with a tight lip, eyebrow raised, tilt of his head expression.

"Sorry." He coughed, slid out from under the tree, pushed himself to a sitting position then grabbed his bottle of water from under the branches. "I was just tired."

"Obviously, though most people who are tired sleep on beds. Couches. Recliners. I can actually state with certitude that the majority of people I know do not sleep under their Christmas trees."

Daniel used his tongue to lap up the excess water around his lips, his tongue finding interest in the corner of his mouth. He shrugged. "At the moment it seemed to be the appropriate place."

"At the moment..." With a groan, Jack pushed himself to a standing position. "Aren't you supposed to be at the SGC at the moment?"

He moved his pillow out from under the tree then flopped backwards, covering his eyes with the water bottle.

Jack bent down, grabbed the water bottle and set it up upright before it began to leak. "Want to answer my question?"

"I gave up. Surrendered." He studied Jack. "I took some time off."

"Excuse me?" Jack stuck his finger in his ear and quickly moved it up and down. "I thought you said you were taking time off."

"I did."

"I'm trying to read between the lines, Daniel, and you know something? I'm coming up blank. When I dropped you off this morning, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember you mentioning taking any time off." Jack stared up at the ceiling, trying to gather his thoughts. "I recall you mentioning gifts and going to see Fraiser."

Daniel touched his nose. "You're getting warm."

"Are you sick?"

Daniel's exhalation was so deep, his bangs floated off his forehead. "No."

"I'm sensing a but. Should I be sensing a but?"

"Yes, there's a but."

Jack rolled his hands, encouraging Daniel. "And—"

"The mind is willing but the body's not able."

"And that means?"

"To quote Janet, 'I'm abusing this body'. Treating it like it belongs to a forty year old."


"I'm giving up, allowing the six-year-old to take the helm for just a while."


"Who the hell knows? Napping, I guess. Going to bed early. Wearing my jacket and hat every time I step out of the house. Eating my vegetables before I'm allowed dessert. I'm not giving up coffee, though. Draw the limit at that."

"Hmm." Jack lowered himself to the floor, shoving Daniel over so he could share the pillow. "How long is the six-year-old going to be in control?"

"Giving myself until after the first of the year."

"And then?" Jack felt like a broken record. And. And. And. And.

"I'm going to adopt a wait and see type of attitude with this."

"Maybe there's a happy medium in all of this."

Daniel snuggled against Jack. "Maybe it's the happiness..." He grabbed Lumpy and plopped him on Jack's belly. "I'm tired of pretending to be something I'm not anymore. I mean, all my knowledge is still intact, I remember all my life experiences, my parents, Sha're, you, and I don't want to let go of that. Ever. But then there's the part of me that wants to do this." He made Lumpy do a jig on Jack. "And that part of me wanted to touch all the ornaments, turn on the tree and lie down underneath it just to see what it looked like from this angle."

Jack took Lumpy from Daniel's hands and held him against his own body. "You're curious, you've always been curious. And see this?" Jack squeezed Lumpy. "No one, not even Teal'c, can resist a stuffed toy, and you know something? The tree is pretty damn interesting from this angle. So in my professional opinion, big or small, you're still Daniel Jackson. My best friend. Pain in the ass. Genius. Geek."

Daniel snorted. "You're ever the diplomat, Jack, you know that?"

"I learned from the best."


Daniel held out his empty dinner plate for seconds.

Jack took the plate, stood and walked over to the counter. "You're going to give me a complex, you know. You never ask for seconds when I cook a meal."

Daniel mumbled under his breath.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm hungry. Didn't have lunch."

"Great start to not abusing your body."

He growled in annoyance when Jack gave him back his plate, and sitting on top of the macaroni and cheese was his medication.

"You don't scare me."

Daniel bit off a piece of cornbread, chewed without swallowing, then stuck out his tongue.

Jack rolled his eyes. "You may disgust me, but you don't scare me."


Daniel showered, changed into a pair of sweats and was sitting on the couch reading, when he realized he had no idea what he'd just read. He tried again, but it wasn't working. He was tired. Impossible. The nap under the tree had lasted almost an hour, and according to the clock on the mantel, it was only nine thirty.

He shifted positions, rotated his shoulders, then brought his knees up to his chest and rested his book on the ledge they created.

"What's the matter?" Jack peeked around the newspaper he was reading. "You got ants in your pants?"

Daniel sunk down in the couch, covering his face with the book. He managed two lines, then three. By the fourth line he was lost, the words blurred as his eyes closed. When the book fell from his knees to the floor, Daniel jerked awake. Defeated, he stood, picked up the book and walked over to Jack, pulling down the newspaper.

"You know I hate when you do that." He flicked it back into place.

Daniel pulled the paper down again. "I'm going to bed. Though I have no idea why. It's only nine thirty."

"If you don't want to go to bed, don't go to bed, just let me—"

Daniel held down the paper before Jack could continue reading. "I napped today. I'm sitting on the couch yawning. I actually closed my eyes for two minutes." He felt his own forehead. "And I'm not even sick. But I'm going to bed... why, you ask?"

"I really didn't ask. I was sitting here reading my paper. Minding my own busi—"

"I'm tired. That's right, tired! I shouldn't be, but I am. I mean, I'm too old to be taking a nap."

With the air of someone who'd cried uncle, Jack folded the paper and stuck it behind his back. "Daniel, can I let you in on a little secret?"


"You always fell asleep, this time, every night." Jack pointed to the couch where Daniel had been sitting. "Usually right in that exactly spot. You'd close your eyes. Snore for a minute or two, then you'd wake up like it never even happened. So this being tired at around twenty one hundred hours each day is not a new phenomena for you, it's just something that you're becoming aware of. And if you want to know the truth, I think it's your body's way of telling you it's time for a little shut-eye."


And this was why Daniel hated going to bed early. It was now very early in the morning. Too early for even Jack and the sun to be up. But him? He was in his bedroom, in the dark, lying on his back, staring in the direction of the ceiling. He did the math in his head, and yeah, he'd probably slept eight hours, which was something Janet had mentioned. And if he got up this early, then he'd need a nap later, which was another item on Janet's list. So, if he had a nap, then he wouldn't need to go to bed at the ungodly hour of nine thirty and would be able to stay up later. So the day after he stayed up later than nine thirty, he wouldn't need a nap and he would fall asleep at nine thirty. Basically, he would need a nap every other day and be able to stay up late every other day. Okay, not the best idea, but one he could live with. A compromise. He could do compromising.


Daniel was sitting on the kitchen counter, cross legged, drinking a mug of what Jack could only think was coffee, the newspaper spread out in front of him and a triangle of toast resting on his knee.


"Morning, Jack." He put the coffee mug down on the paper, grabbed the toast and slid off the counter.

"You're awake—"

"Awake. Showered. Dressed. I threw in a load of laundry. Ran the dishwasher. Took out the trash, got the paper. Then I made myself a cup of hot chocolate—"

"Hot chocolate?"

"Yeah, I was waiting for you to get up to make the good stuff. Hot chocolate, toast, and I was just reading the paper when you walked in."

"On the counter. You were reading the paper on the counter?"

"It was either that or the table. I thought the counter was a bit more sanitary than the table."

"Why not sit in your chair and put the paper on the table like most people do."

"Because then I would have had to kneel to see the entire page at one time and that would be very uncomfortable and distracting."

"I didn't realize."

"That's okay," Daniel said, patting his thigh. "I didn't realize it either until I just started reading. Live and learn." He demolished the toast in three bites, then licked the excess butter from his fingers.

Jack took care of the crumbs around his mouth with a napkin from the table. "So, anything interesting in the paper?" Jack tossed the napkin into the garbage and began the steps to making sure they had a decent morning cup of coffee.

"I thought maybe we'd go to the movies. Interested in seeing Letters from Iwo Jima? Blood and Chocolate?"

"I thought maybe we'd finishing shopping for Christmas dinner. Do a little wrapping..." If Jack thought the looks from the cashier in the toy store had been hard, he could just imagine the judgmental glances from the people at the movie theatre when he purchased one adult and one child's ticket for an R rated movie. Shopping and wrapping were so much safer.

"Oh. Wow. Sounds like great fun." Standing on tiptoes, he took the mug off the newspaper, downed the drink then held it out to Jack.

"Coffee's not done yet." He put the mug on the counter. "Don't you have wrapping to do?"

"Some," Daniel admitted.

"Me, too."

"Is there a choice. Wrapping or shopping?"

"No. No choice. We get to do both."

"And, I repeat," Daniel said with a sigh. "Sounds like great fun."


Jack tried to read the sports page around the wet rings left behind by Daniel's mug and he was going to call him back into the kitchen to show him, but he was thankful for the moments of silence he was sharing with his coffee and paper.

Daniel had gone into his room to check his email. He had begrudgingly agreed, not that there was a choice to go food shopping and then come home and wrap gifts. Maybe tonight Jack would recommend bringing in pizza and invite Teal'c and Carter over to soften the sting of a day spent doing boring, mundane things.


Daniel was incredibly quiet on their ride to the store. Jack captured glimpses of him from the rear view mirror as he stared out the passenger window. "Awfully quiet this morning."

"Amazing." Daniel said, tapping the window. "What are all these people doing out this early in the morning? Where are they going?"

"This is what goes on outside the mountain, Daniel. In the light of day. People coming and going. Working. Shopping. Playing."

"Like us. Me and you. We're like these people now. Average." There was a tinge of awe in Daniel's voice.

Daniel would never be average. Ever. Jack had done average and it was okay. At this stage of his life, average and boring would work for him. "Daniel?" Maybe now would be a good time to broach the subject.


"You know Mrs. Caluso? The nice—"

"Woman in the green house. With the hand-carved angels on her front lawn. Yeah, I waved to her this morning when I was bringing out the garbage. Is there a problem? She okay?"

"She's okay. Actually, she wanted to know about the little boy living in my house."

"Oh, did you tell—" Daniel sighed. "What did you tell her?"

"That I was your guardian. That you were a genius. That your parents had died in a tragic accident and you were living with me until better arrangements could be made."

"Well, that's not bad; you got three out of four things correct. The guardian. The genius and my parents' death."

"What did I mess up on?" Jack turned into the parking lot of the store.

"That I was living with you until better arrangements could be made." Daniel unbuckled his seat belt as Jack pulled into a spot. "There are no better arrangements than where I am now. It's not nice to lie to old ladies, you do know that."

"Of course I do, my mother always makes sure to remind me."


Daniel took a bite from his BLT even before Jack had sat down.


Daniel gave an enthusiastic nod. "Shopping and wrapping can take a lot out of a person."

"All finished?"

"I think so."

Jack broke off a piece of bacon sticking out from the side of his sandwich. "What'cha get everyone?"

"Not telling. Not even putting the presents under the tree until—"

"Tradition is, presents go under the tree on Christmas Eve."

"We have a tradition?"

"Ummm, no... But now's a good time to start, don't you think?"

"I guess. I really don't have too much experience with tradition."

"You're talking to the expert."

"Okay. Now that's a scary thought."


"Too many holidays." Daniel shuddered. "I really don't want to know about your Easter traditions."

"It involves chocolate."

Daniel laughed. "I love it already."


There was a crash and a curse. Jack tossed the laundry onto his bed and hurried into Daniel's room without knocking. Daniel was on his ass, his desk chair tilted at an odd angle and a multitude of just-wrapped presents strewn across the floor.

Jack righted the chair and offered Daniel his hand. "Are you hurt?"

Daniel stood with Jack's assistance and rubbed his ass. "I'm okay; it's my pride and my ass that have seen better days."

Jack's arm swept the room. "Care to share what the hell you were trying to do?"

"Trying to make room."

"You weren't standing on the chair."

"No, actually I was going to put the presents in the closet—"

"And the chair jumped in your way?"

"Yeah, something like that."

Jack didn't miss the grimace as Daniel gazed around the room. "Hey," he said, bending down to pick up a present and shake it.

Daniel reached and grabbed it from his hands, then laid it on the desk. "Stop that."

Jack feigned innocence. "I was just making sure it wasn't broken."

"Not broken." Daniel picked up two more presents, looked around the room then dropped them on the bed with a sigh.

The sigh did it. Forced Jack to open his eyes and truly look around the room. Not through his eyes, but through Daniel's. Daniel was suffocating here, drowning in a sea of personal effects plus a dresser, bed, and desk. The room was stuffed to the gills, in danger of exploding and Jack's silence of his plight must've appeared as if he'd forgotten about the renovations. Or didn't care.

"It's a little cramped in here." Jack picked up a present near his foot and fought the urge to shake it when he caught Daniel's expression. With exaggerated precision, he placed it on the bed and gave it a gentle pat.

Daniel pushed the present out of Jack's reach, then averted his eyes. "It's okay."

"No, it's not okay." Jack slid the present to the side then sat on the edge of the bed, pulling Daniel towards him. "Even though it hasn't been a main topic of conversation, the construction is going forward. Renovations. Bigger room. Bigger closet... we're waiting for the permits and warmer weather, but until that happens, I want you... no, I need you to remember this is your house. The whole house. Not just this room."

"I know that."

For someone who knew that, Daniel was having a hard time meeting Jack's eyes. For now, playing along would be the path of least resistance. "I know you know that, but how about you—we—actually do something about it?"

"I can wait."

"I can't." Jack shuddered. "I'm getting a claustrophobic feeling in here. How about we move your desk and your computer down to the den?"

Daniel hesitated, his expression akin to horror as he glanced at his desk. "I'm not—"

"Sure? I am. We are a part of each other's lives. Hell, we always were, but now more than ever and I don't want to put you in a room and close the door, and I don't want you to feel like you need to go in your room and close the door."

"But sometimes I have to," Daniel said softly. "It's easier to deal with my world that way. And I know it's cramped, but it's my cramped. My overflowing. My stuff. So don't take this the wrong way, Jack, but thank you for the thought, but no, thank you."


"I'm sure. Honest."


Jack was elbow deep in flour, squinting at the recipe for his mom's chocolate peanut butter cookies he'd copied last night over the phone. He leaned in closer to the paper, trying to make out the measurement. Teaspoon? Tablespoon?"

"Watcha doing?"

A little nose digging into his thigh broke Jack's concentration. He dumped the wooden spoon into the gloppy mess in the bowl and threw his hands up. "I was trying for my mother's chocolate peanut butter cookies."

Daniel dragged a kitchen chair to Jack's side and climbed up. Hands flat on the counter, he peered into the bowl. "I've baked those with Rose before and from my professional point of view, her batter didn't look anything like that."

Jack gave the spoon one more spin around the bowl. "That's what I was afraid of."

Daniel stuck out his hand. "Let me see the recipe."

He shook out the stained paper the recipe was written on and handed it to Daniel.

Daniel plucked it gingerly from Jack's fingers. "Hmmm."

"Good hmmm or bad hmmm?"

"I'm thinking - throw this out. Chalk it up to experience and try again." He leaned against Jack. "We don't have to be at Janet's until six thirty." He gave Jack's shoulder an encouraging pat with a side order of a smug smile. "You can do it, I have faith."


Jack wiped down the counter one more time. The kitchen smelled great, between the odor of the cookies and lasagna cooling on top of the stove, Jack's salivary glands were in overdrive and his stomach rumbled in a not so gentle reminder that he was hungry.

He and Daniel had shared two cookies, hot from the oven, and toasted their extraordinary taste with glasses of milk, but an actual lunch had been forgotten in Jack's culinary whirlwind. Daniel had begged off with last minute wrapping once Jack became involved in working on the lasagna recipe.

Time to hunt him down, give him lunch, and maybe talk him into keeping Jack company while he took a nap.


Experience had taught him to enter Daniel's room with caution. "Hey, buddy, are you interested in some—" Jack smiled. "I guess you beat me to it." Daniel was sleeping, one hand holding the remains of a sandwich. A crumpled up napkin, empty water bottle and plate sharing the bed. Guessing from the evidence left in the corner of Daniel's mouth and on his nose, peanut butter and jelly had been the sandwich de jour.

So not to wake up Daniel, he cleaned up the bed with slow movements, putting the plate and bottle of water on a precious, not easy to find, empty, flat surface on Daniel's dresser, then tossed the napkin and sandwich into the garbage. Jack flipped the quilt over Daniel, kissed the jelly off his nose and went to his own room to catch some shuteye.

As a precaution, he set the alarm for seventeen hundred hours which would give them more than enough time to get showered, dressed, load up the truck with presents, food and themselves. He toed out of his shoes and slid under the covers. Never really a middle of the afternoon napper, more of a little drool and snooze in front of the TV, Jack wasn't too sure how one forced oneself to sleep.

He ran a mental checklist of all the presents purchased. Next, he matched the presents with the people on his list, making sure everyone was accounted for. When he got to the end of his mental meanderings, his stomach gave a gentle growl and he remembered that he hadn't eaten anything besides the cookies, but he was too lazy to roll out of bed and go back into the kitchen. His complaining stomach brought him to Daniel's sandwich. Jack thought about how much Daniel at this size had become a part of his life. Ingrained to the point where Daniel's presence in the kitchen when he'd been cooking hadn't even registered. Drawers opening and closing, peanut butter and jelly spread on whole wheat bread. A water bottle. Almost as if he weren't there or maybe because they were so comfortable, Daniel with him in the kitchen didn't even register a memory. Was that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Whichever it was, it was enough to carry Jack off to sleep.


Jack awoke, dry-mouthed, confused, and two minutes before the alarm. "Shit." He hadn't expected to sleep this long or so deeply. Or feeling this dopey when he woke up. Turning off the alarm before it had a chance to ring, he yawned, scrubbed his face, his crotch, then ran his fingers through his hair and contemplated calling Fraiser and begging off for tonight.

After standing upright for a few minutes and stretching, Jack felt better. Due to his military training, he could shit, shower and shave within seconds. Daniel, on the other hand, big or small, had a tendency to need those extra minutes.


Daniel's bed was made, the presents he needed to bring to Fraiser's in a neat pile by the pillow with Lumpy standing guard. Daniel wasn't in the kitchen, though Jack grabbed a cookie to appease his stomach. Living room empty, even the tree wasn't lit. He stopped chewing and listened, hearing muted voices. Daniel was downstairs, in the den, watching TV, which was unusual, because a Daniel who wanted to pass time usually would have his nose buried in a book or be on his computer.


"Where did you find those?" Jack stood, frozen, his voice harsh, his finger pointing with accusing accuracy at the television screen.

Daniel's eyes were huge behind his glasses. And he was pale, a sickening color Jack had only seen on shock victims. Licking his lips, Daniel opened his mouth to answer, managed a few unintelligible words, then closed his mouth, sucking in his lips until they disappeared, locking up his response. He turned his attention from Jack back to the screen.

Like a train wreck, Jack followed Daniel's gaze. "I don't remember this at all. I mean I remember you—" An image of Daniel loped across the screen, uncoordinated movements as he waved Lumpy in the air, hooting in laughter at something occurring off screen. The camera panned the crowd.

"Wave," the voice commanded. Carter's voice. Jack's backyard. A barbeque. And the guests waved. Hammond. Fraiser. Cassie rolled her eyes but waved as instructed. Teal'c bowed. Jack waved from the grill, using the large fork instead of his hand. Daniel jumped up the deck stairs and shoved his face into the viewfinder, filling the lens. Loud guffawing filled the den.

Daniel cringed. He drew his shoulders up to around his ears to shut out the noise. "You were so unhappy. I could see—"

"I wasn't." Jack lowered the volume then hit the off switch. The screen went black, effectively ending the barbeque.

"You were. I can show you." Daniel unfurled his body and stood, ready to take flight towards the video machine. "When the camera caught you unaware. I know you, Jack. I know—"

Shoulders slumped, Jack stared at the floor under his feet. "I was sad, Daniel. For you. For all you'd lost."

"You lost, too."

Jack admitted the honesty of Daniel's statement with a shoulder shrug. "I did. But you... you lost you."

"Why didn't you commit me?"

Jack blinked at Daniel in rapid succession. "Commit you? Why would I?"

Daniel looked upon the blank television screen, tears flowing. "I had the mental intelligence of a —"

"Child. Yes, you did. And you were kind. And gentle. Curious and loving. Ahh, Daniel." Jack dropped onto the sofa, pulling Daniel next to him. "You were injured. On a mission. And all of us took care of you the best way we knew how. I won't paint it as a bed of roses, it wasn't. Far from it. Our hearts ached for what you'd lost."

"Am I missing something?" Daniel peered into Jack's face, studying it, and he felt vulnerable under Daniel's scrutiny.

"Missing what?" Jack averted his eyes, because even through the veil of tears, Daniel's eyes were too intense.

"Your unhappiness." He waved towards the TV. "I missed it then because I was ret—"

"Don't say it," Jack warned between gritted teeth.

"Sorry, but that's how I see it. Goofy and embarrassing. I was stripped bare of all that made me who I am. How could you—" Daniel drew a deep breath. "Are you unhappy?"

Jack shook his head. "No."

Daniel plodded forward as if he hadn't heard Jack. "Am I missing looks and glances? Are they there right in front of me but I can't see them? Am I afraid to see your unhappiness?" The tears fell. "You're never going to tell me."

"I'm not unhappy. I wasn't unhappy then. I was sad for all that you'd lost, because you couldn't be sad yourself."

"And now?"

"I won't lie. I miss—"

Daniel placed his fingers against Jack's lips, petting them gently. "I know."

Jack withdrew the little hand and kissed the palm, sniffing back his own tears. "I know you know. I still have my best friend. In a smaller and needier package. But you're still there, Daniel. Still you." Jack squeezed the hand still in his. "You asked why I didn't commit you. Simple. I love you. Always have. Always will."

"Not unhappy?"


"Promise me if you begin to resent me. Or hate me—"

"That I should what? Give you away. Change my mind?" Jack knocked on Daniel's temple. "Hello, McFly. We're family. Albeit we've thrown normalcy out the window, but we're still family. We can hate each other. Argue. Get angry. And we will. You'll slam the door in my face, curse at me under your breath and I'm sure many a time my weapon of choice will be a zat, but you need to remember that none of that means I don't want you here. Or that you don't want to be here. It means that we're family."

"Family." Daniel leaned into Jack, snuffling through his stuffed nose, causing family to come out like 'bambly' but all that mattered was that he understood. At least for now.


Daniel walked into the bathroom while Jack was shaving, and he glanced down and smiled, unsure if Daniel was eyeing him with an expression of jealousy or relief. "What can I do for you?"

Daniel shrugged.

"I'll be out in a minute or you can keep me company if you want." Jack flipped the toilet cover down with his foot.

Wordless, Daniel walked to the toilet, sat and rested his head against the wall.

From the corner of his eye, Jack stole glimpses of Daniel. The first thing the doc was going to do when they walked into her house was do a hands-on examination of Daniel, because admittedly, he looked terrible. Eyes swollen and red rimmed. Nose red. Face blotchy and Jack couldn't help but wonder if Daniel had watched more of the barbeque while he'd showered.

"There was a lot of stuff on that tape."

Bingo. What had made him think Daniel would just be able to dip a toe into the sea of images? "Yeah, I can imagine." Jack rinsed his razor, let the water out of the sink, then grabbed a towel to scrub away the excess shaving cream.

"You haven't watched it?"

'I lived it', Jack wanted to say. "Honestly, I'd forgotten about the tapes. The video camera was Carter's baby."

"We did Christmas. There were videos of Christmas."

"We did Christmas." Jack turned, resting his ass against the vanity.

"And there were gifts."

"Yes..." Jack answered slowly. "There were gifts."

"Where are they?"

"The gifts?" Jack wracked his brain trying to envision what had happened to the whole room's contents. "Donated. To a shelter."


"What in particular are you looking for?"

"My sweater."


"The one Rose made me." Daniel sat up straighter and rubbed his chest. "The one with Sponge Bob."

"It's in the house. Somewhere." At the bottom of Jack's closet, to be precise. Along with two other favorite shirts of Daniel's, kept separate from his other adult clothes packed away in storage, for whatever reason, Jack wasn't too sure. The same place Lumpy had been stored.

"I just wanted to make sure you didn't give that away."

"I wouldn't, Daniel."

"Would you rather I was an adult with—"

Let it go, Jack begged. Just let it go. "It's Christmas Eve, don't go there. Okay?"


"Why?" Jack tossed the towel into the sink. "Because not only were you regressed, you were sick. Fevers... horrible nightmares..."

"Like now."

Jack rolled his head. "No. Not like now."

"Look, I—"

"No, Daniel, you look." Jack made a show of glancing at his watch then shoving it in Daniel's face. "We're going to be late. Fraiser's going to have my ass, not yours, if we walk through her door one second past eighteen thirty hours, which given the amount of time to pack up the truck and get dressed, means we have three minutes to spare."


Daniel zipped his coat all the way up to his nose and hid his face. Why couldn't he have just left well enough alone? How many times would the saying 'curiosity killed the cat' be drummed into him before he got it? Jack had deposited him, the food and the presents in the Avalanche, then with a short, clipped, "be right back," he ran back into the house.

Jack flung open the driver's side door and jumped in. "Geeze, it's cold out there." He held his hands in front of the blowers, then slid the controls for the heater to high. "Sorry about that, took a little longer than I thought."

"It's okay."

"You're not cold? You, child of the desert, telling me you're not cold?"

"A little."

"This should help."

Daniel felt like he'd been led right into a trap when a blur came flying over the front seat, smacking him gently in the face. He reached out, fumbled with the object, trying to discern just what had attacked him.

Jack flipped on the overhead dome light. "Here."

Daniel held it out as much as his arms would permit. "The Sponge Bob sweater." He brought it up to his nose and sniffed. It smelled like him. Like he used to smell. The musky smell of the aftershave that Jack always liked. Burying his nose deeper into the material, there was also a hint of Jack.

"It's gonna be kinda big, but I'm sure—"

"It's perfect, Jack. Just the way it is."


Janet's house was filled with laughter, friends, good cheer and food. Although these were all of Daniel's friends, he felt overwhelmed and stuck close to Jack, who sensed Daniel's need, resting a hand on his shoulder as he spoke to Sam.

"Hey! Whoa!" Daniel flailed his arms as he was grabbed from behind, lifted into the air and had his ass planted firmly on the counter.

"Is this not better, Daniel Jackson?"

"Better," he agreed. Though the mode of transportation had left a lot to be desired, he offered Teal'c a smile of gratitude.


The presents had been opened and everyone was sitting around, enjoying coffee and dessert. Daniel had passed, causing an eyebrow raise of concern from Jack, but he was too full and he could only hope it was the meal and the warmth from the press of bodies in Janet's living room around the tree that was making it so hard for him to keep his eyes open. He averted his head and smothered a yawn in Jack's bicep.

"In a few," Jack whispered for his ears only.

Daniel nodded. He reached down into his impressive pile of gifts to retrieve the pictorial book Cassie had given him on Egyptian museum exhibits. Was this rude? Daniel wasn't sure, but he thought falling asleep and drooling would be ruder.


Fraiser smiled at Jack then pointed to the couch, but Jack already knew that Daniel was sleeping. He checked his watch. "Past his bedtime." And it was. Way past. Close to midnight, much longer than he had intended to stay.

He had a million helping hands. Carter carried the presents to the truck. Fraiser packed him a shopping bag of goodies even though he tried to explain he'd have his own leftovers come tomorrow night at this time. Cassie got their coats, then relieved him of the food her mother had shoved at him.

"There better not be any lasagna in there," she warned, peering into the bag.

"Wow, didn't realize you were such a pushy broad. Just like your mom."


"Let me, Colonel."

The general didn't wait for an answer, he pushed Jack gently to the side, and with the experience born of someone who has had granddaughters fall asleep on his couch, Hammond picked Daniel up. Jack was tempted to go 'awwww' just because, but he liked his retired rank too much to be that brave.

Daniel snuggled against the general.

"It would appear that Daniel Jackson is quite comfortable, General Hammond."

"Yes it does, Teal'c."

Following the caravan out to the packed and warm truck, Jack basked for both Daniel and himself in the glow of their family.


He unpacked the truck in stages. First he unlocked the front door, then he went back to get Daniel. Though he was younger than the general, he bribed his knees with Tylenol before making the attempt to heft Daniel's dead weight from the back seat. Thankfully, his knees took the bribe and cooperated with barely a twinge as Jack carried Daniel all the way to the bedroom, placing him on the bed, fully clothed, complete with zipped up jacket and hat.

Next the bag of leftovers, which smelled enticingly good even to Jack's already overstuffed stomach. The gifts took two trips, his gift certificates from Fraiser, Cassie and the general fit in his side pocket; it was Daniel's gifts that were the problem. Carter and Teal'c hadn't even bestowed their presents on Daniel yet, the overabundance of boxes and books came from just the three people who were unable to attend their Christmas dinner tomorrow. Hammond, Fraiser and Cassie had spoiled him rotten and Daniel had been more than embarrassed at their generosity, turning a dark shade of pink every time he'd been handed another gift. Jack had to admit he'd done nothing to help Daniel, except to sit there with a smug expression on his face, encouraging him to move it along with a wave of his hand.

Jack deposited the presents on the left side of the tree, smoothed the tree skirt and eyed the blank space under the branches, judging space availability for his presents to Daniel. Okay, he'd gone overboard, and according to Teal'c and Carter, they'd followed in his footsteps.


He remembered going into Daniel's room and undressing him. He recalled walking a sleeping Daniel into the bathroom to pee, kissing him goodnight, covering him up then going to lock up. He remembered brushing his teeth. Taking a piss. Washing then stripping down to his boxers and tee. He remembered crawling into bed, flipping on the TV to watch a remake of It's a Wonderful Life and lasting until the first commercial.


"Jack." The hissing sound of Daniel's voice buzzed around his dream.

"Go away."

"Jack." This time the voice was accompanied by a rough shake to his shoulder.

He opened one eye. "What?"

"It's Christmas." Daniel was in danger of being swallowed up in the Sponge Bob sweater and kept pushing the sleeves up. First the left. Then the right. Then back to the left.

Jack slid over, then motioned for Daniel to come closer. Reaching out, he rolled up the sleeves as Daniel rocked back and forth on his heels. "Stay still." Jack fixed the sleeves so Daniel's hands were visible. "Newest bathrobe?"

"It was there. I was cold. And it's comfortable." He stared defiantly at Jack.

"It looks very nice on you."

"Stop being condescending."

"What? Santa put coal in your stocking?"

"No." Daniel studied his toes as they began to furl and unfurl the area rug under his feet.


"Christmas rules, Jack. I'm not too sure what's expected. What happens next? Do we eat breakfast? Open presents? Wait until Teal'c and—"

"Hey. Hey." Jack sat up, pulling Daniel towards him. "We can make up our own tradition. First off, hop into bed, I need to pee. Think about what you want to do. The decision is ours. This is virgin territory here. Do you want breakfast first? Presents? Breakfast while we open our presents?

Daniel hunkered down under the covers. "Go pee. I'm going to think on this."


They had cinnamon toast and presents on Christmas morning in the living room. The piles of gifts were impressive; both of them going more than a tad overboard, and Jack's face ached from the smile plastered on his face. This was wonderful. Strange, but wonderful. There was something very endearing about Daniel sitting on the floor with his back braced against the couch, his legs tucked into the oversized, hand knit sweater, reading the instructions to the Tassimo beverage center Jack had bought him.

"Your toast is getting cold."


"Eat it."

"Oh." Without looking up, Daniel reached for the toast and popped it in his mouth. "Can we make some hot chocolate later?"

Jack ruffled his hair. "I'm going to start the turkey, why don't you clean up some of this mess."

Daniel nodded.


Daniel didn't clean up the mess as Jack prepared the turkey and put it in the oven. He didn't clean up the mess as Jack got out what his mother called "the good dishes", washed and dried them and put them on the dining room table, and he didn't move when Jack hauled a large green garbage bag into the living room and began to throw away all the ribbons and bows. All he'd done was move around the living room, archeologically examining every present Jack had given him.

Jack sat on the couch with a large expulsion of air, picked up his X-Box video game system and began to read the small print, 'hmming' at the words.

Noise didn't distract Daniel from the book on his lap.

Jack cleared his throat.

Daniel moved from the book to the "Scene it" game.

Jack began to hum.

Daniel looked up at him.

"Turkey's in the oven."


"Dishes are out, washed, dried, waiting for the table to be set."


Jack's gazed bounced around the room. "Garbage is all disposed of."

"Oh, sorry." Daniel pushed up his glasses. "I must've missed that. Did you want help?"

"No, course not, Christmas morning and all, I didn't mind doing it all while you—"

"What do you want?" Daniel sighed.

Jack held up his X-box. "No fun playing this alone."


"That was fun." Jack waved goodbye, keeping the door open despite the cold Colorado evening until Sam and Teal'c got in their respective cars and drove away.

Daniel hid his snort behind a yawn, shivering even after the door was shut and locked. "You're only saying that because you beat Teal'c in the NFL football game and Sam in the hockey one."

Jack shrugged. "To each his own."

Daniel yawned again, this time for real.

"Nice." Jack peered down at him. "I think I saw your tonsils with that one."

He giggled, on the way to being punch drunk. "Tired," he purred, rubbing his shoulder against Jack's leg.

"No one's tired on Christmas. They just go and go until they pass out on the couch."

"Oh." Daniel slowly nodded his head at Jack's rule. "That's doable." He plucked his shirt. "Think I want to get changed first."

"Be my guest." He nodded to the far wall. "Gonna put another log on the fire."


"I forgot to give you these."

Daniel glanced up from the book he was reading. He, Lumpy, and his quilt were in the corner of the couch. "Jack, I don't—"

"I know you don't. But these, well, here." Jack sat next to him and held the presents out towards Daniel.

Daniel closed the book and hesitated before taking the gifts.

Jack seemed embarrassed. He took Lumpy and flashed Daniel a smile. "Go ahead." He pushed the larger of the presents at Daniel with Lumpy's snout. "They're not going to bite."

Sliding his finger along the scotch taped edges, he separated the paper from the present with an anal precision that Daniel knew annoyed the crap out of Jack.

"Come on." Lumpy bounced a staccato encouragement on Daniel's foot.

"Bite me," Daniel growled with a playful kick, the movement sending the wrapping paper over the edge of the couch onto the floor. "Oh." His glance bounced from Jack to the now unwrapped box. "Oh," Daniel repeated, because if he said more than one syllable it wouldn't be pretty.

"I know we've got one, but this one is the newest thing around."

Daniel wasn't seeing this brand new, pristine set of trains he held in his hands, he was seeing his past and he pushed the box towards Jack. "Wanna set this puppy up?" Echoing almost word for word the sentence Jack had asked him all those years ago. Different house. Different relationship. Different life.

Jack hooted as soon as his finger made contact with the box, his feet performing a tiny two-step shuffle.

Daniel snorted, his mood immediately on the upswing. "You really didn't buy this for me, did you?"

Eyebrows drawn, Jack seemed taken back, though he was unable to hide the twinkle in his eyes. "Well, what's yours is mine and what's mine is yours."

"Can I play—"

"Keep your grubby paws off my new video game system."

"I think Mackenzie would be interested in your inability to share your toys, Jack."

"I think the fact that I don't share my toys is the least of Mackenzie's concerns. The good doc's interests may lean more towards the fact that you're now pint sized. You have a stuffed animal for company and you're wearing an oversized adult sweater adorned by Sponge Bob. Which..." Jack gazed skyward, "was hand knitted by my mother." He gave off a shudder. "Literally, we could keep the man entertained for years."

While Jack was rearranging the presents under the tree and contemplating the exact route of the track, Daniel opened the second present. He knew what was under the wrappings, but still used the same careful precision when separating the paper from the present. Opening the box of ninety-six crayons, he shoved them under his nose and smelled, the odor bringing ridiculously sentimental tears to his eyes.

Jack turned just as Daniel was swiping at the moisture with the corner of the blanket. "Damn." He stood with the assistance of the coffee table. "Every time I bring you a box of crayons you cry? It really doesn't help my ego."

"You really don't need any help with your ego."


Daniel drew while Jack entertained him constructing the modern, up-to-date train set. He'd colored while Jack cursed at the tracks that looked much easier in the instructions to put together than they were in reality. He'd filled pages with ascending and descending rainbows of color while Jack sat back on his haunches and announced he'd finished and he'd waited patiently in the dark for Jack to reset the breaker that had tripped when the train was turned on.


"Nice," Jack commented as he sat on the floor, back up against the couch. His head was turned sideways so it rested on Lumpy who was stretched out on Daniel's belly.

"Yeah, nice." Except for the tree and the lights on the train set, the house was dark. Warmth and illumination was by firelight and truthfully 'perfect' fit the scenario much better than 'nice', but if the man who got excited over a new train set wanted 'nice', then who was he to argue.

With his finger, Daniel followed the train's path, one eye closed, smiling into the pillow as the locomotive made the turn into the station. "Jack?" Even in his own voice he could hear sleep drifting into his tone.

"Hmmmm?" By the sound of Jack's voice, he wasn't too far behind Daniel's trip towards slumber.

"I just wanted to thank you."

Jack looped his gaze towards Daniel with a goofy grin. "I done good?"

Daniel reached forward, patting and smoothing down an errant strand of Jack's hair. "I'm happy, so I guess that means you done good."

Suddenly serious, Jack grabbed Daniel's hand. "Happy as 'this was the best Christmas ever' or happy as 'even though my life situation is totally weird, it doesn't suck'?"

"Being a linguist and all, I wouldn't have expressed it that way, but I'm going for the 'life doesn't suck'."

"Daniel?" Lumpy was over Jack's shoulder, performing a little dance, his head bobbing in sync with Jack's nervousness. "I just want you to know, I'm happy, too."

Daniel grabbed Lumpy and held the stuffie to his chest. "Mackenzie would so have a field day with me and you."


The cold woke Daniel. He'd fallen asleep on the couch and from the proximity of Jack's snores, he'd fallen asleep on the floor, bent awkwardly, his head resting on the couch. The train was still circling the living room, and the fire was mere embers. "Wake up." He poked Jack with his knee.

"I'm up." Slowly Jack straightened and immediately slapped his hand to his neck. "Ow. Ow. Ow."

Daniel grimaced in sympathy. "I promise to take care of you in your old age."

Jack reached behind and took a playful swipe at Daniel. "Why don't I take any comfort in that statement?"


Daniel lead the way to the bedrooms, dragging his pillow and Lumpy, Jack was bringing up the rear with his quilt.

"Don't trip over the sweater." Jack picked up the back of the sweater.

He faltered, looking over his shoulder as he regained his footing. "Why?"

"Why? Because the guilt would kill Mom if she knew her Sponge Bob sweater caused you harm."

Daniel moved his shoulder, tugging his sweater from Jack's hands. "Sponge Bob would never hurt me." He tossed his pillow onto the bed, crawling up after it, his knees getting caught in the extra material of the sweater. "Oomph," Daniel fell face down on the bed, short of the pillow.

Jack snorted, stuck an arm around Daniel's middle and maneuvered him until his head was on the pillow. "Told you so. Sponge Bob may look innocent..." Jack waved the blanket up into the air and allowed it to float down on Daniel.

Daniel gazed expectantly at the air borne blanket, he and Lumpy snuggling under its warmth when it finally descended over his body. "Sleep well, Jack."


Daniel shifted uncomfortably in the chair usually reserved for General Hammond. Looking around one more time, he nodded then stood. Maybe a PowerPoint presentation would work, because judging from the blank expressions on the aliens' faces, they were clueless.

"Happiness. We are not sure we understand if this is what we set out to achieve."

"No, I never would've guessed." Great, channeling Jack with a briefing room full of aliens at the SGC was not a good idea. He imagined this would normally be considered a foothold situation, but there were no blaring alarms nor were there any SFs standing in every corner, guns drawn, so he was thinking time wasn't of the essence, which was good, because finding the right medium to get through to them might take a while. "Sorry." He placed a hand over his heart. "Happiness is an emotion. You smile when you're happy. Some people cry because they're overwhelmed at the joy they're experiencing..." Daniel sighed. "You're not getting this."

"Show us."

The room darkened, the screen reared from its hiding place, the image forcing Daniel back into the General's chair. His life-defining moment, the museum, moments before the cover stone fell. Thirty-two years and he could still remember with striking clarity the smell of the heat in the museum, the dust motes dancing in the beams of sun streaming through the window and his parents' closeness to each other as they directed the cover stone's placement. Before he could object, the image began to morph at frightening speed through his formative years. Some visuals couldn't flash by fast enough while others he wished would slow, so he could savor people long forgotten.

"This is happiness?"

"No." When all was said and done, the bad had outweighed the good by a large margin.

The screen faded to black for a moment and when the images returned they weren't of Daniel but of Sam. A young Sam. Images of her and a woman who Sam now greatly resembled. Shopping. At school functions. Laughing. Baking. A humming Sam who was quick to smile. And then she wasn't. Sadness and tears, leaving Sam drawn and unhappy. Her mother's death. The aftermath giving Sam the drive and tunnel vision to be what her father wanted. Daniel knew that part of the story.

He knew what was coming, but it didn't lessen the blow and he cried with the image of Jack as he cradled a mortally wounded Charlie in his arms. Daniel saw the withdrawal from Sara... the fights. The drinking. The military man who'd thought nothing of stepping through the 'gate with an atomic bomb.

Teal'c's visuals were hard to watch. Daniel cringed as the man stepped into the role of First Prime, trying to separate the man on the screen carrying out his god's atrocities from the friend he had become.

"Stop," Daniel demanded when Teal'c chose Sha're. He jumped off the chair, running in front of the screen, the images superimposing themselves on him. "Damn you. Shut. It. Off."



"No," Daniel shouted, waving his hand back and hitting the screen.

"Then this, this is happiness?"

Images once again filled the screen. Visuals of a kid-sized Daniel cooking in the kitchen with Jack. Standing on a chair, leaning into Jack, trying to see around his body. Tiny hands wrapped around Sam's waist, his face hidden in the folds of her leather jacket as he sat on the back of her motorcycle. A forbidden and brief joy, the secret of the danger still eliciting a smile. Bowling with Teal'c, seeing the images as others had seen them. And Rose, Daniel fingered the sweater he knew he was wearing. The Garden of the Gods, reading in bed, waiting for his team to return to Earth. Images filled with arguments quickly replaced by a tender Jack. A caring Sam. A sensitive Teal'c. Daniel touched the screen in awe. "Happiness," he whispered.

"You are happy."

"Yes." Daniel nodded. "But wait," he said, then cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders, "happiness isn't dependent on size."

"But we saw, you were not happy before. Your friends were not happy before. They are happy now. You are all happy now."

Daniel's hands flew into the air. "There were... there are many years between what was and what is." He pinched the fingers of his hands together then stretched out the air between them. "There are years missing."

An alien finger skimmed Daniel's temple and he forced his body not to jump back. "We have seen those years. There were only pieces of happiness. Different people being happy at different times. Now, everyone is happy," was the insistent reply.

Admittedly, there had been frustration and fear, disappointment, pain and anger these past years, people had died. Enemies had been made. Whole worlds had been lost. Daniel tried to shake off the enticement of these past months, reminding himself that through all the hard times there had been the balance of friendship and family. He gritted his teeth, trying not to growl in frustration. "Big picture here, folks." Daniel swallowed his Jack persona, sarcasm wasn't going to get him anywhere. "Happiness is relative." He held up his hands, halting their objections. "There are blanks that need to be filled in."


Even in this dream state, Daniel could feel the beginnings of a migraine building and he began to pace, concentrating putting one foot in front of the other. "You're viewing this life, my life now, selectively. And yes, there are happy times, but not always."


"Why?" Daniel stopped, blinking at the beings sitting around the table. "Why?" he repeated, stepping back and sinking into the chair. "Because without the hardships, one wouldn't recognize or appreciate happiness."

"There is no forever happiness?"

Daniel tried to hold back a snort of amusement, failing miserably as visuals of SG-1 Disney style danced thorough his thoughts. "No, no forever happiness."

The aliens exchanged looks of what Daniel took to be confusion. Glances passed among the four seated at the table, indecipherable vocalizations, agitated tapping of elongated fingers on the briefing room table. "Each of you needed to go back to the beginning." The aliens nodded in agreement to the speaker's comment. "There was a desire to fix what was broken."

"Whose desire? Yours?"

"The desire belonged to you and your friends. Your pain was a viable, living thing. Your parents, Major Carter's mother, Teal'c's life. Colonel O'Neill's son. His life mate."

"You're empathic." Daniel jumped off the chair and began to pace. "But you didn't see past the initial pain."

"It was overpowering. Too overpowering. Memories colored your everyday life. Your choices."

Daniel pounded the table. "These memories - our memories are what make us what we are. You had no right to try and create different ones."

"But there was happiness."

He wanted to cry, just put his head down on the table and sob. "Yes. There was happiness. And there was happiness in our lives before you interfered."


"What we have done, you consider it to be interference?"

"Yes." Daniel touched his chest. "You chose for me. Each of you took away my free will."

"Free will is more important than happiness?"

"There is no happiness without free will."

They appeared to huddle. Communication done with elegant hand movements that Daniel tried to decipher. As four heads turned as one to study Daniel, he stepped back, glad when their attention was again drawn to their rapid hand movements. He continued to pace. They continued to communicate.

"We will offer you a choice. You can retain the child you have become or we can return you to your adult form."

"A choice?" Daniel stopped and stared. What the hell, his dreams had always bordered on the bizarre so Daniel took a moment and pinched the inside of his arm, surprised it find that a) it hurt, and b) he wasn't any more awake than he'd been two minutes ago.

"You are hesitating."

"Yeah, I am." He was, though he was unsure as to why.

"You stated you desired the ability to choose." The speaker turned to the others who nodded. "You do not care to exercise this free will?"

"No!" Daniel's word came out as an unexpected shout. "No," he repeated softly, fearful the aliens would perceive this reluctance to choose and he'd lose his opportunity and wake up in his too small room in Jack's house, hiding under the covers with Lumpy, blaming his strange dream on the quarter glass of eggnog he'd drank.

But maybe waking up in that room wasn't such a hardship. There was happiness in that house and in his heart. The aliens were right, he'd give them that. First hand, Daniel had seen his own happiness reflected in Jack's smile. And now Daniel truly hesitated, unsure how Jack would once again deal with the loss of a child. Could Daniel do that to his friend? More importantly, did Daniel want to do that to himself? Independence had been forced on him at an early age, Daniel had had no choice, and now, giving up his independence to allow others to make decisions for him wasn't such a bad thing. Yes, it was frustrating, only because he'd been aware of what he'd lost. Maybe true happiness for Daniel had been the mentally challenged version of himself.

"There is difficulty in choosing?"

"In my life, my ability to choose was usually never my own, which is..."

"We are patient."

Great. Daniel wasn't a split-second decision maker. Weighing all the options, making pro and con lists, do's and don'ts was something he excelled at. Ad nauseum over-examination, Jack used to say when he handed Daniel the take out delivery menu for Szechwan Gardens. Daniel would study the menu for ten minutes, eventually picking the same thing. What he was comfortable with.

Was he comfortable being a child? Easier to hand over the reins of decision making to Jack? Or Sam, Teal'c or Rose? Maybe he was just damn tired. It had been a long, arduous forty years, wasn't he permitted to be tired?

But experience had taught Daniel that childhood is fleeting. And then what? Do the math. Daniel was six. Jack almost fifty... It was only a matter of time before the memories of his first forty years would have all the consistency of a dream. Did he want that? No. They were his memories and he didn't want to rewrite them.

Child versus adulthood. "I've made my decision."


Jack threw back the covers with a curse. "I'm coming," he shouted, positive Daniel wouldn't hear his voice over his own blood curdling screams. This was a bad one, obviously taking them both by surprise. Recently, the nightmares had dwindled down, giving them a false sense of security. Leave it to Daniel to save a doozy for the holiday season. "Merry Christmas to us," Jack mumbled as he stumbled down the hallway.

He flung open Daniel's bedroom door, the hallway light casting enough illumination to cause Jack to stop in his tracks, hand still on the doorknob, and stare. What had been a child-sized Daniel when Jack had tucked him into bed was now an adult Daniel who stared back, shock bringing his screaming to an abrupt halt. Jack almost preferred the screaming as opposed to the blank look that settled on Daniel's face.

"Daniel." There was no response to his name. None. Empty eyes gazed past Jack, locking on the opened bedroom door. As a precaution, he slowly walked it closed, making no excuse for his actions.

With his heart pounding painfully in his chest, Jack adopted Daniel's famous, 'we come in peace' approach. As hard as it was, Jack forced his voice to remain emotionless, hands outstretched. Warily he approached the bed, sliding his feet along the floor, fighting the urge to rush over and envelope the man he hadn't seen in almost a year.

"What happened, buddy?"

Daniel continued to stare through Jack.

Jack used his hands to lower his body onto the edge of the bed then raised them, palms towards Daniel. "I'm just going to check you out, okay?" He peeled back the blanket - the sweats he'd worn to bed, the sweatpants that had been bought with a child in mind, lay in tatters. Jack touched the Sponge Bob sweater Daniel wore, which hours before had swum on him, now fit perfectly. "Just going to do a bit of an assessment." He ran his hands along Daniel's half-naked body, the heat of a low-grade fever never even registering until he cupped Daniel's face. "Think it's time to call Fraiser." He glanced over Daniel's shoulder at the bedside clock and made a face. "I'm going to blame this one on you."

Jack tucked the blanket around Daniel's bare lower body, patting his knee before standing. "I'll be right back. It's a little too cold to venture outside wearing nothing but Sponge Bob for protection."


The cordless was stuck between his chin and shoulder, ringing, while Jack struggled to dress a frighteningly compliant Daniel in a pair of his sweats. "Sorry, your stuff is all packed away—Doc?"

"There better be blood involved, Colonel."

Jack couldn't speak as inexplicable tears flooded his vision and dammed up his throat.


"Yes." Jack did a fantastic impression of an adolescent boy in the throes of puberty.

"Take a breath—"

Jack's hands switched from dressing Daniel to pressing the phone to his ear. He stood, backed away from the bed, then stood in the corner, facing the wall. "Daniel's no longer a child," he hissed into the phone. "Daniel's an adult... like before. He's feverish. Staring into space—like before when he—"

"An adult? Daniel's no longer a child?"

Fraiser hadn't heard past that piece of information. Not the fever. Nor the catatonic state. She hadn't connected the dots to the time of Daniel's regression. "We need you."

"The SGC. Can you manage?"

"We can manage." Jack turned. Daniel was still sitting on the bed, sweats up around his knees, just as Jack had left him.

"I'm leaving now." She hung up without waiting for Jack's answer.


"Screw this," Jack said, gazing down at Daniel's sock-covered feet. Sweats, socks, he could share; shoes, no way; and in the scheme of what was going on in their life right at the moment, a shoeless Daniel was the least of their worries. "The truck is in the garage. I'll blast the heat; you'll never even miss shoes."

Jack grabbed Daniel's wrists and tugged him into a standing position, waiting to see if he needed more support than just a hand, but Daniel shuffled along beside Jack. "Crap. Stay." Jack propped Daniel up against the wall in the hall, then ran back into Daniel's room, grabbing Lumpy. "Made this mistake once, not making it again." He tucked the stuffie under his armpit and went to collect Daniel, who was still where Jack had left him, head hanging, studying the floor between his feet.


Daniel sat in the front, staring out the front window into the darkness, Lumpy in his lap, his hands resting on the camel's back. Jack's cell rang ten minutes out from the SGC. "ETA is ten minutes, Doc."

"We have a situation, Colonel."

"General Hammond? Yes, we do, sir. Daniel—"

"We have visitors. A foothold situation. It would seem the inhabitants from the planet where Doctor Jackson returned as a child are sitting in the briefing room at the SGC under guard. Heavy guard. Seems our iris doesn't stop them. And Colonel, strangely enough, they're asking for Doctor Jackson. Who, by coincidence, according to Doctor Fraiser, is no longer a child."


Jack strode into the briefing room, passing the guards and the general. As he slammed his fists on the table, he leaned over the expanse of wood. "What the fuck have you done with Daniel?" He was close enough that a spray of spittle settled on the collar of the alien right in front of him.

"Colonel O'Neill!" The general appeared by his side, pulling him away.

The general's sympathy lay with Jack, of that he was sure, but he drew the line that regretfully, Jack had to respect him. "I'm sorry, sir." He took his time straightening up.

"There is no need for you to apologize," alien number two stated.

"Well, I'm glad you and I see eye to eye about something." Damn, the way the aliens sat at the briefing room table, they resembled a game show. Like I've Got a Secret or the Match Game which made him, Gene Rayburn or—

"Colonel, you remember the Narawyns."

They nodded in unison.

Jack didn't nod back. "Names? Do any of you have names? Or should I just..." Jack snapped his fingers. "I'm going to go the easy route. I'm going to—"

"Names are of no consequence."

"You're right, they aren't." Jack jabbed his finger in the air, wishing instead it was a loaded gun or a zat instead of just a digit. "What is of consequence is what you've done to Daniel. What you did to Daniel."

"That will be quite enough, Colonel." Hammond pointed to the chair. "Sit." Hammond waited until Jack took a seat before sitting.

"If you ever want to leave our world, you better have a damn good explanation why Doctor Jackson is now in the infirmary as an adult after spending almost a year as a child."

"We wish to see Daniel Jackson."

Jack snorted, and he picked up Hammond's imperceptible nod, giving him the floor. "Not on your life. Lives. Until we get a plausible explanation why you've done what you've done, you're not going anywhere. Not you. Or you. Or you. Or you." Jack nodded at each Narawyn sitting across from him.

As one, the aliens blinked out of view.

"Shit." Hammond smacked his open palms on the tabletop and Jack jumped up so fast, his chair rolled across the floor, slamming into the credenza.

"Infirmary," he shouted, pointing to three guards to follow him. "General, call Fraiser and tell her to expect company."


Fraiser was dwarfed by the Narawyns' size, but she stood her ground, blocking Daniel's bed with her body and his chart.

Jack and the guards rushed in, guns drawn, waving the remaining personnel against the wall. "Game's over," he shouted, aligning himself with Fraiser, gently pushing her to the side.


"Daniel?" Simultaneously, he and Fraiser echoed his name.

"Check him out," Jack ordered.

"No need to check him out," Daniel answered sarcastically. "He's fine."

"Get your ass back into that bed, Doctor Jackson."

"Do as the doctor ordered, Daniel."

"Not this time. My life. My choice."

"We will discuss this at a later date, Doctor Jackson."

"I'm fine." Daniel appeared by Jack's side, Fraiser struggling to slap a bandage over the site where Daniel had pulled out his IV.

"You could have done this from your bedside," Jack growled as Fraiser sandwiched Daniel between herself and Jack. He could feel the heat of fever through the thin scrubs. "You're not so fine."

"Should Doctor Jackson be out of bed?" Hammond entered the infirmary with another contingent of guards, their arrival crowding the room even more.

"No, he shouldn't," Fraiser said.

"Going with the doc on this one, sir."

"Shut up, Jack, I'm fine," Daniel repeated, his voice going up at the end, making the two words appear to be more of a question than a statement. He took a shaky step forward before Jack or Fraiser could stop him.

"I made my choice," he said to the tallest of the aliens. "There's no reason for you to be here."

"Choice? Daniel, what choice did you..." Jack suddenly felt as if he'd walked into the movie thirty minutes after it had started. "Is there something you're not telling us?"

The demeanor of the group changed, proud heads hung. "We give apologies."

"No." Daniel's reply was emphatic. "I will not accept your apologies." Daniel wavered and Jack and Fraiser stepped as one to flank him. "You had no right." His words were punctuated by huffs of air, he was failing fast and if neither he nor Fraiser could drag his ass back to bed, Daniel was going to be on the floor in seconds.

"Daniel." Jack placed a hand on Daniel's elbow. "Just accept their apologies and send them on their way."

He turned to Jack, wide eyes feverish. "I don't want to forgive and forget."

Jack relied on all the other guns and zats to keep the aliens in their nice, neat line as he turned his full attention to Daniel. "No one's asking you to, buddy."

"It hurt."

Jack grimaced. "I know it did." He swallowed, suddenly nauseated, the sound of Daniel's scream an auditory memory he wouldn't soon forget.

A single tear spilled.

"They're not going to hurt you anymore." Jack pointed to the grouping of armed personnel squeezed into the room. "Everyone here, we've all got your back."

"But," Daniel stuttered, the word coming out in two syllables. "What if I made the wrong choice? Will you forgive me?"

Fraiser was quick, but Jack was quicker, grabbing Daniel as his legs gave out, guiding him in a controlled descent to the floor.


Teal'c and Carter had shown up about twenty minutes into this standoff, crowding into the isolation room's observation deck. Teal'c, Carter, Hammond and himself, backed by a slew of armed guards, were staring at the four Narawyns. Based on body heat and firepower alone, the room was claustrophobic.

"Look," Jack leaned across Carter and tapped on the glass. "See that?"

All but one of the aliens averted their eyes. "I see."

Daniel was lying on a bed, eyes closed, moving in agitation every time medical personnel checked a lead or a monitor.

"We are truly sorry." Huge eyes begged forgiveness. "Though the choice was his."

"Not good enough." Jack looked towards the General.

Hammond signaled for the guards. "I think it's time to escort our guests to their own isolation room until they're ready to speak without the use of cryptic language."

The shortest of the aliens, the one who'd done most of the communicating, placed his hands on the glass, bowed his head and closed his eyes. His companions shimmered, faded to transparency before blinking from sight. "I am Varyn." He turned and bowed. "There were no others. I traveled alone through the ring."

Jack stepped forward, waving his hands through the empty air on either side of Varyn. "Safety in numbers?"

"I do not understand."

"You weren't meant to," Jack said.

"There is so much my people do not understand."

"Maybe if you started at the beginning," Carter volunteered.

"Indeed. Standing in this room is proving pointless in aiding Daniel Jackson in his recovery."

"I will try to explain."

"Oh, please do," Hammond said, stepping to the forefront.

Varyn made a strange movement with his facial features, which Jack read as the closest thing to a sad smile. Head bowed, he once again turned towards the large glass window. "My people feel strongly. Emotions. Pain."

"Empathetic? You're an empath?" Carter turned towards Jack. "Sir… they're—"

"I heard, Colonel. So you're empathic… that doesn't go too far in helping us understand—" Jack slapped the glass, "Why Daniel's like that."

"You have a word for what we are? Empa—" Varyn attempted to roll the word around on his tongue.

"English lesson over," Jack said. "Continue."

"My apologies." Varyn gave a slight bow. "We refused to travel the galaxy because it is almost impossible for us to shut out the discontentment and unhappiness on so many worlds. For many centuries, visitors approached us on our home world, drawn to us, searching for the cure to erase their pain. The answer was different for all who came to us." He spread his hands over the window. It had been many years since anyone had stepped through the ring."

"Yeah, we get the picture," Jack said. "Lotsa years you stayed home." He took a quick glance down in the isolation room. "What happened?"

"SG-1. We're what happened, sir. We came through the 'gate."

"Yeah, our timing always was impeccable," Jack growled.

Varyn nodded, touching his massive chest. "You hurt." He pointed to Carter, Jack, Teal'c and glanced quickly at Daniel. "Loss. Pain. Unhappiness." Closing his eyes, he wavered. "I remember it still."

"So your answer was to turn Daniel into a child, shove us through the Stargate with the parting words of 'don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out'. Then just when he gets comfortable living in the body of a child, you step forward, and bam," Jack clapped his hands together, "you decide it's time to turn him back into an adult? Honestly, if you put that scenario to a vote, it doesn't sound too empathetic to me."

"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond warned.

Varyn winced, Jack's anger physically painful. "We tried to fix what was broken." He pointed to Jack. "The loss of a child." His finger moved towards Carter. "The loss of a parent." The alien dropped his hands, moved his chin towards Teal'c. "The loss of family." Elongated fingers traced the glass window separating them from Daniel. "The loss of innocence. Of belief. Of home and partner… Daniel Jackson has lost much. We found happiness with you where there was none. A child to guide you back to happiness. To replace what you had lost, O'Neill. To show you, Carter, that the woman who bore you, her instincts run deeply in you. That you have the capacity to love, to nurture. Teal'c, the child gave you family." Varyn drew himself up to his full height. "And each of you gave Daniel what he had lost."

Jack stepped out of line into Varyn's personal space. "You sonofabitches played god." He poked the alien in the chest, anger clouding his self-preservation. "Life is not a series of do-overs. You don't get a chance to fix what's broken. People aren't replaceable."

"Happiness is not achieved by deception."

"Yeah, what he said." Jack pointed at Teal'c, giving him the thumbs up.

"We loved Daniel because we..." Carter shrugged... "Love Daniel. Not because he replaced a person or rekindled an emotion in our lives. And vice versa. We are and always will be Daniel's family."

"Daniel expressed the same sentiments."

"When did Daniel speak to you? 'Cause he truly hasn't been out of my sight," Jack waved his arm around, "our sight for the past few days."

"There are other ways to communicate besides speech."

"Yeah," Jack replied with a smirk. "What am I saying now?" In deference to Hammond, Jack held back angry curse words.

"Enough, Colonel." Hammond stepped up. "This exchange isn't getting Doctor Jackson anywhere, nor is it getting Doctor Fraiser any answers."

"There are no answers. Time will take care of his body's adjustment to his return to adulthood. The fever, confusion and weakness will slowly fade."

Hammond's level of anger was becoming equal to Jack's. Red-faced, with a visible pulse pulsing in his temple, he put a supportive hand on his commander's arm.

“What of Daniel Jackson's memories?"

Varyn gave Teal'c a slight nod of acknowledgment, though his gaze captured Jack's. "Daniel will not have forgotten."

"Everything? Daniel will remember everything?" Jack placed his hand to the side, imitating a short child. "All of his memories when he was downsized will be—"


"Your technology. Your abilities to—"

"Is part of our genetic makeup. Our medical advances and technology on our world are based on our genetic memory and controlled by such."

"What's he's saying, Carter, in his fancy holier than thou way, is that he's smarter than us and that he's not sharing. He'll screw around with our lives, but that's as far as he'll go."

"We owe no one an apology but Doctor Jackson."

Jack grabbed Varyn's wrist as he began to raise it. "That's where you're wrong. You hurt him. You hurt us. Families are funny that way. You want to apologize to Daniel, fine, apologize, but we're all in on this one."

"As you wish."


They found themselves on Varyn's home world standing to the left of the Stargate. Earlier, if Jack had been asked to describe the area, he wouldn't have been able to, but now, clustered by the DHD, his surroundings were as familiar to him as his own house. "Carter? Any ideas?"

She ran her hand along the DHD, knocking on its hard surface. "I haven't a clue, Colonel."


"Nor I, O'Neill. Not even in Jaffa legend has there been mention of this type of teleportation."

"This is not teleportation," Varyn explained, drifting in from stage right.

"Some type of mass hypnosis?"

"Get out of my mind," Daniel hissed, appearing next to Jack.

"Jeeze, Daniel, warn a guy, will ya?" Jack slung an arm around his waist and pulled him close. Still feverish. Still shaking. Still furious. Carter slid around to his other side while Teal'c watched their six.

"I don't want your apology. Just leave me be. Let us all be. You've done enough damage."

"You will heal in time."

"Thanks for sharing that." Daniel gave the alien a tight, very unDanielike evil smile. "At the moment, I feel otherwise, but I'll be sure to pass that along to Doctor Fraiser."

Varyn stood his ground.

Daniel waved his hands. "Shoo."

Jack's eyebrows flew skyward as he leaned into Daniel. "Shoo?"

"I know. It's just the best I can come up with at the moment."

"Varyn, it would appear your presence is upsetting to Daniel Jackson."

"Thank you, Teal'c. I appreciate your support."

"We've all got you covered, buddy."

"Then get him to leave." Daniel wavered. "I think I need to be horizontal."

"Hear me before I take my leave, Daniel Jackson. While the choice to be a child was not yours, the choice to return to the life you felt most comfortable with, belonged to you. Remember to make the most of what you have chosen."


This interlude had occurred in a blink of an eye; Jack, Teal'c and Carter took it stride. Jack demanded the 'gate address be locked from the dialing computer, Carter argued against it, Hammond said he would sleep on the decision and Teal'c disappeared with a grunt of annoyance.

Jack found him in the infirmary, rather than the observation room, sitting by Daniel's side.

"Daniel Jackson appears agitated."

Agitation was putting it mildly. In sleep, Daniel kept tugging at the scrubs, as if he was uncomfortable.

Jack shook his shoulder. "Hey, Daniel, wake up."

"I have already attempted that, O'Neill." Teal'c seemed offended that Jack would've thought that Teal'c wouldn't have already tried the obvious.

"Leave him be."

Crap, the two of them had been so intent on playing "wake the archeologist" that neither of them had heard the telltale click of Fraiser's shoes.

"He does not appear to be resting comfortably."

After all this time, Teal'c still didn't have a strong sense of self-preservation regarding Fraiser.

"No, he doesn't."


Fraiser took Daniel's clipboard from the end of the bed and flipped it open. "Why isn't he resting comfortably?"

"Because everyone is talking, that's why," Daniel groaned as he levered himself to a sitting position. Squinting at the brightness of the room, he pointed at the overhead fluorescents. "Please, could someone—"

Fraiser lowered the lights in the room and Daniel gave her a grateful attempt at a smile. "Out," she pointed to the doorway. "I'm going to examine him—"

"Oh, joy," Daniel interjected, "I should have stayed asleep."

Jack squeezed Daniel's shoulder. "We'll be right outside, just yell if you need us."

Daniel grabbed Jack's hand, gazing at him with bloodshot, feverish eyes. "Varyn's gone. Right? This isn't a—"

"Gone," Jack said.

"But not forgotten." Daniel dug his nails painfully into the palm of Jack's hand. "I'm never going to forget."


Jack paced, losing track on the amount of times he'd passed that particular fire extinguisher at the end of the hall, stopping only when Teal'c placed his bulk in his path.

"Teal'c, I know it may not look like much, but I'm busy here. Is there something I can do for you?"

"Do you not think it strange that Daniel Jackson has forgiven me though I was the one who fired the staff weapon which claimed Sha're's life, yet he is unable to forgive Varyn?"

"Yeah, you noticed that, too." Jack gave a slow nod, clapping Teal'c on the forearm. "Actually, Daniel's unforgiving attitude is one of the reasons I'm pacing."

"Indeed, I would have to agree with you, O'Neill. May I join you?"


They had started pacing in sync, but Jack took a break to go to the bathroom and when he came back, he trailed behind Teal'c, and eventually the two of them resembled expectant fathers in a waiting room.

Carter appeared carrying a Styrofoam cup for him and a bottle of orange juice for Teal'c.

"Nothing yet, sir?"

Jack took the cup from her hand. "Nothing."

Teal'c, always the gentleman, bowed before taking the juice from Carter. "Is there not a saying that 'no news is good news'?"

"Usually, but I think no news may be due to the fact that Fraiser is torturing Daniel."

"Ignore him," Carter said, pointedly glaring at her commanding officer. "The colonel doesn't really mean torture in the true sense of the word."

Jack eyed her over the rim of the cup. "I don't?"

"No, you don't... Janet?"

They turned as one as Fraiser appeared in the hallway, holding up Daniel's chart. "Before you stampede me to see Daniel, there are two things you need to know. One, based on preliminary tests, he's going to be fine. An easy description would be to say that his body has just reset itself and it's taking time to work out the kinks."

"We need the geek squad in here?"

"Colonel, with all due respect, shut up."

"Just trying to add some levity to the situation."

"May I reiterate Doctor Fraiser's sentiments of keeping quiet, O'Neill."

"Two, Janet, you said two things we need to know?"

"Yes," she glared at Jack then smiled at Carter. "He's sleeping and I'd prefer that he remain that way, which is why you're all going to go about your business and I promise to give a shout when Daniel wakes up."


Fraiser didn't even look up from her paperwork. "I told you I'd call you when Daniel—"

"I know." Jack took the steaming mug of coffee he'd carried all the way from Daniel's office and carefully placed it on the pile of papers she was reading.

She opened her mouth, closed it, then sniffed. Then sniffed again. Sitting back in the chair, the doc eyed him with suspicion. "May I ask?"

"Daniel's office. The good stuff." Jack stepped away from her desk and stood at parade rest.

"So, am I wrong to assume that this mug of coffee should be considered a bribe of some sort?"

"I plead the Fifth."

"I'm still not going to allow you to see him until he wakes up."

"Then consider the coffee a form of apology instead of a bribe."


"For my offhanded remarks when you were talking about Daniel's condition—"

"Sit." Fraiser pointed to the chair. "You're making me nervous standing and if I'm nervous, the pleasure of the coffee will be lost."

"Can't have that." Jack sat and remained silent as Fraiser enjoyed her coffee.

"Thank you."

"Anytime." He gave her that gentlemanly bow that was Teal'c's trademark.

"Apology accepted." She finished the last of the coffee and handed the mug back to Jack.

He and the mug stayed seated. "A lot of times, I appreciate the shortened medical version of why someone is in the infirmary."

"But not now?"

"Not now."

"Okay." She drummed her fingers on the edge of the desk. "There's a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls a myriad of things." She began to tick them off on her fingers. "Sleep. Emotions. Motor control. Hormones. Body temperature."

"It's been affected? That doesn't seem like a small—"

Fraiser held up her hand. "It's playing catch up to the rest of his body's growth."

"He's a mess."

She grimaced. "Emotionally, yeah. Given the fever and the hand tremors—"

"Excuse me? Tremors?"

"He's a mess," she repeated, sighing.

"How long?"

"A few days. A week. From a medical point of view, this is the first time I've encountered this 'fountain of youth syndrome' so—"

"You're guessing?"

"No. I'm making an educated, researched, medical... guess."

"I want to take him home."


"Daniel was having a hard enough time dealing with little kid emotions as a six-year-old in front of people, there's no way he's going to be able to handle those emotions now that he's back in his adult body. Not in this fishbowl of a workplace."

"He needs monitoring."

"I'm good at monitoring." He leaned forward. "I'm begging you, for Daniel's sake. Please—"


"In the morning."

"Don't push your luck. Tomorrow."

"Can I see him?"

"Out." She pointed towards the doorway. "And before you open your mouth again, remember, I know your mother's telephone number."


Well, this pretty much sucked. From what Janet said, all of his emotions were going to be right out there in the open. Great. Annoyed, Daniel kicked the covers off. Runaway emotions along with a side order of hot and cold. So basically, as Jack had so graciously pointed out, Daniel was menopausal and going home to his house. Given the choice of home or the SGC, hands down, of course, Daniel would choose home, if for no other reason than there were no security cameras to record each and every hysterical episode on tape for posterity.

Sitting up, he pulled the covers back up to his chin with shaking hands, another side effect. His motor coordination was slightly off. He'd found that out when Janet had let him up to take a pee and ended up doing something he hadn't done since he was a kid... the first time he was a kid... which was wet the floor around the bowl. Thankfully, he hadn't landed on his ass when he'd tried to clean it up.

And of course, can't forget the fact that his sleeping was going to be screwed up until Varyn's little gift to him worked itself out. Which was why he was awake staring into the darkness. Not even an iota of tiredness anywhere on the horizon. He was cold, though, shivering, teeth- chattering cold, and if he had half a mind—Daniel could feel a laugh bubbling up, threatening to explode into the quiet of the infirmary—truth be told, he didn't even have half a mind.

"It always seems colder at night than during the day, doesn't it, Doctor Jackson?"

Gratefully, he clutched at the extra warmth spread over his body, trying not to shed a tear in gratitude over the nurse's kindness. Daniel closed his eyes and just nodded, it was easier that way.

"Do you want me to see if Doctor Fraiser left a prescription for a sleeping pill in your chart?"

"No," he croaked. "Better now."

The call bell was pressed into his hand. "Just use this if you need me, okay?"

"Thank you," he whispered, unsure and unable to trust his voice to do more than that.

Peeking out from under lowered lids, he watched and waited until she exited the infirmary before throwing off both blankets. Damn, it was hot in here.


"If you don't wake up, Fraiser is never going to allow you to come home with me."

Daniel dragged the pillow from under his head and plopped it over his face to shut Jack out.

"Come on, Daniel," Jack said as he tugged on the pillow, suddenly serious. "I'm not kidding. If you want to be home in time for lunch, you need to show Fraiser that you're functioning."

"Functioning. Need shower. Dressed." He gave the pillow up without a fight. "I can do that. Watch." He sat up and managed to smile at Jack. "Think that will convince her?"

Gently, Jack tossed the pillow at Daniel's midsection. "Convinces me."


"Are you sure?" Jack had a very bad feeling about this.

"I'm positive." Daniel fidgeted in the passenger seat. "Look, just use the drive thru—"

"The fridge is full of food—"

"I'm starving now."

Truthfully, Daniel had picked at the lumpy oatmeal Fraiser had tried to get him to eat, though he'd demolished three small orange juice containers. "They're going to be serving lunch at this time."

"Lunch works." Daniel was practically salivating as Jack pulled up to the drive thru speaker.

"Give me a hint."

Daniel leaned over into Jack's space. "Big Mac, large fry, chocolate shake and an apple pie."


Jack kept one eye on the road and one eye on Daniel as he scarfed down the lunch, the opened bag between his legs catching the crumbs.

Jack stuck his hand on the open bag, the paper crumpling under his palm. "Come up for air, Daniel."

" 'ungry."

"Yeah, I'm sorta getting that idea."

Jack was stuck behind a slow-moving delivery van, cursing under his breath. Daniel was palming the empty shake cup, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

Jack rubbed his forearm. "We'll be home soon."

Daniel gave him a wan smile. "I don't think soon is going to be fast enough."

One-handed, Jack fumbled with the McDonald's bag Daniel had stuck in between the console and seat, flicked it open, then shoved it at Daniel. "Use it," he commanded, turning a deaf ear as Daniel retched repeatedly into the paper bag.

The smell was horrific and Jack could feel the bile in his own throat burn. He fumbled with the controls for the windows until he found the one for the passenger window. "Throw it out."


"Damn it, Daniel, now is not the time to worry about the environment. Just throw the goddamn bag of vomit out the window."

Daniel dropped the bag, and Jack slapped the control to shut the window, trying not to imagine the bag exploding as it hit the pavement like an overfilled water balloon. He was licking his lips and he was pretty damn positive that Daniel's really wasn't done emptying his stomach.

"Should I pull over?"

Daniel hesitated before nodding emphatically, fumbling with the door as Jack tried to maneuver the truck down a side street. "Give me a second."

Daniel gave him the second but not an iota more and practically fell out the door as soon as Jack pulled over to the curb.

Jack was out his own door in a flash, flying around the front of the idling truck, his need for speed stopping him in his tracks as he rounded the right fender. Daniel wasn't bent over upchucking his number one special all over some poor unsuspecting soul's manicured lawn, Daniel was pressed face first against the side of the truck, shaking like a leaf.

"Hey." Jack approached him cautiously.

Daniel waved him away, then wrapped his hands over his head, shoulders heaving.

Jack refused to stay put and he walked over to the bereft figure, then laid his head against Daniel's back. "It'll be okay. I promise." He was more than a little surprised when Daniel shrugged him off.

"I'm sure it will be, but I certainly don't need empty platitudes at the moment," Daniel replied caustically, keeping his head down as he barreled past Jack. He flung himself into the truck and slammed the passenger door, leaving Jack feeling downright pissed and more than a little embarrassed to have his rarely-seen-the-light-of-day emotional and supportive side rebuffed with such venom.

"You know there's nothing to be ashamed of. Fraiser said that emotional outbursts—"

"Are expected." Daniel swiped his nose with the back of his hand. "I've got that, Jack," he said, sarcastically rocking his head back and forth. "Fevers. Hot. Cold. Tears. Anger." Daniel ticked them off on his fingers, painfully bending each one back. "Sort of like an emotional six-year-old. Oh, wait," Daniel said as he sat up straighter, "I had been an emotional six-year-old. Been there, done that, even have a tee shirt or two." Daniel leaned forwarded and pounded the dashboard.

"Stop it," Jack yelled, his voice reverberating in the cab of the Avalanche.

Daniel whipped around, fists raised, chest heaving.

"Would it make you feel better if you hit me?" Jack asked softly.

Daniel crumbled, and he gazed at his hands as if they belonged to a stranger before they fell into his lap. "Nothing will make feel better. Nothing."


Daniel was showered, scrubbed clean, wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist as he tossed clothes into the washer.

"It's a little too cold to be doing the laundry with only a towel between you and nakedness." Jack had never realized a stain of blush could color a man's whole body.

"I have no clothes." He twirled the dials and punched the start button on the machine. "I'm naked. I'm cold. The only clothes I have involve a sweater with Sponge Bob emblazoned on the front. I stuffed myself on McDonald's which I proceeded to throw up. And, oh yeah, I had a temper tantrum that any kid would've been proud of, and considering the fact that I'm no longer six, all it did was leave me thoroughly embarrassed and mortified."

"So, correct me if I'm wrong..." Jack leaned on the opposite wall, arms crossed across his chest. "You're really not having a good day."

Daniel snorted. "No, I'm not."

"The clothes part I can take care of." Jack peered at the washing machine. "It would appear that you're taking care of poor Spongie there." He grimaced. "McDonald's doesn't sit well with me on a good day, so you have my sympathy, and that whole temper tantrum thing?" Jack shrugged.

Daniel answered him with a shrug. "My sentiments exactly."

"Come on." Jack pushed off the wall and motioned for Daniel to follow him. "I'm sure I can find something in your size."


Jack had been paying bills, Daniel had been on the computer in his room, which hadn't lasted long. Now, he stood over Jack, drinking a bottle of water, tugging at the sweats Jack had found for him. Daniel was broader than he was, but he was pulling on the top as if he was uncomfortable just with clothes in general. Tug. Tug. Shirt. Tug. Shake leg. Tug. Pants.

"Daniel?" Jack tried to figure out how the hell it appeared that he owed American Express his life savings. "Is something wrong?"

"I can only find Children's Tylenol..." He rubbed his forehead. "Do you have—"

"Headache?" Concerned, Jack tore his gaze away from his checkbook.

Daniel nodded. "Not that bad, but I figured I wanted to take something before it got that way." He pulled at the neck of the sweatshirt.

Jack checked the payment date on the bill, calculated it, and stood. He had another ten days before being hit with a late payment. Slapping Daniel's hand away from the collar of the shirt, Jack grabbed it and peered down the opening.

Daniel pushed him away, smoothing down the sweatshirt. "Do you mind?"

He mimicked Daniel and pulled at his own clothes. "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Pulling at your clothes?"

"Oh." Daniel glanced down, confused, then shrugged. "I didn't even realize I was—they feel constricting. Funny thing is, I don't think I ever thought they were constricting before, did I?"

Jack just shook his head, then went to the cabinet, moved aside a few items and grabbed the bottle of Tylenol, shaking it at Daniel. "How many?"


"How many—never mind." Jack took Daniel's hand and turned it over so the palm was facing out. "Start with two."

Two became three about twenty minutes later, but when three started to become four fifteen minutes after that, Jack stepped in to intervene. "Let's stop a moment before you throw caution to the wind." Jack plucked the Tylenol from Daniel's hand. "If the headache's that bad, maybe we should call Fraiser. Or I can drive you back to the mountain—" He grabbed Daniel by the shoulders, turned him around and began to guide him out of the kitchen. "Or better yet, you can lie down. Close your eyes. Take a nap."

Jack made it to the couch without a protest from Daniel and pushed him down. "Think about it, you've been rubber band boy. Two days ago you were just a little tyke and now—"

"Now... I'm..." Daniel flopped backwards onto the sofa.

"Taller. Cranky. And crabby. But definitely taller." Jack threw the afghan over Daniel's thighs, hoping he'd eventually get the hint. "You need to allow all your body parts so get in sync with each other."

Daniel yawned. "What's scary is that you're making sense." He yawned again, giving Jack an up close and personal view of his tonsils. "Either that or I'm really, really tired."

Jack tossed a couple of stray pillows onto the couch. "I'm going for both choices and the fact you want to keep me company while I dismantle the Christmas decorations."

"You want help?"

"Honestly, and don't take this the wrong way, Daniel, because I know your offer to lend a hand comes from the bottom of your heart, but I'm thinking there's no way you'd be able to help me without falling flat on your face."

"Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's the thought that counts?"

"Yeah, I think that sentiment might have come into the conversation once or twice."


"What?" he whined, staring at Jack, dropping his grilled cheese back onto the plate. "Am I drooling or something? Got a piece of cheese stuck between my teeth?" He bared his pearly whites at Jack.

Jack got up and topped off Daniel's mug of coffee. "Neither," he said. "Just patting myself on the back."

"Why?" Daniel picked up the sandwich and took another bite.

" 'Cause all you needed was a nap and one of my famous grilled Swiss, tomato and bacon on rye sandwiches for you to feel better."

Daniel ducked his head.

"You do feel better, don't'cha?" Jack slid the pot back onto the base.

He stopped. Thought a moment. "I'm not tired and the headache is gone. That counts for something."

"Every little bit helps."

"You're just full of Rose'isms tonight, aren't you?" Daniel groaned.

Jack placed his hand on the back of Daniel's neck, squeezed lightly then dropped his hand when Daniel stiffened at his touch. Damn, Jack could kick himself. Too fast.

Blindly, Daniel reached behind him and captured Jack's hand. "Sorry, I just need to feel comfortable in my own body first."

"If anyone's going to apologize it should be—"

"No apologies. Hopefully time will—"

"Hopefully... though no pressure," Jack hastily added. "Pressure. None... not at all."



Jack looked up from the pile of never-going-to-get paid bills. "You want to play a game of chess?"


"You're going to beat me, aren't you?"

Daniel cracked his knuckles. "Don't I always?"

Even as a six-year-old, sitting on his knees, Daniel had won most games. "I bet I'll give you a good run for your money."

"You're on."


Jack sat across from Daniel and nursed his beer while he set up the chessboard.

"Hey." He pointed at Jack with the knight. "I forgot."

"Forgot what?"

Daniel's face split into a huge grin. "You finish setting up the board. I'll be right back."

He fought the urge to follow Daniel into the kitchen. Leaning backwards, he brought the chair onto two legs and peered around the opening. "Daniel, what's going on in there?"

"You're going to fall. Set up the chess pieces, I'll be right in there."

Bending forward, the chair fell back into place with a thud, and Jack cursed as a splash of beer rained on his pants. "Hurry up."

"I'm coming. Stop playing around... set up the chess pieces."

Jack grumbled loud enough for Daniel to hear.


Jack was still grumbling when Daniel appeared before him. A half filled glass of wine. An opened bottle of wine and an even bigger smile than when he'd left the living room. He nodded towards the glass.

Daniel took a seat opposite Jack, taking a healthy swallow of wine. "Ready to have your ass kicked?"


Daniel was feeling no pain and as horrible as it sounded, Jack was enjoying this. Daniel was quick with laughter and making enough mistakes that Jack had already won one game and was close to winning his second, when Daniel yawned. Once, twice and as he was going for a third time, Jack knew his chance of another win was between slim and none.

"Why don't we call it a night?"

Daniel picked up the empty glass and waved it. "Think I had a few too many."

Jack grabbed the glass from him and placed it on an empty square of the chessboard. "Ya think?"

Daniel snorted.

"I'll clean up."

Daniel gave him a grateful smile, stood and swayed for a second before getting his bearings. "Janet would so not be happy with me right now."

"And that is the exact reason we're not telling her about this, capisce?"

Daniel nodded. "Capisco."


It wasn't time for his watch, but the cold fingers on his shoulder were insistent. Shaking him, making it impossible to return to sleep. "Whaaaat," he drawled the word out as he batted blindly at the annoyance.

"Wake up, Jack."

In what amounted to seconds, Jack processed his situation and opened his eyes. He blinked at what he hoped was Daniel sitting at the edge of his bed. "What are you doing—are you okay?" Jack struggled to sit up, but the quilt was captured under Daniel's ass.

"I'm freezing."

And he was, teeth chattering, shaking from the cold, Antarctica type of frigid.

"I put the heat in the house up, but it didn't work... and... and I took a shower, but even the water wasn't hot. I think there's a problem with the oil burner."

Why didn't stuff like this happen during the day?


Not until he threw off the blanket to stomp down the hall to check out Daniel's complaint, did Jack realize that not only was the heat in the house working, but Daniel had obviously set the needle so the house was trying to mimic Abydonian temperatures. He wiped the dripping sweat from his brow, then slid his hands along his sweats to dry them so he could punch into the thermostat numbers not resembling Death Valley at high noon.



"The oil burner is fine; it's your thermostat that's on the frizz."

"It's not cold in here?" Daniel was sitting right where Jack had left him, on the edge of his bed. Still shaking. Still looking miserable.

Jack didn't mention that he'd stuck his head out the door to grab lungfuls of cold, fresh air. "It's not cold in this room. In the house—"

"The shower?"

"Temperature's perfect."

"Oh." Daniel sighed through chattering teeth. "I'm guessing it's me who's nuts."

"I'm not even going to answer that." Jack slipped around Daniel, got into bed and held the covers up in invitation. "Turn the light off before you come to bed."

"We talked about this. I told you—"

"You told me when you were ready. I got that." Jack waved the blanket up and down. "This isn't about that, this is about sharing body heat."

Daniel stepped back. "I don't believe you."

Jack settled in and closed his eyes. "Good. Don't believe me. Go back to your cold bed in your cold room while I get comfortable in my nice... ahhhh... Warm bed."

The light went off and Jack was a little disappointed until he felt the covers being ripped from his grasp and Daniel's body slip in next to him. Jack prayed his dick wouldn't betray him.

"Can you move over a bit?"

"Can I move over a bit?" Jack mimicked sarcastically. "What's the purpose in that? I'm warming you through my body heat; tell me how I'm supposed to do that from all the way over on the other side of this bed."

"Fine. Touch but don't touch," Daniel warned.

"You're very lucky I understand you. Otherwise—"

"Shut up, Jack, and do your job."

"Hmmm, I wonder how warming the ass of SG-1's archeologist would appear on my W-2 form?"

With a vengeance, Daniel's elbow found Jack's belly. "Oomph. What the hell was that for?"

"This may be a joke to you, but it damn well isn't to me." Daniel's voice was as cold as his body.

Guilt sheared his heart. Silently, he slid out of the bed.

Daniel flipped onto his back, tracking Jack. "I'm sorry. Come back to bed." Daniel sat up. "Never mind, I'll just go back to my bed."

Jack made a slicing motion across his neck, demanding silence, but Daniel being Daniel, continued, throwing back the covers. "Look, I understand how hard this is for you, and it is for me as well—"

"Daniel, please," Jack pleaded. "Don't take this the wrong way, but could you please just—oh, never mind." Jack went to the bed, pushed Daniel down and proceeded to not only cover him, but to tuck Daniel in. Tightly. "I'll be right back."


Daniel was still cold. The tentative hand that Jack placed on Daniel's forearm chilled his fingertips, but he hoped Daniel would slowly warm thanks to the electric blanket he'd dug out of the hall closet. Jack hadn't moved an iota, keeping his distance to honor Daniel's wishes. He was glued there and damn lonely on this side of the mattress.

Daniel sighed in his sleep, shivered, then moved, inching over to Jack's side. He held his ground as Daniel slithered over to plaster himself against Jack.

"Cold," he mumbled as sock-covered freezing feet sought to leech warmth from Jack's calves.

"You're killing me here, Daniel." Jack moved over and like a heat seeking missile, Daniel was on his tail, dragging all his blankets, spooning up against Jack's front, who finally gave up when his ass was mere inches from the edge of the bed. "End of the road," Jack apologized as he held onto Daniel for leverage. "Hey, it's either this or I land on the floor. What's that?" he whispered to the short hairs on Daniel's nape tickling his nose. "That's what I thought," Jack answered, burying his nose in Daniel's shoulder. "Of course I'll make myself at home, considering it is my bed."


Jack was dying of heat, dehydrated and parched. He fumbled for the off switch of the electric blanket. Uncaring, he shoved Daniel away, then fanned the blanket up and down to create some type of breeze as he lay gasping for air. He used his tee shirt to mop up a small river's worth of sweat running down his face.

He squinted at the clock on the nightstand. Zero seven hundred hours, later than Jack usually slept. And Daniel? Daniel was still asleep, though he'd begun to move restlessly under the mountain of blankets. All it would take would be some prodding on Jack's part to push Daniel into wakefulness and he raised his arm.

"Put your arm down," Daniel croaked, sliding down even further under the blankets. "I'm still sleeping. I still want to sleep."

Jack quickly tucked his raised hand under his armpit. "You're a little paranoid, I was just getting up to take a shower and start breakfast."

"Good. I want pancakes and hot chocolate." He shifted, then groaned. "Make that three Tylenol, toast, juice and a telephone chaser to Janet. I think I'm running a fever again."

"A fever?" Jack snorted, leaning across the bed to lay a hand on Daniel's forehead. "You've been under the cooking blanket for half the night of course you're... hell, you've got a fever."

"Told ya so." He shivered. "Now turn the blanket back on, go away and let me die in peace."

"Your fever isn't that high." Jack tucked the quilt around Daniel and set the electric blanket at its lowest setting. "Fraiser said this was all due to your internal thermometer being busted and to be patient, give yourself time..." All of his regurgitating of Fraiser's information was falling on deaf ears, Daniel was already fast asleep.


"Teal'c and Carter are bringing over dinner."

"Good." Daniel's reply was unenthusiastic, his gaze never shifting from the TV to Jack.

"Fraiser's coming also—"

Daniel flicked off the TV and tossed the remote to the side. "Why, to stare at the tall, depressed guy who's spent the day either sleeping under a shitload of blankets or puking his guts up?"

Daniel had been on an emotional seesaw the entire day, dragging Jack along whether he wanted to play or not. An earlier phone call to Fraiser had garnered him sympathy and not much more than that, except for a moment of silence and an 'I told you what to expect', which, when loosely translated, meant 'I told you so'.

"Truthfully, I have no idea why they'd want to see you." Jack decided to go for the jugular. "Me, I'm glad someone is thinking enough of us to bring us food." He pointed to the stairs. "If you feel the need to be rude, take it to your room, preferably with the door closed."

"My pleasure." Abruptly, Daniel stood, shouldered past Jack and stamped up the stairs.

Gaze trained on the ceiling overhead, Jack followed Daniel's path, sighing heavily when he heard Daniel's bedroom door slam. Sometimes Jack amazed even himself at his ability to be an asshole.


Daniel shuffled out of his bedroom just as Carter was setting the dining room table. He sniffed the air, then tried to peek into one of the bags, jerking back his hand when it was gently slapped.

"You can wait, Daniel." Carter stepped into his personal space and hugged the crap out of him. Jack totally ignored Daniel's wide-eyed plea for help. Stepping back, she held him at arm's length. "You're a little feverish." She peered around him and glared at Jack. "Do you know he's a little feverish?" Her hands swept over his forehead.

"Yes," Jack and Daniel answered simultaneously.

Carter snorted, obviously not believing either of them. "I'm glad Janet's coming for dinner."

Teal'c entered the kitchen carrying two forks and a knife. "Colonel Carter, I believe we are—Daniel Jackson!"

"Teal'c." Daniel moved backwards, away from Carter and closer to Jack.

Teal'c gave him a very Teal'c-like controlled bow, stopping mid bend. "Are you not well?"

"He's got a fever."

"I'm fine."

Teal'c looked confused and Jack offered the big guy a smile. "He's fine," Jack echoed. "Honest," he added at Teal'c's raised eyebrows of disbelief.

"Would it not be prudent for Daniel Jackson to be seated?"

"Have a Tylenol," Carter quipped, opening Jack's cabinet.

"Perhaps he requires returning to bed," Teal'c said, turning his attention to Carter.

Daniel's stomach growled. Loudly. Very loudly, and Jack stifled a chuckle.

"Hey, you know what?" Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him towards the dining room. "I think Daniel needs to be fed."

"I can wait for Janet." He blushed as his stomach protested.

"Yeah, we know you can, buddy, but your stomach has other ideas."


Janet showed up just as they were sitting down. With an armload of desserts, she was full of apologies. "Sorry I'm late." She smiled at everyone, giving Daniel a gentle nod. "You look better than I thought you would, based on the colonel’s phone calls."

Jack mouthed the word 'no' at the intrepid doctor, shaking his head vigorously as he waved his arms.

"Calls? Plural? Jack, you called Janet?"

Caught mid-wave, Jack brought his arms up into an overhead stretch. "Yup. Once you told me to and the other times..."

"Was because he was worried," Carter filled in smiling innocently at her commanding officer. "Isn't that right, sir?"

"Daniel Jackson appears to be feverish."

"Look, Janet," Daniel said, patting the seat to his left. "Jack left this one empty just so you could check my vitals and fluid intake while I ate."

Jack growled at all the turncoats sitting around the table and went for the diversionary tactic. "So, Doc, what's in the boxes?"


Carter struggled with it, even Teal'c had a hard time. So did Fraiser, though her faux pas were fewer. Jack watched as the three struggled trying to remember Daniel was now an adult. An adult who'd never been a touchy-feely individual compared to the child who'd sought out the hugs and demonstrative actions of his friends. Carter had just crossed the line, again.

Daniel was nursing a mug of coffee, glaring at his teammate. She began to stutter out an apology, only to be silenced by a look that had been known to down a Jaffa at twenty paces. She switched her attention to the slice of chocolate cake on her plate.

"The smudge of frosting that Colonel Carter attempted to clean off your face is still evident." Teal'c pointed to an area on Daniel's right cheek. "It is—"

Daniel's blush deepened as he grabbed the napkin Teal'c offered. He scrubbed more times than was necessary, leaving a bright red mark in its wake. "Is it gone?"

"There's still a spot, right there in the corner."

"Death wish, Jack?" Daniel used the heel of his hand to rub his face.

He gave Daniel the okay sign, then just shrugged. "I like to live on the edge."

Thankfully, the mood lightened, though by the time they moved from the table into the den for a movie, the damage was complete, every touch towards Daniel was thwarted by a step to the side, a shrug or a verbal reprimand. Subtle enough to not be rude, but straight enough to make his point.


They ended up in the den watching a movie from Jack's collection, The Princess Bride, an old favorite that they all knew the dialogue to, but Jack felt maybe they all needed some familiarity.

Sprawled all over the furniture, it worked, up to a point. Daniel sat at the far end of the couch and allowed Carter's sock-covered right foot to lean against his left foot, as long as the rest of her body was a respectable distance from him.


Damn, this was his favorite part of the movie, where they battled the rats of unusual size. He waved her into silence.

"Sir," Carter hissed.

"Do you wish me to tell you what happens next, O'Neill?"

"No. Thanks, T, that's what a pause button is for." He set the movie on pause. Exasperated, he turned towards Carter. "Okay, spill, what pray tell is so important that you feel the need to—"

She shushed him with a finger to her lips. "Daniel's sleeping."

"Daniel has been known to fall asleep when we watch movies, Carter. What's so special about this nap?"

She gave Jack a dejected shrug, then picked up Daniel's lax hand. "He still has a fever."

Fraiser placed her hand on Daniel's forehead. "Yes, he does."

"Why aren't you concerned? Janet, neither you nor the colonel seemed—"

"Concerned?" Jack held up a finger to halt Fraiser's medical diatribe. "May I explain?"

"Oh, go right ahead."

"Daniel's internal thermometer is broken. Things like his emotions and sleep patterns are outta whack." He motioned Carter to move to the side and covered Daniel with the afghan. "His body is out of sync with itself. We all have to be patient, including Daniel. He'll be back." Jack glanced at Fraiser for acceptance.

"You pretty much covered it all, sir."

"See, I listen on occasion."

"Occasionally, O'Neill. Although I believe the correct wording would be to state that you listen occasionally."


Jack was ready for them to leave. He was tired, he wanted to get Daniel into a bed somewhere and he just wanted to get horizontal himself. Fraiser had started the exodus about thirty minutes ago, but Carter and Teal'c were hanging around, making excuses to help him clean up. He'd had enough and plucked the dish from her hands. "Carter, you've washed the spot off that dish more than twice." He dried the plate with a few vigorous wipes then sent it on to Teal'c to put into the cabinet. "You know, I do have a dishwasher."

"I know," she said, concentrating on scrubbing an invisible spot from a glass.

"But, what?" Gently, Jack took the glass from her hands, opened the dishwasher and placed it on the top rack, shutting the door with his foot. "See how easy that was?"

She nodded, then picked up a plate from the soapy water, and searched for the sponge.

"Okay, that's it." He plucked the plate from her hands, dropped it back into the water then grabbed her arms and marched her to a kitchen chair, pushing her backwards until she had no choice but to sit. He pointed to another chair. "You, too, Teal'c, 'cause unless I'm mistaken, something is definitely on your minds."

Begrudgingly, Teal'c sat and Jack held court, leaning against the sink, arms crossed, foot tapping, waiting for one of them to speak. "Today would be nice."

"Daniel Jackson is not happy."

"I'm going to have to agree, sir."

"Well, that makes three of us."

"What course of action to you recommend?"

Jack looked at his 2IC in disbelief. "Daniel's not a mission, Carter. We can't debrief on him and—"

"So you have absolutely no idea, O'Neill?"

He shook his head. "Nope. Note a clue. I'm hoping... time? The guy hasn't been upsized more than two days and he's not had an easy time of it with this broken thermometer and his PMS emotional roller coaster—"

"Sir..." Carter warned.

"What? Oh... sorry."

"Just wanted to stop you before—"

Jack pulled out the third chair and sat. "Before I put my foot in my mouth? Wouldn't be the first time."

"I believe the answer lies within Daniel Jackson himself. We, as his friends, cannot be the ones to direct him towards happiness."

"Jaffa words of wisdom?"

"They are not, O'Neill, they are just words of hope that Daniel Jackson will once again find a balance between his younger self and his adult self."


Daniel flipped onto his back and stared at the ceiling, gathering his thoughts. Obtaining adulthood the first time around had been a battle, but he'd been able to accomplish a reasonable sense of maturity by burying his emotional needs through academics. This time around, there were no academics to hide behind and his ability to focus was shot to hell, buried by his emotional needs.

A sharp rap on the door forced him to check his bedside clock. Almost lunchtime. Great. He'd spent another morning sleeping which, based on the past few days, would be followed by a series of afternoon naps. Janet kept assuring him this was normal, though normalcy was pretty much a moot point considering there was no control group to compare Daniel's behavior. But damn, it felt like his life was on hold.

Another knock on the door was followed by a concerned Jack voice. "Hey? You okay in there?"

Same line. Same concern. Same bat channel. "Yeah. Fine." That was a laugh.

"Okay, just checking. Want some lunch?"

Daniel mouthed the words right along with Jack. Nice to know there was some predictability in his corner of hell. "Lunch would be fine. Tuna?" Daniel didn't particularly want tuna; he just wanted to stop Jack from running down the kitchen's inventory yet again.

"Tuna it is."

"On rye. Toast. With onion and a slice of tomato." And whatever bread and accompaniments Jack would have chosen would've been fine, but Daniel wasn't in the mood to listen to Jack's waitress imitation.


Damn, he'd forgotten about that. "Chips and a glass of iced tea would be fine."

"You got it, buddy."

"Fifteen minutes, I'm just going to shower."


Daniel cried in the shower. Something he wouldn't admit to anyone. It was his way of bribing his body, promising it an emotional release where no one would hear. Where tears could be hidden by the spray of water. Where red eyes could be blamed on soap. He was embarrassed to admit how good it did feel, sort of like a burp or a fart one held in until company left. Or a sneeze. He'd read somewhere that releasing a sneeze was comparable to an orgasm.

Disgusted, he flicked his flaccid dick. Orgasmic, he snorted, then coughed as a noseful of water found its way down his throat. He remembered when the mere thought of sex or a warm body in bed could get this body part to pay attention. Now? He stroked it again. Nothing. Someone up there must truly hate him.


Daniel slipped into the seat at exactly the same time Jack slid the plate in front of him. Wonderful choreography, but the two of them had been doing a lot of that, dancing around each other. Daniel was getting pretty good at the side step shuffle, and Jack, damn the man, was excellent at allowing Daniel to lead.

"Plans for the day?"

Oh, that was different. Jack usually started their conversations with a 'how're you feeling'? Interesting. "Checking my emails... and we need to go to the store, I need some ink for the printer."

Jack opened the top of half his sandwich, stuck a handful of chips on top of the tomato, then squished the bread down. "Take the Avalanche; it's been a while since I started your car."

"Drive?" The tuna was suddenly not as appealing as before.

"Drive," Jack repeated, speaking with his mouth full. He swallowed, then licked his lips. "Something you'd been doing for over twenty years—Daniel?" Jack put his sandwich down. "Are you okay? You're as white as a—"

He was surprised Jack couldn't see his heart pounding through his shirt. "I can drive."

"Yes," Jack answered slowly. "You can drive."

Daniel was having an anxiety attack. Full blown, not enough air filling his lungs, walls closing in, hands shaking, cold sweat, anxiety attack in Jack's kitchen. Outside, he needed to be outside in open space filled with lots of air.

A hand roughly shoved him back into the seat. "Put your head between your knees."

"Not going to help," he gasped. Sticking his head closer to the floor wasn't going to help him breathe any better than keeping his ass on the chair. Daniel stuck out his hand and pushed Jack away. "Crowding me. Be okay."

Jack bent in front of him, grasping Daniel's clammy face in his hands. "I'll drive, okay? After lunch, whenever you want... wherever you want."


Daniel found himself in the shower. Again. Naked, shaking and crying like a child. A six-year-old child. He remembered standing suddenly and Jack falling on his ass in surprise. He'd sidestepped Jack's outstretched hand. Next thing he knew he was standing under the water for the second time within the hour, his clothes strewn across the floor.

"Close the curtain, otherwise you're going to soak your clothes and the rug."

Daniel jumped, nearly losing his balance as Jack snicked the curtain closed. Door? He obviously had closed and locked the door, though if Jack wanted in there wasn't a lock manufactured that would keep him out.

"I brought you a towel. It's on the counter. Don't stay in the water too long, I don't want to explain to Fraiser why you're shriveled like a prune."


Dripping on the rug, Daniel stood gazing at the stranger in the mirror. It had been months since he'd seen this face. He'd shaved these past days carefully, without meeting eyes that no longer looked familiar.

"You're still the same person, Daniel."

He took the proffered towel from Jack's outstretched hand and tied it around his waist, giving a nod of thanks in the process. "The resemblance is there, but that's it."

Jack stood next to him, and Daniel stiffened for a moment, then held his ground as Jack pointed at the image of the Daniel in the mirror. "I see my friend. The reason my hair is grey and a person who I trust my life and my heart to. What do you see? Better yet, who do you see?"


"Yeah," Jack said with a nod towards their images. "Maybe it's time for honesty."

Honesty meant no more tears in the showers. Honesty meant no more hiding from Jack. From the SGC. From his friends. No more hiding behind a six-year-old. "I see—" He cleared his throat and began again. "I see someone who's not comfortable in their own body."


"You wanted honesty, Jack. I'll give you honesty." There was no more interest in the people in the mirror. Daniel turned towards Jack. Close enough that the knot on the towel was rubbing against Jack's thigh. "At this point I'm not sure if I shouldn't have just stayed a child and gotten it right this time around. Hell, everyone was happy. You. Teal'c. Sam. And in retrospect, so was I. There was safety. Security."

"And now?"

"I have to begin again." He dropped to the closed toilet lid, suddenly exhausted. "I don't want to begin again. I'm tired of starting over."

"You don't have to start over."

"I don't?" Daniel began to tick items off on his fingers. "I need a place to live—"

"You can live here."


Jack looked away.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. I need my car. Items from storage..." He gave Jack a slight smile then ducked his head. "Part of me wants you to make me lunch and take care of me. And part of me hates that need and considers it a weakness. And now, I have to find common ground between the child in me and the adult.

"I hadn't been a child since the day my parents died, Jack. And I'd forgotten what childhood could be like, but I also didn't forget what SG-1 means to me. What you mean to me... and I need to figure out how to mesh all that you and everyone else gave me as a child, into who I am now. It's like there are too many sets of memories vying for attention in my brain. My time as a child with you is overwriting my time with my parents." Daniel slammed his eyes shut and shook his head. "And that's wrong."

Jack placed a hand on his bare shoulder, surprising Daniel by remaining silent, which he realized was exactly what he needed. Quiet support. A non-judgmental presence. He rested his face against Jack's hand, rubbing his cheek, then kissing Jack's calloused knuckles. It would be easy, so easy, as Daniel felt a familiar stirring. Easy to fall back into what had been. Maybe he'd just been trying too hard.

"Get dressed," Jack said, rubbing his thumb along Daniel's chin.

"Not yet." Daniel lifted his hand, skimmed it up Jack's thigh, allowing it to settle on his dick.

"Oh, nice," Jack growled. "Maybe we can hold off your getting dressed for a while."

Gently, Daniel squeezed the burgeoning erection under his fingertips.

Jack guided Daniel's hand back to his own lap, and started unzipping his pants. "Last one naked in bed is a rotten egg."

"I'm only wearing a towel," Daniel snickered. "There's no way I can lose."

"Haven't you ever heard of motivation?" Jack's eyebrows did a perfect Groucho Marx imitation. "I'm very, very motivated."


Lying on his stomach, he rested his head atop his crossed arms. His ass ached, but Daniel was content. Satiated. At peace.

"Well, it would seem that you, Doctor Jackson, were more motivated than I was."

Daniel chuckled, giving a murmur of appreciation as Jack covered him up with the blanket.

"So easy," Jack whispered in his ear as he climbed over him.

"Where're you going?" Daniel reached out towards the dick Jack was dangling within arm's length. "Hey," he pouted as Jack stepped out of his reach. "Tease."

"Hold that thought." Jack bent and kissed his temple. "I'm gonna shower."


Daniel waited until he heard the telltale signs of Jack in the shower... the low, off key rumbling of his voice as he massacred Symphony for the Devil, before he picked up the phone by the bed and dialed Rose's number.

"Happy Day Before New Year's Eve."

Oh god, it had just been Christmas. With presents and a tree and... he was not going to go there. Daniel steered his thoughts away from a little him opening presents, not safe and so not helping him. "Hi, Rose."


"Rose?" Maybe this was a stupid idea.

"Daniel?" she whispered his name.


"You sound—"

"Like an adult? Grown-up? Like I used to?"

"Yeah." Rose's agreement was hesitant.

"Well, I'm an adult again."


He'd expected a bit more enthusiasm than an 'oh' from Rose. "Just thought you'd like to know."

"How long?"

"How long? What do you—"

"Just what I said. How long have you been an adult? Was I an afterthought?"

"An afterthought?"

"You're not a stupid man, Daniel. My son's not a stupid man. I love you both very much, but at this moment, I don't want to speak to either of you."

"Rose wait—" Daniel's answer was the dial tone. "I don't understand."


Jack couldn't hold back the smile as he dried off. He felt great and to prove it to himself he flexed his knees, his mental happiness erasing all the aches and pains of age and occupation. He walked out of the bathroom, towel flung around his shoulder, bare-assed naked, because maybe, just maybe, the archeologist warming the bed would be interested in... "Daniel?"

"Jack." He was sitting in bed, the cordless phone cradled in his hands, the blanket was slipping from his body, forming a small puddle on the floor.

"What? The pizza guy won't deliver this time of day?"

"Pizza? What? Huh?"

"The phone." Jack pointed to Daniel's lap.

He handed it off to Jack as if it were a live symbiote. "I umm... think I pissed off your mother."

"My mother?" Jack was trying to wrap his mind around how having sex with Daniel had moved the man to call his mother. "Why did you call my mother?"

"I thought she should know."

"Should know?" Jack glanced down at his incredibly shrinking manhood.

Daniel blushed, "Not that..." He moved his hand over his body. "This?"

"That?" He was confused, Daniel was leaving him in the dust, their recent roll in the hay obviously had destroyed a whole multitude of his brain cells.

"I'm not a kid."

Jack wagged the phone at him. "So, let me see if I'm getting this right. You pissed off the woman who loves you best because you're not small?"

"Yeah." He nodded, then changed to an emphatic head shake. "No. She doesn't love me best."

"I'll ask." Jack pushed the number to speed dial his mom.

"You're naked."

"So are you." Jack bent and threw the blanket at Daniel.

"But I was covered up when I talked to your mom."

"Don't you think now's not the best time to tell– Hi, Mom." Jack stuck the phone between his shoulder and chin and began to rummage through the drawer for a pair of clean boxers.


He grimaced, there was no missing the icicles dripping from his name. He snatched up the boxers, then gave a half-smile to Daniel as he tossed Jack a pair of jeans and a shirt. "Thanks," he mouthed, then cocked his head towards the bathroom, because the sooner he separated his hormones from Daniel's nakedness while on the phone with his mother, the better he'd feel. "Are you still there?" Jack dumped his clothes on the floor next to Daniel's then sat on the closed toilet seat.

"I'm still here."

"Daniel's a bit confused as to why—"

"How long, Jonathan? How long has Daniel been an adult before I warranted a phone call?"

Quickly Jack did the math in his head. "Five days. You spoke to him at—"

"Christmas, yeah I know. But considering the boy was lying to me for months about where he was, and about how tall he was, I'm finding it hard to—"

"Now who's lying?" He expected a huff of indignation. An argument. A protest. He didn't expect what he got. "Awww, mom, please don't cry."

"I'm old. I'm upset, and I can cry if I want to. Don't you tell me I can't cry."


"Don't you understand? He's small. He's big. He's regressed. He's cured. You're dead. You're alive. I'm always the caboose..."

There was nothing Jack could say, it was hard to dispute the truth, and another sorry just wouldn't cut it.

"And damn, I was enjoying being a grandma again. Admit it," she challenged with a hard edge to her voice that Jack hadn't heard in years. "Being a father again wasn't such a hardship, was it?"

"No, fatherhood never was a hardship. Not with Charlie and not with Daniel, you know that."

"I saw you with him, Jack. When you thought no one was looking. The expression on your face, you glowed with your love of the child Daniel is... was."

"So you're angry about... what? That you've been robbed of being a grandparent once again?"

"Yes... and I'm not afraid to mourn what was lost. Have you shed a tear for that child, Jack?"


"Why not?"

He wasn't sure if he was actually yelling or if the bathroom acoustics just accentuated his voice. "Because it hurts too much, okay? Are you happy now?"

"Are you? Isn't that the more important question? I was shocked when Daniel called. Your lives are an emotional rollercoaster and I'm always along even though I hate heights. Shut up," she ordered, even before Jack could formulate a thought. "In for a penny, in for a pound, with no questions asked. I understand that, but I need time to catch my breath, and I won't be forced to step forward until I've dealt with what I've lost."

She'd been crying before, but now his mother was openly sobbing. "Do you know what the hell I was doing last night? I was knitting a sweater for a six-year-old boy. This was the little boy I held and comforted in my arms when he woke up screaming from nightmares and who looked to me for support when he thought the person he loved most in this world wasn't coming home to him."

"That little boy was and always is Daniel, Mom."

"Keep telling yourself that, Jack."

"I refuse to bury another child. Daniel isn't dead. Daniel grew up. Became what he once was, and while you and I both know it's hard to say goodbye to a child, Daniel did not die."

"I know that, Jonathan." She cleared her throat, fighting for composure, realizing the inevitable, that he'd lost what she'd lost. "I know Daniel is alive and well, thank the lord, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Could you do me a favor?"

"Anything, ma."

"Tell Daniel that I love him."

"He knows that."

"Well, tell him again and that I'll speak to him tomorrow. And to please forgive an old woman, and to laugh. You make sure the boy remembers how to laugh and have a good time, won't you?"

"I promise. I love you, Mom."

"I know that, honey, but it's always nice to hear."

"Well, I'm telling you... I love you."

"Love you, too."

"And if it makes you feel better, I miss the little guy too..."


Jack clicked off the phone and placed it to the side, suddenly aware how cold he actually was. His ass was pretty near numb from the cold toilet lid.

"You miss him?"

Crap. Talk about things taken out of context. "How long were you standing there?"

Daniel was standing in the doorway, the towel wrapped around his waist. "I came in to get my clothes." He pointed to the pile of their intermixed jeans and shirts, "but I didn't want to interrupt."

"What you heard..."

Daniel threw his hands up. "I wasn't supposed to hear. Yeah, kinda got that."

"You were a kid for almost a year—"

"Do. Not..." Daniel pointed at Jack. "Do not state the obvious. Don't you think I know that? If you want to get specific, it was eleven months, five days and four hours, but I'm guessing that's not the point. I made a mistake, I should have stayed a kid... maybe I could have optioned out for a few more years, made it until my teens before... I wore out my welcome."

"You didn't make a mistake." Jack began to dress, not to avoid eye contact with Daniel, but in actuality, it was pretty damn ludicrous to be having this discussion while the two of them were naked.

"So my thinking that Rose was upset because I didn't call her right away when I became an adult, stupid me, it never dawned on me that Rose liked being a grandmother. She was a good grand—Can I please have my clothes?" Daniel stuck out his hand and caught what Jack tossed him. "You were a good father, Jack. Never sell yourself short. Charlie may never have had a chance to tell you, but I'm telling you... from me and Charlie. Thanks."

By the time Jack found his voice and his blurry vision cleared, Daniel was gone. "Shit." Jack finished dressing in record speed, gave a cursory glance around the bedroom... Get a grip, O'Neill, what did he expect? Daniel to be spread buck naked eagerly awaiting his return? He'd fucked up.

"Open up, Daniel." Jack pounded on the closed door of the spare room. Why was it suddenly the spare room again, and not Daniel's room anymore? "Jeeze, open the door," he begged when he heard a loud crash.

The door swung open, his entrance blocked by Daniel. "Sorry." Daniel looked over his shoulder into the room's interior. "Some books fell off the shelf."

"Let me help you put them back where they belong."

"No, I did the damage, I'll figure it out."

"I'm sorry."

Daniel sighed. "Why are you sorry? I made the mistake. My fault."

"I lied."

"Yeah, I noticed."

"It's not what you think."

Daniel snorted. "Please. I screwed up. Doctor Daniel "the grass is always greener on the other side" Jackson. I knew what I had. I had the closest thing to a normal childhood and I gave it up. Like I gave up my life on Abydos."

In frustration, Jack smacked the doorframe. "This isn't about Abydos. Or Sha're. Or my mother or hell, even me. This is about you." Jack poked Daniel in the chest. "You."

"Me? I was selfish."

"Damn you, listen to me. You were the only one who wasn't selfish. I had one shot to be a father and it ended way too soon. It shouldn't have been your responsibility to fix that for either me or my mother." He reached out and grabbed Daniel's shoulders. "You did what needed to be done." His hand slid up to cup Daniel's cheek. "A child in my house and my heart, honestly, made me feel... full of hope."

"And now?" Daniel challenged.

"Besides hope, there's love." Jack paused and gave Daniel a half smile, followed by a wink. "Hallmark moment enough for you?"

"I'm a little shocked, Jack. Those sentiments from—"

Jack placed his hand over Daniel's mouth. "I want to grow old with you. Youth is wasted on the young, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm not so young anymore. I wasn't looking towards the future. Which was wrong and stupid. I don't want to spend my old age watching you grow up; I want to spend my golden years with you walking by my side. Getting older. Getting crotchety. Having the satisfaction of watching you turn grey. Spending hours trying to get it up. So what do you think, next few decades... is it a date?" He slowly lowered his hand.

"I'll always be younger than you and getting crotchety?" Daniel snorted. "A little warped point of view, wouldn't you say?"

Jack waved away Daniel's objection like a pesky fly. "Don't nitpick; have you ever listened to yourself in the morning before your first cup of caffeine?"

"Bad attitude, especially if you're trying to woo me into spending the next fifty or so years with you."

"Sorry." Jack leaned in and stole a chaste kiss, rocking back on his heels when they separated. "One thing... you'll turn grey eventually, 'cause no god would be that cruel to me."


Daniel spent the majority of New Year's Eve day testing Jack's idea of crotchety and no amount of caffeine helped. Jack was literally thinking of starting to celebrate early, get Daniel drunk enough to pass out so he could spend the evening in peace, watching the craziness at Times Square and fighting to stay awake to see the ball drop.

Around fifteen hundred hours he stuck a chicken, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables, into the oven, despite Daniel's protests that he wasn't hungry.

Jack kissed his temple, avoiding the swipe Daniel took at him. "You do know this isn't all about you, Doctor Jackson. New Year's Eve. Nice dinner. Bottle of champagne. Things you blow to welcome in the coming year."

Daniel glared at him.

"Noise makers," Jack explained, sneaking another kiss. "Get your mind outta the gutter."

He was rewarded with Daniel's first smile of the day. "Gutter's not a bad place." Daniel stretched, then yawned, not bothering to cover up his exhaustion. "Explain to me why I'm tired?"

Jack sighed. "Fraiser can do it much better than I can. Do you want me to call her on the—"

"No. No. It was a rhetorical question and truly didn't require an answer."

"Good, 'cause I truly didn't feel like calling her and listening to her complain about having to be home on New Year's Eve chaperoning her daughter's sleepover."

"Great, she should be in a lovely mood for New Year's day." Daniel scratched his belly through his shirt. "Did you call Szechwan Garden and place the order for tomorrow's dinner?"

"Of course, complete with chopsticks and rolled up bamboo calendar." Jack pushed Daniel towards the bedroom. "Why don't you go take a nap, this way you can stay up and see the clock strike midnight."

Jack stood at the bottom of the steps and listened for the telltale squeak of the bedspring on Daniel's side of the bed before slowly backing into the kitchen and picking up the phone to place the order to the restaurant for New Year's day's dinner, complete with chopsticks and a rolled up bamboo calendar.


Daniel came shuffling out of the bedroom just as Jack was setting the table. One look at the glassy eyes and pink-tinged cheeks and he knew they wouldn't be blowing any noise makers tonight.

He dropped heavily into the kitchen chair with a grunt, gazing at the pan of chicken and vegetables with disgust. "Happy New Year's Eve," he growled.

"I should drop you off at Fraiser's house, you know, you'd be a great distraction." Jack stepped up to Daniel and pulled his head against his stomach. "Fever? Headache?"

Daniel rubbed his heat up and down Jack's belly with his nod.

"How about three T's in the living room."

"Three T's?"

"Two Tylenol. Toast. Tea."

"That's four T's."


Daniel began to tick them off on his fingers. "Two. Tylenol. Toast. Tea." He held up his fingers. "Four, see?"

Jack folded Daniel's fingers down into a fist. "I see, now get your ass into the living room."


Daniel opened his eyes about thirty minutes before the clock struck midnight and pulled himself upright.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty, how're you feeling?"

"Would you believe me if I said better?"

Jack studied Daniel. "Nope."

Daniel shrugged. "Not going to waste my time lying." He squinted at the large clock displayed on the TV. "Almost time."

"Yes, it is." Jack got up off the chair and went to sit next to Daniel.

"Been an interesting year," Daniel said, laying a hand on Jack's thigh.

"One for the record books," Jack agreed.

"Not sure if I'd want a do over."

"It had its moments."

Daniel sniffed, wiped at his nose and turned his head, but not before Jack saw the glint of moisture. "Did Rose call?" Daniel whispered.


Daniel pursed his lips, slowly nodding his head.

"Give her time."

"Maybe I should call—"

"Give her time," Jack insisted. "She loves you."

"Right now I'm thinking she loved me as a child more than who I am now."

Jack planted a kiss on a too warm temple. "I love you."

Daniel squeezed the muscular thigh under his fingertips. "It still hurts."

Jack welcomed in the New Year with Daniel snoring in his left ear, a river of drool running down his shirt and cursing his mother.


"Ow." Daniel reached out a stiff arm and smacked Jack and he walked past the couch.

"Happy New Year to you, too." Jack rubbed the area Daniel had made contact with.

"I slept on the couch all night?" Daniel groaned as he pulled and pushed himself into a sitting position, the blanket he'd been covered with sliding into his lap.

"Hey, don't blame me, I tried to get you up and on the bed, but you wanted none of it, and you let me know it with a few choice words that made even this hardened military man blush." Jack stretched. "I had a goooood night's sleep."

"Show off." He dropped his head against the back of the couch. "I don't remember New Year's."

"That's because you slept through it." Jack swooped in for a kiss. "You feel cooler."

Daniel rotated his shoulders, pushing Jack back in the process. "Gonna go shower." He glanced at his watch, realized it wasn't there, and looked around Jack to catch the time on the cable box.

"Slept through breakfast." Daniel accepted the hand Jack offered and stood with a moan.

"Getting old?" Jack made a show of ruffling Daniel's hair.

"What the heck are you doing?" Daniel stepped back.

"Checking for grey hairs."


Daniel braced his arms against the wall and allowed the hot water to flow over his exposed back. Damn, this felt good. Relaxing. Invigorating. He shut his mind off to everything except the four walls and the water.

"What did I tell you about closing the curtain? Anyone could just decide to share the shower with you."

He swiped the water from his eyes and smiled at Jack. "You're naked."

Jack waved a cloth at him. "I come bearing a wash cloth; can I come in and play?"

"Beware of colonels bearing gifts."

"I give great back."


Jack made a circular motion with the washcloth in his hand. "Soap on. Soap off."


Jack had magic fingers, as well as a way with a wash cloth. Every sexual advance Daniel made towards him was gently rebuffed. It was frustrating but also the most erotic foreplay Daniel had ever experienced. He was soaped and rinsed, massaged and stroked to the point where coherent thought process was a thing of the past.

"Feel good?" Jack hissed in his ear.

Daniel whimpered.



"Good." Jack planted a kiss on Daniel's nape then turned the water off. "Give me a second."

While Daniel rested his head against the tiles, he watched as Jack drew back the curtain, stepped out of the tub and opened up a huge bath towel, waving it at Daniel like a matador. He slid along the wall for support, falling into Jack and the obscenely large towel as he stepped over the rim of the tub.

Tenderly, Jack dried Daniel's body. He cringed in sympathy and made an ineffectual grab at Jack as he bent down on creaky knees. Jack worked his way up one leg then the other, paying attention to details. The space between his toes, his ankles, the back of his calves.

Daniel threaded his fingers though Jack's hair, clenched and unclenching his grip as his dick was patted dry. His ball were lifted, each one carefully attended to. "Please," he thrust forward, his erection teasing Jack's mouth.

His dick was moved to the side. "I'm not finished."

Daniel whimpered and stopped himself just short of stamping his foot. "I'll be dead by the time you finish."

"Patience is a virtue."

"Yeah, good things come to those who wait. I can't wait anymore... coming now."

Jack used the counter to stand, then wrapped the towel around Daniel's shoulders. "You know, Daniel, sometimes it's not about the sex, but about this..." Jack kissed his nose. "And this..." Jack took the corner of the towel and dried the area behind his left ear. "Sometimes love is in the little things."

Daniel took his dick in his own hand and stroked Jack's thigh. "What about the big things?"

Jack chuckled. "You're nothing if not persistent, Doctor Jackson." He reached over and grabbed Daniel. "Let me see if I can take care of this for you."


Daniel slipped on one of Jack's tee's, then shivered. He was cold, but he hesitated, his hand hovering over the sweater. Finally he gave in and slipped the Sponge Bob sweater over his head.

"We'll go pick you up some stuff tomorrow."

Daniel gazed into the mirror and smiled. "The Sponge and I are okay for today." He turned towards Jack. "Where's my stuff? Storage?" The word 'again' went by the wayside.


Daniel slipped on a pair of sweats, not that it went with the sweater, but beggars, in his situation, certainly couldn't be choosers. "So I guess it's time—"

"Tomorrow, Daniel." Jack slipped a shirt over his tee. "We'll talk about this all tomorrow. Today's a holiday. Our friends are coming for dinner—"



"Tomorrow is fine."


Jack hung up the bamboo calendar on the wall next to the phone and Daniel laughed, not that it was truly funny, more along the lines of being totally relaxed due to the bottle of sake he, Janet and Sam were making a healthy dent in.

He yawned, then quickly stifled it when all eyes zeroed in on him. "Honest, not tired." Daniel shied away from Janet's inquiring touch. "Tell them I'm okay."

Jack came out of the kitchen and handed a beer to General Hammond, then opened his own and took a swallow before answering. "He had a fever all day yesterday."


"And why wasn't I called?"

"Because you said that was part of the... why're you yelling at me? Ask Jack why he didn't call you. I was feverish and incoherent."

Jack glanced his eyes heavenward when the phone rang. "Thank you." He raised the beer upward. "Saved by the bell."

Daniel avoided Janet's evil eye, but there was no way he could move his body out of her inquiring, medical hands, not with Sam book ending him on the other side.

"Phone's for you, Daniel." Jack stood at the kitchen doorway and held it up for him to see.

Gratefully, Daniel excused himself and practically ran to Jack. "Who?" he mouthed, pretty sure he knew the answer, but looking for confirmation.

"My mom." Jack nodded towards the back of the house. "Why don't you take it somewhere private."

Daniel's heart and stomach met somewhere around his feet. "I'll pick it up on the den phone."

"Hold on, Mom, Daniel will be right with you."


"I got it, Jack," Daniel said the second he picked up the phone. "You can hang up—" He heard the click and settled back on the couch. "Hi, Rose."

"Happy New Year, mhuirnin."

"Happy New Year."

"I heard voices, you and Jack have company."

"Teal'c, Sam, Janet, Cass—the usual."

"Jack cooked?"

"Jack ordered."

"Smart man."

"Yes, he is," Daniel agreed, his voice soft. He snagged a loose thread on the couch, beginning to wrap his fingers around it. He jerked his hand away, Jack would kill him if his nervous habit resulted in a hole in the couch.

"I want to apologize—"

"No need." Daniel's fingers strayed over to the thread.

"How do you even know what I want to apologize for? Did Jack say something?"

"It wasn't that difficult to put two and two together, Rose. Figured if I was having a hard time—well, it couldn't have been any easier for either you or Jack. I know what I represented to you. To the both of you."

"How's Jack?"

"Putting on a good front."

"He's worried about you. He talked to me about how hard the physical adjustment is on your body."

Frustrated, Daniel smacked the tiny hole that appeared at the end of the loose thread. "I wish he hadn't said anything."

"I'm glad he did, it put things in perspective for me. I was selfish."

"You had every right to be hurt."

"Yes, I did," Rose agreed, "but I had no right to be angry with you."

"I never thanked you for being here when I needed you. It must've been hard."

"It's never easy where the two of you are concerned. I live in fear every time I see your caller ID on the phone. I live in fear that the phone won't ever ring again, and I'll never know what happened."

There were protocols in place for Rose to be notified if something happened to him and Jack, but this was neither the time nor the place to reassure her that she would never be overlooked.

"I love you, Daniel, and I did you a terrible injustice expecting you to fill a hole in my life, because Charlie can't be replaced."

"No, he can't, and I wasn't trying—"

"Oh, dear, mhuirnin, no, you weren't. It was me." And after a moment's hesitation she added. "And Jack, although the two of us adamantly denied it, we were lying through our eye teeth."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't you dare!" Rose yelled. "Don't you dare say you're sorry."

"I'm—I won't," Daniel corrected. "Charlie was lucky, you were wonderful. Everything I'd always imagined a grandmother would be."

"Please don't, Daniel."

"Why, Rose? You and Jack... neither one of you can bear to even hear how wonderful you were. How wonderful you must've been. Intuitive. Loving. You made me happy. I was secure in your love. Thank you for those memories."

"You were happy."

"I was."

"You laughed. Heck, you even giggled."

Daniel blushed in the solitude of the den. "I can't promise you I'll giggle again."

"That would be a pity, Daniel."

"I'll try. For you."

"Just be happy, okay. If you remember how to be happy, the rest will fall into place."



Daniel looked up at Jack, his browed furrowing in concern. "Is everything okay?"

"I think I should be asking you that question, 'cause I wasn't the one who disappeared for thirty minutes. People are starting to ask questions."

"Everything's fine." He leaned over and hung up the cordless.

"The phone call—"

"Fine," Daniel repeated. "Did you have dessert yet?"

"No, not yet, though it was hard holding Carter away from the chocolate cake that Hammond brought... damn, did you see this Daniel? When did we get a hole in this couch?"

"Really? A hole?" Daniel bent down and ran his finger over the nickel-sized opening. "I have no idea. Look," he said, tossing a pillow over the hole. "No one will ever notice it."


Daniel stood by the French doors overlooking his very own deck, he didn't turn, but he could feel Jack's breath on his neck.

"It's a nice house, Daniel."

And it was. Just enough. And he felt comfortable here, but it still didn't feel like home.

"It'll take a while."

"I know."

"Movers bringing the stuff from storage tomorrow?"


"All the utilities—"

"Turned on."

"Satellite dish?"

Daniel snorted. "Complete sports package."

"What more could anyone ask for?"

Daniel wished he could blame his blurred vision on the emotional upheaval that had been his life for almost two months, but he couldn't. The fever and the emotional swings were a thing of the past and just last week, he'd received a clean bill of health from Janet to go forth and return to work. Amazingly enough, Jack's retirement papers had never gone through, due to an interoffice glitch and the two new members of SG-1 were now part of a newly formed team with Colonel Mitchell at the helm. Hammond had informed them with more than a twinkle in his eye, SG-1 was back, or would be back in another seventy hours.

He'd dreamed of this and now, inexplicably, he was terrified.

Jack enveloped him in a gentle choke hold, resting the point of his chin along Daniel's shoulder. "You and I have some serious gardening to accomplish come the spring."

"That's the least you can do for the complete, did I mention very expensive, sports package."

"I really like this house, Daniel."

He sighed.

"I know." Jack kissed him. "Believe me, I know. Hey, remember that contractor who was going to expand the bedroom? Well, I gave him a call. The spare room is going to still be expanded. Built-in bookshelves. Wall-mounted, flat screen plasma TV."


"And the bedroom." Jack stuck his hands out in front of Daniel and opened them wide. "Big change. Bigger room. Bigger bathroom."


"Knew that would capture your attention. Whirlpool tub. Separate shower with all those shower heads that massage you from every angle. Heated floor. Towel warmer..."

"Kind of makes the sports package pale in comparison."

Jack's laughter tickled Daniel's neck. "Hell, I had to have a reason to entice you from your new home, figured you'd at least show up for the heated floor and towel warmer."

"And you." Daniel said, leaning into Jack. "I'd show up for you."


Beer in one hand, bowl of chips in the other, Jack put both on the table and was just about to settle his ass on the couch to watch the hockey playoffs when the phone rang. He contemplated not answering it, jeeze, this was the playoffs, for god's sake, not that he'd been able to see the majority of the season since unretiring, but this was tradition. The playoffs. Every April... he grimaced. When had it become spring? Where had all the—"Hold on, hold on." Jack picked up the cordless, ready to spit fire if it was a telemarketer.

"O'Neill's place."

"Change your line of work? It sounds like a bar."

"What? Oh, O'Neill's place. Got a sorta catchy ring to it. Maybe when I retire..."

"Funny, I thought you had retired."

Jack sank into the chair, picked up the remote and flicked on the TV. "Hi, Mom."

"Don't worry, it's only the pre-game show, you have another twenty minutes before the actual game starts."

Jack flicked the TV off. "Don't take this the wrong way, but there are times I hate you."

"Then my work here is done."

Jack flicked the TV on. "Nice talking to you, then, I'll give you a call—"

"Turn the TV off, Jonathan."

"It's already off." He knew he sounded like a whiney ten year old, but he didn't care. He had beer, chips, a comfy new sofa in what used to be the spare room and this fantastic wide screen plasma, hi def TV which—

"What's wrong with Daniel?"


"Yes, Daniel. You know him. Tall guy. Blue eyes. Nice looking."

"Yeah, I have a passing acquaintance with the man."

"Stop trying to be cute and just answer the question, what's the matter with him?"

"He should be home. Sleeping... did you wake him?" Damn, the man had looked like crap when Jack had driven him home. Daniel had had slits for eyes, a box of tissues on his lap, glasses folded in Jack's pocket, a bottle of pills and instructions in Daniel's pocket and one finger pressed to his temple. "He has a sinus infection and before you say anything, I saw him home, tucked him in. Gave him soup, crackers and his medication. Daniel kicked my butt to the curb, not so nicely, I might add."

"And you went?" Rose sighed.

"I didn't think having an argument would have done wonders for his headache."

"He sounded, I don't know, kind of off."

"Maybe because you woke him?"

Rose went right over Jack's statement with a hop, skip and a jump. "Has he been happy?"

"Right now I don't think—" Jack tossed the remote, grimacing when it landed in the bowl of chips. "He's tired. I'm tired. He's sick and I'm trying to watch hockey. We've been busy. Very busy, and the only reason we're not working is because Daniel's sick, so no none of us have been happy."

"So it's a group unhappiness type of thing?

"If I admit we're all unhappy now, and that we'll be happy again in a few days, can I go watch hockey?"

"You know," Rose lectured, "happiness is a voyage, not the destination. You can't make an appointment to be happy—"

"Mom, were those pearls of wisdom from the Inspirational Quotes for the Day that Daniel signed you up for?"

He could hear his mother indignation in her huff of air. "No need to be mean."

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Jack fished the remote from the chips and wiped the grease on his pants.

"Go watch your hockey. I'm glad you and Daniel are okay."

"Me too, mom."

"Love you. And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, just give a little thought to what I said."

"I will."

After he hung up, he sat staring at his 52 inches of beautiful flat panel TV screen. "Thanks, Mom," he growled. He got up, grabbed a six pack of beer, threw the chips in a baggie and snatched his keys off the table by the door, not even bothering to call Daniel and tell him he was on his way over. Hell, he may have the plasma TV, but Daniel had the whole sports package so he could watch the game in every time zone.


Jack used his key to let himself in. "Daniel?"

"I'm right here, Jack, no need to yell."

Daniel was sitting on the living room couch, staring into space.

Jack put the bag of chips and the six pack on the antique coffee table.

"Make yourself at home," Daniel said with a wave of his hand.

"Don't mind if I do." He sat right next to Daniel, picked up the remote with his left hand and gently guided Daniel's head to his shoulder with his right.

Daniel put up no resistance and settled in with a sigh.

"You threw me out. I would've stayed."

"I know. Not one of my more intelligent moves." Daniel took the remote from Jack, squinted at it, then input the correct numbers for the hockey playoffs before handing it back.

Jack rubbed Daniel's neck in appreciation. "Thanks."

"You love me for my five hundred stations, two hundred of which are sports."

"Hey, you love me for my shower, heated floor and towel warmer."

"True," Daniel admitted.


Daniel fell asleep during intermission. Jack guided him sideways, so his head was resting on the arm of the couch and his feet were in Jack's lap. He took a beer and settled the bag of chips against Daniel's ass. His mother was wrong... he definitely knew how to be happy.

Daniel swung his arm backwards, hitting the bag of chips, crushing half the contents. "You're crunching too loudly."

"Sorry." He moved the baggie out of harm's way, rubbing Daniel's thighs in apology. His mother was right, Daniel on the other hand... they needed to work on that happiness thing.


Jack punched the thermostat for the air conditioning the second he stepped foot into the house. The air smelled stale and old, and the plant Cassie had given him drooped and appeared beyond help. He needed to shower. He needed to clean out his fridge. He needed to collect his mail. He needed to be back at the infirmary, but Fraiser, bless her power hungry heart, like the ghost of Christmas yet to come, had pointed to the door and told him to leave.

He flung open the fridge, pulled over the garbage and just began to toss. Three weeks off world brought a lot of changes. In the weather and in the items now living in his fridge. Plastic containers with a green hue headed for the garbage, as well as plates covered with tin foil were thrown out, plate and all. A container of milk felt more like it was yogurt than one percent.

Tying the bags up, he dragged them outside and shoved them into the pails, banging the lids on the openings, thinking of nothing but the job at hand. Turning his mind from his two injured teammates and a third regaining balance through a deep state of kel’no’reem.

How many more times before a 'close' mission didn't miss the mark, with SG-1 returning through the 'gate and heading straight to the morgue without stopping at the infirmary? Without passing Go, without collecting two hundred dollars?

Jack shed his clothes at he walked from the back door to the bathroom. Shoes, sock, boxers, pants, shirt, tee shirt, leaving a trail until he was standing naked before his state of the art shower. He stepped in, closed the glass door and turned on the multitude of showerheads until he was attacked from all sides with pulsating water. Incrementally, he increased the pulse and water temperature until he was being bombarded by tiny needles, punishing him for being the only physically unscathed member of SG-1.


Wrapped in a towel, he set the alarm for four hours, not believing that he'd sleep, but knowing damn well Fraiser wouldn't let him step one foot back into her place of business unless he looked semi-normal.


The alarm woke him and he sat up, totally disorientated, unsure if he was on Earth or some other place hundreds of light years away. He scrubbed his face. He needed coffee. A piss. And a shave.

Jack peed then dialed the infirmary while he waited for the coffee to brew.

"Infirmary. Doctor Fraiser."

"Doc, it's O'Neill—"

"Before we take this conversation any further, have you followed any of my orders?"

"Each one to the letter."

"I'm taking you on your honor here, sir."

Jack gave a mock Boy Scout salute even though the doc couldn't see him. "Scout's Honor."

There was relief in her laughter.

"Sound's like good news."

"Colonel Carter is sitting up in bed digging into a bowl of Jell-O... trying to bribe Teal'c into getting her—Do not listen to her, Teal'c..."


"Feeling no pain. Playing with his applesauce. He got to Nyan before I could and there's a book of massive size on the food tray, though I'm not sure he'll be able to focus long enough to—"

"So he's basically fine? Everyone is—"

"Fine. Honest, Colonel. Stiff, sore and stitched, with more than a few days' worth of downtime and physiotherapy headed their way, but fine."


TV was boring, and Jack flipped through stations at lightning speed before giving up and settling on CNN. Besides, Daniel was much more entertaining as he fought sleep, his head bobbing up and down like a marionette. One, two, three—bob, bob—head jerk—eyes opening for all of maybe ten seconds before the cycle would begin again... one, two, three..." Daniel," he said softly, shaking his uninjured leg. "Just go to sleep. It's okay."

" 'Kay." Daniel didn't even lie down; he just dropped his head on the back of the couch, closed his eyes and was snoring within minutes.


Two hours later, still snoring, Daniel was now as exciting as the line up on TV and Jack was bored. The dreariness of the damp summer day was eating into his ability to focus so he began to wander through the house, settling in the kitchen with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a glass of milk and the overflowing basket from the back of the counter. Magazines and flyers, odds and ends, Jack ate his sandwich with one hand and made two piles with the other. Keep and throw out.

By the time he finished the sandwich and the milk, he had two impressive piles, the throw out pile just slightly larger than the keep pile. Cautiously, Jack reached into the basket and felt all around, breathing a sigh of relief when his fingers came in contact with only one more item. For a time, he'd wondered if this was a magical basket from the same manufacturer of Mary Poppins’ carpetbag. Bottomless.

A manila envelope. Jack peeked inside, then put his dish and cup in the sink, giving himself more counter space so he could slide the contents onto the flat surface. At first he was taken aback, but then he couldn't help smiling back at the picture of a smiling, six-year-old Daniel staring up at him. Jack leafed through the pictures, spreading them out, touching each one. Some he remembered with sparkling clarity, and others weren't even a memory, just a recalled conversation with his mother. There were a few somber ones, where the pain of Daniel's missing team and missing life transcended the Kodak moment. He turned those over, then tossed them back into the basket.

Even though Jack knew it was his imagination, one or two of the photos tore through his heart over the resemblance between Daniel and Charlie. Impossible. Jack knew it, aware that it was more a trick of lighting and his faded memories, but because his gaze kept sliding to those particular pictures, Jack threw them into the basket with the others.

Lining the rest of the pictures along the counter, one right after the other, they made an impressive showing. He studied them as he would study and assess a queue of new recruits, walking up and down the lineup.

One right after the other, Daniel was smiling, laughing. And in this one, so was he. And Carter. And in this trophy picture that Daniel had been so proud of, there was the barest hint of a smile on Teal'c's face. Smile after smile. He'd forgotten. Actually he'd allowed himself to forget. He allowed Daniel to forget, and Jack felt more than a twinge of guilt.


"Coming." Jack scooped up the pictures like a deck of playing cards and slipped them back into the envelope.

"I think I'm stuck in this position... ow... ow... ow."

Jack dropped the envelope over the discarded pictures then stuck the basket out of Daniel's line of sight. The top of the fridge worked well, because with Daniel on crutches there was no way he was going to be—

"Jack..." His name came out on the crest of an impatient whine. "Could you bring me a Flexoril or two and a bottle of water so I don't resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame when I try to stand on these stupid crutches?"

Jack grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge for Daniel, a beer for himself, then stuck the bottle of muscle relaxants into his pocket. The pills wouldn't make Daniel happy, though they'd give him a nice stupid smile on his face... but for a true smile, Jack had an idea or two up his sleeve, and if they didn't work, there was always Plan B.


Daniel stood looking through the doors into his overgrown backyard. He was all pouty and full of adult indignation as he leaned heavily on his cane. Carter stood to his right, her face a mirror image of Daniel's. No cane for her, his 2IC's right arm was encased in a plaster cast, which she was using to tap against the glass.

"How much can it rain?"

"Funny," Jack said standing between the two of them. "Noah asked the same thing."

"No offense, sir," Carter said, "I don't find that funny."

"Well, why not?" Jack griped, putting his arm around the two of them. "It's not like you and Daniel can go traipsing through the greenery, go swimming, play basketball—"

"I believe now would be a good time for you to be quiet, O'Neill."

"No truer words were ever spoken, Teal'c, thank you."

"Everyone's a critic." He pulled them closer. "Okay, so it's raining."

Carter and Daniel just gazed at him.

"A lot. It's raining a lot, but look on the bright side."

"What bright side, Jack?"

"You and Carter are up and around. You're no longer are on crutches, and Carter's cast has been minimized. Look, even her fingers are normal sized. Those are good things. Great things."

"It's been raining. It's been raining since we got out of the infirmary. My backyard resembles a rainforest. My sinuses are killing me."

"My cast is still cumbersome, I can't even go to the—"

"Is this going to be TMI for me, Carter?"

She sighed. "Probably."

"Then stop, okay? There are just certain things that I would prefer to not have a visual of. You know, T, I think the gloomy twins need some cheering up, don't you agree?"

"Gloomy twins?"

"Daniel. Daniel. Daniel, surely you've heard of the Doublemint Twins, the Bobbsey Twins... you and Carter - the Gloomy Twins."


"You've got a warped sense of humor, Jack."

"Not humor, Daniel." He handed his shoes to the guy behind the counter, pointing at Carter and Daniel to do the same, winking at Teal'c when he dropped his size sixteen boots next to Jack's shoes, dwarfing them. "A different way to spend the day. Pass the time... are you going to hand this nice young gentleman your shoes?"

"I'm using a cane, in case you haven't noticed."

Carter waved her cast at him. "Me. Cast. Bowling. Impossible."

Jack blinked at Carter. "Are you speaking in one word sentences so I'll understand you better?"

"If the shoe fits..."

"My shoes are on the counter... while you two..." Jack snapped his fingers. "I know. We can get bumpers if you and Daniel feel you'd have better odds."

"Better odds... are you challenging us?"

"I believe he is, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel toed off his shoes, then used the cane to put them up on the counter. "Deal me in."

The kid clapped his hands then gave Teal's a two-finger pistol point. "I thought you looked familiar." He pointed over his shoulder. "You're the perfect game guy. Wait until I let the manager—"

"That will not be necessary." Teal'c placed his hand over the phone the young guy had picked up.

Jack moved Teal'c's hand off the phone and onto the counter. "He likes to remain anonymous; he's had problems with a stalker after his appearance on the Oprah show... you know how it is."


Jack stood directly behind Daniel.

"I don't need your help."

Jack snorted, then tapped Daniel's left hand, which held the bowling ball. "I know, but what other situation would allow me to be glued to your ass in a public place without arousing suspicion."

Daniel chuckled. "So this is the real reason we're bowling?"

"No, of course not," Jack said, grabbing Daniel's arm and pulling back, then letting go.

Daniel's swing built up momentum.

"You gotta let go," Jack whispered in his ear.

Daniel laughed. "Gonna be a gutter ball."

"Have faith."

"I'm bowling left handed. I'm not left handed."

"Speaking from experience, I'd say you're ambidextrous."

"Still gonna be a gutter ball."

"Nope," Jack said. He took Daniel's arm and pulled back farther. "You gotta let go."

The ball dropped from Daniel's hand with a thud. "Doesn't look promising."

Jack hooted when Daniel's ball knocked down nine pins.


"Way to go, Sam." Daniel gently high-fived her casted arm with his cane.

"I don't think that should count, you stepped over the line."

"She did not."

"Oh, come on, Daniel, she was halfway down the alley, she could've kicked the pins over with her feet."

Jack glanced up at the big "X" in the fifth frame of the box by Carter's name and sneered. "Did you rig the machine? Turn off some lights or something... because, you know..."

"It's your turn, Jack, just bowl and stop being a sore loser."

Jack stomped up to the carousel and stuck his fingers in his bowling ball. "I'm not being a sore loser... I mean, look at Teal'c's score... am I being a sore loser?" He rotated. "Where's T?"

"Buying some food. He loved the cheese fries last time we were here and—"

"Fries? Damn... makes your fingers all greasy and—"

"Permission to speak freely?

"We're in a bowling alley, Carter, of course."

"Just bowl, sir."


Teal'c stood and glared at the two lone remaining pins.

"I told you not to eat the fries before bowling your frame."

Teal'c continued to stare at the pins at the end of the lane. "I did not believe that such a food could cause something like this. I apologize for my mistrust."

"Ignore the Colonel, Teal'c." Carter banged Jack's knee with her cast, smiling when he rubbed the affected area. "You still have another chance... look here's your—"

"I have never bowled the second half of a frame."

"There's always a first time for everything, T."

"Shut up, Jack." Daniel sat at the desk, running his fingers along the empty bottom of the French fry cardboard holder. "Give the man a little support."


Teal'c's last two pins had fallen down out of fear and they finished the game, Daniel and Carter losing by a wide margin. They'd begun a second and were two frames into it when Teal'c caught Jack's eye. There was no missing that Daniel's limp was more pronounced as he made his way up to the starting point.

"Food break," Jack shouted. "I'm hungry." He buzzed for the waitress before anyone could object.


Daniel was laughing and Carter was echoing his laughter as Teal'c signed autographs for both the manager and the kid behind the desk.

"I'm honored that you decided to grace our bowling lanes with your presence again." The manager stuck out his hand. "All games for you and your friends are on the house."

With disdain, Teal'c gazed at his hand and the manager dropped it embarrassed. "We do not wish to bowl on the house. We wish to bowl in this building."

Daniel literally snorted, his sense of humor prodded by the three empties and the half-filled bottle of beer still in his hand. Carter buried her laughter in Daniel's bicep.

Jack slapped Teal'c on the back, enjoying Daniel and Carter's enjoyment. "You'll have to excuse our friend, Mr. Madison."

"Thomas," was the quick reply. "Tom to my friends."

"Tom," Jack said with a smile. "My friend here has a very different brand of humor."

"Oh... no problem." The manager slung his arm around the kid from the counter. "Let's leave them to their food and drinks... and remember, everything is—"

"On top of the building," Teal'c replied with smug assurance.

Carter and Daniel dissolved into peals of laughter and Jack gave Teal'c a thumb's up. Teal'c bowed in return with a smile that only those closest to him would recognize as such.


Jack paced the floor outside the infirmary examination room. He had been pacing inside, but Daniel had thrown him out long before Fraiser would. Admittedly, part of his need to hover had been caused but a huge sense of guilt over Daniel's fall coming out of the bowling alley. The simple trip had prolonged his healing by two more weeks, give or take a few days. Carter had returned to limited duty ten days ago, restricted only from missions. Daniel had been on light duty after Fraiser had caught him red-handed standing on a stool trying to reach a book.

Okay, the stumble over the curb at the bowling alley parking lot might have been Jack's fault, but he'd had no hand in the standing on the stool stupidity. Daniel should be very thankful it was the doc who'd caught him - in the visual sense, not the physical sense - and not Jack, because Jack would've killed him.

It had been a long July, with record rainfalls and only intermittent rays of sunshine. Two teammates injured. SG-1 grounded. Yeah, Jack couldn't wait to rip the month of July off the Simpson calendar in his office. It was a done deal. Today was August first. The sun was shining. Daniel was in there with Fraiser, his PT reports and his "Little Engine that Could" attitude, no cane, discussing his ability to return to work.

Jack paced. Prayed. Paced. Prayed and paced at the same time, checking his watch as he passed the infirmary door. His need to hover was built into his personality, it was part of Jack's genetic makeup and being forced to be outside the discussion and decision-making was driving him crazy. He peeked at his watch again, even though he'd made a deal with himself that he wouldn't look for at least ten minutes.

He'd requested a personal day today and Hammond had granted it. Jack knew that if Fraiser put a kibosh on Daniel return to work he'd need Jack's presence, no matter how much Daniel adamantly would deny the need. And if Fraiser gave him the okay, there'd be cause for celebration.


The door opened and Fraiser stepped into the hallway, located Jack and crooked her finger at him. Her expression was unreadable, so Jack tried to school his anxiety, held his head up high, shoved his hands into his pockets and gave the doctor a short nod.

She pointed to her office and Jack lead the way, working up his repertoire of sympathetic responses to comfort Daniel. He sat in one of the chairs. Fraiser sat behind her desk and Jack tried not to stare at the empty chair to his right.

"Daniel's getting dressed," Fraiser said, filling in the blanks.

"As his commanding officer..." Jack began.

She patted the chart in front of her. "Daniel's fine."

"You can share his medical condition—"

"He can return to duty tomorrow and full active duty, barring any chair standing or drunken curb tripping, by next week."

"Does that mean—"

"If you would keep quiet and listen to Janet, what she's saying is that I'm fine."

Jack's glance bounced from Fraiser to Daniel. "Fine?"

"Fine," they answered simultaneously. "Although Doctor Adler did an amazing job, the scarring is extensive and if Daniel wants, we can talk about plastic surgery in—"

Jack had seen the scar and extensive was too nice of word for the puckering left behind by the hundreds of stitches that had been necessary to repair the damage to his leg.

"No," Daniel said, rubbing his thigh. "No one I need to impress."

Jack fingered the scar on his eyebrow. "Maybe I should..."

Fraiser gave a ladylike cough. "Go. Both of you. I have patients who need me."


Daniel headed towards his office, but Jack grabbed his collar. "Not that way."

"But I—"

"July sucked and I thought we'd start this month off right by going to celebrate before coming to work becomes routine again."

Daniel looked around, confused. "This is the SGC, when is work here ever routine?"

"Be quiet, I'm on a roll."

Arms folded, Daniel leaned against the wall. "Go for it."

"We're off today. Both of us. Fraiser says you're to start tomorrow and Hammond signed off on my personal day, so come on."

Daniel gazed longingly at the elevator which would have taken him to his office. "No. I have too much work to—"

Jack drew up his finger. "Eh! Fraiser said tomorrow, do not push your luck."

"Yes, Jack," Daniel sighed, resigned to his fate.

"Good, because we're going for a ride. Just me and you."

Daniel hesitated when Jack tried to grab his arm. "Isn't that what the Mafia guys say just before they kill the poor unsuspecting fellow? Let's go for a ride?"


Jack leaned against the Avalanche and gazed at Daniel as he turned his face into the sun.

"Feels good?"

Daniel peeled his shirt off and tied it around his waist. "Damn straight it does."

Jack reached into the backseat and took out his carryall then, with a nod towards the path, he began to walk.

Silently, they traversed the dirt path, Jack straining his neck in all directions.

"Garden of the Gods... pretty amazing," Daniel asked softly.

"With all the trees and the boulders, it almost feels like we're—"

"I know." Daniel's hands skimmed his as they walked side by side, their shoulders almost touching. "Rose found this place when I was—" Daniel cleared his throat. "I thought it was overwhelming because I was... smaller, but even now as an adult, I have to admit that it's pretty damn impressive."

"And it's in our own back yard, so to speak."

"Yeah." Daniel smiled, then bumped his shoulder.

In response he traced his fingers along Daniel's thigh, right along the scar line. "Holding up okay?"

"Beautiful day. Beautiful place—"

"If you call me beautiful," Jack warned, "I'm going to leave you here."

"Wouldn't think of it." Daniel shuddered. "Was going to say beautiful place. Beautiful day..." Daniel laughed at Jack's glare. "I can't help but feel fine."


The sun was directly overhead, and Jack was flagging. He was hot, hungry and thirsty, and could have jumped for joy when they entered the deserted picnic area.

"I'm going to unpack... why don't you..." Daniel was already wandering, checking out the surrounding landscape. Jack pulled the food from his carryall, admiring Daniel's ass while Daniel admired the view. "Lunch," Jack called.

"I'm starving." Daniel grabbed a sandwich and peeled back the top slice of bread. "Peanut butter?"

"Yup. Tastes good and good for you." Jack leaned over. "You've got grape jelly." Jack waved the sandwich he held in his hand. "This one’s with fluff. Carter said you liked fluff."

"Trade you half my jelly for half your Fluff."



Daniel finished his sandwich then reached towards Jack's.


"You ate both bags of chips."

"You didn't want any chips."

"Chips and peanut butter doesn't go."

"So, you're saying that I had your permission to eat both bags of chips."


"So if you gave me permission to eat both bags of chips, why should what used to be your bag of chips even play a part in this conversation."

"So I can't have the rest of your sandwich?"

"Didn't I already say no?"

"I wasn't listening."


"So I can take the..."

"Yes. Just take it."

"Are you sure?"

Jack growled in frustration.


They headed back. For no other reason than because the day was stretching on into early afternoon and Jack was greedy, thinking dinner, shower, and naked Daniel.

Daniel stopped before the end of the trail and entered the tree line, Jack following after a quick glance at this watch. He was giving Daniel twenty minutes to wander from the beaten path before throwing him over his shoulder and carrying him back to civilization. No way was Daniel going to go to archeological on him, not when Jack had all these great visuals.

Daniel stopped suddenly, grabbing onto the nearest tree when Jack nearly bowled him over.

"Hey," he said, putting a steadying hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"Rose told you about this place?" For a moment, Daniel rested his head on Jack's hand.

And for a moment, Jack rubbed his thumb along the cheek resting on his hand. "It made you happy."

"I had wanted to bring you here." Daniel turned to face Jack. "And I forgot all about this place until just now. Kinda sad."

"No," Jack said. "Memories are like that. Popping up when you least expect them."

"Not all memories are good."

Jack offered a half smile. "This is me you're talking to, Daniel, owner of 'skeletons in the closet are us'."

"I still get nightmares."

"You share my bed a number of nights, I know," he whispered. "What I don't know is what the hell is really on your mind."

Daniel snorted. "Me neither."

"Want to know what's on mine?"

Daniel lifted his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Sure, why not."







"Hmmm? I would think you'd be a little more impressed."

"All talk and no action. Show. Don't tell."

"I can do that."

"Words. Just words, Jack."

"What? The civilian would like some action?"

"Yes, he would."


Jack found it weeks later while cleaning out his desk. Admittedly, it was a stupid thing to do, cleaning out his desk. But it was either that or do the paperwork in his inbox, and cleaning, while he waited until it was time to go out for dinner, was the least of two evils. He checked his watch again. Carter and Daniel were filling in scientific and linguistic blanks to SG-10 during their briefing with Hammond. And Teal'c? Teal'c should just about be finishing with his recruit training on 'Know your Jaffa 101'. Jack patted his growling stomach. "Soon," he promised.

It was buried at the bottom of his left hand office drawer, under the bag of pretzels he'd been searching for to quiet his stomach. There, in the drawer he had to jiggle to open, the one where he kept his yoyo, Tums, Tylenol, Game Boy, electric razor and two bottles of airline-sized Jack Daniel, just because. The drawer he thought only he knew how to open.

It was a large sized manila envelope with his name written in what appeared to be crayon, in a very familiar scribble. He removed the envelope and the bag of pretzels, clearing a space on his desk with his elbow. First he opened the bag and popped two semi-stale pretzel nuggets into his mouth to silence his protesting stomach, then he opened the envelope.

It contained a book, made of construction paper, bound along the left hand side. Jack flipped back the cover. Because of the designs in the corner of the pages, Jack knew this was a recent addition to his desk. These crayon drawings were too intricate; they were the handiwork of an adult Daniel. And each sketch was the border for a picture.

Jack popped a handful of nuggets into his mouth and began to slowly turn the pages. These were different than the handful of pictures Jack kept haphazardly tossed in a basket. These were pictures arranged to tell a story. Daniel's story in Jack's life.

Many of the photos in the beginning were familiar. Daniel with long hair. Him with brown hair. There was a look of sad determination in Daniel's eyes that deepened as Jack turned the pages, until Sha're was gone, then they became emotionless, the pain too much to even register on film. Jack was more than familiar with that type of pain. He'd lived it. Experienced it. Seen it in his own reflection. He didn't need words to know what the linguist was trying to say. Daniel had lived without hope and happiness, covering it up, burying it with work. Those were the photos with the harder edge. Shot in darkness, a grim-faced Daniel, unsmiling. Images taken in his office. Offworld. Sha're was lost. The baby he'd given up. Jack felt a stab of guilt, even now, years later, at the hopelessness he hadn't seen at the time.

He wanted to skip those pages, the pictures that held what Jack referred to as, the 'dark times'; the year when his own confusion about Daniel colored his ability to be his friend. Jack hated himself in these photos. He was nauseated at the literal physical distance between the two of them. The pictures were visual reminders that Teal'c and Carter had served as buffers not only on missions, but on Earth. The Jack in these photos was a mirror image of the Jack from the original Abydos mission. A hard-assed colonel.

The sketches around those pictures were as telling the photos themselves. Cracked mirrors. Broken pencils. Storm clouds. Tornadoes. Staff weapons. Guns. Intricately detailed crayon drawings. "I'm sorry." Jack spoke to the last picture on this page, his fingers tracing Daniel's averted face. Better late than never to make an apology to Daniel.

The façade had fallen after SG-1's enforced exile on the Pleasure Palace planet. There was nothing like seeing the man you're trying to deny you're in love with standing on the wrong side of his balcony ready to jump. Made Jack reexamine his priorities. And reexamine them. Three weeks' worth of reexamination. Add to that forty-eight hours after their return to Earth for Jack to muster up enough courage to pull his head out of his ass and approach Daniel on the proverbial bended knee.

His stomach growled again. Louder this time, and in quick succession Jack popped three nuggets into his mouth, then washed them down with a mouthful of warm soda from the can which had been sitting on his desk for a day or two... or three.

Their smiles in the following images were tentative, but the space between them had disappeared, Carter and Teal'c flanking Jack and Daniel. Jack laughed out loud at the borders Daniel had drawn. These storm clouds had rays of sunshine peeking over the top. Little smiley faces. Cartoon style guns with cryptic messages like 'gotcha' written on tiny white flags hanging from a smoking barrel.

The smiles broadened as Jack turned the page. Pictures taken at barbeques were edged with perfectly replicated ketchup bottles. Beer. Smoldering steaks. Fraiser and Cassie were photo hounds, and Jack was pretty damn sure most of the pictures on Earth came from them.


Birthdays. Holidays. In one or two of the photos, Jack and Daniel were actually caught red handed—captured forever as seen through the lens of a camera. Glances that shouted their relationship from the mountaintop. Don't ask, don't tell should've been emblazoned on their shirts. Daniel had sensed it also, which accounted for the various sized signposts with the words 'hear, see and speak no evil' peppering the page.

Then his mother appeared, stiff and formal at first, warming up towards the end of these grouping of pictures. Taken when Jack had returned home from rehab, still on crutches, when he himself had yet to warm up to the woman Daniel had invited back into Jack's life.

And there was Lumpy. The photos from this section were a mixture of stills from the video Daniel had been watching, and photos they'd all taken. There were no borders around the pictures, no elaborately drawn images tucked into the corners of the construction paper, save for the photos stuck on the construction paper, these pages were blank. Daniel was speaking volumes by his lack of etchings; and while Daniel's smile in the photos was wide and welcoming, Jack saw what Daniel had seen, the shroud of unhappiness covering everyone.

Then Daniel had been ‘cured’, and the shroud lifted for a long time, but in exchange, the smiles lessened and the weight of the universe appeared to rest on their shoulders. They looked older, but not wiser. Tired and haggard; their battles were grinding their stamina to nothing. Thankfully, these photos were few in number, each one surrounded by glyphs. And words written in an unfamiliar language. These pages held no blank spaces. No place for their lives to fit in around the SGC. Depressing and stifling, Jack hurried to the next page.

A ray of sunshine. A breath of fresh air. Daniel was a child. A six-year-old child. Tow headed, bespectacled, freckled little kid. Pictures that Jack had never seen. It wasn't only the abandonment with which Daniel smiled, it was the joy captured on Jack's face. On Teal'c's face. On Carter's. On his mother's. The weight of the galaxy had been lifted, and damn it, it showed. It was as if in Daniel's youth, they'd found the answers. Crazy, Jack knew, but there was no other way to describe the pages of pictures. The drawings around the pictures flowed onto the page, like a wave of happiness.

He studied those pages more than once. Finding comfort in remembering how it felt to comfort a child.

There were only a few pages left, and Jack turned the pages slowly. Compared to the other photos in this book, these were nothing special, but it was the sketches that told the story. A mixture of all the work the book had contained. Daniel had plucked bits and pieces of their story and reproduced them here. A conglomeration. A collage of memories.

His desk phone rang just as Jack was reaching the end and he glared at the offending object, marking his place in the construction photo album with a pretzel. "O'Neill."



Jack could just picture the frustrated eye roll he'd be sharing with Carter over their annoying commanding officer. "We're finished."

"It's about time. My stomach's growling and I'm so bored I was cleaning out my desk."

"That's nice," Daniel said, really not paying any attention to whatever Jack was saying. "Sam's already down in the locker room. I'm going to pick up Teal'c and change into civvies. Meet us by the locker room in about fifteen minutes?"

Jack gazed at the book, touched the cover. "Make it twenty."

"I thought you were hungry."

"I was... I am... I just want to clean up the mess I've made of my desk."


Jack threw back his head and laughed out loud at the last grouping of pictures. Jack's bathroom. His retiled, refurbished, revamped bathroom. Lots of good memories in there, for sure.

At the very bottom of the page, written in Ancient Latin were Daniel's closing remarks, and it took Jack a few seconds to pull out and dust off the lessons from all those loops. His fingers traced the words as he translated.

'Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.'

Jack tossed the bag of stale pretzels into the garbage, then followed it up with the soda. He swept the remainder of the items back into his opened drawers. Carefully, he fitted the photo album back into the manila envelope, holding it against his heart as he smoothed it down, then reverently replaced it back where it belonged. He stood, snagged his jacket from the back of his chair and flicked off the light on the way out. It was time to head to the locker room and pick up his team, have dinner, a few drinks, share a few laughs and produce a whole bunch new memories.


The End!

Authors' Comments:

The foundation for Thanks for the Memories goes part and parcel to Deej who won a story written by me in the Moonridge Auction. Based on the amount of time it has taken me to finish this monster, I now believe she is one of the most patient people I've ever encountered. Thank you for your faith.

There aren't enough thanks for JoaG who stayed by my side and kept me "on target" when I began to drift. She is my strength, my teacher, my guide and more importantly, my friend. The fandom, my stories and my life is enhanced by her presence, wisdom and laughter.

To the slew of people who gave of their time to read these three hundred plus pages, a thousand thank yous. Sallye and Annie, your eagle eyes, patience, friendship and enthusiasm was appreciated more than you can imagine. Wilma, once again, thank you for breathing life into my words. Babs, thank you for allowing me to bring the Box of Dreams into this universe.

Many thanks and hugs to the sisters of my heart for always keeping an eye on my six and a hand on my shoulder.

Judy… for your belief and trust.

If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:

"Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose" are the words of Kevin Arnold.


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L.L. Bean
Since 13 February 2008