Wayward Son - Sine Qua Non by devra and JoaG

Authors' Notes: This is a Teen Daniel story. If this isn't your cup of tea, you may leave now and not say that you weren't warned.

Also, yes, it's AU, so don't rely on canon to keep you on the straight and narrow :) Characters may make cameo appearances in odd places where they didn't normally belong.



"You know this stuff already." Alexandria, lying prone on the couch opposite Daniel, languidly kicked her feet back and forth in the air. "Can't we go do something?"

Daniel gave her a quick glance and buried his nose once again in the library book on ancient civilizations. "I'm nearly done. This is really interesting. Did you know that—"

"Daniel, I didn't come over to study. I came over because we have a day off thanks to it being Superintendent's Day. A day off. From school. So why are you still studying?"

It took a few seconds for Alexandria's words to sink in, and Daniel replied a noncommittal, "Hmmm?" while hurriedly trying to finish reading the last chapter. He turned the page, intent on the words and the history they told when he felt something tug at his scalp. His hair, pulled up neatly in a ponytail, cascaded across his face, falling into his eyes.

Pushing a hand through his hair, he came face to face with Alexandria's smiling face. He'd never heard her cross the living room to kneel before him on the floor. She waved the elastic he'd used to tie back his hair in front of his nose. He made a grab for it and she pulled it away, out of reach.

"Hey, give it back."

"Make me." She stood and danced backwards, waving the elastic.

With a sigh, Daniel shoved his hair behind his ears and returned to his book. Just two more pages; couldn't she let him read just two more pages so he could start working on his essay?

He felt a finger slowly run up the length of his arm, and he thought maybe if he ignored her, she'd settle down and leave him be for a little while.

The fingers roamed up to his shoulder and then made a beeline for his ribs, tickling him. He squirmed, trying to escape. "Quit it."

Then she was there in his face, her long hair falling forward like a curtain, shutting out the world around them. He felt her hand on his chest and suddenly his breath constricted. Her lips were so close he could smell the berry-flavored lip-gloss she'd used. He stared into her eyes as she descended just enough for her lips to touch his for a second before pulling back again.

"Tease," he whined.

"Put the book away and we'll see how true that is." She kissed him fully on the lips then pulled back. He raised his head, trying to follow, groaning as she stood up and tugged on his hand.

"Just let me finish this chapter—"

"You said that an hour ago."

"And I'd have finished already if you didn't keep interrupting."

"I keep interrupting because I don't want to be cooped up in the house. It's too nice a day; let's go do something." She tugged on his hand again.

"We are doing something—" He licked his lips, tasting her lip-gloss. "Or we were—"

"You wish."

Daniel forced himself not to give in to the temptation of rolling his eyes.

"Let's go out. I've got my mom's van and it's just sitting in the driveway. We could go to the zoo. Or go hiking, or—"

"Or we could finish studying—"

"Fine." She let him go and snatched up her jacket. "You study. I'm going to go have some fun."

"Wait." Daniel hurriedly put his book aside and rushed to grab her arm. "I'm sorry." When she looked at him, sulking, he pushed back her hair from her face and smiled slowly. Sometimes he still couldn't understand what she saw in him. "What would you like to do?"

"Don't force yourself on my account."

"I know, I know, I'm an idiot sometimes. Forgive me?"

"I don't know. You'll have to make it up to me first." Her lips stretched slowly, sensuously, into a smile. "How about we go for a drive?"

"Okay." Daniel went to the closet to get his jacket. "Where do you want to go?"

"How about the trails?"

Sliding an arm into the jacket's sleeve, Daniel frowned. "What trails?"

"Bike trails."

A lump formed in the pit of his stomach. "I'm not allowed to take the motorbike out alone—"

"Hey, and what am I? Chopped liver? You won't be alone. Besides, you've got two bikes—"

"No. I'm not taking the bikes without Dad's permission—"

"Fine. See you later."


Daniel adjusted his helmet as Alexandria settled behind him on the bike's seat.

"This would be so much easier if you'd taken your dad's bike as well."

"I'm going to be in trouble as it is if my dad gets wind of this." Daniel looked at the muddy trail before him and sighed. "I'm not looking for a death wish."

"Hey, it'll be fun." She leaned forward and placed her arms around his waist.

He pushed back the sheer pleasure of her touch and concentrated on the trail. This would be difficult enough with just him on the bike. With her added weight, maneuverability would be almost nil. This hadn't been a good idea to begin with; he just realized how really bad an idea it was. He undid the strap to his helmet and shook his head.

"This is stupid. The trail's too slick with all the rain we've gotten."

"What? You can't handle a little mud? I thought you wanted to learn how to drive. Are you going to stay home when you get your license because it's snowing outside and the roads are slippery?"

He straightened his spine at the derisive comment. He felt Alexandria settle against his back. "Hold on." He snapped the strap on his helmet, gunned the motor, and slowly started down the trail.

The trail was as bad as he thought, but despite his sweaty palms and racing heart, he managed a somewhat steady start. The bike was slow in responding but he quickly learned to compensate. He began to gain confidence, partly from his memories and partly because he realized he loved the thrill. Alexandria squealed as they slid nearly out of control as he raced down an embankment and gunned the engine to make it up the next hill. Her laugher rang out over the sound of the engine and he grinned. Then he was heading back down and he concentrated on keeping the bike on the path. The rear wheel kept sliding away from him and he fought for control as they hit the bottom. He slowed down, breathing hard, his teeth aching from the chilly wind because of his perpetual grin.

He gunned the engine again, starting up the trail once more when Alexandria's hands slid underneath his jacket. Her fingers were cold as she grabbed his ribs. Ticklish, he jerked both from the contact and the chill. Too late, the front wheel veered towards the right and he was unable to pull it back onto the trail. He yelled, and then he was flying over the handlebars, Alexandria's screams louder than the sound of the racing engine.


"Are you sure you're okay?" Reluctant to step out of the van, Daniel glanced at Alexandria, who was hunched over the wheel.

"I'm fine."

Daniel didn't think she was telling him the truth. Her face was pale and she was sweating.

"Maybe we should go to the Emergency—"

"No! I'm okay. Just cuts and bruises."

"But you don't look okay."

"Hey, have you looked in a mirror?"

Both of them were covered in mud. They'd been splattered from the trail ride but their tumble down the embankment had literally soaked them in the stuff.

Shaking his head, Daniel opened the door and slowly slid out of the van, favoring his left leg and ribs. Although the skin on his leg hadn't been broken, he had a huge bruise on his shin and it was throbbing horribly, and he could barely sit up straight without his side feeling like it was being torn apart. The thirty-minute ride from the park had also caused him to stiffen up.

He opened the back doors and with a grimace, pulled the dented bike from the back of the van as Alexandria, still hunched over with an arm around her ribs, came to stand next to him. "Do you think it can be fixed?"

"Yeah. I'm sure Sam can fix it but it doesn't matter. I'll be my dad's age by the time he lets me ride it again."

"Daniel, I'm sorry." Tears welled up and Daniel immediately leaned the bike against the cement wall as he took Alexandria into his arms.

"It wasn't your fault."

"I shouldn't have forced you to do this—"

"Hey." He rubbed a streak of mud from her cheek. "You didn't force me to do anything."

"Yes, I did. We should have turned around when you wanted to."

"Well, I'm glad we didn't. I enjoyed that." He laughed as he leaned his chin against the top of her head. "Okay, maybe not the losing control and falling off the bike. But the thrill of it all, it was awesome! And you can't tell me you didn't like—"

Daniel broke off as Alexandria shoved at him and stumbled away, retching loudly. Instinctively, he jumped back as she vomited, fighting down the rising bile as the sight and sounds sickened him.

"Oh God," she moaned when she finally stopped. "Oh God, Daniel, it hurts."

"Alexandria?" His heart pounding, he took a step towards her, ignoring his own pain as she began to cry.

"It hurts."

With one hand fumbling in his pocket for his cell phone, Daniel knelt next to her as she fell against him, trembling. He hit speed dial and called his grandmother.

"Grandma? Grandma, it's Alexandria. I think she's hurt. I think she's hurt bad."


"Where is he?" Ignoring everyone in the waiting room, Jack made a beeline for his mother.

"He's getting an X-ray. I was sitting inside but they told me I had to wait here until..." Her voice trailed off and she absently began to shred the tissue clenched between her hands.

Jack dropped into the empty chair to her right and covered her hands with his. "How bad is he hurt?"

She cleared her throat, sat up straighter and forced a wobbly smile. "An impressive array of scrapes. The doctor was worried about his right leg and the bruising on his ribcage. That's what the X-rays are for. It's Alexandria I'm worried about."

Jack took a deep breath, trying to relax. Daniel was okay. Daniel was going to be fine. He tried to ignore the nausea that had gripped him from the moment he'd heard about the accident.

"What's wrong with her?"

"The doctors say she probably has internal injuries. From what I was able to pry from a nurse, they're still waiting for her parents to arrive so they can give permission for testing to see how bad it is."

Jack took another deep breath and let his head fall back against the wall. "I can't believe Daniel was stupid enough to take the bike out without permission. He could have broken his neck."

"Mrs. O'Neill?"

Rose stood and pulled Jack up with her. "Come on."

Jack kept his eyes front and center, following the nurse as she led them through the labyrinth of curtained-off cubicles. Daniel's voice was raised in agitation and Jack knew exactly which cubicle contained his son even before she snicked back the curtain.

Daniel already was in the process of sliding off the gurney and based from the doctor's expression, who looked just a few years older than Daniel, it wasn't something that he was recommending.

"Daniel, please, just..." The doctor glanced at Rose and Jack.

Daniel was a mess, even through the filth. Areas around cuts and scrapes had been cleaned, but every other exposed bit of skin was caked with mud. He was wearing a scrub top that had slipped off his narrow shoulders and the right leg of his jeans had seen better days, but it was the arm he had tucked against his rib cage that concerned Jack. "Alexandria? Where's..." He was in pain and thoroughly annoyed at his limitations. "Dad. Grandma," he gasped, the arm tightening around with the effort of speech. "Please..."

"Oh, Mrs. O'Neill."

"Dr. Guza. This is my son, Jonathan O'Neill, Daniel's father."

"Mr. O'Neill?"

Not bothering to take the trouble to correct the doctor, Jack simply nodded.

The doctor picked up the clipboard from the end of the bed, skimmed it, then turned his attention back to them. "Based on the results of the X-ray and physical examination, there's no indication of a break to either the leg or ribs. However, Daniel's left leg is pretty bruised so he's to stay off that leg as much as possible for at least a week."

The doctor turned a few pages on the clipboard. "The rib injury is a little more complicated and a bit more painful. Besides the bruising to the chest area, Daniel also incurred a strain to the intercostal muscles. Nothing to be done about that except rest, and painkillers. It'll clear up in a few weeks." The doctor handed Jack the clipboard, using a pen to point to the bottom of a yellow sheet. "I just need your signature here and here."

Jack signed, his gaze focused only on the sheet in front of him.

The doctor tore off a sheet and handed it to Jack. "At the bottom are Daniel's discharge instructions. If he's in extreme pain, fever—"

"We know the drill, Doctor." Jack folded the piece of paper, shoved it in his back pocket then stuck out his hand for the doctor to shake.

The doctor took Jack's hand. "Your son's a very lucky boy."

Jack stole a glance at his son who, at the moment, looked anything but lucky. "Yes, he is."

"The nurse will be back in a minute with a dose of antibiotics and pain killers before Daniel's discharged."

"I don't want anything," Daniel hissed. "I just want to know—"

The nurse appeared with a white medicine cup in one hand and a cup of water in the other. Daniel shot Jack a look but remained silent, taking the medication without protest.

Jack held on until the doctor and nurse were out of sight. And as much as it killed him, he kept quiet a little longer, allowing his mother to fuss and muss over Daniel. He captured his mother's attention and nodded and she stepped to the side. Jack assessed his son, forcing his face into neutral. "Are you ready to leave?"

"Where's Alexandria?" Daniel's gaze bounced between Jack and his mother.

There was no punishment Jack could inflict on Daniel that was worse than the heartache and guilt his son was obviously experiencing, and he allowed himself to melt a little in gratitude that Daniel was safe. Carefully, he pulled Daniel against his chest and dropped a kiss into his hair. "Let's go see if we can find out where Dria is."


"There they are... Alexandria's parents." Daniel broke away from Jack's hold on his elbow and hobbled towards an attractive, middle-aged couple sitting on the only couch in the waiting room. Holding hands, their faces ashen with shock, they didn't even notice Daniel until he was almost upon them. "Mr. and Mrs. Montalbano."

Jack and Rose easily caught up with Daniel and Jack's heart swelled with pride.

"I'm so sorry," Daniel whispered, standing straight as an arrow, displaying no sign of the pain he must have been in.

With those words, Dria's father stood, pushing himself into Daniel's face. "Sorry?" His snort was angry and full of hatred. "Damn straight you're sorry." He turned his attention to Jack. "And you must be the genius who bought his son a motorbike. Nice move, asshole. Should be your son instead of my daughter lying in a hospital bed—"

Dria's mother tugged on her husband's hand. "Not here, Ben."

He shook off her hand. "If not here, where? A court of law? Because I'm going to go after you for all that you have, starting with your house."

Gently, Jack placed his hand on the small of Daniel's back just so he was aware he wasn't in this alone. "That's your prerogative, Mr. Montalbano—"

"Don't you dare be condescending to me, Mr. Jackson."


There was no hiding the derogatory feeling behind the short burst of laughter from Montalbano. "Yeah, it figures."

Jack let the comment slide, but he felt Daniel stiffen. "Come on, let's go."

"No, I'm not going anywhere. I want to know how Alexandria is. Please," he begged, turning his attention on her mother.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," she said calmly, as if she was ordering a slice of pizza. "You lost your right to know anything about my daughter when you lost control of the motorbike."

"How dare you."

Crap, Jack had forgotten all about his mother.

"I'm sorry," Mrs. Montalbano said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "You don't have the privilege to place any demands on us."

"I wasn't," Daniel pleaded. "I just want to know—"

"Fuck off." Montalbano spat the words at Daniel.

"Hey. Hey. Watch the language—" Jack demanded.

"Or you'll what?" Montalbano matched Jack in height and weight, but there would no contest if he decided he wanted to take this argument to the next level.

Daniel hobbled away and lowered himself into the bank of chairs opposite the Montalbanos.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Daniel?" Jack wanted to know the answer to the question also.

"Waiting." He gazed directly at Dria's father. "You can't stop me from waiting."

"You can wait until hell freezes over; you're never going to see my daughter again."


Jack and his mother flanked Daniel. Jack wanted nothing more than to take his son home, tuck him into bed and have the day be just over and done with. That and zat the Montalbanos, but he had a better chance of tucking Daniel into bed than getting rid of their accusatory glares.

Daniel shifted, biting back a groan as he physically lifted his leg to rest it on the small table in front of the chairs.

"Geeze, Daniel. Let's go home, okay?"

Daniel shook his head. "I can't, Dad. Please don't force me."

"I won't."

Daniel worried his bottom lip, his tongue playing with a cut until the scab opened and a line of blood began to wind its way down his chin.

"Stop it." Jack held out his hand. "Mom... Tissue?"

"Huh?" Daniel blinked at his father.

"Stay still." Jack blotted the line of blood, then without a word moved the tissue up to catch a falling tear. "It'll be okay."

"No. It won't. I fucked up. Again."


"Jonathan." His mother tapped him on the knee.



The pain pill had done its job. Daniel had nodded off; his chin tucked against his chest.

Jack raised his hand to wake him.

"Don't," his mother said grabbing his fingers. "Let him rest."

"We need to go—"

Jack was interrupted the ringing of his cell phone. He hurriedly fished it out of his pocket and checked the incoming call before switching it off.

"Figures, guy can't even read the signs." Ben Montalbano pointed to the Please turn off your cell phones sign right next to the entrance.

"Mom, I have to take this. It's work."

"Go. We'll be right here."

Two minutes later, standing in front of the hospital, Jack dialed Hammond's number. "This is O'Neill," he said to the general's aide.

"Sir, General Hammond asks that you return to the SGC immediately."

"Look, something's come up. Can't it wa—"

"And you're requested to also bring Daniel. Doctor Fraiser is waiting for both of you in the infirmary."

"What? Why?" Could news of Daniel's accident already have made it to the SGC? "Daniel's going to be fine."


"The accident. He just got checked out at the hospital. Fraiser doesn't need to see him—"

"Colonel, I'm afraid I have no knowledge about an accident. I've been instructed to tell you that we have visitors who are extremely anxious to speak to both you and Daniel."


"Yes, sir. You met them earlier this spring. They helped with Daniel's recovery."

"You mean the other—"

"Yes, sir."

"Okay. Look. Daniel's been involved in an accident and while he's going to be fine, his girlfriend's been hurt and we're waiting for news on her condition. We'll be over as soon as—"

"Colonel, you don't understand. Time is of the essence. You are both requested to return to Cheyenne Mountain immediately."

Jack groaned inwardly. Daniel was going to kill him.

"We'll be there in thirty minutes. Oh, one thing; I need a wheelchair waiting for me at the main entrance." He didn't wait for the aide's acknowledgement; he simply turned his phone off and hurried back inside.

His mother watched him return with a worried look on her face. He sat down and whispered over Daniel's slumbering body. "I've got to go."

"Okay. I'll stay with Daniel."

"I have to bring Daniel with me."

"What? Why?"

Jack grimaced. "Remember this spring and the problems Daniel was having?" he whispered, acutely conscious of the Montalbanos staring at him across the small room.

"I thought Daniel was over that."

He reached over Daniel and took her hand. "He is. But there were some people who helped him, and they're back. I think they need our help. Probably Daniel's help, if they're asking for him."

"You can't take him now. We don't know anything about Dria."

"I know. But I have no choice. We have to go now."


Jack ignored his mother and gently shook Daniel awake. Disoriented, Daniel raised his head as he smacked his lips slowly. "C'mon, Daniel, we gotta go—"

"Alexandria?" He looked around the room lethargically.

"No news yet. I'm sorry, Daniel, but we have to go to the SGC."

"What?" He sat up slowly, moving with slightly more ease than before. "How long was I asleep?"

"No more than ten minutes."

"I'm not going anywhere," he hissed as he glared defiantly at his father for a long moment.

"We have no choice. Hammond's called us both in."

"We? You mean me and you?"

"Yeah. I'll explain on the way there, but we have to leave now. They're expecting us."

"But Alexandria—"

"I'll stay here and call as soon as I hear something." Rose patted Daniel's hand.

"But, I don't... me? Why is General Hammond asking for me? Am I in trouble? Dad, did he find out about the accident? It was an accident. It's not like anybody tried to kidnap me like before or—"

"Shh, not here." Jack resisted the urge to clamp a hand over Daniel's mouth. The Montalbanos were looking their way and he was pretty sure Daniel's voice had carried somewhat. "You're not in trouble. General Hammond needs our help. Now." He pulled on Daniel's arm and his son followed him to his feet. Almost zombie-like, Daniel stood there, swaying.


"Yes, sweetheart."

"You'll stay and wait for news?"

"Of course I will." She cupped his cheek and rubbed a dried clump of mud from it before kissing the mud-free spot.

"If you see Alexandria, you'll tell her I'm sorry?" Tears began sliding down his face, making a track through the remaining mud.

Jack glanced at the hardened faces of Dria's parents, who were watching their interaction intently.

"Of course, mhuirnin."

"Dad, I don't want to go."

"I know, Daniel. I don't want to either, but we don't have a choice." Bad enough they were leaving now, Jack could just imagine how well his son's already tarnished reputation in the Montalbano's eyes would fare if he were dragged out of the waiting room by military SFs.

Jack finally got him moving, and he had to admit he was glad to get away from the icy stares of Dria's parents. He pitied the Montalbanos, however, alone in there with his mother. If push came to shove, he knew who would come out of it unbloodied.


"The SGC got visitors, apparently," Jack explained as he pulled out of the hospital's parking lot. "Remember the other SG-1? From the other universe?"

"They're here?" Daniel's eyes had been half-closed, but he opened them all the way to peer at Jack.

"That's what I was given to understand."

"And they need my help?" Daniel let his head fall back against the headrest. "What use can I be? I can't even find anything out about Alexandria."

Jack pressed his lips together in remembered irritation. Sure, the girl's parents had the right to be angry but damn it, Daniel usually wasn't this irresponsible.

"Daniel, about that motorbike—"

"Sam can help me fix it." Daniel's words began to slur as his head tilted to the side, coming to rest against the window.

"That's not what I meant. I want to know what made you think it was such a grand idea to sneak the bike out and go for a ride." When Daniel didn't answer, he snuck a glance at him. Daniel was staring out the window, obviously feeling no pain. "Daniel?"


"Why did you take the bike?"

"Because," Daniel replied, his voice rising, "we had a day off from school and we were bored. Why do you think we took the bike?"

"You? Bored?" He chose to ignore Daniel's sarcasm. "If there's anything in the house to read, you're happy as a clam. You've got tons of movies to watch, plus all those computer games. So don't tell me you were bored." Suddenly it dawned on Jack who was the one who'd gotten bored. Daniel had been raving this very morning about a book he'd taken out of the school library yesterday. It was very possible that someone else had talked Daniel into taking his bike for a spin.

At fourteen, Daniel had a pretty good head on his shoulders and in the past several months, he'd managed to do some things that were downright amazing.

For a teenager.

Add a few female wiles to the mix, and that was exactly what it came down to. Daniel was still a child. Despite his forty years' worth of memories, Daniel lacked the experience to act on them.

He contemplated confronting Daniel about whose idea it was to take the bike, but Daniel was already nodding off. This wasn't the time or place; and with Daniel so worried about his girlfriend, he'd lay off casting the blame until they'd gotten more news. Hopefully good news.

By the time he pulled into the SGC's parking lot, Daniel was sleeping again.


"They're waiting for you in the infirmary," the guard at the main entrance informed Jack. He stood and pulled a wheelchair from a small supply room nearby. The man studiously ignored Daniel's muddy condition as Jack signed them both in.

"I can walk," Daniel argued, staring at the chair in disdain.

"Yes, you can. But it'll take us a fraction of the time to get to the infirmary if you get in. Besides, the doctor said to stay off the leg as much as possible." Jack took charge of the chair and moved it behind Daniel. He helped him get into it and pushed Daniel towards the elevators.


Whatever was going on, it didn't have to do with anyone being sick or hurt. Janet's infirmary was devoid of patients. As his dad pushed him towards the back of the infirmary, Daniel closed his eyes as the repetitive motion of the empty beds made him dizzy.

And then there were voices. Many of them, overlapping, almost like at the schoolyard.

The voices were familiar. Sam, Teal'c, Janet, his dad... His dad? At one point Janet seemed to answer herself, and for a moment Daniel thought he was dreaming until he remembered his dad's explanation of why they had come here.

What if Carolyn was here? He tried to swallow, but his mouth, already dry and pasty, seemed to have lost all moisture. He gripped the edges of the chair, wanting to call out and tell his dad to stop so he could leave. Even now, months after Carolyn's admitted tampering with his health, the thought of seeing her again frightened him.

All conversation stopped and he opened his eyes. He and his dad were right outside the doorway to Janet's small lab. Then the first person moving towards him was Janet, followed by, Janet. Daniel got a glimpse of two Sams, two Teal'cs and Colonel O'Neill, and was able to breathe a sigh of relief when he realized there was nobody else with them.

"Daniel, oh my goodness, what happened?" Janet, his Janet with the shorter hair and a lab coat over her uniform, converged on one side of his wheelchair, while the other Janet, with hair piled up into a bun and wearing BDUs, hovered on the other side.

He felt crowded and shifted awkwardly. Both Janets were staring at him and he was almost as if he could see the accusation reflected in their eyes, the words they weren't saying, but knowing he was responsible for hurting Alexandria. He squirmed again, then settled when he felt his dad's hand on his shoulder.

"Daniel had a bit of an accident—"

"I wouldn't call this a bit of an accident." O'Neill, his dad's double, stepped in front of Daniel and smiled down at him. "I'd say he went one on one with a mud puddle, and the puddle won. Hey, sport. You look like your dad plucked you straight out of the hospital—"

"Actually, that's exactly what I did," his dad said. "Look, Doc, any chance Daniel can take a shower and at least rest in a bed before we start discussing the reason we've got... guests?"

"Of course, sir."

"Dad?" He reached for his dad's hand, which was still on his shoulder. "Can I call Grandma first?"

His father leaned down and spoke softly next to his ear. "Your grandmother would have called if there were news."

Daniel nodded reluctantly, knowing his dad was right, but still had the feeling that maybe if he called, she might have a tidbit of news. Something. Anything.


His hair dripped down the back of his scrubs, sending a chill up his spine. He moved awkwardly, each limping step sent fire lancing through his ribs. He could have cried in relief when Janet pointed to a nearby bed and with his dad's help, he managed to lie down.

He didn't deserve this comfort and felt guilty as the pain slowly eased from his leg and ribs. The shower had felt great, though, at least it had after his dad had shifted the spray away from where the hot water had burned every single scrape and cut on his body. He'd swallowed his embarrassment as he'd sat on a bench in the shower and under his dad's scrutiny, had washed off all the mud.

Janet raised the bed slowly and he grunted in pain as the motion sent him automatically tensing his sore ribs. "Rose called," she said.

"Alexandria?" He reached for Janet's arm, and she took his hand and patted it. "She has internal injuries, but at the moment the bleeding has stopped and they're monitoring her in the hope she won't have to undergo surgery."

"Sur... Surgery?" His fingers were cold, so cold, that Janet's skin seemed to burn them. He dropped her hand and stuck his under the blanket that his dad was spreading over him.

"She'll be fine, Daniel." His father caught his fisted hands through the blanket and held them.

"It's a good sign that she hasn't gone into surgery yet. That means that the bleeding is minimal."

"Can I talk to Grandma now?"

With a gentle smile, his dad took his cell out, pressed the numbers and waited. After what felt like forever, he spoke into the phone, asking Rose to call him back. "I guess she turned her cell off." He pocketed the phone.

Daniel nodded and shut his eyes. He was tired and concentrating was difficult. His thoughts felt disjointed and the overwhelming fear for Alexandria was just barely lessened by Janet's news. And her parents' anger; that had shocked him. He knew they were worried but he never, ever thought they'd turn on him. Maybe he could just go to sleep and when he woke up, things would be better.

"Are you ready to talk to our visitors?" Janet's voice intruded, jarring him from the luxury of avoidance.

He cracked open one eye and saw Sam and Teal'c heading his way. Behind them were the other SG-1, the other Janet, and General Hammond. Something was missing, however. It took a moment to realize it was him.

Or rather, the adult version of himself.


"We need your help this time." The other Sam sat on the edge of his bed, his hand clasped between her warm palms.

"Me? Why me? What can I do?" he asked, knowing he sounded sullen and childish, but not caring. "I'm just a kid. I can never do anything right."


"Because Daniel needs something from you," O'Neill interrupted his dad. He was leaning against the wall, hands in pockets, looking worried. Oh, he was hiding it, but just like his dad, Daniel could easily see the clenched jaw and the lines marring his forehead.

"What the hell can I give him? I can't even be there for my friends; do you think I can do anything for anyone else?"


"Well, it's true, Dad. I need to be at the hospital with Alexandria. Instead you drag me here, stick me in a bed, and you want me to help Daniel when I can't even walk across the room by myself."

"You wouldn't have to really do anything, Daniel. We need..." Sam glanced up at her Janet, who walked to the foot of the bed so Daniel had a clear view of her.

"Daniel was poisoned a while back," Janet explained. "While the effects were subtle at first, they became increasingly progressive as time went on. As far as we know, there's no antidote. The poison has affected him at a cellular level, and the only way I can think of to try and cure him is to give him some of his own, uncontaminated blood. And bone marrow. Which is where you come in."

"You want my blood?" Daniel pulled his hand away from Sam and dropped his arm heavily onto the bed, palm up. "Here, take it."

"It's more than that, Daniel. The blood isn't enough. We'd need to also harvest some bone marrow."

Daniel winced. He'd seen enough TV shows to know that that was painful. Very painful. "It's gonna hurt?"

"Well, yes, except that—"

"Fine, do it. Do it now, so I can go back to be with Alexandria." The more it hurt, the better. He bet it wouldn't hurt half as much as what Alexandria was suffering right now.

Janet, his Janet, reached down and touched his foot. "We would put you to sleep for the procedure, Daniel. Which means, even if we were able to do the procedure right now, I wouldn't release you until tomorrow."

"How much blood and marrow would you need?" His dad turned to the other Janet, but it was their Janet who answered.

"One to two quarts—"

"What? That's a helluva—"

"No, sir, it's really just a small fraction and Daniel's body will replace it in about four weeks." She tweaked his foot again. "The pain afterwards will feel like you took a hard fall on ice. There might be a bit of swelling, but it'll ease up in a day or two."

"Fine. Let's do it. The sooner we do this, the sooner we get out of here." And he could get back to Alexandria.

"Not so fast." Both Janets stood there, arms crossed. It was almost eerie the way they glared down at him. "We need to put you under, which means, you need to fast for twelve hours prior to the procedure. And I strongly recommend, with regard to your injuries, that you remain in the infirmary for at least twelve hours post-surgery—"


"Daniel, there will be no debate over this."

"Then I'm not doing it." He crossed his arms over his chest and immediately rued the motion when it felt like a knife was shoved through his ribs.

"Look, how about you let me speak to Daniel, alone." Janet stepped aside while the crowd around his bed left. His dad took a seat on the bed next to him, his expression almost daring Janet to kick him out.

"Look, Daniel." To his surprise, Janet walked over next to his dad and sat. "Your grandmother told me what happened and how Dria's parents blamed you."

Daniel pulled the blanket up to his chin as his dad answered. "Oh yeah, Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality."

"Now, I understand you're hurting, both physically and emotionally. But there's nothing you can do at the hospital—"

Daniel stiffened. "I could be there for Alexandria."

"You would be sitting in a waiting room, in a hard, uncomfortable chair, while her parents kept you away from her."

"She'd know I was there—"

"No, she wouldn't. She'll have been given medication for the pain. Plus, she's most likely resting, just like you should be."

"I could..." Daniel didn't know what to say. Janet was right. He wanted to be there, sitting by her bed, holding her hand, telling her everything was going to be okay. Wanting to hear that she was going to be okay.

"Tell you what. You let me check you out, do the procedure in the morning, keep you here until I say you can leave, and I'll pull some strings at the hospital and keep you updated on Dria's condition—"

Daniel pushed himself off the bed so that he was sitting. He bit back a groan as his ribs constricted painfully. "You can do that?"

"I can do better." She smiled as she patted the pillow. "I can call Cassie and ask her to go to the hospital and see if her parents will let her go in to see Dria."

Daniel ducked his head, blinking back tears as he lowered himself onto his elbow, trying to lie flat on the mattress again.

"So, is it a deal?"

Not trusting himself to speak, Daniel nodded.

"Okay. So first things first. I need to give you an exam, take some blood, get both your leg and ribs X-rayed—"

"They did that at the hospital." Janet merely raised her eyebrows and his dad nodded and backed down. "Oh, right."

"You'll get to eat supper, then you'll fast overnight, and if all your tests confirm you're good to go, we'll do the procedure first thing in the morning."

"And if there's a problem with my tests?"

"Well, we'll deal with that if the situation comes up. The other SG-1, they can't stay for more than a few days before they start to undergo some sort of—"

"Entropic cascade failure. Sam explained it to me before."

"Good. So you know why this should be done as soon as possible."

"If Cassie goes to see Alexandria, ask her to let me talk to her."

"No promises, Daniel."

"I know that!" He rubbed the heel of his palm against his forehead. There were so many things going on, and he just couldn't cope with them. All he could do now was pray that the Montalbanos allowed Cassie to visit. "I just want to tell her..."

"I'm sure she knows." Janet took his hand and eased it away from his face. Her fingers twisted around his wrist, searching for his pulse. "So... What's the verdict?"

"Let's do it," he sighed, turning his head to meet his dad's gaze. His father winked at him, and Daniel was grateful his dad, at least, was postponing his own tirade. He didn't think he could take his father's disappointment in him at the moment.

"Okay. Let me order an X-ray and while you're getting your picture taken, I'll contact Cassie and the hospital.


"Yes, Ma, he's sleeping." Jack paced up and down the infirmary, staying out of earshot of Daniel's bed. "Fraiser's latest dose of painkillers with supper really knocked him for a loop."

"Did he at least eat supper?"

Jack glanced at the barely touched plate on the tray. "He ate... some."

"Jonathan. If he's going to have surgery tomorrow, he's going to need to keep his strength up."

"He'll be fine, Ma."

"Has there been any news on Dria?"

Jack sighed. "Not much more than what you told us earlier. She's resting comfortably, and they're keeping her under observation."

"I'll swing by the hospital tomorrow morning and see if I can see her—"

"Mom, that might not be a good idea—"

"Why not? She's going to have to wonder what happened to Daniel—"

"It might be best not to antagonize her parents—"

"Oh, come on. I'm sure her parents have already warned her against the bad boy she was dating and gleefully informed her he couldn't come visit. She knows Daniel, and she knows nothing would keep him away."

"And you're going to tell her, what? That Daniel can't come to visit because all of a sudden, he has to be hospitalized because, oh, look, someone needs a bone marrow transplant—"

"She'd understand if I told her Janet wanted to keep Daniel at Cheyenne, under observation."

"Leave that to Cassie, okay?"

His mom sighed, loudly, into the phone. "I just feel like I should be doing something."

"I know, Ma," Jack replied, sighing almost as loudly. He felt exactly the same way. He was about to say more, when Daniel's phone began to vibrate against the rollaway table. "Gotta go, Ma. I'll call you in the morning."

He turned his phone off with one hand as he reached for Daniel's cell. A glance at the caller ID showed that it was Cassie.

"Hey, pipsqueak."

"Uncle Jack." There was laughter in Cassie's voice. "Is Daniel there? There's someone who wants to talk to him."

"Yeah, he's here. Give me a second." Smiling, Jack shook Daniel's shoulder. His son blinked sleepily at him a moment before his eyes slid shut again. "Daniel, Cassie's on the phone."

"That's nice," Daniel mumbled, turning his head away.

"She's got Dria on the phone."

That caught Daniel's attention and he reached out blindly, his hand opening and closing, wanting the cell.

Jack slapped the phone into Daniel's hand and he turned his head just enough to sneak the phone between his ear and the pillow.


With his eyes closed, it looked like Daniel was sleeping.


Or talking in his sleep.


Okay, this must be Dria, because Daniel had just spoken with a touch more enthusiasm.

"How're you feeling?" he mumbled. "Yeah? Good. Uh-huh."

With the long delays in between words, it still looked to Jack like Daniel was talking in his sleep.

"Okay. You? Yeah, 'm fine. Uh-huh."

Jack began to wonder if Dria was chattering up a storm, or if she was just as spaced out as Daniel was, on painkillers.

"T'morrow. 'K. Bye."

Jack waited for Daniel to hand him the phone, but after several seconds when Daniel didn't move, Jack teased the phone from under his cheek and put it to his ear.



"Uncle Jack?"

"Daniel's drifted off."

Cassie laughed softly. "So did Dria."

"How's she doing?"

"She's hurting a lot, and she keeps asking for Daniel."

"Did you explain to her about..."

"See, that's a little hard, because she keeps drifting in and out. I think they got her on some pretty heavy painkillers."

"Well, there's always tomorrow."

Cassie cleared her throat.

"What?" Jack asked with a touch of suspicion.

"Um, her folks don't want any visitors around..."

"And you just happened to walk into her room... how?"

"They're with the doctor."

"Cassandra. You get out of there right now before you cause any problems."

"Hey, chill, Uncle Jack. I'm walking to the waiting room, like a good little spy."

This last brought a smile to Jack's lips. "Thank you."

"How's Daniel doing?"

"He's pretty stiff and sore; your mom's latest batch of pills did a number on him. I think everything that happened today just caught up to him."

"Mom told me about the bone marrow thing tomorrow."

"He'll be fine."

"Tell him I send my love."

"I will."

"Love you, Uncle Jack."

"Love you, too, sweetheart." Smiling, Jack turned Daniel's cell off and put it back on the table.


Daniel hated the fuzziness, the pain, the stiffness, and the way his bladder was so insistent that he had no choice but to get out of bed in what felt like the middle of the night when all he wanted was to stay in bed and not move.

Unashamedly groaning and moaning, he finally twisted in the bed until he could sit up, one arm held tightly against the pain in his ribs.

The infirmary had never felt so huge and unending, and for a desperate moment he thought he would end up peeing his pants before he stumbled into the bathroom.

Two minutes later, he washed his hands and was letting the water run for a nice, long drink when someone knocked on the door.

"Daniel, are you okay in there?"

He opened the door to the duty nurse. "I'm fine. Just needed to go."

"You didn't drink anything, did you?"

"Not yet."

"Good. You remember you're fasting tonight?"

Shit. He'd forgotten. "But I'm thirsty."

"I know. But it won't be long. Doctor Fraiser's scheduled the surgery for six am, which is in two more hours."

"Just a little bit?"

"I'm sorry." She sure didn't look sorry when she shook her head. And somehow knowing he still had a few hours to wait suddenly notched his thirst up a couple of notches.

Frustrated, Daniel smacked the faucet with his palm, turning off the flow. He limped back to bed, followed by his shadow.

"Do you need something for the discomfort? Doctor Fraiser prescribed some pain killers if you need it."

He nearly said yes, just to get some water to swallow the pills. Then he realized he probably wouldn't get a pill but rather a needle. He'd be getting enough of those today, thank you. "No, thanks, I'm fine." He tried to ignore the throbbing in his shin and put as much weight on it as he could without limping overly much.

He faced the bed, wishing she'd leave so he could moan and groan his way back into it. Instead he slowly turned around and sat. To his surprise, the nurse raised the bed, lessening the distance between himself and the mattress. She supported his shoulders, easing the pain even less.


"You sure about the painkiller?"

"I'm sure."

"Is there anything else you need?"

He looked around, and pointed to the roll-away table. "Could you?"


A moment later, he had his phone in his hand and was calling information. With any luck, he'd be talking to Alexandria in a couple more minutes. Then it hit him; it was the middle of the night. Even if he miraculously managed to get through to her, he'd wake her up. "Shit." He put the phone back down, discouraged.


"Good morning, Daniel. How are you feeling?"

Tired, unable to move without hurting, thirsty, hungry and extremely frustrated, Daniel glared at Janet's cheerful demeanor as she came up to his bed. "You said you'd get me news on Alexandria."

"Yes, I did." Her smile didn't fade as she took his chart and began reading the nurse's notes. "And you didn't answer me. How are you feeling?"

"I tried calling the hospital but they wouldn't give out any information."

"And how about giving me a bit of information? How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," he said reluctantly.

"That's good." She put his chart back and sat next to him on the bed. "Are you ready for this?"

"It's not like I have a choice." Like he didn't have a choice in being here. Like he hadn't had a choice to take the bike. Like he could have chosen to turn back instead of going forward—

"Daniel, there's always a choice. Are you having second thoughts about this?"

He suddenly felt guilty. He was doing this to help himself, in essence. To help someone who'd helped him earlier this year. "No," he said, dragging out the word as he poked the edge of a long, red scrape on his forearm with his index finger.

"Do you want to talk about it? The procedure? What to expect?"

"No. Not really."

"Still, maybe it'll help if I explain. I'll make a small incision at the back of your pelvic bone and extract the marrow from there. The whole procedure will probably take from one to two hours. Like I said already, when you wake up, your back will probably be sore. Most people go back to their normal routines within a few days, but as you're not all that mobile at the moment, I think we can consider you taking it easy, right?"

Suddenly he had a horrible thought. "How much school am I going to miss?" It had taken him so long to catch up at the end of the school year that the idea of going through that amount of grueling work again made him sick to his stomach. He stopped testing the edge of the scrape, staring at Janet in frustration.

"At least a week, Daniel. And—" Janet said, raising a hand when he started to object. "That's my recommendation whether or not you go through with this procedure. You can do your schoolwork at home, but I don't want you traipsing around with that leg and ribs."

"You said I was fine—"

"I said you had nothing broken. But your ribs hurt like a bitch, don't they? And you can't walk around for long without your leg aching. Going to school will just extend the healing process."

"Damn it." He smacked his hand on the bed, causing the pain of his strained muscles to rip through his side.

"It's just a small setback. You'll be home by tonight, and I'm sure your friends can bring you up to date with your studies."

He nodded sullenly, hating this. Hating being stuck here. Hating that Alexandria was so far away. He went back to poking the scrape, trying to see exactly where the discomfort began and ended. He'd dreamed of her last night. The dream itself was unclear, but the feelings were there – they'd talked, long and in depth, about the accident, and how they'd made a mistake, and how he was sorry, and she was fine, and—

"She had a good night."

"What? Who?"

"Dria. There's no sign of infection or further internal bleeding. So the prognosis, up to now, is pretty encouraging."

"You called the hospital?" He looked up at Janet in surprise.

"I told you I'd keep you up to date, didn't I?"

Daniel nodded again as he rubbed his thumb across his sensitized index finger. "Thank you."

"So, are you ready to do this?"

"Guess so."

"Good." Janet stood. "Becky will be in to set up an IV in just a minute. I'll be ready for you in about fifteen minutes. Your dad should be here any second. Do you have any questions?"

Daniel shook his head. He watched Janet as she walked away and sighed as she disappeared through the door. He felt so alone. And now that the time was here, he was suddenly nervous.


He jumped, startled, never having heard his dad's footsteps. "Hey." Then as his dad shifted nervously next to the bed, he realized he'd been mistaken. This wasn't his dad; it was the other Jack O'Neill. The one who'd come to ask for his help.

"I just wanted to say thanks, you know, before they wheel you out of here."

"It's okay."

"It must be pretty scary, knowing they're going to poke a needle into your hip a couple hundred times while they suck up your blood and marrow."

Daniel winced at that particular visual. "Thanks, I think Janet kept that little tidbit to herself."

"Oh. Really?" O'Neill winced. "Sorry."

Daniel shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I won't feel anything."

"Carter and Teal'c say hello. Fraiser said you were going in soon so we didn't want to take up all your time."

"Oh. Tell them hi for me," Daniel said awkwardly.

"He's pretty sick..." O'Neill's gaze suddenly seemed to be bouncing off everything. The wall, the bed, Daniel's feet, the wall again. "We wouldn't have asked, except we're pretty desperate and you're the only other... Alternate counterpart... That we'd actually met... And thought might understand." His gaze suddenly focused on Daniel's face and his eyes were mesmerizing.

"I do... Understand," he lied. Actually he had no true desire to do this, except for a niggling sense of duty and responsibility. He struggled to find something fitting to say. "And I guess I should be pretty honored that you came all this way for help..." He forced a smile, "considering I'm the only alternate counterpart you know."

O'Neill smiled as his eyes focused past Daniel. "You've got another visitor. I... We won't be hanging around too long; the sooner we get your blood and marrow to Daniel, the sooner we get him cured. So we probably won't be here when you wake up." Jack stuck his hand out and Daniel slowly gripped it. "Thank you."

Then O'Neill was gone and Daniel's dad took his place. His dad looked at Daniel quickly but his attention was on O'Neill's back as he hurried out of the infirmary. "Fraiser says they're ready to go. How are you doing?"

Daniel shrugged. "I just want to get this over and done with so I can go home." And then to the hospital, he silently added.

They sat there in silence for a minute or two, neither of them talking even when a nurse came by and set up an IV.

"It won't be long now, Daniel," Becky told him with a smile. "Someone will come for you soon."

"I saw Teal'c and Carter in the commissary," his dad said a long couple of minutes later. "They send their love and they'll see you when you're out of surgery."

"Sure." He suddenly realized he'd spent his free time foolishly. Instead of trying to call the hospital, he should have called Cassie and asked her to go in to see Alexandria during the early morning visiting hours, before class. He began to reach for his phone when Becky and another nurse showed up. They deftly raised the metal rails on his bed and pulled it away from the wall. Becky plucked the phone from his hand before he was able to hit Cassie's number. She gave him an apologetic smile. "Sorry, time to go."

"Dad, can you call Cassie?" Daniel yelled as he was wheeled out of the room. "Janet said she was supposed to go visit Alexandria!"


Jack pushed a long, damp strand of hair aside as Daniel retched loudly, his body contracting into a ball as his stomach tried to expel what wasn't there. Daniel coughed, moaned pitifully as he pressed a pillow against his stomach, panting against the continuing nausea.

"The medication should kick in soon," Becky said as she took the bile-splattered emesis basin and exchanged it for a clean one. She handed Jack a damp cloth, which he took to wipe Daniel's face with.

"Daddy, it hurts," Daniel said when Becky had left, clutching his ribs.

"I know." Jack folded the cloth in four and placed it close by, then positioned the emesis basin on the bed, in case Daniel needed it again. "They just gave you stuff for the pain and the nausea. It'll stop hurting soon." He pulled up the blanket Daniel had kicked away to cover his legs and hips. His hospital gown gaped open, exposing part of his back as well the bandages on either sides of his hips. Jack kept a hand against Daniel's upper back, rubbing gently in view of possible bruises, feeling damp skin against his palm.

"I remember when you were five or six, and you had that tonsillectomy. You never took well to the anesthesia even then."

"I don't remember," Daniel moaned, moving restlessly and looking totally miserable.

"It was just before your grandmother moved to Colorado Springs. You'd only been with me a few months and had been constantly plagued with tonsillitis."

Daniel rocked slightly back and forth as his breathing sped up and Jack reached for the basin, holding it ready. The wave of nausea seemed to go on and on, but this time it faded with Daniel experiencing only one bout of dry heaving. As his breathing leveled, Jack, who'd kept his hand on Daniel's upper back the whole time, could feel the rigid muscles slowly start to relax.

"Are they gone?" Daniel asked, talking into the pillow.

"Who?" Jack looked around, noting that there were no nurses or doctors around. Then it hit him. "Oh, SG-1? Yes. Probably just taking off now. That's why Fraiser's not here. She went to see them off."

"I hope they cure him," Daniel murmured, closing his eyes. His breathing began to slow and deepen.

"Me, too."

"Did you call Cassie?" he asked sleepily. "Did she talk to Alexandria?"

"You talked to her last night, remember?" Jack said, trying to keep the amusement out of his voice. He should have known that Daniel wouldn't remember that conversation. Talk about a wasted opportunity. When Daniel didn't answer, he gently eased the blanket up to cover Daniel's upper torso and sat back in his chair. Daniel didn't stir; and Jack heaved a slow, well-earned sigh.

"He'll probably sleep for a while," Becky said as she placed the now clean basin on a nearby table. "You could go get something to eat, stretch your legs, come back in an hour or two?"


"I think you don't have to worry about leaving him alone." She smiled and nodded behind him, towards the door. Jack turned and smiled as Teal'c walked silently towards them.

"How is he?"

"Woke up crying and sick. Doc prescribed some meds for him and he's doing better."

"He is asleep."

"Yeah. Just drifted off a minute ago." Jack pointed towards the chair he was sitting on. "Wanna sit with him a while so I can get myself a coffee and call my mom?"

Teal'c inclined his head and Jack stood.

"Did you see them off?"

"Indeed." Teal'c squeezed past Jack and sat. "O'Neill was extremely grateful for your allowing this."

"Well, it's for Daniel, right?"

"It is."

He stood there a moment, watching his son sleep, thinking back on the miracle that had been given to him eight years ago, and gave Teal'c a pat on the arm. "Can I get you something?" When Teal'c shook his head, Jack said, "I won't be long."


A cup of coffee and a piece of pie; fifteen minutes later and he felt like a new man. Well, maybe not that drastic but the dread of Daniel being put under was gone now and the burning in his stomach had been replaced with pangs of hunger, which he'd just assuaged. He nodded to Ferretti, who was entering just as he was leaving.

He detoured to Fraiser's office before heading back to Daniel. He knocked on the door and she looked up from the pile of folders on her desk. She smiled when she recognized him.

"You saw our guests off?" Jack leaned against the doorjamb and crossed his arms.

Nodding, Fraiser put her pen down. "They're pretty worried about their Daniel. I hope this works."

"It sounded like this was their last hope."

"It was."

The look on Fraiser's face scared Jack. For a long time now, his friend Daniel had been a memory, his son Daniel was the most important thing in his life. But having come face to face with his friend earlier this summer had brought back things he'd forgotten – the sound of his voice, a full octave below his son's, the maturity that he occasionally saw in his son, the few mannerisms his son had never developed. And he knew if he were in the other Jack's shoes, he'd be pulling out all the stops to save his friend.

Suddenly he needed to be with his son. He nodded to Fraiser and hurried back to the ward.

Daniel hadn't moved while he'd been gone but as he took Teal'c's chair, Daniel made a small noise in his throat. He shifted restlessly, moaned in pain, and whimpered again when he tried to go back to his original position. A tear slowly formed past his closed eyelids and rolled down his cheek, quickly followed by another. A few seconds later, Daniel gasped a breath and exhaled shakily as his eyes flew open in surprise. Even as he sobbed quietly, he reached a hand to his face and stared at it in surprise as it came away wet.

"Why am I crying?" he asked his dad as tears continued to stream down his face.

Handing him the wet cloth he'd used earlier to wash Daniel's face, Jack shrugged. "You were crying when you woke up from the anesthesia. I guess it's a side effect."

Daniel buried his face in the cloth and rubbed at his eyes. "This is stupid," he said through the cloth as he drew another rough, gasping breath.

"It's probably perfectly normal." Jack took the cloth from Daniel when he was done and watched helplessly as Daniel tried to find a comfortable position in the bed. By the time Daniel was happy with it, his eyes were heavy and although shiny with tears, he seemed to have gotten some control.

"How bad's the pain?"

"I don't know what's worse, my ribs or my back," Daniel whined.

"Doc said the pain should be gone in a couple days."

"Mmmm." Daniel closed his eyes, and Jack stood. His son was fine; he may as well go to his office and get some work done while Daniel slept.


There was a nagging pain in his side every time Daniel took a breath. It pulled him from the depths of sleep and he shifted, turning his hips just enough so he was flat on his back. The pain eased enough so that he could drift back into sleep but before he could find that oblivion, a throbbing began in his right hip from the pressure of lying flat on his back.

With some difficulty, he turned onto his stomach, but that aggravated his ribs so he turned back onto his side. The nice, lethargic feeling was gone now, and a growing sense of nausea increased the more he woke up. He sighed loudly.

"Are you awake?"

He cracked a gummy eyelid open at the familiar voice. "Sam?"


"Um, hi." He smacked his lips together, hating the pasty, dry feel of his mouth. "Where's my dad?"

"I think he's in his office. Do you want me to have him paged?"

"No..." He yawned. "What time is it?"

"It's just after one." She smiled at him. "I dropped in on my way to get some lunch."

"Oh." He kept waking up with no idea how long he'd slept or what time it was. He stretched, and winced as his ribs pinched painfully and scabs on his body pulled.

"Do you need help? Do you want me to get a nurse?"

Daniel shook his head. If he admitted to the pain, then he'd get another dose of painkillers and he'd end up sleeping. Again. "I'm fine."

"Do you need anything?"

"I said I was fine." He'd love to turn onto his back, away from Sam and her wide-eyed, guilt-laden expression, but his body would have none of it. Instead he turned his head and closed his eyes, only to have to open them a moment later when he realized part of the total discomfort he was experiencing was due to an overfull bladder.

Huffing and grunting, he managed to roll onto his side, getting his legs tangled in the blanket in the process.

"Where are you going?"

He ignored Sam, trying to untangle the blanket, and only managing to make things worse.

"Here, let me." Sam tugged the blanket away from his anger-fueled yanks and a moment later, his legs were free.

Feeling shaky and tired, he slowly slid off the bed. The chill of the cold floor against his bare feet was bracing, helping to expel some of the lassitude and dizziness, but at the same time, magnified the urge to empty his bladder.

With an awkward and ungainly shuffle and limp, Daniel and his IV began their slow way towards the bathroom. Sam walked next to him, keeping him company.

"Ah. We're going to the bathroom." With her hands clasped behind her back, she made walking around look like something anyone could do easily.

His fingers squeezed the metal pole angrily. He'd been able to get around without pain just yesterday, until he'd stupidly listened to Alexandria and taken the bike.

"There's some juice and apple sauce if you're hungry."

Just the thought of food made him want to throw up. He made a face. "I'm not."

"Okay. It's there if you are. Janet said you might not feel up to eating but in case you did—"

"I'm not hungry." He was thirsty, though. He was dying of thirst and would have downed a jug of lemonade or iced tea if he thought his stomach could stand it.

He pushed the IV into the bathroom, shut the door behind him and hurriedly took care of nature. A moment later, once he'd washed his hands, he splashed water onto his face. He let the water run and held a small amount in his palm and brought it to his mouth. He took a tentative sip, swallowed, and felt his stomach contract in warning. A moment later, he felt better. He took another sip, and when nothing happened, stuck his mouth to the running water and drank greedily. He finally stopped drinking when he had to come up for air.

When he left the bathroom, Sam was waiting for him outside the door. He limped back towards his bed, feeling the water sloshing from side to side in his oddly sensitive stomach. For a moment, as he lay down, he thought drinking the water might have been a mistake, but the short pang of nausea soon disappeared.

"I need to go... Are you okay by yourself?"

He looked at the small pile of magazines someone had placed by his bed. "I'm fine. Could you, um..." He waved at the bed's remote control that was just out of his reach.

"Sure." Sam raised his bed slowly, until he was sitting up.


"I'll see you later, then." She put the control down, placing it closer, within reach. "Do you want me to tell your dad you're awake?"

"Nah. He's busy." Too busy to be with him, obviously.

The moment Sam left, he grabbed his cell phone and tried calling Alexandria's cell again. He hadn't really expected her to answer each time he called, but he couldn't help hoping. He sighed when his call went to her voice mail again. He left her another message, telling her he was worried and to call him, day or night.

Despite having slept, he felt his eyes beginning to drift shut. He shifted around until he was fairly comfortable and closed his eyes and drifted in a twilight sleep, aware on some level of the comings and goings of the nurses but not awake enough to want to actively take a book and read or do anything that actually meant having to open his eyes. It was only when one of the nurses stopped by his bed to take his vitals did he force himself to acknowledge her and answer her questions.

When she left, he picked up his cell and tried Alexandria again. Eyes closed, he listened to the phone ring, expecting her voice mail, so when the phone actually connected, he found himself at a loss for words. He sat up, wincing in pain, and nearly dropped the phone. "Alexandria?"

"I'm only going to say this once." Mr. Montalbano's voice sent a shiver of dread down Daniel's spine. "If you call my daughter again, I'm going to sue you for harassment."

The phone went dead and suddenly Daniel began to shake. Everything in his life was going wrong. Every time he thought he had some sort of control, the world came crashing down on him. Why couldn't he be like a normal person?

He'd had a life, once upon a time. He'd had more than forty years of good living, had finally found a place for himself in the world, was actually doing something useful. Even though his memories told him there'd been pain in his previous life, he didn't think it could compare to the jab of hurt Alexandria's father had caused him by blaming him for the accident.

He didn't want to be a child anymore. He wished he'd been made back into an adult, like the other Daniel, so that things wouldn't hurt so badly. If he were an adult, he'd be able to deal with this, wouldn't he? He tossed the phone onto the table carelessly, watching without feeling as it slid across and came to a precarious stop right at the edge. He lowered the bed and turned onto his side, moving carelessly, enjoying the physical pain because whenever he hurt, it overshadowed the pain in his heart.

With the blanket pulled over his head, he let go his emotions and sobbed into his pillow.


"Hey, Fraiser said you're not eating."

Daniel ignored his dad's tugging on the blanket and kept a good hold on it. "I'm not hungry," he muttered, sniffling through swollen sinuses. "I want to go home." Home meant freedom; home meant being able to walk out the front door, get on his bike and ride to the hospital to find a way to see Alexandria.

"Sorry, kiddo. Fraiser said not before morning."

He popped his head out from the edge of the blanket. "Because I don't feel like eating?"

"Partly. And partly because of your injuries from the accident compounded with the marrow harvesting—"

"Fine. Sam said there was some food?" He pushed himself up, holding back a gasp at the pain in his ribs. He looked around, spotted the tray and pointed. When his dad didn't make a move to bring the tray over, Daniel reached for the roll-away table and awkwardly pulled it towards him. With a glare at his dad, he picked up what looked like a glass of apple juice, and holding his breath, gulped it down in two large swallows. The tepid juice hit his stomach with a splash, and the sweet, cloying taste made him nauseous. He picked up a spoon and without tasting the room-temperature applesauce, he ate it in several gulps. He tossed the spoon noisily into the bowl when done.

"There. Can we go home now?" He ignored the growing nausea and pushed the table away. His dad was watching him, one eyebrow cocked, with a quizzical look on his face that Daniel didn't like, as if he were waiting for something. A sudden wave of heat struck him and perspiration broke out just as his mouth filled with saliva. He realized what his dad had been waiting for when he thrust an emesis basis into his hands just as he vomited up the bit of food he'd just eaten.

"I think we'll play it safe and wait until tomorrow," his dad said as he took the emesis basin from him and put it aside.

Daniel pulled the covers over his head, hiding his embarrassment. He wanted nothing more than to go brush his teeth but the way his luck was going right now, he'd probably trip over the IV pole and break a leg or an arm.


"What do you mean, I've been served?"

"The papers were in your mailbox when I went over to—"

"That sanctimonious sonofabitch."

"I know he was upset but I really didn't think he'd go this far."

"I can't believe he's doing this. This is going to destroy Daniel. He's sick with worry over Dria as it is; he doesn't need this." There was a long pause; Jack trying to rein in his anger and his mother probably waiting for him to calm down.

"How's he doing?" Rose asked.

Jack sighed as he leaned back into his chair. "I don't know what's wrong with him, Ma. He's almost become that obnoxious brat that lived with me earlier this spring."

"Give him some time."

"He's just been through so much this year. I don't know how much more he can take."

"Daniel's a strong boy. Just like the man you told me he once was."

"Everybody's got a breaking point, Mom." When there was silence at the other end of the phone, Jack quickly apologized, realizing his mom was probably thinking about Charlie. "I didn't mean to—"

"I know."

"And you're right. He's strong. I just hate seeing him like this. He's hurting inside and out and I don't think there's anything I can do to help him right now."

"Just be there for him."

"It was so much easier when I could pick him up when he was upset and tell him things were going to be all right."

"And that worked?"

"Hell no. He just cried louder and asked for you."

His mom gave a strangled laugh. "I can't do anything for him from over here."

"We'll be home tomorrow."

"And I'll be waiting. With his favorite food—"

"Spatini and meatballs?" Jack's stomach grumbled at the thought and he rubbed it in anticipation.

"Unless you think he won't be up to eating something that spicy?"

"Nah, Fraiser said he should be fine by tomorrow. But you might want to pick up a box of macaroni and cheese, just in case."

This time her laughter was genuine. "I'll bring two, just in case."

"I'll call you later. Bye."

Jack disconnected the call and leaned his elbows on his desk. What holy entity had he or Daniel crossed to have been given this crapshoot of a year? Or was it punishment for eight years of normality?

He gave in to his frustrations for a moment, then straightened. His mom was right; Daniel was strong emotionally. Jack knew his son and was pretty sure it was guilt that was eating away at him. If only that asshole Montalbano hadn't been so quick to accuse.

Which reminded him; he needed to call his lawyer. Jack huffed in exasperation as he straightened. Tomorrow was soon enough; he'd do that when he got home and looked at the papers.


Despite Mr. Montalbano's threats, Daniel couldn't help calling Alexandria one more time. Just in case. This time, however, he couldn't get through. Her father had obviously blocked his calls.


Maybe it was time to try another tactic. Janet had said she'd help but she hadn't been in for hours. School was out; Cassie would be with Dominic so there was no point in calling her. But maybe someone else...

He dialed Li's number, drumming his fingers impatiently as the phone rang. And rang. And rang. He was just about to hang up when his friend answered.


"Daniel." Li's voice was garbled.

"Why are you whispering?"

"I'm not supposed to be talking to you."

"What?" Why not? What happened?"

"Because of Lena, you twit."

"What happened to Lena?" He couldn't believe it; this was last summer all over again.

"Dria's dad told Lena we couldn't talk to you; otherwise he wouldn't let Dria hang with her."


"I'm sorry, man. My dad's pissed about what happened and said we need to chill for a while."

This couldn't be happening. "Li, what about Dria? Did you see her? Did Lena?"

"Lena's there now, with Dria, at the hospital."

"Look, call Lena and tell her to call me so I can talk to Dria. Her dad won't let me—"

"Daniel, no, I'm sorry—"

"C'mon, Li. I need to know she's all right."

"Her mom told Lena they were keeping her there for a few days to make sure she doesn't need surgery. She sounds fine to me, if she's not having an operation."


"Look, I gotta go. You better not call me for a while, okay?"

"Please, just tell Lena to call me. I just want to talk to Alexandria for a minute. Just a min—" Daniel wanted to scream when Li disconnected the call. He slammed his fist on the mattress in order not to pitch the phone across the room.


"Can I go home now?" Daniel sat listlessly watching Becky place a bandage over the pinprick where the IV had been. He looked up at Janet, who was writing in his chart.

"What?" Janet smiled up at him as she replaced his chart at the foot of the bed. She smiled at Becky as she walked past with the spent IV. "The accommodations at Hotel Fraiser aren't to your liking? You get room service, maid service, the best linen money can buy, and you want to leave before your time is up?"

Her smile faded when Daniel didn't answer. "Normally I'd say yes, you'd be free to go home but—"

'I'm fine—"

"Yes, I know."

"I haven't had to take any painkillers since this morning."

"I know."

"I can get around. I don't have to stay in bed."

"I've seen you limping around, and yes, you can get around easily for short distances."

"And I ate supper." He glanced at the empty tray next to the bed.

"Yes, you did."

"And I'm not feeling nauseated."

"That's good."

"So, why can't I go home?"

"Because I'd rather you spend the night here recuperating because we both know if you go home, you'll be spending it somewhere other than your bedroom or the couch in the den."

"That's not a reason to keep me here—"

"It is if I say so, Daniel." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "You might not have broken any bones in that tumble you took but the pain and discomfort is enough to take a toll on your body, let alone the marrow harvesting which can leave you tired for a day or two."

"But I'm not tired."

"That's good." She patted the bed as she walked away from him. "Get some rest."

"But I'm not tired," he yelled after her.


With one eye closed, Daniel watched the minute hand on his watch slowly tick upwards towards the twelve. Three more seconds. Two more seconds. Bingo – it was now three fifteen in the morning. He turned onto his back, moving cautiously and slowly. His ribs pulled every time he breathed; he couldn't get into a comfortable position, and his leg throbbed in counterpoint to the vice that gripped the back of his neck and head.

His back ached; just when he'd find a half-decent position that didn't irritate his ribs, his hip would start to throb and he'd have to shift around again. He knew he easily could have asked for something for the pain but the thought of Alexandria lying in a bed similar to his, in such horrible pain, made the discomfort he was experiencing an almost welcome experience.

He pretended to be sleeping whenever one of the nurses on duty walked by. After another two hours of watching the night tick by, the digits on his watch began to blur. He closed his eyes, telling himself it was just for a minute. The next thing he knew, someone was shaking him awake, wanting him to sit up and eat breakfast.

"I'm not hungry," he mumbled, wanting nothing more than to sleep now that he was actually sleepy.

"I thought you wanted out of here," Becky said, sounding all too cheerful. "Eating breakfast is certainly the first step in that direction."

Daniel cracked open an eyelid and glared at her and then at the steaming plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, complete with toast and juice. The nurse took that moment to raise his bed, forcing him to shift with the moving mattress.

"Don't you ever go home?" he said to Becky, who pushed the roll-away table over his lap.

"Of course, I do," Becky answered with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes. "Although when some of my favorite patients are here, I sometimes sleep on base just in case they need me."

Guilt sent a flush of heat over the back of Daniel's neck, quickly creeping to his cheeks. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean—"

"I know." She poured him a glass of ice water and placed it on the tray next to his juice. "Doctor Fraiser should be here in an hour; with any luck, you should be out of here by eight."

"What time is it?" He glanced at his watch as he picked up the fork, and was shocked to see he'd slept for less than an hour.

"How about a shower after you eat?"

He nodded as he took a bite of scrambled eggs. He chewed the eggs, finding they had no taste. He forced himself to swallow, then nibbled on a piece of bacon. Already he was planning the bus route to the hospital in his head because he knew there was no way he could bicycle there, not with the way he was feeling.

Becky was right; by eight, he'd taken a shower, gotten dressed, been given a quick examination by Janet, and was now waiting for his dad to come pick him up. His few belongings were in his backpack by the bed. Impatient and feeling antsy now that he would soon be able to see Alexandria, he got up and went for a stroll.

He hadn't any particular destination in mind when he'd followed an airman into the elevator, but found himself getting off on the floor where his dad's office was. He limped towards the office, wondering if his dad was there. A moment later the sound of his dad's voice confirmed he was. Daniel went to enter the office, when he heard a name that stopped him short.


"I don't care what Montalbano says," Jack growled into the phone, "it wasn't my son's fault."

"It's your word against Ben Montalbano," Steve Larrabee said. "And with his daughter lying in the hospital right now, he's playing the avenging father."

"Hey, my son was hurt in that accident also. Montalbano can't go around saying Daniel did this on purpose."

"I know, Jack." Steve sighed and Jack heard some papers rustling. "I'll need to speak to both children and try to find out exactly what happened. But I hate to tell you, you really don't have much of a legal leg to stand on. You bought Daniel the bike, and he was the one riding it when he lost control."

Jack forced himself to ease his grip on the telephone receiver. "I know," he finally admitted.

"Let me get in touch with Montalbano's lawyer and I'll get back to you in a day or two."

"Fine." Jack hung up the phone and stared at the legal papers on his desk. He couldn't believe how something like this could happen so fast. It wasn't the money that bothered him so much, it was what one parent was doing to both their children in the name of vengeance.

The sight of the legal documents filled him with rage; unlike the last time he'd had to attend to one of these, he'd been reconciled with the divorce Sara had wanted. Steve was right, though. Montalbano was a father whose little girl had been hurt. Jack just wished he could spare Daniel all of this and what was to come.

Suddenly he felt someone was watching him. He glanced up and saw Daniel leaning against the doorjamb, hunched over with his arm around his ribs.

"Hey." Immediately Jack was on his feet and hurrying around his desk. "What're you doing here?"

Daniel was looking at him with a scared expression on his face. "Is Mr. Montalbano suing us?" Daniel asked in a small voice.

"Well, I think he's going to try."

"But Alexandria... Why doesn't she tell him it was an accident?" Daniel shifted closer to him and Jack placed an arm around his shoulders. "Why does her dad think I did this on purpose?" Daniel leaned his forehead against Jack's shoulder. "Why didn't she tell him..." Daniel's head popped up. "Unless she can't. Dad, what if she's too sick – what if she's unconscious and can't tell him?" Suddenly Daniel looked even more scared than before as he stumbled away and limped awkwardly towards his desk. "What if she's dying?"

"Hey, hey." Jack hurried after Daniel and put a hand on his arm just as he reached for the phone. "Fraiser said she'd keep us updated, right?" Jack said softly, trying to keep his son from panicking.

"But what if—"

"What did Fraiser tell you about Dria's condition?"

"That she was under observation. But what if they didn't tell Janet the truth—" The words tumbled from Daniel's mouth.

"Why would a doctor lie to Fraiser?"

"Because..." Daniel stopped, his mouth partly open as his eyes lost focus. Jack knew that look; it meant that Daniel was thinking and not reacting. "I guess you're right," Daniel said after a moment. "Unless Alexandria's parents don't want the doctors to say anything..."

"I don't think they have that kind of power."

"But if they sue you, it'll be my fault," Daniel said in a small voice.

"No. Not your fault. It'll be the fault of a small-minded individual who is hell-bent on revenge and doesn't care who he hurts in the process."

"I don't care about me—"

"I wasn't talking about you. How do you think Dria's going to feel if her father wins?"

"She'll be mortified."

"So her dad might have won the case, but you can be pretty damned sure he's going to lose his daughter's respect."

"I don't want her to hate her dad," Daniel said, obviously fighting back tears. "But I don't want her to hate me, either."

"I know." Jack waited, half-expecting Daniel to come to him for comfort but was surprised when Daniel wiped at his eyes and composed himself.

"Janet said I can go home."

"Great. You ready to go?"

"I have my stuff in the infirmary. I couldn't carry..."

"Then how about you wait here," Jack said, stuffing the papers into the envelope and tossing them into his briefcase, "and I'll go get your things." He waited till Daniel was seated in his chair, and flicked the tabs on the briefcase, shutting it, and then locking it.


"Colonel O'Neill to the Briefing Room."

Daniel froze as the announcement came over the intercom just as he and his dad were leaving the office.

"Wait here while I go check this out."

More desperate now than before to get to the hospital, Daniel was about to ask that he call his grandmother to pick him up at the front entrance, when his dad's office phone rang.


Daniel slowly walked back to the chair as his dad answered the phone. He was about to lever himself into it when his dad held out a hand. Stuck in a not-so-elegant position with his butt sticking out over the chair, Daniel sucked in his breath as he straightened up.

"General Hammond wants to see both of us." His dad dropped the phone heavily onto the cradle.

"What's going on?" Daniel suddenly felt breathless. If something had happened to Alexandria, would they have called the SGC? Was it the court case? Was he going to be arrested? Was his dad? How was he going to get to see Alexandria if he was in jail?

"Seems our friends from the other universe are back." His dad tossed Daniel's backpack under his desk and motioned him out.

Daniel didn't move. His thoughts were still with Alexandria and the hospital and he couldn't bring his brain front and center to focus on why the other SG-1 would have come back. Even when his dad put a hand between his shoulder blades, urging him forward towards the elevator, all Daniel could think of was that the hospital was in the other direction. Up.

He was in a daze as the elevator doors opened and they stepped out. The stairs were difficult to manage and his dad accompanied him step by laborious step, keeping a grip on his elbow. He'd broken into a sweat by the time he got to the briefing room level and was seeing spots. He stopped at the top, breathing hard.

"You okay?"

Nodding, Daniel glanced into the room and blushed when he realized he'd had an audience. Two Teal'cs, two Sams, and his dad's double along with General Hammond, were watching him. He felt anger at the other team for forcing him to come here and he couldn't help but shoot them all a dirty look.

There were two empty chairs at the far end of the table and Daniel headed for them, but Sam stood and offered him her chair. He smiled at her gratefully as he tried not to collapse into the chair next to Teal'c. His dad touched his shoulder as he passed behind him and sat at the other end, opposite General Hammond.

"We'll begin this meeting as soon as Doctor Fraiser arrives," General Hammond said.

"Why do I have to be here?" Daniel shot out when everyone shifted uncomfortably, leaning both hands on the table and looking at the General. "Can't I go home?"

"You're the reason we're here, Daniel." The other Sam leaned forward over the table as if to take his hand, and he quickly placed it in his lap, away from her touch.

"Colonel O'Neill informed me that the bone marrow transplant wasn't successful." Hammond gave him a stern stare, and while normally Daniel would succumb to the man's authority, today he wasn't in the mood.

"So... What? You're going to take more?"

"We'd like to try again, Daniel." Sam's voice was patient and irritating to his ears. He turned from her deliberately and glanced at Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c. There was something about the Colonel, how he wasn't meeting his eyes... "Except this time it's a little more complicated, which is why we need Janet to be in on this—"

"Your Fraiser didn't come this time around?" his dad asked.

"Daniel needed her," O'Neill answered, looking up quickly at them before glancing back at his fingers.

Janet's high heels rang out on the stairs and everyone turned to watch her enter the room. At least she didn't make a fool of herself and she smiled a greeting as she waited for General Hammond's aide to pull up a chair at the corner of the table next to Daniel and the General.

The other Sam immediately started talking, and the medical jargon was too complicated for him to understand. He began to drift and soon he was fighting to keep his eyes open. He shifted awkwardly in the chair as Janet, Sam and the other Sam kept bouncing something back and forth.

"Are you ill?"

Teal'c's voice, so close to his ear, caused him to jump. He gave Teal'c an embarrassed smile. "Just a little sleepy. I was hoping to go home and nap but..." He gave a quick wave towards the trio sitting across from them.

"I do not believe this discussion will last much longer." Teal'c turned to look at his dad, whose expression was one of growing anger.

Daniel quickly tried to latch onto the topic, but he'd missed so much already that he couldn't quite grasp what they wanted to do. Until his dad stood, the sudden action sending the chair rolling backwards.

"No. N.O." His dad rested his weight on his palms as he leaned forward menacingly. "You are not infecting my son with whatever is poisoning your Daniel."

"Sir, Janet's confident she's found a cure—"

"You said that the last time," his dad barked.

"I know. But by giving Daniel the combination of drugs before infecting him and then harvesting his marrow, she'll be able to cure both of them."

"Out of the question." His dad motioned for Daniel to stand up as he moved away from the table. "C'mon, Daniel, we're going home."

Daniel had managed to get to his feet when Colonel O'Neill spoke. "Jack." He spoke softly, still staring at his hands. "Why don't you come back with us, just for an hour?"

"I don't think that's necessary."

"I'd just like you to see... Why we're so desperate."

"Your desperation will kill my son."

"Fraiser won't let that happen."

"I can't take that chance."

"Just come and see. One hour of your time." O'Neill raised his eyes and looked at his dad, and there was so much hurt in them that Daniel wanted to cry. He stood there, feeling like an idiot, unsure whether he should sit again. He wanted to leave. He wanted to go home. He didn't want to do this; he didn't want his dad to waste another hour – time that he could spend trying to find out about Alexandria.

"What if the roles were reversed?" The other Teal'c nodded his head at Daniel. "Our DanielJackson would not hesitate to save this young one's life."

Daniel's Teal'c answered quickly. "Your DanielJackson is an adult, mature enough to make his own decisions."

"Hey," Daniel said, suddenly insulted. "I can make my own decisions."

"Unfortunately, you still require your father's permission for such an undertaking."

"You got that right."

"Please, sir. Come hear what Janet has to say." Sam turned to Janet. "We brought back all of Janet's research. If you study it, you could tell the colonel whether the solution is feasible or not."

"Colonel..." Janet said slowly. "Sam's right. We can't refuse outright without at least looking at their data—"

"Oh, yes, we can. I think it says father somewhere on my uniform."

"Sir..." Sam made that face that showed she was uncomfortable bringing something up. "We do owe them for helping Daniel and Teal'c get back home."

His dad's glare made Daniel weak-kneed; he was grateful it wasn't aimed at him. He put a hand on the side of Teal'c's chair to keep his balance, and Teal'c's warm hand enveloped his. The touch helped and he took a deep breath.

Breaking eye contact with Sam, his dad glanced over at General Hammond, who nodded.

"One hour," his dad finally said.

They all moved away from the table, leaving Daniel alone with Teal'c and his dad.

"Daniel." His dad glanced meaningfully towards the stairs. "You wait for me in my office."

"Can't I go home—"

"In my office. You heard them. I'll be an hour."

"But I can call Grandma—"

"Icky." Moving into Daniel's personal space, his dad kept his voice low. "General Hammond trusted you enough to include you in this meeting. Don't disappoint him, and me, by breaking that trust and doing something you may regret later."

How could his dad have known what he'd been thinking? Anger fueled his words. "I don't want to go through shit to make the other me better," he spat out. "I don't want needles plunged into my hip again. If I get sick, how am I going to get better and convince Mr. and Mrs. Montalbano that the accident wasn't my fault so they don't sue you?"

"I understand. You want to go and see Dria and if you're stuck here—"

"I'm sick and tired of all of this, Dad. It just never ends. I don't want to miss more school. I don't want to be stuck in here for days on end. I don't want to—"

"What if it were you?"


"What if it were you who were poisoned and you needed the other Daniel's blood to make you better?"

"I..." For a moment he couldn't come up with the scenario but then he remembered what the past twenty-four hours had been like and he couldn't conceive feeling like that for long periods of time. Suddenly it dawned on him where his father was going. "Daddy? I don't want to be sick." His dad's arms pulled him close and he ignored the pain in his ribs as he shivered in fear against his dad's chest.


Leaving Daniel in Teal'c's care had been hard. He'd left the two of them in the briefing room, not wanting Daniel to have to struggle outside for nothing to see him off. With his thoughts still on his son, the trip to the other universe seemed surreal; one moment he was in the air above Cheyenne Mountain, the next they were landing again, in exactly the same spot, in the alternative universe's base's parking lot.

He and his team were waved through security checks. The other team's expressions were grim, had been so since they'd boarded the ship and returned here. Jack hadn't even attempted any wisecracks to ease the tension; he had enough with his own problems at home.

To his surprise, they didn't head for the infirmary, but to the VIP area. The other O'Neill stopped before a door and his team hugged the wall, allowing Jack and Carter to approach. O'Neill tapped a shave and a haircut on the door with his fingertips before passing his keycard. He turned the knob, pushed the door open and waved Jack inside.

The smell of sour sweat, vomit and just plain sickness assailed him as he stopped just inside the door. The room was dark, with only a small table lamp giving off a small circle of brightness that didn't penetrate the shadows. He waited a moment, letting the light from the hallway illuminate the room and give his eyes time to adjust.

"Well, look who the cat dragged in." Daniel's voice, slow and lethargic, rose from the depths of the far corner. Jack took a step deeper inside and saw Daniel lounging in a chair, head resting on the chair's back, legs splayed ungraciously before him. "Did they ask you nicely to come, or did they drag you here kicking and screaming?"

O'Neill brushed past Jack and flicked on a second lamp, bringing the room into clarity. "I thought you were going to wait until we—"

"Oh, I did wait." Daniel raised a hand and lethargically waved it drunkenly around in front of him. "But all that puking, shaking and absolute misery sort of changed my mind." He chuckled, dropping his hand heavily back onto his lap. He raised it again, and made a quick, dismissing motion with it. "Did they tell you the marrow thing they did, didn't work?" He dropped his hand again. "Did you bring your son with you?"

Daniel raised his head from the back of the chair and tried to peer behind Jack. "I wouldn't recommend bringing him in here right now. Might scare the shit out of him. Oh," he said, his voice gaining a bit of speed, "I wouldn't recommend he come in here a couple hours from now, either. The withdrawals aren't pretty and that might scare the shit out of him also. Actually," Daniel said as he got up shakily, ignoring O'Neill's hand as he went to help him up, "None of this is pretty." He weaved his way to Jack and stood, swaying slightly. "Best you keep him far, far away from here because," he lowered his voice to a whisper, "in case they didn't tell you, they want to do this," he slapped his chest hard, "to him."

"Daniel," Carter said, stepping into the room, "you know it's the only way—"

"No, I told you what the only way to deal with this was."

"Going cold turkey isn't going to do anything," O'Neill spat, "except kill you."

"This isn't poison," Jack blurted out as comprehension struck him. "This is addiction."

Daniel laughed and the sour smell of his breath nearly sent Jack stumbling back a step. "Oh, they didn't tell you? It's a great story." He grabbed Jack's arm and tugged him towards the bed. "Here, sit, it's going to take a moment for me to tell." He kept his grip on Jack's arm until he sat. Daniel let him go and began pacing back and forth. He reached the door, saw Carter, and stopped. "Hey, Sam, they dragged you here, too? C'mon in," he said expansively, waving an arm in invitation. "Have a seat. Take a load off."

Carter stepped inside and slowly sat next to Jack, both of them watching Daniel pace. Gone was the lethargy, now he was infused with energy, his paces speeding up as he moved from wall to wall. "It all started on this wonderful little planet. You know the type; mediocre village, no technology, friendly people wanting to get to know you better, with very little military interest but tons of sociological and anthropological interest?

"We got invited to share bread with the leaders of the village. Found out that they had a caste society, however. Loved blue-eyed people, thought anyone else to be servants." Daniel detoured and moved past the bed, gave O'Neill a friendly pat on the shoulder before returning to his attempts to wear out the area rug.

"So we went along with it, considering me 'n' Sam both have blue eyes and Teal'c 'n' Jack have brown eyes, it worked out pretty good overall. I gave Jack a hard time, made sure he had all these little chores to perform..." Daniel slowed his pacing and turned to stare at O'Neill. "I teased him mercilessly..."

"Daniel..." O'Neill raised a hand towards him, and Daniel suddenly turned and began his hurried pacing again.

"Anyways, the one thing we didn't realize is that the higher caste people, those with blue eyes..." Daniel stopped and pointed at himself. "Me, in case you didn't get that part—"

"I got it."

"We ate at different tables. Me and Sam, we ate what our hosts ate. Jack and Teal'c, they ate with the servants. Now, here's the kicker. Those of the higher caste enjoy the pleasures of a very addictive drug. They're exposed to it from the moment of their birth. It's laced in their food, keeps them happy, content, serene, and leaves the lower caste free to actually run the town. With the upper caste nice and happy all day long, the farming, trading, and everyday life is performed by the servants, on behalf of their masters." Daniel chuckled, but the sound came out as sad. "In other words, the servants keep their masters drugged and out of their hair while they take care of business."

"You and Carter...?" Jack turned to Carter, who'd stood staring at her feet the whole time Daniel had been talking.

"The drug didn't affect me, sir," Carter said as she raised her head and gave Daniel an anguished look. "The protein marker I carry seems to offer immunity from the drug. The worst I got from it was a massive headache and muscle cramps, which Janet said were a byproduct of the drug's breakdown in my system."

"Stop blaming yourself, Sam," Daniel snarled at her suddenly. "If you hadn't been immune, there'd be two of us facing this problem."

"So you ate some of the drugged food, got addicted," Jack said as he pushed aside of memories of Kynthia and that one night of drugged, blissful sex. Even though it had been ten years, the flashbacks he experienced at times made it feel like it had been yesterday. "And...?"

"Well, that's it." Daniel, still pacing, swerved back to the bed and stood before Jack. "Except, of course, that there's no way of getting me unaddicted, except to go cold turkey and to which Janet says the withdrawal will probably kill me."

"There must be something Janet can do..." Carter, sitting next to Jack, looked up at Daniel. "Maybe weaning the drug back incrementally until your body—"

"Been there, done that, had the seizures."

"There must be some other drug or medicine that can counteract this drug or at least help with the withdrawal symptoms."

"Bingo." Daniel raised his arm up in triumph. "Spent two days unconscious in a medically-induced coma to deal with the withdrawal and apparently came so close to dying, Janet had no choice but to give me a massive dose of the drug to literally resurrect me."

"What about Carter's protein marker from Jolinar? Can't that block the addiction?" Jack felt pleased that he'd actually thought of it.

"By itself, no." The pacing started up again. "That's where the bone marrow transplant came in. They figured manipulating it with the protein marker would fix me." Daniel gave a strangled laugh. "Yeah, it fixed me, all right." He walked away from them and stared at the chair he'd been sitting in when they'd arrived.

"Daniel?" Jack had turned on the bed, following Daniel's progress to the back of the room.

"It backfired on him," O'Neill said, walking up to Daniel and putting a hand on his shoulder. Daniel stiffened, then his body relaxed as O'Neill put his arm around him and led him back to the chair. Daniel collapsed on it heavily, as if he'd used up all the earlier energy.

"His dependence on the drug increased threefold." Carter rubbed a hand across her mouth, obviously trying to stay in control of her emotions. "Janet says it's killing him; his body's under a tremendous strain and the physical and emotional upheavals will take a toll and—"

"How long?" Jack asked,

"Weeks," she whispered. "Probably less."

Daniel seemed exhausted now, allowing O'Neill to fuss over him. The adult Daniel Jack remembered always seemed to have a hard time letting someone help; he'd been on his own for so long that he'd often felt obligated letting down his guard enough to let a friend in. Either this Daniel had overcome those quirks or he was sick enough that he didn't care. Somehow Jack hoped it was the former.

Carter motioned them out and he and his Carter stood and left O'Neill alone with Daniel. They stood in the hallway, out of earshot of the VIP room. "The fact that he tried to stop taking the drug several times has thrown his body out of whack. He's prone to mood swings, intense highs and lows, extreme fatigue or intense energy. Since yesterday's attempt with the bone marrow, it's made things worse."

"So tell me how addicting my son to that stuff will help Daniel? Not that I'm agreeing to this," Jack added quickly, refusing to see the memory of his friend in that room, suffering, fighting for his life.

Carter swallowed, seeming nervous. "Janet thinks by injecting Daniel, your Daniel, with minute amounts of the drug along with my protein marker, that he'll develop a resistance, and by harvesting the bone marrow again, this time with the antibodies in him—"

"But he'll be addicted! If this stuff is so potent, how are you going to wean my son off the drug?"

"Daniel and I were exposed to quantities of the drug that were meant for adults who'd ingested it for years. They thought we were one of them, they never thought we'd never been exposed to it."

"And my son?"

"A fraction of what Daniel's taking. He'll probably feel the effects, but it won't be anything as pronounced as what Daniel's experiencing. And one additional point to consider," she said after a long pause, "is that if it doesn't work, your son shouldn't have any problems being weaned off the drug."

"See," Jack said, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise at the thought of putting Daniel through this, "it's the shouldn't part that worries me."

"Perhaps if you spoke to DoctorFraiser." Jack startled, having forgotten that Teal'c had left the room with them. "She would be able to shed more light on the subject."

"Oh, I think not." As much as he'd like to help their Daniel, there was no way he was putting his son through any of this. "Tell your Colonel I'm ready to go back—"

"Carter, I need help in here!" O'Neill's bellow had them all racing back into the room. Daniel was on the floor, in the throes of a seizure. Carter immediately ran for the phone and called it in while Teal'c grabbed a blanket from the bed and shoved it under Daniel's head and shoulders, protecting him from the cement floor.

Jack exchanged a glance with his Carter, barely able to pull his attention from the sight of his former friend in such extreme distress. It was a relief when the seizure ended and he hurried to help O'Neill and Teal'c lift Daniel onto the bed.

"Why isn't he in the infirmary?" Jack snapped as Teal'c covered Daniel's now damp pants with a blanket.

"He wanted to maintain his autonomy for as long as he could," Carter said, straightening Daniel's legs. "He and Janet have argued over his staying here. I think after this, she's going to..."

Jack swallowed as he looked at Daniel, lying pale and unconscious on the bed. He'd lost weight since the last time he'd seen him. His hair was damp and stringy, his face covered with stubble. In the two years they'd served together, he'd seen Daniel in all sorts of conditions and he remembered the pain he'd felt when he'd left his friend behind to die, alone, in a Goa'uld spaceship headed for Earth. As much as he worried over his son, he realized he couldn't leave this Daniel to die.

"Tell Fraiser I want to talk to her."


"Dad?" Daniel looked pointedly at his watch. "Can we go home now?" He pushed back his dad's office chair, moving slowly and cautiously. The three hours he'd sat waiting here had done a number on his body. He'd refused Teal'c's offer to go to his quarters to lie down, expecting his dad to return any minute.

"Sorry, kiddo, there's been a change of plan."

Janet entered right behind his dad, and Daniel suddenly knew that there was no chance he'd be getting to the hospital today to try and see Alexandria when he saw that Janet had long hair. Anger began to rage when suddenly the implications of why Janet had come back with his dad hit him.

"No." He moved faster than he should have and the pain from his back and ribs hit him simultaneously. His first instinct was to run, but there was nowhere to run to. Resignedly, he stood still as the visiting Janet smiled at him.

"You look like you've had a pretty rough time."

"I've been better," he mumbled as she came closer. "You're here to make me sick?"

"I'm here so I can explain to you what we'd like to try."

"Why bother explaining? Why not just do it?" He walked back to the chair and used the chair's arms to sit back down.

He didn't miss the worried look Janet gave his dad.

"Well, because I like my patients to know what they're in for, before they agree to undergo any type of treatment or procedure—"

"Oh, please, like I have a choice in this matter?"

"Of course you do." There was that look again, to his dad.

"I'm fourteen, Janet. I have no say in any matter."

"Give us a minute. We'll meet you in the infirmary." As his dad stepped around his desk, both Teal'c and Janet started walking out of the room.

"See? No say whatsoever," Daniel grumbled behind their backs.

"It's pretty bad," his dad started to say. He stopped and swallowed hard as his gaze bounced around the room.

"I don't care." Once upon a time, he might have cared. But that was before he'd been stupid and had gotten his girlfriend hurt and his dad sued because of his stupidity.

"He's dying."

The emotion in his dad's voice scared Daniel, and once again, the jealousy he'd felt when he'd seen his dad interacting with his older self hit him hard. "So?"

"Icky." His dad leaned a hip on his desk and sighed. "You have no idea how hard this is for me."

"Yeah, right. I'm the one who's going to be sick, in case you forgot."

"I didn't forget. I saw what the drug can do." His dad closed his eyes. "He's you, Daniel. God help me, I can't let him die, just like I can't let anything happen to you."

The hurt in his dad's voice scared him. "Dad?"

"Please. This is something I can't, or wouldn't, ever force you to do. But I'm asking... please."

"Dad... I'm scared." The drug, the court case, Alexandria, his friends' alienation – it was just all too much for him to deal with.

Suddenly he was enveloped in his dad's arms. "Me too, Icky, me too."


The shivering started the moment he sat on the infirmary bed. He knew it was from nerves, so he kept a grip on the edge of the mattress to hide the tremors.

"Just relax, Daniel." Janet, the other Janet, smiled down at him. "I'm going to take some of Sam's blood and then separate the proteins from the sample. It won't take too long."

Daniel nodded as he tucked his hands under his armpits in an attempt to warm them up. His dad pulled the folded blanket from the foot of the bed and draped it over his shoulders as the two Janets and Sam left the area.

"Why don't you lie down? You might as well be comfortable while you wait." His dad kept a hand on his shoulder and then helped Daniel lie down.

"O'Neill, I would speak to you."

Teal'c hadn't said a word since they'd left his dad's office. Now, he looked and sounded angry. Daniel watched as his dad gave his arm a pat and he and Teal'c moved away from him. Though their voices were lowered, however, he still managed to make out their words.

"Are you certain this course of action is wise?"

"No, T, no, I'm not." His dad rubbed a hand distractedly through his hair. "But I just can't sit back and let—"

"I understand your concern over the other DanielJackson. But you are endangering your son's life in order to attempt to save a stranger's—"

"He's not a stranger. He's who Daniel would have been if I hadn't listened to Lam almost nine years ago."

"However, the man is not your son."

"You're right, but he would have been my friend. Your friend, too, Teal'c."

Teal'c stared at his dad for a long moment, then slowly inclined his head. "I trust you are not making a grave error in judgment, but I understand your concern."

The two of them returned to the bed, Teal'c sitting on the bed next to Daniel's while his dad grabbed a chair and rolled it close. Embarrassed, Daniel couldn't quite meet either of their gazes, so he kept his eyes lowered, wishing he could flat-out refuse to do this. Instead his father's face kept flashing before his eyes and the anguish he'd seen there had scared him enough that he'd go through with this, even if it hurt.

It seemed to take forever, but when the other Janet came back carrying a tray with a syringe on it, he wished it had taken longer. She sat down on the bed next to him and began tying the tourniquet around his bicep while their Janet hung an IV bag next to his bed.

"I'm going to set up an IV," the other Janet said as she swabbed the back of his hand with a sterile wipe. "Then I'll inject the proteins I removed from Sam's blood." She dropped the wipe in the tray and inserted the IV cannula into his forearm. Janet handed her a piece of tape and she secured it. "If this works, this time, instead of taking the marrow directly from your bones, we'll give you a drug called Filgrastim for a few days which will help draw the blood stem cells from your marrow and into your bloodstream. Then we'll collect the stem cells through a machine that'll literally suck them out of your blood."

"Why didn't you do that before?" Daniel was proud that his voice wasn't shaking like the rest of his body.

"Because, honey, we couldn't take the time to wait for the Filgrastim to work. But now we don't have a choice. This way your body can take the time to create the antibodies we can use against the drug."

The other Janet picked up the syringe. "Ready?" Daniel pursed his lips tightly together and nodded. He watched nervously as she injected the syringe's contents into the IV; somehow being injected with leftover Goa'uld matter churned his stomach. He knew his eyes wouldn't start glowing and that he wouldn't be developing super powers but still, he at least expected to feel something, and was almost disappointed when he didn't.

"Now these protein markers will hopefully protect you from the effects of the drug I'm going to give you." The other Janet reached for another syringe and suddenly Daniel was scared. This was a drug; somehow the magic mushrooms he'd taken earlier this spring had been child's play compared to this. This stuff was killing his other self; and now they were giving it to him.

"Daddy?" He turned onto his side, ignoring the pain the movement caused in his ribs and back, and thrust his unfettered arm out, reaching for his dad. His father's fingers were warm against the chill of his hand.

Janet paused, syringe in hand, waiting.


He squeezed his father's hand and closed his eyes, feeling the tremors, which had eased, start up again. He tried to relax the hand with the IV and not listen to the rustling of Janet's clothing as she moved around. His breaths were harsh, and on one level he knew he was making a fool of himself in front of his family, and on another level he just wanted his father to pull the IV out before the drug hit his system and take him home.

The change came as fast as one inhalation and one exhalation. One second he was shivering in fear, and the next, he felt calm. Loosening his death grip on his dad's hand, Daniel eased onto his back. There was minimal pain with the movement and he stretched his legs, sighing in relief. For the first time in what felt like forever, he felt good. He smiled, feeling the weight of the world slipping off his shoulders.


Daniel was calm. Too calm, in Jack's opinion. After the agitation of the previous hours, seeing Daniel lying in bed with that goofy smile on his face, humming along with some weird song on his iPod while staring into space, brought back memories he'd hoped never to experience again.

"Okay, let's see how well the protein marker is working," one of the Fraisers said. She pulled Daniel's arm to the side and he didn't react except to continue humming. She drew a vial of blood without any reaction from Daniel. When she told him to hold the wad of cotton over the pinprick, Daniel did so by rote, his eyes not quite focusing on her.

"This won't take long, Colonel." She smiled at him as she gathered her things and he held up a hand before she could walk away.

"I thought you said the stuff you got from Carter's blood was going to cure Daniel."

"Yes, we're hoping it will."

"Then why is he," Jack made a twirling motion with his fingers, "so out of it."

"Ah." Fraiser gave Daniel a fond glance as she answered. "The protein marker protected Sam from the addictive quality of the drug, not the drug itself. The difference between your son and my Daniel is, that once we stop giving him the drug, he'll be fine. Whereas withholding the drug from my Daniel will, without a doubt, kill him."

"How positive are you that Carter's markers are working."

"Give me a few minutes and I'll let you know." She held up the vial of blood for emphasis before turning away and leaving the room.

"You are concerned."

"Aren't you?" Jack glared at Teal'c. "He hasn't once mentioned Dria in the past couple of hours. He hasn't asked to go home and when he spoke to his grandmother earlier, he nodded off in mid-sentence." Jack could still hear his mother's words ringing in his ear when he took the phone from Daniel and tried to explain to her what had happened. He had a feeling any cookies she brought his way for the next few weeks were going to be burned to a crisp until she got over this last scare.

"DoctorFraiser appears confident that this solution will be successful."

"Didn't they say that about the bone marrow thingie in the first place?"

"Indeed. But perhaps they were too hasty in their first assumption—" Teal'c broke off as Fraiser came back, grinning widely.

"Well, gentlemen, it looks like we're a go. Now all we have to do is give Daniel daily injections of Filgrastim for four or five days, and we're all set."

"So what about Daniel?"

"What about him, sir?"

Jack stared at his son who seemed totally oblivious of the conversation taking place around him. "Is he going to be addicted to the drug?"

Fraiser's grin faded quickly. "No, sir. The protein marker is doing exactly what it should be doing. At the end of all this, he'll walk away as if nothing happened, and he'll have provided an antidote for our Daniel."

They stared at each other for a long moment, and Fraiser only dropped her gaze once Jack nodded.

"If you'll excuse me, I'll go see about getting the Filgrastim injections started." As she walked back towards Fraiser's office, Jack followed her. Not that he didn't trust this Fraiser, but he wanted to hear what his Fraiser had to say.


The two Fraisers stood on either side of Daniel's bed, like bookends. Despite hearing the same verdict from his Fraiser, Jack still couldn't help worry. He watched as his Fraiser tapped Daniel's arm to get his attention, and motioned for him to remove his earbuds.

"Hey, Jan... Janet." Speaking slowly, Daniel glanced around at them curiously. "What's up?"

"We're ready to start the Filgastrim injections—"

"Okay." Daniel thrust his arm in her direction as he fiddled one-handedly to replace the earbuds.

"Whoa, not so fast, partner." Fraiser tugged at Daniel's hand until she had his attention. "I want you to know what the side effects of this drug is going to be like—"

"Side effects?" The words came out of Jack's mouth before he could stop them.

"Bone and muscle pain, mostly. You'll most likely feel like you have the flu. Fatigue, insomnia, sweating, nausea..."

Daniel waved a hand languidly towards Fraiser. "That's fine."

"No, it's not fine." Jack straightened in the chair, anger getting the best of him. "Isn't he going through enough?" he snapped.

"DanielJackson will be fine." Teal'c leaned forward and put a hand on Jack's shoulder. The weight and heat of his hand seemed to leech the anger from him. "The effects of this new drug will obviously be counter-acted by the other. He will not feel these ills."

Teal'c was right; Daniel's ribs, back and leg didn't seem to be bothering him much at the moment. Nor his conscience, apparently. As much as he hated the anguish Daniel had been going through over Alexandria, he didn't like the idea of obliterating it all with a drug.

He motioned for them to go ahead with the injection. A minute later, it was done.


"Ow." Trying to sit up wasn't a good idea so Daniel turned onto his side and tried to roll out of bed. His whole body felt like it had seized up on him.

"Are you okay, Daniel?"

"Yeah," he said to the nurse, finally sitting up, hunched over, one arm supporting his aching ribs that wouldn't quite allow him to straighten up. "I just gotta go to the bathroom."

He got to his feet and limped to the bathroom, every step a torment to his bruised shin. He didn't remember hurting this much before; he felt like he'd been lying in bed for days without moving.

Once he'd taken care of nature's call, he washed his hands and splashed water on his face. He felt groggy, out of tune with everything. He had no idea what time it was; the last few hours were a blur. He remembered people coming to visit; his dad, Sam, Teal'c, and there had been Janet and the other Janet and... He sighed, rubbing wet fingers against his eyelids and wishing things were clearer. His fingers felt numb and thick, his head almost two sizes too big. He limped out of the bathroom, feeling oddly restless and wrung out at the same time.

"Hey, good to see you're up."

He turned at the sound of Janet's voice and nearly lost his balance.

"Whoa, easy there." She grabbed his arm and held on until he managed to catch his balance. "Careful. Looks like you need to get your sea legs back."

"What time is it?" He glanced at his wrist but saw he wasn't wearing his watch. Which was odd; he didn't remember taking it off. He squinted towards the table next to his bed and saw the watch was there, next to his glasses.

"Just after four; they'll be bringing your supper soon. I hope you're hungry today."

Daniel shuffled to the table and picked up his glasses, turning to Janet as he put them on. There was something about that statement... "Today?"

"You hardly ate yesterday. Although you seem more alert now."

"Yesterday?" Daniel frowned. He didn't remember missing meals. Wait a second, he didn't even remember breakfast. He reached for the bed and eased himself onto it, wincing at the pain in his hips and ribs.

"Looks like you've lost a bit of time." Janet's smile was gentle. "We've had a few problems regulating the dosage but it looks like we've finally hit it right."

"Dosage?" Daniel wiggled his feet, feeling an odd need to get up and pace.

"The drug that Janet's been giving you?" she prodded.

"Ah, right." That, he remembered, along with his dad's words to him.

"You're due for another dose before lunch, along with the Filgrastim—"

"Filgra... what?"

Janet laughed as she moved behind him and opened the back of his gown. He suddenly realized he'd walked the length of the infirmary in a hospital gown, without a bathrobe over it. He felt his face flush in embarrassment as Janet answered his question.

"Filgrastim. It helps draw the stem cells from your marrow into your bloodstream." He felt her pull the bandage away from his hip.

He blinked at her, not exactly sure what she was talking about. He felt her palpate the area around his hip.

"We'll be taking the marrow out in a less invasive procedure this time. It'll just take a few days getting your body ready for it."

Daniel couldn't help but feel he'd just woken up in the middle of someone else's dream. He felt anxious, although he didn't know why. "Where's my dad? Why isn't he here?"

Her fingers stilled against his back, then she moved away and the warmth of her hands left a chill against his skin. She pulled his gown closed and walked around the bed until she was standing opposite him.

"I ordered him to go and get some sleep. He's just a couple of floors away if you should need him."

"Janet, I don't remember..."

"Remember what?"

"Dad sitting here with me. Me being here. I..."

"Like I said, we had a bit of a problem calibrating the dosage of the drug. You were a little out of it for a while." She smiled, and Daniel couldn't tell if she was making fun of him or was sympathizing with him. "That's why Janet and the other SG-1 are still here; she needs to closely monitor your reaction to the drug."

Daniel didn't answer. He hated this murkiness in his brain, like all the answers were there, just hiding in a shadow beyond his sight.

"How about a shower? Your hip's healing fine; I think we can leave off the bandages."

He didn't really want to move but figured maybe a shower would clear his head and ease some of the stiffness. He nodded and slowly got off the bed as Janet called over a nurse to accompany him. This time, with one hand holding the ends of the gown together, he followed the nurse back through the infirmary.

The water felt good, but didn't do anything to ease the discomfort. He was drying himself off, wondering why his hands were shaking so much, when he remembered Alexandria.

"Shit!" He smacked the tiled wall with his palm, unable to imagine how he could have forgotten her and what her parents were doing to his dad. He stood there, his hand, wrist and elbow vibrating with the shock of the strike, berating himself for forgetting.

He shook out his hand and slipped into a fresh hospital gown and shuffled back towards his bed, feeling like an old man. He could see his dad was waiting for him and he felt sudden anger. Deep down he knew it wasn't his dad's fault that he'd lost nearly two days, but he couldn't help the feelings that rose swiftly. Anger put wings to his feet and the distance between himself and the bed didn't seem so great.

Breathing hard and shaking from both his emotions and the exertion, Daniel couldn't help the anger from leeching into his voice as he stood in front of his dad, holding the back of his gown and trying to keep from flashing his dignity to all and sundry. "I want to go see Alexandria."

"I see. I guess it would help if I knew who Alexandria was."

As fast as the anger had filled him, it disappeared, leaving him tired and deflated. "Colonel."

"Doc's right. You're looking better."

"What are you doing here?" He sat on the bed and awkwardly managed to pull the blanket up over his legs.

"Thought I'd keep you company while you had supper. That is," the colonel said, leaning forward slightly on the chair as if getting ready to get up, "unless you'd rather eat alone."

Yeah, he'd rather eat alone. Actually he'd rather not eat at all. The thought of food turned his stomach. He'd prefer curling up in bed with his cell phone and with Alexandria at the other end of the line. And he knew that was so not going to happen.

He wanted to lash out and somehow he knew that these feelings weren't normal. Instead he bit his tongue and replied in a somewhat less insulting manner than he'd first intended. "Doesn't matter. I'm not hungry."

Settling back on the bed, he tried to punch his pillow into a comfortable lump. It was only when he lay his cheek against the pillow that he realized it wasn't infirmary-issued, but his own pillow from home. Some time during the past day or two, someone had gone to his home and taken his pillow from his bed and put it under his head, and he had no recollection whatsoever.

"That's too bad. I think Carter's gone to get you something from the Thai place down the road that she said you liked so much."

"Why?" The thought of eating, especially something spicy, was the last thing he wanted.

The colonel looked at him and blinked. "She said you asked for the Thai."

Daniel kept his mouth shut. It was possible he had asked for the food; the way things were going, lots of stuff had happened and he had no recollection of it. He turned his head to face sideways, not wanting to look at the man who resembled his father so much. He could see his cell phone on the table, not far from his watch. He tried to pull the blanket up but it was caught at the foot of the bed, under his legs. He'd deal with the blanket later, when he was alone.

"If your Bamboo Kitchen is the same as ours, then you've got great taste in food."

He'd hoped the colonel would get the message. Instead he felt him tug the blanket until it was free and then pull it up and cover his shoulders. He grabbed it and tucked his chin into its comfort.

Frustration began to grow when the colonel didn't leave. He could hear a light tapping sound, some rhythmic tune playing inside the colonel's head as he tapped it out with something he'd picked up, the same as his dad often did. Daniel didn't want him here; he wanted to be alone so he could try and reach Alexandria again. And of course he felt guilty that the man was forced to stay here, in this universe, until they'd taken more marrow from him. He glared hard at the cell, wishing he had telekinetic powers and have it jump off the table into his hand.

"You don't have to stay," he grumbled, hoping the colonel would get the message.

The tapping sped up into some intricate rhythm before slowing down again. "Nah, that's okay. It's not like I've got anyplace to go."

The rhythm the colonel was tapping out suddenly turned into a song. Annoyingly, now he had the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel in his head, saying the words silently along with the tapping.

Irritated, Daniel had been on the verge of telling him he could go to his home when he realized his dad would most likely have something to say about that. And he couldn't help but smile under the blanket at the thought of trying to explain his dad's twin to their neighbors.


He popped his head out of the blanket at the sound of Janet's voice. Long-haired Janet, not his Janet.

"It's time for your injections." She pulled the blanket away from his arm and he lay there feeling like a rag doll as she stuck first one then another needle into his arm. By the time Janet replaced the second syringe on the tray, he was feeling better. By the time she left the room, he'd forgotten why he was so angry and why he'd been staring at the phone earlier. All that remained was the vision of the phone hovering in mid-air, floating towards him. He put his hand out and willed the vision to come true. He hummed a song softly, hearing an orchestra accompany him, the strains of the instruments waxing and waning with his voice.

"Want your phone?"

"Huh?" He squinted at his dad that wasn't his dad and shook his head lethargically. "No use. Won't work." His mouth felt numb, his tongue not quite working in sync with his jaw.

"How about this one?"

A phone was thrust into his hand. Not his phone, not his dad's phone, but a phone nonetheless. A phone that was unlisted, a phone with a number that Mr. Montalbano wouldn't recognize. Greedily, he fumbled it open and hesitated. The numbers slowly appeared, one by one, in his mind's eye. His fingers felt too big for the small pad and he took his time, watching meticulously as each number appeared on the screen as he punched in the digits. Hitting send, he put the phone to his ear.

"Wonder if that'll cost me a long distance fee," his not quite father said with a short chuckle.

" 'Lo?"

The voice was familiar and he stopped humming and smiled. " 'Lexan..." He cleared his throat. "Alexandria?" He felt happiness infuse him.

"Ah, got your girl, didja? Let me give you some privacy." His not quite dad got up and walked away, leaving Daniel alone with Alexandria on the phone.

"Daniel?" Alexandria's voice suddenly turned into a harsh whisper. "Are you okay? Oh, God, I've been so worried. What happened? My dad won't tell me anything, except that he doesn't want me to see you again."

He licked his lips, needing to tell Alexandria all that had happened. In a rush of energy, he wanted to describe all the happenings of the past days, but he was distracted with the song in his head. "Your dad's mad."

"That's an understatement. I just wish I knew why he's so mad." Alexandria's whispers were so low, Daniel could barely make them out. "It's not like we did anything wrong. It was an accident. You'd think he was out to sue you guys or something."



"Pop goes the weasel." Daniel giggled as he tried to make the popping sound with his finger inside his mouth and ended up slurping the words instead.



"Are you drunk?"

"Mmmm, no." He giggled again. "Pop. It all went pop. You went pop." Suddenly it wasn't so funny. Alexandria had gone pop, busting her insides.

"Daniel, you're scaring me."

"Oh no, no, no, no, no. Don't," he hurried, stumbling over his words, infused with a rush of energy. "Don't be scared. Don't. Don't. Don't. S'okay. I'm just giving some bone... bone... stuff... to people who live in another universe 'cause if I don't, the guy who's me, but not a kid like me, y'know, he's a... a... a... grown up like I was eight years ago and he's gonna die because he's poisoned and only I can save him and his friends are gonna take my bone stuff and bring it back to their universe when I'm done and—" He stopped to take a deep breath, suddenly seeing spots before his eyes.

"You're taking drugs, aren't you? Please, Daniel, tell me what's going on."

Daniel couldn't understand why Alexandria was crying. "But I just told you."

"No, you didn't tell me anything. You're not making any sense."


"Who is this?" The voice was harsh, demanding. He could hear Alexandria crying in the background, begging her father to give her the phone. Daniel couldn't speak, couldn't bring his brain around to speak to him.

"You just don't get it, do you, Jackson—"

With a sigh, Daniel dropped the phone onto the blanket and huddled underneath. He could hear the man's tinny voice which became less irritating than a buzzing mosquito. After a while, the noise stopped.

He was vaguely aware of people coming and going, but none of what they said or did concerned him. On some level he was aware of answering them, reacting to them; while on another level, he simply drifted.


Jack took the barely-touched plate of now forgotten pad thai from Daniel's lap and put it aside. Daniel had spilled some noodles while eating and his hospital gown was now stained with sauce and oil. Not that he'd notice; he seemed groggy and Jack was pretty sure it wouldn't be long before he drifted off to sleep again. At least Carter had gotten him something that was reheatable.

He fiddled with the blanket, watching his son's serene face. Not that he liked the idea that he was pumped full of drugs but at least they seemed to ease his discomfort. And he hadn't complained about his ribs or leg lately.

He got up and tiptoed away, heading for the lab where both Fraisers were poring over the latest blood tests. The other SG-1 team was there; and Jack wondered what he'd missed.

"What's going on?" Jack asked, poking his head inside the small lab area.

Both Fraisers looked up at him and smiled. "Nothing earth shattering, sir. We're just checking the levels of the stem cells."

"And? Can you take them out yet?"

"No, unfortunately not yet. Maybe in another day or two." The two doctors went back to their charts, talking between themselves.

"Who's Alexandria?" O'Neill asked as Jack contemplated going back to sit with Daniel or heading to his office to do some work.

"What?" Jack stopped and stared at his alter ego.

"Alexandria. He was asking... I gave him my phone so he could call her—"

"Your phone worked here?" Carter piped up. Both majors turned to look at one another, the gleam of interest in their eyes almost scared Jack.

"Seems to. He got a dial tone so I gave him a bit of privacy to talk—"

"He talked to Alexandria?" Jack interrupted.

"I think so. He started talking to someone."

Finally, Jack thought. "It's about time. She's his girlfriend and they've had a rough time of it lately."

"Daniel's got a girlfriend?" The other Carter looked shocked and Jack's Carter giggled.

"Ah, I see things have changed since he came to visit us."

"Indeed. I had no doubts that young DanielJackson would soon find himself enamored with young women."

"Oy, please. I'm having trouble bringing my head around the fact that my son's going out with girls. Well, 'a' girl," Jack amended thoughtfully, "a very pretty, older woman, if you want to get technical."

"Older girl?"

"Dria's a couple year's older than he is. He ended up defending her honor, so to speak. Good ol' Daniel Jackson," Jack said with a smile, "always the one who not only saves the girl, but gets the girl."

"Things haven't changed much, I see." The other Jack had a twinkle in his eye.

"So he's still..." Jack made an 'out there' motion with his hand.

"Oh yeah. He hasn't lost the touch. I guess his charm wins out better with the gals than my sour puss."

"Oh, come on, Colonel." The other Fraiser straightened and grinned at O'Neill, and managed to encompass Jack in her glance as she quirked her eyebrows. "If I remember correctly, you managed to get your share of the girls."

"And trouble," his Fraiser added.

"Hey," Jack said quickly, affecting an innocent look. "I haven't gone offworld all that often—"

"No, but there have been a few times when—"

A strangled gasp came from the other Fraiser as she stiffened and began convulsing, her hands locking on the edge of the table as she fought to remain upright. Jack had seen this once before, and it hadn't been any prettier when an alternate universe Carter had come to the SGC looking for sanctuary, and they had learned about entropic cascade failure the hard way.

It looked horribly painful even though it lasted only a few seconds. Fraiser fell to the floor in a heap while Fraiser and the two Carters hurriedly crouched next to her.


Fraiser looked pale but alert as she sat on the opposite side of the briefing table from Jack. Carter and O'Neill looked nervous and he wondered if they were waiting for their bodies to give way to the foibles of existing in a universe where they didn't belong.

"We can't stay here," O'Neill said to Hammond.

"Yes, I know. And I understand that young Daniel still isn't ready for the marrow removal?"

"No, sir. I'd estimate at least another thirty-six to forty-eight hours before we could begin the harvesting."

"So what do you propose?"

Jack fully expected the team to leave and offer to come back in two days' time. "Do I have to start worrying?" he said, aiming his question at both doctors. He knew his Fraiser had been working closely with her alter ego but he knew she didn't have her experience with the drug they'd given Daniel.

"Actually, no, sir. I'm not going to leave Daniel."

"But, the convulsions—" Carter reached across the table, towards the other Fraiser, then guiltily pulled her hand back. She glanced at her own Fraiser a moment and offered her a small smile.

"We'd like to take Daniel with us, General—"

"No!" Jack was up and standing before O'Neill could finish his request. He was going to say more, but Hammond raised his hand, silencing Jack. He bit his tongue and sat down reluctantly. Teal'c seemed to lean towards Jack, offering silent support.

"I'm sorry," O'Neill said, turning to Jack. "I meant, we'd like all of you to come back with us so we can continue monitoring Daniel and take the stem cells on our side of the universe."

"We may have to do two harvests but it'll be within a safe timeline." Fraiser was staring at Jack, and he began to feel pressured. "I promise you'll be back home within three days."


Jack pressed his lips together in frustration as he turned to Hammond. He felt pressured even though he knew there really was no choice. He raised a hand in defeat. "Okay."

O'Neill nodded. "We'll leave in thirty minutes. Can Daniel be ready to go by then?"

Fraiser nodded. "He's good to go now. We just need to get him dressed."

"I, um..." Jack pointed towards the hallway... "Need to make a few calls." Oh, his mother was so going to kill him.


"Are we going home?" Daniel asked for the third time as he leaned heavily against Teal'c. Jack couldn't keep his eyes off his son; it was one thing seeing him lazing in bed with a book or his music, it was another seeing him barely able to walk a straight line and unable to keep a simple explanation in his head.

"Soon," Teal'c answered, his arm around Daniel's waist, holding him securely.

The elevator doors opened and the two SG-1 teams stepped out, with Teal'c and Daniel bringing up the rear. The other team hurried to the ship, and Jack couldn't blame them. Fraiser looked shaky but she managed to keep up with them. The ship uncloaked when O'Neill pressed a button on a remote control. Jack and Carter paced Daniel and Teal'c as they made their way behind them. Their Fraiser was talking with her counterpart; she wasn't coming along, but she'd accompanied them to the ship to see them off.

The fresh air seemed to have perked Daniel up and he looked around with a bit of interest. "Are we going home?"

"Not yet," Jack said resignedly.

"Oh." Daniel seemed to get his first look at the ship and he stopped, staring wide-eyed. "They're leaving?"

"Not quite. We're going back with them for a few days."

"You're coming too, right, Dad?" Daniel asked hurriedly, taking a step towards Jack.

He couldn't help smiling. Looked like the lights in Daniel's brain were coming back on slowly. "We're all going, Icky."

Seeming mollified, Daniel started walking again, then stopped. "What about Grandma?"

"I called and told her not to worry."

Another couple of steps and he stopped yet again. "Alexandria—"

"Your grandmother said she was home. She's doing fine."

"She's home?"

"Yeah." Jack ignored O'Neill when he popped his head out of the back of the ship to see what was taking them so long.

"You talked to Grandma?"

"I talked to Grandma. Grandma's fine. Dria's fine. How about we get you on board the ship?"

Daniel blinked owlishly, staring at Jack. It was obvious that he was trying to process Jack's words, and it hurt to see him so confused. After a moment, Daniel nodded to himself and started walking again.

With Daniel well in hand with Teal'c, Jack sped up so that he was walking with Fraiser.

"Do me a favor? Look in on my mom while we're gone?"

Fraiser looked startled. "Of course. Was there a problem?"

"I called her... And she was slightly upset."

Fraiser raised her eyebrows. "Slightly?"

"Okay, extremely upset over this."


Jack sighed. "I turned on the O'Neill charm."

"She didn't kill you. That's a step in the right direction." Fraiser gave Jack an impish smile.

"She sent us off with her blessings, and a saying about warding off the evil eye, and mumbled about how I owed her a tremendous birthday gift to make up for this. And to make sure Daniel returned in the same condition she'd last seen him. Upright, awake and alive."

"And you want me to allay her fears, and tell her that everything will be all right?"

"You're going to lie to her?"

Fraiser smiled slowly. "Maybe a bottle of wine will blur the lines between truth and fiction."

Jack pulled Fraiser into a quick, one-armed hug. "Good luck," he whispered. "You're going to need it." He let go of her and hurried into the ship.


It had taken longer to get Daniel into the ship than for the ship to cross the dimensions. They landed and Jack groaned inwardly as he coaxed Daniel onto his feet.



"It hurts." Daniel was standing but leaning heavily on the back of his seat.

"What hurts?"

"Everything." He took a small step forward with what seemed like exaggerated slowness. "Ow." Putting a hand to his back, he looked for Teal'c.

"It's the Filgrastim. We did warn you that it had side effects. Sore muscles and joints were one of them—"

"He didn't hurt five minutes ago." Jack scowled as Daniel stepped out of the ship bent over like an old man. He was walking stiff-legged, shuffling his feet on the asphalt, walking with Teal'c's help. "What the hell's going on?"

"The drug acts as a pain-killer, Colonel," this world's Fraiser said calmly as she stood looking up at Jack. "The drug's wearing off so he's beginning to feel discomfort."

"That's a helluva lot more than discomfort."

"Like I said, it's a side effect of the Filgrastim."

Jack scowled at her matter of fact tone as he hurried to catch up. He saw that Teal'c had everything well in hand but Daniel seemed relieved when Jack patted his shoulder as the other O'Neill opened the door to let them into the main base.

Once again they were waved through the security checks. By the time they got to the infirmary, Daniel was covered in sweat and was visibly shaking. Fraiser led the way through the infirmary and patted a bed in invitation. Daniel sat on it, arms around his midsection, seeming too exhausted to do anything.

"Why don't you rest for a few minutes while I have someone bring you something to change into?"

With a few grunts and whimpers, Daniel curled up onto his side. Jack began unlacing his sneakers, giving each foot a gentle rub before pulling the blankets over his shivering son. His temperature appeared normal; but Jack pushed his damp hair away from his forehead and gave him a kiss just to make sure. Daniel made a face but didn't pull away.

Fraiser had gone to talk to a nurse, and then moved on to a patient just a few beds away. The privacy curtain was partly pulled, hiding him from Jack's view but he suspected it was the other Daniel. His guess was confirmed when SG-1 joined Fraiser and all disappeared behind the curtain.

"I wanna go home," Daniel whined as a nurse whom Jack had never seen before came by and placed a pair of green scrubs on the foot of the bed.

"I know." Jack nodded his thanks to the nurse as Daniel pulled his legs up to his chest, as if trying to imitate a turtle.

"It hurts. I don't wanna do this anymore. Make it stop."

"We just got here, Icky." Jack threaded a hand through Daniel's hair while Carter sat on the bed.

"It's just for another day or so," Carter added, rubbing Daniel's back.

"Here?" Daniel turned over onto his shoulder, looking around. "We're in the infirmary."

"We traveled on the ship, remember?"

"We... We did?"

The confusion on his son's face sent Jack's Spidey sense into overdrive. He nodded in respect to Daniel's question as he looked around the infirmary for Fraiser, who still seemed to be behind the curtain with SG-1. Jack was just about to go over and haul her back when the other Daniel's voice came through loud and clear.

"You did what to him? Are you crazy? Do you know what you've done? Do you have any idea what you've just subjected that poor kid to?"

There was no doubt whom Daniel was talking about. Jack had taken a step towards the curtained area when his son called out to him.


"It's okay. I'm just going over to talk to them." As he hurried over, he glanced at his son. Teal'c took his place and Carter leaned closer.

"Sam? What's going on?"

Carter murmured an answer as Jack stepped into the crowded area. Fraiser was trying to get her Daniel to lie down and he seemed hell-bent on getting up. He glanced up at Jack, glared at Fraiser, and managed to swing his legs off the mattress and would have toppled off the bed if it hadn't been for Teal'c's quick save.

Daniel grabbed Teal'c's arm which was now wrapped around his chest, lowered his head in a motion that Jack was familiar with, obviously trying to gather strength, then stood. His hand shook as he grabbed the IV pole and pushed it towards Jack. He clutched Jack's arm and held onto him as he took unsteady steps towards Daniel.

Without hesitation, Jack put an arm around Daniel's waist, helping him along. Daniel stopped at the foot of the bed, staring at Jack's son, who stared back at him, almost pleadingly.

"Is he sick?" the other Daniel asked.

"He's experiencing some discomfort from the Filgrastim that we had to give him prior to the harvest."

"No, that's not what's causing the pain." Daniel let go of Jack's arm and took a few wobbly steps towards his son. "It's the drug. It's part of the addiction—"

"Daniel, don't." Fraiser stepped closer and put a hand on his arm. "The Filgrastim can cause some pretty intense pain. Some patients opt out of the donor program because they can't take it but—"

"Janet, it's the addiction. Believe me, I know. It's physical as well as mental. It's not just a fix to feel-good emotionally, it's to get rid of the pain. In the joints. In the muscles. Neck, back, head. God-awful muscle cramps. And then you take the drug and the pain's gone, and all your problems are gone, and nothing matters, until the drug wears off and you start to hurt again. And then all the problems come back, and they sit there and stare at you and you can't face them and you're hurting and you can't do anything to help anyone or yourself and you just need another fix, just to get rid of the guilt... And..."

"Daniel." O'Neill's voice was gentle, as was the hand he put on Daniel's shoulder. "Go back to bed."

Ignoring O'Neill, Daniel took a step towards the bed. "I'm so sorry, Daniel. I never thought they'd go through with it."

"Danny, please?" O'Neill tried to get in front of Daniel and block his view of the bed but Daniel put a hand on O'Neill's chest and pushed. Not hard, just enough to get the message through. O'Neill stepped aside, but kept a hand on Daniel's shoulder.

Daniel lay in the bed, looking up at everyone with a scared look on his face. He had a hold on Carter's hand, but his gaze kept bouncing from Daniel in fear, to Jack for reassurance.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" Daniel swayed and corrected his stance, legs apart. "You start to wake up and the first thing you notice is how much everything hurts—"

"Of course it hurts. He was in an accident and the stuff they're giving him to help you is making it worse—"

"Don't, Jack." Daniel made a jerky motion with his shoulder, dislodging O'Neill's hand. "Don't patronize me." He spoke without taking his eyes off Jack's son. "You can't think straight when you come back to your senses. Everything is an effort, moving, thinking, but you feel too much. Your emotions are so raw, you want another dose of the drug just to dull everything you feel."

"No, no, it's not like that." Daniel sat up, huddling against Carter. "I had an accident... it hurts, it's not the drug, it's not like that."

"The craving is there all the time, isn't it? You can't stop thinking about how that one little dose is going to make the hurt go away. Dull the senses, make you feel good."

"No. No. No." Daniel hid his face against Sam, shaking and crying.

"He's not addicted, Daniel." Fraiser stepped in front of Daniel and got in his face. "We gave him Sam's protein marker. Yes, he's feeling the effects of the drug but there's no addiction."

"Tell them, Daniel."


"Tell them. Tell them how you stop caring about everything. All the big problems and all the little problems and everything in between and it feels so good—"

"Daniel, that's enough. You're confused—"

"The drugs are making me confused," Daniel screamed at Fraiser. "God help me, I want it so bad but I can't let you do this to him. You have to stop this, Janet." Daniel spun on his heel and lurched towards Jack. "Please, please, stop this. You can't do this to him." He stumbled and fell forward and Jack and Teal'c both reached for him.

Even as Jack helped Daniel regain his balance, he turned to his son. "Icky?"

"Dad... Dad..."

"He's not addicted, Colonel."

"Icky? Is that how you feel?" Teal'c had hold of Daniel, so Jack let him go and went to sit on the bed. Daniel let go of Carter and threw himself against Jack. He could feel his son shaking as he sobbed, nodding his head vigorously.

"H-he's right. I want it. I want it so bad."

Jack wrapped his arms around his son, turning to look at the other Daniel, who was watching with a stricken expression.

"Please d-d-don't hate me. I promised n-not to take d-drugs. I promised, and you made me t-take these. I want it to stop hur-hurting. Please, Daddy. Make it stop."

Jack rocked Daniel gently from side to side, not sure what to do. He held onto his son, trying to come up with a miracle, but couldn't come up with anything. Except a decision. "Give him the drug."


"He's already addicted. We've come this far, we can't stop now, otherwise it'll have all been for nothing." Forgive me, he silently prayed to his son.

"Jack, no—" Daniel reached a hand towards him and Daniel, then pulled it back. "Please, no, he's suffered enough."

"If there's a chance this will help you—" He turned to Fraiser. "You said the protein marker would prevent the addiction. Is it possible that he can fight it once you take the marrow from him?"

Fraiser shook her head slowly from side to side. "If he's well and truly addicted, he'll be in the same boat as Daniel..."

"Unless, if the procedure is a success," the other Carter started—

"We use Daniel's marrow after the transfusion to cure Daniel—" Jack's Carter finished.

"You don't know that's going to work—" Daniel snapped.

"No, we don't," Fraiser answered just as testily. "But we don't have a choice. Colonel O'Neill is right. We've come this far." She turned to Jack. "I'll give him his shot, but I'll lower the dosage." She placed the tips of her fingers on Daniel's arms, as if almost afraid to touch him. "Go back to bed. It's time for yours also—"

"No. I don't need any—"

"Don't be ridiculous." O'Neill grabbed Daniel's arm, nearly pulling him off his feet. Daniel struggled, nearly falling. It was a ridiculous tug of war and it was only Teal'c's hold that kept Daniel on his feet.

"Hey, that's enough," Jack yelled. He felt his son jump in his arms and he gave him a quick squeeze. "You," he said, pointing with his chin at the still-unsteady Daniel standing over the bed, "are going to lie down and take your drugs. Don't make it harder on him." Jack looked down at the top of his son's head. "He's doing this for you; we've ascertained that Fraiser and Carter's original idea didn't quite pan out. Let's pray that the rest of their solution does."

Daniel nodded, nearly tripped over his feet as he turned around. Once again Teal'c was there to support him while O'Neill and Carter flanked him.

A nurse arrived with the drugs and Fraiser measured a dose out into a syringe. Daniel raised his head to watch her prepare for the injection. Still holding him in his arms, Jack watched his son, seeing now the signs he'd missed earlier. The rapt attention, the licking of lips in anticipation, the barely suppressed excitement as his breathing increased with the approach of the needle. The eyes shut in rapture with the delivery of the drug. The deep, heartfelt inhalation and soft exhalation as the drug hit his system.

Then Daniel opened his eyes and stared at Jack. "Don't tell Grandma. Please don't tell her."

"Shhh. You've done nothing wrong."

"I feel so..." Daniel's voice faded as his eyes lost focus.

"... Good?" High, Jack thought instead, but didn't say it.

"Ashamed," Daniel whispered.

"Don't. We forced this on you... I did this to you. You have nothing to be ashamed about."

Daniel's breathing slowed and his body became heavier as the drug took him completely.

"I don't want it. Leave me alone." The other Daniel's voice was loud and clear.

Sighing, Jack eased his son onto his side and covered him up with a blanket. Daniel squirmed under his ministrations, sighed contentedly and burrowed his face into the pillow.

Jack had just finished dealing with one Daniel Jackson tantrum, and now it looked like he'd have to deal with a second. Satisfied that his son was comfortable, he got up off the bed. "Stay with him," he told Carter and Teal'c as he went to see the other Daniel.

Daniel was sitting in the bed, arms folded across his chest, glaring at the small crowd gathered around him. Fraiser held a tray with all the paraphernalia to give the injection, and Daniel looked like he was ready to toss her out of the infirmary if she approached.

Without hesitation, Jack walked into the group and grabbed the tray from Fraiser. He plunked it none too gently on the bed, and stood there glaring at Daniel. "What the hell is this?"

"Like I told them, I don't want any more of the drug."

"So now, after all that my son has gone through for you, you decide to give up?"

"No." Daniel lowered his arms and levered himself up so that he was leaning forward. "I'm doing this so that he won't have to do this anymore. If I go cold turkey—"

"You'll die. And all these days of suffering you just put Daniel through will be for nothing and he'll be stuck like that, like you are now—"

"Then you can stop this, now, before it goes any further—"

"It's too late for that!" Jack snapped, his temper growing at the whole situation. "You saw how he was. He did this for you, and this is the thanks he gets?"

Daniel looked suddenly ashamed. "I... You're right. I don't know what I was thinking."

Jack grabbed the tourniquet from the tray and handed it to Fraiser. Without another word, Daniel lay back and didn't move as she readied his injection, except to turn his head away. Jack watched as Daniel's body incrementally relaxed back into the mattress.

"Thank you," Jack said as Daniel lay bonelessly.

Glassy blue eyes looked at him a long time before the eyelids slid shut. "For him," he slurred softly.


At first it had just been the pain and the interminable longing. Daniel, ashamed at his earlier confession, tried to hide the growing telltale signs that his next injection was soon approaching. He'd sat through Janet drawing blood, fingers clasped in a tight fist to hide their trembling.

Sam and Teal'c never left his side. He'd come out of his drugged state a while ago only to find his dad had left him to go to some meeting. He didn't know what time it was and truly didn't care, unless he could get his hands on his chart without anyone seeing so he could figure out how much more time before he got his next dose.

Frustrated with everything, he threw off the blankets and stood, trying to figure out how to relieve himself of the nervous energy that was infusing him.

"Going somewhere?"

Daniel shook his head as he paced stiffly back and forth, picking up things on the table, examining them and putting them down. The cement floor was cold on his bare feet but that discomfort was only a mild sensation compared to the stiffness of his joints and muscles.

He made an abortive attempt to walk to the foot of his bed to grab his chart, but Sam and Teal'c's eyes literally bore holes in his back and he lost the courage to pick up the file. He continued walking around the bed, pretending that this had been his intention in the first place.

"Do you need me to get Janet?"

Daniel stopped pacing and forced himself to turn slowly towards Sam. He wanted to scream out Hell, yes, get me Janet now!, but instead he shook his head. "I'm fine."

"It shouldn't be long. She was called to a meeting along with your dad and the other Colonel."

"I know, you told me that already." Daniel started pacing again, rubbing his arms with his fingertips and fighting the compulsion to dig his nails into his skin and tear his arms to shreds.

The announcement came over the intercom, muted somewhat in the infirmary for the sake of the patients, but still the sound managed to reverberate through Daniel's brain and down his spine.

"Unscheduled 'Gate Activation."

The memories the words implied were enough to bring him to a standstill, staring futilely up at the speakers set into the wall. Once upon a time, he'd set off at a run to see what was happening. The few times he'd been at the SGC since he'd regained his memories and the klaxons had sounded, he'd fought against that impulse.

Today, however, the sounds grated in his psyche. He didn't want to know what was happening just a few floors below him. He didn't care what was happening. He turned his back on his adult self, who'd leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, burying his face in his hands.

"Medical Team to the Gateroom."

He gulped in a breath of irritation when several nurses ran through the infirmary, heading toward the exit. He wanted to shout at them to come back. He was here, not out there and it wasn't fair that they were abandoning him now, not when his dose was so close to being due.

"Think we should go see what's going on?"

Daniel paced away from Sam, hating the curiosity in her voice.

"I do not believe it would be wise."

Did Daniel just imagine it or did Teal'c sound disappointed. "Hey, don't stay here on my account," he forced through clenched teeth.

"Teal'c's right. I don't think General Hammond would appreciate our barging into the middle of things. If they need us, they know where to find us."

Yeah, right. Here in the infirmary, babysitting the drug addicts.

There was anger in his step now, his bare feet slapped the floor loudly as he made longer forays around the infirmary. He could feel the other Daniel's eyes following him and he deliberately kept his gaze away from him. If it hadn't been for him getting addicted in the first place, he and his dad wouldn't be here. And he wouldn't be pacing the floor with the feeling that his joints were on the verge of seizing at any second.

He made several circuits of the infirmary, trying to see if any medical personnel were still around and whether they were preparing his next injection. On the fourth traipse to the nurses' station, he realized that they were alone here. Just knowing that made him so angry, he could barely catch his breath. He walked back to his bed, wanting to scream at Sam to stop staring at him as she watched him go past his bed.

"Where is everyone?" he demanded, turning around and heading back towards the nurses' station. "Don't they know what time it is?"

"There was an emergency. You heard the—"

"I know there was an emergency," Daniel snarled at Sam. "I'm not deaf. You'd at least think—"

His words were drowned out by the sudden clatter of the doors opening and the sound of running feet. Two gurneys were hurriedly pushed into the infirmary, followed by what at first appeared as a small army. Daniel froze, watching the tableau before him as people dressed in fatigues invaded the quiet infirmary, helping others, who were clearly injured, to other beds.

The noise level rose to an intolerable level as Sam and Teal'c ran to help. At first glance it looked like everyone was injured, all of them covered in blood. Then it became apparent that there were others helping, including his own father.

Daniel spun around, ignoring the drama going on in the infirmary and returned to his bed, intending to stick his head under his pillow to cut out the noise. Then he realized that relief, for him, would be a long time coming. It wasn't fair. He'd been here first.

"Hey!" he yelled above the voices of nurses and doctors. "When is someone going to take care of me here?"

"Daniel." His father's voice cut through the commotion. The steel behind the one-worded reprimand made him feel both ashamed at his selfishness and angry that nobody seemed to care what he was going through.

"What?" Daniel snarled, tamping down the hurt that his father wasn't taking his side. "Don't I even count anymore?"

His father crossed the room in seconds. Daniel stood his ground near the foot of his bed, squaring his shoulders despite the pain that caused him. He was shaking and his scrubs were damp with sweat, clinging to him uncomfortably. He locked his knees and met his father's glare head-on.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? I raised you better than that—"

"You raised me?" Daniel made a dismissive sound. "Like you had a fucking choice in the matter."

"Watch your mouth—"

"Or what? You'll ground me? How much more miserable can you make my life, huh?"

"I think you should sit down, Daniel."

Shrugging off his dad's hand on his shoulder, Daniel stood firm despite the fact that his dad's voice had changed from biting Colonel to what had once passed as a caring father. "You did all this. You made me into an addict, and now you don't give a crap to what I'm going through. What he's going through." Daniel turned and pointed at the other Daniel, who was still watching him from his bed.

"I know, Icky. I understand what you're feeling—"

"No, you don't. You have no idea how I feel." He twisted and grabbed his chart from the hook and tore off the top pages and threw them at his dad. "Here, read this." He grabbed another couple of pages and yanked, and the pages tore in half. "These will tell you what's happening to me. I'm addicted. Addicted. Do you know what that means? That means I need a fix or else I'm going to go crazy. And do you know whose fault that is? Who asked me to do this? And you dare to tell me to sit down and watch my mouth—"

"I'm so sorry—"

"I wanted to go home." Daniel pitched the chart across the room, taking great pleasure as it crashed into some trays, for a moment creating more noise than that from the people in the room. "But you wouldn't let me go home. You wouldn't let me go see Alexandria. You wouldn't let me learn to drive. It's your fault. You got me the bike – if I hadn't driven it, Alexandria wouldn't have gotten hurt—"


Throwing things had felt good. He reached for the bedding on his bed and in one swoop, pulled them free and ripped them off the bed. "It's your fault," Daniel screamed, knowing deep down that he was out of control and totally enjoying the sensation. "Your fault you're being sued. You ruined everything. I didn't want to go but she wanted to." He grabbed the mattress and heaved. It flew across the next bed and landed in the space between the beds. He turned and swept everything off the table, enjoying the sound of the clatter. "She startled me. I had everything under control but her hands were cold." He needed more. "I lost control of the bike." He turned to the next bed and began tearing at the blanket. "It was her fault!"

"Daniel, stop it." Someone was holding him, preventing him from reaching the mattress.

"Let me go!"

"Daniel, calm down." That was Sam's voice, and she had her arms wrapped around his chest. Without hesitation, he broke her hold and turned on her, only to be stopped by Teal'c. Struggle as he might, he couldn't break free. He screamed, letting all his pent up fury vent in that one primal expression.


"Let him go, Teal'c." Jack spoke softly, but his words got past Daniel's tantrum.


"Let him go." His ears ringing with Daniel's scream, Jack steeled himself and watched as Daniel burst forth from Teal'c's hold and began destroying the next bed. He was aware of Carter and Teal'c's disapproval but he ignored them, staying nearby but not too close, allowing Daniel this opportunity despite how much it hurt seeing his son out of control.

Daniel managed to rip two more beds apart before he ran out of steam. He was staggering, fighting with the linens when his body gave up on him and he collapsed in a heap. That was when Jack made his move, kneeling next to his sobbing son and taking him into his arms. Daniel resisted at first, then melted against him. His cotton scrubs were soaked with sweat but his skin beneath was almost cool to the touch.

There was someone nearby in a lab coat. At first Jack thought it was Fraiser but when he glanced over as the woman knelt next to them, he realized it was Lam. He tried to mouth a warning, to tell her to stay away, but she wasn't looking at him. All her attention was on Daniel. There was a tray with two doses of meds on the floor next to her.

"Daniel? Can you get up?"

At the sound of Lam's voice, Daniel's head shot up. He tensed in Jack's arms and for a second Jack thought Daniel was going to bolt.

"You're supposed to be in Atlantis." Daniel's voice was hoarse, his breath barely controlled. "You promised... Dad... She..."

"We're not home, remember," Jack whispered into Daniel's ear.

"I'm not the person you think I am, Daniel." Lam kept her distance, speaking just softly enough so her voice carried over the din of the medical personnel who were still in the process of trying to save the lives of two members of SG-12. "Would you let me help you?"

"Help me?" Daniel laughed, and the sound wasn't pretty. "You should've helped me months ago. You should have killed me then, instead of letting them get inside my head. Letting him do this to me." His voice broke as he sobbed.

"Give me a hand." Jack motioned to Teal'c, who picked Daniel up off the floor as if he were a young child. All arms and legs, Teal'c brought Daniel back to his bed. Somehow in the maelstrom, someone had put Daniel's bed back together, at least marginally. When Teal'c put him down, Daniel huddled into a ball. Carter grabbed a blanket from the floor and covered him while Lam picked up the tray and followed Jack to the bed. Daniel lay there, not reacting as she made quick work of finding a vein.

"I've lowered his dosage even more," Lam said, injecting one of two syringes into Daniel's arm. "We may have to opt for lower but more frequent doses. Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of experimenting like we did with Doctor Jackson."

Jack glanced across at the other Daniel, who had his back to them. He was eerily still and Jack wanted Lam to hurry and go see to him.

When she was done, Daniel's hand slid across the mattress towards him. Warily, Jack reached out and Daniel grabbed his fingers, pulling back towards him. Jack followed the tug, leaning over the mattress, letting Daniel hold his hand close to his chest while he bent over and kissed his temple.

Again, his skin was cool to the touch. Cold and clammy, almost. Jack wanted Lam to come and examine Daniel, but she was busy now giving the other Daniel his fix of drugs. She wasn't raising any alarms so the guy must be okay.


"I'm here, Icky."

"Don't leave me."

"Never." Jack half lay on the bed behind his son and put an arm around him, pulling him close against his body. Daniel was shivering despite the blanket and his fingers slid up Jack's arm and pulled it tight around his chest. "I'm here."

"I want to go home."

"I know. Soon. Maybe even tomorrow."

"That's good, right?" He sighed and his death grip on Jack's arm eased. The trembling suddenly stopped and a tentative touch to Daniel's cheek showed his skin to be close to normal.

"Yep, it's good."

"Tomorrow they can take my blood and make the other me better?"

"And if we're lucky, they'll take the other Daniel's blood and make you better."

"Tomorrow? No more this?"


"Can we go home tomorrow?" The last syllables were swallowed by a yawn.


"Can we call Cassie tomorrow?"

"Cassie? Why?"

"Janet said she was going to see Alexandria. Cassie never called..." he said sleepily.

"Of course," Jack agreed, not having the heart to tell him he'd already spoken twice to Dria.


"Aren't you gonna eat that?"

Daniel clumsily pushed the stew around in the bowl, then sighed and dropped the spoon. "I want Grandma's spatini and meatballs." He pushed the bowl to the far side of the tray.

"I'll ask her to make some when we get home. How's that?" Jack didn't have the heart to tell Daniel that his mom had planned to make him his favorite dish, expecting him to be home days ago. He pushed the bowl of stew back to where it was. "Now eat. You know how Grandma will get if you come back all skinny and sick-looking."

Daniel made an exaggerated shudder and fumbled for the spoon. "Oh, please. She's going to be all over my case as it is."

Jack motioned to the food with his chin. "Then eat."

Daniel took a spoonful of stew and chewed, slowly and methodically, looking younger than his fourteen years with his eyes at half-mast. Daniel swallowed, glanced at Jack, then shoved another spoonful into his mouth. It seemed that hunger finally hit him because suddenly he was devouring the food so fast, Jack was tempted to pull the bowl away before he choked.

He scraped the gravy from the bowl, ran his finger around the edges and licked it, then guzzled down the glass of orange juice. He put the glass down and burped long and hard. The look of surprise on his face had Jack laughing.

"Sorry," Daniel said, eyeing his empty bowl with longing. He glanced over at what the other Daniel was eating and his eyes narrowed greedily when he noticed Daniel hadn't touched his supper.

"Don't even go there," Jack said softly enough that only his son would hear.

"But I'm still hungry."

"If you behave, I'm sure Fraiser will let you have some dessert," Jack said, although he was pretty sure Daniel would be drowsing by the time the doc came to check on him. Daniel reached for the magazine he'd spent the afternoon trying to read, blinking a few times as if trying to focus on the small print. Jack pushed the tray back out of the way and picked up the novel he'd been reading. He almost envied Carter and Teal'c, who'd gone off with their counterparts. He felt guilty when he remembered the relief it had been to get away from the infirmary earlier today. He kept telling himself that if he was fed up, imagine how his son must feel.

It didn't take long before Daniel's eyes started to drift shut. He rubbed his fingers under his glasses, repositioned himself, tried jiggling his foot, but before long his chin dropped to his chest and he was snoring softly.

Jack abandoned his book, stood and stretched, then went to look in on the other Daniel. He wasn't sleeping but he wasn't far from it. He watched Jack approach through half-closed eyes.

"D'ya need anything?"

"No. I'm fine." Daniel's voice was more slurred than his son's. "Thanks," he said after a long moment.

"It should all be over tomorrow..." Jack said awkwardly.

"I know." Daniel licked his lips as his eyes slid away from Jack. "Just so you... If this doesn't work... I want you to know..." His gaze was somewhere on the opposite bed. "I appreciate everything you both did... But if it doesn't... I don't, I won't blame you... I just can't... It's all too much... Could you tell Jack that—"


"What?" Daniel's gaze returned to Jack.

"Don't you dare give up. Don't you dare do that to your friends."

Daniel closed his eyes and Jack was nearly taken aback at the look of sheer weariness. "Please." His voice was breathy and almost labored. "You're my last hope. I can't fight this. The others, the people on the planet we visited, they've had lifetimes to adapt to the drug." His eyes began to slide shut and his voice slowed. "They can function to a certain degree. I can't. I never will..."

"There's hope. There's always hope."

"I thought so, too. Everything Janet and Carolyn tried, nothing worked."

"You are one of the strongest men I've known. I can't deny this has been an ordeal, but you can't give up. Not now."

"This last attempt? It's going to be the last. If I'd been thinking straight—" Daniel laughed harshly, and the sound caused the fine hairs along Jack's neck to stand up. "Like that's happened in a few weeks." His sleepy gaze left Jack and fell on his son. "I would never have knowingly done this to him. For that, I'm sorry. So very sorry. I should have known Sam's blood wouldn't protect him, just like it didn't help me—"

"We don't know that yet."

"Nothing's worked." His voice came out as a sigh as his eyes slid shut all the way.

"This will." Jack was adamant, because it had to work. His son's wellbeing depended on it. "I trust Carter and Fraiser. Don't give up yet, you hear me?"

"Hear you..."


"Now the other arm." The nurse stood, walked around to the other side of the bed, and began prepping Daniel for an additional IV site. A technician was fiddling with the cell separator machine, blocking Daniel's view of the DVD playing on the small portable television. Daniel ignored the nurse, shifting to the right so he could keep the television in his field of vision.

Within minutes, blood was flowing from Daniel, into the machine, and back into Daniel, the stem cells being collected from his blood and held within the machine.

"It'll take a couple of hours," Fraiser repeated. Daniel was oblivious, lost in his little drugged world. Jack missed his son; the body lying in the bed was a shell of the lively child he'd raised. As he'd done for the past days, he turned his thoughts away from the possibility that this wouldn't work. There'd be time for brooding later, when all was over and done.

A nurse remained close by, working at a portable station, ready to keep an eye on Daniel. Both teams were hanging around the infirmary, talking, joking, pretending that there was nothing important going on.

Jack shook himself mentally; of course it wasn't like there was anything they could do to speed things along. He tweaked Daniel's foot as he walked around the bed and paced.


His dad's pacing was getting on his nerves. He couldn't concentrate on anything; the movie was more white noise than anything else to cover the sound of the machine that was draining his blood. He kept his eyes averted from that also, despite it having been placed front and center for all to see.

He could close his eyes and pretend to sleep, but he wasn't sleepy. Plus his dad's footsteps seemed overly loud. Turning away from the television, he rubbed his eyes with one hand, careful of the tubing connecting him to the machine. He wished this were over and done with and they were on their way home.

"This will soon be ended."

Daniel's eyes popped open as he stared at Teal'c, wondering if he'd read his mind.

"Not soon enough." He hated this feeling, just before the withdrawal set in. His mouth was dry and numb, making talking difficult. He was jittery and all his aches and pains were starting up again. What he really wanted to do right now was run. To get out of bed, scramble to the top floor and just keep going until he burned the drug out of his system. To get rid of this nervous energy that made him so tense he felt he was about to jump out of his skin. And it was ironic, because as much as he felt that he could run forever, he could barely get up out of bed and stagger to the bathroom.

"The movie does not hold your interest. Do you wish to play cards?"

"Um... Sure." Daniel rolled onto his back and waited as Teal'c raised his bed. The rollaway table was pushed over his lap and a deck of cards quickly placed on top of it.

"Can I play?"

Daniel squinted at Sam, not his Sam, the other Sam, and shrugged. She took a seat on the opposite side of his bed.

"Go fish?" Teal'c asked solemnly as he picked up the deck of cards.

"Sure." He watched as Teal'c deftly dealt the cards. His cards were a blur and he had trouble trying to figure out what he needed. He jiggled his foot, trying to ease the growing tension, making the bed bounce.

With clumsy fingers, Daniel got through the first game without even knowing how well or how badly he did. As he awkwardly picked up the deck of cards to shuffle, Teal'c put his hand out, palm up.

"Do you wish me to assist you?"

Without a word, Daniel shoved the cards towards Teal'c and he dispassionately watched as they were dealt out again. Tiny electric shocks began to shoot out into his muscles and he shifted, trying to get comfortable. The game played out the same way as the first one; he was growing too uncomfortable to even try to give it the attention it needed.

He found himself staring at his hand, finally realizing he needed a seven. When he looked up, he was surprised to see Sam was gone. Her cards were sitting face down on the table, and Teal'c was staring at the far end of the infirmary.

With a sigh, he put his cards down also, jiggling both feet now to try to ease the pins and needles that were starting. He couldn't help feel relief when he saw Sam coming back with Janet following behind. He watched anxiously, trying to see if she was carrying something and he felt intense relief to see the little black tray that usually held his dose of the drug.

He held himself still as Janet prepared to inject the drug into his leg this time. "You know, if we're lucky, this could be the last dose." She smiled as she took the syringe in her hand.

"If this works, can I go home today?"

Her smile faltered a little, but she nodded. "You'll have to leave here by tomorrow night, either way, before you begin to experience entropic cascade failure." She bent over him as she gave him the injection. "And you know, when you wake up from this dose? All of this will be finished with. So cross your fingers." She pulled the syringe out of his thigh.

Daniel wanted to answer but the intense high hit him. All of the tingling and cramping and throbbing disappeared as a wave of numbness started from his toes and moved right up to the top of his head. He felt himself relaxing, sinking into the thin mattress of the infirmary bed as if he were falling into a feather bed. The cards on the table seemed so far away and reaching up for them was too much of an effort.

"Thanks." He smiled at Sam, realizing even in his dopey state that she'd gone to get Janet for him.

"You're welcome." As she covered his legs with a blanket, she smiled back at him. "I think you're ready for a nap, aren't you?" Her hand was warm where she placed it against his ankle, even through the blanket.

"Mmmm hmmm." He turned to Teal'c. "Sorry about the game."

"We will finish it when you awaken."

"Good. I need a seven." Funny that the muddle of cards he'd held earlier were suddenly clear in his head. He closed his eyes and could still hear his father pacing, but now the sound wasn't irritating; it was soothing. Even the noise of the machine wasn't so bad. And maybe, if he was lucky, this would be over when he woke up.


At first the noise was far away, not even an irritation. But slowly, as Daniel crept out of the warm, hazy, drugged cocoon, the urgency of the voices drew him forward and into harsh reality faster than he'd have wanted to.

"BP's falling."

"He's crashing."

"Get me a crash cart, stat!"

His eyes were heavy and he fought to open them as he turned his head towards the voices. There was a blur of white, which slowly coalesced into the lab coats of people surrounding a bed.

The other Daniel's bed.

Something bad was happening. He felt his heart start to thump sickeningly in his chest. "Dad?"

"Daniel." His dad appeared seemingly out of nowhere, his body hiding the drama occurring just a few beds away from him. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired," he answered routinely. "What's going on?"

Someone shouted more instructions and his dad winced. "They gave Daniel the stuff they took out of you and he didn't react too well to it."

Daniel's heart doubled its thumping speed. "Is he dying?"

"It's not looking good."

There was more shouting, followed by orders that could have come right out of a hospital drama television show. Daniel jumped at the sound of an electric shock being administered, more frightened by the tensing of his dad's face than what his imagination was running with. For a few seconds, he lost the voices as his heart tripped so fast, he began seeing spots.

"Hey, hey, it's okay. Breathe. Just breathe. That's it." His dad's hand was splayed over his chest and he grabbed his dad's wrist, trying to hold on, feeling like he was going to fall out of bed even though he was lying flat on it. Listening to his dad's voice, Daniel forced himself to take long, even breaths.

Someone called out numbers, and it seemed that it was over.

"Is he...?"

"He's alive. They brought him back."

"He's okay?"

His dad twisted to look behind him, then nodded. "I think so." He took his hand from Daniel's chest, twisting his wrist so that he was now gripping Daniel's.

Still feeling shaky, Daniel felt tears slide down his cheeks. "Did I do that to him?"

"No!" His dad's hands dropped his and the next thing he knew, they were wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him up and against his dad. He reached out, trying not to cry and failing.

"He was very weak, Daniel," his dad whispered. "This might have happened even without the transfusion."

"I couldn't help him," Daniel sobbed through a throat tight with emotion. "He was counting on me and I couldn't help him." He buried his face against his dad's chest, wishing he was young again so his dad could promise the hurt would go away.

"We both knew this was a long shot."

He wanted to be home, in his bed. He wanted to eat normal food. He wanted to go to school, be with his friends. He wanted Alexandria back. He wanted the addiction gone. He wanted his grandmother. "Why am I hurting everyone around me? What did I do to deserve all of this?"

"Oh, Icky. It's not you." His dad's cheek was rough against his ear, and the normalcy of his stubble in such a surreal situation helped keep him from losing it completely. "There are times when it feels like the world's out to get you. Then things get better and it's all a bad memory. Remember last spring? There were times both of us thought we'd never get through it."

Daniel nodded. Those dark times seemed so far away now, overshadowed with the latest events in his life. He whispered the next words, terrified to confide them to his dad but having learned his lesson during those days that he needed to trust in him. "I don't want do die."

"You won't. I promise I'll do everything I can to get you over this." His dad gave him a quick shake. "You hear me?"

Daniel nodded, too afraid to speak at the anguish he heard in his dad's voice.


Nobody seemed to know anything; they'd moved Daniel to another room and Janet hadn't shown up in a couple of hours. The other SG-1 had disappeared as well; his Sam and Teal'c were with his dad now, sitting a few beds down, discussing things they obviously didn't want him to hear.

He hated the infirmary. The smell, the sounds. He'd spent so much time here in the past year that he knew the routine intimately, in both universes. So he waited until he got his hourly checkup and then got out of bed. His dad went to stand up but Daniel waved him back.

"Bathroom," he called out, heading for the room at the far end of the infirmary. He was shaky and dizzy, but he walked slowly. When he reached the bathroom door, he looked behind him. Everyone was concentrating on Sam's laptop so Daniel continued without going into the bathroom, heading for the isolation rooms. He didn't have far to go; he spotted SG-1 sitting in the observation area looking down into the room below. He stopped at the entrance, looking at their faces, trying to gauge Daniel's condition by what he could see there.

To his surprise, none of them looked that worried.

It was Teal'c who spotted him first.


"Hey." O'Neill stood quickly and hurried over to Daniel. "What are you doing here? Should you be up?"

"I wanted to know how Daniel was doing."

"Of course." O'Neill gave Daniel a quick smile. "Actually, he's doing pretty good. He's awake. Come on over and maybe he'll wave at you."

He tried to see if the man was kidding, but he seemed serious. He entered the small room and leaning on the counter, peered down into the isolation room below. O'Neill was right. Daniel was awake, talking to Janet. He must have seen Daniel come in from the corner of his eye because he turned his head. Then he smiled and waggled his fingers. Daniel waved back, encouraged at how well the other Daniel looked.

"I think we may have some good news for you," Sam said. "We'll know for sure when we get the last blood tests back but it's starting to look like the addiction is gone."

"What?" Daniel turned so quickly, he nearly lost his balance. Teal'c and Sam grabbed for him and the next thing he knew, he was sitting in O'Neill's chair. He turned to the man who looked so much like his dad, needing to see the truth on his face. "It worked? The treatment worked?"

O'Neill's smile was real. Daniel saw relief and happiness. "Doc thinks it has to do with his heart stopping and starting up again that got Carter's little markers to start doing their thing."

"Janet thinks he'll be able to come off the drug without any problems, now." Sam's grin was contagious, and he felt his own lips begin to stretch. Because that meant if they cured Daniel, then they could cure him. He might just get out of here by tonight, after all. Tomorrow morning, at the latest. "That's great. If they can—"


"Dad." He grinned up at his dad, waving him forward. "Look. Sam says they think they cured Daniel." He felt his dad step behind him and lean forward. The heat of his dad's body next to him made him realize how chilled he felt.

"Hey, that's great." His dad waved down at Daniel when Daniel spotted him. He leaned down further and reached for a button on a microphone on the counter and spoke into it. "Daniel, how're you doing?"

Daniel gave his dad a thumbs up, and his dad copied the gesture.

"And as wonderful as this news is, I think you'd better get your ass back into bed before you catch a chill," his dad said into his ear.

And because his feet felt like blocks of ice, Daniel didn't argue. He pushed the chair back and got up, ignoring the dizziness. He heard everyone say goodbye to him and he answered them, more interested in the warmth of his dad's jacket that he'd placed around his shoulders than being polite.

The walk back seemed longer; fatigue was setting in fast as he rounded the corner to the infirmary. His thoughts were on Daniel, and how lucky he was that his ordeal was over. But now it was his turn, and he wondered how soon they were going to heal him.

He had Sam's protein markers, just like Daniel had. He'd given his bone marrow to Daniel, and he couldn't give it to himself, so he didn't have to wait four or five days for the cure. Then as he slid into bed, he realized that both he and Daniel had more or less had the same treatments. None of them had worked.

"Dad? How are they going to cure me?"


"What do you mean, you're going to have to stop his heart?" Jack held himself rigidly tight, knowing he'd heard the words spoken by Fraiser, knowing he'd understood them, but refusing to admit to himself that she had just uttered a death sentence for his son.

He regretted promising Daniel he'd go talk to Fraiser. The woman was standing there, calm as can be, leaning nonchalantly against a wall and announcing that they were literally going to kill his son and restart his heart to set the process in place that would cure him. He still didn't understand the technical aspect; Fraiser and Carter had tried to explain it to him, but he'd lost them the moment he realized where this was all heading.

"It's the only way, sir." Carter pointed to the computer screens showing the before and after pictures of Daniel's blood, and he waved a hand to stop her before she started on the technical aspects of the cure once again.

"You're sure? I mean, you can't try and take marrow from his bones and give it to Daniel, to see if that'll work?" He knew how stupid this sounded even as he asked it, but he needed to give himself time to process this. They were going to kill his son.

"I'm sure. Look, the sooner we do this, the easier it'll be on Daniel. His next injection is due right now; I suggest we go ahead with this immediately so there'll be that much less of the drug for his body to process."


"In the next hour. Before the withdrawal symptoms get too bad."

"In the next hour? It's the middle of the night."

"We can wait till morning but the longer we wait, the closer we get to entropic cascade failure and the need to move Daniel back to your universe during a critical period—"

"So it's now or..."

"You could have your own team do it but I'd rather you let me do it. I've had more experience with the drug and—"

"How? How are you going to do it?"

"Synchronized defibrillation. We give him a low voltage shock and stop his heart. We shock him again to get the heart beating again after a minute or two, which was how long Daniel's heart had stopped."

"It sounds painful—"

"He'll be sedated, Colonel."

He hated the whole idea. But he had no choice. The last thing he wanted was to see his son deteriorate any further. "Okay."

"Thank you." She pushed off the wall and waved over a nurse. "We'll be ready in fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes? You said an hour!" he yelled as she turned his back on him and began talking to the nurse. Oy. He had to tell Daniel and he had no idea how he was going to do it.


His dad had been pussyfooting around, trying to joke. Daniel knew something was wrong and right now, his nerves were strung so tightly that he had no patience for his dad's antics.

Jiggling one foot anxiously, he slapped the mattress with his palm, stopping his dad's latest inane joke. "What's going on?"

His dad was silent for a long time, not meeting his gaze. Then he turned to Daniel, his eyes so serious that Daniel got scared. He stilled his leg and stared back.

"They're going to essentially stop your heart for a few seconds, so they can mimic what happened to the other Daniel and cure you."

"They're going to kill me?"

His dad closed his eyes and nodded. "Medically speaking, and trust me, it's too complicated to get into, but it's a cure."

"They're going to stop my heart?"

"Yes. But they'll be ready to start it up again."

"What if they can't?"

His dad's throat worked as he swallowed. "They will. They'll have a whole team there to bring you back."

"But what if they can't?" Daniel insisted. He bit his lip, trying to get past the numbness in his mouth. He needed to be able to think but his addiction and fear were distracting.


"What if they can't?" His foot had started jiggling again all on its own and the bed was shaking with its intensity.

"Daniel, please... Don't go there."

"But what if—" Daniel turned in fear as Janet came towards them. An orderly was following, pushing a wheelchair. He turned to his dad, needing to know that he was against this, but his father was staring at the wheelchair.

He told himself the trembling was due to the addiction, but the more he tried to convince himself, the worse it got. His dad covered him with the blanket from his bed and he huddled underneath as he was wheeled out of the ward and into the isolation room next to Daniel's. The observation room was empty and he was glad; if Sam and Teal'c had been there, he'd have felt like a dead man walking to the gallows.

The next few minutes felt surreal. He climbed onto the bed when directed as people brought pieces of ominous-looking equipment closer. He had a pretty good idea one of them contained the electric paddles that would jump-start his heart. His mouth was suddenly empty of saliva as Janet started an IV in his arm. He tried to stay calm as a nurse glued leads to his chest, and another wrapped a BP monitor around his bicep. All the while, he watched his dad. Although he appeared to remain military and uncaring through all of this, Daniel could see how scared he was. And that scared Daniel even more.

He reached his hand out to him. And his dad didn't hesitate. With one long step forward, he was there, next to him, gripping his hand tightly.

"Dad, I don't want to die," he whispered when his dad leaned close.

"You won't. I won't let you. Anyways, if anything happened to you, your Grandma would kill you first and then go after me."

The absurdity of the comment helped a little and Daniel forced a smile. He tried to ignore the activity around the bed, concentrating on the little things, like the feel of the bump on his dad's little finger where he'd broken it years ago. He tried breathing deeply, but that just made him feel more lightheaded.

He thought he'd done a pretty good job calming down but when Janet came up to his bed with something in her hand, he gasped in fear.

"It's okay." She held a needle up so he could see it clearly. "It's a sedative, honey. This way we can take care of you without you feeling anything. Is that okay?"

He nodded, feeling guilty for being such a coward.

"Colonel, it might be best if you stepped away."

"No!" Any calm he'd felt was gone, the idea of his dad not being there scared him more than the thought of dying. "Don't leave me."

"I'm not going anywhere."

Daniel wasn't sure if his dad's comment was directed at him or Janet, but he held on as tight as he could to his dad's hand, just in case Janet tried to force him away.

His dad leaned down, filling his vision as Janet moved to do something with the IV. "Carter and Teal'c are here," his dad said softly, pointing to the far side of the room. Daniel looked over his shoulder and saw his dad's team watching from the observation room. Feeling like it was déjà vu, he raised his hand and waggled his fingers at them. They raised their hands and waved back. Sam was still in the process of waving when someone came in behind her. She looked startled for a moment, but then she smiled. She moved aside and then he saw the other SG-1, complete with the other Daniel in a wheelchair, crowd in.

For a moment, he felt like a lab specimen, until Daniel leaned forward and spoke into the mic. "Hey, it's a piece of cake."

Daniel copied Daniel's earlier thumbs up gesture, and everyone up in the room copied him. Then everything went blurry.

Part of him realized Janet must have sedated him and he wanted to yell, Not yet! But lethargy silenced his words. He shifted his gaze to his dad, and the last thing he saw before his eyes slid shut was his dad's loving smile.


Jack was still shaking, although he tried to hide it when Fraiser finally waved him closer. Daniel was sleeping soundly, and the beeps and buzzes of the hospital equipment were rhythmic and stable. Unlike those few minutes when his heart had flat-lined and—

"How is he?" He pushed the memories aside, knowing that he'd have to deal with them later, probably in the form of nightmares. For now, he'd concentrate on his sleeping son. His hopefully, healthy, sleeping son.

"He's stable. And we'll find out in a few minutes if this worked when I get his labs back." Fraiser put the back of her hand to Daniel's cheek. "I'm very hopeful, though, because his body isn't experiencing any overt signs of withdrawal."

"He's still sleeping."

"That's from the sedative. But his temperature, pulse and blood pressure are normal. If he were undergoing withdrawal, his temperature would be erratic, pulse racing and BP elevated."


"I'm hopeful," she said with another smile. "He should sleep for another hour. You can go and get some rest, if you'd like. I can have someone call you—"

"No." He stood there, hands in his pockets to hide their trembling, and watched his son sleep. "I'll stay here, at least until he wakes up."

"Then please, make yourself comfortable." Fraiser walked away, grabbed a chair in the far corner, and wheeled it to the bed. "I can tell your team they can come down now, unless you'd rather be alone?"

Jack glanced up at the two Carters and two Teal'cs who were still in the observation room. O'Neill had taken the other Daniel back to his room as soon as Fraiser's team had resuscitated his son.

"No, let them come." He took the chair as Fraiser beckoned the people down. He was so tired, so worried. He slipped Daniel's hand between both his palms, surprised that his hands weren't shaking anymore. "You did good," he whispered into Daniel's ear, following the words with a kiss to his son's temple just as the four SG-1 members walked in.

"How is he?" one of the Carters asked. Both women hurried to the bed, standing close and peering at Daniel.

"Doc says he's stable."

Teal'c came to stand next to Jack while the other Teal'c stood at the foot of the bed. "DoctorFraiser has not yet received the results of her tests," the other Teal'c stated. "I am confident that your son will recover."

"Fraiser said she was pretty hopeful."

Teal'c inclined his head ever so slightly. "That is indeed welcome news."

"Indeed," Jack's Teal'c replied. "He rests comfortably. There appears to be no indication that he is suffering."

"Just like our Daniel," Carter said, a smile dimpling her face. "My fingers are crossed, sir."

"Mine, too," Jack answered.

The next few minutes were spent with Jack straining to hear Fraiser's footsteps. When they finally came, he tensed. He turned to watch her face when she entered the room, and from the wide grin, he knew they'd been successful.

He swallowed hard to hold back the tears of relief. He kept his gaze on Daniel, nodding when he needed to as Fraiser gave him the good news, not trusting himself to speak without making a fool of himself. He felt Teal'c's hand on his shoulder while Carter reached for Daniel's other hand.

"Thank you," he finally managed to say a full minute after Fraiser stopped talking.


"Dad?" Despite feeling comfortable and warm, Daniel knew immediately he wasn't in his bed at home.

"Your dad went to get some coffee."

Turning his head towards Sam, Daniel opened eyes that felt gummy and sandy. He was in the infirmary, although not in the same room as he'd been in over the past few days. Sam looked tired, but her smile was bright and cheery.

He felt groggy, like he could just close his eyes and go back to sleep. The temptation was there, but curiosity won out. "What happened?" Even as he asked, memory came back to him. They were going to stop his heart and— "Did it work?" He blurted out the question, trying to rise onto his elbows.

"Shhh." Sam's hand was against his chest, pushing back, preventing him from sitting up. "It worked fine. Janet says you're cured, but you're going to be a little weak and shaky for the next few days until the drug works its way out of your system."

Daniel fell back against the mattress. "It worked?" They'd killed him? "I'm not addicted anymore?" They'd stopped his heart? "I'm cured?" Had he died?

"Yes. No. And yes," his dad said from the open doorway.

"Dad!" He tried to sit up again, and Sam pushed him back again. He watched as his father walked around the bed, carrying two cups of coffee. He handed one to Sam and he held onto the other one as he sat down. "I'm really cured?"

"Yeah. You're really cured." His dad's smile would have been comforting, if his eyes hadn't told another story. Bloodshot and red-rimmed, Daniel had a funny feeling that his dad hadn't only gone out for coffee. He watched his dad put the Styrofoam cup on a table and leaned close to him. "How are you feeling?"

Daniel was about to answer fine, but then he thought about it. He didn't feel like himself yet, his brain was fuzzy and he felt shaky and very weak, but the pain that had been nearly constantly with him since he'd taken the first dose of the drug was gone, except for the ache in his ribs. As was the constant jitteriness and mood swings. "Tired. A little confused, I think, but better than before." A sudden gurgling in his tummy made him laugh. "And hungry."

"I'll go see if Janet will let you have something to eat," Sam said, jumping to her feet. She hurried out of the room before Daniel could tell her he wanted something chocolaty.

"Where's Teal'c?" He looked up at the empty observation room, remembering everyone sitting up there watching him before he was put to sleep.

"Seeing about getting us home."

"We're going home?" Without Sam to hold him back, Daniel sat up. And immediately regretted it when the room began to spin.

"Easy." His dad grabbed his arm and held onto him until the dizziness passed. "Okay?"

"Yeah." He braced himself on the bed with one hand. "We're going home?" he asked again.

"In the morning, hopefully. He's gone to speak to Hammond."

Daniel sighed heavily. "I can't wait." Tentatively, he said, "Grandma must be so worried."

His dad nodded as he leaned back to reach for his cup of coffee.

"Dad?" He couldn't stand the look that remained in his dad's eyes.

"Mmmm?" His dad took a sip of coffee, looking over the rim at him.

"It scared you, what they did to me?"

His dad swallowed the coffee, then swallowed again. "Yeah."

"I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for—"

"I didn't mean to scare you."

"I know." His dad averted his eyes, but not before Daniel saw the shine of tears in them.

He wanted to drop the subject, but morbid curiosity got the better of him. "Did they have any trouble... You know... Bringing me back?"

His dad shook his head. "Just one zap and your heart started up again."

"So I really was dead?"

"Yeah." His dad's voice was suddenly curt.

"It's weird. I thought I'd remember something, or feel different."

"And you don't?" Eyes fixed on his coffee, his dad took a sip.

"No. I remember Janet knocking me out, and then waking up. No dreams, no memories."

"Good. That's the way it should be." His dad took another sip of coffee.



"I love you."

That brought a smile to his dad's face, and this time the smile reached his eyes.

"Love you, too, Icky."


Daniel stood staring at himself in the mirror. His face, arms, and legs were bruised and scabbed. The front of his left shin could be described as Technicolor, at best. He'd forgotten about the damage that had been inflicted during the dirt bike accident; everything had been overshadowed by the addiction. His ribs were better, only twinging occasionally when he moved awkwardly. The inside of his elbows, however, were peppered with bruised pinpricks, and there was no way these could be attributed to the bike accident. With a sigh, he gathered shampoo and soap and stepped into the shower.

The shower was the next best thing to the breakfast he'd eaten this morning. He'd been embarrassed when he realized at some point during the night that he could smell himself. He shampooed his hair three times, digging his fingertips into his scalp to relieve the itching. When he was done washing, he simply stood there and let the water run down his face, hands to either side of the cubicle to offset the dizziness as he tilted his face back into the stream.

He'd have loved to have remained there longer, but he knew his dad would probably come looking for him if he didn't come out soon. He'd no sooner as turned the water off when someone knocked at the door.

"You okay in there?" his dad asked through the door.

"I'm fine. I'll be out in a second," Daniel called back as he made his shaky way out of the shower. As good as it felt, it had tired him out. He sat down and slowly began to towel himself off. By the time he got his underwear and jeans on, his arms were leaden and shaky, and his arm muscles ached so badly that he was afraid they'd cramp. He grabbed his socks and tee shirt and left the bathroom. His dad wasn't far, and he eyed him critically as Daniel walked past him, heading back to his bed.

He waited till he was seated on the bed before trying to put his socks on. To his surprise, his dad grabbed the socks and began threading one over his toes. He felt embarrassed as his dad raised his foot and pulled the sock up over his heel.

"I could have done that," he said as his dad began working on his other foot.

"I know. But I bet your arms are killing you right now."

"Yeah. Thanks." He didn't admit how much his arms hurt. Daniel worked one arm through a sleeve, then the other arm, then ducked his head into the neck. His dad helped him pull the tee shirt down, flicking his wet hair out of the back of the tee shirt. He felt a chill as the cool infirmary air hit the dampness of his tee shirt. "Did Janet get the results back? Can we go home?"

"Nothing yet."

Daniel collapsed backwards onto the raised bed, sighing in exasperation. "I just want to sleep in my own bed for a change."

When his dad smiled, all Daniel could see were the lines around his mouth and eyes. "Believe me, I'm with you on that one."

Guilt filled him, flushing the chill from his bones. Although Daniel's weariness and weakness were due to the drugs working their way from his system, his dad's fatigue was truly due to lack of sleep. And he'd been the cause of those sleepless nights.

"I don't know what's taking so long. I feel fine." He huffed a little, digging his shoulders into the edge of his pillow, working it under his head. The pillow would soon be soaked from his wet hair, but if he was leaving, he didn't care. He could close his eyes right now and nap, if he wanted to.

He lay there, sleepily thinking about the first thing he would do when he got home. Call his grandma, call Alexandria, and order a pizza. Or maybe take a nap first, and then order the pizza. "Can we have pizza for supper?"

"Sure, but I thought you wanted your grandma's spaghetti and meatballs."

Mouth watering, he nodded. "But I wouldn't want Grandma to go through all that trouble at short notice," he said warily. Pizza would be fast and easy; he knew from experience his grandmother would be emotional and he didn't want to put her through any more trouble than he'd already caused.

"Trust me. One look at you and she'll be trying to fatten you up. She'll probably make the spatini sauce without you even asking for it."

"Have you looked in the mirror lately, Dad?"

Rubbing his jaw, his dad made a face as his fingers caught on his stubble. "Maybe we can talk her into making an apple pie while she's at it."

"Maybe we can stop at the bakery on 5th and buy a pie on the way home? As a bribe?"

Laughing, his dad nodded his chin towards the other side of the bed. Daniel turned to see Janet approaching. His heart began racing.

"I hope you two are packed."

"We can go?" Daniel surged forward, the earlier sleepiness gone.

"You can go. I've informed General Hammond, who's set the gears in motion. Colonel O'Neill will be here in a few minutes to escort you to the ship. You've got time to grab your things and say some goodbyes."

There wasn't much to pack. A few clothes items in a bag next to his bed, a few magazines and books, and some odds and ends. His dad had brought everything here earlier in anticipation of their leaving. Daniel stood while his dad grabbed their bag.

Walking slowly to the other occupied bed in the infirmary, Daniel peered around the privacy curtain to see if the other Daniel was sleeping. "Daniel?"

He felt guilty when it was obvious he'd woken Daniel up.

"Hey," Daniel said, blinking and yawning. "What's up?"

"Janet said I was fine. We're leaving in a few minutes."

"Hey, that's great." He pulled himself up a little on the bed and winced. "I think it may take a few more days before they let me out of here."

He looked weak and very tired. Daniel couldn't help but wonder how he'd managed to sit in the wheelchair, waiting and watching along with the others while they stopped his heart. "I'm sorry you're still sick." Daniel glanced at his father as he joined them.

"I'm not sick. I'm recovering. That's a big difference." He smiled, and immediately didn't look as tired. "And it's all because of you. Both of you. Saying 'thank you' doesn't even come close to the gratitude I feel."

"We know," his dad said. He offered the other Daniel his hand, and then leaned forward to give him a hug. Then it was Daniel's turn to hug him.

"Thank you," the other Daniel whispered in his ear. Daniel could only nod, squeezed the man's shoulders, and let go. He turned his head, embarrassed when he saw the tears shining in his eyes. While his dad talked for a few more minutes, Daniel began to get antsy. It was with relief with the other Colonel came to get them.

He left the infirmary, excited and overjoyed at the prospect of going home. He met up with the rest of his dad's team as they made their way upstairs. But by the time they were walking through the parking area, he was lagging behind. His legs were tight, threatening to cramp, as were his shoulders and upper back.

Teal'c slowed his pace, keeping him company. "Do you require assistance, DanielJackson?"

"No," he answered, flashing Teal'c a quick smile before casting his gaze down as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other because the last thing he wanted to do was stumble and end up back in an infirmary. In either universe.


Traveling this way was exciting, but it wasn't the same as a 'gate rush. His dad barely had time to ask if he were all right before they were home in front of their Cheyenne Mountain's entrance.

"Please wait until the ship has come to a full stop before departing out of the nearest exit. Thank you for traveling with us and here's hoping—"

"No offense, O'Neill," his dad said as he stood. "But I'm hoping not to be flying this particular airline anytime soon."

O'Neill smiled broadly, obviously taking no offense in his dad's words. "It was the meager snack offerings, wasn't it?

"No, it was the lack of in-house movies."

O'Neill swept his hands towards the front console. "Any of you guys wanna call home? Let them know we've arrived safely?"


Daniel felt horrible and he was pretty sure he looked even worse than he felt by the way Janet was devouring the paperwork the other Janet had sent back. Her attention was split between whatever was written down and where he was sitting on the gurney.

"So, what do you think, Doc, New York Times best seller's material?"

Gratefully, Daniel leaned into the arm his father had flung around his shoulder. Honestly, he had no memory of whatever had been done to him, but he'd seen the pain and fear in his father's eyes and knew it had been bad.

"I want to go home."

Janet closed the file and hugged it to her chest. "Don't worry, sweetie, you will."

Daniel looked up at his father and smiled, confused when the smile he received in return was tentative. "You're not letting me go home today, are you?" Immediately, the room swam behind a curtain of tears, pissed off that he had been stupid enough to think that by tonight he'd be sleeping not only in his own bed, but able to talk to Alexandria.

Janet didn't have to answer. He knew that I'm-really-sorry-but-this-is-for-your-own-good look really well. Daniel glanced at his father for support. "Dad?" But what he saw on his dad's face didn't make him any more comfortable and Daniel knew he'd lost the war without even waging a battle.


Fraiser intercepted Jack the second he stepped one foot in the infirmary. "He's sleeping."

Frustrated, Jack scrubbed his hand through his hair. He'd felt like he'd deserted a sinking ship when he'd left Daniel in the infirmary, but Hammond had requested a few minutes of his time. A few minutes had stretched into almost two hours. "Damn, I didn't get to... On his own or with a little help from your friends?"

"He was exhausted and in pain. I gave him a muscle relaxant for his muscle cramps and nature took care of the rest."

"I know." Jack had seen it. Felt it in his tremors. Seen it in his eyes. What Daniel had endured had all the ingredients of a cookbook's worth of nightmares for Jack. And for Daniel? He'd been left not with the memories, but the physical scars of what they'd done to him. What Jack had done to him, because when push came to shove, the decision had been his. God... "I need to see him."

"Don't wake him."

"I wasn't going to." He tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum, but it was hard, he was tired and he wanted to go home. And he wanted to take Daniel home, because damn it, he wanted to keep one promise to his son.

"I read the medical—"

"I was there," Jack countered, his voice rising with every word. "I saw my son flat-line on the monitor. I watched them pump medication into his veins so he wouldn't remember any of this. I held his hands when he woke up in pain and sat with him through the drugs they had to give him then. So don't tell me you read the medical report and understand, and can feel—"

"I can't," she said softly. "And as a parent, I wish I could give you something to make you forget, but as a doctor, as Daniel's doctor, I can't, in good conscience, allow you to take him home right at this moment."

"I did this to him, can you make me forget that?"


One minute Jack had been only feet away from Daniel's bed, the next, he was in Fraiser's office, his ass firmly planted in a chair with a Styrofoam cup of something a bit stronger than coffee.

"It's medicinal," she informed him. "Drink it."

He raised the cup, but his hands were shaking too much. "No. I don't need to sit by my son's bedside stinking of alcohol," was his excuse. But what he truly was terrified was that he wouldn't be able to take a drink without spilling the liquid all over himself. Slowly, he leaned over and put the cup on her desk.

"No, maybe you don't, but you certainly don't need to sit by his bedside stinking of guilt, either, Colonel."

"What happened to him was my fault. My decision. My—"

"You saved a life."

"And I almost lost my son in the process." Jack wasn't sure if Fraiser's silence was in agreement or the fact that she was just letting him talk. He could hope it was the latter, but he'd been there, seen what Daniel had gone through, so he was betting her muteness was based on the former. "I screwed up. I allowed memories of a person who'd been out of my life for years to interfere with what I now had."

"Sir, that person and his friends gave your son back to you. You did what needed to be done."

"I abused my relationship with my son to repay a debt. Daniel trusted me—"

"Daniel still trusts you, sir."

Jack exhaled loudly. "Then let me take him home."

This time her silence was contemplation and Jack waited, hands clasped in his lap, impatient for her decision.

"Janet Fraiser indicated Daniel was going to have residual problems from the addiction. And honestly, sir, we have no idea what the drug did to him. He's suffering from muscular cramps – if we're lucky, that will be the only aftereffect. But until I'm sure, I'm reluctant to allow him to go home, no matter what she says."

"She cleared him; said he could be released."

"With a prescription of muscle relaxants and pain killers for muscle spasms? Colonel—"

"Cramps, Doc. She said he'd have cramps. Come on. The kid wants to go home. Hasn't he been through enough?"

Fraiser sighed and Jack knew he'd won his case. "Let me take him home," he repeated.


He wanted to argue that tomorrow wasn't soon enough, but in her expression he'd seen that tomorrow was sooner than she was even comfortable with. "Morning?"

"If he eats breakfast, morning is acceptable."


Daniel was snoring slightly and definitely out for the count. Jack did a visual assessment and kissed him lightly on the forehead. "Hold that thought," he whispered. "I have to take care of a few things, then I'll be back. Promise me you won't go anywhere."

He felt like a new man after showering and changing. Even the tuna on whole-wheat tasted exceptionally good. Teal'c and Carter stopped by his office, letting him know that they'd checked on Daniel, but something about his demeanor must have shown that he wanted privacy and their visits were short and sweet.

"I'm going to close the door, sir."

Jack gave a distracted wave in her direction. "Please. Thank you."

Carter turned back to face him, one of her hands resting on the doorknob. "Your mother's going to be glad you're home. You and Daniel, but I wouldn't wait any longer before placing the call."

Jack glanced at the phone on his desk, the one he'd been avoiding, hating that his 2IC knew him so well. Heck, even Teal'c had made a comment about procrastination before leaving but it wasn't until Carter came right out and stuck her nose into it, that he realized what his friend had been referring to.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." He picked up the receiver and held it out towards her. "Maybe you'd like to—"

She smiled sweetly at him. "Not for a million dollars, sir."


Jack waited with the receiver pressed against his ear for his mother to stop crying. All he'd managed to say was 'we're home safe' before the floodgates opened. "Please, Mom, you don't—"

"Jonathan O'Neill," she sniffed. "Do not tell me what I should or shouldn't be doing. Especially about this."


"Just so you know, they're tears of joy and relief. The tears of anger and frustration will come when I see you face to face."

"Oh, joy. I can't wait."

"Don't mock your elders."

He wasn't mocking, he was buying time. Avoiding the inevitable question. The one he knew was coming.

"How's Daniel?"

"He'll be home tomorrow."

"That's not an answer."

Damn, she noticed. "He missed you and I'm sure he'd love a plate or two of your spatini and meatballs."

"That's still not an answer."

"He's okay. I won't lie. He's not great. But everyone involved... Well, it was harder than we thought, but everyone's okay."


He wasn't going to mention the severe muscle cramps or the breakfast thing or the lack of fever stipulations Fraiser always enforced. "Tomorrow. After breakfast."

"I'll be here. Cooking sauce."

"Thanks, Mom."

"Tell him I love him. Love you, too, son."


"Don't," she begged. "Just bring my boy home to me."


Daniel looked at the pancakes, then studied his father. The mind was ready but the body wasn't. "I really appreciate you—"

"Fraiser said to leave, you need to eat." He pushed the Styrofoam container closer to Daniel.

His dad had gone to the diner to get breakfast for the both of them. His breakfast was still in the closed container while he pushed and prodded Daniel to eat.

"What's in yours?"


Daniel nodded, pushing the pancakes back, their overly sweet syrupy smell that he usually loved was turning his stomach.

His dad opened his own breakfast. "It's a boring breakfast special. Two scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon on a roll."

Strangely, Daniel began to salivate. "It looks good."


"Can we switch?"

Truthfully, Daniel deserved the look of confusion that his father gave him as he switched the breakfast orders because he usually wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole, but there was something really appealing about the melted cheese on the seeded roll.

"Here ya go. Want the juice also?"

Daniel gave a vigorous nod as he tucked into the sandwich.


He fidgeted. He couldn't help it, but he was nervous. And confused as to why he was so nervous. This was his home. He was going home. The place he'd been demanding to be released to, but now as his dad drove down the familiar streets, the closer he got, the more anxious he became.

They passed a group of kids playing roller hockey screaming and playing with an abandon that Daniel felt he'd never be able achieve again. "It's Saturday?"

"Saturday. Yeah."

He'd lost so much time and so much of himself, and at this moment he'd give anything for a shot of the drug to make all his worries disappear.

His dad made a turn then another, and with dread and a sickening churn of his stomach, Daniel realized they were two blocks from home. And over the horizon loomed school. Friends.

And Alexandria.

School would be hard. Seemed as if he'd spent the last year of his life playing catch up. Testing and stretching his so-called genius abilities until he was afraid it was going to snap and break like a rubber band.

Friends? He'd wondered how much of their friendship was now borne of obligation and not because Cory, Nate, Li and the others liked him. His disappearances were testing the bonds of their friendships and Daniel was terrified it was only a matter of time before they'd be severed.

Alexandria. God. If he had to do one thing over, it would've been not letting her to talk him into riding the motorbike on that fateful day. He'd hurt her, physically and mentally, and if he couldn't forgive himself for putting her in the hospital, how was she ever going to forgive him?


Daniel jumped when his father's hand gripped his shoulder. "Ow." His muscles spasmed at the mere touch, like the raw, exposed nerves of a tooth.

"Damn it, I'm sorry."

He had no voice, the sparks of pain had rendered him speechless.

Slowly, his father's hand slid from his shoulder to his hand. "Breathe through it. Breathe. And when we get inside, I'll get you a muscle relaxant."

In. Out. In. Out. Daniel closed his eyes and followed his father's directions.


"Yes," he stuttered.

"Come on. Let's go inside."


The passenger side of the truck was opened and his father stood there, waiting, but Daniel was afraid to move. Terrified that even the simple act of getting out of the Avalanche would set off another reaction.

"Daniel? Come on, Grandma's waiting."

"I'm coming." And he was, he really was, though his body refused to obey.

"Take your time. I'm right here."

"I know." He held his hand out for his dad to take.

His dad grabbed his hand. "Ready?"


"Good, because your grandmother is standing at the window."

Daniel looked around his dad and smiled. "She's waving."

"Yup, she is."


"Don't worry, I promise to stay right by your side as she checks you out."

Daniel shuddered. That visual scared him more than getting out of the Avalanche. "Let's go say hello."


His body ached and his muscles twitched even after his grandmother released him from her bone-crushing hug. Daniel did what his father had instructed. Just breathed through the pain while she walked around him.

"You look tired." She glared at her son. "He looks tired, Jonathan."

"He is tired—"

"Hey!" Daniel objected, stepped backwards. "He's right here."

"Well," his dad asked. "Is he tired?"


The fact that he'd hesitated answering the tired question had been answer enough for his grandma and dad.

"I don't want to take a nap, Dad." He didn't, or maybe that should be, he couldn't. Every part of his body ached, not in a feverish type of ache, but in an ache as if he had spent days on the soccer field, which sure wasn't conducive to lying on the couch in the den. Or his bed. Or anywhere.

"Look." His father glanced over his shoulder, then leaned in to whisper to Daniel. "I know the thought of lying down after spending days in the infirmary—"

"Infirmaries," Daniel corrected.

"Infirmaries," he amended, "isn't what you feel like doing right now. But Fraiser said you need rest and we all know we never, ever, cross the good doctor."

Daniel was afraid to move, fearful that if he even shifted positions, his dad would see how much he actually hurt. "So I'll take a nap."

"Don't kid a kidder, son." He stood up, dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out a pill. "You know what Fraiser said."

Slowly, Daniel reached out for the pill, then pulled back suddenly, grimacing at the sudden contraction of muscles. The overwhelming urge for relief scared him more than the pain itself.


He closed his eyes, mortified at the moisture he felt leaking from the corners.

"Fraiser said the muscle relaxant will—"

"No more drugs. Please. I don't want anymore—"

He felt the couch dip under his father's weight.

"No more drugs. I put it away. All gone."

Daniel didn't have to open his eyes to see the sorrow on his father's face, his voice said it all. His dad slipped his hand under Daniel's and gently began to massage the muscles. His dad's rough, calloused hands moved to his wrist, increasing the pressure, forcing the muscles to relax.


A wonderful, familiar smell woke him and he gave a tentative stretch, relieved and more than a bit amazed that his muscles obeyed without protest and thoroughly surprised that, considering he hadn't been tired, he'd fallen asleep.

With a deep yawn and a slight groan, Daniel contemplated going back to sleep, but his growling stomach had other ideas.

"Okay, okay," he said rubbing his belly. "I hear you."


"Smells delicious." Daniel snuck up behind his grandmother and peered over her shoulder. "Spatini sauce." The old childhood name flowed from his lips without forethought. "I love you."

She snorted, and kept on stirring. "You only love me for my cooking?"

"I don't know... Can I dip some bread into the sauce before I commit."

With a shake of her head, she reached over and took a bowl from the cabinet.

Daniel grinned in anticipation and his stomach growled even louder than before as he watched his grandmother spoon a ladleful of sauce into the bowl. He backed up and stepped to the side. "I'll get the bread."

He did mental measuring and settled on three slices of fresh white bread. Nice and fluffy, just screaming to be dipped in his grandma's sauce. He turned, holding the slices like a hand of cards. The smile slid from his face.

"Oh, mhuirnin." Dish in hand, she stood there frozen, staring at Daniel.

"Grandma?" He took a step towards her, afraid that she was going to pass out until he realized what she was staring at - the bruises peppering his arms from the countless injections he'd endured. "It's okay."

The tears in her eyes told Daniel it was anything but okay.

"Please, Grandma," he said, his own voice cracking under untold lies. "Please don't cry."

"Look at you." She was angry, upset, and the pitch of her voice was raised. "How can you tell me not to be upset? You return home, as secretive as your father, looking like a strong breeze would topple you over, and with arms that resemble someone who's a drug addict."

He couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. Couldn't bring himself to lie to his grandmother. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Sorry because you have to lie? Or sorry because it's the truth."

"It was my decision. What happened to Daniel was my fault."

"D-dad?" The one syllable came out in a stutter.

His father flashed him a look, one that Daniel understood. One that meant to follow his lead and for god's sake, keep his mouth shut. Lie.

She was crying, not sobbing, not making a sound, just tears, and Daniel had been seconds away from blurting out the unfathomable truths of where he'd been.

"Are you okay, mhuirnin?"

"I'm fine, Grandma. I wouldn't lie about that."

"I know you wouldn't." The words were directed at Daniel, but her gaze slid over to his father.

"He's not lying, Mom, Daniel really is fine." He took a napkin from the table, walked over to his mother, gently kissed her forehead then tenderly used the napkin to wipe up her tears.

"Sometimes I hate you, Jonathan O'Neill."

His dad's glance slid over to him, settling on his arms, and he smiled sadly. "Sometimes I bet I hate myself more than you ever possibly could."


"It's okay, Grandma."

"No, it's not. If you're going to be dipping, it's much more appealing if the sauce is hot." She got another bowl from the cabinet, stirred the bubbling sauce and placed a fresh ladleful into the new bowl.

Daniel stopped complaining and tried not to look at his father, who was attempting to make him laugh.

"Humor her," his dad hissed.

"Watch it, or you'll get Daniel's lukewarm bowl."

"I love your sauce—"

She interrupted his dad before he had a chance to finish. "Here's a fresh bowl for you, Daniel. It's beautiful outside, you look like you need to see the sun and I need to stop your father before his sugar-coated words become nauseating."

"Good luck," Daniel said with a snort, taking the bowl from her outstretched hands. Grinning as he left the kitchen, he heard his dad sputter at his grandmother's words.


Indian summer; he felt it the second he stepped onto the deck. And damn, it felt great as he raised his face to the sun and let the warmth kiss his skin.

"Hi, Daniel."

He blinked in surprise. Alexandria wasn't supposed to be here, on his father's deck, sitting at the picnic table under the garish, ugly umbrella. All it took were those two words to render Daniel speechless. Two words to start his heart pounding in his chest and for a sick feeling to settle in the pit of his stomach.


"Alexandria." Hurriedly, he put the bowl on the table and placed the bread so that it covered the top, but now his hands were empty. Unsure of what to do, he stuck them in his pockets and turned his gaze downward.

Alexandria was silent, and she was never silent.

Daniel was so out of his element. He felt awkward and embarrassed, terrified to say the wrong thing. So, like Alexandria, he remained silent, finding the wood decking under his feet safer than risking a glance at her.

"Are those my fault?"

"Huh?" Daniel's head shot up and he stared at her.


"What?" Daniel looked behind him, unsure what the heck Alexandria was talking about.

"Those. Those marks on your arms. Those bruises—"

"No!" Daniel yelled abruptly, rushing to cover his forearms with his hands in an attempt to hide his blotchy, bruised skin from her view.

"Okay, I just thought... I'm sorry." Now it was her turn to drop her head, but unlike Daniel, her long curly hair, familiar to Daniel in a way that took his breath away, provided a curtain for her to hide behind.

Something beyond Daniel's understanding pushed him forward and made him move his feet, steadily and with confidence, one in front of the other, forcing him towards Alexandria, when all he truly wanted to do was run.

Okay, she didn't acknowledge him when he sat on the bench next to her, but neither did she run or protest as he settled in, tucked her hair behind her ear, then gently kissed her on the cheek. "Are you okay?"

She nodded and her hand came up to grip his. "I'm sorry. So sorry. I never should've—"


"Shush?" She turned to face him, her hold on his hand tightening. "How can you tell me to shush? This is all my fault. If I hadn't—"

"I could've said no."

"I wouldn't let you say no."

Her grasp on his hand was like needles up his arm, but he didn't care. "Are you okay?" he repeated the previously asked, yet unanswered question.

"I'm fine."

"I was so scared, because you weren't fine and your dad..."

"Was being an asshole." She released his hand and his relief lasted a second before he found himself with an armful of Alexandria. This time his speechlessness was due to sensitized muscles that began to twang painfully.

"Alexandria." Her name was a painful moan.

She sat up, surprise turning to worry. "What's the matter with you?"


"And if the next word you say is 'fine'," Alexandria leaned across the table and slid the bowl in front of her, "I'm going to eat whatever is in this." She lifted the bread. "Oh, spaghetti sauce." Devilishly, she smiled at Daniel. "Forget it, this looks great." Alexandria inhaled deeply, "And it smells even better than it looks."

"Drug therapy." A wary stretch of the truth. "To save a friend." Not too much of a stretch.

"Really?" She tore off a corner of the bread, dipped it in the sauce and placed it near his lips. "One more question." She pulled back the treat. "Why are you lying?"

"I'm not lying," Daniel insisted.

"Well, you're not telling me the truth."

"A close friend of my dad's was dying and there was something in my bone marrow." He held his arms out. "These are needle marks where they drew blood."

"Did he live?" Gently, Alexandria pushed his shaking hands back to the table.

"Yes, he did."

With a feather-like touch, she traced a bruise. "Damn, I feel so selfish, lying in a hospital bed, upset that you didn't call me and you were busy saving a life."

"I did call you." Daniel's memories may have been lacking, but he remembered calling Alexandria. And calling. And calling. Until... "Your dad made it quite clear that I wasn't welcome in your life."

"He behaved badly."

"Badly? He's suing my dad. It was an accident. I would never do anything to hurt you. Doesn't he know that? He wouldn't listen to me. I tried to tell him..."

She ducked her head, averting her eyes from Daniel's scrutiny. "My dad was terrified and when he gets scared, he gets angry."

"I'm sorry. Maybe if I told him face to face he'd understand that I—"

"I told him it was my fault."


"It wasn't a lie, Daniel. I told him that I would've taken the bike out by myself but you wouldn't let me—"

"You lied."

"Nope. Not a lie. Just the way I remembered it. Made sure my dad clearly understood that what happened on that day was my fault. Not yours. And that he was lucky Colonel Jack wasn't suing him."

"My dad never would've thought—"

"Never say never," she said defensively.

Daniel recalled the anger in his father's voice, the accusatory tone towards the other SG-1 team. "Yeah, sometimes my dad's anger is legendary."

His response earned a giggle from her and the reward of the piece of spatini-dipped bread. "Yeah, dads have a tendency to go overboard." This time she kissed his cheek. "The lawsuit has been dropped. Gone. Finished. I made him rip up the paperwork in front of me. Threatened him, though I think telling him that I would hate him for the rest of my born days and my children's born days might have been the clincher."

"You fought dirty?"

"Damn straight I did." She tore off another corner of bread, dragged it through the sauce and he watched expectantly, huffing in disappointment when she shoved it into her own mouth. "Hmmmm. That was delicious. You're grandmother's a good cook."

"The best," Daniel agreed, taking a second slice of bread when he realized Alexandria wasn't in a sharing mood. He licked the dripping sauce off his piece then as nonchalantly as he could, he asked the question that had been on his mind since he'd seen her. "Is my grandmother also a busybody as well as a good cook?"

Alexandria grabbed the last slice of bread, rolling her eyes in frustration as he whimpered in disappointment. "Here you go, you baby." She tore the slice in half and handed him the smaller piece.

"Nice," he said, eyeing the disproportionate rectangle.

"Grandma Rose called me because she cared." She wiped the inside of the bowl. "Not because she's a busybody."

"Hey! Leave some for me... Grandma Rose?"


Add fifteen years to the two people sitting at the table outside and the picture, in Jack's mind's eye, was one of Daniel and Sha're. He had always been positive the resemblance between the two women was the dark curly hair, but now, playing voyeur, Jack realized it was the way the girl made his son smile. "Mom?"

"Yes?" She was filling the pasta pot with water, her attention on the sink and not on him.

"Did you call Dria?"

"Step away from the window, Jonathan."

He pouted, but didn't move. "Did you?"

"Yes, I did," she said, coming to stand beside him. "We women need to stick together, and I figured she probably was missing Daniel as much as I was." She rested her head against his bicep. "Lie to me all you want, son, but Daniel looks horrible."

And Jack looked. Okay, admittedly, Daniel needed a haircut, even though Dria appeared to be entranced with the tendrils that kept slipping from his ponytail. His bruised arms made Jack cringe in guilt and yes, he definitely was pale from too many days spent underground. And, Jack was pretty damn sure it was what Daniel was wearing that made him appear thinner than he actually was.

"It's his eyes."

"Damn, he's going to start to shave pretty soon."

"Jonathan. Focus, please."

There were shadows under Daniel's eyes, and that slump in his shoulders, the one that made it look like his fourteen-year-old bore the weight of the world, was probably from a whole lot of aching and a side order of exhaustion. "All right," Jack conceded. "Maybe he does look like he needs a good night's sleep."

"Good. I just wanted to make sure you saw what needed to be seen."

"I see, Mom," he said sadly.

She slid an arm around his waist and gave him a quick hug. "Just wanted to be sure you remembered to remove those blinders you're so good at wearing. Now be a good boy and throw in the box of ziti's I have on the counter."

Jack took a step away from the window. "Mom?"

"Put the oven on 375 and don't forget to add a drop of oil to the water."

"May I ask what you're going to be doing?"

"Me?" She tapped the window and smiled at him. "I'm going to be busy watching young love."


Daniel yawned. Pretty much everyone at the table was aware that he was struggling to stay awake, except him.

He yawned again, and Dria took her cue. Standing, she picked up her plate and Daniel's. "Dinner and dessert was wonderful. Thank you for inviting me."

"Put the dish down, sweetie."

Dria appeared confused; the idea of helping clean the table at dinner was probably ingrained and she stood there, holding the plates. "I don't mind helping."

"Okay, how about you clean off the table – just bring the dishes into the kitchen for me?"


"Oh." Dria walked into the dining room, drying her hands on a paper towel, stopped and stared.

Daniel was sleeping, his head pillowed on his crossed arms, still sitting at the dining room table.

"He's sleeping."

Jack looked up from the sports page. "Yeah, not exactly the best host, huh."

"I didn't mean that, Colonel Jack," she added hurriedly. Embarrassed, she glanced around the room. "I guess I should be going."

He closed the paper and stood. "Do you need a lift?"

"No, my mom said to call and she'd come and pick me up."

He glanced towards the window. "Don't bother her. You're here. I'm here. I'll drive you home."


Dria had tried once. Jack had tried once also, but neither of them could even get Daniel to stir. Jack had attempted one more time before Rose hushed him and sent him and Dria on their way.

Rose couldn't help smiling when Daniel's head popped up, glasses askew, fifteen seconds after Jack backed up out of the driveway.


"Dad's gone to drive Dria home. Why don't you go to bed?"

He blinked at her a couple of times, smacking his lips together, before getting up wordlessly and shuffling towards his bedroom. Rose followed when she saw how stiff Daniel appeared to be, going straight to his bureau and pulling out clean pajamas in the time it took her grandson to walk to the bed and sit down. She placed the folded clothes on the bed as she sat down next to him.

"So. Did you and Dria work things out?"

Daniel nodded as he picked up the pajamas and laid them on his lap. "She convinced her dad to drop the lawsuit." His hand was rubbing absently along his upper thigh, through the material.

"That's wonderful news." The look of relief on Daniel's face was the best news of all. They'd all skirted over the subject during dinner, obviously none of them wanting to put a damper on the relaxed tone of the evening. Rose reached for Daniel, pulling him towards her as she enveloped him in a crushing hug.

When his hands came up, she thought he was reciprocating her hug. She never expected the next thing that happened. Daniel's sudden inhalation of breath and his hands pushing at her as he screamed bloody murder.

"Daniel!" Her first instincts were to jump to her feet while Daniel fell sideways onto the bed into a tightly curled ball. He gasped for air, inhaled noisily again, and screamed a second time.

He was in pain. She'd done this to him somehow. She thrust away the guilt, putting it aside to wallow in later, and reached for her grandson, trying to assess the injury. "What did I do? Daniel, where does it hurt?"

"No, no," Daniel gasped, batting her hands away. "Don't touch me. Don't touch me."

"Daniel, stop." She grabbed his arm and pushed it down, and he twisted in pain, screaming again. Unnerved, she dropped his arm and watched, helplessly, as he lay on the edge of his bed, panting in agony.

"Okay, I'm not touching." She rested a hand on the mattress, intending to lean over Daniel and do a visual check. "But I need you to talk to me." To her surprise, the bed and the linens were suspiciously damp. She raised her hand and sniffed but couldn't be sure... She slid her gaze down Daniel's length and saw evidence of the urine-dampened stains on his crotch and leg. "Mhuirnin, I think we need to call an ambulance."

"No. No. No hospital. Janet said it might happen. Please, no hospital."

"Sweetheart. You're in pain and I don't know what to do for you."

"No. It's better. See?" Daniel uncurled himself slowly and as awareness hit him, his pain-filled gaze shot down to stare at himself in shock.

"It's not better."

"Cramps. It's just cramps. Janet said it would go away."

"Daniel, it's not going away."

"In a few days. She said in a few days."

She didn't quite believe him and she still would rather call for an ambulance. But Daniel did seem to be better, at least he wasn't screaming. "Do you think you can sit or stand up?" she asked gently, wishing she could touch him.

It was as painful for her to watch as for Daniel to struggle up off the bed. Every time she tried to help, he would withdraw, or beg her not to touch him. Finally, he got to his feet and she led him, with slow, agonizing steps, to the bathroom.

Getting his clothes off was another matter. She was just about ready to grab a pair of scissors and slice his tee shirt off when, with a bit of inventive maneuvering, she pulled it off. Pants were easier, she unbuttoned and unzipped and they slid to the floor where Daniel carefully stepped out of them. He baulked at his underwear, however.

"I can do it," he ground out through clenched teeth, his breaths shuddering in and out audibly. He managed to snag his thumbs under the elastic and push the boxers down, moving his body so that his back was to her by the time he was clad only in his socks. He was shaking like a leaf, almost as if he were running a high fever. But if anything, his skin was cool and clammy.

She grabbed a clean cloth and ran it under hot water. Understanding how Daniel was barely holding on to his dignity, she held the cloth out to him. "Do you think you can wash yourself?"

With a short, shuddering gasp, Daniel took the cloth and with slow, awkward movements, began to wipe his groin. She left him, just long enough to allow him that bit of privacy and get him a change of clothes. The pajamas she'd taken out earlier were on the floor and a quick examination proved that they were dry and clean. She hurried back to the bathroom.


"My father dropped the lawsuit," Dria said suddenly, fidgeting with the clasp on her purse.

There were a lot of things that Jack wanted to say, though none of them were appropriate for Dria's ears. "Thank him for me. And Daniel."

She sighed.

"Your dad doesn't know where you went today?"

"My mom does."

"She was okay with it?"

"Colonel Jack, I've been a model child my entire life. Studying, getting good grades, never giving my parents any trouble. For Daniel," she said with a maturity that stunned him, "he's worth fighting for."

"They're your parents."

"And Daniel's... Well, Daniel."

Jack laughed.

Dria gave an indignant huff. "My mother had the same reaction."

"I'm sorry, Dria, I didn't mean to laugh, but you talk like..."

"I know... Old before my time. Same speech, just a different parent."

"Poor you. Poor Daniel. Older and more mature than all of the parents involved."

"Well, maybe not Grandma Rose."

Jack gave a full out belly laugh as he pulled in front of her house.

"Thank you," she said, then when she put one hand on the door handle, she hesitated. "Taking the bike out that day was my idea. Not Daniel's. I twisted his arm—"

"It's done with. Finished. Water under the bridge."

"Daniel didn't want to. He argued with me. And... And..." Furiously, she scrubbed at her eyes.

"You both learned a hard lesson."

"I'm sorry," she hiccupped.

"I know you are. I know Daniel is. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you'll never do that again." He pulled a tissue from the console and handed it to her. "Dry your eyes, okay? I don't want to send you home in tears. Not good for your family's image of me."

She gave him a watery smile.

"Obviously, I'm not on your parents' Christmas card list."

"Don't worry, Colonel Jack, I'm working on it."


"Don't touch me," Daniel hissed as he gracelessly crawled onto Jack's bed. Daniel had gone from bad to worse in the short trek from bathroom to bedroom. For a little while she'd thought him better, managing to get his pajamas on by himself but it seemed to be the actual act of walking that upped the pain and the muscular cramps.

"I'll be right back."

With Daniel finally situated on Jack's bed, she hurried to grab a phone and dialed Jack's cell phone.


Jack's cell rang as he was turning the corner onto his block. He didn't bother with the hands free device, he just flipped it open, never checking the caller ID. "O'Neill."

"Where are you?" The voice was insistent, demanding, sending fear coursing through him.

"Mom? What's the matter?"

"Are you on your way home?"

He sped the truck up and pulled into the driveway. "I'm in the driveway, open the door, I'm coming in."


She was in tears, shaking, visibly upset, but the lack of blood or body fluids was encouraging. "Daniel."

"Bedroom," was all she managed before Jack shouldered past.

He was off and running, yelling Daniel's name with every step, not allowing his mind to focus on anything but getting to his son. He burst into his room only to find the bed empty.

"Your bedroom," his mother instructed as she came up the hall.

Jack nodded, turned on a dime, took five more steps and bore left at his opened bedroom door, stopping so short his mother barreled into him.

Daniel was lying spread-eagle, prone in the middle of the bed, his face turned to the doorway. Though his eyes were closed, his features contracted into a painful grimace every time his body jerked with muscle spasms.

"Crap." Jack shook his head, his fingers clawing at his short hair in frustration. "How long?" he asked, though he never turned around to face his mother.

"He woke right after you left. And he was fine. Honest for a few minutes... I didn't mean to hug him... you didn't tell me I couldn't... and I—"

Quickly, he turned around and enveloped his mother in a bone-crushing hug. Jack truly wanted to say something to make it all okay, but right now at this moment, there were no words.


"Don't touch me," Daniel hissed the second Jack sat on the bed.

In response to the pain in his son's voice, he drew back his hands. "Okay, I'm not touching you."

Daniel jerked, and Jack was pretty sure the agonized mewl that he breathed was involuntary. "I'm getting the pills that Fraiser—"

"No!" Daniel's eyes popped open.

"You're being ridiculous."

"I'm scared." A whole body tremor hit and Daniel fisted the blanket under his right hand.

Screw this, he needed to touch his son and gently, he put his own hand over Daniel's. The muscles, even in his hand, were painfully tight. "It's okay, Fraiser said that this was normal."

"I know," he said softly. "That's not why I'm afraid." Daniel raised his head, trying to see around Jack. "Grandma?"

"She's right over..." Jack craned his neck, surprised to find the doorway empty. "She probably went to—"

"Don't. Want. Her. To. Hear." Daniel's teeth were clamped together, the words spoken on the cusps of painful exhalations.

"What don't you want her to hear? She didn't mean to—"

"I want the drugs."

"Okay, let me go get them—"

"No!" Daniel screwed his eyes shut. "You don't understand."

"What's to understand? You're in pain. And in the kitchen, on the counter, right next to the sink is a bottle of pills," Jack tapped the back of Daniel's hand with his thumb, "that will make this all go away."

"I want the pills. Like before." He stared at Jack with terror in his eyes. "Like I wanted that drug."

"It's not like before."

Daniel nodded, then gasped. "It is. Like before. Pills will make everything go away. Pain is better. Pain means—"


A single tear leaked out over his anger.

"Crap, I'm sorry. Daniel, please—"

"Janet's on the phone."

Jack jumped at his mother's intrusion, and involuntarily, his fingers tightened around Daniel's hand.

"Ow, Dad."

"Shit. Sorry, Icky." Confused, he looked up at his mother. "What's Fraiser doing on the phone?"

"I called her. Now talk to her," she ordered, shoving the phone at Jack.

He took the phone reluctantly, his annoyance bordering on anger at his mother's interference. "I have it under control," was his greeting.

"Not as far as your mother is concerned."

"Just trying to convince Daniel it's time for him to take the pills."

"And there's a problem?"

His mother was hovering, Daniel was suffering and he wasn't too keen on having this conversation here or taking it to another room. "Daniel's stubborn."

"Let me talk to him."

"What? I don't think he can—"

"Figure it out, Colonel."

Jack glared at his mother who answered with a silent, smug gaze. "Daniel, Fraiser wants to talk to you."

" 'Kay."

Jack held the phone against Daniel's ear, then sat patiently while he listened, with the occasional soft yes.

Slowly, Daniel pulled his head away from the phone. "Janet wants to talk to you."

"Give him the pills," she ordered without even saying hello. "Stay with him. He's terrified, having problems differentiating between the addiction and—"

Jack was amazed at her intuition. "How did you—"

"I just asked the right questions," she said with confidence.

"And the pills?"

Janet's soft huff of laughter held no joy. "Those? I threatened to come over with a sedative if he didn't take the medication I prescribed."


His father had run from the room with a promise to hurry back, but even through the haze of pain, Daniel knew that his grandmother was going to waylay his dad. Poor guy was probably going to get a large piece of her mind.

God, he wanted those pills so badly. He needed the oblivion Janet swore would be his, but worse than his desire was his self-hatred. The addiction, the desired salvation he sought, Janet had assured him, was all in his mind, no matter what his muscles said.

He straddled the fence, unsure if it was heartwarming or a downright invasion of privacy when Janet hit the nail on the head. Softly, but firmly, she'd explained pain management to him. Read him the riot act about overdoing it, then threatened him with the infirmary. Made sure he knew how much she loved him.

Daniel buried his face in the mattress He used his father's absence to release his pent up anguish—smothering his screams into the down comforter. The tears moistening the blanket couldn't even embarrass him, peeing in his pants and having his grandmother change him into clean clothes had destroyed the last shred of self-esteem he had.

When he'd been a kid, a little kid, he'd stuck something, something metallic, into an electrical socket. The pain and the shock hadn't been like anything he'd ever experienced before and it had been a million time worse than any punishment his father had dealt out, until now. This pain was like a million somethings being stuck into a socket and he was the ground.

His body jerked and his muscles contracted. Again. And again. He'd been trying to breathe through the pain, like his dad had said but now, there wasn't even a chance to even draw a breath. There was no break in the pain and Daniel knew it was just a matter of time before the mattress wouldn't be able to contain his screams.



Daniel hated that his father's voice was tentative. Unsure. Frightened. Not of Daniel, but for him. "Hey," he echoed, opening his eyes, the strength in his voice surprising even him.

His father gave an apologetic shrug. "Sorry, I didn't mean to take so long." One hand held an opened bottle of Snapple, a straw sticking out the top, but the other...

Daniel's gaze fixated on his dad's fisted left hand.

"This should help."

Daniel inhaled. He could do this. In his father's hand was the promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He fought to get his arms and legs to move in sync so he could sit up. His muscles were shaky and argued with his mental commands as he attempted to get his knees under his belly and lock his elbows. Spastically, his arms began to quiver under his weight.

"Icky, let me do the work, okay?"

"I can't—"

"It's okay. I got this one. Trust me."

Daniel managed a tiny nod and tried to lower himself back to the bed, which was turning out to be just as difficult as the effort to sit up.

"Let me help."

"Please, no," Daniel begged, a groan of pain bursting forth when his arms collapsed and he dropped the last few inches onto the mattress.

He was grateful when his father squatted by the bed. At the moment, Daniel didn't think he'd be able to deal with even the shifting of his body if his dad had sat on the bed.

"Open your mouth."

Like a five year old, Daniel obeyed without question.

"A drink first. Then the pills. Then maybe..."

More liquid increased his chances of pissing himself. "Just pills."

The straw was placed in his mouth and while the liquid would be cool and refreshing, Daniel pulled away. "Pills?"

One pill—then a sip.

Second pill—and this time, Daniel forced himself to just drink enough to wash the pill down.

Hoping to tempt him, the straw was teasingly moved across his sealed lips, his father giving up after he refused to open up.


Why wasn't this working? Where was the promised relief?

"It's only been a few minutes." His father's comforting hand was hot and heavy on the nape of his neck.

That's not possible, only a few minutes? No, it had been longer, his throat was dry and parched, the taste of the iced tea a distant memory.

"I'm sorry... I should've insisted that you take the medication earlier."


"I escorted her home, don't worry."

He wanted to say thanks and apologize but there was a sudden tsunami of pain and he clamped his mouth shut to privately drown in the onslaught. A whimper of surprised anguish escaped when his father tightly gripped his hand. The touch felt like a thousand needles pricking in the skin, and even though Daniel knew that was an impossibility, he still opened his eyes to check. Nope, no needles, just the concerned face of his father. His dad looked old. Lines that Daniel didn't remember bored deeply into the corners of his eyes and around his mouth.

"I'm sorry," Daniel managed to stutter. Sorry for all of this.

The pinpricks seemed to lessen with his dad's sad smile. "I'm sorrier."

The muscles contractions loosened their hold with Daniel's attempted smile.

"Ah...." A light touch pushed an annoying strand of hair from his forehead. "It appears that the little magic pills are working."

No. The pain was still there. Daniel could feel the pain. Sense the pain. But the pain was there and he... he was here.

"Sleep," his dad ordered.

No, Daniel wanted to answer, sleep wasn't an option. He wanted to stay awake and enjoy the numbness. "Dad..." He could get up now. Go back into his bed or maybe even— Daniel struggled to sit up.

His dad gave a chuckle and gently lowered himself onto the bed. "Where the heck do you think you're going, buster?"

A slight push from his father, and Daniel once again found himself face down on the bed. "Up."

"Later. After you close your eyes. Can you close them for me?"

Daniel nodded.

"They're still open, Icky."

"Oh." Daniel raised an uncooperative hand to check.

The floppy hand was grabbed and held tightly between his dad's hands. "Trust me on this, they're open."

"If you say so." At least that's what he thought he said, because right now his tongue appeared to be as uncooperative as his hand.

"I say so." His dad shook his head, a smile tugging at his lip.

Knowing he'd lost the argument, Daniel responded to his father's command. Darkness descended and for a few minutes he just reveled in his newfound ability to fill his lungs and shift position without pain before he fell asleep.


Daniel awoke in increments. Actually, for a long time, as different body parts awoke, Daniel drifted, unwilling and unable to offer up the energy to enter full consciousness. There came a time, Daniel wasn't too sure how much later it actually was, before his body's needs forced him to full wakefulness.




Peeing took precedence and Daniel experimentally began to move. Starting with his hands, open and closing, slowly moving down, shifting. His body held an echo of yesterday's pain. A shadow. Like the day after a migraine, the pain just waiting over the horizon, but for now, compared to what he'd experienced, this was nothing.

With the help of the nightstand and mattress, he stood. Shuffled a few steps, reaching out for the dresser as support on his way to his father's bathroom. Door. Sink. Counter. Toilet. He moaned in relief while peeing. Damn, that felt good. It wasn't until he was staring at his blurry image in the mirror while washing his hands that he remembered, and this time without the pain to hide behind, the embarrassment was overwhelming.

He'd wet himself. Wet his clothes. Wet his linens and his bed like a baby. And like a baby, his grandma had to strip him, change his clothes. Mortification burned his face and he raised his arm, swiped at his eyes and was stunned at how much he stank.


The house was quiet, too quiet, and as Daniel stood in the hallway between his dad's room and his, he could feel the panic rise, an irrational fear of being home alone. And so he stood frozen to the spot until he heard his father's voice. A one-sided conversation... He was on the phone, his voice waxing and waning as his father walked through the house.

Feeling incredibly stupid, Daniel relaxed, then slipped into his bedroom, closing the door behind him.

It was freezing in his room, the window was wide open, and the bed stripped of all linens. Tentatively, he reached out and ran his open hand the length and width of his mattress. Under his fingers the material was cold but not damp, so he closed the window.

He found a clean pair of jeans, a shirt, boxers and socks, and had one hand on the doorknob before he turned back, dumped his clothes on the desk chair and opened the window, just to make sure the smell as well as the dampness was out of the room.


The shower should have helped and not hindered but Daniel could feel his calf muscles begin to tighten as he dragged his feet into the kitchen. He opened the fridge, got out the container of orange juice and was just about to take a drink from the container.

"That's not a good idea, Daniel."

He gave the container a light shake. "I was just checking to make sure there was juice in the container."

With a smile, his father put a glass on the table. "Try this."

Daniel poured himself a glass, drank it down and was just refilling the glass when his father put two pills on the table.

"Try those."

"No." He slammed the glass on the table.

His father made no comment, just ripped a square of paper towel and wiped up the juice that had spilled over the top. "Pain management. Stopping the pain before it gets out of control—"

Daniel dropped into the chair. "I know that, but I start school tomorrow—"

"Where did you get that idea?"

Daniel adamantly shook his head. "I'm going to school tomorrow."

His dad leaned over and touched one of the bruises on his arm. "No. You're not. I'm sorry, Daniel, but—"

"I'm okay."

"You're not."

"Today I will be." He had to be.

"I'm going to make you lunch—"

"Lunch?" Daniel glanced around the kitchen, horrified. "Breakfast? What happened to breakfast?"

"It's 1300 hours, you slept through breakfast."

"See?" Daniel pushed the pills to the middle of the table. "That's why I can't take them. And—" He hesitated, worried his bottom lip and chose to drink the juice rather than finish his train of thought.

"And what?" His father pushed.

"They make me forget everything. Like that drug."

"It's not the same."

Daniel ripped off his glasses and tossed them onto the table then dug the heels of his palms into his eyes and rubbed vigorously. Two strong hands grabbed his forearms and gently forced them down to the table.

"It's not the same," his dad repeated.

"It feels like the same." Daniel twisted out of his father's grasp. "I hurt, I take drugs and then I don't hurt anymore. I spend hours sleeping. I lose time. And when I wake up..." He tried to smile through his tears. "It's starting all over again. Except now there's no other Daniel to pull my ass out of the fire." He stood, finished the juice then fought the urge to throw the glass into the sink and watch it shatter. Instead, with infinite caution he lowered it onto the counter. "I just want to be a kid again. No memories. No bad guys. No boogiemen. No other me. I want to go to school. Play soccer. Hang out with my friends. Learn to drive."

"Give it time."

"Time?" Daniel studied the ceiling, hoping that gravity would stop the tears from falling. "I'm so tired of falling behind. Of being behind. Losing ground. I want to go to school. I want to be normal."

"I think we took a left turn off the normalcy road about eight years ago."

Daniel used his arm to wipe his runny nose. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"No. It's supposed to make me feel better."

This time Daniel offered no objection as his father pulled him into a bone-crushing hug.

Damn, the hug hurt. A lot.

"Take a pill," his dad whispered in his ear.

"Please, no."

Two hands on his shoulders, his dad took a step backwards, giving Daniel the gentlest of shakes. "A compromise?"

Daniel remained silent.

"How about you sit down. I'll make us some bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches."

"Extra mayo?"

"Extra mayo. Chips and pickles."

"What's the compromise?"

His dad massaged the muscles under his hands. "Take only the anti-inflammatory."

"That'll work," Daniel said with a slight nod, hoping he sounded more convincing than he felt.

"And if it doesn't, take half a muscle relaxant."

That sounded doable. "I don't want my bacon burnt."

"After all these years, I know that."

Daniel smiled. There was never a time when his father didn't burn the bacon. "Don't make it in the microwave. Fry it in a pan. There's less of a chance of it being burnt to a cinder—"

"And may I ask what you're going to do be doing—never mind." His dad patted the side of his face.

Uh oh. Daniel knew that look and he wondered it he could just sneak out of the kitchen. He got about three feet from the doorway when his dad noticed him.

"Come back here, Icky."

"Damn." Slowly, he turned around.

His father dropped a frying pan on a burner then crooked his finger at him. "Why don't you show me how it's done?"

"Is that a challenge?" Daniel took a step forward.

"If it gets me outta cooking bacon, yeah, then consider this a challenge."



"Yes," his father insisted, waving the apron like a matador's cape. "You can't make bacon standing four feet from the stove. This will protect your clothes."

It was a floral print, over the neck, tie around the waist frilly number and Daniel couldn't help but laugh as his dad slipped it over his head, then tied it behind his back.

"Much better," his father said, stepping to the side.

Daniel flashed him a smile.

"I bet Dria would love—"

The smile melted off Daniel's face. "Not funny."

"Party pooper." A bottle of Snapple and a pill appeared on the counter.


"A compromise, remember?"

"Yeah, but..." Daniel wanted to insist that he was fine, but he could feel his calves tightening and his shoulders cramping. He acquiesced while his father stood watch over the sizzling bacon.


His dad slipped a piece of bacon out of the sandwich and examined it from all sides, holding it up to the light. "Wow. This is pretty close to perfection."

"Notice how it doesn't crumble. Check out the color. It's a—"

"You are going to make someone a wonderful wife."

Daniel snorted. "I wouldn't talk, Dad. That apron? Where the hell did that come from?"

His dad picked up the top piece of his toast and reverently placed the bacon atop the lettuce. "Your grandmother."

"If you say so." Daniel quirked his eyebrows.

"I don't cook well enough to warrant that apron."

"Not true, no one makes mac 'n' cheese as well as you do."

"Ha. Ha."

"It's the truth," Daniel commented around a mouthful of sandwich.

"Really? Thanks."

"You're welcome, though you can't hold a candle to Grandma's spatini—"

"See, I knew it."

"Where's Grandma?" Daniel looked around.

"She does have a home, you know."

"A permanent place to hang her apron?" Daniel joked, even though the tone of his father's voice was anything but humorous.

Slowly, his father put the sandwich on the plate and took a deep breath.

Daniel put his own sandwich down and leaned back on the chair. "What happened?"

"We had a discussion—"

"About me?" All the good feeling slipped away.

"No, about me. About how I handled all of—"

"It's hard not to tell her."

There was no pretense in the smile his father flashed him. "She's not exactly an easy person to keep secrets from."

"So how bad a fight was it?"

"I talked. She yelled. I talked. She yelled some more. I talked. She said she loved me. Loved you. Didn't understand either of us. Kissed me goodbye. Kissed you. Told me to tell you to call her tonight."

"She's mad."

His dad thought a moment. "She's upset."

"Thanks for the warning."

"She loves you. Right now I'm not on her top ten list."

"My dad is chicken?"

His dad made a squawking noise and Daniel couldn't help but laugh.


The laptop was powered up, the books were opened and he managed to check out his history teacher's website when his cell phone vibrated its way across the desktop.


"Hey, sleepyhead."

Daniel was glad to hear from Alexandria, feeling a bit guilty that he hadn't thought to call her. Also feeling a tad guilty at the hint of annoyance that she'd interrupted him.

"What are you doing?"


There was a burst of laughter. "Let's see. You're probably sitting at your desk," she paused. "Your laptop's open—"

"Is not." Quickly, Daniel closed the top.

She continued as if Daniel hadn't spoken. "And you're probably checking out Redman's website because you want to work on what you like the best first, even though you really need to work on Math—"



Daniel could tell that she was glowing in her rightness. "It was great seeing you yesterday. I was... You know... Worried."

"Daniel." There was the slightest reprimand in her voice. "Enough. Okay? It was so great seeing you yesterday... But I don't want to discuss..."

"That other thing."

"Yeah, that other thing," she said. "Now, go and do what geeky kids do on Sundays."

"Oh, you're studying, too? Laptop? Redman's class?"

There was a very unladylike snort. "I love you, Daniel."

She'd hung up but Daniel didn't. He couldn't. The cell phone was sitting in the palm of his hand and he was staring at it. Staring and doing his damnedest to remain calm and cool. Study...

Yeah, studying would take his mind off those three words.


The first cramp took him by surprise and he grabbed at his calf. Frantically, he tried to massage out the charlie horse, praying that it had more to do with the hours spent sitting in one position than anything else.

He stretched his leg. Flexed his sock-covered foot, a trick he'd learned during soccer practice. He stood, slowly, holding onto his desk. The cramping was worse, spreading fast. He hobbled around his room, grimacing as the tightening progressed to the even more painful needle-like sensation.

Frustrated. Daniel threw in the proverbial towel and shuffled out of his room, trying to find his dad. It obviously was compromise time.

With his right shoulder pressed to the wall, it seemed to bear his weight as he slowly moved down the hall. He hesitated at the steps down to the living room. Those several steps seemed insurmountable. He wished for the first time in eight years that there was a banister that he could hold onto. Like an old man, Daniel slid his right foot along the wood floor to the first step. Followed by the left and by the time he'd descended down, he was drenched with sweat, his heart was pounding and the uncomfortable cramping had progressed to out and out pain.


There was no answer. "Dad?" He tried again. "Where are... Oh."

Fast asleep and snoring slightly, his dad was stretched out on the couch, the magazine he was reading, print-side down on his belly, held in place by his clasped hands. The glasses his dad swore he never wore were perched on the tip of his nose. He looked tired, exhausted, and there was no way that Daniel could bring himself to wake him.


He stared at the pill in his hand. Based on experience, a whole one would knock him on his ass for more than a few hours. Half a pill. A compromise. With a knife, he sawed the pill in half, uncooperative fingers doing a horrific job, keeping one half intact; the other half a crumbing mess on the counter. He washed the pill down with two sips of iced tea then replaced the bottle back into the fridge, grabbing a handful of paper towels to clean up his mess.

He wiped up the particles of smushed pill, moving the cordless phone to the side to get the tiniest of pieces. Realization hit when he went to place the phone in the cradle. "Shit." He'd never called his grandmother.


He stood in the entrance of the kitchen, the cordless hanging from his fingertips, contemplating his next move while he still was coherent enough. Sleeping on his bed was out—stupidly, he'd dumped the contents of his entire backpack on the mattress trying to find a working pen. The living room... While he loved his father, admittedly the man snored loud enough to wake the dead. His father's bed was just too reminiscent of yesterday. Which left the den and while he didn't relish the walk down the stairs, at least there was a banister to support his old man shuffle.

Halfway down the stairs, Daniel gave thought to just dropping down on his ass and sliding the rest of the way but he was terrified that he'd be unable to get back up on his feet once he hit bottom. He was breathing through the pain. He was trying to focus on the destination. He was trying so hard not to lose sight of the prize. All he wanted was a friggin' place to get horizontal. Using the banister for leverage, Daniel lowered himself down and sat. Now was as good a time as any to call his grandma.

One ring.

Two rings.

Three rings. "Hello, mhuirnin."

Caller ID. "Hi, Grandma. Sorry, I was doing homework and lost track of time."

"Homework? You haven't been in school—"

"Teachers put work up on their websites. This way you never have to worry about missing anything."

"So, you can't use illness as an excuse not to have done school work?" She sighed. "What's the fun in being sick anymore?"

"There isn't any," Daniel chuckled.

"How are you feeling?"

"Better than yesterday." Not a lie.

"Still not great." A statement, not a question.

She wasn't stupid. His grandma was extremely adept at reading between the lines and a sigh escaped before Daniel could stop it. "I feel better, honest," he added hurriedly.

Now it was his grandmother's turn to sigh.

"I love you, too." Daniel said.

"While I love you, that wasn't exactly where I was taking this conversation."

"I know." Daniel stuck the phone between his shoulder and his chin, held onto the banister then tentatively stretched out his legs. He flexed his toes, stupidly grinning and impressed. Wow, even half a pill worked fast.



"Did you hear anything I just said?"

Daniel thought a moment. "Did you say anything besides that you loved me?"

"Yes, I did, honey."

"Oh, I must've missed it. Wanna repeat what you said?"

"Where's Dad?"

"Oh, is that what you asked? He's ummm..." Daniel closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. "Napping. Dad's napping."

"No, I didn't ask where your dad was, I wanted to know if you'd taken anything."

"But didn't you just ask where he was?" Frustrated that he wasn't following this line of questioning, he leaned backwards, his head hitting the step behind him with a thump. "Ow."

"Ow? Are you okay?"

"Fine. Just hit my head on the steps."

"On the steps? Where are you?"

"Sitting on the steps going down to the den. I'd forgotten to call you and I remembered when I was cutting the pill in half—"

"Pill in half?"

"It was a compromise." Daniel yawned. "It works, though. Even half."

"Why are you sitting on the steps?"

"Hurt too much to go down so I stopped to take a break. Called you." Daniel wiggled his toes. "Feels much better now."

"I'm so glad, Daniel. How about you and me walk down the stairs together and you go lie down on the couch?"

"You're not here."

"I know. Why don't you talk to me as you walk down the steps, okay?"

"I'm not going to fall."

"Humor me."

"Fine." Daniel sat up slowly. "I'm sitting up." He held the phone with his left hand and used his right to pull himself up. "Whoa." The stairs undulated for a second.


"Dizzy for a second. I'm going slowly, Grandma. One step at a time. One. Two. Three."


A persistent far away buzzing hovered around the Jack's subconscious. Pity that it wasn't far enough away to not be disturbing. Slowly, he opened first one eye, then the other, his brain way behind his body's wake up call.

The house was darker than it had been when he'd lain down on the couch to read. "Crap." He sat up, the magazine fell to the floor and his glasses dropped onto his lap. The glasses he tossed onto the table and he just left the magazine where it fell. He stood and stretched, hissing as his bones realigned themselves.


He flicked on the kitchen light, a tad taken back by the time on the microwave. His stomach growled, confirming that it was past dinnertime. Daniel's meds - one of the bottles had been moved closer to the sink and there was a slight sprinkling of white power inches from the bottle. When he saw the knife in the sink, Jack could pretty much piece together what Daniel had done. He just wished Daniel would've woken him.

Bed check time. Daniel's room was an empty mess; it looked like his locker had vomited on his bedspread. His own bed was undisturbed. Which only left one place.


Daniel was lying on his side on the couch, his back pressed up against the cushions. One arm was hooked around an old, embroidered threadbare pillow, the other hand held the cordless. The den was cold and goose bumps added insult to injury on his bruised arms. The phone rang just as Jack was covering him with the afghan but there wasn't even a hitch in Daniel's breathing when he scooped it out from under the blanket.

This, he realized as he hit the receive button, was the sound that had woken him. "O'Neill residence."


"Mom." Great.

"How's Daniel?"


"Did you have a good nap?"

"I was tired. Daniel was in the house." Jack was annoyed at his need to defend actions that didn't need defending.

"He took medication. On his own, without supervision."

"Daniel and I discussed this. Honestly, yeah, Mom, I would've liked to have been awake, but I wasn't. I trust him."

"And you're implying I don't trust him?"

"No, I'm implying you don't trust me."

"I hate being on the outside, knowing that I'm being lied to. Knowing that my son and my grandson are both lying to me. Insults my intelligence and it makes me... Upset."

They'd had this discussion a million times in the past eight years. Sometimes, like water on ducks, the incidents would just bead up and roll off his mother, but there were other times, like now, when no words would appease her. No lies. Jack was pretty damn sure at this moment not even the truth would smother his mother's anger. And hurt.

"You made enough spatini sauce to feed an entire army. Want to come for—"

"No, Jonathan, I don't. I love you. I love Daniel, but I don't feel like—"

Jack knew if he said he understood, she'd bite his head off. "Put on your best dress, tomorrow Daniel and I will take you out for dinner."

"I'm not in the mood for bribery."

Daniel mumbled something in his sleep and frowned, rubbing his nose in the pillow.

With a smile, Jack leaned down and swept hair off Daniel's forehead. "Yeah, but tomorrow night you might be in the mood for dinner."

"I wouldn't count on it."

"Don't do this to Daniel. Don't let your anger come between us. Again."

There was a sharp intake of breath. A hesitation. "I'm going to hang up the phone before I say something that even time can't fix."

Shit, somewhere this had gotten way out of hand, way too fast. "Don't!" Jack yelled, walking away from Daniel, a quick glance of his shoulder assuring him that his son slept on. "Please, don't," he begged, his voice dropping a pitch. "Don't hang up the phone. Don't leave... Not like this."

"I. Would. Never." Three words spoken in a voice choked with emotion. "I can't leave you. Or Daniel. Ever. Never. I'm just an old lady who wears her heart on her sleeve."

"You have every right to be hurt—"

"I do. But I don't have a right to be angry."

This was all lip service. Words that his mother believed he wanted to hear. Words she probably felt, if repeated enough, even she'd believe. He'd eat crow. She'd eat crow. And the three of them would all live happily ever after until the next time.

"Is it too late to take you up on your offer to dress up and go out for dinner?"

Jack glanced over at Daniel. Twenty-four hours wasn't going to make that much of a difference in his pain management. "Leave it to Daniel and me."

"How about I put out the good china. Light a few candles—" As tough as she was, bless her for reading his mind and taking the ball and running with it.

"And we'll bring the dinner—"

"And don't forget the dessert."

"I won't. Daniel won't let me."

"Smart boy."

"I love you, Mom."

"I know you do. Now go wake up Daniel so he can eat dinner."


Daniel looked too peaceful to wake. Jack sat on the coffee table and tugged slightly on the blanket. "I'm going to start dinner. I'll give you a yell when it's ready, okay?"

"Feels good," Daniel sighed, tugging the blanket up and under his chin. He never opened his eyes but his expression was one of happy contentment, even in sleep.

Jack was glad Daniel wasn't in pain. That the medication Fraiser has prescribed worked wonders, but he just wished the look on Daniel's face didn't remind him so much of the drugged out, lax and slightly dopey expression he'd worn in the alternate universe.

"Wake up, Daniel," he said suddenly, giving his shoulders a rough shake.

With a grunt, Daniel opened his eyes. "What?"

"Get up," Jack ordered, pulling down the blanket he'd just adjusted around his son's shoulders.

"All right," Daniel mumbled, reaching for the blanket. His eyes began to slide shut. "I'm up."

He opened his mouth to argue, to yell, to demand that Daniel get up. But to what end? What would that prove? It wouldn't wipe away the visuals, or speed up Daniel's recovery. So once again, he pulled the blanket to Daniel's shoulders, then with a light kiss to his head, Jack stood. "Like I was saying before. I'm going to start dinner. I'll give you a yell when it's done."


Jack hadn't even had to call Daniel; the smell had drawn him into the kitchen.

"Hmmm." Daniel was slumped forward in the kitchen chair. His chin rested in his cupped hand and under lids at half-mast, he watched Jack.

"You're drooling."

"I'm hungry," Daniel said, yawning.

"It's not ready yet." He dumped the pasta into the colander, stepping back from the steam. Even without facing Daniel, Jack could hear another deep yawn. He put the pot down, picked up the colander and shook it twice to get out the excess water. "It sounds like you're not ready yet, either." Jack dumped the drained pasta back into the pot.

"I'm awake."

"Good, then put yourself to use and set the table."

Daniel grumbled under his breath.

"Stop complaining." He poured the heated spatini sauce over the pasta.

"I'm not complaining," Daniel groused, slamming the cabinet door shut.

"Certainly sounds like you are."

"I should've stayed asleep."

"Yup," Jack agreed. "My sentiments exactly. That way I wouldn't have to share the garlic bread."

Daniel stopped midway to the table and sniffed the air. "You made garlic bread?"

He gave a noncommittal shrug. "Maybe."

"I love garlic bread."

"I know that."

"Then don't tease me."

"I'm not teasing." Jack brought the plate of prepared pasta to the table.

"You are." Daniel put down the plates and brought over the utensils. Folded napkins. Glasses with ice. Grated cheese and two bottles of iced tea and they were good to go.

"Okay, I am. Sorry." Jack sat down at the table. "The bread's in the oven. Careful."

Daniel's smile was slow. "You just did that so I would hurry up and set the table."

"No, I just did that because you were yawning and I didn't want you to fall asleep face first in your dinner."


Jack was so engrossed in reading the morning paper that he jerked when the doorbell rang, spilling a portion of his hot morning cup of coffee across the sport's section. "Damn it!" He grabbed a handful of napkins to sop up the mess then hurriedly ran to answer the door before it woke Daniel.

It was early, but not too early for someone from the SGC to pay them a visit. Carter was known to stop by sometimes with little Styrofoam breakfast trays. Fraiser, General Hammond... An airman on occasion would drop off work when he wasn't able to make it to the mountain, which was why Jack didn't give it a second thought as to why someone was ringing his bell at 0700 hours.

"I'm coming. Sheesh. Hold your horses." The bell ringer was being damn insistent but Jack took the time to check to make sure his tee shirt wasn't harboring any embarrassing food or toothpaste stains before opening up the door. The bare feet and threadbare sweats couldn't be helped. "Where's the fire?" Jack inquired as he impatiently jerked open the door.

"We're going to be late. Morning, Colonel O'Neill."

"Morning, Cory. May I ask where we're going to be late to?"

Cory blinked, and attempted to see around Jack. "School. We're going to be late to—you're not even dressed, Daniel."

"Daniel?" Jack pivoted. Cory was right, Daniel wasn't even dressed. Actually, Daniel was barely even awake. Sans glasses, the hair that had escaped the ponytail was beyond even a bedhead description and he was yawning and rubbing his eyes like a toddler fighting naptime.

"Hurry up, Daniel." Cory skirted around Jack and stepped into the foyer.

Daniel squinted at Cory. "Huh?" Daniel's dopiness might be lost on Cory, but Jack took it for what it was, the 0400 muscle relaxant still had him in its clutches. Actually, Jack was surprised he was even upright at all.

"Daniel's not going to school today," Jack answered.

"Oh, I thought he said last night—" Cory shrugged and smiled apologetically, but his eyes were glued to the bruises on Daniel's arms. "I didn't realize." He pointed at Daniel. "He's still sick."

"Not sick." Daniel insisted. "I'll go get dressed." He tapped his pointer finger against his lips. "I won't be long."

"Daniel's not going to school today, Cory," Jack said, emphasizing his son's name. He took a step to the side and slung an arm over Daniel's shoulder. Daniel might not remember, but Jack sure did. With clarity, Jack remembered the pain that had woken Daniel out of a sound sleep and the reason for the predawn medication.

Daniel shrugged off Jack's arm and stumbled over his own feet.

Jack's arm shot out and grabbed Daniel before he landed on his ass.

"I'm fine," he hissed. "I'm going to get dressed."

"No, you're not."

"I... Umm, gotta go." Cory backpedaled and gave them an awkward wave. He flashed Daniel a smile. "I'll call you. Bye." He turned and took off.

"Wait!" Daniel yelled. "I'm fine. I just need to..." Daniel's head dropped. "I just need to get dressed."

Jack trailed Daniel into the bedroom, keeping a safe distance behind him as he shuffled along. He stepped up to bat as Daniel got into bed, beating him to the act of fixing the covers. "I'm sorry, but we talked about your going to school."

"About my not going to school, you mean."

"Did you tell Cory you were going?"

"I don't remember."

"Daniel..." His son was giving a wonderful imitation of an ostrich.

"I don't." Daniel swallowed and tapped his forehead. "The pills. I don't remember what I said to Cory."

"Crap... Icky..."

"Just go away, Dad. Okay? Before I say something I won't remember and you won't forget."


The scene this morning hadn't been pretty. Daniel was sitting in his room under pretense of studying, but Jack was pretty sure the poor kid was licking his wounds. He was smart enough to give him space but not brave enough to even mention dinner at Grandma's house.

There was something Jack needed to do. Something he'd been putting off. Something he had to do that Daniel couldn't. Time to be a dad. He rummaged through the basket on the counter that held every piece of paper that didn't have a home until he found what he was looking for. The school calendar. Jack flipped it open and ran his fingers down the directory. Mark Thompson, the 10th grade guidance counselor at the Cheyenne High School, the man Jack needed to speak to.

He picked up the phone, cradled it against his chest and contemplated where in the house, besides the garage, would afford him some iota of privacy.


The morning was warming up, but it still held the briskness of the approaching autumn. He zipped up his coat, took the phone out of one pocket and the calendar out of the other. Locating Thompson's number again, he dialed, sitting down on the deck chair as the phone rang. Jack fidgeted while waiting, the dampness already seeping into the back of his pants.

"Guidance Office."

"My name is Colonel Jack O'Neill and I'd like to speak to Mr. Thompson with regard to my son, Daniel Jackson."

"Hold on, I'll see if he's available." Translation - I'll see if he wishes to speak with you.

One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. Three-Mississippi. Jack managed to get up to four without the Mississippi as the phone was answered. "Hello... Mr... Colonel O'Neill."

"Hello, Mr. Thompson."

"How can I be of assistance, Colonel?"

"I'd like to speak to you about Daniel. My son. Daniel Jackson."

"Will we be seeing Danny back in school in the near future?"

It wasn't the words as much as it was the tone of voice that automatically put Jack on the defensive. "Daniel," Jack immediately corrected.

"Sorry, Daniel."

"Daniel's been out a while..."

Jack could hear the frantic tapping of a computer keyboard. "Daniel's been out an inordinate amount of time..."

"There has been an inordinate amount of extenuating circumstances." Bad. Bad. Bad. Jack was supposed to be eating humble pie, not shoving the counselor's face in the pie. He drew a deep breath.

"I'm sorry, Colonel. I apologize if my attitude came across as anything other than concern for Daniel."

Jack broke off a large piece of the humble pie. "I appreciate your honesty, Mr. Thompson."

"Despite his absences, Daniel has managed to stay on target. His work. Test grades. Impeccable."

"Test grades?"

"Computers are a wonderful tool. I can see from teachers' comments that Daniel has been in recent contact with each of his subject coordinators. Homework. Online tests... Very impressive, Colonel. Very impressive."

Jack took a moment to relish the compliment. "Thank you, Mr. Thompson. I guess I just wanted to make sure—" Jack suddenly felt old. And stupid. And totally out of the loop. At fourteen, Daniel hadn't waited for his father, he'd taken control of the one part of his life that he did have control over. His education. And he'd succeeded. "Daniel's a genius," he added lamely.

"That he is, Colonel, but it would be in his best interest if you could see to it that his attendance was on a more regular basis."


Jack stood outside Daniel's door and gave a tentative knock.

"Come in."

Jack entered the room, stepping over a pile of books. "Hey."

Daniel looked up from his bed, surrounded by papers and books. "Hey."

"I love you, Icky."

"Dad?" Daniel sat up, pushing aside some of the papers. "What's the matter?"

Jack shrugged. "Can't a father tell his son that he loves him?"

Daniel shook his head. "Not without said son becoming slightly suspicious."

He leaned over and tugged on Daniel's ponytail. "You need a haircut."

Daniel choked on his snort. "And you wonder why I'm suspicious?" He plucked his hair from Jack's grasp. "I'm not getting a haircut."

"I still love you, haircut or not." He flicked back a handful of stray strands that had escaped the rubber band and were hanging in Daniel's face. "Though I would like to be able to see you."

Daniel gathered his hair, carded his fingers through it, and with deft movements tied it back, without a hair out of place. "See."

Jack planted a hurried kiss on Daniel's forehead.

"I don't have a fever," he protested.

"Hey, it's just me sharing some expression of fatherly love."

Daniel flashed him a wary smile. "And this is just me being suspicious. Again."


Daniel sat staring at the doorway long after his father had left, thoroughly confused. And suspicious. And with the start of a headache from a too-tight rubber band. Annoyed, he ripped out the rubber band, dropped it onto the bed and rubbed the sore spot on the nape of his neck. He pushed his bangs out of his face and went back to work.

The cell phone rang. Then rang again. Hastily, Daniel lifted up a pile of papers but found it as a bookmark in his Global History book. He answered without even checking the caller ID.


"What'cha doing?"

He grimaced as he reached behind his back, adjusted his pillows against the headboard and leaned backwards.

"Were you sleeping?"

"Where are you? If you get caught with a cell phone..."

"I'm sitting in my car, having lunch."

"It's lunchtime already?"

Alexandria sighed. "If you weren't sleeping, what the heck were you... Do not tell me you had your nose stuck in a book." She lowered her voice. "You need to rest."

"I'm okay."

"I spoke to Cory. He didn't think you were fine."


"He was worried. I'm worried."

"I'm fine," Daniel repeated with a touch more force than he'd intended.

"Excuse me for caring."

"I didn't mean it that way. I meant..." What the hell did he mean?

"I'm waiting."

"I meant I'm fine. I take these pills..." His hand was rubbing his thigh muscle and Daniel could feel the all too familiar tightening under his fingertips. "When I have to." He swallowed. "I don't want to. I want to come back to school. Hell, even going to class is more appealing than sitting here. I..." Daniel didn't even realize his voice was rising in pitch until he stopped to draw a breath. "Please, don't cry. I'm sorry. Damn... I'm so... Look." He slid off the bed, and grabbed his headboard so he didn't land on his ass. "Can you meet me... At the park by my house?"


Damn that hurt. "Okay, I understand."

"No, you don't," she said, her voice froggy with tears. "You don't understand how I want to leave right now. Screw the park. Come to your house. And... And..." She was crying in earnest, hiccupping over the words.

"And?" Daniel used the back of his arm to wipe away his own tears.

"And... And..." she sniffed. "I don't know." Alexandria sighed, then cleared her throat.

Daniel began to laugh.

"Hey," Alexandria said with an indignant huff. "Are you laughing at me?"

"No," Daniel said as he lowered his now fully-aching body onto the bed. "I'm laughing at the absurdity of the situation."

"So you are laughing at me."

"No, I'm laughing at the geeky guy with the not so great skin, the glasses..."

"We've had this discussion before."

"But you never answered how the geeky guy ended up with the beautiful girl." Daniel heard the distant ringing of the bell signaling the end of the period, muffled through distance and car windows. "Gotta go?"

"You smiled."


"You're the genius, Daniel Jackson. Figure it out."

"Huh?" The good mood of a mere moment ago was lost as his muscles began to tighten and twitch.

"You smiled at me," she repeated. " That's how you ended up with me. You smiled. At me. Not at my boobs or my ass. You looked me in the eye. And smiled."

"Oh." Daniel could feel the heat of embarrassment work itself up his face.

"Good, I embarrassed you."

"You didn't em—"

"Yeah, whatever. Now go take a pill. Rest..."

"I don't need a pill."

"And to quote Shakespeare, you doth protest too much."

By the time Daniel formulated a witty comeback, she'd hung up.


He knew he'd have to take a pill, as much as he didn't want to. But based on the time, it was a step in the right direction. It had been over eight hours. That was good. Really good. Not great. But good.

The cell phone rang just as Daniel had pulled himself out of bed and he flipped it open. "Hello."

"It's me again."

"You're going to be late."

"Not going, am. But I just wanted to ask... Dinner on Saturday. My house?"

"Are you cooking?"

"If I say no, will you say yes?"

Facing Alexandria's dad was the last thing he ever wanted to do in his whole entire life. "Yes."


Daniel poured himself a bowl of cereal and stepped back, contemplating whether to use strawberries or bananas to adorn the Captain Crunch. The anti-inflammatory drug sat better in his stomach with food, and a banana was easier to slice than strawberries were to clean.

Bowl. Spoon. Cereal. Milk. Banana. He was slicing the peeled banana, concentrating and counting each slice as it landed on the Captain Crunch.


Daniel jumped. The banana slipped from his grasp and fell into the bowl, but the knife was still in the downward arc and without the banana to cut, its serrated edge sliced the first thing it came in contact with. His finger. "Shit!" Immediately, he dropped the knife. The blood bubbled up and out of the cut, flowing down the finger, dripping into the bowl, staining the milk pink. Using his right hand he grabbed a wad of napkins off the counter and awkwardly shoved them against the wound.

"What the hell?" His dad was at his side in seconds and assessed the situation. Knife, banana, bowl, and the already bloody napkins covering his left hand. "Let me see."

"It's okay, it's just a cut." Daniel unwrapped his hand to show his dad then blinked in surprise at the amount of blood covering his hand. "It's just a cut," he repeated as his dad dragged him over to the sink, jerking back as his father stuck his hand under the faucet. "Ow."

"Why the hell didn't you tell me you were hungry?"

Daniel grimaced as his father manipulated the injury. "I'm fourteen. I've been able to feed myself for a couple of years, I didn't think—" Daniel stopped, mesmerized at the continuous flow of blood.

"Hey, Icky, you okay?"

He nodded. "You scared me... The banana slipped..."

"And the knife didn't. Crap, Daniel."

"It was an accident. A stupid mistake. I shouldn't have been—" He needed a pill. He needed something to eat. He'd wanted to call Cory and explain about this morning. "Dad?"

"Almost done." His dad turned off the faucet with his elbow. "Come on," he said, grabbing a towel and sticking it under Daniel's hand. "Come on," he repeated, slowing walking him to the kitchen table.

His father spread the towel on the kitchen table. "Sit," he ordered Daniel.

"It's just a cut," Daniel protested.

His dad picked up Daniel's hand and shoved it in front of his face. "Said cut is bleeding all over the kitchen floor, now sit."

Daniel sat.

Slowly, his father sat then gently placed the injured, bleeding hand on the towel. He began to pat the hand dry with slow, maddening precision.

"You're making a big deal outta this, Dad. It's not like I'm going to bleed to death."

"Watch the attitude, okay?" His father leaned over. "You did a number on the finger. I'm thinking you're going to need stitches."

His hand began to twitch. The more his father began to prod and made tsk'ing noises, the more Daniel could feel the muscles tighten. Reactions that wouldn't have happened if he'd taken a pill.

"Stopping moving, I'm trying to—"

"I can't help moving," Daniel said softly. "I was eating 'cause I needed a pill. Cereal was faster than a sandwich. So before you decide to stitch me up, I would think it would be in your best interest and mine to feed me and give me the damned pill."


Sonofabitch. He'd eaten the cereal. Taken the pill. And watched as his father struggled with the steri strips. "Dad?" Daniel leaned forward, squinting he tried to focus on his father's fingers. "Dad?" he repeated, the word thick and heavy on his tongue.

"Not now, okay? I'm trying to concentrate."

Daniel was so tired, the world was blurred. He blinked, trying to bring it back into focus.

"I got it," his dad crowed triumphantly. "Though I'm not sure if—" He looked up, the smile sliding off his face. "Did I hurt you?"

"Huh? Hurt me?" Daniel was confused at his confusion. Slogging through cobwebs that were obstructing his thought process was tiring work.

His father reached over, removed Daniel's glasses, then swiped gently at his face. He showed him the tips of his fingers. "You're crying, Icky."

He yawned. "No, I'm not." Daniel sat back, averted his eyes and that's when he saw it. Out of focus, but sitting there right next his first bowl of cereal on the counter. The pill bottle. With a slow lethargic move he turned his head and gazed at the now empty cereal bowl sitting next to his right elbow on the table. And right next to that bowl was another pill bottle. In the last functioning synapse of his brain, there was a spark of understanding. "Crap." And he stood, shaky and uncoordinated. Angry and pissed. "So much for compromise," he spit at his father, but there was no force behind the words and based on the 'what the fuck' expression his dad wore, Daniel was pretty sure his statement was lacking coherence.

He shook his head, grabbing the table as the floor tilted dangerously then yelped in pain because he'd used the wrong hand to maintain his balance.

"Damn it, Daniel." His father grabbed his elbow, then held onto the wrist of the injured hand, inspecting the damage he'd done to his handwork. "Careful." The anger of his first words had dissolved into worry.


Daniel ended up on the recliner, a blanket tucked around him anchoring him to the chair. His injured hand rested on a pillow that his dad had placed on his stomach, after he secured him with the blanket.

Even with his eyes closed Daniel could feel the heat of his father's stare. "I wanted the other pill," he said, slowly enunciating each word, guaranteeing his father's comprehension. "Not the Vicodin." And he cried. Tears of anger and betrayal. Now, he could feel the moisture escaping but Daniel refused to open his eyes when his father softly tsk'd and fussed at his lack of emotional control. Daniel felt betrayed, not only by his own body, but by his own father.

He fought to hold on. Struggled to remain awake, but his anger wasn't fuel enough to slow his descent into nothingness.


Jack knew as soon as the phone rang that he'd fucked up. Truly fucked up. Screwed up even more than Daniel had accused him of. "Damn!" He stood with a slap to his thighs, taking his time to walk into the kitchen to answer the phone.

"Hi, Mom." Bless caller ID.

She paused, she always did, momentarily taken back by technology. "Hi, Jonathan."

Jack checked out the time. 1500 hours. Oh, well. He held his nose and jumped right in. "We're not coming over today for dinner."

His mother checked her sigh. "Why?"

Jack wasn't sure what to answer. "You want the truth?"

"Why now?"

Jack ignored her sarcasm. "Daniel cut himself—"

"Oh my... Is he alright? What was he doing with a knife? Why weren't you watching him?"

"Yes. Cutting a banana and he's fourteen." He leaned against the doorframe and stared out into the living room, counting the deep rise and fall of Daniel's chest.

"Well, it must be pretty bad if you're canceling dinner."

"I gave him a pill. A pain pill..."

"A pain pill for a cut? Isn't that overkill? How deep was the—"

"Listen. Please, just listen."


Jack allowed himself a moment of two of head banging against the doorframe, then took a deep breath.

"I'm listening," his mother admonished, "are you going to continue?"

"Daniel was preparing a bowl of cereal. Cut the banana and missed. Cut his finger instead." Fearing for his own safety, Jack omitted the part about his scaring Daniel, which led to the banana falling and the knife cutting. "I put on a butterfly—"

"You're qualified for that? I don't remember—"

"Yes. I'm qualified. I've read the instructions..." Jack stopped. How was this possible? After all these years, yet he remembered these feelings all too clearly. His mother's anger. His quick temper. A bad combination. A combustible mixture. "Please, Mom. I need you. Daniel's okay. The pain pill I gave him was for his muscle reaction. He's fast asleep... It's me..."

"You? Are you hurt?"

"No. No," he was quick to reassure her. "I just need my mom."


Jack threw open the door and flung himself at his mother the moment she stepped into the foyer. God, he'd come so close, mere inches from throwing a whole slew of incendiary words at his mother's rightful anger. And his heart pounded in fear of what almost was.

"It's okay," she soothed.

He remembered that voice. She'd used it on Charlie. On Daniel. But it had been years since Jack had heard that voice directed at him and he held on a little longer than the 'welcome' required.

"Feel better now?" she whispered in his ear.

Thankfully, Daniel coughed in his sleep and broke the moment because otherwise in another second Jack would've been bawling his eyes out in his mother's arms. His son's impeccable timing saved him from a ton of embarrassment.

Still wearing her coat, and with the straps of her purse still hooked on the crook of her arm, his mother stood over the recliner and visually assessed Daniel. Slack-jawed and drooling, Daniel was snoring loudly, oblivious to the tears he was bringing to his grandmother's eyes.

Jack stepped next to her and tugged at her coat sleeve. "Wanna stay awhile?"

"Wild horses couldn't drag me from here," she said with a soft smile.


She was still standing, observing, when Jack returned. "Want some tea, Mom?"

"He hasn't moved."

Jack pushed a strand of hair from Daniel's face. "Pain pills do that."

"He's fourteen he shouldn't be on..." She waved her hand in front of her face, then clamped it over her mouth and then drew a breath. She dropped her hand and found Jack's. "I promised myself I wouldn't go there. Sorry."

Jack kissed her temple. "You're forgiven. Does that mean you want some tea?"

"How about Teal'c and Sam?"

"Carter's not really a tea drinker. And Teal'c? It's something about the caffeine."

She gave his upper arm a slight slap. "I thought maybe they'd like to join us for dinner. And Janet."

It was a good idea to have company for dinner. As a matter of fact, it was a great idea. Carter. Teal'c. Fraiser was the speed bump. Damn, as much as he wanted her here, letting her take a look at Daniel, it was Cassie that Jack had problems with, unsure of Daniel's reaction.

"Never mind." His mother took his silence as a veto to the idea.

"What do you mean, never mind?" Jack draped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. "It's a great idea, one I probably would have thought of... Eventually."


"How about Greek? I'm so in the mood for—"

"I was hoping for some crispy shrimp with honeyed walnuts."

"Italian? I could go for some Italian."

"There's that new Thai place over on—"


Daniel opened his eyes at the sound of exaggerated gagging. And smiled. Yeah, he had the same reaction to sushi. He was sorta pulling for the crispy shrimp dish, but since he was too lazy and way too comfortable to move his ass out of the chair, he couldn't complain.

His stomach growled loudly. Maybe he better get up, make his presence known, vote for what he wanted to eat. First things first, maybe if he could clear the sleep from his eyes, he'd feel a little more awake. Coherent.

The pain was swift and hit him so suddenly that his mewl was loud. So loud that when the pounding in his hand reached a tolerable level, he cringed in embarrassment at the crowd he'd drawn.

Like octopus tentacles, hands slithered out to touch him. His hands, his face; he tried to shift on the chair, but was restrained by a blanket tucked around him, the edges stuffed into the creases of the recliner. His need to escape overshadowed his memory and he searched for the edge of the blanket. First with one hand and then with the wrong hand.

"Stop it, Daniel." A gentle but firm hand gripped his injured appendage at the wrist.


"Hi, sweetie." Her smiled was blinding and Daniel tried to match her grin with one of his own, but his lips had problems sliding over his teeth. The end result was probably more of a horror film grimace than even a grin.

"It's okay," Janet said, her thumb rubbing his skin just below the wrist. She was all sweetness and light to him and he could feel his anxiety level drift somewhere back to normal as he closed his eyes with a sigh.

"No fair, why do you get first dibbs, Doc?" his dad whined somewhere behind Janet.

"I run faster than you do, Colonel."

"My house."

"What? Possession is nine tenths of the law?"

"Go away," Daniel said, then opened his eyes, trying his hardest to glare at the group staring back at him. "Janet, can I have my hand back?"

"No. I want to take a look at it."

"Fine. Look at it. And by the way, I want Chinese for dinner."


The world was falling into place and Daniel was mortified. He ended up giving Janet one syllable grunts when she asked him questions.

"Your dad did a nice job with the butterfly."


"He said your muscles were tight. You were shaking. In pain."


"The pain pills help?"

"Yeah." Daniel hesitated, then leaned closer to Janet, his voice barely above a whisper. "They help a lot. Too much." With his good hand, Daniel began to pick at the blanket. "My dad can't deal with me in pain. So he gives me a pill. I sleep. No pain. He's happy—"

"He's not happy, Daniel. He's a parent. He worries," she patted his blanket-covered leg. "Like me. I worry. About Cassie. About you."

"You don't have to worry."

"Parenthood is synonymous with worry, Daniel. I'm a parent. I'm also your doctor and your friend. Triple play." Janet tucked a piece of loose hair behind his ear then tugged. "How about I examine you?"

Daniel snorted in exasperation. "Sure. Why not?" He used his functioning hand to pull back the blanket then spread his arms open wide. "Feel free."

"How about in your room?" She glanced over her shoulder and waved at the lineup of concerned faces staring at them from the kitchen. "I don't know about you, but I hate an audience."


She palpated some bruises. Stripped to his boxers, sitting on his bed, Daniel thought of Alexandria. School. Homework. The latest video games. Focusing on anything and everything but this indignity.

Janet was gentle but thorough and her hands skimmed over his thigh and calf muscles. She palpated bruises, breathing a soft apology when her examination made Daniel hiss.

The moment Janet paused during her examination, Daniel reached for his shirt and carefully slipped it on. He was done, not caring if she wasn't. Head down, he concentrated on trying to button his shirt. Unbuttoning had been a hell of a lot easier than threading the stupid buttons back into the holes.

Janet placed her hands on his. "Let me help."

Daniel dropped his hands, letting her do all the work. "You want to help, please tell my dad I shouldn't take them anymore."

She paused. "Take what?"

Her hands fell away when he stood. Daniel reached over and grabbed a pair of sweats hanging on the back of his chair, ignoring the pants he had removed. Having Janet help with buttoning his shirt was one thing. Having her offer to button his pants was something he'd rather not even visualize.

"Daniel," Janet said, reaching out and grabbing his arm as he paced past. "What do you want me to tell your father?"

"That I don't want the pain killers anymore."

"Aren't they working?" Janet gazed at him in confusion. "You said they were working."

"Yes!" he shouted, then clamped his mouth shut. This was ridiculous; he truly must be one sandwich short of a picnic if he thought Janet would understand.

"I don't understand, sweetie."

See? Daniel dropped down on the bed, unsure how to articulate his feelings, so he pushed up his shirtsleeves and pointed to a quarter-sized bruise just inside his elbow. One. Two. Three. Four. By the fifth, he was crying, embarrassed and humiliated as Janet gathered him in her arms. He easily pushed away, surprised to see the moisture in her eyes.

"You're going to be fine, Daniel."

"Yeah," he snorted. "I've heard that one before."

"Daniel..." Again she reached out for him.

He took a deep breath and tried to ignore the look of disappointment when he pulled back. Janet had misread him. Misunderstood his subtle hints. "It's the pills." Okay, not entirely a lie. "Takes me a while to..."

"I know. You wake up tired. Confused. Emotional—"

"Yeah, can we keep the emotional part just between the two of us?" His smile was forced, but Janet didn't seem to notice and he hid his disappointment with an exaggerated belly rub. "Let's go join the party, I'm starving."


Maybe this was what Daniel needed. The forced smile changed over into a real one over dinner and even he had to laugh over his clumsy attempts at eating with chopsticks.

"I'm usually better at this." He laughed as he speared a piece of chicken.

"Have you considered the injury on your hand is hindering your ability to capture your food?"

"Hey, T, is that a disparaging remark against my doctoring abilities?" His father held up Daniel's hand with the butterfly. "Come on, folks, is that not a thing of beauty?"

There was a smattering of polite applause around the table, a tinkling of silverware hitting drinking glasses in appreciation of his father's handiwork. Daniel rolled his eyes, stuck the chicken in his mouth, then poked his father with the sauce-smeared end of the chopstick. "Thanks, Dad."

"You go, Daniel," Cassie shouted with a hoot.

"Eww. That was disgusting, Daniel." Quickly, his father grabbed a napkin and began to swipe at his arm. "Oh, great. Now, I'm all sticky."

"You asked for that, Jonathan."

"Sure, side with the injured boy."


Daniel tried to help clear the table, but his offers were turned down and the good feeling dissipated, leaving him out of sorts and awkward.

"Shoo." His grandmother waved him from the dining room, taking the plates he held in his hands. "Go relax."

"I'm fine," he protested. "I don't want to—"

"Come on, Daniel." Cassie grabbed his shirt and tugged. "They've set us free, don't argue." She pulled harder. "Let's go."

Reluctantly, Daniel followed Cassie downstairs to the den.


Before they even sat on the couch, Daniel knew this was a setup meant to make him feel better and it was doing anything but. Cassie's inane chatter was setting his teeth on edge. He sat on the couch in the corner, his legs stretched out on the coffee table, basically ignoring her except for the occasional nod in what he hoped was all the right places.


He wondered if it would be incredibly rude if he excused himself and went to work on... "Ow." Daniel bent forward and rubbed the spot on his calf that Cassie had kicked. "What did you do that for?"

"It got your attention, didn't it?"

"I was listening to you."

"Okay." She crossed her arms and leaned back in the chair where she was sitting. "What did I just say?"



"See what?" Daniel asked innocently.

Cassie tossed a pillow at him.

Daniel laughed and tossed it back at her.

She caught it, feigned a throw, faked him out and got him right in the face.

He sputtered, made a grab for the pillow and then found himself sprawled on the couch, flat out with Cassie holding him down, threatening him with a clawed hand.

"It's the dreaded tickle monster." She opened and closed her hand, inching it towards Daniel.

"No!" Daniel bucked, laughing, his voice cracking. A game from their childhood. A forgotten, happy memory.

"I heard that," Cassie screeched, poking Daniel in the side. "Prepare to lose."

She'd caught the edge of a bruise, but Daniel refused to give in. "How. Old. Are. You?" he gasped, using his good arm to hold her hand away from his side.

"Older than you." Cassie struggled, her hair tickling his face as she moved from side to side.

Daniel sneezed.

Cassie stopped, whipped her head around and stared at him. "Do not tell me that you just blew snot into my hair."

Daniel crossed his eyes, stared back at her and sniffed in.

She blew a raspberry against his neck.

He arched his back, caught her by surprise, moved to the right and dumped her to the floor.

"No fair," she grumbled, staring up at him. "You never beat the tickle monster before."

"There's always a first time." Daniel gave a triumphant crow. "I beat you."

Cassie stood up and wiped her bruised ego. "I let you win."

Daniel pushed himself into a sitting position. "Liar, you're just pissed that I won."

"Am not." Cassie dropped back into the chair. "Stupid game," she whispered.

"Sore loser." Daniel chuckled as he slid down the cushions, once again stretching his legs on the table.

"You cheated," Cassie mimicked him, crossing her legs atop his. "The fall festival is in a month."

"Yeah? So?"

"You know, for a smart guy, you're awfully dumb. Fall. Festival."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "And I repeat. Yeah? So?"

"Okay, I'll talk really slow so you can follow me. You get dressed really nice—"

"I hate the idea already."

Cassie went on as if Daniel hadn't spoken. "The girl you bring—"

"The girl I bring... You mean Alexandria?"

"Have you asked her yet?"

"I have to ask her?" Daniel was confused. If they were a couple, why would he ask her to go anywhere? Wouldn't that be a given? "If we're, ummm... together, wouldn't it be assumed—"

"No," Cassie shouted. "You have to ask her."

"Says who?"

"You're hopeless."

"No, it's silly."

"It's not silly." She grinned wickedly at Daniel, then stuck out her tongue. "You better ask Dria quick, 'cause if you don't, she may go with Tony."

Daniel gave a snort of laughter. "Tony? Come on, you're kidding me."

Cassie wasn't laughing. "He's been coming around. In the parking lot. School property."

Daniel felt physically sick. "What does he want?"

"What do you think he wants, Daniel?"

"He can't have her." Alexandria would kill him if she knew that he was talking about her as if she was a possession. "Has she said anything..." Daniel's voice dropped to a whisper. "About... You know..."

"Just that he's annoying."

Daniel could feel the flush of anger heat up his cheeks. "He's bothering her?"

Cassie shrugged, and began to pick at her nail polish.

"Hey." Daniel pushed at her leg with his foot. "Cassie?"

She looked up. "Tony dropped out of college."

"And that appeals to Alexandria?"

"No, you jerk. It just means that he has a lot of time on his hands. Too much time. He comes back to hang out with Steve and Josh..."

"Then what's Tony doing with Alexandria?" Daniel could feel his nails dig into his palm.

"He's annoying. Says things—"

"What things?"


Both Daniel and Cassie jumped at Teal'c's booming voice. Cassie was relieved at the interruption and she stood up quickly. "Come on. My mother brought this great chocolate cake." She held out her hand to him.

He didn't take it nor did he get up. "What does Tony say to her?"

"Pick up the phone, Dannysaur."

Daniel cringed, but he found it hard not to smile at another childhood memory.

"Call Alexandria, ask her to the dance, and I promise to put in a good word for you. Tell her you clean up nicely and that you—"

Quickly, Daniel jumped from the couch and lunged towards Cassie. She burst forth with a girly screech and ran from him, making a beeline out of the room and up the stairs before Daniel could even make his stiff muscles behave.


"You look tired." His dad gazed at Daniel's reflection in the storm door.

"Nah. Not tired. Stuffed." Daniel rubbed his stomach then gave a wave to his grandmother as she got into her car. She waved back, blew a kiss then got into the car. He waited until she pulled out of the driveway before stepping away from the door. "I think I need a shower, then I'm going to..."

"Take a pill?"

"I'm fine," he sighed. "I just need a shower." Daniel took a few steps, then turned around. His father stood there, as if waiting for something.

"I'm just going to take a shower," he repeated.

"You sure you're okay?"

"Yes, Dad. As of this minute, I'm fine."


Okay, maybe sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, freshly showered and wrapped only in a towel, staring at his cell phone, didn't constitute fine. This was like the third time he'd opened the phone, the other two times he'd closed it in a panic, terrified to call. Terrified of what, he wasn't really sure. Daniel flipped the phone shut, promising himself that he'd dry off first then call, because calling Alexandria from the bathroom while he was half naked was just so wrong.

The phone rang the second he put it down. He checked the caller ID before answering. "Hi, do you want to go to the Fall Festival?" Talk about lame. He blushed all the way to the towel's edge and beyond.

There was dead silence and Daniel dropped back down onto the toilet lid.

"You know about Tony." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. "Cassie told me she talked to you."

Now it was Daniel's turn to remain silent.

"I was going to tell you."

"What were you going to tell me?" He was angry. He didn't mean to be angry.

"That I saw him."

"You're allowed to see him."


Shit. That was not where he wanted to go. "You know what I meant. I didn't mean that... I meant..."

"You meant to say that you're jealous."

No, jealous was when your dad thought work was more important than you. Jealous was when Cassie broke her arm and everyone brought her new toys. Jealous was when you thought your grandmother loved Charlie more than you. Jealous was not when your girlfriend was seeing her ex-boyfriend while you were stuck sick at home. "Yeah," he said softly. "I guess I am jealous."

"Cassie shouldn't have said anything," she said with a sigh.

"No," Daniel stuttered. "I'm glad she did." Obviously, Cassie hadn't told him everything. "It's okay." It really wasn't, but what was he going to say? "I just wish you'd told me about Tony."

"I couldn't figure out how to tell you so that it didn't sound like..."

"You were cheating on me."

"What? Huh? What the heck did Cassie tell you?"

"Cassie told me just enough." He couldn't keep the defensiveness out of his voice.

"You misunderstood." Alexandria sounded panicked.

"What? That you didn't tell me about Tony because you felt sorry for me?"

"No. No. No. There's nothing to tell." She cleared her throat. "Do you think I've hooked up with him?"

"You're at school. He's in the parking lot at school. I'm home. If you were me, what would you think?"

"I'd think that my boyfriend would know I loved him and that an asshole I used to date is still an asshole. I'd think that my boyfriend would understand that I worry about him and that I didn't want him to worry anymore. I'd think that my boyfriend would trust me."

"Does this mean you'll go to the Festival with me?"

"Ask me again."

"Alexandria, would you go to the Fall Festival with me?"

"Are you going to wear a suit?"

Daniel looked down at the towel. "Do I have to?"


"Is it too late to withdraw my invitation?" Through the phone, Daniel could hear Alexandria's mom impatiently calling for her.

"Yes, it's too late to recall your invitation... I'm coming," she shouted, barely pulling the phone away. "Igottagobyetalklater."

By the time Daniel said bye, he was talking to a dial tone.


Ah. Much better than just the towel. His dad hated these sweats, but Daniel refused to part with them, despite their threadbare appearance. He tossed the wet towel on the pile of dirty laundry in the corner of his room. Tomorrow. He'd get to that pile tomorrow. Tonight, Daniel needed to finish some schoolwork and was two steps from stretching out on the bed when he realized he was dying of thirst.

He'd kill two birds with one trip to the kitchen. Snapple to quench his thirst and maybe he'd be lucky to find something left behind from dinner for a snack. Daniel picked up a book from the floor and headed to the kitchen.


Without even looking, Daniel dragged a noodle through the pool of duck sauce on the plate then shoved it in his mouth, using his finger to wipe up the drop that had landed on the page in front of him.

"Try this."

He jumped when a napkin was shoved under his nose. "Oh." Daniel plucked it from his father's fingers and cleaned the page before tossing it aside.

His father pushed another one at him. "Try using it on yourself this time, okay?"

Daniel wiped his face, his hands, crumpled up the napkin and threw it next to the other one. He held out his hands for his father. "Am I all clean, Daddy?"

"No one likes a smart ass, Icky." His father stole a noodle and danced it through the sauce.

Daniel grabbed a noodle, chewed, then stuck out his tongue.

"Haven't we discussed your disgusting table manners?" His dad took another noodle and drew a tic tac toe board in the duck sauce. "Damn... it's not working."

"Dad," Daniel tsk'd, "haven't we discussed your playing with your food?"

He stood, grabbed a noodle and poked Daniel gently in the arm. "Actually, your food, Daniel. Me, I just came in here to get a beer and go watch whatever team is playing tonight."


Belly full, thirst sated, Daniel climbed into bed and began to enter the information he'd been researching. His productivity lasted for about two minutes before his fingers crept towards his cell phone. Cory answered on the second ring.

"Hi, Cory."


"I asked Alexandria to the Fall Festival—"

Cory burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"You. In a suit."

"Nice friend."

"Well," Corey cleared his throat. "Maybe misery likes company."


Cory mumbled something, too low for Daniel to hear.

Daniel exhaled, exasperated. "Wanna try that—"

"Okay!" his friend shouted. "I'm going to the Fall Festival also."

"You?" A snort burst forth before Daniel had a chance to stop it. "With who?"

"Did you just laugh at me?"

"Well, you laughed at me," Daniel replied indignantly, though his smile was wide.


"Lena?" That was a shock. Not that they weren't all friends. They were, but Cory's and Lena's fights were legendary. The only thing they could agree on was to disagree. "Lena?" he repeated, shocked.

"Yeah, I know. Kinda took me by surprise when she asked me."

"She asked you? Wow. She must really like—"

"Her words were something like I shouldn't get any ideas about this. That the Festival wasn't a date, but an opportunity for her to make fun of me in a suit."

"And you said yes?"

"Heck, with an invitation like that, how could I resist? I mean, I don't have to pay for a thing—"

"Pay? Pay for what?" Daniel began to panic. His piggy bank barely had enough money to pay his overdue library funds.

"Tickets, you idiot?"

"Tickets?" He felt like a friggin' parrot, repeating everything.

"Yes. Tickets. Forty for the tickets. Then flowers—"


"A corsage."

"I sneeze around flowers."

"Take a pill," Cory blurted out, then paused. "Oh, sorry. I didn't mean... Hell, that's me... Open mouth, insert foot Middleton."

"I should apologize to you. I'm sorry about the other morning."

"No, I knew you've been sick."

"I'm better now."

"Daniel..." Cory's voice was soft and filled with... pity?

His stomach gave the noodles and duck sauce a sickening roll. "I'm fine."

"I saw you. You weren't fine."

He didn't remember too much of this morning so Daniel pretty much had to go with what Cory was saying. "Yeah, you're right. I wasn't fine this morning, but I'm getting there."

"Do you know when you're coming back to school?"

"Sometime this week, if I can convince my father that I'm not going to melt."

"Because I need you here... Because if I have to make a fool of myself going to this dance thing, I don't want to do it alone."

"Ahh... Thanks, nice to know you care."


"What's the matter?" his dad called from the couch.

Daniel crawled backwards, stood up and brushed off his pants before answering. "I reset the router. Internet connection is screwy tonight." He gazed at the TV screen, cringing at the hockey score.

"Don't stay up too... Damn, what the hell is the matter with that referee?"

Slowly and silently, Daniel retreated back up the stairs.


"Not again," Daniel shouted at his laptop. "Come on." He glared at the greyed out chat box as he reconnected to the internet. He was rewarded with more than a handful of virtual wb's and managed about three lines of text before chat disconnected again.

He reconnected again and breathed a sigh of relief as he watched the clock in the corner ticking off the minutes as he chatted. Fifteen minutes, 'woohoo'—this was the longest he'd been able to stay in chat. He was confident that he'd passed the hurdle and relaxed. Alexandria, Cory, Lena, Li, Nate, everyone was here, gossiping, LOL'ing, and Daniel was enjoying the company. Virtual or not, he felt connected.

He lost his connection twenty minutes into chat.

And again after ten minutes.

And again after five.

Feeling like he'd become the butt of someone's bad joke, irritation crossed into frustration. And now, as the chat disconnected yet again, frustration turned to anger and he pounded the keys. Shit. There was that stinking little yellow triangle and when he moved his curser over it, now there was no connection. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. He picked up the laptop, contemplated tossing it out the window, then changed his mind and shook it, violently, growling like a madman.

He dropped the expensive piece of garbage back onto the bed and counted to ten, then took a deep breath and tried one more time. His speed was slow, a tortoise shell movement, but he managed enough time to say his goodbyes before his chat closed and his laptop now mocked him with the blue screen of death.

"I hate you," he hissed as the monitor began a physical dump of all memory and the countdown began to restart his computer. He stared at the screen, counting along through gritted teeth, hitting the enter key with seconds to spare.

After much breathing and sighing on the part of his laptop, it restarted, teasing him. Beckoning. Using its siren song to draw Daniel back into complacency, to believe that this connection would stay strong and true.

Chat was out of the question, he was done with the bungee cord conversation, so he opted for schoolwork.


Daniel blinked at the blue screen then banged his head against the keyboard. Three pages into his report and now it was gone. Countdown or not, blue screen or not, warnings or not, Daniel didn't give a shit. He just turned off his computer. He was done, finished. He pushed the laptop off the bed, taking great satisfaction in the thud it made as it hit the floor.


Anger and annoyance weren't letting him sleep, and he punched the pillow, trying to find a comfortable spot. But sleep eluded him. His muscles ached from lying in bed with his laptop and they protested every change in position.

Maybe music. Blindly he reached over, found his iPod among a myriad of other things on his nightstand, and shoved in the earbuds.

The music worked. He drifted, smiling lazily at his father when he came in to say goodnight.

His father bent down and stood, holding the laptop against his chest as a shield. He said something, remembered Daniel was connected to the iPod and chose to threaten him with a glare as he placed the laptop on Daniel's desk.

Daniel got the message loud and clear: 'treat your expensive toys with a touch more care'. He allowed his father to adjust the blanket and kiss him, closing his eyes when his father switched off the light.


He was cold and he'd forgotten his jacket. Bundled to his nose, Cory gazed at him in sympathy, but didn't offer him any protection from the frigid air. Daniel's muscles contracted in pain and he ran in place, trying to keep warm. He could see the flashing lights of the bus. It seemed so far away, but not far enough that he'd be able to run home and grab his jacket, not in this snow. Snow? When had it started to snow?

Daniel awoke disorientated and confused, and it took him a few seconds to realize he was in bed and not standing at the bus stop. The confusion dissipated, but the cold didn't and with a shaking hand he reached for the quilt folded at the foot of the bed.


Thankfully, his dad was asleep, snoring loudly. Last thing he wanted to deal with was a hovering dad, and pain. So he stealthily crept down the dark hallway and used the wall for support, sliding one foot in front of the other. Relief was just a pill away and he could manage the last few steps.

His hands were shaking so badly he had a hard time even getting the bottle open, and when he tried to remove one, it fell from his fingers into the sink. And so did the second. God, all he wanted was relief. All he wanted was for his internet connection to work. To get his homework assignments written. To be able to go to school. To learn to drive. And for Tony to stay away from Alexandria. All he wanted was a pill. He banged the pill container on the counter then dumped out the contents. He reached for one, plucked it from the counter and was just about ready to shove it in his mouth and dry swallow it, when he changed his mind and tossed it into the sink to join the other two.

With his arm, he swept the remaining pills into the sink. He opened the bottle of muscle relaxants into the sink as well and hurriedly, before he could even think about what he was doing and why, ran the water. He removed the strainer and stuffed the pills as they diluted down the drain.


Taking control didn't make the pain any less. As a matter of fact, knowing there was no relief had kicked the pain to an excruciating level. Daniel was at the point where the thought of even walking back to his room brought tears to his eyes. His legs gave way and he grabbed the counter, controlling his descent to the floor. He hurt everywhere. And he was cold and scared. "Daddy," he called, terrified of the corner he'd painted himself into. Reverting back to childhood, he needed his father, wanted him, but his voice was low and too weak to carry beyond the kitchen. So for now, he could do nothing but lie in the dark, on the floor, and wait. Miserable, alone, and feeling damned sorry for himself.


As much as Jack loved Chinese food, he absolutely hated how thirsty it made him. He tried to ignore it and force himself to go back to sleep, but it invaded the visuals behind his closed eyes, until he was left with nothing but the wanton desire for a simple glass of water.

Quietly, he slipped out of his room and into the dark hallway. Damn, his first step produced a loud creak. Stupid. He stopped and listened, but there was no sound from Daniel's room, not even a squeak of bedsprings. Daniel's sleep habits had always been erratic on a good day, and if the kid was down for the count, the last thing Jack wanted to do was wake him. He must be out of practice, because he used to know exactly how to stealthily creep around the house. Damn, he must be getting old.

Erring on the side of caution, every step Jack took was slow and measured, punctuated by a pause, so he could listen. By the time he made it to the kitchen, he'd moved beyond thirsty and into the realm of desert-parched.

The light over the stove cast shadows in the kitchen, and Jack hesitated at the doorway, giving his eyes a second to adjust to the dimness. Then he saw it - in two strides he was in the kitchen, the third wasn't an actual step as much as it was Jack dropping painfully to his knees in front of son. "Daniel."

He was lying on his side, eyes closed, with his back pressed against the bottom of the cabinets. With his knees up and his hands crossed and tucked against his chest, Jack wasn't even sure if he was breathing. He shook him, harder than he meant to, fear overcoming reason, and Daniel's head cracked painfully against the cabinets.

Daniel's eyes flew open and he screamed, the sound being one of the most beautiful things Jack had heard in a long time.

"Geeze, Daniel, what that hell is—" Jack tightened his grip on Daniel's shoulder.

"Don't touch me," Daniel sobbed, cowering, trying to make himself even smaller.

Jack threw up his hands. He'd been there, done this before. "Not touching."

Daniel gazed at him as if he truly didn't believe his father was going to pay attention to him.

"I'm not touching you," Jack repeated. "But, Daniel, try and see this from my point of view. You're on the kitchen floor, in the middle of the night—"

"Don't touch me."

"I'm not." He held up his hands. "See? Not touching."

"Thank you," Daniel whispered, closing his eyes.

"Whoa, Icky, no sleeping on the floor. How about your bed? Remember that place. Mattress. Pillow—"

"Don't touch."

The words were slow and lethargic. The lack of breath they rode in on scared the crap out of Jack. "Daniel, look at me."

Daniel opened his eyes and glanced at Jack's hands before he spoke. "Hurts."

One word and Jack sprang into action, pissed that he'd allowed Daniel to lead this dance. Sure, deft fingers worked his way over Daniel. Pulling up the shirt, checking for telltale signs of internal injures. As he prodded, Daniel screamed.

And screamed. Enough to wake the dead. Enough to wake the neighbors. Enough to finally get through to Jack and he pulled back, frustrated and panic-stricken.

Daniel retreated, trying to force his too big body into the lip between the counter and the floor. "Don't touch," he hissed. "You said—"

"You said you're in pain. I don't do very well with pain, Icky, especially yours. If I can't touch, can I at least look?" If Jack had blinked, he would've missed Daniel's nod. He got up cautiously, keeping his hands where Daniel could see them. "I'm going to turn on the light, okay? You may want to close your eyes."

Daniel glanced at Jack's hands. "No."

But when the light flicked on, involuntarily, Daniel blinked in the brightness then closed his eyes.

"Warned you," he said, crouching down within a hair's breadth of his son. His body displaced enough air and Daniel opened his eyes.

He looked terrible. Dark smudges of shadows under his eyes that hadn't been there when he'd gone to say goodnight. Lines of pain that shouldn't be on the face of any fourteen year old, especially his son, and yet they were, embedded in the corner of his mouth and eyes. And the tremors. The barely perceivable muscle tremors that gripped Daniel's body every few seconds. It was the tremors, visible in the harsh light of the kitchen, that gave Jack the answer he needed.

"Ahhh, I think all you need is one of Fraiser's magic pills." Jack used the floor to push, grabbed the lip of the counter and leaned over. His heart stopped, his breath caught in his throat, and Jack scooped up the empty pill bottles and dropped back down.

He shoved the empty pill containers into Daniel's face with his right hand, and with his left, he dragged him into a sitting position, propping him up against the cabinet. "Explain this," he yelled, turning the pill bottles over and shaking them.

Daniel yelped, and ineffectually batted at Jack's arm. "Please..."

The yelp cut through Jack's anger. Enough to let him step back and assess. Daniel's symptoms didn't equal someone who had overdosed on pills. "I'm sorry. Damn it. I'm sorry." He let go and immediately, Daniel slid back down to the floor, curling up even tighter than before.

His body was going to kill him in the morning, but Jack lay down on the floor, opposite Daniel. He placed the empty pill bottles in their line of sight. "I need you to talk to me."

Daniel opened his mouth. Jack shushed him with a raised finger.

"I'm not finished. You're in pain but the pill bottles are empty." Jack made the plastic containers do a little dance, moving them down, so they were no longer blocking their view. "You didn't take a pill..."

"I. Wanted. To." Daniel sighed. "So. Much."


"I wanted more than one." Daniel closed his eyes, his tongue darting out and licking his lips.

And he saw, right there, how much Daniel wanted the pill. And every pill that Fraiser had prescribed. The longing was still strong, the need. All of it, payback for Jack's misguided loyalty in helping the other, adult Daniel. "You're in pain," he stated quietly.

"Yes, it hurts." Daniel swallowed. "It'll be okay."

Jack wasn't convinced. "You need a pill. What did you do with them?"

"All gone."

"The bottles were full. What do you mean all gone?"

"I poured them down the sink. Ran the water. Watched them—"

"And now what?" Jack slammed the bottle against the floor. "This is the answer? You suffering?"

"You wouldn't listen. Janet... I hurt, you gave me drugs."

"Yeah, and the problem is...?"

"Eventually, desire would outweigh the pain."

"I never would've let..."

"You already did, Dad." The blue of his eyes swam behind a curtain of tears.

And Jack had. Right under his nose with his approval, his thumbs up, he had led Daniel down the road to addiction.

"Do you want me to call Fraiser? Maybe she can prescribe something else?"

"Can I go to sleep?"

"It's a little cold on the floor."

"I know."

"How about... And you can stop me if something doesn't appeal to you."

"I'm cold."

"I know, Icky." Tentatively, Jack reached out and touched Daniel's cheek. One finger. Heartened he didn't pull away. "What if I run you a nice warm bath?"


God, it had been years, but Jack was pretty damn positive that there was a plastic bottle of bubbles buried in the back of the bathroom cabinet. "I think I can do bubbles."

Daniel yawned.

"Bath. Bubbles. Two Advil. And bed."


Jack tested the water through the blanket of bubbles. He was sweating like a sonofabitch and his tee shirt was stuck to his body like a second skin. Daniel had fought to curl up on the bathmat, and Jack had argued, quite eloquently, that for all that was holy to please take pity on his dad's poor knees and just sit his ass on the closed toilet lid. Which was where he now sat, eyes closed, leaning against the wall and if it weren't for his hands kneading his thigh muscles, Jack would've thought he was sleeping. "Icky?"


"Bath is ready."

Daniel nodded and opened his eyes.

"I'm going to help you stand."

"No, I got this."

Hopefully, the towel bar was securely fastened to the wall because that was what Daniel was using to haul his body off the toilet. It groaned and creaked, but held.


"You can leave now."

Jack was sure the look on his face registered the foolhardiness of Daniel's suggestion. "You're kidding me, right?" He picked up and flicked the bath towel and held it up like a matador attracting a bull.

Daniel hesitated.

Jack turned his head. "I won't look."

Daniel pointed. "You can 'not look' from the other side of the bathroom door."

Obviously, the warm bath and Advil had done Daniel a world of good but his smart mouth didn't install any confidence in Jack that his son wouldn't fall flat on his ass when he tried to stand. "Let's compromise."

Daniel closed his eyes and slid deeper into the tub. "Let's not."

"You're being ridiculous. What are you going to do? Lie there until the water becomes cold and you shrivel up—"

"Yes. And what about you? You're going to stand there holding a towel?"

"If I have to."

Daniel was a fourteen-year-old stubborn SOB.

Jack stood there shifting from foot to foot. "Many accidents in the home occur in the bathroom."

"No kidding," Daniel answered sarcastically.

"I just don't want you to be a statistic."

"Going for the guilt? Okay fine, you win." With his big toe, Daniel flicked the lever to let the water out of the tub.

Jack stepped closer, the towel flung over his shoulder, arms ready to offer assistance, but the evil glance Daniel shot him made him hold his position.

The problems started when he couldn't find purchase in the tub. Like a colt, all uncoordinated arms and legs, Daniel floundered, until finally he rested his arms on the rim of the tub and dropped his head in the cushion they provided.


He knew he had talked a big game, put on a good show, but now when push came to shove, Daniel was as weak and uncoordinated as a baby. And tired. He was so tired, just the thought of how to sync his arms and legs so he could get out of the tub required too much effort. He did what every kid did when things didn't go their way. He cried.

And if he thought he was embarrassed by the idea of his dad seeing him naked, it was nothing compared to the embarrassment he felt as his father gently manhandled him out of the tub and wrapped him in the towel. Weakly, he struggled, trying to do what, Daniel wasn't exactly sure, because his dad would have none of it.

"It's okay, Icky. I promise."

Words of comfort that just made Daniel cry harder. Loud, snot producing sobs that his dad wiped way with the towel. Over and over again. Until it was over. Until he was as limp and as wrung out as the dishrag. Until he knew that if he didn't get horizontal in a matter of minutes, the damp bathmat under his feet was where he was going to be spending the night, no matter how much his dad protested.

A dry towel was thrown over his shoulder and he gripped it tightly. His dad took a different towel, thankfully not the snot-covered one and wrapped it around his hips. He was past embarrassment. Indignity was not in his vocabulary at the moment. "I'm tired."

"I'm going to take care of that."

As hard as it was, Daniel dug in and refused to allow his father to guide him out of the bathroom.

"We did have the discussion about sleeping on the rug, didn't we?"

That remark probably required a rebound flash-fire, sharp-witted quip, but Daniel was all out of fuel.

"Ahh. I got it." His dad retrieved a rubber band from the doorknob and stretched it over his fingers. "Not too sure how good I am at this, but you'll cut me some slack, won't you?"

Yeah, sure, whatever. Daniel would've preferred a pair of sweats, but getting his wet hair off his back was a step in the right direction. He tolerated his dad's pulling and tugging and he grabbed onto the sink to remain upright.


"I want to go to bed." He heard the words in his head loud and clear. Lips moving, minus sound.

The ponytail was low, too low, and it was only a matter of time before it would fall out. He reached around to fix it, but his raised forearm was grabbed and Daniel gave up and followed blindly.


"No." He balked at the king-sized bed in front of him.


The bed, his father's bed. His father's room. He was tired, that he could admit, but he wasn't a baby going down for nap.

His dad pulled down the quilt and the blanket and gave an enticing pat to the bed. "Just for tonight."

Against his better judgment, Daniel crawled into the bed, there was no fight left. His arms gave out more than he found a place to get comfortable and he dropped face first onto the pillow.

It was a weird sensation, his body was sleeping, but his brain hadn't yet transitioned into slumber. He mumbled words of protest as his father dressed him in a pair of sweats, screaming at his body to object to this infantile treatment. But the sweats were just-out-of-the-dryer warm and his legs and groin pretty much told his brain to fuck off and go along for the ride.

Daniel chuckled.

"Something tickle your fancy?" His dad sat at the edge of the bed and began to thread Daniel's right foot into a sock. He patted the sole then moved onto the other foot, rubbing it between his hands he slipped on the other sock.

The bed dipped and rose as his father stood. The towel around his shoulders disappeared. "Wanna sit up?"

Daniel reached out, clutched first the blanket, then the quilt, and tugged them up and around his body. For now, this was good enough.

"Have it your way."


They stared at each other.

Daniel blinked.

His dad smiled at him.

Daniel yawned.

His dad's smile broadened. "Go to sleep, Icky."

"Not tired."

"Yeah, right." A gentle touch moved a stray hair that had slipped from the ponytail. "I didn't do so well, did I?"

"Don't quit your day job."

The smile on his dad's face faltered in its brightness. "I'm not going anywhere, you can go to sleep."

"You know, I remember."

"Remember what?"

"The storeroom. The gun." His dad's image wavered behind the curtain of tears, honestly how many stinking tears could he shed in one night? "The sarcophagus. The addiction. I remember it all."


Holy shit. Jack clamped his mouth shut, his smile disappearing, and he could only hope that he hadn't said those two words out loud. Whatever had possessed him to forget this one important piece of information? Daniel hadn't. He'd remembered. Everything.

"Are you angry?"

"Angry? At what?"

"I tried to kill you."

"No, you didn't." He hadn't. Not really. Not this Daniel. It had been the other Daniel who was nine years gone. "That wasn't you." If Jack closed his eyes, the person who had pointed the gun at him wasn't wearing his son's face.

"It feels like it was me."

"Close your eyes. Forget about—"

"If I close my eyes, I see it all. Everything. And I can feel it." Daniel drew a deep breath. "The power it gave me. The feeling of well-being from the medication that I had to save the other Daniel. And I just want..."

"For it to be over?"

Daniel's self-deprecating snort tore through the fabric of Jack's soul. "Over? I wish I could get every one of those pills that I poured down the drain and put them back into the bottle."

Daniel wiped his eyes and nose with the edge of the quilt, and as disgusting as it was, Jack remained silent.

"You're so strong, Daniel." He reached out and again smoothed a hair back. "Brave..."

Daniel laughed. Not a real laugh, but close enough in Jack's estimation to fall into the laughter category.

"What's so funny?"

"Brave isn't exactly how I would describe me. Strong? Nope. Emotional is the first word that comes to my mind, right on the heels of crybaby. How do you—"

"I love you. You're one of the good - no, the best things in my life."


After all these years, Jack was sometimes amazed that Daniel still had difficulty comprehending how important he was to him. "Yeah, you knucklehead. You. My mother," he admitted with an exaggerated sigh with a side order of an eye roll. "Teal'c. Carter. Fraiser. Cassie."


"My car. My TV. My fishing pole. My hockey stick—"

"I'm in good company."

"Ahhh, all the best," Jack agreed. "Now go to sleep." Over Daniel's shoulder, the first rays of light from the approaching dawn were peeking through the blinds.

"I would never hurt you," Daniel said, the words swallowed up around a yawn.

"Close 'em." Jack gently touched Daniel's eyelids. "And I know you'd never hurt me." Jack couldn't say the same thing in response. There was no echo that he'd never hurt his son. Because he had. From the bruising peppering both arms to the awaking of addiction memories, Jack had done just that.


Jack hadn't expected to, and he surprised himself, by sleeping to almost lunchtime. Slowly, he backed out of bed. Daniel slept on, opened mouth, snoring with a quarter-sized spot of drool staining the pillow.

He showered, using the hall bathroom instead of the one in his room. Maybe the less noise he made, the longer Daniel would sleep, the better it would be. The poor kid needed it. And him? This was his cowardly way to get through the day, unsure or unable to handle Daniel's pain if it and Daniel should awaken.

He made lunch, each move calculated and slow. Quiet. He grabbed the toaster before it spit out the toast, and the microwave before it binged. Even the spoon hitting the side of the bowl was loud in the house. Without even tasting the food, he ate, tiptoeing through lunch, through the house, and right now, at this moment, through life.

The day's paper and a beer joined him on the deck, but he left the door open, as he had when Daniel was a child, just in case he'd needed him. Once upon a time. He was lost in contemplative, damned depressing thoughts when Daniel slid open the door and joined him on the deck.

Socks, sweats, and a hoody. Jack could see Daniel's bare chest sticking out from the top of the zipper. "Are you cold?"

Daniel gazed at him as if Jack had asked him an unanswerable question.

"Are you okay, Icky?"

"I got up to pee."


"I didn't know where you were."

Ahhh, the fourteen year old had reverted to the child Jack had left the door open for. "Want lunch?"

"Are you coming back inside?"

This was getting too strange. And Jack repeated his question. "Are you okay?"

"I had a dream that you—" He closed his eyes as if trying to get a handle on it. "And me... I had a gun... and Charlie was—"

Enough said. "I'm going inside." Jack stood, grabbing the paper and beer while Daniel watched, making sure Jack went through the door before he did.


"Want to go back to my room or your room?"

"Where are you going to be?"

This neediness set his Spidey senses all a-tingling. Jack certainly didn't want to go to bed again. Nor did he want to lie down with Daniel. A compromise would be good. "How about we go to the den. I'll watch some TV. You can go back to sleep if you want."


Nothing held his attention as much as Daniel sleeping on the couch. He'd tried to rouse him once or twice, but Daniel just burrowed deeper under the blanket. Even the ringing phone hadn't woken him and long ago Jack stopped trying to be quiet and began to make noise. A lot of noise, and by 1500 hours he gave up keeping Daniel company and left him in the den and went upstairs.


The plate in his hands flew in the air, and it was only by means of his quick reflexes and sheer luck that Jack was able to salvage his dinner. He put the plate on the table, sliding it away from the edge and harm's way. "You scared the crap outta me." He smiled, hoping to elicit something besides a blank affect from Daniel.

Daniel stood in the doorway of the kitchen, his tilted head holding up the doorframe. "You weren't in the—"`

"Daniel." He walked up to his son, cupped the nape of his neck, pulled the bent head towards his lips then placed a gentle, hopefully reassuring kiss to his forehead. "I'm not going anywhere. I was hungry. How about you? You want something to eat?"

"No!" Daniel stepped back. "Not hungry."

"Okay." Hands went up, warding off Daniel's objection. "How about," Jack thought fast, "tea with honey? That's not food."

Daniel yawned.

"Tired?" Jack left off the 'you have to be kidding me, you still can't be tired'. He pointed to the couch. "You can see me from there." He stepped two feet to the right and waggled his fingers. "See?"


"Well, silly, that's cause you're standing over here." Jack pushed and prodded Daniel to the edge of the couch, then ran back to the kitchen and waved. "I see you."

Daniel dropped to the couch, head bent, curling into himself.

"Ah, shit." Dinner forgotten, he was at Daniel's side in seconds, unfolding him, fighting him, grabbing him by the wrists and forcefully pinning him in place. "What the hell is going on, Daniel?"

And that was it. That simple sentence deflated Daniel, and forced all the air from his fight. With a strangled sob, he threw himself at Jack who responded by wrapping his arms tightly around him.

Daniel's tears were silent and heartbreaking.

He'd been an asshole. Wrong to risk his son's life to save someone who wore the face of a man he used to know, but now? Now, that man was a stranger who was going on with his own life, while Daniel, this Daniel, was paying the price. "I'm sorry."

"I want a pill."

Jack knew from experience the desire surpassed the need. "I know." He began to rock. Slowly, rhythmically and continuously. Incrementally, Daniel's sobs began to gradually subside, but Jack kept on rocking until his arms were numb from the dead weight of his sleeping son.


He threw out the dinner and poured himself a bowl of cereal, spooning the sickeningly sweet, weirdly colored fruit shapes into his mouth as he paced. With every circuit, he glanced at the phone and debated calling Fraiser. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. He dropped the bowl into the sink. No. Fraiser would just make him haul Daniel right back to the infirmary and, Jack paused and gazed through the opening at Daniel. Nope. The SGC wasn't where either of them should be at the moment.


Daniel slid under his comforter with a grateful sigh.

Jack had contemplated a number of options. And while he'd wavered between forcing Daniel to get up and eat something or dragging him to a bed, neither option had won out and he settled on bringing the mountain to Mohammed. Which was exactly why a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk was on the coffee table and Daniel was sleeping under the quilt from his bedroom.

It wasn't great, but for the moment, Daniel was at peace.


"Hey, Mom."

"What's the matter?"

"What? I only call when something's the matter?"

"No, that's not true..."


"I usually warrant a call after the fact."

"Not always," he said with a toddler-sized petulant pout. Okay, she couldn't see it, but it made Jack feel a little bit better and a little less guilty because her words were the truth. "I just wanted to talk."

Her 'mmmm' was noncommittal.

But it was enough to give Jack a jumping off point. "How does a parent emerge from their child's teenage years unscathed?"

"You don't." There was laughter in her words. "You've won the battle when your children emerge from their teenage years unscathed. You'll always carry the scars of those years."

"Thanks, Mom."

"That's it?"

"Maybe we can share battle scars over dinner tomorrow?"

"Daniel's only fourteen, son, the party's just begun."

"So is that a yes?"

"Yes, my house. Tomorrow night. You bring the dessert and the teenager. I'll bring my stories."

Great, just what Jack needed, his mother sharing some of his more memorable escapades with his teenage son.


You would think that someone who'd slept as much as Daniel had would at least have the courtesy to speak and not grunt while devouring breakfast. "I'm glad you're enjoying breakfast."

Daniel dragged his last triangle of pancake through the river of syrup on his plate. "Got more?"

Jack hesitated. While there was still batter in the bowl, eight pancakes should've been anyone's limit.

Daniel read his hesitation for what it was. "Never mind."

"Look if you really want—"

"No." He opened the dishwasher and dropped his plate in an open slot before Jack even had a chance to let him know that the dishes in there were clean.


He turned and stared at him.

"Drop the attitude."

Daniel faltered, his façade dipped for a second and once again Jack glimpsed the lost man/child from yesterday. "I want to go to school." And just like that, the moment was lost, buried underneath teenage angst and anger, flashing blue eyes and the stubborn set of a not-ready-to-even-shave jaw.

Shit, he had a funny feeling his battle scars from these formative years were going to be quite a few in number, and damned deep.


He slammed his bedroom door and scooped up the folder on the end of his bed. Everything was grating on his nerves, starting with his father's hesitation to make him another two stinking pancakes to the clutter in his bedroom. Daniel wanted to go to school. He was so damned sick and tired of being sick and of his classroom experience being confined to these four walls. The problem was, in theory, Daniel wanted to be at school, while in reality, Daniel knew, deep down, he physically wouldn't be able to make it through half the day. And that pissed him off. Royally.

The folder in his hands bore the brunt of his anger and he flung it down, wildly kicking at the papers as they drifted to the floor. Pencils. Pens. He pretty much destroyed a brand new legal pad, ripping the individual sheets to shreds, stopping only when he was unable to tear the cardboard backing with the same ease as he had the sheets.

He grabbed his backpack and began to stuff things in it. Socks. A pair of boxers. A clean shirt. Two pens from the floor. A pencil. His iPod. Laptop. Two books and a notebook.


"I'm going to Grandma's."

His father looked up from the paper he was reading, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "You are?"


"And how, may I ask, are you getting there?"

Daniel pretty much hated everything today, and his father's 'go ahead and make my day' attitude was churning his bellyful of pancakes. "Bicycle."

"Really." His father turned a page, without looking at the paper. "No kidding."

"Are you telling me I can't?"

"Can't. Shouldn't. Couldn't. Wouldn't. Take your pick." His voice was soft, but there was no missing the parental conviction behind those words. "Last night, hell, early this morning if you want to be technical, you couldn't walk from the couch to your bedroom."

"I'm going."

"Feel free, but you're not taking your bicycle."

"Why?" His stomach gave a slow roll and suddenly the idea didn't seem like such a good one. Too late for misgivings, though.

"Because if you pass out or have a muscle cramp, I'd rather it be on a sidewalk instead of the street and into a path of an oncoming car."

"I'm going to walk."

"Don't forget to take your cell."

Daniel patted his pants' pocket "I have it."

His father studied the overstuffed backpack hanging from Daniel's left shoulder. "How about I drive you?"

"No." Daniel flashed a smile. "Thanks, though."


This was stupid. His father had known this was stupid, but had been smart enough to let Daniel reach the stupidity factor of this little adventure all on his own. So now he stood, exhausted and shaking in front of his grandmother's door, trying to garner the energy to just ring the doorbell.

He rang it again. And again. Then he just gave up and used his key to her house to let himself in. Great. Wonderful. Fantastic. So now he had his grandma's house all to himself.

He wasn't a stranger here and he helped himself to a bottle of Snapple, drinking it while leaning against the kitchen counter. In his grandmother's house, he never baulked. Daniel always followed the rules, which drove his father nuts. No eating or drinking anywhere but the kitchen. The iced tea was finished and Daniel rinsed out the bottle and left it on the counter. Recyclable.

The one thing he hadn't packed was Tylenol. And right now that was the one thing he needed. Damn. Daniel went to his room to sulk. His room in this house had been, and would always be, his favorite place in the world, more so than his room at home. He dropped his backpack on the chair by the window, shrugged out of his hoodie then toed off his shoes. He contemplated his bed for all of two seconds before pulling back the covers and climbing in. He hung his glasses from the wrought iron headboard, the one rule he always broke when he slept over.

He was a little kid in this room. Safe and protected. A place where no one wanted anything from him. Where there was no baggage. No one else mattered. Pulling the extra pillow from under his head, he pressed it against his abdomen. Curling around its softness, Daniel closed his eyes and fell asleep.



The voice was persistently annoying and Daniel just burrowed further under the quilt.

"Can you at least open your eyes for me? I'd feel so much better."

Now the irritating voice began to pull down the blankets and Daniel began to retaliate, clawing at the disappearing covers. "Go away."

"Okay." A familiar hand touched his cheek, then pried the blanket from his fingers and brought it up around his shoulders. "I just wanted to make sure you were alive and kicking."


Daniel was asleep and then he wasn't. He sat up with a jerk, heart pounding out of his chest, gasping for air. He was at his grandmother's house, in his bedroom, and based on his body's reaction, he must've just had a humdinger of a nightmare. And if he thought he'd needed a Tylenol before, it was nothing compared to now. He had a too much sleep headache. He flopped back down with a groan.

"Well, look who's up."

He levered his body up on his elbows and pasted a smile on his face. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."

His grandmother's smile was genuine. "I didn't mean to be out when you came over. I was at the grocery store." She sat on the edge of the bed, gently stroking his leg. "You and your dad are coming over for dinner tonight."

"We are?" Crap. He sat all the way up and rubbed his forehead.

"Yes, you are. But dinner's more than a few hours away. How about some lunch?"


At the start, he picked at the tuna sandwich, but one bite led to two before he realized that maybe the headache was due to hunger as much as oversleeping. He finished the sandwich in record time and gratefully accepted the second sandwich his grandma put on his plate. It wasn't until he finished the first half that he noticed the Tylenol rolling around on the plate.

"Grandma?" He held it up, eyebrows raised, questioning her intuition.

"It's there if you want it."

The headache was still there, receding, but still holding residence behind his eyes. Lunch had taken some of the edge off, actually enough of an edge that he didn't feel he needed the Tylenol. "I'm okay," he said, sliding it off his plate onto a napkin. "Lunch helped."

She assessed him with eyes as knowing as his father. "A tuna fish sandwich can only help so much, Daniel."

His resolve held for a moment, no longer. "Do you ever get tired of picking up the pieces?"

"Many years ago, after Charlie died, I never thought there'd be any pieces to pick up. I was alone. Lonely."

"I'm sorry," Daniel stuttered. "I didn't mean to... I mean, I—"

"I'd rather pick up pieces, mhuirnin, than be alone again." She reached over and grabbed his hands. "I can't make it right. Not all the time. Sometimes the pieces are too tiny to put back. But I can give you a place to heal and I hope that can be enough for you, Daniel."

Daniel thought of his room here, and how much of his heart and his memories lived in this house and while he wasn't sure if he'd ever heal without a piece or two of his soul missing, his grandmother didn't need to know the truth. So he lied with a smile and a wave of his hand. "It will be enough, Grandma, it has to be."


He was hurting before dinner. Walking stiff legged on charlie horsed muscles that had been pushed to their limit today from the walk and from helping rake the leaves. The Tylenol was still sitting on the napkin and this time he didn't hesitate. He swallowed the one, chasing it down with a glass of water, wishing that the one had been two.

The stew was simmering in the crock-pot and the kitchen smelled delicious. His grandmother had just made the biscuits then went to lie down, giving Daniel instructions to put them in the oven in twenty minutes.

Daniel sat at the kitchen table and opened the textbook and pad in front of him. Twenty minutes later, he slid the biscuits into the oven and forty minutes after that, as the kitchen filled with smoke, Daniel slept, his head pillowed in the cushion of his arms, a pencil loosely held in his grip.


"It's okay, Daniel."

Daniel stood in the doorway and watched, horror-stricken as his grandmother opened the windows. Thankfully, the blaring fire alarm had stopped buzzing. His father stood, surveying the inedible tray of biscuits, fire extinguisher at the ready.

"No, it's not okay, Mom."

"It was an accident."

"It's about limitations. Daniel's limitations."

"I'm right here," Daniel yelled, pounding the wall. "Don't talk about me, either of you," he accused, "as if I was in another room."

"You might as well have been in another room. Look what happened." His father was pissed, red-faced and beyond angry.

"No, you look what happened, Jonathan," his grandmother yelled. "Nothing that an opened window can't take care of."

His dad slammed the fire extinguisher on the counter, grabbed an oven mitt and scooped up the tray. "I'm going to go throw this out."

Daniel followed his father out the door, before it even slammed shut. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well, you owe your grandmother a new tray." He lifted up the garbage pail lid and tossed the burnt offerings out, tray and all, then surprised Daniel by gathering him into a bear hug. "When I walked in here and saw the smoke and heard the alarm... All I could think of was how stupid I was to make this point that you really weren't ready to go back to school... I didn't mean to yell."

"I didn't mean to fall asleep." He looked up into his father's eyes. "I think it's time for me to see Janet."

His dad took a step back, but kept his hands firmly locked on Daniel's biceps. "Why? You're doing better. Much better."

"I want to see Janet," Daniel insisted, shrugging out of his father's grasp.

His dad shrugged away Daniel's concerns. "Fine, it's a waste of time, but if you want to—"

"I do," he insisted.

"Fine. I'll call—"

"I'll call—"

"No, I'll call," his grandmother said from the open door. "Because the two of you are going to catch pneumonia if you don't get in here."


His father was like a rabid dog with a bone, harping on Daniel, wanting to go see Janet the second they left his grandmother's house. He kept it up until Daniel had had enough.

"Shut up, Dad, please."

"Excuse me?" The hands gripping the steering wheel bleached white with anger.

Daniel held his ground, refusing to cave, despite the look of fury on his father's face. "I need to see Janet, no matter what you say."

"I didn't say you weren't going to."

"Yeah, you said everything but."

"How about you watch your mouth and we'll discuss this when we get home."

"You're the one who won't let this go, Dad."

"I'll call Fraiser when we get home."

"No," Daniel said pulling out his cell phone. "I'll call Janet now."

His father slammed the steering wheel with his open palm. "And tell her what?"

"I'm not telling her anything," he said softly. "I'm going to ask her some questions."


Daniel had begged off breakfast the next day, no matter how much his Dad prodded him. They had come to uneasy truce over this, Daniel's early morning appointment with Janet. They drove in silence, Daniel listening to his iPod, his father listening to some talk radio. They spoke not a word and Daniel was hoping that his father maintained silence once in the infirmary.


Nothing could be further from the truth. His father didn't shut up, and Daniel cringed in embarrassment.

"He's doing much better." His dad flashed him a smile. "He eats. Sleeps. He feels better. He's not even taking the pills anymore."

That statement earned a look of puzzlement from Janet. "Daniel?"

He dad just plodded forward. "And he's doing okay. He walked to his grandmother's yesterday."

Daniel sat on the chair by Janet's desk, studying the floor under his feet.

"What do you have to say about this?"

He shrugged without even looking up. "Nothing to say."

Janet stood and opened her office door. "How about you go get yourself some coffee, sir, I'd like to speak to my patient privately."

"Anything you say to him you can say to—"

"No, sir."

Daniel's head flew up in shock. This wasn't going to be pretty.

"I'm his father."

"And I'm his doctor."

Rock. Paper. Scissors. Daniel wondered who was going to the one left standing and he cringed when his dad left the room. Based on his backward gaze that zeroed in on Daniel, tonight's dinner wasn't going to be a happy affair.

Janet waited until her office door closed before she came around from behind her desk and sat in the chair opposite him. "Talk."

Daniel exhaled and stole a glance at the door.

"This was your idea, Daniel."

"I know," he answered quietly.

"Your dad feels you're recovered."

He shrugged. Talking about his dad just seemed so traitorous. "I don't want to talk about what my dad thinks."

"Fine," Janet said with a light touch to his knee. "Talk to me about what Daniel thinks."


"Yes, sweetie. Honestly."

"I'm scared."

He'd shocked her. Daniel saw her calm exterior slip and he took the opportunity to jump in with both feet before she had a chance to recover. "I'm a drug addict."

"No, you're—"

"This is my dime, Janet." Daniel slapped his thighs and stood. He walked around and held the back of the chair. "You asked what I thought and I'm telling you. And I'm telling you I'm a drug addict. I'm no different than an alcoholic that's stopped drinking. They are and will always be alcoholics. Doesn't make a difference if the drug was of my own taking or it was injected into my system. I'm a fourteen year old drug addict."

"You saved a life."

"And mine was ruined in exchange."

"Does your father know this? Any of this?"

"No," he whispered. "How can I tell him? He carries his own guilt about this but damn, I don't know if I can forgive him."

She was out of the chair in an instant.

"Don't!" He held his hand out. If she touched him, he'd lose it and he was so damned tired of losing it. "I just had to say it and I didn't know who else to say it to."

"I can't just leave it like this, Daniel."

"I'm fourteen, Janet, but I'm not stupid. Doctor/patient confidentiality, you can't say anything to my father."

"As your doctor—"

"Don't worry, I'm not going to run off and buy drugs from a pusher on the corner."

"Pain? Are you still feeling pain?"

"I don't know," he answered truthfully. And he didn't. Articulation, at this moment, wasn't one of his strong suits. "I'm not too sure what's a manufactured need and what's pain. It's confusing."

"Can I give you a physical?"

"No, I've been poked and prodded enough." Daniel pushed up his sleeves, his numerous bruises still visible. "How about we at least wait until they've faded?"

"No." The one word was said with a finality, but she softened it with a lift of her lips. With a gentle brush, Janet pushed his hands aside and pulled down his shirtsleeves. "I promise..."

Daniel baulked. Backing up, he brushed the material of his sleeves. It was the words, not the touch. "Don't make promises you—"

"No needles. Prodding, yes. Needles, no."

"When?" He swallowed, feeling anxious and nervous.

"Now. Without a nurse. Only me."

He worried his lower lip while gazing at the door.

Janet's gaze followed his and she grabbed his hand, giving the sweaty palm a quick squeeze. "I'll send your father to his office."

Daniel's broad smile was without reservation. "You're going to punish him?"

"Give me five minutes, if there isn't any weapons fire, go down to the end gurney, pull the curtain, strip to your boxers and make yourself at home."


In the tiny enclosed area, Daniel nervously paced, the curtain billowing out in response to his movements. His clothes were neatly folded at the edge of the bed, but after his confession there was only so much more of himself he felt comfortable baring to Janet. Hence, the socks and tee shirt he wore to complete the ensemble.

Hurriedly, he hopped up onto the gurney, the click click of Janet's shoes on the floor announcing her arrival. Daniel prided himself in not jumping when the curtain snicked back. "You survived."

She closed the curtain in her wake, an exaggerated sigh escaping her. "I found some duct tape and it might take your dad a while to free—"

"I'll rescue him when we're finished."

"Take scissors with you."


He squirmed uncomfortably as Janet pressed the heel of her right hand into his thigh. "Right there," he ground out through gritted teeth.

"When does it bother you?"


She shoved her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. "This was your idea—"

"No, it wasn't." Daniel bent forward, reaching for his clothes. "This was your idea."

Janet's hand flew out of her pocket and slammed down on top of his. "Coming here and talking to me was your idea. It was a mature decision. Your age right now, based on your behavior, isn't even double digits, mister."

Daniel relaxed, but Janet didn't, her pressure to his muscle remained constant. "The pain starts, like now. When I don't move for a period of time, it hurts. And when people poke me." He jerked his leg from under her hand. "Ow."


"Yes." He absently began to rub the spot where her hand had been, averting his face when her hands began to assess his other leg. "Sleeping too much," he admitted.

"Move over," she ordered, gently slapping his thigh.

Daniel did as ordered. He pivoted, swinging his legs over the side of the gurney.

Janet jumped up next to him.

"Should I be worried?" he whispered.


"Then..." Imperceptibly, Daniel shifted to the right, widening the space between them by mere inches.

"Then nothing. The muscle pain is residual. An anti-inflammatory—"

"I don't want anything."

"It will reduce the swelling and the tightening. Nothing more, I promise."

"I don't have a lot of faith in promises, you know. Not anymore." Daniel stretched out his legs, studying his sock-covered toes as they curled and uncurled.

"Give us a chance."

"So if I take that... the anti-inflammatory, I'll be fine? Able to go to school?" He tried to keep the hope from his voice. The desperation.

"You need potassium—"

"I don't want—"

"Bananas. Morning. Dinner. You don't have an objection to fruit, do you?"

He dropped his head below his shoulders. "I like fruit."


"My dad has to let me out of his sight first."

"Take him with you."

"Yeah, he can hold the leash." The remark slipped out before he could stop it. "Sorry."

"You should be." There was anger in her voice. "You are recovering. By next week you'll be back in school. You need vitamins. Exercise. Fresh air. Fruits. Vegetables. An anti-inflammatory. All taken with a lower dose of self-pity."

Daniel slid off the gurney and slipped around Janet. He plucked his shirt off the pile. Angrily, he thrust his arms into the sleeves, letting it flap open against his tee. "I got it," he hissed, grabbing his jeans. "Fruits. Veggies. Exercise. Vitamins. Fresh air. Suck it up. No problem. Consider it done." Leaning against the gurney, he stepped into his jeans. He waited until he was almost finished before speaking again. "My father was right, this, coming here, was stupid."

"Daniel, maybe you need to talk to someone."

His laugh was joyless. "Sure, Janet. You go find me someone who can empathize with a fourteen-year-old boy who used to be an adult. Who's been kidnapped. Traveled through a wormhole to meet his other self. Saved his other self. Lost his other self—"

"There's no other self, Daniel. There's only you. In this universe, there's only you."

"Yeah?" With his fist, Daniel slammed the gurney so hard Janet jumped. "There's only me? Then tell me, why did my dad risk my life to save the other Daniel?"


Jack had tried to be productive during his enforced exile. He managed to type a report, read a memo and shift piles of papers all around his desk. He played ten games of solitaire, fifteen games of spider solitaire, and attempted to learn free cell before deciding this was ridiculous.

Riding the elevator to the infirmary level, he formulated a handful of scenarios as to why he was arriving before he was summoned. To take Daniel to lunch. He was in the neighborhood. The phone system in his office wasn't working. Jack exited the elevator, strode purposefully down the corridor, head down, mumbling, nearly throwing Fraiser to the floor as they ran into each other.

Immediately, he grabbed Fraiser by the arms as she tottered from the force of their collision. "Geeze, I'm so sorry."

"Sir, I was just coming to get you."

He released her with what he hoped was a charming apologetic grin and attempted to gently brush away the creases in her lab coat. "Sorry, I was—"

"Distracted, sir?"

"Just slightly." He peered around her, then looked over his shoulder, checking to see if he'd missed Daniel. "Where's—"


"Something wrong?"

Without a word, Fraiser pivoted and walked back into the infirmary, Jack at her heels.


She began to neatly stack medical charts by the desk in the far corner of the infirmary. "He's recovering."

Jack took the charts from her hands, put them down on the table and blocked her ability to pick them up. "I'm sensing a 'but' here."

"I gave him a list of things he needed to be doing and the things he shouldn't be doing. I cleared him for school starting Monday."

"There's that but again"

It wasn't the deep exhalation or the sympathetic parental dread on her face that was Jack's undoing, it was the uncharacteristic watery eyes, coupled with the soft touch of her hand and the even softer voice. "Daniel's waiting for you in my office. He wants to talk to you."


"Fraiser said you wanted to talk to me." Jack was never one to pull punches, and the question was out of his mouth before he even closed the door.

Daniel was straddling the chair, his arms crossed along the back, with his head resting in the pillow they created. "I do."

Jack dropped his hand on top of Daniel's head, and left it there for a second. "How about you look at me?" He pulled back his hand and waited.

Daniel shifted, stacked his fists, then rested the point of his chin in the hollow of the uppermost fist. He'd been crying, the tear tracks were still visible and he'd done nothing, was doing nothing, to hide them.

That was such a bad sign.

Slowly, Jack sank into the chair.

"Why did you do this to me?"

Jack drew a deep breath. "Icky," he said, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. "It helps if you start at the beginning."

Daniel rubbed his hand under his nose then wiped the snot on his jeans.

Jack bit back the reprimand to use a tissue.

Daniel pushed up his shirtsleeve, admiring the bruises. "I let you do this to me because I trusted you." His voice held an edge of awe and disbelief.

"We didn't know."

"You should've known," Daniel shouted. "You should have known."

Jack had thought they'd exorcised these demons. Surprise. "Everything worked out—"

"Worked out? God." He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. "Everyone gets to go on with their lives. Everyone but me. Me? I'm left..." Daniel choked on a sob. "You lost your cool when you thought I was taking drugs... But when you gave me—"

"It wasn't like that and you know it."

"No, it wasn't," Daniel said sadly, finally making a move to wipe up his face with the hem of his shirt. "But looking back on it, that's what it sure feels like."

"I'm sorry."

"If you had to do it again, Dad, knowing the outcome, would you still force me to do it?"

Jack hesitated.

Suddenly, Daniel stood. "Yeah, that's what I thought."

Jack grabbed his hand as Daniel attempted to skirt past him. He was quick, but Jack was quicker. "I won't say that you're wrong, Daniel. But if you had to do it again, knowing the outcome, would you refuse to save the man who saved you?"

"You don't get it." Daniel angrily flung off Jack's hand. "I don't care about them. Or their team. Or that Daniel." He pounded his chest. "I care about this Daniel. Me. But no one saw me. They saw him and I didn't deserve that." He slapped his arm. "Or this. I didn't deserve any of this."


Silence was not golden. Co-existing in silence was maddening. Living in a silence where words were unable to squeeze past the lump in his throat was heartbreaking. They had said nothing the entire day after Daniel's confession in Fraiser's office. Nothing. Lunch and dinner had been a silent affair. Daniel ate what Jack put in front of him. Cleaned his plate as a matter of fact, because anything but would have required a word. Or two. Or an entire conversation.

Daniel's cell phone had rung a number of times; Jack had heard Daniel's selected tune de jour, the sound loud in the silence. And he had waited each time, at the juncture to the hallway, anxious to hear his son's voice, but there had been nothing. Incoming calls weren't answered, they went to voicemail, including Dria's calls. Three of them. Jack clocked them. Twenty minutes apart and even from where he stood, he could hear the worry in her voice.

He heard the tapping of the laptop keyboard. A pause. An electronic bing. Daniel had found a way to communicate without speaking. Not exactly great, but better than nothing.


It felt sacrilegious to watch TV and break the silence so Jack settled on the couch with a favorite book, one that would require no thought. It was familiar and well loved, two things he needed right now. He skimmed, picking out favorite spots when he heard the creak of Daniel's bedroom door. He waited, expecting to see hear the click of the bathroom light switch, but what he heard was the squeak of the third floor board just before the steps leading into the living room.

Jack glanced up. Daniel was standing on the last step, his sock-covered toes were curled around the lip of the step. Sometime after dinner, he'd changed into sweats. Jack studied him and he studied Jack; the light from the hallway provided a perfect backdrop. His hair was loose, something Jack rarely saw. The waves of his babyhood had all but disappeared, the color had deepened, the blond all but a memory in Jack's mind. He looked older. More grown up, closer in appearance to the friend that Jack had lost than the boy he had been.

Crap, he felt old... And jealous. There was a strange flutter of envy that Daniel got to do it all over again while he sat on the sidelines; and then it was gone, as quickly as it had come, overshadowed by the depth of pain and confusion in his son's eyes.

Jack waited for Daniel to take another step, but he didn't. He stood. Stared. Gazed at Jack for a few minutes before going back the way he'd come. The not so gentle closing of his bedroom door informed Jack, that according to the rules in Daniel's world, he'd said all he needed to say for the day.

He tossed the book to the side. Familiar and well loved as it was, Jack couldn't hide behind it any longer.


It had taken two trips to get everything ready and set up. Two very easy trips. Jack knocked on Daniel's door, not waiting for an answer before he stepped into his room. Now came the hard part.

Jack held out his hand. "Come on, let's go to the lookout, Icky."

Daniel's face turned ashen. Whatever he'd been expecting, it wasn't this. As a child, the lookout had been special place. A place that he'd coveted. This was a place where the outside world wasn't permitted. No phones. No papers. No homework. A magical place Daniel had believed in. A sanctuary where he'd had his dad all to himself. But as Daniel grew, the magic, as magic does in the eyes of a child, dissipated, and the place had lost its enchantment. It had been months since they'd visited the flat area of roof with the overhanging tree, chairs and telescope.

Jack crooked his fingers at Daniel. Maybe now would be the perfect time to rediscover what had been lost.


Daniel stood stiff and awkward in the corner of the roof, mere inches from the ladder leading back down to the ground. Jack settled into one of the chairs, then covered his legs with one of the blankets he'd brought up. He lifted a thermos towards Daniel. "Hot chocolate. There's one for you, too."

He shook his head, and to Jack's disappointment, moved closer to the ladder.

"Don't go," Jack blurted out. "I even put little marshmallows in the hot chocolate."

There was a slip of a smile. Jack saw it. The slight lifting of the lips lasted for mere seconds, faltered, then blinked out.

"I was torn between the two of you," Jack said as he unscrewed the top of the thermos. He poured himself a capful, then put the thermos within reaching distance. He blew on the steam wafting off the top.

"He isn't me," Daniel said, his voice filled with emotion.

He was hurt and Jack knew he had to tread very carefully with this. "No, the other Daniel isn't you." Jack leaned back and gazed up at the heavens. "You and me, when you were, you know, older, we used to come up here when he missed Abydos. Sha're."

"He felt closer to her here. I know."

"Do you know that I miss him? He was a good friend. Those are hard to come by."

Slowly, Daniel walked to the empty chair and sat down. "I don't know what to say. I kind of remember an image. A feeling." He shrugged, the movement slow and hopeless. "I'm sorry."

"I'm just talking, Daniel. I'm not asking for apologies. I miss him. I love you."

"I love you, too. I'm sorry for what—"

"No. Don't. You had every right to say what you did. I deserved it. We all deserved it." Jack paused, wishing he'd thought to mix the hot chocolate with something a little stronger than marshmallows. "I believed..." He downed the rest of his hot chocolate, then put the top on the thermos. "I believed that I could save the best of both worlds. Their Daniel and you. This was an opportunity to balance the scales. Even though it wasn't my Daniel, it was a Daniel. I could save a Daniel somewhere and still have my son. Something I wasn't able to do. It was incredibly selfish. I was incredibly selfish."

Daniel pulled the blanket up to his shoulders. "I'm fourteen."

"I have the battle scars to prove it," was Jack's smug answer. "Just something your grandmother told me, blame her," he shot back in view of Daniel's simmering expression.

"I'm not any Daniel but me."

Jack sighed. "Yeah, it's a lesson I'm going to have to keep learning."

"I want to go to school. Spend time with friends. Be normal." He glanced towards Jack, the blue of his eyes dark. "Any chance of that in the immediate future?"

"Monday, Fraiser said you can join the legion—"

"That's Monday, Dad. What about the next week? Or the week after—"

"I can't give you a permanent 'get out of jail free card', Icky, you know that." Jack reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind Daniel's ear, then gave the ear a tug. "I wish I could."

Daniel sighed. "That was a pretty stupid request, wasn't it?"

"No, I'm your parent. I should protect you. It's my job. A job I failed horribly at."

Daniel's eyes widened and Jack saw the shimmer of moisture. "I didn't die. I'm still here. See." He drew an arm out from under the blanket and gripped Jack's hand. "I'm not going anywhere."

Jack pulled the hand from his and gripped it between his own hands. "You have no guilt in this. None."


Daniel didn't sleep. He hadn't allowed himself to lose the battle. He'd thought about napping for an hour or two, but that would mean setting the alarm. Alarm ringers had a tendency to wake up sleeping parents so he'd forced himself to stay awake, staring at the clock, watching the minutes turn into hours. Finally, the early morning announced its arrival though the slats in Daniel's blinds.

Slowly, he got out of bed. He dressed even more slowly. Each movement stretched out. Boxers. Pants. Socks. Sneakers. Tee shirt. Plaid shirt. Daniel hefted his backpack onto his shoulders. He slipped the note in that Janet had written, changing the date with just a flick of a black Bic. The cheap plastic kind.

He peed, but didn't flush. Once wasn't going to create a permanent ring around the bowl. He washed up, then brushed his teeth without letting the water run.

Breakfast was something he was going to grab on his way to school; he just couldn't take the chance of opening and closing the fridge. Or a cabinet. Or a popping toaster. He checked his watch. Alexandria was due to pick him up in ten minutes.

Daniel exited the house through the garage just as Alexandria pulled up. He smiled and waved, then punched the code on the keypad to reset the alarm.


They both slept in, and if the phone hadn't rung, Jack probably would have kept on sleeping. In one swift movement, he grabbed the bedside cordless, hit the on button, rolled onto his back and spoke. "O'Neill."

"Colonel O'Neill, this is the nurse at your son's school."

Note? They were probably looking for a note for Daniel to come back to school. "Yeah. If it's about that note, I have that right—"

"I have the note right here in my office, Colonel O'Neill, along with your son."


Jack stood in the doorway of Daniel's room, shaking his head at the empty, mussed bed. It wasn't that Jack hadn't trusted the school nurse; it was just that Jack found it next to impossible to wrap his brain around the fact he hadn't even woken up when Daniel had snuck out.

Truthfully, it didn't require a brain drain to understand what had possessed Daniel to pull such a stunt. Jack knew. And part of him didn't blame him. But the father in him drove to the school, rolling through stop signs and skirting the speed limit, struck between worry and anger at Daniel's stupidity.


Throughout his years, Jack had picked up Daniel at school. He knew the routine. Sign in. Show ID. Nurse's office. Chat. Take Daniel home and tuck him into bed. Which was why he was more than a little surprised to see a police cruiser parked in front of the main entrance.

He pulled into a 'visitors only' spot and was out of the truck and up the stairs within seconds. A bad feeling was putting it mildly and he was on his way to breaking protocol and going straight to the nurse's office when he heard someone call his name.

"Colonel O'Neill."

Jack offered the principal a gracious smile. "Hello, sir. I'd love to stay and chat but I received a call from—"

"The nurse. Yes, I know. How about you come along with me?"

"Why?" He glanced around the main lobby, which appeared to be filled with an overabundance of people for this time of day and Jack was suddenly struck with the feeling that he'd walked into the movie theatre after all the action had taken place. "I need to get to the nurse's office." Jack turned and walked away. He was a little too old to be brought to the principal's office and right now, his son's welfare was more important than a sit down with the man dogging his heels.


"I'm Colonel O'Neill," Jack said as he burst into the nurse's office. He was ready to lay claim on Daniel and drag his son home but all coherent thought process flew out the window at the scene in the nurse's office.

"Colonel..." A woman approached and Jack expertly sidestepped her introduction. He heard nurse. Daniel. Alexandria. Bruising. And that was about it.

Daniel sat on one of the beds, Dria glued to his side, bruises that resembled handprints circled her upper arms. Her eyes were red-rimmed. Daniel's glasses were pushed on top of his head and he held an ice pack to his jaw, the bruise under the pack overflowing its shape. If the bruise wasn't enough, Jack had to admit, the sheet covering the bed had more color than Daniel.

Dria gazed at Jack and smiled. "Colonel Jack." Gently, she tapped Daniel's knee. "Look, your dad's here." Her voice was motherly, full of concern, and her smile slipped for a second. She was worried.

Jack couldn't blame her. He was worried also. And his worry jumped up a notch when Dria had to tap Daniel's leg a little harder to get his attention.

Jack noticed the cut to Daniel's right cheekbone when his son lethargically lifted his head.

"Colonel O'Neill."

"What!" Jack turned. He was totally done with the principal's presence.

"Please come with me." The principal walked past Jack and opened a closed door to the right of where Daniel was sitting.

"While I appreciate your desire for a sit-rep—"

"Excuse me?"

Damn. Not the SGC. "Sorry. A discussion of exactly why my son is—" Jack caught the flash of a police officer standing in the other room as the principal opened the door.

"I'm fine, Dad," Daniel said quietly.

"Ummm, Daniel..." Jack's eyebrows performed a tiny dance of disbelief. "A few minutes," he repeated, gazing only at Daniel and no one else. "Okay?"

"We'll be fine, Colonel Jack." Dria pushed up Daniel's hand with the ice pack, which had been slowly drifting downward toward his lap.

A few minutes was probably all Daniel had before he kicked Dria off the bed and stretched out. He stepped up to Daniel and squeezed his left knee. "It's up to you. Can you hold it together for a little while longer?"

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"Colonel Jack?" Dria called to him just as he was walking away.

"Yes, honey," he said strolling back to them.

"Don't listen to Daniel," she said. "He has nothing to be sorry for."


Two police offers stood, book ending a sitting boy who appeared older than Daniel by a few years. Silent and sullen, his eyes were already blackening and the shirt he was wearing was bloodstained. Under the bloody towel he had pressed to his face, Jack was pretty damn positive was a broken nose.

"Officers." Jack gave the two uniform men a nod hello. "I'm sure there's an explanation here somewhere."

"Just so you're aware, Colonel O'Neill, Anthony Bloch is no longer a pupil at this school and what occurred between the three children—"

Jack dismissed the principal when he recognized the name, by turning his attention back to the officers. "My name is Colonel O'Neill, Officers. I'm the father of the young man sitting outside with a nice cut to his cheek and an ice pack glued to his jaw." He pointed to the kid sitting between the two of them. "This, I presume, is Tony Bloch." Jack's gaze bounced between both officers, dismissively passing over Tony. "Feel free to fill in the blanks, Officers."

"It would appear that Mr. Bloch attempted to detain Ms. Montalbano in the parking lot, and your son intervened."

"My son did that?" Jack tried to stamp down the pride in his voice.

"Hit me with his fuckin' backpack." Tony dropped the towel, giving Jack a bird's eye view of the damage.

He cringed in sympathy. That had to hurt. "Daniel never goes anywhere without his laptop." Jack cleared his throat. "Though, Mr. Bloch, I'm sure that you're now well aware of that."

"Mr. Bloch is no longer a student—" the principal stuttered.

"Yeah, you mentioned that."

"And even though this took place on school property—"

"I know, you didn't sanction this," Jack answered hurriedly.

A police officer, the younger of the two, stepped forward. "Would you like to press charges, Colonel O'Neill?" The officer stared at Jack with an expression that begged him to say yes to the simple question.

"How old is Mr. Bloch?"

"I'm nineteen."

"Nineteen," Jack repeated, nodding. "You're a fine upstanding member of our society, I can see that. The marks you left on Ms. Montalbano's arms are a true testament to your—" Jack drew a deep breath, then exhaled loudly. "No. I don't want to press charges at this time."

"Well, I do."

Great. Jack had been wondering how this day could get worse. Now he knew. He turned and nodded a tight greeting to Dria's father. "Montalbano."

"O'Neill." Jack received a quick, dismissive glance before Dria's father turned his attention back to the Bloch kid. "Did you touch my daughter?"

"Look, it was all an accident. I just wanted to talk. She—"

"You sonofabitch," Dria's father sputtered, his fists clenched.

Jack laid a hand on Montalbano's arm as the man stepped forward. "Don't."

Montalbano continued, ignoring Jack. "You ate dinner at my house. You sat at my table. If you ever come near my daughter—"

"Sir—" The younger of the police officers stepped between Montalbano and Bloch.

"Montalbano." Jack gave a warning tug to the man's arm, half-expecting a fist to his face for his effort, surprised that the only response he received was Montalbano physically shoving Jack's hand off his arm.

Montalbano cleared his throat, brushed down his jacket, keeping his attention trained on Bloch. "I want to press charges."

At that point Jack left the room. For the moment, he was done with the whole situation. Daniel needed his focus right now. Impossibly pale, with the nurse hovering around him, Daniel was still sitting on the bed. Dria was plastered to his side and her mother was standing in front of her, holding and petting her hand.

"Mrs. Montalbano." Jack approached them, hand outstretched.

She just glanced at the hand, obviously more out of confusion than rudeness.

"It's Daniel's dad, Mom," Dria softly reminded her.

"Oh. Right." Nervously, she shook his hand then she fingered the tiny cross around her neck as she stole a glance at Daniel. "It could've been much worse." Her hand drifted from her necklace to the bruises on her daughter's arm.

"Am I done here?" Daniel dropped the ice pack behind him and went to slide off.

Quickly, Jack stuck a restraining hand on his chest. "I think maybe I need to sign some papers to take you home."

"Home? I need to get to school."

"Not today, Daniel." The nurse approached Jack with a clipboard. "Would it be possible to speak to you, Colonel O'Neill?"

Jack fought the eye roll and followed the nurse to her desk, pulling out his license to prove he truly was Daniel's father. He knew the drill.

She took the license, flashed a perfunctory smile then handed it back to him. "You should be very proud of your son."

Jack glanced over his shoulder. "Yeah. I am."

She unclipped the note and handed it back to Jack. "You son has bruises that have nothing to do with this fight. On his arms. Needle marks." Now her smile went a little deeper. "Bone marrow harvesting isn't fun, but based on my professional opinion, Daniel is far from ready to come back to school."

"You want to tell him that?"

"Daniel's intelligence precedes him, but tell him not to major in forgery. The note's real. The date's a fake." She handed Jack the clipboard. "Take him home. Put him to bed and tell him I want to see him in my office next Wednesday at the earliest. With a new note. And if possible, I would appreciate a call from Doctor Fraiser."

Jack signed off on the appropriate line then handed the clipboard back to the nurse. "I'm sure Doctor Fraiser will be glad to give you call, after she deals with Daniel."


Montalbano was standing very close to Daniel. And Daniel, Jack noticed, was doing his damnedest to ignore the man's fawning.

"Ready to go?" Jack approached his son with a ready hand and a smile, though he had serious doubts to Daniel being able to walk out of the school under his own steam.

"Home?" Daniel's face fell.

"O'Neill." Montalbano said, clapping Jack on the arm and extending his hand. "I was just trying to tell your boy it was a brave thing he did."

Obviously, past digressions on Montalbano's part were forgotten, and with a good grace, Jack accepted the man's hand.

"He shouldn't have touched Alexandria," Daniel stated angrily.

"No, he shouldn't have," Montalbano said in the most human voice Jack had ever heard the man use.

Daniel inched closer to Dria and grabbed her hand as he stared over Jack's shoulder. "It's okay," he whispered.

The police were escorting Bloch from the room and the principal made sure to part the sea of curious onlookers huddled by the nurse's office.

"Why don't we wait a few minutes?" Jack suggested.

"I'm not afraid of him," Daniel countered haughtily.

"Wait," Jack repeated, more concerned with Daniel and the crowds than he was with the idea of encountering the kid.


"They're following us," Alexandria whispered as she and Daniel slowly walked down the hall.

Daniel hugged the wall, using it to keep upright, wishing Alexandria would just remain quiet so he could concentrate on getting out of the building without falling on his face.

"Hey, you two," his dad said, "Wanna pick up the pace?" His dad pushed his way between Daniel and the wall and grabbed his elbow.

Daniel shot his father a look of appreciation. A silent thank you for understanding.

There were crowds in the hallway. The gossip had already made the rounds, and the fact that there had been police on the premises had definitely added fuel to the fire. Daniel's face hurt, the slice on his face burned horrifically, and Alexandria's arms... Damn, even now he could feel the heat of anger begin to cloud his vision.

"Almost there, Icky," his dad whispered, misreading Daniel's tension for nervousness. "Just a few more feet."


Daniel couldn't get to the truck fast enough. His goodbye to Alexandria was hurried and he was positive that his parting remarks to the Montalbanos were borderline rude, but he didn't care. He practically crawled into the passenger side as his father held the door open. In the side view mirror, he watched his father glance towards the truck then stop and talk with the Montalbanos, probably making amends for Daniel's abruptness.

Finally, his dad opened the door and pulled himself behind the wheel. Closing the door, he gave a slight wave then stuck the keys into the ignition, but didn't turn them. "Daniel?"

He couldn't answer. Daniel wanted to. Wanted to make some stupid quip about school and the expensive laptop doing more than just receiving internet. But he couldn't. There wasn't enough air in the cab of the Avalanche to talk and fill his lungs with oxygen.

Daniel felt the weight of his father's hand on the back of his neck, pushing, guiding him until his head was bent between his knees.

"Breathe," was the gentle order.

God, constricted lungs filled with air, and Daniel gasped.

"Good boy." The hand moved down and began to knead tight neck muscles. "Keep breathing, okay? You'll feel better."

And he breathed. His chest and throat hurt but the headache was slowly receding. " 'Kay," Daniel managed, struggling to sit up. "I'm," he swallowed as he settled back against the seat, "...fine. I'm fine."

His dad collapsed into his own seat and grabbed the steering wheel. "Really? I'm glad one of us is fine."

"Can we go home," Daniel asked softly. "I just want to go home."


Amazingly, his father remained silent the entire drive home. Daniel closed his eyes and just... He just... Just... breathed, because right about now that was all he was capable of doing.

"Where's my backpack?" he asked the second the Avalanche bumped over the apron of the driveway.

"I thought you were sleeping." His dad turned off the engine then opened his door. "It's in the back, I'll get it and carry it into the house."

With a nod, Daniel opened the passenger door and slid out. Thankfully, his dad was already around the back and didn't see him list to the side when his feet hit the driveway. He held on the length of the truck and by the time he reached the bumper, he felt steady and sturdy enough to make the walk to the door without falling. By the time he dug his house key out of his back pocket, his dad was by his side.

"I got it." He held up the key and the backpack. "Got them both."

He paled. Blanched. Whatever the fuck they called it. Daniel could literally feel whatever color he'd fought to regain drain down to his feet.

"Icky." The backpack thudded to the ground as his father let it go and used his hand to painfully grasp Daniel's arm.

"There's blood on the backpack. My backpack."

"Okay." His father opened the front door and practically dragged Daniel over the backpack still on the ground. "We'll get another backpack."

"That's not my blood."

"No, thank god, Icky, It's not."

His dad deposited him in the foyer. "I need to go to the bathroom," he blurted out.

"Daniel." His father reached for him and missed by mere inches, snagging his shirt.

He closed the bathroom door, locked it, and had just enough time to fling up the toilet lid before he lost his breakfast.


Without looking in the mirror, Daniel washed up and brushed his teeth.

"Feeling better?" The question was accompanied by a light knock.

He didn't answer. Daniel just unlocked the door and stood, staring his dad. "Tony shouldn't have touched Alexandria."

"I know. You did nothing wrong."

"My backpack has blood on it."

"Come with me."

His dad dragged him to the couch, pushed him down, then disappeared. He returned with Daniel's pillow and blanket. He put the pillow on the couch's bolster and fluffed it. "Lie down."

He lay down and allowed his dad to cover him.

His father sat on the coffee table. "I want you to listen to me. Are you listening?"

Daniel blinked. One blink, praying that his father would take that as a yes.

"Good." He reached under the blanket and grabbed Daniel's hand. "Sometimes you have to do bad things. Doesn't make you feel better, but you need to see the big picture. You protected Alexandria. You did what was right."

"There's blood on my backpack." His father's shoulders slumped in defeat and even in his barely coherent state, Daniel knew he'd failed him somehow. "I'm sorry."

His dad leaned over and gently kissed him on the forehead. "Go to sleep for a little while, okay? We'll discuss this later."


The noise in the kitchen woke him but not enough to make him want to get off the couch. Daniel yawned then mewled in pain, clamping his hand over his jaw. Prodding the skin under his fingers, he was amazed at the width and breadth of the damage Tony had inflicted. The face was a given, because it was obvious, but the shoulder? Daniel flexed his right shoulder, the one that had hit the side of Alexandria's van when Tony punched him. It was stiff and sore, but manageable and hideable from his dad.

"Daniel?" His father appeared in the kitchen doorway, a plate in his hand. "How about some lunch?"

Lunch meant that he'd slept later than he should've. He groaned.

"Was that a yes groan or a no groan?"

"It's an I'm really not hungry groan." He wasn't; the last thing he felt like doing was eating anything.

"Well, you really didn't eat breakfast."

"I did, Alexandria and I went—oh..." Daniel blushed at the memory of where his breakfast had ended up.

"Grilled cheese?"

"Fine." He'd have half a sandwich, then his father would just leave him be and he could slink into his room and lick his wounds.


Daniel's life was on the kitchen counter. The content of his entire backpack was in neat piles spread along the counter's length.

His dad put the plate on the table with a sheepish smile. "How did you fit everything in that backpack?"

His laptop. Notes. Half-chewed pencils. Cap-less pens. Gum. Candy. A smushed chocolate bar. A travel size Tylenol. His sketchbook. Schoolbooks. A crumbled, never-been-read best seller. Two three-ring binders with the papers falling out. And an overdue library book.

"I think the library book needs to be returned."

"Yeah, it does," Daniel said, sliding into the kitchen seat with the plate in front of it.

"Like last year returned."


"Oops is right," his dad said, putting a Snapple in front of his plate. "Dria's father called."

Daniel dropped the triangle of grilled cheese sandwich he'd just taken a bite out of and pushed the plate away. "Yeah. What did he want?"

"To thank you."

"I didn't do it for him."

"Okay, time out." His dad used his hands to form a 'T'. "I know he's far from your favorite person on the planet, but maybe this is his way to—"

Daniel shook his head. "Until the next time? Until I do something to—"

"Stop it." His dad dropped into the seat next to him. "The man is a lot of things. Rude, obnoxious. But one of the most important things you need to remember is that he's Dria's father and that she loves him."

Reprimanded, Daniel dropped his head. "I'm really not hungry."

"I know." His dad helped himself to half of Daniel's sandwich. "How about I eat and you tell me exactly what happened this morning. Starting with your incredibly brilliant forgery on Fraiser's note."

"I wanted to go back to school."

"Fraiser said Monday."

He began to pull the crust off the half of the sandwich his father had left on the plate. "I didn't want to wait."


"I should've waited. If I'd waited, I would've taken the bus, Alexandria never—"

"Daniel, there's no coulda, shoulda, woulda's here. Okay?"

He folded under his father's sympathy. "Alexandria parked the van, locked it, and we began to walk to the front entrance. She forgot something and went back... And I... stopped to talk to..." Daniel screwed his eyes closed, trying to remember.

"Don't worry."

"I went back. She was taking too long. Tony had her pinned against the van. Like at the mall. He was hurting her and she was struggling. I touched him. Tugged on his coat. And he stepped away from her, swinging. I never saw it coming. He hit me... I hit the van." Daniel fingered the cut on his cheek. "Tony laughed... I swung my backpack..." Daniel glanced at the counter. "There was blood on my backpack."

"You broke his nose."

"... And there was blood on the van."

"Yours? His?"

"His," Daniel said. "Only my shoulder—"

"Excuse me? What? Where?"


Like a shot, his father was out of the chair and standing behind Daniel, poking and prodding until he found the spot. "Ow!" He felt the rush of cool air as his father pulled his shirt off his shoulder.

"Holy shit."

Daniel craned his neck around, stopping short when pain from his jaw clamped down tightly. "Is it bad?"

"Bad? That's an understatement, Icky. I'm thinking that maybe Montalbano had the right idea about pressing charges."

"No." Daniel was up so fast, his father's stomach was the only reason the chair didn't fall on the floor. "Please don't." He readjusted his shirt.


"Because I'm asking you not to, can't that be enough?"

"Have you looked in the mirror?"

"What's that going to prove, Dad? That Tony's got a great right hook?" Daniel sighed and allowed his head to drop below his shoulders. "I knew that already."

"This isn't some schoolyard bully."

Daniel gave up. His father was going to do what he wanted, whether or not he had Daniel's blessing. "Fine. Whatever. I'm going to go call Alexandria."


His cell phone was in the pocket of his hoodie which was hanging on a hook by the front door. His laptop was on the kitchen counter. His iPod was somewhere on the counter, too, so Daniel called no one. He sat in his room and sulked. Big time.

Feet to pillow, head to the foot of the bed, Daniel lay belly-side down, flipping through an old magazine, feeling damn sorry for himself. He didn't even look up when his door opened. In quick succession his iPod, cell phone and an individually wrapped condom landed on the magazine.

"The first two were in your backpack. The third..."

Daniel's face burned. The third had also been in his backpack, a gag that Cory had stuffed in there one day after Alexandria and Daniel had hooked up. Daniel had only remembered it when searching for something in his backpack and even then he'd grimaced over the condition of the wrapper and had vowed to throw it out sometime when he wasn't at school or at home. And now... Oh shit.

"Well, try to take better care of this one, okay? Put it in your wallet or something, that's much better for safekeeping. I hope you don't mind, I threw the other one out, because the last thing you want is for the—"

Daniel groaned.

"It's okay. You know—"

"No, I don't know. I mean I know... But I don't—" Daniel was dying a slow death of embarrassment.

"A word to the wise, Daniel. Just be careful... You may be on Montalbano's Christmas list at the moment, but if his—"

"Dad! Alexandria and I—We've... I've—" He was a genius, an honor student, but obviously he was unable to have a coherent conversation with his dad regarding sex.

Daniel dropped his head and covered it with his hands. "You can leave now."

His father laughed. "My work here is done."


The bruise on his face had spread and bled higher up his cheek and down his neck. With the edge of the towel, he cleaned the steam off the bathroom mirror and looked. Really looked. The heat of the shower had made the bruise a million times worse and Daniel reached with a tentative hand to touch the bruise, grimacing at even the light pressure he applied. There was swelling, not a lot, but enough.

His right shoulder had blossomed into a beauty as well but at least that bruise would be hidden with a shirt. Range of motion in his right arm was somewhere between slim and none, so blow drying his hair was out of the question. He just slicked it back and rubber-banded his wet hair.

There was a sharp rap on the door. "Did you fall in?"

"No, Dad." He fought too keep the exasperation out of his voice. "I'm getting dressed."

"Good, I just wanted to give you a heads up. It's 18:30, Dria will be here soon."

"Thank you."


"You're hovering," Daniel warned, stepping away from his father.

"I'm not."

"You are," Daniel said as he zipped up his hoodie. "You were going to zip this up for me."

"Was not." His dad raised his hands. "See, hands all accounted for, I was not."

Daniel stuck his iPod in his pocket and accepted his cell from his father's outstretched hand with a barely contained eye roll.

"Call me."

"I'm going to the Middletons. My home away from home, Dad. Honestly, I'll be fine."

"It looks terrible."

"I tried to pick a shirt that it didn't clash with, did it work?"

"It looks swollen." His dad reached out a hand to touch.

Daniel stepped back two more feet out of harm's way. "Look but don't touch, please."

"Why not?"

"Why not? Next time you come home hurting, remind me to poke and prod you."

"Touché," his dad said. "No more talking about it."

"Thank you," Daniel said with a grateful smile.

"How's your shoulder?"

"I thought you said that you—"

"That was your face. This is your shoulder. Different body part."

Daniel breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of a horn honking.

"Don't you dare say 'saved by the bell'," his dad warned.

"I promise. I won't." Daniel opened the door and squeezed through the crack. "Bye. I'll see you later."


Yeah, this was just how he pictured going to Corey's house with Alexandria's father driving, talking about how he was going to make Tony pay. Alexandria was sitting in the front, smiling apologetically over her shoulder while he sat stuck in the back, a captive audience.

His hand was on the door handle, ready to make his escape even before Mr. Montalbano came to a complete stop.

"Eleven thirty, honey, no later."

"Yes, Daddy."

"Daniel?" He turned around to face Daniel in the back. "Need a lift home?'

"Nah, my dad's going to be coming. Thanks anyway." Daniel stopped, thought a second and then spoke. "Mr. Montabano, you drove here and since my dad is coming to pick me up, I'm sure he'd gladly drive Alexandria home. Would that be okay?"


"You're brilliant," Alexandria hissed through clenched teeth as they waved to her father sitting in the van.

"Is he going to leave?"

"Eventually," she said. "He's just waiting for—"

"Daniel. Dria. Come on in."

The van honked its horn, then pulled away.

"Hi," they replied simultaneously.

"Corey and everyone else—" Gina Middleton stopped talking and stared at Daniel. "Oh, Daniel," Gina said, shocked, reaching out to touch his face. "It looks—"

Daniel grabbed her hand. "It looks worse than it feels," he lied. "Honest," he said, nodding at Gina.

"Everyone's downstairs." She recovered with a smile. "Pizza will be here in a few minutes. Dria, honey, there's two bags of chips on the kitchen counter. Can you please bring them downstairs for me?"

"Sure, Mrs. M."

"Daniel, could you help with the soda?"

Daniel watched Alexandria's retreating back. "Sure."

"I'm sorry," she apologized as soon as Dria's footsteps could be heard going down the stairs. "I didn't mean..."

"It's okay, Gina."

"No, it's not. I'm a parent. A mother of boys. I shouldn't be shocked, phased, surprised by..." An evil glint flickered in her eye. "Let's hope I never run across Tony Bloch."

"Going to corner him in the grocery store with a shopping cart?"

"You're as bad as Corey. You should thank your lucky stars that I love you."

Daniel surprised even himself by hugging the woman who had been the closest thing to a mother he'd ever had. "Thank you."

"Aw, sweetie." She hugged him tighter than he was hugging her. "Enough," she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands. "Now take the soda downstairs and tell my son to get his butt up here to get the ice."


Everyone had fawned over him. They inspected him from top to bottom, made disparaging remarks about Tony that strangely, sat uncomfortably with Daniel, until eventually the pizza, instead of him, became the focus of their attention.

He was relaxed, satiated and content, sitting on the couch with Alexandria's head on his shoulder. He hadn't even realized he'd been drifting until she poked him.

"Hey." He grabbed her fingers. "What was that for?"

"You're one step away from drooling and snoring. I'm just saving you from years of embarrassment."

"My heroine," Daniel said around a painful yawn.

"Want to call your dad?"

Bleary-eyed, Daniel checked his watch. Nine thirty. "No. Too early."

"Okay, whenever you need to—"

"I'm fine." His biting tone elicited an unpleasant, confused look from Alexandria. "Sorry."

"Short of sounding like an old married couple, Daniel, we didn't have to come if you didn't want to."

Daniel sighed in frustration. "I did. I do. I mean that—it's hard trying to play catch up. School. Friends." He kissed the top of her head. "You."

She sat up and stared at him. "You feel left out?"

"No, left behind."

Her face hardened.

Shit. "Alexandria?"

"You disappear for days. Pop back in and you have the fuckin' nerve to say you feel left behind."

Open mouth, insert foot. Crap. Crap. "Maybe those weren't the right words."

"No shit, Daniel." She sat up and moved away from him. "It's not always about you."


The good mood was ruined. The good time was done. An hour later he ended up calling his father and it was only by begging that he'd convinced Alexandria to still let his father drive her home.

Silently, they sat on opposite sides of the back bench seat, every attempt at conversation his father attempted fell flat.

"Here you go, Dria. Way before midnight, so your dad will—"

"Thank you again, Colonel Jack." She was out the door without a word to Daniel.

Daniel was dogging her up the walk. "Alexandria."

She ignored him, key in her hand. Daniel had about another two steps before she was on her porch and through her front door.

Daniel didn't go any further. "I don't want to grab your arm and make you stop and listen. I'm not Tony. Please, just turn around."

"Go away, Daniel," she begged without facing him.


"I didn't mean to hurt you."

"Never intentionally." Slowly, she turned and stepped closer to him. Close enough that he could see the tears in her eyes. "I have a bad feeling with you sometimes, Daniel. And it scares me."

"I would never hurt you," he replied adamantly, feeling like an idiot repeating the same thing over and over. "Ever."

"You already have."

"The motorbike, I'm sorry... I wanted—"

"You disappeared. No phone call—"

"I tried," he yelled, hushing his voice when he glanced toward the house. "You father blocked all my calls."

"Then you disappeared. You left me behind and came back full of half truths." She leaned over to kiss his cheek then whispered in his ear. "I'm not stupid, so please don't treat me as if I am."


"You want to talk about it?"

"No." Daniel didn't even lift his face out of the book he was pretending to read.

"Go to sleep, it's late."


His father walked Daniel's bedroom door back open. "Yeah?"

Daniel knew the answer without even asking the question. "Never mind."

"Get some sleep."

"You said that already."

His dad shrugged. "Memory's first to go. And even if I did, you're still not sleeping, are you?"

"No, sir." Daniel closed the book and dropped it over the side of the bed.

"That's a start. Sleep well."


Sleep well? Daniel tossed and turned, and finally around four, pulled out his cell and sent Alexandria a text message. Simple. Straight to the point. Two words. 'Forgive me'. He fell asleep around six with the phone in his hands and slept deeply and dreamlessly until his dad woke him around twelve.

"I have to go to the mountain for the afternoon."

His body felt heavy, lethargic, and too much a part of the mattress to do more than open his eyes and nod.

"Don't stay in bed all day."

"Not all day." Daniel slid his hand under the blanket and tucked his phone under his chest.

"You have chores."

"Leave a list," Daniel requested before pulling the blanket over his head.


He dragged himself out of bed about one. He showered with his eyes closed, dressed without thought, and headed to the kitchen, his wet hair dripping down the back of his sweatshirt. He took three bites of a slice of leftover cold pizza then tossed the rest in the garbage. Hunger obviously wasn't causing the iffy stomach; the cell phone's silence was.

The list wasn't long, but it was long enough to be annoying and he tucked his cell into his pocket when he went into the garage to tie up the papers for recycling. The cell phone didn't ring until he was throwing in a load of towels.

Daniel dropped the wet towels on the floor, then hurriedly dug the phone from his pocket.


"Hi, Daniel."


"I'm sorry, Alexandria."

"Yeah, I got that. Right around four, this morning."

Ouch. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't. I was awake. That's why I'm calling you so late, I just got up."

"I'm sorry," he repeated.

"Please stop saying that, okay?"


She laughed and he smiled, relaxing against the washing machine. "You can be such an asshole sometimes, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel kept silent, he truly wasn't sure that statement required an answer.

"You didn't forget, did you?"

"Hold on, I gotta, ummm... put the clothes in the washer." Daniel pressed the phone against his chest. "Think. Think. Think", he whispered. It clicked when his stomach picked this exact moment to rumble unhappily. "Dinner," he shouted triumphantly into the phone.

"Yup. My mom wanted to know if you—"

"Anything," Daniel quickly supplied. "I pretty much eat anything... except liver and onions."

"Eww. I'm thinking my mom is leaning more towards something Italian."

"I don't want her to go to any trouble—"

"Daniel, after what you did, my father's probably going to invite you to every family function from now to the end of eternity."

"What about—" Daniel couldn't help but remember her parents' less than warm reception in the hospital. "You know..." he continued, feeling very awkward.

"I wouldn't exactly mention our little mishap. At the moment, my father is experiencing long-term memory loss. Let's just go with your here and now heroism.

"He's not going to give me a medal or anything?"

"Maybe he'll let you sit at the head of the table, right by my grandmother and Uncle Richie."

"Alexandria... Is this—"

"Jerk," she said with a hint of chuckle. "Sometimes you're way too serious. I'm only kidding."

"I knew that."

"No, you didn't. Do you really think I would subject you to my family? I can't deal with my family. I like you too much to do that to you. Eating dinner with my father is bad enough."

"Oh, that's encouraging." Daniel heard voices in the background.

"I gotta go," she sighed. "Dinner's at six."

"My dad will drive me."

"I'll come and pick you up so I can give you last minute survival techniques. Figure around five thirty. Five forty. Bye."


He finished the rest of the chores and rewarded himself with a bottle of Snapple and a peanut butter sandwich, which sat as well with him as the cold pizza had.

A thought occurred to him and Daniel picked up the phone and called his father. He hung up when he got his dad's voice mail. He began to open the kitchen cabinets, smiling to himself when he found a cake mix and a can of frosting. It wouldn't be a store bought perfect cake, but it would be something to take to Alexandria's house.

Okay, he could do this. He'd cooked in Home Ec class. Made muffins from scratch, so how hard could it be to make a cake with the instructions printed right on the box.

A thorough search of the kitchen found the pans, mixer, oil, measuring cup, two eggs and a huge bowl. He wasn't cutting any corners. He preheated the oven. Greased and floured the two pans and followed the directions to a tee. Daniel mixed, blended, poured then slid the two pans into the 350-degree oven. He set the timer for twenty-five minutes and began to clean up the mess he'd made scattered along the length of the counter.

They looked beautiful and the tops bounced back with a touch of his index finger. Just like the instructions said. An hour to cool, gave him just enough time to watch some TV and relax.


Bad idea. Daniel woke up groggy and feeling like shit ninety minutes after he went to the den to watch TV. He dragged himself up the stairs and headed straight to the bathroom where he peed, washed up, then dry heaved more than once over the toilet.


He shuffled off to the kitchen, hoping a glass of ginger ale would settle his stomach. The cake. He'd forgotten about the cake. And Alexandria's house. He rushed to the garbage, flipped open the top and dry heaved at the mere thought of something Italian for dinner.

It took two Rolaids, a mouthful of Pepcid, a handful of Saltines, and three Tylenol washed down with a glass of ginger ale before he could even face frosting the cake. He was still frosting, maybe because he was doing it with his eyes shut, when his dad came home.

"You didn't bring the mail in, Daniel. How many times have I told you... A cake?"

Daniel nodded, because talking meant breathing and breathing meant inhaling the overly sweet frosting odor. And inhaling meant upchucking the Rolaids, et al all over the kitchen floor.

"Why are you making a cake?"

"Alexandria. House. Dinner. Tonight." Every word was spoken on an exhalation.

"Yeah? You're green, Daniel."

Daniel swallowed convulsively.

His dad tugged on his arm. "Maybe you need to step away from the cake."


The knife was plucked from his fingers and shoved into the remaining icing in the tub. "Take my word on this, vomiting is so not an attractive look for a cake."

Daniel allowed himself to be guided to a kitchen chair and he offered absolutely no resistance when his dad pushed at him until he sat.

"Anything hurt?"

Daniel shook his head.

Suddenly, his dad's hands were all over his face. Forehead, cheeks, settling on the back of his neck. "No fever. Did you eat anything? Anything at all that would have upset your stomach?"

"Didn't eat." The pizza in the garbage didn't count.

"Could you be hungry?"

Daniel glanced up at the clock. He barely had enough time to shower and change before Alexandria picked him up. "I'm eating at Alexandria's house."

"You're sick."

"I feel better." He drew a deep breath, the nausea had abated. At least for now.

"I'm glad, but you're not going."

"I'm going."


"I have to."

His father's eyebrows traveled upward. "Have to?"

"Please, Dad." He hated begging.

"You're a lighter shade of pale, not even the bruise is helping."

Subconsciously, Daniel touched his face, then dropped his hand. "Do you know how it feels not to talk to anyone?"

"Did I miss something?"

"No, but I have. A lot." Daniel began to tick a list off on his fingers. "School. Friends. Alexandria. And I can't tell anyone anything."

"I understand."

Daniel snorted. "You don't understand. All your friends know what you do. Have seen what you've seen. You have someone to talk to." Slowly, he shook his head. "You don't have to lie."

His dad seemed to puzzle over Daniel's words, carding his fingers through his hair. "You know the rules. As hard as they—"

"I know the rules," he said softly. "But Alexandria doesn't. And she thinks I lied to her. Am lying. And the way things go in our household, will continue to lie. Sorta puts a huge dent in our... That's why I have to go tonight."

"I'll finish frosting the cake. You go shower."

"Thank you."

"Take your cell and you better call me the second you feel—"

"I will."

"Because vomiting on Montalbano's lap is not going to endear you to him."

"I feel much better," Daniel said with a smile.

"You look a little better... Less green. Now go and shower."


And he did. He truly felt better until he stuck the toothbrush in his mouth to brush his teeth. One minute he was brushing his teeth, the next minute he was gagging up emptiness into the toilet. Hopefully, the sink's running water would mask the sounds. He flushed, straightened up then drew a deep breath, his stomach's rebellion seemed to have gone down a notch. Experimentally, he reached for the toothbrush and tried again. And it worked. Teeth brushed with nary a burp. Yay, for him.


His father plied him with Pepcid. Two Rolaids. And one glass of warm Coke. Daniel endured it all because he knew his father was walking a thin line. One complaint or stomach rumble would be just enough to have his father lock the door and glue his butt to the nearest chair.

"Fraiser would have my ass if she knew what I was doing." His father filled his glass with some more Coke. "Drink," he ordered when Daniel hesitated.

Daniel did as commanded, his tender stomach now full. "I think Janet would understand."

Once again, his father touched his forehead, then rolled out the big guns. A Dramamine. Great for motion sickness or whenever you're vomiting up your guts.

"Hey." Daniel skirted from his touch. "No fever. Honest." He looked at the pill as if it were poison. "I don't think so."

"Trust me," his father said, picking up the pill and handing it to him.

Daniel had taken this pill before and he contemplated it for all of a second before swallowing it and chasing it down with the last few drops of soda.

Gently, his father tapped the bruise on his chin. "I swear, the Goa'uld have nothing on you, Daniel."

Hurt, Daniel moved away from his father, but not fast enough that his father missed his expression.

"Open mouth, insert foot. Again. Sorry, I seem to be doing that a lot lately."

"Yeah," Daniel agreed with a nod, then moved to the sink to wash out his glass.

His father lifted the soapy glass from his fingers and placed it in the sink.

Daniel yelped when his father's touch landed on his bruised shoulder.

"Crap, sorry."

Daniel found himself uncomfortably enveloped in a bone-crushing hug. "Dad?" he squeaked.

"I just meant that you worry me. Never too sure... When you least expect it..."

"I keep you young," Daniel said, embarrassed, trying to lighten the moment. Squirming, he managed to extricate himself from his dad's vise-like grip.

"I just meant..." his dad sputtered, obviously as embarrassed now as Daniel was.

"I love you, too, Dad. I worry when you go to work."

"Giving me guilt, are you?" His dad gave him an annoying hair ruffle.

Thankfully, the Hallmark moment was over and Daniel, with good-natured mumbling, tied up his hair again.


Daniel stood at the opened door, the cake in his hand. "Thanks for the—" Expectantly, he was waiting for his dad to lick the palm of his hand and smooth down his cowlick.

"Call me the second you—"

"I'll be—I am fine." Daniel shoved the cake between them. "I'll have dinner. We'll eat cake and then I'll be home."

"Call me," his dad repeated, opening the door wider in response to Alexandria's honking.


He'd been fine. He really had been. "Alexandria?" he whispered urgently.

She paused mid-sentence. "Daniel?"

"Can you pull over? Please?" He was fumbling with the door before she even pulled over to the curb, practically falling out the door when the van came to a stop. Whatever his father had stuffed him full of ended up on the grass by his feet, mere inches from his shoes.

One arm braced against the side of the van, his other arm was wrapped around his stomach, and he averted his face when Alexandria stepped into his peripheral view.

"Do I want to know?" Her touch was even gentler than his father's when she smoothed down his hair.

"I'm sorry." Daniel straightened, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Something I ate today didn't agree with—"



"Geeze, Daniel. Stop lying." She was angry. Actually she was beyond angry. Alexandria was more on borderline fucking pissed.

"Okay. Honestly. I felt like crap. Didn't want to disappoint you. Didn't want you to think I was lying. Didn't want your father... And your mother," Daniel swallowed, "cooked."

"You didn't want me to be angry?" She'd melted, her smile under the streetlight was soft.


"Want me to take you home?"

Daniel hesitated. "Yes. No. Maybe..." And then he saw her smile broaden.

"I have something at home that might help. Something the doctor in the hospital gave me. Something for nausea. I took it once and it worked great—I'm sure it'll work—"

"Not a pain pill?" Daniel baulked, shaking his head. The pill his father had given him was probably in the diluted mess of what had been his stomach contents.

Alexandria face drew together in a mask of concern. "Are you in pain?"

He was one step away from vomiting again, his stomach working hard to step up and shake his back teeth. But pain? "No, no pain."

"Good, because the pills are just for nausea but if you still feel sick after, we'll make some lame excuse and I'll drive you home. Promise."


Okay, it was rude, chewing gum like this, but at least he didn't smell like puke when he greeted Alexandria's parents.

The cake was properly fussed over, especially when Mrs. Montalbano realized that he'd baked it.

"Daniel's going to help me with my homework."

"Dria... Dinner is five minutes away from being ready—"

"We'll be back in four." She grabbed on Daniel's shirt and pulled him down the hall. "Four minutes."


"They're pink." Daniel prodded one of the pills in her palm.

"So?" Alexandria challenged with strategically placed hands on hips.

"Nothing," Daniel was quick to add as he transferred them to his own fingers, followed swiftly by popping them into his mouth. He dry swallowed them, waving away the bottle of water on the night table.

"Mom said your four minutes are up and that you should—"

"We'll be there in a minute, Tommy."

Alexandria's brother, Thomas. Same age as Daniel but polar opposites. Daniel's already abused stomach muscles clenched. Stupid. What had he been thinking, that her brother wouldn't be sitting across from him at the table? Slowly, Daniel turned. "Tommy," he acknowledged with a nod.

"Nice bruise, Jackson." He cocked his head at the discoloration on Daniel's face.

"You should see the other guy," Daniel growled, uncharacteristically sarcastic in the face of someone he'd never gotten along with. Tommy and Daniel had never been friends. Ever. They were the same age. Had been in the same grade until Daniel had skipped ahead, but even in kindergarten, Daniel's mere presence had infuriated Tommy.

Now, there was no longer a gap of inches separating them. When Daniel glared at Tommy, he pretty much was eye to eye.

"Put the dicks away, guys," Alexandria said as she stepped up to Daniel's side. "Stop pissing on the carpet to prove which one of you is the bigger asshole."

"I already know which one's the biggest A hole," Tommy sneered before he turned and walked down the hall.

Alexandria physically deflated the second Tommy left them. "I'm sorry," she said, leaning into him. "I didn't mean that remark... He just brings out the best in me."

"It's okay." It really wasn't. Daniel hated her brother who worshiped at the altar that was Tony.

Alexandria shuddered. "God, I hate him."

"He's your brother." Daniel was more than a tad startled. Siblings didn't hate each other. Did they?

"Yeah, he might be my brother, but he's addicted to Tony." Adoringly, she rubbed her knuckles over the bruise on his face. "And I hate Tony."


Thankfully, the medication worked great, otherwise Daniel didn't believe that he and his stomach would've been able to tolerate sitting in such close proximity to these opinionated people. At the moment, there was no love lost between Alexandria's father and Tommy. He should know. He sat between the two of them. Mr. Montalbano to his left at the head of the table, and Tommy to his right. Alexandria sat across from him, and her mother sat opposite her husband.

Alexandria had smiled apologetically at him a few times, but under her father's watchful glare, Daniel remained pretty much impassive, concentrating on pushing his food around his plate.

Mr. Montalbano pointed to Daniel with a fork full of spaghetti. "So, Daniel, has your father changed his mind about pressing charges against Bloch?"

There was an imperceptible shift in Tommy's posture in the chair to his right. Nothing that anyone could see, but enough that Daniel could feel and his settled stomach flipped, making the dinner on the plate in front of him even less appealing than it had been. "No, sir."

"Smart man," Tommy mumbled.

Montalbano stopped, open-mouthed, the fork paused in mid-air. "Your sister has bruises on her arms from where that thug manhandled her. Do you honestly believe he should get away with it?"

Daniel gave silent thanks that he was left out of the conversation.

"And Daniel here, who came to—"

Obviously, he thought too soon. Daniel wished the floor would just open up and swallow him whole.

"Tony just wanted to talk to Dria."

"I didn't want to talk to him." She glared angrily at her brother. "I told him so, but he—"

"Why? Suddenly, he's..." Tommy dropped his fork and used his fingers to make air quotes. "Below you? He's not a geek like Jackson here."

"Enough!" Alexandria's mother's voice held command and an ease which demonstrated to Daniel that the woman had played referee a number of times for dinner discussions such as these. "We have a guest in this house. Ben," she said, staring at her husband. "Behave yourself, this is a conversation for another time. And Tommy, you've been brought up better than this. I understand rudeness is now part of your teenage makeup, but I neither want to hear it or see it demonstrated at this dinner table."

"Yes ma'am," Tommy replied meekly, turning his attention back to the dinner in front of him.

Daniel prayed she didn't force Tommy to apologize to him.

"And Dria?"

"Yes, Mom?"

"Don't throw fuel on your brother's fire."

"I'm sorry."

"Daniel?" The timber of her voice changed. Softened.

"Yes," he said hesitantly.

"Thank you for coming to dinner."

He inclined his head. "Thank you for inviting me."


The angry conversation had kept him alert and on his toes. Now? The mundane talk of work and school, while forced, was more normal, and Daniel could feel himself relax incrementally, until he began to yawn. Once. Twice. By the third time, he was rewarded with a not so gentle kick under the table.

"Sorry," he apologized sheepishly, hiding his embarrassment behind a mouthful of spaghetti.

"Are we keeping you awake?" Tommy asked.

Daniel swallowed then yawned again. And though he fought to suppress it, a lazy grin slid onto his face. "I'm fine."

Tommy leaned over and made a show of sniffing at Daniel. "Are you drunk?"

"No." Indignantly, he sat back in the chair and the room wavered, listed to the right and Daniel counterbalanced and moved to the left. "I'm not drunk," he insisted.

"Dria, why don't you take Daniel into the living room? Your dad and Tommy will help me clean off the table."

"I can help," Daniel said, using the edge of the table to pull himself upright. The rest, as they say, is history and not one for the record books, because as he went down, the corner of the tablecloth went with him. Along with all the dishes, utensils and drinking glasses within his immediate vicinity.


Jack heard the car slow, park and two car doors open then slam shut. He was out of his chair to investigate just as the doorbell rang. He peeked around the curtain, the car in the shadows was unfamiliar, and the time was late enough to cause him to start worrying. The fact that it was Dria and her father sans Daniel standing at his doorstep didn't help with the dread building in the pit of his stomach.

"Where's Daniel?" he demanded in greeting as he threw open the door.

Two guilty sets of eyes glanced back at the car.

"My daughter has something she'd like to say to you."

"Where's Daniel?"

"He's sleeping in the car, Colonel Ja—O'Neill." Her eyes and nose were red-rimmed.

"Why is Daniel sleeping in the car, Dria?" He tried to be kind and gentle. He pasted a smile on his face.

She hesitated.

"Alexandria Lynn, Colonel O'Neill has asked you a question."

"Is there blood involved?" His inquiries were a hell of a lot calmer than he felt.

"On first appearance it might appear—" Montalbano interjected.

"First appearance?"

"It's spaghetti sauce. Not blood," Dria finished softly.

"Tell him," her father insisted with a hand to her shoulder.

"Danielthrewuponthewaytomyhousebuthedidn'twanttogohomesoItookhimbacktomyhouseand gavehimsomethingforthenauseanditmadehim—"

"Stop." Jack threw up hands. "Whoa."

"Daniel's in the car sleeping." The pavement under her feet suddenly held enormous interest.

Montalbano rolled his eyes and sighed. "It seems that your son wasn't feeling well and threw up on their way to our house. My brilliant, though at the moment I find that word highly disputable, daughter, thought it would be in Daniel's best interest to give him some Compazine."

"I gave him Dramamine before he left the house," Jack said, stupefied that his son would have been dumb enough to take more medicine.

"Aw, crap. It's no wonder the poor kid took a header after dinner." There was concern and regret in Montalbano's gaze.

"I'm sorry," Dria said, slowly lifting her head.

"How about," Jack said as he pushed past Dria and her father, "I go get Daniel and you can come inside and finish this... But right now I'm going to bring my son in the house."


Surprisingly, Daniel had shared the front seat with Montalbano and through the window, Jack could see his son was fast asleep, his head stretched and resting uncomfortably on his right shoulder. The door opened soundlessly and Jack reached forward with a tentative hand and gently shook Daniel's shoulder.

"I'm up," he sputtered, his head lolling to the opposite shoulder. Daniel smiled drunkenly at Jack.

Jack smiled back. "How about we get you inside to bed?" He leaned over Daniel and his attempt to unbuckle his seatbelt was thwarted by an uncooperative smack to his hand.

"I can do it." Daniel worried at his bottom lip as he tried to unclip the buckle.

Jack placed his hand on Daniel's and maneuvered his sluggish fingers to the button that would unclip the belt. He guided the seatbelt back to its resting place then grabbed Daniel by the elbow.

"I screwed up," he said forlornly, glancing down at his food-splattered shirt.

"A discussion for another time."

"I thought—" Daniel yawned, long and hard, his eyes tearing with the effort.

"Tomorrow. Not tonight. No explanations tonight."

Daniel reached to push up glasses that weren't resting on his nose.

Jack patted Daniel's pocket. "Let's keep them there for safekeeping on the trip home."


When Daniel slid out of the car and wavered, Jack was afraid that he would have to carry his son up the walk, something he hadn't done for almost eight years. Eight years had added poundage and height to Daniel. Eight years had worn away Jack's knees, and in his honest opinion, height plus weight plus bad knees were a lethal combination.

Daniel allowed Jack to take his arm, but that was about it and two steps up the sidewalk, Daniel stopped, drew a deep, shuddering breath then straightened. Jack followed his gaze. Dria and her father were coming to meet them.

Jack's plan of getting Daniel inside and horizontal was thwarted when Dria and her father blocked their path.

With a heartbreaking gentleness, Dria touched Daniel's chest. "I'm sorry."

Daniel reached up, grabbed her hand and squeezed. "Please tell your mom I'm sorry." The words were enunciated slowly. Controlled.

Montalbano threaded an arm around his daughter's shoulder. "I'm sure Colonel O'Neill will agree with me on this. That if the two of you manage to make it to young adulthood with a minimum amount of bloodshed, then the two of you have our blessings to live happily ever after."


Jack contemplated putting Daniel straight to bed, but the kid was wearing a buffet of food items on his pants and shirt. Hosing him down could wait until the morning and for now a clean tee shirt would be more than enough.

Daniel's last burst of energy had disappeared the second Jack had locked the door behind them. And now, as Jack sorted through a pile of laundry on the dresser, Daniel sat at the edge of the bed, struggling to unbutton the same button for over five minutes.

Jack pulled off Daniel's shoes, but left the socks. The pants were a bit harder, but he managed to get them off, leaving Daniel in boxers. The glasses came out of the pocket and went on the nightstand. Jack threaded heavy limbs into a clean tee shirt.

Without a word, the second Jack pulled the tee shirt down, Daniel dropped onto the mattress and curled up. "Sorry," he whispered, already sleeping before the second syllable of the word was out of his mouth.


Jack gathered up Daniel's clothes, along with the pile of wet towels sitting on the desk chair. "Definitely going to be talking about your laundry habits tomorrow," he grumbled.

Jack tossed the pile of clothes from Daniel's room in the washer. Detergent next, and since this new state of the art washer didn't have a setting for fumigate, he settled for a hot water wash in its place.

Wash going, he checked on Daniel one more time. The kid was snoring, down for the count, curled into an even tighter ball than before. "Sleep well," he whispered before closing the door half way.

He checked his watch, then went down to the den to settle in the recliner for an hour or so. Too early to go to bed, it was the perfect time to catch up on the week in sports.


He channel-surfed. Hung out at CNN, then ESPN before finding an old western on an obscure channel. "Memory's first to go," he complained with a frustrated slap to the arm of the chair. That damn character actor on the screen was so familiar but Jack couldn't place where the hell he'd seen him before. He was busy running through the alphabet in a futile attempt to connect the actor's name to a letter when he heard a sound overhead. Aiming the remote at the screen, Jack muted the show and listened. There it was again, the sound of thudding footsteps racing down the hall to the bathroom and he waited, curious, but there was no slamming of the door, which, no matter how many times Jack reprimanded his son, was Daniel's trademark.

Concentration shot, Jack gave up without a fight and flicked off the TV. So much for a quiet, restful evening at home.


Jack had expected to find his half-asleep, drugged son peeing with the door open. What he hadn't expected, but should've, based on earlier coerced intel, was to find Daniel praying to the porcelain throne.

Certain things should never be regurgitated. Franks, Chinese food and spaghetti, because visually it was just, well, nauseating. The smell wanted to keep him glued to the opened doorway, but fatherhood won out over practicality. And he stepped into the lion's den.

Breathing through his mouth, Jack pulled Daniel's hair back, out of the line of fire and rubber banded the strands into a semi-neat ponytail. Daniel's skin was hot and dry to the touch and he pretty much didn't even acknowledge Jack's presence.

Daniel probably needed a bottle of Tylenol and a gallon of mouthwash, but for now, while he was emptying his stomach contents, Jack moistened a washcloth and placed it on the back of Daniel's neck, moving the ponytail to the side.

Daniel groaned in appreciation, his two hands releasing their death grip around the toilet's rim and anchoring the washcloth in place. "Argh," he said, falling back onto his ass and fixing Jack with a fevered, bloodshot glare. "I don't feel good."

"No kidding." Jack leaned over and flushed the toilet, the water still being sucked down as Daniel vaulted forward and threw up again.


Jack had tried giving Daniel a sip of water, juice, Snapple, but nothing stayed down longer than five minutes, which meant giving him Tylenol for the fever right at this second would be an exercise in futility.

Admittedly, he looked terrible. Huddled under a pile of blankets, he was shaking despite his layered warmth.

"I'm going to move the pail right by the bed, just in case you need to—" Jack didn't think that was possible. By the amount of time he'd spent with Daniel in the bathroom, the poor kid had rid his body of every foodstuff he'd eaten for the past two years. "And I'm going to sit here with you until you fall asleep."

Daniel was uncomfortable, and the sleep that Jack had hoped he would obtain within minutes was not being achieved. Daniel shifted position again and Jack shifted his position to accommodate. "Head hurts," Daniel mumbled, rubbing his face into the pillow.

Jack slipped a hand under the pile of blankets, and his fingers wormed their way under the back of Daniel's tee shirt. The skin under his touch was hot, dry and definitely in need of some Tylenol. "Hey," he said with a gentle knead to Daniel's back. "Think your stomach can handle something to make your head feel better?"

Daniel moved into Jack's touch with a slight groan. "Later," he sighed, finally closing his eyes.

Jack continued moving his fingers, rubbing, soothing Daniel until he himself felt his own eyes beginning to close. He knew it was time to call it a night when he nearly took a header off the bed.


With his door and Daniel's door opened, as Jack drew back his covers and crawled into bed, he was positive that he'd hear any distress flag Daniel would throw out in the middle of the night.

Problem was, while he'd been tired sitting by Daniel's bedside, he was wide-awake and worried in his own bed. Parenthood, since Daniel had entered his life at the age of five, had pretty much put a kibosh on a worry-free sleep-through-the-night slumber.

With a grumble and a sigh, Jack tossed back the covers. On slippered feet, he shuffled into the kitchen, poured some coke into a mug and snagged the bottle of Tylenol.

"Wake up, Daniel," he insisted, slowly drawing down the blanket.

Daniel protested weakly, tugging the blanket back up.

Jack tugged it back down.

Annoyed, Daniel flipped onto his back. Sick or not, his pissy teenager anger shone through. "What?"

"Come on, sit up."

"I don't want to—" A look of shocked surprise clouded his features as Jack guided Daniel into a sitting position.

"I know you don't. But you need Tylenol and something to drink."

Sick or not, the command in Jack's voice gave Daniel little room for discussion. "Okay," he said, blinking at Jack.

"Good." Jack once again sat at the edge of the bed. Two Tylenol and a half mug of soda later, Jack waited for the inevitable reappearance.

"Can I go back to sleep?" Daniel asked around a yawn.

"I'm going to just sit—" Jack's gaze wandered around the room, "on the chair over there just in case you need to—"

"Sleep," Daniel said, once again slipping down under the blankets.

Jack pulled the chair closer to the bed, sat his ass down and extended his feet onto the corner of Daniel's bed. Crossing his arms for balance, he slid down and rested his head on the back of the chair.


Jack awoke stiff, sore and disorientated. Daniel's room. Daniel sick. Hurriedly, Jack unfolded his aching body, physically uncrossed his legs and hobbled over to Daniel's bedside.

Still huddled. Still asleep. And a swipe of Jack's hand across Daniel's forehead confirmed still feverish, though not as hot as last night. Gentle light peeked through the blinds, letting him know that the day was still early. Early enough for him to catch a few comfortable zzz's in his own bed.


Daniel must've slept, because Jack certainly did and he woke refreshed more than a few hours later. Daniel check first, then shower. Then breakfast.

Though one of the covers had been pushed down, his son was still sleeping. On closer inspection, a sweat moustache was visible and on tactile assessment, Jack acknowledged with a slight nod that Daniel's temperature had sort of leveled out. Definitely not as warm as last night, but certainly a few degrees above normal.

Jack pulled the discarded blanket up, and with eyes still closed, Daniel slid further down so only the top of his head was visible. "Be up in a minute," he drawled, his voice muffled by the blankets.

"Take your time," Jack said. "Absolutely no hurry. Nothing on the agenda today except Tylenol every four hours."


Laundry was going. Dishwasher was washing. Jack had already showered and was on his second, no, make that third cup of coffee and his second perusal of the newspaper when his attention was drawn to footsteps shuffling down the hall, followed by the closing of the bathroom door.

Jack finished his coffee, got up, put the empty mug in the sink then made up a tray for Daniel. Crackers. A can of coke. A handful of pretzels and two Tylenol.

He got to Daniel's room just as he was coming back from the bathroom.

"Don't even ask," Daniel croaked as he shouldered past Jack and crawled back into bed.

"I wasn't," Jack replied innocently. He found a stack of books and put the tray down, sliding some items around so the tray was balanced. "What would you like? Crackers? Soda?"

Daniel was sitting up, contemplating what he was being offered. Slowly, he closed his eyes and swallowed. "Nothing," he groaned.


"Please, Dad."

Jack swooped down and touched his forehead. It was hot. Damn hot. Tylenol hot. "No discussion. Tylenol and soda."

Daniel opened one eye. "Will you go away and leave me alone?"

"No," he admitted truthfully. "I'm going to sit here and read the paper for a while."


"Because the light is better for reading the paper." He stuck a straw in the can he'd just opened and grabbed the Tylenol.

"Really?" Daniel opened both eyes as Jack tickled his nose with the straw.

Good-naturedly, Jack rolled his eyes. "Yeah, the light's better. Now take the Tylenol so I can go get the paper."


Armed with a fresh cup of coffee and the paper, Jack settled in on the chair in Daniel's room. On the floor by his feet were reinforcements, a few months' worth of magazines that he'd never had the time to read. Until now. With a half-smile born of contentment and worry, he slid down into the chair, his feet once again on the corner of Daniel's bed and opened up the paper to the crossword puzzle.


His stomach hurt. Ached as if someone had punched him. Repeatedly. His head was filled with cobwebs. And he was cold. Really cold. More than three blankets worth of cold. Daniel licked his lips and squinted at the can of Coke tempting him. He could taste it. Wet and bubbly, but it was too far for him to reach for it.

Maybe... His father was sitting on the chair, feet on the bed, his head bent in concentration as he chewed on the edge of his pencil. "The answer to four down is—"

"Dad?" He moved his foot under the blanket and nudged his father's foot.

A smile brightened his dad's face and he pushed the reading glasses that he swore he didn't use, to the top of his head. "Welcome back to the living."

"The Coke looks good."

His dad followed his gaze. "Yeah, it does."

Daniel struggled to sit up and surprised himself when he managed to get into a sitting position with a minimal amount of nausea. Like a baby bird, he opened his mouth and latched onto the straw, more than a little pissed when his father pulled it out of his range after just two sips. "Hey," he cried indignantly, reaching out with a lethargic hand to pull it back.

"No hey. Give yourself a moment. Spaghetti sauce is hard enough to get out—"

"I threw up at Alexandria's house?" Daniel searched his memory, trying and failing to come up with a visual. "No. I threw up in the street. Alexandria gave me—" Daniel closed his eyes and dropped backwards. "Pills. She said they would help with the—" He turned on his side and curled into a ball. "Kill me now."


He heard the clunk of the can as his father placed it on the nightstand. Damn, he really wanted another sip of that but he wouldn't turn to face his dad. Daniel wasn't too sure when he'd ever be able to face him again. He was mortified that he'd done the one thing he told his father he was never going to do.

"I had given you something for your stomach before you left." The bed dipped under his father's weight and the hand on his shoulder wasn't heavy with anger, but soothing and comforting.

"I threw up. I thought I'd—" Daniel rubbed his face in the pillow. "That's why I took what Alexandria offered me. I was wrong." He flipped onto his back, his father's hand now lying against his chest. "I screwed up. I looked for the easy way out and took it."

"Hard lesson."

"Yeah." Daniel yawned then smiled as his father's hand found his forehead. "Think I'm sick."

His father's smile shone down on him. "See, that's the reason I let you skip a few grades, Genius Boy."



His stomach made an uncomfortable flip and bile slithered up his throat. "No. Just Coke." Sick or not, he saw the look of disappointment on his dad's face. "Crackers. Later. Promise."


The next time he woke, the room was darker, and while his stomach was sore and his head still hurt, the discomfort now was almost like an echo of how he'd felt earlier. He stretched, arms over his head, then grimaced. He needed a shower. Badly. He stank. But more than that, he was sweaty and so hot. Frantically, he kicked and shoved all the blankets off his body, flapping his shirt to cool off. That worked well, but the odor of his sweaty, sticky body was enough to kick-start his abused stomach into overdrive.

First order of business was to get himself upright. And he did. It just took more time than he expected. Shaking muscles and dizziness threw up roadblocks for every inch he gained. Eventually, Daniel was upright and holding onto the edge of his dresser for dear life, willing the room to remain still.

Like a toddler taking its first tentative steps, Daniel let go of the dresser and shuffled forward, proud that his body remained upright. He made it a few more steps, inches closer to the door. "Damn," he grumbled, then literally backtracked. A shower without clean clothes was pretty stupid.

He pulled out boxers and a pair of socks.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Daniel jumped, dropped what was in his arms and would've followed them down to the floor if his father hadn't reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Whoa." His father tightened his fingers when Daniel swayed. "I rest my case," he said, backing Daniel up until he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

Longingly, Daniel glanced at balled up socks on the floor and the plaid boxers hanging from the arm of the chair. "Shower. I needed a shower." He sniffed loudly. "I need a shower."

"Icky," his father said patiently, "you couldn't make it from the bed to the door without weaving. I'm terrified to think what would happen if a spray of water hits you."

With a mind of its own, his hand began to travel upward towards his forehead to rub away the ache, but his father was studying him so intently he had no choice to stop the action. Frustrated, he dropped his hand to the bed, slid not only that one but both hands under his ass, capturing them.

"You can have a bath."

"A bath?"

"Yeah, a bath," his father echoed. "At least you're sitting down and the only danger you'll be in will be shriveling to death."

"You're going to run a bath for me?"

"Well, it's either that or get in the shower with you."

Daniel could feel himself blanch, whatever color he did have had been leeched away in the wake of his father's visuals. "Bath is fine," he stammered.


Daniel stood in the bathroom, shivering. Tremors wracked him from head to toe, his body in shock at the hellishly hot tropical temperature in the bathroom, but he could only focus on one thing. "There are bubbles in the bath."

"Yup," his dad said with a proud smile and a wink. "I have it on recent good authority that you love bubbles in your bath."

Daniel sighed. Sick or not, he was embarrassed.

"Don't worry, you never outgrow bubbles. And I promise to never tell Dria how much—"

"Now would be a good time for that old age memory thing to pop up, Dad."

"You used to beg for bubbles in your bath."

"Yeah, when I was five."

"You never outgrow bubbles. Trust me."


God, this felt great. Absolutely wonderful. Daniel slid further down into the tub, allowing the bubbles to cover him up to his nose. Incrementally, his body relaxed. Tight muscles loosened and even the throbbing in his head lessened. Maybe it was the bath, the bubbles, or maybe it was the Tylenol his father had insisted he take just before he got into the tub.

There was a soft knock on the door.


"Just making sure you're still alive."

"Hmmmm," he answered.



"Sometimes dads really do know best."


When the water cooled to room temperature, reluctantly Daniel let the water out. Moving slowly, he dried and dressed, feeling halfway human in a pair of sweats. And clean. Blessedly clean. He brushed his teeth, ignored his image and with practiced ease, tied his hair back. Slipping on his glasses, he blinked as the world came into focus and his headache skipped up another notch on the ladder.

The air outside the bathroom was cold and uncomfortable, and he stood in the hallway, indecisive over what he wanted to do next. Getting back under the covers had a definite appeal except that he was brand spankin' clean and his bed was smelly.

"I changed the sheets on your bed."

Daniel glanced up, strangely overwhelmed, at his father. "You did?"

His dad grimaced. "Yeah, you're all nice and clean. Your bed was pretty ummm... Ripe. So—"

"Thank you," he said, dropping his head as stupid emotional tears threatened to overflow. Or maybe it was emotionally stupid tears. Either way, it wasn't something he was comfortable with. Or proud of.

"Get into bed." His dad stepped into his space and kissed the top of his bent head. "Under the covers," he ordered with gruff affection.


If the bath had felt great, a freshly made bed felt even better. Daniel snuggled down under the covers, grunting in appreciation at the cool, freshly laundered cloth.

"Don't get too comfortable," his father warned.

Daniel opened one eye. Annoyed. "Why."

His father stood there with a tray in his hands. "Time to see if your stomach's ready to join the land of the living."


He managed the three spoonfuls of soup before his stomach set off a Richter-sized growl that had nothing to do with hunger. "I'm done." Suddenly, all the good of the bath and the freshly laundered bedclothes dissipated in just the smell of the soup. "Please, no more."

"Two crackers."

"Dad," he pleaded.

"One... That's my final offer." His father held up one saltine.

Daniel accepted the offering, nibbling the corners off the cracker, his stomach settling as he watched his father move the tray out of his line of vision.

"Would you like another—"

"No. I'm good." Daniel held up his cracker.

"You need to drink." Without waiting for an answer, his father poured him something juice-like into a paper cup.

Daniel hesitated and then accepted it, using the wetness to wash down the wadded up lump of cracker stuck in his throat. He gave his hovering father a thumbs up when the cracker and drink stayed where they belonged.

"Another cracker? More juice? More—"

"Don't take this the wrong way or anything, but the only thing I want," Daniel patted his mattress by his head, "is that pail by my desk right over here." He held out the empty cup. "For you to take this." He slipped off his glasses with his free hand. "And these."

With a smirk and a shake of his head, his father stepped up and did as Daniel asked. "And what are you going to do now?"

All bravado faded. "Go back to sleep."

His dad answered with a click of his tongue. The cup and his glasses were placed on the nightstand and before he could back away, a hand cupped his chin. "You still have a fever."

"Headache," was all Daniel was concerned about at the moment.

"I'm going to call Fraiser."

"No." Daniel reached out and grabbed at his dad's arm. "If I were a normal fourteen year old teenager, would you run to the doctor every time I was sick?"

"You are a normal—"

"I'm feverish and have a headache. I'm not delusional." Reluctantly, Daniel slid over as his father sat on his bed.

"Lie down."

"You're sitting on the blanket."

His dad grumbled, but lifted his ass, giving Daniel what he wanted, an extra blanket. Now it was Daniel's turn to grumble as he obtained horizontal comfort.

"Better?" Calloused, familiar and gentle hands rubbing his temple accompanied his father's question.

Daniel nodded.

"Close your eyes."

Daniel obeyed.

"Guess you have to be sick to listen to me. Bath. Bed. Eyes closed. Damn, you're going to spoil me, Icky."

Daniel tried to stop the smile he was birthing.

"Gotcha," his father whispered, tugging oh so gently at a loose hair. "You are normal," he said in the same tone of voice he'd use when he'd check to make sure Daniel was wearing something besides his hoodie in the dead of winter.

Daniel opened his eyes. "I hate to burst your bubble, but you're probably the only person who thinks so, Dad."

"You're completely normal."

"I was an adult—"


"I've traveled though a—"

His father held up a finger. "In our world, that's normal."

"Not in most people's." Daniel yawned, the conversation getting a bit hard to follow.

"Their loss."

There was conviction in his father's voice that Daniel, even when he was one hundred percent, didn't feel. "I don't want to be different anymore."


God, his head hurt and he just wanted to end this. "Forget it. I'm sorry—"

His father got up and Daniel watched as he flicked off the overhead light then the lamp on the nightstand. He couldn't stop the appreciative huff of gratitude as the room was bathed in the muted colors of late afternoon.

His dad stood next to the bed, right next to the requested garbage pail. "Admittedly, our family life might be a bit..." His dad hesitated.


"Different." His dad smiled sadly at him.

Daniel felt a wave of guilt wash over him, sickly intermingling with his abused stomach. "Different's much better than not being normal." Daniel could only hope that this put an end to the conversation.

"Different isn't boring."

No, Daniel wanted to say. Different wasn't boring. Different gave you more opportunities than the average person. Different gave you the biggest greatest secret, better than the Easter Bunny, Santa and the tooth fairy all rolled into one.

It was the not normal that had Daniel worried. It wasn't normal that fourteen year old teenagers had once been thirty years old and married. Or that on some level he was a drug addict. Or that he missed enough school to warrant being left behind, but his genius outshone even some of the teachers at school. That his girlfriend looked like his wife in some twisted, sick manner. That his father used to be his best friend. He squeezed his eyes shut, praying that whatever deity occupied the heavens above would take enough pity on him and dam up the tears.


So much for prayer. The pad of his father's thumb swiped away the moisture in the corner of his eyes. "I'm sorry our life is different, Daniel, but that difference is what brought you into my life." His dad cleared his throat. "So in my book, I wouldn't trade different for all the normals in the world."


Daniel slept restlessly. He was hot. Cold. Hot. Finally, settling on uncomfortably cold just about the time his father came in. And coaxed him into a drink and two Tylenol, which felt fine going down and really horrible making the routine trip into the garbage pail.

The thermometer in his ear was an annoying intrusion and Daniel tried to shoulder it out of the way, but his Dad's strong hands held him in place. "Be done in—there, finished." There was a fast inhalation. "Fever's a little high."

He didn't need a thermometer to know that. Every bone and muscle in his body ached. And his head hurt. His eyes burned. And right about now, dying probably couldn't hurt any less. The good feeling of the bath was but a memory.

His father's hand on his forehead was rough and heavy, and Daniel pulled away, really just wanting to be left to die in peace.

"I know," his dad said and his hand, like a heat-seeking missile, returned to his forehead. "Water. Maybe some—'"

"No," Daniel groaned. "Just go away." Weakly, he pushed at his father's leg.

"I have a better idea."

If it didn't involve putting him out of his misery, Daniel really didn't want to hear any of his father's brilliant ideas.

"You're sick. And I'm worried. You don't want me sitting here. And I'm too old to be sitting here."

His father's voice faded in and out like a poorly tuned radio station - way too hard to follow. Daniel's eyes drifted closed. Much easier to concentrate this way.

"So what do you think?"

Daniel's mumbled response must've sounded like an okay to his dad because the next thing he knew, his body was assaulted by a blast of air as his father whipped off his covers.

"Up and at 'em."

He was up, gently pulled to his feet, his blanket wrapped around his shoulders, his father's hand holding both him and the blanket upright as they began to walk.

"What are you doing?"

"You'll see."

Daniel tried to focus, to see what he was missing, because based on the tenor of his dad's voice, he was more than pleased with himself. He closed his eyes and went along for the ride, shuffling down the hallway, he and his blanket, holding onto his father for support as if he were 150 years old.


This was ridiculous, Daniel thought as his father settled him into his king-sized bed.

"I know you think this is ridiculous," his dad said as he covered him not only with the blanket from the bed but with the blanket from Daniel's.

He hated when his father did that. "Fourteen," Daniel muttered. "Bath. Daddy's bed. Too old."

His dad had the audacity to snort at him. "Too old is right. I'll never move again if I sleep on the chair in your room. Or the recliner in the den. My bed is the least of all the evils in this house. And if you think I'm lying in this bed, staring at the ceiling all night waiting for you to get up or vomit, that's not going to work either. This is the perfect solution. Remember," he added with barely a pause in his diatribe, "Father knows best."


And he drifted, whiney, uncomfortable and restless. When dawn broke, so did the fever. Sweaty blankets. Sheets. Pajamas. The whole shebang. Wet enough to be wrung out, but Daniel fell into a deep sleep, sprawling out over half the bed looking for a dry spot to land. He rose from the dead only once when his father tried the Tylenol/water trick again. This time he fought his father to suck the glass dry, grunting in frustration when it was easily pulled from his grasp.

"Later," his father placated. "For now, let's see if your stomach appreciates the sentiment."

Okay, his stomach did rumble and groan, but as Daniel wrapped his arms around his midsection, he honestly believed it was more of a hollow, empty deprivation as opposed to their next meal's reappearance. "I feel better," he croaked.

His father nodded, unbelieving.

"I do."

And once again for good measure, his father felt his forehead. "Okay, better, that I'll admit. You can't cook an egg. But it certainly isn't 98.6."

"I need to pee."

His father drew back the blanket and offered Daniel his arm. "Let's go."

"I can pee on my own."

"It's not the peeing part. It's the falling in the bathroom and hitting your head part I'm worried about."

Daniel had to pee too badly to get into an argument with his father over this. Hell, he'd been embarrassed enough. Bath. Sleeping in his dad's bed again. Why not add personal escort to the bathroom to the list?

He focused on the sheer relief of peeing being greater than his father's presence. But he was too embarrassed to admit once he was washed up, he was glad his dad was glued to his side. The short trip to the bathroom had sapped him.

"A drink?" Daniel asked, already reaching for the bottle of water his father had used to fill the glass.

"I'll do it. No need to have you puking your guts up in my bed."

The meager amount his dad poured into the glass wasn't enough, and Daniel downed it fast. Based on his father's expression, it was too fast. "More."

"Not now, Oliver Twist."

"I want more."

"Let your stomach adjust to this."

Daniel contemplated the floor for five seconds. "Okay, it's adjusted."

His father pulled over his bedroom garbage pail in front of Daniel, then handed him the bottle of water. "Go for it. Just make sure your aim is good."

Daniel's aim was great, he hit the pail dead center and his father didn't even utter a single 'I told you so' when he dragged the pail from the room. He flopped back down. Now he wasn't only thirsty, but the water had awakened his nausea. Great. He closed his eyes. It was easier just to sleep and let his body wake up when he was able to take a drink and a piss on his own.


He woke to someone tapping his lightly on his cheek.

"Come on and wake up for me, okay?"

The room was as dark as night, the bed was way too comfortable to give it up but the cold hand on his cheek was way too annoying to ignore. "What?" he whined.

The bed dipped under his father's weight, yet the hand remained anchored to his cheek. "Wanted to make sure you were doing okay."

"I was sleeping."

"You've been sleeping for hours."

He yawned. "Think I could sleep for a few more."

"Your grandmother called."


"She said I needed to check on you. So I'm checking."

Daniel smiled. "Is she coming over to make chicken soup?"

"I'm thinking the last thing you want to do is get your grandma sick."

"I'm contagious?" Daniel skirted away from his father.

"Well, got a call from my friend, Mr. Montalbano, asking how you were feeling."

"That was nice." Daniel found enough energy to smile. Alexandria. Crap. He'd been so out of it, he hadn't opened his computer or his cell phone.

"Nice wasn't exactly the word he used. Something about my son being Typhoid Mary and infecting his house."


"Yeah. The brother. The mother. Seems only the father was left standing."

"I should've stayed home." He buried his face in the pillow.

A gentle tug to his hair drew his attention back to his father. "Mr. Montalbano was truly concerned, Daniel. I didn't mean to make it sound like it was anything but. The Typhoid crack was nothing more than—"

"Making conversation?"

"Yeah, that's a perfect way to put it. Making conversation. I like that."


The problem with being sick was that it royally screwed with routines. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Bedtime. Yeah, right. Daniel wasn't too sure how much time he'd spent either horizontal or puking up his guts, but all he knew was that it was three in the morning, his father was sleeping and he wasn't. Not only wasn't he sleeping, but he didn't even seem to be tired.

Truthfully, he wasn't sure if the ache in his body was from just lying flat or from residual fever. He felt relatively better. Lying in the dark, he began to take stock. He was thirsty and pretty damn sure the growling in the pit of his stomach was hunger-related. There was the need for a shower and the almost painful desire to brush his teeth. The trick was accomplishing all of this without waking his father.

Slipping the blanket off, Daniel slid sideways before sitting up. Holding his breath, he waited. Then waited a few minutes more before standing. The room swayed. Or maybe he swayed and the room stayed still, Daniel wasn't too sure, but he threw out his hands for balance until his equilibrium kicked in.

He shuffled towards the door, glancing over his shoulder as he walked forward, making sure his father stayed asleep.

Mission accomplished, Daniel made it out of the bedroom without even interrupting his dad's snoring patterns.


The bath had been better, but the shower was a godsend and he stood under the water, just letting the warmth sluice over aching muscles. Lifting his arms to wash his hair was hard work and he ended up listing to the left until his shoulder was resting against the tiles.

Suddenly, he jerked awake, nearly landing on his ass in the process, realizing that for a second he'd drifted to the point of losing consciousness. He turned off the water, grabbed a towel and dried off as quickly as possible. He donned sweats and socks, then did a quick towel dry of his hair, letting it loose. He carded his fingers through it, grimacing at the knots.

He brushed his teeth. Spat. Rinsed. Then brushed them again.


Daniel was eating dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal out of the box when his father walked into the kitchen.


Daniel shoved the last handful into his mouth, chewing and nodding at the same time. He reached for his half-empty bottle of Snapple to wash it down. "Hey," he sputtered, losing more than a few crumbs out of the corner of his mouth when his dad easily plucked the bottle from his fingers.

"Death wish?"

"I feel better," Daniel said with an indignant snuff.

"Oh, then this must be your breakfast of champions."

"I was hungry."

"Daniel." His father drew out his name, making it way more than two syllables. "You haven't been up eating breakfast at this time since before you went to kindergarten."

"I'm not tired."

His dad swooped down and touched the back of his neck. "You still have a fever."

"But I'm not tired," Daniel answered lamely. The cereal had lost its appeal and Daniel pushed it away.

"Not hungry?"

"I was."

"Yeah, I'm sure," his dad said with a squeeze to his neck. "Tea?"

"Iced tea?" Daniel hungrily sought out the bottle of Snapple. "Where'd you put the—"

"Warm tea. Honey. Sugar. Maybe some toast."

"I feel better." He had felt better until his dad came into the kitchen and burst his balloon. "I don't need warm tea."

"You woke me up, the least you can do is humor me and drink hot tea."


Daniel was sitting on the den couch, wrapped in the afghan, his hands wrapped around a warm mug of tea. "Do people really watch this in the morning?" He tried to stifle a yawn over the boring newscaster's bright and cheerful commentary.

With a sigh of exasperation, his dad flipped through the channels, and stopped on the Home Shopping Network.


"Look. It's fishing—"

"You're going to bore me to death." Daniel yawned again, trying and failing to hide it behind the quickly raised mug.

"Not to death. To sleep maybe. Not to death." With rapture, his father studied the picture on the screen.

"You're not changing it, are you?"


"What if I ask—"


"Think I'm going to—"


"You don't even know what I was going to ask."

"Get your laptop and watch a movie."

Daniel opened his mouth to argue, but it was a moot point because his father was right. "I hate when you do that."

"Good, that's what I live for. To make your life a living hell."

"I'm going to tell Grandma."

"Finish your tea. Then if you want to watch a movie on your laptop, go into your bed."

"Didn't I like puke—"

"All cleaned and aired out." His dad waved the remote at him. "Now be quiet so I can listen."

Sort of dejected, Daniel finished the tea then went upstairs, putting the mug in the dishwasher before heading off to his bedroom.

His father was right. The room was nice. Cool. And smelled fresh and clean. He climbed into his bed, the laptop forgotten, grabbed a book from his nightstand and lasted all of ten minutes before drifting to sleep.


Daniel came awake with a heart-pounding suddenness and arms swinging. He began to buck when his arms were pinned to his side. "Let me go," he spat.

"Damnit, Daniel, wake up."

He struggled, the grip on his arms tightening and in self-defense, Daniel brought his knee up and connected with the person holding him down. There was a grunt. A curse. And the hold loosened just enough to allow Daniel to slide to the side. And then? He was falling, his fingers fighting to find some sort of purchase but whatever he grabbed went right over the side with him.

Daniel's head made painful contact with something. But before he could react, he was down in a jumble of arms and legs.


Finally, Daniel opened his eyes into the concerned, shocked expression on his father's face. "What happened?" He brought a hand up to rub the knot on the side of his head. "Ow."

"Can you sit up?"


"Yeah. Let's see if we can get you to up."

"Nightmare?" Daniel took his father's arm and slowly moved into a sitting position.

"Humdinger." His dad's deft fingers found the lump on the first try.

Daniel pulled back. "That hurt." He glanced at his dad. "Hurt? Did I hurt you?"

There was a moment's hesitation.

"I did. Dad, I'm so—"

"Teal'c will be so proud. Glad to know that his lessons paid off."

"Sorry." He attempted to scrabble to his feet. "So sorry."

"Whoa." His dad stood and helped him up the rest of the way, then gave a gentle push and Daniel sat on the bed. "Easy."

Three fingers appeared in Daniel's face. Annoyed, he pushed them away. "Three fingers. My name is Daniel—"

"Smartass," his dad said, sitting next to him. "Want to give me a hint as to the origins of the nightmare?"

"Nothing to tell."

"Yeah?" His dad squeezed the nape of his neck.

Obviously, his father didn't believe him. "Not lying, Dad. There's nothing to tell. I fell asleep and woke up being pinned to the bed." Daniel hung his head, embarrassed. "I'm sorry. Must be part of my basket case syndrome."

"Stop it!" The gentle squeeze tightened and his dad gave him more than a little shake before releasing him. "Nothing's wrong with you."

"I was only fooling." His voice was just a whisper, taken aback by his dad's sudden anger.

His dad's exhalation was long and loud and the supportive hand on his neck made a reappearance. "Are you sure you're only fooling, Icky?"

"I'm okay."

"You were yelling for drugs to take away the pain." The hand dropped to his shoulders and pulled him close.

"No. I wasn't," he said emphatically. "I had a nightmare. Nothing more."


"I'd remember that." He shrugged from his father's grasp and stood. "You don't believe me." Not a question, but a fact based on his dad's incredulous expression.

"I do," his dad said softly. "I just want to make sure you believe it."

"Garbage in. Garbage out." Daniel sniffed then rubbed his nose. "Yeah, I believe it."


"You must be feeling better."


"You. Must. Be—"

"I know what you said. And I mean that, I do, but why did you—"

"Because you haven't sat in the same position for more than two minutes."

"Oh." Daniel dropped down onto the couch.

His father turned the page of the paper. "Grandma's coming over later."


"Yeah," his father huffed. "It would appear that she doesn't trust my ability to nurse you through—"


"Eh!" His father rolled up the paper and tapped him on the knees. "Remember, eventually she has to go home."

Daniel forced a smile. Truthfully, he was antsy. "I'm going to call Alexandria. See how she's feeling."


He woke her up and then felt horrible. Horrible that he'd gotten her sick. That he'd woken her up, and for just about every injustice in the world. Corey. Nate. Li. All out. Enjoying the weekend. Cassie was at the mall, and talking to Daniel and shopping was too much multi-tasking for her to do, so that conversation died an unpleasant death within minutes.

Nothing on the computer to hold his interest. He was caught up with homework. Flopping back on the bed, he studied the ceiling. Boring. His iPod was within arm's length, but that would mean he'd have to reach out his arm and get it. Way too much effort.


Jack held his mother back. He'd checked on Daniel a number of times before she'd arrived and while he wasn't feverish, he was restless. The last thing any of them would've wanted was Daniel taking a swing at his grandmother while in the throes of a nightmare. "Look but don't touch."

"He doesn't look so great." She glared at Jack. "Where'd he get that bruise on his face?"

"Oh, it really does look better than it was."

His mother's accusatory glare deepened and Jack could feel himself shrinking.

"It really has faded," he said lamely.

"That's faded?"

"Yes, it is." Jack wanted to add that she should've seen the other guy, but maybe now wasn't the time.

"You're going to explain this all to me over a cup of tea, aren't you?"

A bottle of scotch would be better. "Tea, you want me to put some water on—" Awww, geeze. Stubborn to a fault, Jack tried to grab onto his mother when she walked right past him.


Thankfully, his mother was smart enough to speak before touching, but even her gentle shake brought Daniel awake swinging. Jack was fast and pulled his mom out of harm's way.

"Daniel." His voice was firm, but his hands were firmer as he gripped Daniel's arms and pulled him upright. "Wake up."

Daniel woke with a gasp and complete coherency the second his eyes were opened. "Shit."

"Yeah." Jack said. "Now would you like to say hello to your grandmother the right way?" Jack let go of Daniel and stepped to the side.

She was on him in a second and Jack cringed when Daniel held back, hesitating. Over her shoulder he saw the fear in his son's eyes.

"No," he mouthed, hoping Daniel would understand that his grandmother hadn't been on the receiving end of Teal'c's training.

There it was, the slight imperceptible nod seconds before Daniel wrapped his arms around her.

Gently, she pushed him away. "I want to look at you."

Jack smiled at Daniel, and gave him a 'rather you than me' shrug.

His mother tsk'd over the bruise on his face.

"It's nothing, Grandma."

"Humph, funny, that's exactly what your father said."

"You should've seen the other guy," Daniel crowed proudly.

Jack groaned. It was going to be a very long day.


His mother set the table, glancing towards the kitchen door.

Jack followed her gaze, smiling as he remembered the smile on Daniel's face when his cell phone had rung. Based on the size of his smile and the speed in which Daniel answered the phone, Jack was pretty sure the displayed telephone number was Dria's.

Jack loved Daniel enough to pull his grandmother from the bedroom and allow him a few minutes of privacy.

"Mom, you're hovering."

She snorted. "Daniel's in the bedroom, I'm in the kitchen. Explain to me how that's hovering."

"You are."

"No. I'm not. I'm actually just making sure Daniel's not going to be walking in for another few minutes..."

It was Jack's turn to snort. "Daniel and Dria, take it from me, they're going to be a while."

"Good," she said with swift nod. "I need you to sit."

Jack was already suspicious. "Why?"

"Because if you sit, you're not going anywhere. If you stand while I talk, I'm too old to catch you if you run."

"Foreboding, Ma." Jack pulled out a chair and sat. "Sitting," he said, spreading his arms wide. "Happy now?"

"I'm not happy, Jonathan."

Worry reached in and strangled the breath from his lungs. "What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"No. Not sick."

"Oh, thank goodness, for a second I thought—" Jack stopped. "I'm not going to like whatever it is you have to say, am I?"

"You're not," she admitted. "You don't have to like it. I actually don't expect you to like it. What I expect you to do is listen."

"I'm all ears."

"Good, because it's pretty damn obvious you're not all eyes."

The heat of frustration was making him angry. "Mom. English, if it wouldn't be too much to ask."

"You're a good father, Jonathan." Her smile was slow, nostalgic, and Jack was pretty sure there may have been a memory or two in the kitchen that didn't involve Daniel.

"Thanks." The worry loosened up a bit but not enough, but his mother was his mother, and she'd get to the point that needed to be made when she felt like it, and not a moment before.

"Daniel needs more than a good father."

"Why don't you tell me what he needs?"

"He needs to be fourteen. To be in school. To not have bruises. He needs friends—"

"Daniel has friends."

"How often does he lie to them? Make up stories as to where he's been?"

"Is this about you? Or about Daniel?"

His mom ignored the question. "He wakes up from nightmares swinging."

"Like father like son." Jack felt as if he should check to see if there was a knife sticking out of his back. He scrubbed at his face. "Okay, I'll be the first to admit that the past year hasn't been one for the record books—"

"That's where you're wrong. It has been one for the record books. But not because of anything Daniel's accomplished. It's because of who he was and that's not fair. I love you, Jonathan, but you're damned blind."

"I'm not," he insisted. "Why? Tell me why you said that?"

"He's falling apart."


She pulled out the chair opposite him and slowly sank down, looking weary. Suddenly old. "Daniel's hands shake."

"Give the kid a break, he's been sick."

"Get your head out of your ass, son."

"Rough waters," Jack countered. "You don't want to be there without a paddle."

"You're a piece of work, you know that? I work with what you tell me. The little information, the lies. I draw my conclusion based on falsehoods." She sat back in the chair, crossing her arms. "Go ahead. Tell me the truth. Some of them. All of them. Any of them."

"We've had this argument countless times," Jack hissed.

"Countless plus one, obviously."

"So this is about you, not about Daniel."

"No, Jonathan, this is about you."

"Your opinion of my fathering capabilities, what, they changed in the past few minutes?"

"You're a good father, and Daniel is a good son, but neither of you can see past your mutual admiration society to know the other's shortcomings. You are infallible to your son—"

"Wait, shouldn't all fathers be—"

"This family is not like all families, stop pretending that it is. Daniel isn't like other children. Other teenagers. You brush him off after something happens, give him a playful little swat on the behind and tell him to go back out on the playground."

"You're wrong."

"I'm not."

"You are." Jack hesitated. "Okay, if I'm wrong, tell me what to do. No swat. No playground. What should I do?"

"Acknowledge his fears. Let him talk."

"Hey," Jack was more than miffed at the suggestion that he didn't do any of the things his mother was suggesting. "I do all that."

"I'm sure you do, Jonathan, but do you listen?"


His mother made that look, the pursed-lipped one, the 'yeah, right' one, the same expression she'd worn when Jack used to plead his innocence in the face of his own teenage indiscretions.

Jack shook his head, opened his mouth, angry words all ready to spill out when Daniel burst into the kitchen.


Something was up. Between his father and his grandmother, something was going on and the good feeling left over from his conversation with Alexandria disappeared. "Sorry, I didn't realize I was—"

"You're not," his father finished the sentence. "Interrupting, that is."

"We were just having a discussion about what to do for dinner. He wants to eat out. I want to cook for the two of you."

Both of them were lying. Big time. "Doesn't matter to me." Three could play at this game. Daniel wrapped his arms around his body in a self-hug.

"Please don't do that." His dad pointed at him.


"The arm thing. Don't do that."

"Okay." Daniel spread the word out into two long syllables. "See," he said, holding out his hands, "all dropped."

"Thanks." His dad clapped his hands together. "So, dinner decision... Me, I vote for out."

"I want to cook."

Both of them glanced at Daniel,

"Icky, the decision is yours."

For a reason he couldn't put his finger on, Daniel was pissed. "I said it didn't matter to me."

"Attitude, mister," his father warned.

"Jack, forget it. We'll just go out—"


"It's okay."

With startling clarity, Daniel was damn sure that his grandmother and his father weren't fighting over dinner plans, but whatever he had interrupted. "You know what?" Daniel said, playing peacekeeper. "How about we compromise? Dinner from Gianna's and Grandma can make the salad and garlic bread?"


This really had been a stupid idea. Recovering from days of vomiting and a fever, Italian shouldn't have been his first choice, but now, looking at his plate of chicken parm was doing nothing more than making him queasy.

His grandmother picked up on it first, thankfully, sliding the plate away from his field of vision. "Want grilled cheese? Or some soup?"

"Yeah, have to agree with your grandmother, you're looking a little green around the gills."

Daniel managed an apologetic half-shrug. "Not one of my better ideas."

"I should've realized it." His dad got up and removed his uneaten dinner from the table.

Daniel didn't miss the accusatory glare his grandmother bore into his father's back. "Maybe you should've."

His father stopped, stiffened, and Daniel was pretty sure that his dad was counting to ten.

"It's okay. I really thought my stomach would be happy."

His dad opened and closed cabinets and the fridge with more force than was necessary, but by the position of his body, Daniel was unable to see what he was up to, until Daniel was presented with a plate containing more than a handful of Ritz crackers and a tub of soft spread butter. "How's this?"

Daniel smiled as he reached for a plain Ritz. "Perfect."

"I'm sure it is," his grandmother said, her tone frosted ice.

Suddenly, even the Ritz was unappealing, but with two sets of eyes bearing down on him, Daniel was going to eat even if he choked. It wasn't until he was on his second Ritz that his dad and grandma went back to their own plates.

Daniel began to make sandwiches with the butter and the Ritz, spreading it equally over the circular crackers.

His dad grabbed his hand. "Eat. Don't play with your food."

"Fine." He popped a Ritz sandwich into his mouth.

"Chew," his grandmother ordered.

"Inothfith." He cupped a hand under his chin to escape any crumbs.

His grandmother just handed him a napkin, then turned to his dad and with the first hint of a smile that Daniel had seen all night, she asked. "Care to interpret?"

"Daniel said, and I quote 'I'm not five'," his dad answered smugly.


Daniel was pretty amazed that half a sleeve of crackers and butter would be filling, but it was and he was stuffed. Didn't stop him from licking his index finger and tagging all the missed crumbs.

"Thought you said you weren't five," his father said with a chuckle.

With a spiteful smirk, Daniel stuck his finger into his mouth and sucked off the crumbs.

"Stop it, boys." His grandmother gave his dad a playful smack to his shoulder. "Give me your plates," she said with a wave of her hand.

His dad picked up Daniel's plate and handed it off to her. "Removing temptation."

Daniel sat back with a sigh.

"How's Dria?" his dad asked, getting up to help with the dishes. "Heck, how are all the Montalbanos?"


His dad stared at him, unbelieving.

"Honest, they are. Alexandria said it was fast and furious at their house. Though her dad's not being too forgiving over the medication she gave me—"

"What did she give you?"

Damn, sometimes Daniel forgot about his grandma's acute sense of hearing, and he grimaced under her stare. "I felt nauseated so Alexandria gave me something—"

"Daniel made quite a lasting impression with Dria's family."

"Do I want to know?"

Embarrassed, Daniel ducked his head. "I sorta passed out."

"Is that where you got the bruise on your face?"

"This?" He'd almost forgotten about that. "Um... No, that came from..." Daniel glanced at his father for support.

"Daniel took issue with someone who—"

"Was a little rough with Alexandria and I took offense."

"He got off the first punch," his dad said with a tinge of undisguised pride, "and then Daniel nailed him."

"Nailed him?"

"With my backpack—"

"Which happened to have his laptop."

He and his dad exchanged a flash of a smile.

Strangely enough, his grandmother didn't seem to find any humor in the story.


His father was dragging the garbage to the curb and tying up this week's papers for Wednesday's paper pickup. It was going to be awhile. "Grandma?"

"Yes, mhuirnin?" She looked up from studying the salad bowl she was drying.

"What's wrong?"

"Wrong? Nothing. Why do you ask?"

"What were you and dad arguing about?" Daniel demanded.

"We weren't arguing," she insisted, wiping out a non-existent spot on the side of the bowl.

"I'm not stupid." Angry, yes. Stupid, no.

"I have no idea what you're—"

He so didn't want to play this game. Daniel planted a quick kiss to her cheek. "Love you. When my dad comes in the house, tell him I'm going to bed."

Immediately, her hand found his forehead before he could step away. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he said, giving her a dose of her own medicine. "Just tired."


Fully dressed, he was lying on his side, on top of his comforter. TV was off, iPod and laptop were charging. His cell phone was tucked under his pillow and every light in his room was off, the only illumination was the hallway light shining through his half-opened door.

"Are you awake?"

His father pushed the door open even more and Daniel contemplated shutting his eyes, pretending to be asleep and ignoring him. "No."

His father didn't wait for an invitation, he just walked into the room and sat on the edge of his bed. "You upset your grandmother."

"What were you arguing about?"


Daniel snorted then flopped onto his back. "You and Grandma were fighting."

"Disagreeing. We weren't fighting."

"You and Grandma were disagreeing."

"It had nothing to do with you."

Daniel had never asked that question. "It certainly didn't feel that way."

"I'm sorry you got caught in the crossfire. She was disappointed in something I'd done. Or rather, hadn't done."

Daniel didn't believe either of them.

"Honest," his father insisted.

"I think I'm going to go to bed." Daniel rolled away from his father and off the bed before his dad was reaching out to check for temperature. "I'm fine."

"It's early."

"I'm tired," Daniel said defiantly. Opening and closing his drawers, he pulled out his oldest pair of comfortable sweats. Reliable.

"You have an appointment with Fraiser tomorrow."

"I do?"

"Tomorrow's Tuesday. The next day is Wednesday. Your very nice school nurse said that's the day you were allowed to grace the halls of the high school again as long as you had a doctor's note."

Daniel drew a blank.

"Forgery sorta made the original note fit only for the circular file."

"So Janet's going to give me the okay to start school on Wednesday?"

"She's going to give you a physical."

"So there's a possibility that I won't—"

"Let's worry about that tomorrow."

Daniel stomped out of the room, totally pissed that everyone seemed to have a say about his life. Everyone except him.


"I need a note," Daniel said, walking into the infirmary, two steps ahead of his father.

"Hello to you, too, Daniel," Janet greeted him with a smile.

"Hi." He sported the start of a smile until he felt the weight of his father's hand on the back of his neck. Shrugging, he dislodged the grip and stepped to the side. "The school had issue with the note I gave to them."

"Issues?" Janet's eyes widened and she glanced around Daniel towards his dad. "Someone care to—Daniel," she said, reaching out to touch his bruise. "Please explain what this is doing here?"

"It's part and parcel of why Daniel needs another note."

"How about you jump onto the bed and let me have a look at you?" Janet was already walking over to the bed, stopping a few steps away when she realized Daniel wasn't behind her.

"I just need a new note. I don't need a physical or anything."

"You've been sick."

Daniel glared at his father.

His father glared back.

"No physical. No note." Janet glared back at the two of them.

Daniel stomped past her, mumbling under his breath and jumped up on the gurney. "I'm here. Go ahead. Examine. The bruise came from a fight I had in the parking lot at school. He did a number on my face. I broke his nose with my laptop in my backpack. I had a stomach virus for a few days, which based upon what my dad has said, you already knew. Fever and everything. Oh, and I took some anti-nausea medication that Alexandria gave to me and I passed out. Nightmares. I've had a few nightmares lately." Daniel drew a breath, then smiled with faux sweetness. "Did I cover everything, Dad?"

"You passed out?" Janet asked

"Yup, you covered everything, Daniel, and I didn't even have to give you the shovel to dig your own grave." His dad winked at him. "You did that all by yourself."

Daniel groaned. "I'm so dead."

Janet patted his knee. "Not if I can help it."


"You blood pressure's low."

Daniel shrugged.

"Have you been sleeping?"

"Nightmares. I seemed to have mentioned that before."

"You've lost weight."

"I've been sick." He jumped when Janet slammed the clipboard down on the gurney, inches from his thigh.

"I'm glad I sent your father to the gym to burn off some stress, this way he's not around when I strangle you."

"Does this mean I can't get a note anytime in the near future?"

Sadly, Janet shook her head. "What's going on?"

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Humor me," Janet crossed her arms and stared at him.

"Humor you? Like you think this is funny?"

"No, sweetie... I didn't mean—"

"Really," Daniel asked, cutting her off. "I want to go back to school. I want to pretend I'm just like everyone else. I want to be normal and not a thirty year old getting a redo in his life. I want to kiss my girlfriend and not think about a wife I don't even remember having... Do you want me to go on?"

Oh. Damn. Based upon the shocked expression on Janet's face, she hadn't been expecting him to upchuck his emotions all over her. Chagrined, he dropped his head. "I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that."

One second later, Daniel found himself being smothered against Janet's chest. He should've been surprised at Janet's sheer lack of professionalism at the moment, but this was Janet, who'd always been, much to Daniel's consternation, a touch too hands-on for him. As a kid, it was fine. But now... "Janet, you're choking me," he gagged theatrically.

Slowly, she dropped her hands, stepped back, but kept her hand on his shoulder. "I'm a doctor. I'm not choking you. I know stuff like that."

She didn't say anything and Daniel certainly wasn't going to draw attention to the hint of moisture in her eyes. "I'm sorry." Simultaneously, Janet pulled at the corners of her eyes.

"Can I have the note?"

"You're incorrigible."

"All I want to do is go back to school, that doesn't make me incorrigible." Daniel sort of smiled. "In the realm of teenage angst, it sorta makes me pathetic."

Janet sighed, glanced around the infirmary, then left his bedside and grabbed a chair. She dragged it over and sat down.

Daniel suppressed a groan. The dreaded adult lecture disguised as the 'I'm the empathetic listener'.

"I have no answer, Daniel."

"Huh?" That was a surprise.

"I don't know of any person on this world who could give you all the answers."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"


"Is it supposed to make you feel better?" Daniel challenged.


"So what do I do?"

"Be Daniel."

"Easier said than done. Sometimes I'm not too sure who the hell Daniel is."

"It's you."

Daniel sighed. "That's a pat answer." Her embarrassed smile made him smile. "Does this mean I'll get the note?"


Daniel definitely was nervous, which was strange. This was school. He'd been to school a million times.

"Do you want breakfast?"

"Breakfast?" Daniel looked up as his father, confused.

"Yeah. Food. Morning."

Daniel's attention again fell to his Global History Book opened on the table in front of him. "I have a test today," he said lamely.

"Okay," his father said. "Cereal with some sliced bananas?"

"The note said I can go back to school today?" That was supposed to come out as a statement, Daniel was more than a tad surprised that it was a question.

His father pulled out the chair and sat, the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in his hands. "If you don't want to go—"

"No, I do," Daniel answered hurriedly. "It's just—been a while."

"I'm driving you."

"I know," Daniel said with a sigh. That had been a bone of contention yesterday. An argument that had lasted from lunch through dinner, until defeated, Daniel had just given up. "You made that perfectly clear—"

His dad rattled the bowl of cereal in his face. "I need to go to the nurse and hand her the note."

"I know," Daniel repeated. "I screwed up the first time."

His father stood and surprised the shit out of Daniel by planting a gentle kiss to the top of his head. "Screw up is in the eye of the beholder. You wanted to go back. I really wasn't listening. I wasn't paying attention. You went back. I screwed up, so my driving you is an act of contrition."

For the first time in maybe forever, Daniel felt a wave of sympathy towards his father. "I'm not exactly an easy... this... me," Daniel stuttered, trying to find the words. "Parenting me must be..."

A plastic bowl was tossed on the table, and Daniel took the hint and put his book to the side. "Wouldn't change it for the world." Emotion was hidden before gruffness as his dad filled the bowl with cereal. "Though I could do without that vomiting thing. Or the face full of bruises thing. Or the getting the call from the hospital thing." Milk was poured and a banana was sliced.

"I keep you young?" Daniel plucked the proffered spoon from his father's fingers and tucked into the cereal.

"You keep me grey. And I keep you around because a kid, like a puppy, is such an attention grabber for all the single moms in the playground."



"Just in case you haven't noticed, I'm a tad big for the swings at the playground."

"You're kidding? Really?"

Daniel just rolled his eyes. "You know, you're really weird, Dad."

"It's a survival instinct. Part of my military training. Weirdness 101. Confuse the enemy."

"I'm the enemy?"

"You're a teenager, same difference."


The nurse took the note and smiled sympathetically at his father before handing Daniel a permission slip to go back to class.

Daniel was just going to state that he wasn't even late, when the first bell interrupted his thoughts.

"See you later," his dad managed to get out before Daniel was out the nurse's door and blending into the throng of kids in the hallway. Head down, he strode purposefully towards his first period class, zoning in on the seat that he'd occupied. Cassie followed on his heels, giggling wickedly as she narrowed the distance between them.

He stopped short and she plowed into him.

"Hello, Cass," he sighed.

Corey stepped around the two of them, sliding into his own empty seat. "She's just glad you're back so she can borrow your homework," his friend hissed wickedly.

Daniel took his seat with a chuckle.

Cassie stuck her tongue out at Corey and took the seat in front of Daniel, flipping her long hair so it swept across his desktop.

Damn, he'd missed this so much.


Alexandria tackled him the second he walked out of first period. Pinning him up against the lockers, catching him off guard.

"Get a room, guys," Li snorted as he passed.

"You feel better," Daniel said once Alexandria allowed him to take a breath.


"We're going to be late for Peterson's class."

"Yup." Alexandria gave a defeated sigh, moved to the side and held out her hand. "Gonna walk me to class?"


Alexandria and Daniel burst into the class just as the late bell was ringing.

"Glad you two could join us," Mr. Peterson said.

"Sorry," they said simultaneously.

Alexandria slipped into her seat close to the door while Daniel attempted not to make that much of a spectacle winding around chairs to take his seat closer to the back.

"Ahhh... Welcome back, Mr. Jackson."

Mr. Peterson was Daniel's favorite teacher, but there was no mistaking the heat of a blush as he dropped into his chair.


Alexandria put the paper plate containing his grilled cheese sandwich and fries right onto the book he had open on the lunchroom table.

"You're taking your life in your hands," Nate warned as he plucked a fry from Daniel's plate. "Boy Genius has been pretty uncommunicative."

Without lifting his head, Daniel picked up the sandwich with one hand and shot Nate the bird with the other.

"Look, Daniel can multitask," Cassie added, also stealing a fry.

Daniel raised his head only when he felt the pressure of Alexandria's hand on his back.

"Eat," she ordered before picking up the plate and slamming shut the book Daniel been reading.

"Hey." He was pissed and he moved to grab the book she was sliding out of his reach.

Alexandria put the plate in front of him. "No."

"I'm not hungry." But he was tired. Damn tired. And his mind was a jumbled mess.

"You'll feel better after you eat something." She picked up a fry and waved it, snaking it enticingly under his nose, around his lips.

With a roar of frustration, Daniel grabbed her hand, held it tightly in his grip, holding it in place so he could take a bite.

"And she soothes the savage beast. Woohoo." Cassie gave a little round of applause then punched her fist in the air. "Score one for the girl's team."


By seventh period, the burst of energy lunch had provided had waned, sputtered and then flickered out. He was dragging and he could feel himself drifting. He jerked when Alexandria tugged on his ponytail.

Cassie tossed a folded piece of paper onto his desk, and Daniel waited until Boring Borderman turned to write on the board before opening it.

There's more where that came from. Daniel smiled at the stick figures drawn on the torn out piece of loose-leaf paper. Him. Alexandria. Crude representation, but her curly hair and his ponytail gave it away. Her hand on his ponytail, sitting in the chairs. You were snoring. Bad enough. Not wiping up your drool.

Daniel hid his attention-getting burst of laughter behind a well-placed cough.


"I'm home," Jack shouted as he walked through the front door. The keys were awkwardly dangling from his finger, and his arms were full. Two pizza boxes, a brown bag of garlic knots and a plastic bag holding a bottle of soda. And let's not forget his briefcase. Without a free hand, he shoved the door closed with his hip. "Daniel," he bellowed, dropping the keys on the table. The kitchen was dark. The table wasn't set and Jack dropped his packages on the table, annoyed.

He found Daniel. Sleeping. Fast asleep on his bed, curled up around his opened laptop. His glasses were off, resting on the keyboard. Jack moved the glasses to the nightstand. Experience had taught him to save the document before moving the laptop. Without opening an eye, Daniel moaned in appreciation, stretching out his body the full length of the bed. Jack couldn't help but smile, so much for sharing dinner with Daniel, because based on the depth of his son's sleep, it looked like he was going to be eating cold pizza for breakfast.


Jack was in the middle of his second slice of pizza, paper opened and spread out on the table. Cold beer within arm's reach. Perfection.

Daniel shuffled into the kitchen, knuckling his eyes like a toddler awakened from a nap against his will. He dropped heavily into the chair and slid down, until the nape of his neck was resting against the back of the chair. "I'm hungry," he whined.

"Is that a hint?" Without waiting for an answer, Jack tossed a slice of pizza on a paper plate and shoved it into Daniel's midsection, mindful of the long legs his son appeared to have sprouted overnight. "Move 'em," Jack kicked lightly at the hyper-extended appendages, "before you kill someone with 'em."

Daniel didn't even move the plate to the table. He used the plate as a catchall and devoured the slice before Jack had a chance to sit back down.

"Next slice, Icky, you're on your own."

Daniel blinked at him as if he wasn't too sure what he was referring to. Then he glanced downward at the empty plate in his hands. "I don't think I want anymore."

"Okay." Jack waited for him to move. Or do something. But Daniel did nothing except stare at the plate. "How about I take this from you?"


"Want something to drink?"

Again, Daniel blinked again. "Drink?"

Jack was thinking Daniel was pretty much still sleeping in bed though his physical form was sitting less than a foot away from him. "Why don't you change into some sweats and go to bed."

"I need to shower."

"Not tonight." There were going to be broken body parts if Daniel got into the shower. "Morning. You can shower in the morning."

Daniel gave him a dopey smile, stood slowly and left the kitchen


His son had changed into sweats, but was arguing with the blankets, trying to untuck them so he could get under the covers.

Jack put the bottle of water he'd brought on the nightstand. "Allow me," he offered, tugging the blanket free.

Daniel crawled into bed, pulled the covers up and dropped backwards onto the pillow.

Quickly, before he fell back to sleep, Jack sat at the edge of the bed. "How'd school go today?"

Daniel scrunched his face up, concentrating. "Long," Daniel finally said. "Really long."

And Jack pretty much felt like a heel. He should've known this. Daniel hadn't spent a full day in school in like forever. Add to that he'd been sick recently and it all added up to the fact that Jack had pretty much fucked up. "Sleep," he quietly ordered.

Even after Daniel had fallen into a drool-depth slumber, he stayed, not moving.


The house was still dark, the streets outside silent, when the sound of running water woke him. It was a slow awareness, nothing out of the ordinary except for the time. 0400 hours. Jack rolled to the side, listening. Running water was shower. Jack did a quick calculation in his head. Daniel had been asleep by 1800 hours. Close to ten hours.

Jack stretched. Switched off his alarm then got out of bed to start breakfast before Daniel really did decide to have pizza.


Daniel looked one hundred percent better and he entered the kitchen like a whirlwind. "Wow. Was I exhausted last night. Starving..." He headed straight for the fridge and opened the door. He rooted around and came out with a triangle of pizza, already chewing, closing the door with his elbow.

Sadly, Jack looked the waffles he was making. So close.

"Waffles." Daniel took another bite of the pizza. "Can I have mine with bananas?"

Ahhh, the joys of teenage metabolism.

A glass of juice, a glass of chocolate milk, and two waffles later, Daniel finally slowed down enough to come up for air. "Guess I was hungry." He ran his finger through the syrup on his plate.

"What tipped you off? The cold pizza or the—"

"I didn't have dinner. Or lunch. I really didn't eat lunch either."

"Daniel," Jack warned, tapping his plate with his knife, "that's a damn good way to end up sick again."

"You're being a mother hen," Daniel said, laughing.

"Cluck," Jack said, sweeping the plate away from Daniel.


Jack hated days like this. Paperwork and meeting days that were incredibly longer than any workday had a right to be. Lunch was a pretty pathetic tuna on a roll, half of which was still sitting on the plate, next to his phone, deflated and dejected. He'd finished the soda, the bag of chips and the slice of apple pie. He had his priorities.

He checked his watch. Daniel should be home by now and just as he was reaching to place a call to his home, the phone rang. "O'Neill," Jack growled into the receiver.

"Colonel O'Neill?"

"Who's calling?"

"This is Mr. Peterson from your son's school."

"This is Colonel O'Neill." Daniel's teacher. One he spoke fondly of. Jack wracked his brain. Science. English. Math... English. A teacher that Daniel held in high regard, but still... "Is Daniel okay?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you. Yes." He chuckled to possibly cover his embarrassment. "Fine. Actually more than fine." He cleared his throat. "I'm actually calling for another reason."

Jack tipped the top off the tuna sandwich. "How can I help you?"

"Even after all his absences, Daniel managed to stay on top of the workload with exemplary assignments he handed in."

"I wish I could take credit, but all that hard work is Daniel's."

"You should be very proud."

"I am," Jack gloated.

"Then you'll understand why I'm sending paperwork back with Daniel. It's a request to authorize additional testing—"

"Testing? Why?"

"I'm sure you're more than aware the level of intelligence—"

"Daniel's a genius."

"We would like to advance Daniel another grade, possibly two, and the testing is required to—"

"No," Jack said as he tore the lettuce off the tomato and flung it in the garbage.


"N.O. No. I'm not doing that to Daniel." The tomato joined the lettuce.

"While I can understand your concern—"

"Good," Jack said sarcastically, tossing the entire sandwich in the garbage. "I'm glad you can walk in my shoes. Therefore, there's no reason for me to even explain why my answer to the testing and the skipping grades is a resounding no."

"Colonel O'Neill—"

"Don't," he warned. "Daniel's where he needs to be. If not academically, then emotionally, which at this point in his life, is just as important."


To the Parent and/or Guardian of Daniel Jackson.

The letter was sitting on the table when Jack got home from work. Opened. Curiosity had obviously won out and Daniel had been willing to bear his wrath just to see what was in the envelope. But more than the authorization requiring Jack's signature, was the letter stating the purpose of these tests.

"Shit." A bad day suddenly got worse. Much worse, when a search of the house came up empty. Jack punched Daniel's cell phone number into the phone. One ring. Two rings... Jack paused, then listened, following the sound of Daniel's ring tone.

"Damn it, Daniel," Jack growled in frustration, the ringing phone brought him right back to where he'd started, Daniel's room's. He turned off the cordless and angrily tossed it onto the unmade bed before bending down to unzip the front pocket of Daniel's backpack. Jack tugged out Daniel's cell, tangled with the earbuds of his iPod, two items his son never left home without.

Jack knew who to call. Daniel, was nothing if not predictable in times of stress. He may have had a girlfriend and a group of close friends, but there was one person in his life that he would always run to when he needed shielding from his father - his grandmother.


"Talk," his grandmother ordered.

Daniel pasted a look of what he hoped would pass as annoyance. "I just came over to say hi, Grandma, nothing's wrong."

"I love you, mhuirnin, but you're a terrible liar."

Confusion reigned and Daniel began to pull the crust off the peanut butter sandwich his grandmother was forcing him to eat. He'd actually accepted it to silence her as opposed to being hungry, and now it had become something to keep his hands busy.

Like a bat out of Hell, he'd ridden his bike to her house because of the letter and now, sitting in her kitchen, nothing was clear. Daniel had expected to rant and rave to her, find an ally, but now, with her circling like a vulture waiting for a crumb of information, it all seemed ridiculous. He wasn't five, eight, or even twelve. Daniel didn't need a protector, he needed to talk to his father, make sure his father understood how he felt about this.

Daniel glanced up and smiled at his grandmother. "I think I need to talk to Dad about something."

Her smile was sad, as if she'd come to the same conclusion that Daniel had, that he was growing up, and hiding behind her wasn't the answer. Not for this problem. "Finish the sandwich," she prodded, her smile widening.


Daniel should've expected the phone call. Based on his grandmother's side of the conversation, she certainly had. He waited, finishing the last of his milk, eavesdropping, trying to gauge the depth of his father's anger, but there didn't seem to be any.

The sandwich he didn't want was now gone like the milk. No more procrastination. He rinsed out the plate and cup, put them in the dish drainer, then kissed his grandmother goodbye.

"Tell Dad I'll be home in a little while."


Daniel was calm, cool and collected. The entire impressive con argument against him skipping another grade was all worked out in his mind. And he kept his composure as he brought his bicycle into the garage, went through the kitchen door and hung his hoodie on the coat rack. Every single word of his argument was firmly etched in his brain.


Until he saw his father standing three feet away from him with the letter from the school in his hand and an unreadable expression on his face. "We need to talk about this."

"Talk?" Daniel said, as all of his well thought-out arguments began to lose validity in the face of the coming bullshit his father was going to shovel over him.

"Talk," his dad repeated. "Look, Daniel, the school thought that this would be in your best interest. I thought—"

Clear-headedness went for a walk and took with it every coherent thought process Daniel had. "They thought. You thought? How about what I thought?" Daniel lashed out. "Because contrary to what anyone thinks, I'm not taking a test. Any test. Do you know how hard this has been?" Daniel gave an indignant snort. "Of course you don't, because if you had, you wouldn't even entertain the thought of parading my genius—"

"Are you going to take a breath so I can talk?"

"No. My life. This is my life. Not the other Daniel's, not anymore. The choices are mine." He gave his chest an open-handed smack. "You don't get a say either, do you understand? Not about this."

"Whoa." His dad shook the letter at him. "I'm thinking maybe you should stop right now, before you say something both of us are going to end up regretting."

"What am I going to say?" Daniel took two steps closer. "The truth? You want to push me forward so I can walk in his footsteps." He grabbed the letter from his father's hand. "Newsflash." Daniel began to rip up the paper. "I don't want to be him." He tossed the shreds at his father. "I want to be me. So fuck the test and fuck you for thinking you can have this much control over my life."

He'd lost it. Totally and unequivocally lost it. He'd crossed the line, said things that could never be taken back and now, in the deadly silence of the living room where the only sounds were his heavy breathing and his heart shattering over truths he'd kept buried this past year, Daniel waited.

"I never called the school. This," he said, kicking the tiny pieces of paper at his feet, "wasn't my idea. Newsflash," his father said with a sarcastic undertone that made Daniel's eyes tear up, "I told them no. N.O. Not under any circumstances would I allow them to do this to you. Ever." His dad shook his head, then turned and left Daniel standing in the living room by himself.

He was going to vomit. Right here on the living room floor, he was going to lose the glass of milk and the sandwich his grandmother had so lovingly prepared for him. He took a deep breath, and prayed to whatever deity occupied the heavens to keep his stomach contents where they belonged.

One breath. Two breaths, and by the time he took his third, his stomach had settled. Slowly, he bent down and picked up the scraps, ignoring how much his hands were shaking. Daniel wasn't too sure where his father had gone, but part of him was very glad that he wasn't in the kitchen. Or in the den. Or in his bedroom. The keys were on the kitchen counter, the Avalanche was in the driveway. That left one place for his father to run without running—the roof. Telescope. Stars. Far enough away without leaving.

Daniel had one hand on the kitchen door, ready... ready to what? Apologize? Take back words that were impossible to wipe from his memory. He backed away then tucked his hands under his armpits. Standing by the door, he waited, dreading, terrified what to say if his father confronted him right now. Terrified what to think if his father never walked back into this kitchen.

Daniel stood in the kitchen until the house became as dark as the outside. Until he couldn't stand watch anymore, until his arms and legs were stiff from standing in one position. Until he was so cold he was pretty damned sure there wasn't anything in the world that could warm him up.

He broke a cardinal rule, went to bed and left the kitchen door unlocked. Daniel was pretty sure this one time, his father would understand.

Fully clothed and exhausted, Daniel crawled into bed, without peeing or brushing his teeth. Without showering or washing his face. Or checking his voice messages or his emails. He huddled under both blankets and his quilt, curling into himself, searching for warmth.

The tears started when Daniel heard the kitchen door open, close, and the lock being turned, followed by the familiar melodic touch-tones of the alarm keypad. Safe and secure. The only danger was the echo of hurtful words that hung in the air. His words trapped in his mind and in this house, playing over and over again. Daniel dragged his pillow over his head in a futile attempt to silence them.


Neither of them slept. His father walked the floors and Daniel held his breath when he stopped in front of his opened bedroom door. He wanted to call out to his father. To beg forgiveness. To tell him it was all a terrible mistake. A misunderstanding. But he did nothing, except cower under the blankets like a coward.


Before sunrise, Daniel dragged himself out of bed and into the hottest shower he could stand. Not moving, he counted on the wall to keep him upright and allowed the water to beat against his back. The effort to even pick up a bottle of shampoo or the bar of soap was way beyond his ability at the moment. He may have drifted, maybe he did actually fall asleep because the water wasn't hot anymore. It wasn't warm or lukewarm, it was freezing. Tiny ice pellets.

All the warmth he'd leeched out of the shower within seconds was sucked from him, leaving him as cold as when he'd started. Daniel dressed hurriedly, the clothes sticking to the parts of his body he hadn't thoroughly dried. He brushed his teeth and pulled back his hair, all without looking at his reflection.


His father looked... old, an adjective Daniel never would've used to describe him. Old. Tired. Drinking his morning cup of coffee. Reading the sports page. Just like every other morning, except that both of them were up two hours before they needed to be. Daniel waited in the doorway, unsure how to repair what he'd broken, furtively hoping for his father to throw him a bone. A clue. Something.

Abruptly, his father closed the paper, pushed the chair back and stood. "I have an early meeting at the mountain."

Daniel nodded dumbly. Yeah, he could read that loud and clear.

Turning his back on him, his dad rinsed out his coffee mug, and put it in the dishwasher. "Don't forget to set the alarm before you leave."

"I won't," Daniel promised.

With slow precision, his dad closed the dishwasher and turned to face him. "It was about trust, Daniel."

Daniel dropped his gaze, he couldn't look at his father. Every line, every shadow was his doing. "I shouldn't have opened the envelope. I know that—" He swallowed, almost choking on the lump in his throat.

Wearily, his dad scrubbed at his face, exhaling loudly. "You wouldn't be you if you hadn't opened the letter." A quick glance over his shoulder had his dad shaking his head. "I have to go."

Daniel stepped in front of him, blocking his way. "Please, I—"

"I have to go." Now it was his dad's turn to avert his gaze.

"We'll talk later?" He forced more hope than he felt into the question.

"I'm probably going to be home late. There's money on my dresser. Order a pizza. I'll heat it up when I get home, don't wait for me to eat."

Daniel took quick steps, continuing to block his dad's exit. "Don't go. Please. I wasn't thinking—I didn't think—"

"No, you didn't." The words were hard. Clipped. Angry. "And I have to remember that you're a kid. A teenager. My son. You shot from the hip. In fear. But right now..." His dad drew a deep breath. "I can't, so I'm going to the mountain."

"You're not going offworld, are you?" Daniel was suddenly terrified that his father was going to leave Earth and something was going to happen and he'd never have a chance to explain. Say he was sorry. To be forgiven.

"No," his dad said, reading his mind. "Meetings. All day. Here on Earth. I promise." His dad cupped the back of his head, gently tugged him forward and kissed his forehead. "I know."

"I don't. I don't know how to fix this." Daniel tried to drift closer to his father,

Grasping Daniel's biceps, his dad moved him to the side. "Therein lies the problem, Daniel," his dad said with a sadness Daniel had never heard coming from him. "I don't know how to fix this either."


Daniel wasn't really sure how he'd gotten through the entire day. Alexandria had noticed his detachment and while she stayed physically close to him after the first time he growled at a simple question she'd asked, she gave him emotional space.

They stood before the line of busses.

"I won't ask." Alexandria tugged on the zipper of his hoodie.

"Thank you." He slung one arm around her shoulder and pulled her into his chest, burying his face in her soft curls.

She hugged him back, then stood on tiptoes, planting a hurried kiss on his lips. "Don't worry."

Daniel's shrug was offset by a slight nod, unable to say anything.


Jack probably owed half the SGC an apology. He'd been evil. Vile. And more than a tad short-tempered today with everyone who was within shouting distance. He was pretty damn sure the majority of personnel were glad to see his rear taillights as he drove away from the mountain.

He was confused. Angry. Upset. Devastated. Heartbroken. Time would pad the harshness of Daniel's words, but not now. Now the words were sharp and lethal.

Jack turned the radio on loudly and switched off his brain, concentrating on the familiar, ridiculous Beach Boys' tune.


Once again when Jack returned home, Daniel was fast asleep, but this time he was under the covers, no laptop. No glasses. Blankets and pillow. At 1900 hours, his son, who could usually stay awake longer than him, was out like a light.

There were dark circles under Daniel's eyes. Shadows that didn't belong on the face of a fourteen year old. Dark smudges. Tentatively, Jack reached out with one finger and pushed a few strands of hair out of Daniel's eyes.

Daniel sniffed at the interference, then turned, rubbing his face in the pillow. He moved away from Jack, mumbling something about math class, before he smacked his lips and was silent.

"Leave school where it belongs, okay, Icky?" Jack straightened the blanket, tucking Daniel's cold hand under the covers.

"Dad?" Daniel flipped onto his back and opened one eye.

Abruptly, Jack stopped his ministrations, annoyed that Daniel had caught him in the act of fatherly concern. "Go back to sleep," he ordered, not bothering to temper the annoyance in his voice.

"There's pizza in the fridge."

"Good," Jack said. "Now go back to sleep."

Daniel wasn't really awake enough to object and he didn't answer, he just pulled the covers up and closed his eyes.


Jack unwrapped two tin foiled wrapped triangles. Both pepperoni. And he was pretty damn sure the other wrapped slices were pepperoni as well. Daniel hated pepperoni with a passion. Jack, on the other hand, loved pepperoni. A peace offering. A white flag.

Fuck. Jack rewrapped the slices and shoved them back into the fridge. He locked up the house. Turned off all the lights and went to bed, hungry and damn unhappy.


Surprisingly, Jack fell asleep right away. What wasn't surprising was the nightmare that pulled him from sleep and left him bathed in sweat with his heart making a futile attempt to pound itself right out of his chest.

He lay in the dark, forcing calm where there really wasn't any. No visuals that Jack could recall. Just fear. And terror. Enough of both that he tossed the blanket to the side and got out of bed. For now, sleeping was the farthest thing from his mind.


Leaning against the counter, Jack ate the pizza cold. Even had a beer to make his two slices go down smoother. He finished then had two Tums to settle his stomach's coming eruption. Age would do that to a person. And he didn't need the mirror to know he wasn't young anymore. His body made sure to remind him of that fact every time he got up in the morning. Or ran for the 'gate, or trained new recruits.

Jack grabbed a napkin, rooted around in the junk drawer until he located some type of writing implement with a point and scribbled out a note for Daniel.


Daniel slept too long and he awoke lethargic and headachy five minutes before the alarm went off. For an instant, the fact that it was Friday was thrilling until he remembered, and then Friday didn't appear to be any more appealing than any other day of the week.

He dragged himself out of bed, slapping the alarm clock into submission just as it clicked on. Still half-awake, without his glasses and his eyes at half-mast, Daniel stumbled into the shower, setting the temperature to cold, hoping to shock his system into starting.

He yelped, withstood the torture for exactly fifteen seconds before readjusting the water to a temperature that would allow his balls and dick to make a reappearance sometime within this century.


Somewhere between walking back to his room wrapped only in a towel and sorting through his laundry basket of clean, yet not put away clothes, it came to him that his father wasn't home. It was too quiet. Familiar morning sounds were suspiciously absent. The rustling of the morning paper. His dad's annoying, though sometimes persistent humming to tunes only he was aware of. The smell of coffee, or pancakes, or waffles, or burning toast.

But what if... Daniel dried and dressed hurriedly, more than a bit of worry playing into the speed in which he donned his clothes. Just a bit worried and more than a touch guilty.

Daniel knew that falling asleep last night was more of an avoidance technique than exhaustion. Something he'd done rather than deal with a situation. He ran to be horizontal, his father ran to the mountain. Like father, like son. The analogy didn't make him feel any better at all.


He noticed the note as he paced the kitchen, eating dry cereal out of the box. As a matter of fact, he had it in his hands and was just about to trash it when something caught his eye. A stupid smiley face. An idiotic icon his dad used when he wanted to soften some sort of blow. Clean out the garage-smile. School called-smile. This note was even more foreboding.

When you come home from school, pack an overnight bag. Be ready. I'll pick you up by five – smile.

All Daniel could think was 'be ready for what' before ripping the note to shreds and tossing it and his last handful of cereal into the garbage.


"Crap!" Daniel slammed his locker then jumped at Alexandria's unexpected appearance.

She gave a quick glance over her shoulder. "Wanna drop me a clue? Anything?" she hissed. "We have about three minutes before the late bell rings."

"I'm fine."

"You're lying." She poked him in the stomach. "Again."

She was right. He was lying. It was if it had become second nature to him. How he dealt with her. This was a safe topic to talk about. Very safe. "My dad and I had a fight. Huge." Damn, it hurt even to remember. "I said things," Daniel admitted. "I was pretty much an asshole."

"And that's different because..." She gave him a slight, come-on-things-can't-be-all-that-bad smile.

He didn't smile back.

"I'm sorry." She smoothed down an invisible crease in his tee shirt. "It's your dad—he'll forgive you."

Daniel snorted. "Yeah, but I'm not too sure that I'll forgive me."

The bell rang before Alexandria could answer.


By lunchtime, Daniel was an emotional wasteland. He'd pretty much shut down after blowing an English test, and while yesterday Alexandria had given him space, today was a different story.

"You need to eat something." She pushed the tray towards him.

Daniel picked up his burger, took a bite, tossed it onto the paper plate, then pushed the tray towards her.

"Uh oh, domestic squabble," Corey said, bouncing his shoulder against Cassie's.

"Stop being a jerk." Cassie rolled her eyes.

"Come on, don't you wonder who's going to get custody of—"

"Shut up," Daniel yelled, loud enough for the group of kids at the other table to stop talking and stare.

"Whoa, dude. Chill." Nate shook his head. "We're just kidding around."

He shouldered his backpack, untangled his legs from underneath the lunchroom table, stood and walked out without a backward glance.

"Someone's PMSing." Li's accusation followed Daniel out of the lunchroom.

He was on his last nerve. Leaving was safer than saying anything. He'd learned a hard lesson. Wasn't going to happen more than once. Head down, he strode down the hall, maneuvering around the handful of students, forcefully hitting the metal bar on the exit door. Three steps down the side stairs, he turned, fist raised when he felt a restraining hand on his backpack.

"Would it make you feel better if you hit me?"

He dropped his hand and drew Alexandria into his arms. "Holy shit. Shit. Shit. Shit—"

"You didn't hit me."

"Almost. I almost—"

"You didn't," she insisted, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist.

Gently, Daniel reached behind his back, unhooked her hands and pushed her away. "I'm going home."

"You're going to cut."


"Me, too."


She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the parking lot. "I have my mom's tank today."

Daniel hesitated; it was one thing to set himself up for detention, but Alexandria? "No. We'll go back to school."

Her laughter shocked him. "No way. Letting you back in that building is either a death sentence for you or for someone who challenges your witty personality. I'm not taking that chance. No blood on my hands, Jackson." She began to walk away.

"Alexandria," Daniel shouted, making a conscious effort not to stamp his foot in frustration.

She turned and began to walk backwards, her speed picking up. "Well?" she wanted to know. "Coming?"


He pretty much remained silent, answering Alexandria only in grunts or undecipherable words.

Kudos to her for her ability to ignore him. For every grunt, for every single time he mumbled something unintelligible, she raised the volume on the radio. Right now? The radio was loud enough to rattle the windows.

Daniel reached forward to lower the sound.

"Touch it and you're a dead man."

"You don't scare me." Daniel withdrew his hand.

"Yeah?" Without taking her eyes off the road, she poked his bicep.

Daniel wasn't in the mood for this. "Take me home."

The smiled melted off her face. "Look, I'm sure if you and your dad just talked it out—"

Spitefully, Daniel turned the radio up even louder.


Painfully, Alexandria grabbed his arm before he could even open the van door. "You fix things with your dad."

"I have to pack a bag and be ready to leave by five."

"Why?" The anger slid off her face.

"I don't know," Daniel said with a shrug. "That was the order. Pack an overnight bag. He's picking me up at five."

"He's trying."

She was ever the optimist, sometimes, and this was one of those times, Daniel hated Alexandria for that. The glass, for him, wasn't half-full or empty, it was fuckin' shattered on the floor. "I'll see you Monday."

Her fingers tightened. "Grow up."

"Don't tell me what to do."

"Your attitude doesn't work with me, Daniel."

No, of course it didn't. Didn't work with his father, or his grandmother, but he was just so damn tired of the lack of normalcy. Once upon a time, he'd stupidly believed he was just like every other kid. Okay, he didn't have a mom, but his dad and grandmother more than made up for that. Now? He wasn't too sure about anything except right now no matter what he said to Alexandria or how he said it, it was going to be wrong. So he said nothing but turned and kissed her gently on the lips.

"That's not an answer." Her voice was soft, her eyes softer.

"It's the only one I have for now. I'm sorry." This time the kiss wasn't as soft. It was needy and lit the hunger of longing in his belly for something ordinary and common in life. And for a second, he was fourteen and nothing mattered except Alexandria's body, feeling so damn good under his roving fingers. Up her legs, teasingly settling on the warmth of the tiny area of exposed stomach between her jeans and shirt.

Oh, god.

In the middle of the day.

In her mother's van.

In front of the house.

All these wrongs at this moment in time were just so right.

New. Fresh. Not the memories of a thirty-year-old Daniel. This was just him. And Alexandria.

With a tug on his ponytail, she severed the kiss when his curious hands skirted the neckline of her tee shirt. "Not here."

His grin was wicked. "My dad won't be home—"

"Not there."

"Not anywhere?" he whined, feeling like a stupid Dr. Seuss character. Here. There. Anywhere.

"Not now," was her patient answer.

"Oh, not never?" Relief flooded over him like a tidal wave.

"I never said never..." She was flushed and Daniel pulled at a curl, gloatingly proud. "Just not now."

Using the curl in his hand as a line, he reeled Alexandria in, this time the kiss reverted back to gentle innocence, the flames of desire had been doused with a touch of reality. For now. "I'll call you," he promised.


Daniel packed. Unpacked. Ate a bowl of cereal. Repacked. Watched the clock. Drank a Snapple. Jerked off. Showered. Spoke to Alexandria. Resisted the desire to jerk off again. Read the comics. Deleted a message from the attendance department about him cutting school. Packed. Repacked. Made sure he had his iPod, phone and laptop. Remembered to bring in the mail and was just tossing in his toothbrush, which he'd forgotten all those times he'd anally packed and repacked, into his duffle bag when he heard his father's bellow. "Ready?"

Daniel didn't answer. Couldn't. Ready for what? He picked up his duffle bag and backpack and did a quick visual sweep of the room before leaving.

"Packed?" His dad was in the kitchen, flipping through the mail.

He held up his duffle bag. "I think so.

His dad pointed to his backpack. "Got all your technology?"

Daniel's yes was slow. Cautious. He didn't want to ask if there was internet connection where they were going because it was a rhetorical question. They never went anywhere on Earth where his dad wasn't a phone call away from the SGC.

"Let's go." His dad tossed whatever mail he'd been reading on the counter. "We'll eat dinner on the road."


By the time they stopped at a tiny, off the beaten path Italian restaurant that looked vaguely familiar, Daniel's hunger had passed from starvation into nausea. The second the roll basket hit the table, Daniel pounced on it, not even bothering to spread butter on the warm, crusty garlic bread.

He was shoveling the second roll in and reaching for the third when his father moved the basket out of his reach. "Hungry much?"

His stomach gave a growl of protest. "Yeah."

"You should've said something."

Daniel tried and failed to temper his scowl. Said something? He and his father hadn't spoken to each other for the three hours it had taken to drive to this restaurant. Two blocks from the house, his father had turned on the radio loud enough to rock his world and Daniel had taken the hint and plugged into his iPod. He was a growing boy who needed to eat on a regular basis, as his father was always so quick to remind him, now suddenly it was his turn to be the reminder? What gives with that?

With a look of annoyance, his dad glanced at his watch, then at Daniel. "Oops. I didn't realize it was this late." He pushed the breadbasket back over to Daniel. "Knock yourself out."

This time Daniel helped himself to butter for the bread.

"Do you remember this place?"

He came up for air and studied the room. And he really tried, and failed to hold back a smile. "I do."

The second the waitress appeared by the table, without hesitation Daniel ordered. "I'll have the chicken parm with extra cheese. Spaghetti. Salad with house dressing. And whenever you have a chance, can we get some more bread?"

"I'll have the veal parm. Ziti. Thousand Island dressing. Miller's on tap if you have it."

"How far are we from General Hammond's cabin?"

"Another hour or so."

Daniel's smiled slowly deflated and he slowly began to pick apart the buttered slice of bread. He hated when his dad would pull memories out of his hat, as if living in the past was more attractive than dealing with the here and now.


Daniel shrugged. "Yeah, I think I am... Really," he added when his father's face sort of fell.

"I thought it would do us good to just get away."

"Far away?" Oh crap, that came out much harsher than he meant it. "You're right..." he added quickly, "No school. No work. It'll be great."

His dad sighed. "Yeah, great." He picked up the napkin and placed it in his lap. "Maybe staying home would've been better."

"Why? Don't you think it's always more fun to ignore the pink elephant in the room if the room is someplace other than home? And easier. It's easier to—"

"Can it."

"Why, Dad? Because it's the truth? All I want to do is—" Daniel quickly shut his mouth as the waitress put their dinners in front of them.

"Smells great, doesn't it?"

Daniel sat there staring at the overflowing platter in front of him.



"I promise, all in good time, we'll take care of that elephant."

"Don't worry, I'm shutting up now. Canning it," he said, using his father's words. He picked up his knife and fork and dug into a dinner that no longer held any appeal.


He was very full, way too lazy to even dig out his iPod and earbuds and was fighting a losing battle to stay awake. In deference to his lolling head, his father thankfully lowered the radio. Daniel mumbled his appreciation, maneuvered the hood of his sweatshirt against the passenger side window and rested his head against the meager cushion.

Daniel came awake swinging, and his struggling increased as his hands were strong-armed downward into his lap. He swung to the side and brought his knee up. It was the painful contact of his shin meeting the dashboard that brought him to consciousness. "Shit," he yelled as he struggled to free his hands to rub his injury.

"Awake and aware?"

Daniel flopped backward against the passenger seat then grabbed at his knee the second his father released his hands. "This is becoming a habit."

"In case you weren't sure, we're here."


It was too late to call Alexandria, so he sent a text message letting her know he was alive and well. Peed. Washed up. Dropped the duffle bag and backpack on the floor in his designated bedroom and crawled into bed, fully dressed, and was asleep within minutes.

There was only one problem, Daniel didn't stay asleep, and he awoke, based on his watch, three hours later. The ceiling held no interest and his brain was basically done with lying horizontally. He felt dirty and grungy and wanted a shower, but didn't want to risk waking up his dad.

Carefully, he slid out of bed, found his backpack and went back to bed. He actually hoped to do some work. Maybe find someone with whom he could share a bout of insomnia. Or just stick in his iPod. As luck would have it, he managed five minutes worth of concentrated effort on homework. Everyone was sleeping and his iPod needed charging.


The night air was cold. Brisk. Without light pollution, the stars lit up the night sky and drawing on memories that weren't entirely all his, Daniel traced the constellations in the night sky, speaking the names as his fingers connected the dots.

"Hot chocolate."

Daniel took his father's offering more out of desire to warm his hands than a need to drink something. "Thanks." He took a sip, held the mug in his hands, leeching the heat, then put it on the wooden table next to his chair.

"Couldn't sleep?"

"Guess not." Daniel slunk lower in the chair and stretched out his legs.

His dad leaned against the deck railing and tried but failed to hide his smile behind his mug of hot chocolate.

"What's so funny?"

"I think you grew another two inches." A glance downward and his father's smile deepened even more.

Daniel's white socks glowed brightly in the moonlight. A lot of sock. Too much sock and he self-consciously tugged at the knees of his jeans, trying to shorten the gap. "I'm tired of this already."

"Based on my memories, you have a while to go before it stops."

He glared at his dad. "If that was supposed to make me feel better—"

"No, it wasn't supposed to make you feel better. It wasn't me comparing you to the adult Daniel. It was nothing but making conversation. An observation. A fact."

"I can't change my height, or the fact that my eyesight sucks. Or that I have allergies. Or have horrific handwriting. Or that I'm a genius. But I can change..." Daniel drew a deep breath. "I can change me. Who I become. Different than who I was."

"You were a good man."

"What if I don't live up to anyone's expectations?"

"Ah, crap, Icky, is that what you're so worried about? Disappointing someone?"

"How do I know where he stops and I begin?" Daniel scrubbed at his face. "I'm like a friggin' broken record, aren't I?"

"It was a matter of trust, Daniel. I never would've let them skip you a grade. Test you without your knowledge."

"Pink elephant time?"

His father was silent.

"I said things I wish I could take back. I made accusations..."

"It was done in the heat of the moment, I understand, and I owe you an apology for my reaction."

Daniel went on as if he hadn't even heard what his father had said. Accepting his apology would just be sweeping this under the rug. Pretend it never happened and he couldn't, not again. "I was scared. Afraid. Terrified that I wasn't going to be given an option about the one thing I have control of. My future."

"Are you sure you're only fourteen?" his dad asked, his voice filled with gentle awe. "You put me to shame."

"I don't want to put anyone to shame. I don't want to point fingers. I just want someone to hear me."

"I'm sorry."

"Me, too." Daniel couldn't even look up at his dad, afraid if he did he'd cry, and considering he'd just proclaimed his maturity, shedding tears might not be the best way to help his cause. "I just want to be fourteen," he whispered.

"Remember that the next time you try to convince me that you want to drive the Avalanche."

"Hey!" Daniel offered an indignant huff. "You know what I meant."

"Sure I did. I knew exactly what you meant."

"You're being sarcastic."

"Moi?" his dad asked with a ridiculously innocent smile.

Daniel threw up his hands. "I admit defeat."

"Smart boy."

The yawn assaulted Daniel out of the blue and he felt his jaw crack with its intensity.

"Smart, tired boy." His dad downed the remainder of his mug of hot chocolate, cocking his chin at Daniel's unfinished mug. "Come on, let's catch a couple of z's before sunrise."


Screw sunrise. Daniel dragged himself, still yawning, out of bed closer to lunchtime. "Fresh mountain air," he used as his excuse as he dropped bonelessly onto a kitchen chair.

"Lunch or breakfast."

"Umm... Choices?"

"Cereal or sandwich."

"Sandwich... No, cereal. Pancakes?" he asked hopefully.

"Wasn't a choice."


"Are you sure?"


"Cheerios or tuna?"

"Tuna. Toast..."

His dad flicked a dishtowel in the air next to Daniel. "I'll play cook. You play waiter."

"Oh, joy."


He felt alive after lunch, a shower and a not so quick telephone call to Alexandria. Daniel was just sitting down to check out the satellite reception when his dad burst into the living room.

"Don't get comfortable," his dad ordered. "Chop chop."

"Why?" Daniel whined.

"Come on out back and see."

Daniel grumbled the entire way out the back door, his father dogging his every step, making disparaging remarks about youth being wasted on fourteen year olds.

He stopped so short, his father plowed into him, and Daniel stumbled forward, catching himself on the railing. "Oh."

His dad clapped his hand on Daniel's shoulder, and he basically had no choice but to walk down the deck stairs. He dug in when his father tried to guide him to the motorbikes.


Daniel tried to rein in the 'no duh' expression. "I, ummm... It's been a while."

"I know, but I figured... Icky, are you okay?"

Daniel tried to breathe through the feeling like he was going to lose his tuna sandwich. He hadn't even seen the bike since the accident. And he hadn't wanted to. "You got it fixed." Daniel couldn't even force a smile.

"Yes, it's fixed. How about talking?"

"I don't want to get on."

"You don't want to get on?"

It sounded pathetic and infantile coming from his father, but he couldn't. Just couldn't. "Are you disappointed?"

His dad's voice said 'no' but everything else, his posture, his eyes, the way his fingers skipped along the chrome handlebars, said something completely different.

Daniel turned, ready to go back into the house.

"Don't run," his father asked. "Please."

One hand on the banister, one foot on the step leading up to the deck, Daniel stopped and shook his head. "I can't get on the bike, not after Alexandria getting hurt."

"Maybe it's about second chances, Icky."

"Alexandria almost didn't have a second chance." He could feel the tears. He remembered how he'd felt seeing her. Seeing her parents.

"I almost didn't have a second chance, either. Almost called it quits after Charlie died."

Angrily, he turned and strode the few steps between them. "I'm not Charlie. I'm not that Daniel."

"You were my second chance, Icky."

He snorted in disbelief. "Me? Why?"

"Because of you, I can remember Charlie without my self-hatred clouding my love for him."

"So, it is about Charlie." Daniel was heartbroken.

"Oh, god, no. It's about falling off a bike and getting back on, because the thrill of the ride far surpasses your fear. It's about fatherhood." His dad's snort was full of self-deprecation. "It's a stupid analogy but the closest thing I can think of without sounding like a Hallmark card."

Daniel shook his head and walked around his dad, feeling the weight of his gaze as he confronted the bike. They faced off—him and the bike. He studied the machine, searching, unable to find even a scrape on the highly polished chrome. No ding. No scratch. Just like new. Daniel walked up to the bike and ran his fingers along the seat, the leather warmed by the heat of the afternoon sun. "You should've left a mark. Something. So I would've remembered."

"You're never going to forget, Daniel. Believe me. Sometimes scars are all on the inside. Trust me on this one."

"So..." Determinedly, Daniel swung his leg over the bike, reached around for the helmet resting on the bumper behind the seat, then settled in. "You want me to get back in the saddle and ride off into the sunset?"

His dad whistled. "Whoa, I'm impressed. Is that a happily ever after analogy?"

Daniel's grin was wide as he strapped on his helmet. "Honestly? No, I'm thinking it was an honest to goodness Hallmark moment."


The End!

Authors' Comments: Thank you to Annie, for always watching our backs as well as our punctuation and grammar. The fic is all the better for your input.



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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.