Wayward Son - Subterfugeby 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.
This story follows right on the heels of Wayward Son.
"As soon as you're done with your physical, I'll take you out for breakfast."
"I'm hungry now." Daniel was well aware that he was being pissy and pigheaded, but the last thing he felt like doing was going to the SGC for tests. Fasting tests.
His father took a deep breath, fortifying his patience.
"I don't want your empathy." Daniel held his stomach.
"I wasn't giving you any," his dad said, turning onto Norad Road, which led up the mountain. "I was praying for patience or the absence of witnesses so I could kill you."
"Not funny," Daniel grumbled.
"I can feel the love."
His dad parked the car, turned it off, and the two of them sat staring through the front windshield.
"I'm so cooked, Dad. I don't want any more blood work, MRIs, psychological assessments, questions, stares, unanswerable questions—"
"I know, Icky."
"You know," he insisted sarcastically, "but you're still making me do this. I want to be like most kids my age. Physicals once a year—"
"Never gonna happen. Especially now that you're getting double teamed by Fraiser and Lam with a side order of Carter."
"Please?" Daniel pleaded.
"No. I'm not writing a note, excusing you... I'm too chicken to bear the wrath of the docs. Besides, it'll be over before you know it."
"More?" Daniel demanded, glaring at Janet as she drew another vial of blood.
With a practice born of years of experience, she undid the tourniquet, labeled the vial, cleaned up the mess and stood, even before Daniel could spit forth another gripe.
"I'm all done playing vampire, Daniel."
He picked up the cotton ball covering the pinprick and snorted. "Still bleeding."
She patted his knee with a laugh. "You'll survive."
"How's our patient?" Doctor Carolyn Lam walked over next to Janet and helped herself to Daniel's chart.
"You mean victim." Daniel didn't even raise his eyes. God, he hated being discussed as if he were an invisible idiot.
"We're not the Marquis de Sade, Daniel." Janet's voice was soft, apologetic, almost an exact replica of his dad's from this morning.
He looked up, but refused to answer her smile with one of his. "From where I'm sitting, you're doing a damn good imitation of torturing me."
Carolyn laughed. "A bit dramatic, Daniel?"
"No," he replied indignantly. "You stuck me with a gazillion needles and—"
"A gazillion?" Janet glanced at the other doctor and winked. "Over-exaggerating?"
"Oh, just a bit," Carolyn answered, closing the chart and placing it on the bed next to Daniel.
Daniel jumped when the klaxons sounded, followed by the intercom. "Med team to the Gateroom."
"Go ahead," Carolyn said to Janet. "I'll finish up with Daniel."
Daniel hated MRIs. He especially hated how cold the procedure room was and the fact that the thin scrubs offered no protection from the chill.
"Ow." He tried to jerk his arm away from Carolyn's steadfast grip. "What's that for?" Hadn't he been stuck with enough needles?
"Contrast," she said. "This way we can check out all the nooks and crannies of that brain of yours as opposed to just the nooks."
"Let's just get this over with." Daniel stood, nearly falling on his ass when the wheelchair scooted out from under him.
"Hold it," Carolyn admonished. "Let me set the brakes before you hurt yourself and need a doctor."
"You know," Daniel said as he got up onto the MRI table, "you and Janet should take your show on the road."
"Lie down." Gently she pushed on his chest. Doctor Lam was basically a blur. Hell, this whole room was a blur without his glasses. He blinked again. Then one more time. Strange as it might seem, the room appeared to be getting blurrier.
"Carolyn?" Panicked, he tried to sit up.
"Shush," came a soft voice in his ear. "Relax. It'll be over before you know it."
"Dad?" His dad had said the same thing. Was his dad here? Now? Daniel yawned as the table slid into the cavernous mouth of the MRI. He'd ask him later; right now, closing his eyes seemed like a better idea.
"He's awake, look. The kid's eyes are open."
"Doesn't make a difference. He won't remember anything."
He knew that voice.
"Are you sure?"
And that voice? Not as familiar, but it was there, somewhere in his memories. Daniel tried to turn his head, but no body parts appeared to be responding to his commands. Strange dream.
"Why are you suddenly getting cold feet about this? It was your idea."
"Not cold feet, just cautious."
Someone was circling where Daniel lay and he tried to bring them into focus, blinking a few times. A smaller person came to stand next to the tall, blurry man.
"I'm not comfortable with this technology."
"I truly don't care if you're comfortable with the technology or not, Doctor."
"I can't make promises that the device will work."
"I don't want promises. I want data. And information."
"You'll have your data. Whether he'll produce anything that's worth this, is another matter altogether." The words were spat out at the tall man. "Two weeks worth of stolen data."
Daniel tried to move. He was so cold. They needed to know he was cold. Cold wasn't right. Not this type of bone-chilling cold that permeated every cell of his body and froze him in place.
"Two weeks? That doesn't seem like enough—"
"That's all the time you're going to get. We've discussed that. Any more and we're putting his life in danger. And I don't know about you, but I don't want a late night visit from Colonel O'Neill or any of SG-1. Personally, I don't have that much of a death wish nor can I hide behind Washington constituents to save my life."
There was a pause, mumbling. Words that Daniel couldn't make out and as hard as it was, even around the numbing cold, he felt himself drift. He roused only when a precise set of footsteps approached.
"Enough. I have to begin otherwise I'm going to be missed. Or he's going to be missed."
Ow. Ow. Ow. Daniel's eyes flew open.
"He felt that. Look. Don't you tell me—"
"With all due respect, Senator, please be quiet. Yes, he feels this but he won't have a single memory of what happened."
"Are you sure?"
There was a heavy sigh that tickled Daniel's neck.
"You asked that previously, and I'll give you the same answer I gave you before. Yes. He'll remember nothing. The filament is fitted under the skin and the entrance wound will be closed up with this."
An uncomfortable buzzing sound filled Daniel's head, then lowered in pitch until it disappeared. A soft, familiar touch wiped a drop of moisture from the corner of Daniel's eye.
"I'm sorry, honey."
"I'll be in contact with you." The voice sounded further away.
"You get two weeks. Not a second more. Oh, Senator?"
"Yes, Doctor." The voice was filled to overflowing with annoyance.
"Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out."
Daniel smothered a yawn behind his hand. "All your fault," he complained to his father. Pushing up his glasses, he scrubbed at his tired eyes.
"I don't remember forcing you to stay up last night." He jabbed Daniel's plate with his fork. "Eat your breakfast so you're coherent enough to go to school."
The pancakes smelled delicious and his stomach growled, trying to prod him to pick up his fork and take a bite, but he couldn't get past the gnawing headache.
"The headache will go away if you eat." His dad leaned over and cut a triangle of pancake. "Open up the hanger."
Daniel grabbed the hand with the fork. "Dad, please."
"What? I'm embarrassing you?"
"Dad," Daniel hissed, glancing over his shoulder.
"Now, if I really wanted to embarrass you, I'd make a noise like this... Vrrmmmmm, to go along with the hanger... and the airplane pancakes."
"Please," Daniel begged. "I'll eat the pancakes. I promise, just please—"
"Jeez, you used to love that." His dad released the fork to Daniel, leaned back in the booth, and smiled evilly.
Daniel pulled the plate closer and wrapped an arm around it while he ate, protecting his food and himself from his father's warped sense of humor.
Daniel stopped from getting out of the truck and turned toward his father. "Yeah?"
Daniel nodded. "Feels better."
"That's not exactly what I asked you."
"I'm. Fine. Dad. Honest."
"I'll try and talk to the docs about—"
"No, it's okay. I understand." Daniel sighed. "I really do... It's just—"
"I was going to say a pain in the ass."
"Watch the language, Mister."
"I'm not a kid."
"I know. If you were a kid, you would've let me play plane and airplane hanger at the diner."
"On that note, I'm outta here. See you tonight."
Daniel made a volcano out of his mashed potatoes, then looked expectantly at his father.
"You know, Carter has taught you the vilest eating habits." He poured the gravy onto the potatoes and it slid into the crater that Daniel had created.
Daniel dropped a spoonful of corn into the gravy then sat back to survey his handiwork. "This dinner is a thing of beauty."
"Did anyone ever tell you that you're a strange child?"
He cut off a piece of meatloaf then dragged it through the mashed potatoes, upsetting the volcano, the gravy lava spilling out and across his plate. "I'm not strange," he said through a mouthful of food.
The headache slowly niggled its way back and by the time Daniel was sopping up the last puddle of gravy with a slice of fresh bread, the lights were too bright in the kitchen and his stomach began protesting the meal. He didn't even realize he was rubbing his temple until his dad held his hand in place.
"Yeah. Think I'm just tired." He glanced towards the pile of pots in the sink.
"That's why we have a dishwasher. Go shower. Go study. Go do homework. Do not talk on the phone or use the computer for anything other than work. Which means no IMing Dria, et al."
"Yes, Colonel." Daniel gave his dad a sloppy salute before leaving the kitchen.
Daniel felt a million times better after the shower and he stretched out on the bed with a modicum of guilt, but his bed was far more appealing than loading the dishwasher. He opened his laptop, refused to open his AIM and set to work studying, lasting all of two minutes before opening his chat window. Thankfully, no one was around so he went back to studying, this time falling asleep before he'd answered a single Global History question.
Lunch tray in hand, he stood surveying the noisy cafeteria. He smiled as a madly waving Alexandria caught his attention. He dropped the tray on the table then sat across from her.
"Oh, you got the meatball hero." She separated her sandwich, the melted cheese forming a bridge between the two halves. "I got grilled cheese."
"Wanna share?" The grilled cheese looked a damn sight more appealing than the heavily sauced meatballs.
Daniel tucked into the grilled cheese, regretting that this hadn't been his lunch choice.
"Sorry I didn't call you last night." She picked a meatball out of the sandwich and popped it into her mouth. "I kinda got read the riot act. No phone. No computer. Yadda yadda yadda. You'd think I was failing instead of being in all the enriched classes and in the top five percent of the class."
"Been there. Done that. Got the same riot act read to me." He reached towards Alexandria's plate to snag a fry only to have his hand slapped.
"Next time, just give me your money and I'll buy your lunch, since my tray always seems to hold such fascination."
"Does that mean you won't share any fries with me?"
"No," she said, dropping a handful of fries on Daniel's plate, "...it just means that you're a pain in the ass."
The headache began anew sometime around gym. Luck of the draw would pit him, Alexandria, Cassie, Dominic and Corey in the same class as Tony and two of his cronies. Nothing was said, Tony wasn't that stupid, it was just the tension and by the time the bell rang, the pain in his head was like a vice grip.
"Go home, take two Tylenol, forget the riot act and call me tonight," Alexandria instructed. She planted a light kiss on his cheek before running off to catch her bus. Daniel trudged along the row of buses, looking for his. A gentle tap on his shoulder and he jumped and spun around, fists raised.
"Whoa." Sam raised her own hands. "I surrender."
"Sorry." Embarrassed, he dropped his arms. "I wasn't expecting you."
"Do I want to know who you were expecting with that wonderful greeting?"
A sudden thought occurred to Daniel. "My dad?"
"Yes." Suddenly, Daniel couldn't breathe. "Is he—"
"Fine. He's fine. Honest."
"Without sounding rude... Why are you here?"
"He's going to be late. I thought that maybe you and I could go to dinner?"
Daniel must've dozed off in the front seat of Sam's car, because he had absolutely no memory of her driving from the school to her house.
"Hey," she said softly, gently shaking his shoulder. "Awake?"
He blinked at the afternoon's brightness. "Yeah. Up." He stretched, then smiled.
"Care to let me in on the secret?"
"Nothing." Except the headache was gone and for the first time in a few days, he really felt good.
"Hope you don't mind, I have to do a few things before dinner tonight."
"Nah. It's okay." Daniel patted the backpack resting between his knees. "I have more than enough to do to keep me busy."
Daniel checked the clock on Sam's computer and then looked up. "Wow. Umm... I didn't realize it was that late."
"So does that mean you're hungry?"
"Yeah, I am."
"What'll it be? Pizza. Greek. Chinese..."
"Steak?" Daniel asked tentatively. "Potatoes?"
Sam got a dreamy look in her face. "Medium rib eye... Dressed potato."
Sam licked her lips. "You took the words right out of my mouth."
"Sam," Daniel asked as he shoved his work back into his backpack, "can we take the motorcycle?"
She hesitated just for a moment, but it was long enough for Daniel to catch on. "Please?"
"Your father, my commanding officer, will kill me."
"Not if he doesn't—"
"No secrets, remember?"
"Well, does not saying anything constitute lying?"
"Always the diplomat, Daniel. Always. You'll have a great future at the SGC."
Daniel threw back his head, allowing the rush of wind to wash over him. Damn. Screw a car, this was what he wanted. This freedom. He allowed memories of his adult self to surface and he smiled as he recalled soloing on Sam's motorcycle. He tightened his hold around her waist and dropped his head on the back of her leather jacket. Through his adult eyes, the open road stretched before him and he shifted and weaved this powerful bike through traffic. He laughed, burying it against her back, recalling the shock and surprise on her face when he had returned whole and hearty from his expedition. She'd been surprised at his level of expertise.
They pulled into the gravel parking lot of O'Malley's. Daniel got off the bike before Sam, his enthusiasm barely containable.
She took off her helmet and shook out her hair. "What?"
"I remember," he said, practically dancing around the bike, pulling his helmet off. "I remember riding it. Shifting. You were surprised. Stunned. I. Can. Do. This."
"Don't even go there, Daniel," she warned with a wag of her finger, her somber expression deflating his happiness.
"Fine." He stomped up the stairs, not even waiting for Sam before stepping inside.
"I'm sorry." She reached out and plucked at the menu Daniel was hiding behind.
"They're not all good, you know. The memories. So when I find something—"
"Oh God, Daniel, I'm so very sorry."
He shrugged. "Sometimes it's just nice to be able—" Daniel looked around; the restaurant wasn't the place for this conversation. "I didn't mean to make you feel bad."
"Let me talk to your dad, okay? I'm not making any promises. No streets or anything, but maybe we can work something out."
Sam's smile was wickedly evil. "Remember how to play pool?"
"Come on, let's have some fun."
"He's just a kid." The pool cue guy balked at her suggestion.
Daniel kept silent, letting Sam do the talking.
"Afraid he's going to beat you?"
Daniel remembered that sometimes the trouble SG-1 got into wasn't all his fault.
"Best outta five?" The larger of the men in the group threw another five on the table.
Sam went to reach for it.
"Sam," Daniel whispered, checking the clock over the bar. "It's getting late."
"Sorry, guys." Sam gathered up their winnings, leaving the last five on the table. "I have to get Daniel home before his curfew." She tucked the money into her pocket. "Let it be a lesson to you. Never judge a book by its cover."
"Why not?" Exasperated, Daniel doggedly followed his dad from the kitchen and into his bedroom. He nearly bumped into him when his dad turned suddenly just inside the room.
"Let me repeat myself, for the last time. You are thirteen years old, and I am not teaching you how to drive until you are old enough to get a learner's permit. So I don't want to hear one more word about this subject for another three years. Got me?"
"But Alexandria's dad is teaching her and she's only fifteen—"
"Soon to be fourteen and I already know how to drive. I remember—"
"Knowing how to drive and having the experience and maturity to drive are two different things."
"So let me have the experience. I can't get any when you drive me everywhere—"
"You're thirteen," his dad repeated.
"So you mean I'm not mature enough." Daniel's head began to pound; the vague headache he'd woken up with was stirring along with his anger.
"To be honest, no, you're not."
"Oh, gee, thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Daniel, you may be mature for a thirteen year old, but we're talking about your life and the lives of everyone else out there while you're behind the wheel. And let's face it. Some of your decisions recently were not necessarily the most mature."
Daniel clamped his teeth together. His dad was right about that, but the situation had been different. "It's not the same thing."
"No, but the fact remains that you're still thirteen."
"But Corey and Christian and Nate and Li are taking driver's ed—"
"Daniel. Not. One. More. Word."
"It's not fair," Daniel mumbled as he went back to the kitchen. He tossed his half-eaten breakfast into the garbage, grabbed his schoolbag and went outside to sulk while he waited for his father. Resting his head on the ivy-covered cement wall, he closed his eyes and wondered if he could accompany Corey and talk his father into teaching him at the same time.
He heard the front door close behind him but didn't move until his father walked past him. He got up slowly, feeling tired, as if the argument had sucked all the energy out of him. Still sulking, he got into the Avalanche, avoiding looking at his father as he searched for his iPod in one of the pockets of his backpack.
Reaching up to stick the ear buds into his ears, his father placed a hand on his arm, stopping the motion. "I have to go on a mission today."
A surge of remembered excitement accompanied a horrible sense of anxiety at his dad's words. His father hadn't been offworld since Daniel's trip through the Stargate this spring and now that he had all of his older self's memories, Daniel knew exactly how dangerous those missions were. He fought back the envy and the worry.
"Through the...?" Daniel made a quick, circular motion with his finger.
"Yeah. It'll only be for a few hours but there's a good chance I might be delayed coming back until later tonight. If that happens, I want you to go to your grandma's, like we discussed. She should be home by the time school's out." His dad started the engine and began backing out of the driveway. "Leave a message with her when you get home and you and she can make plans if I end up being late, okay?"
"Yeah." Daniel slouched as far into the seat as his seatbelt would allow him and wished he were going along with his dad. The nightmares he'd experienced when his memories had started coming back had faded and while he still had bad dreams occasionally, he could remember how much his other, adult self had enjoyed going through the Stargate and meeting all those new people and cultures. It wasn't fair.
Life sucked sometimes.
The last exam had been a struggle. It'd been strangely chilly in the classroom, enough to make Daniel uncomfortable and antsy, tempting him to rush through the test so he could leave early. He'd learned his lesson, though, and forced himself to read through the questions a second time, just in case he'd missed something.
It was with relief that he handed the paper in and headed for the school bus. He joined his friends, staying on the sidelines of their conversation.
"We're going to be really roughing it," Corey bragged. "Mom got us these really great lined sleeping bags and you're all warm and toasty in 'em." He leered at Lena and waggled his eyebrows. "Be even toastier if I were sharing it with someone."
Lena rolled her eyes and pushed Corey away. "In your dreams, hotshot. I wouldn't share a blanket with you, let alone sleep in a tent." She shuddered delicately, then glared at her brother Li, who was grinning at her. "What are you laughing at? There are bugs and wild animals in the woods."
"Nah, we've seen rabbits and skunks but never anything bigger."
"No, she's right. There are wolves and bears," Nat added. "You have to put your food up out of reach so they can't get to it, and far from where you're sleeping."
"I know that. That's why I said we never saw any." Corey winked and turned to Daniel. "So, what are you doing this wonderful Memorial weekend?"
"Not going camping, that's for sure." Daniel shrugged away the draggy feeling and was glad that his dad hadn't made any plans. "I need to study for the physics exam on Tuesday."
"Be glad you're not a girl." Lena sighed as she took out a tube of lip gloss and applied it to her lips, talking while swiping the applicator back and forth. "Alexandria's mom's taking her on that dumb school retreat to that spa." She smacked her now glossy lips together. "I don't know how those two would want to spend time together. I mean, isn't it bad enough you live with your mother? Who'd want to go away on vacation with her?"
"I dunno. It's always kinda nice to do things alone with my dad." Daniel suddenly had a hankering for spending some time with his dad, out in the countryside. Cassie was doing that mom and daughter thing also, and suddenly he was jealous. His dad was off with Sam and Teal'c, having adventures, and here he was, looking forward to a long weekend with nothing but studying on his agenda. Maybe he could talk his dad into going hiking on Sunday or Monday.
"Yeah," Nate said. "Dad and I go to the movies sometimes 'cause mom doesn't wanna come. We always have fun. Dad lets me eat what I want without nagging me about ruining my supper."
On the bus ride home, Daniel listened to his friends, feeling too sluggish to join in except for a comment here and there. He got up reluctantly when his stop was next, waved to his friends and walked the two blocks home. He contemplated eating something but his stomach felt funny and he wasn't hungry. Unlocking the door, he kicked off his shoes in the hallway, dropped his schoolbag in the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Snapple Iced Tea from the fridge, and sprawled on his bed.
He opened the Snapple, brought it to his mouth and just the smell of it turned his stomach. With a sigh, he put the bottle down and wrapped himself in his comforter, trying to chase the chill away. He'd think about supper when his dad got home; right now, he'd just be lazy for a little while. He'd just gotten comfortable when he remembered he hadn't called his grandma. With a sigh, he got off the bed, retrieved his backpack and fished his phone from it.
After ten rings, he hung up and decided to go downstairs and watch a movie. He looked through their DVD selection half-heartedly, decided on a Kung Fu-type movie and settled on the couch, getting up a moment later to snag a blanket from the closet and made himself comfortable.
The phone pulled him out of what felt like a very deep sleep. He staggered off the couch, his head pounding heavily and nearly tripped over the blanket. Stumbling up the stairs, his sock-clad feet slid awkwardly on the wood floor as he hurried to the kitchen.
He grabbed the cell. "Hello?" he said breathlessly.
The voice at the other end was familiar, and his groggy brain fought to recognize it. And the moment he did, his heart fled into his throat. "Walter?"
"Hold please for General Hammond."
His mouth was suddenly dry and spitless as his heart pounded so fast, he could hardly take a full breath. "Walter, is my dad okay?"
"General? Please, what happened to my dad?"
"Your father is fine, son. I promise, the whole team is fine."
The relief was so intense that Daniel's knees suddenly felt weak and he had to grab onto the counter to stay upright. He fought the rising nausea by swallowing hard.
"SG-1 ran into a slight problem and they'll be delayed returning home tonight."
"You spoke to him?"
"Yes, Daniel, I did." There was a touch of amusement in his voice. "He asked me to remind you to call your grandmother."
"I did," Daniel replied vaguely, trying to imagine what sort of problem might have prevented his dad from coming home. Jaffa was right up there at the top of his list, followed by everything from alien creatures to angry inhabitants.
"So everything's under control?"
"Huh?" Suddenly it occurred to him that his dad wouldn't be home tonight and that he needed to get in touch with his grandmother. "Yes, sir, everything's fine. When will my dad be coming home?" His voice wavered and he hated himself for that weakness.
"With any luck, sometime tomorrow. Unfortunately he's not in a position to call very often so I may not have any news for you until he actually arrives. But if anything comes up, I'll make sure to leave orders for someone to contact you."
"Thank you, sir." He hated General Hammond's vague explanation. He just wished that he could be told exactly what was going on and how much danger his dad and the others were in. He hung up the phone with images of danger and injuries and torture coming to the fore. Suddenly he hated knowing everything. Hated knowing the danger his father could be in. Hated that he couldn't be there to help them and hated that he was a kid. Once upon a time he'd killed a god. He'd met aliens, spoken to them, traded with them, married one, and today he couldn't even go out and drive a fucking car.
"NO!" he screamed, pulling his arm back in anger and frustration to throw the phone across the room. Anticipating the satisfactory crash and tinkle of broken pieces scattering across the kitchen floor, his stomach contracted in such a way that he aborted the throw and was running for the bathroom. He slid across the ceramic tiles, banging his knee painfully against the sink as he sank to his knees, dry heaving loudly.
After several false attempts to throw up, he sat back on the floor, thankful he hadn't eaten or drunk anything. He passed his hands over his face, rubbing away sweat and feeling the heat against his fingers. He sat there for a few minutes, waiting for his stomach to settle and then scrabbled on the floor for his cell phone.
He speed-dialed his grandmother's number again. When there was no answer, he called her cell, rubbing his free hand against his arm, trying to chase away the goose bumps.
"Hi, Grandma." He walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. His clothes still felt sweat-damp and he was cold despite the sunshine shining into the room.
"I'm glad you called. I was just about to phone your dad to tell him I'm going to be stuck here for at least two days. My damn car broke down and they can't get a replacement piece in for a few days."
"You're still in Mesa Verde?"
"Yep. Just so you know, the hotel Gwen and I are staying in has no cell reception so I'll have to give you the phone number."
Daniel hurriedly lunged for a pencil and dutifully wrote the number down.
"Is your dad there? Can I talk to him?"
"Um... no, Grandma, that's why I was calling." He tossed the paper and pencil onto the coffee table and sat back on the sofa, bringing his sock-clad feet up onto the sofa so he could curl up and conserve heat.
"He's working late?"
"Yeah. Sorta. I was supposed to come and stay with you but seeing you're not home..."
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I can try and rent a car, maybe I can be home in a couple of hours—"
"No, no, I've got it covered." Daniel knew the chance he was taking by lying. "I can call Corey's mom and go stay there until Dad comes home."
"Yeah. It'll be great. Corey got this new game he was telling me about so..."
"Okay. I'll call tomorrow and check up on you."
"I love you, too, Grandma."
He hung up and rubbed the back of his aching neck. He tried to think of what to do. He knew he wasn't allowed to stay home alone overnight. But everyone was going away this weekend.
Corey. Maybe he could go camping with the Maddisons, if they hadn't left yet. He didn't have his dad's permission to go camping but he was sure his dad would prefer that to the alternative of staying home alone. He grabbed his cell again and speed-dialed his friend, only to get his voicemail. He tried the main number, and got their answering machine.
He tried Cassie's cell next. Except she and Janet were already on their way and he spent the next fifteen minutes listening to every spa service and feature she was going to try. By the time he hung up with Cassie, he was shivering. He got up to check the central air, but it wasn't turned on.
There was no use calling Alexandria. He'd try Li, but he knew the family was going away to visit his aunt and he'd never been close enough to Nathan's family for a sleepover.
He'd exhausted his list of friends and family. He contemplated calling General Hammond, wondering if he could stay at the base, but wasn't sure how he could get there. Maybe he could take a cab. He trudged up the stairs to his bedroom and raided his piggybank.
One minute later, he sat there, staring at the woeful collection of coins and the two one dollar bills that were all that remained after his previous raiding of his piggybank last weekend in order to buy the latest CD of his favorite group. Not enough money for a cab ride to the mall, let alone Cheyenne Mountain.
With a grumbled curse, he grabbed the small handful of coins and dropped them haphazardly on his bureau, not patient enough at the moment to feed them back into his bank.
His last option was to call General Hammond and ask for a lift to the mountain, but if he did that, the general would know he'd lied to him because he'd given him the impression he was with his grandmother.
Okay, so his options were limited, and it looked like he was spending the evening here, at home, by himself. And he could do this; he had the memories of having lived alone, he just needed to remember them.
First off, he needed to prove to his dad that he'd done all he could. So he found some paper and wrote a list of who he'd called and why they were unavailable, who he'd thought of calling and why he hadn't.
Then he wrote that he'd thought of going to Cheyenne Mountain but didn't have enough cash for a cab. He added next to that notation that if he'd had a car and a driver's licence, the problem would have been solved then and there because he'd simply have driven himself back to the SGC.
Next he needed to show he was responsible. He went through the house, locking the front door and checking the windows. He emptied the dishwasher, took out the garbage and made notations of all his chores on the paper.
By now it was past suppertime. His brain said he should eat but his stomach didn't feel up to it. He opened the fridge and stared inside for several minutes. The thought of eating cold pizza, for once, churned his stomach, ditto leftover casserole and Chinese takeout, although the fried rice sounded almost half-appealing.
Next he opened the pantry and looked over his options. Finally he decided on canned soup and crackers. He took out a can and just as he put the can opener to the lid, decided that he'd rather have the fried rice. He put the can away, took the container of rice out and grabbed a spoon.
Sixty seconds later he was downstairs again, sitting on the couch, and trying to find the spot in the movie where he'd fallen asleep.
He managed only a few mouthfuls of cold rice before the shivering began in earnest. With a disgruntled sigh, he put the container down onto the coffee table and huddled under the blanket. "Shoulda had the soup, after all."
Halfway through the movie, he suddenly felt so awful that he needed to lie down. His whole body hurt, his head felt too big and heavy for his neck and he didn't seem to be able to get comfortable. The couch wasn't half as appealing as his bed, so he shut the TV and DVD off and still wrapped in the blanket, trudged upstairs, shutting the lights off behind him.
With the blanket dragging behind him like a cape, Daniel detoured to the bathroom and grabbed the bottle of Tylenol, shook out two and put his mouth to the faucet as he ran the cold water. He drank directly from the tap, intending to drink his fill but the chill of the water hit him and he began shivering again.
He changed into his pajamas quickly, the air of his bedroom causing goose bumps to spread on his naked skin. He hurriedly slid into bed, tossing the blanket on top of the comforter for good measure, and curled up into a tight little ball to try and minimize the trembling.
It was too early to go to sleep. Maybe, he could just warm up first then retrieve the DVD and finish watching the movie on his laptop, but right now he'd lost interest and going back downstairs felt like too much trouble. He could always read or study, but he'd had trouble concentrating on the movie, reading was even less appealing. He could play computer games but sitting up would be too uncomfortable.
He leaned over the side of the bed, found his pants, dug into his pockets, and pulled out his iPod. With shaking hands, he shoved in his ear buds, tossed the pants off the bed and burrowed under the blankets. Music was mindless. Even under the darkness of the blanket, he found the playlist he wanted and closed his eyes.
He shifted position. Changed the playlist and shifted again. The songs played on and he drifted, his body becoming one with the mattress. Too heavy to even move, no matter how much he ached.
Hunched over in a self-hug, with his knees drawn up to his chest, totally hidden by the quilt, Daniel fell asleep.
"Dad?" Daniel shot up in bed, ripped out his ear buds and flung his iPod the length of the bed. "Are you home?" He tossed back the blankets and stood, holding onto the dresser when the floor tilted dangerously. "I'm in here."
There was no one anywhere in the house, a shaky house check proved that. The alarm was still set, the windows and doors all locked and alarmed. Hell, even the outside motion detector floodlights in the back yard were still off. Nothing. Just his overactive imagination. He dragged himself back to bed, hugging the wall. With eyes half-closed, he fell back into bed without even trying to find his iPod.
The damage was done, though, and Daniel remained creeped out, lying on his back, listening to nothing but silence. His self-deprecating deep sigh set off a spasm of coughing, the urge of which hadn't even been a tickle in his throat seconds before.
"Great." The one word seemed extraordinarily loud. Daniel flipped over, punched the pillow and dropped face down into it. He forced his burning eyes to close and stay closed. What he couldn't stop was the parade of horror movie ghouls and disemboweled teenagers marching in his brain.
Daniel settled in on the living room couch. His bedroom had been too stifling, was the excuse he'd used to rationalizing moving to the living room. His laptop was open, set up on the coffee table right at eye level. The movie Cars was playing with sparkling clarity and Daniel tucked his comforter around his body, stretched out, stuck his pillow under his head and watched. And watched some more. Then some more. Just before the closing credits, Daniel fell into a restless sleep.
He dreamed horrible disjointed dreams and woke just before dawn. Drained and tired, but feeling a touch more human, Daniel dragged himself to the bathroom. He peed, washed his hands, then spent the better part of ten minutes dry heaving into the toilet. So much for feeling a touch more human.
Once in his bedroom, he changed out of pajamas into sweats, socks and for good measure, and because he couldn't believe how cold he was, his hoody. He made tea and toast, moving around the kitchen sluggishly. He tried to reproduce the tea his grandma would make and ended up with a poor and overly sweetened copy. The only thing Daniel used it for was to wash down two slices of toast.
Threw in a load of laundry, Daniel added to his list, leaving out that he had to wipe up a cupful of laundry detergent that had dropped on the floor or that tee shirts were getting washed with towels. It was the thought that counted; he was being responsible, proudly showing his father that being home alone with a cold wouldn't deter him.
Responsibility. Daniel needed to study and he tore himself away from the mesmerizing spin of the washing machine to head back upstairs. Since half his bed was already in the living room and dragging his backpack over to the couch took less energy than the amount of energy he would expend bringing his pillow, backpack, blanket, and himself back into his room, he settled on the couch with his books.
Twenty minutes later, his books were an untidy pile on the floor while Daniel was curled up on the couch under a mound of blankets, miserable, his head pounding while he lay there with absolutely no energy to do much of anything. "I'll just close my eyes for a little while,," he promised himself.
From far away he heard the washing machine spin to a stop, and knew he should get up and put the clothes in the dryer. That thought was on his mind as he drifted off to sleep, and was still there when he woke up.
The day had become gloomy while the clouds outside thickened and darkened, throwing the living room into dreariness. The air, even inside the house, promised rain soon. He cast a longing glance at the fireplace as he stood and dragged himself down to the basement to put the clothes in the dryer. Lack of wood prevented him from lighting a fire, plus the promise he'd given his father to never use the fireplace if he wasn't home.
Climbing back up the stairs left him weak in the knees and seeing stars as his head pounded in time with his pulse.
"This is ridiculous." With one finger, he rubbed at the spot behind his left ear where the pain seemed worse as he grabbed a bottle of Tylenol from his bathroom's medicine cabinet and shook the last two remaining pills into his palm. "Oh, great." If he didn't shake this cold soon, he'd have to go out into the coming rain and get some more.
He swallowed the pills with a small sip of water, waiting as that bit of liquid coursed down his throat and into his stomach. There was a moment of defiance from his stomach, but his willpower finally prevailed and he left the bathroom confident that he wouldn't be running back there, at least for a few minutes.
Wandering the house aimlessly, he stepped into the kitchen to look outside, and was shocked when a glance at the clock showed he'd slept for nearly four hours. It was past lunchtime, but he felt no inkling of hunger. Even the thought of food turned his stomach.
He stared out at the laden clouds, wishing for sunshine so he could sit outside and soak up the sun's rays. Even as he watched, large splats darkened the wood of the back deck. The raindrops fell slowly at first, then erupted into a sheet of water that splashed loudly on the wooden slats.
As it was already mid-afternoon, maybe his dad would be coming home soon. Feeling stupid for feeling so lonely, he reached for the house phone, intending to call the SGC, then remembered General Hammond's words – essentially Don't call us, we'll call you. But he must have an idea now when his dad would be coming home. Today? Tonight? Tomorrow? He began to dial the main number, then cut the call before it could go through.
"Stupid. Stupid." He knew better than that. If he spoke to General Hammond, he'd want to speak to his grandma, and then he might suspect he was alone. He was just about to put the phone back on the cradle when it rang loudly in his hands. The sound startled him and he fumbled and almost dropped the phone.
"Walter." His heart skipped a beat and he leaned dizzily against the counter.
"I just wanted to let you know that we heard from your dad a little while ago and he still doesn't know how long it'll be before he can make it back home."
Daniel understood the subtext, even with his pounding heart making it hard to focus. Most likely cut off from the 'gate but within radio transmission whenever the SGC dialed the planet. "Okay, thanks for letting me know."
"They'll be fine, Daniel," Walter said in a low voice.
"I know," Daniel answered equally as softly before he hung up. He tried his grandmother but got her voice mail. He left a quick message, telling her he missed her, and made his way back to the couch. A sense of obligation made him pick up a textbook; the inability to focus made him put it back down. He tossed his glasses to the side and huddled beneath the comforter, lying on his back while he stared out the window, watching the rain cascade down the glass. The blurry motion was hypnotic and before he knew it, his eyes were closing.
"Dad?" he said quickly into the phone, not even checking to see who was calling.
"Oh, nice to see that you're missing me."
"Alexandria." He wiped his sleep-crusted eyes with a knuckle; even that small motion hurt the muscles in his arm. "Where are you—"
"At the spa, silly. You should see this place! It's amazing. I had this really stinky seaweed wrap where you're wrapped up like a mummy and you can't move and then I soaked in a hot tub with this wonderful bath oil which I'm begging mom to buy for me but she said we already spent too much money here and then I had a sugar scrub and mom had this shower where they spray all these showerheads on your body at once and..." She stopped a moment, taking a deep breath.
"So I guess you're enjoying yourself?" Great, glad one of us is, he thought, fighting to keep the loneliness out of his voice. He squinted into the dark, wondering what time it was.
"Oh yeah. And Cassie and I were sitting in the lounge earlier and these ladies came up and brought us tea and cookies, just like you see in the movies. I'm having another massage tomorrow and having a pedicure and a flower soak. And I saw Monica, you know, Monica Taylor? Would you believe she was having a cellulite wrap and treatment? Like the girl is so thin, and she's worried about cellulite?"
"Really?" He forced himself to sit up, ignoring his pounding head and reached for his glasses as Alexandria continued her monologue.
"And they have these little slippers you can wear, and bathrobes. Everyone's walking around in robes. It's so cool."
Daniel sat forward with his head in his free hand, massaging his temple and scalp. He burped, and felt bile rise into his mouth, which he swallowed down quickly, leaving a burning sensation in the back of his throat. "That's... weird."
"I know! But you don't feel weird because everyone else is just like you. But we got dressed up for supper. That was kinda fun. Cassie's mom is so funny. Oh, I have to go. We're going to the movies. I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"
"Great," Daniel said, but Alexandria had already hung up and he was talking to the dial tone. He checked the time on his phone and sighed. It was after seven; the storm outside made it feel like it was later. As he tucked the phone into the pocket of his hoody, lightning lit the room up for a second.
He stood and wavered a moment as his body adjusted to being upright. He hurt everywhere, even his skin. Shuffling carefully in the dark, he made his way to the back of the house, turning lights on as he went, until he entered his dad's bathroom. He'd intended on looking for Tylenol or Advil but he spotted the thermometer in the medicine chest.
Fingering the plastic implement a moment, he figured he might as well see if he really was truly sick. It hit him as odd as he stuck the thing into his mouth that no matter how irritating it was when his dad or grandma wanted to take his temperature, it was always an act of caring. Now, alone in the house, he missed having someone doting on him. He stood there, one hand holding the thermometer while the other hung onto the sink for balance, listening to the thunder rumble outside, until it beeped.
He stared at the numbers in surprise - 102.7. He blinked, and looked again, but the figures didn't change.
No wonder he felt so lousy. He really was sick. And now that he could see he had a fever, he felt worse than before.
A quick search of the medicine cabinet came up empty. A more careful search of both bathrooms and kitchen cabinets came up short of anything he could take for his fever. There was nowhere else to look except... maybe his dad had some in the first aid kit.
He began rummaging through his dad's closet, looking for the kit. His neck was stiff and felt like it wouldn't hold his head up for much longer. Desperate for something to ease the fever, he shoved things to the side until he finally spotted the white box sitting on the top shelf, right in front of him in plain sight.
He was just reaching for it when the lights went out with a spectacular crash of thunder. "Oh, damn it." He reached again blindly and pulled the case out. He fingered the contents, unable to tell what he was touching. "Of all the stupid timing. Now I need to get a damned flashlight."
The bedroom was pitch-dark, except for the frequent lightning flashes. With the box under his arm, he'd made it to the door when a voice stopped him cold. He couldn't make out the words, but it wasn't his dad's voice, and it was coming from the living room.
"Shit, shit, shit." He stood there, frozen, when he realized there was an intruder in his home.
For a moment his mind went blank, then he realized he needed to get some help. Instinct had him hitting the speed-dial for his dad's cell, but the moment he hit send he remembered his dad wasn't even on Earth.
The voice was getting closer, footsteps coming down the hallway as the beam of a flashlight bounced off the wall. Slowly Daniel backed up out of sight, trying to think of what to do. He hit 911, but even as the phone rang at the other end, the intruder's voice was nearly at the door so he cut the connection. He shrank down behind the bed, his whole body shaking from both fear and fever.
"I don't care what favors you have to pull, just get the power back on in here. I can't see a bloody thing."
The flashlight played over his head and Daniel hugged the edge of the bed. The man was talking softly, giving Daniel the impression he was trying not to be overheard, and most likely talking into a radio.
"No, the kid doesn't know I'm here. There's signs he was sleeping, he's probably just holed up in the dark, waiting for the lights to come back on." The voice moved on, heading towards his bedroom.
If he could hear the intruder talking on the radio, then the intruder would most certainly hear him talking on the phone. Daniel knew he had to call for help; he just had to do it from somewhere else.
For a moment his mind went blank, then his adult memories kicked in. He had learned how to load and shoot a gun. His dad had made sure he would never make the mistake Charlie had. And he had shot a gun, had injured and killed people in self-defense as an adult. He knew he had the balls to do it; he just needed to get to the gun.
On hands and knees, he crept towards the closet. He'd seen the gun case in his search for the first aid kit. Slowly, he began feeling through the contents of the closet.
Luck was with him; he found the case within seconds. That had been the easy part. Now he needed the key, and ammunition.
He stood quickly and groped for the large cloth bag hanging behind his dad's dress uniform. He pulled the bag off the hook, reached inside and took out a magazine clip. Then he got down and on hands and knees once again, he crept to his dad's bureau and reached for the sock drawer. He pulled it open slowly and felt around, searching for the key which he knew was in the far right corner. He got it, shut the drawer and crawled back to his hiding place behind the bed. He realized he couldn't hear anything and he listened, trying to figure out where the intruder was. Maybe he could try calling the police now...
He fingered his phone but a familiar creak in the hallway stopped him. That piece of wood always creaked whenever someone stepped on it. The guy was right outside Daniel's bedroom.
With badly shaking fingers, Daniel stuck the phone back into the hoody's pocket and fumbled the key into the lock, opening the gun case. He touched the cold metal and pulled it out as the footsteps got closer. He thought he'd feel safer with the gun in his hand, but the memories in his head told him that he'd just made himself more of a target.
The sudden thought of having to shoot someone sickened him and coupled with his already existing nausea, he gagged.
He heard the footsteps come rushing into the room and he tried to shove the magazine into the weapon even as he spewed bile. He felt a hand grip his shoulder and try to pull him upright.
"Got him," the man said triumphantly.
Daniel coughed once, still doubled over and struggling with the gun. And once again, acting instinctively on the memories in his head, he let go of the gun just long enough to grab the leg next to him and gave a sharp jerk, throwing his assailant off balance. He rolled sideways and grabbed the gun, finally getting the magazine in.
Lightning illuminated the room and the man's face. He was staring intently at the gun now aimed directly for his forehead.
"Who the fuck are you?" Daniel screamed over the ensuing thunder. His head was pounding so hard that his vision was greying on the sides, and he was trembling so badly the gun kept wavering off target even with his two-handed hold on it.
"Put the gun down, Daniel." The man's gaze crept past the gun and stared hard at Daniel.
"You broke into my house."
"Put the gun down before you hurt someone."
"I'm calling the police." Holding the gun in his right hand, he reached for the phone with his left. His heart was beating wildly and his legs kept threatening to give out on him, and he just knew that the intruder would make a move the second he took his eyes off him. Trying to dial from memory, he began punching in the numbers.
Everything happened so fast. The man moved forward and Daniel pulled the trigger. Except nothing happened. For a split second, he stood there, until the impossible happened. Again.
Just like when Tony attacked him at the mall, Daniel moved without thinking. He threw himself sideways and kicked savagely with the sole of his foot. He felt a satisfying crunch even as the blow jarred his leg right into his hip and then the man screamed in pain as he fell heavily to the ground.
Daniel wasted no time. On legs that could barely support him, he ran, slamming his shoulder painfully into the wall as he lost his balance and stumbled forward. His mind was racing and he didn't know what to do. He couldn't hide inside the house, the intruder had been talking to someone else and he'd be found within minutes. He had to get outside and call for help.
He ran downstairs to the basement, heading for the garage. He slapped the automatic door opener with the palm of his hand, then swore when he realized it wouldn't work without power. He grabbed his bike, taking only a second to put the gun into his hoody pocket, along with his cell phone, and waited for a clap of thunder, hoping it would mask the sound of him manually opening and closing the garage door.
Peddling furiously into the storm, he gasped at the chill of the rain as he pulled out of the driveway and down the street.
It was difficult to breathe. The wind tossed the rain at him in waves, each one so cold against his fevered skin that it took his breath away. He kept looking back anxiously, shoving his sodden hair out of his eyes constantly, but nobody ran out of the house and no car started up. Still he turned on the first street, and then turned again, and again, until he was able to pull into an alleyway near a small strip mall.
He dug his phone out with fingers that felt numb and frozen and dialed his dad's cell. "Dad!" he screamed above the roar of the pounding rain. "Someone's in the house." His teeth were chattering so hard, he was having trouble forming words and the wind kept tearing the breath from him. "I got away but I don't know if they came after me. I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I'm alone. Grandma's stuck in Mesa Verde. Dad! I don't know what to do!" He leaned against the meager shelter of the building and waited, then finally disconnected. He started to dial 911 again, but knew that it was all too possible that his attacker hadn't been an ordinary robber. Actually all the memories deep in his brain were telling him that this had to do with the SGC.
And so again, he disconnected the call and began dialing the SGC's main number, only to stop and plaster himself against the wall as well as he could, considering he was still sitting on his bike, when a car very slowly cruised past on the street.
He needed to get out of here, and he needed to go now. He walked his bike to the corner of the building, watched nervously as the car turned right, counted to ten, and took off. Riding like a maniac, he tore through the streets, glancing down the avenue the car had taken as he flew by and seeing only taillights.
He was twenty minutes from Sam's house; he could go there and call the SGC from the safety of her home.
Unfortunately the adrenaline that had given him the strength to bring down an adult and run out of the house into a storm was wearing off. He was shaky, barely having the strength to pedal, forcing him to begin coasting to conserve his strength. His bare feet hurt against the pedals and he kept changing the angle to ease the discomfort. Harsh tremors coursed through him, making it difficult to steer in a straight line even when the rain eased into a normal downpour. Twenty minutes became thirty when he finally pulled up into Sam's street.
He stopped next to a tree and watched the street. Thankfully, her part of town hadn't been affected by the blackout and lights were on in every house, even Sam's. But he knew no one was home. She used timers to give the appearance that she was.
Sheet lightning lit the sky beyond the houses, but barely illuminated the streets. Slowly he kicked off and pedaled to her house. He was tired, very tired, but the aches and pains of fever had eased. He just wished his headache would get better as he pulled into her driveway.
He looked around furtively but couldn't tell if anyone was watching. Quickly he punched in the security numbers to her automatic door opener, and ducked inside the moment the garage door was high enough. He was about to shut the door when he had an idea.
He hitched his sweat pants up as he walked around her motorcycle, his bare, wet feet picking up grit from the cement floor. He could call the SGC and ask for help, and then wait here for hours before someone came for him. He had tons of memories of having to wait for the military to get things done. Which meant he'd have to sit here in wet clothes until they came for him Or, he could go to the SGC and tell them what had happened, get something from the infirmary for his headache and get something dry to wear. And he wouldn't be alone there. Plus, at this point, his attacker must be long gone so time was no longer of the essence.
Decision made, he hurriedly entered Sam's house, grabbed the spare keys to the motorcycle and a helmet, and climbed on. He had a second of doubt, knowing his dad would probably kill him for this, but his desire to be with people he trusted overrode his caution and he put the key in the ignition.
A minute later, he was slowly driving down the city streets, heading for Norad Road. He knew better than to try and take the highway. The bike didn't handle as easily as his memories led him to believe but still he managed to keep it running despite his lack of practice with the clutch, and he was careful of the slick streets. There wasn't much traffic on the road, for which he was very thankful.
His clothes were soaked, and the current of air kept him at a constant shiver. The bike's headlight and those of oncoming traffic, and streetlights, began to make his headache worse and his eyes water. Quickly the pain began to creep down his neck and into his shoulders, and his attempts at handling the bike weren't helping. By the time he came up to the turnoff for Norad Road, he was in so much pain, he was on the verge of crying.
"Almost there," he mumbled to himself in a litany as he took the turn a little too wide and the bike nearly swerved off the road. He righted it with difficulty, nearly choking the motor, then gassed it and began heading up the final leg of the journey towards Cheyenne Mountain.
He began to relax, easing off on the motorcycle, careful on the winding road. He'd made it. Not only had he escaped his attacker, but he'd driven Sam's bike by himself. He couldn't wait to tell Corey and Alexandria and Cassie, even if his dad grounded him for the summer.
Despite his headache and exhaustion, he felt smug, so when headlights flooded him from behind, he turned around, surprised to see an SUV quickly bearing down on him. His reactions were slow, so by the time he began to accelerate, the SUV was almost on top of him. Half-blinded by the strength of the headlights, Daniel could barely see the road. He felt the front tire leave the asphalt just as an electric jolt struck him. And then he was flying.
"C'mon, hurry up, Doc. We're right out in the open here."
Daniel tried to open his eyes as a voice came out of a tunnel, but they felt glued shut.
"I know. I need more light." The voice was that of a woman and it sounded familiar. He couldn't place her, but he somehow knew he should recognize who it was.
Then a bright light shone in his face, sending shards of agony through his closed eyelids. He moaned in pain even as hands were shoved under his shoulders and he was turned onto his side and thankfully away from the painful glare. But his body was limp, he couldn't move.
"Be careful. He could be injured." The voice sounded angry.
"Just get that thing out of him." Then the light was back, and fingers were pressing against the back of his scalp, near his ear, where his headaches seemed to emanate from. "And take care of the residual bugs. We don't want anything traced back to us."
He felt a sharp pain and realized that someone had cut into his scalp. He tried to buck but he couldn't move.
"Jesus, is it supposed to bleed that much?"
"It's a head wound. They bleed a lot due to the rich blood supply which—"
The woman did something that caused Daniel's head to literally erupt in pain. The bright lights behind his closed eyelids turned red as all sounds faded. Then slowly the pain eased as his hearing came back. He heard footsteps on the asphalt, car doors slam shut, and a vehicle drive off, the headlights flooding over him and then fading.
It felt like an eternity later, but he managed to open his eyes. All he could see was the glistening asphalt right before him, illuminated by the headlight of the downed motorcycle lying on its side. He managed to slowly sit up, feeling scrapes and bruises along his right arm, ribs and leg. There was no sign of the SUV, or anyone else, for that matter. He could see the highway in the distance as blurs, which he presumed to be headlights, zoomed by.
He put a hand to the spot that the woman had touched, and winced as his fingers came back warm and wet with blood. The killer headache was gone, but there was a pressure in his head and neck that was making it hard to think.
Somehow he got to his feet, wavered and teetered dangerously, having to take a couple of steps sideways before he got his balance. He looked at the bike and realized there was no way he was going to get it upright. He could walk, couldn't he? The SGC couldn't be that far away now. He looked around for his glasses, found them a few feet from the bike and put them on. The world focused slightly but things remained oddly fuzzy around the edges.
He turned his back on the highway and started walking, soon leaving the headlight's illumination. Thanks to the overcast sky, he was walking blind within seconds, forced to stop and turn around. He looked around dazedly, wondering what to do. He was so tired, hurting so badly, his bare feet already stinging from the asphalt, that he was tempted to just sit by the bike and wait for someone to drive by, even if it was his attackers. It took everything for him not to cry.
Then he remembered how close he was to the SGC. Maybe he could call them, ask if someone could come and get him. He reached inside his hoody's pocket for his cell phone, but felt nothing but the gun.
He looked around on the ground, searching for his phone. He spotted it just beyond the circle of light from the motorcycle and he trudged over to it. He bent down to pick it up, and suddenly found himself sitting on his ass, his teeth jarring painfully together.
Feeling oddly light-headed, he turned his phone on, but nothing happened. He shook it and stared at it in confusion. It should work; all he had to do was press this button. He'd done it hundreds of times. He stabbed his finger at the button again and again, but the phone wouldn't turn on.
"Daddy," he sobbed as he brought his arms around his chest, bent over at the waist. A breeze suddenly blew across the road, sending him shivering in his sodden and torn sweats. Sitting here would accomplish nothing, so he got to his feet again and began walking.
This time it wasn't so dark, he could still see the road before him. He kept walking, heading towards the base, towards sanctuary, towards friends, towards his dad, when the sudden deafening sound of a siren blasted for a couple of seconds directly in front of him shook him from his daze.
"Are you hurt, son?" A man stepped out of a police car and was coming towards Daniel. He stopped walking and watched him curiously. Police were good, right? He was safe. "What's your name?"
Name? He had a name, didn't he? Daniel, yeah, that was it. He licked his lips and told the officer what his name was.
"Were you riding that bike?" A second cop stepped out of the police cruiser. "How old are you, Daniel?"
"Forty," he answered without hesitation.
"Ah. Been drinking, have you?" the second cop asked.
"He doesn't smell of booze, Brian," the first cop said, stepping into Daniel's personal space. "Might be stoned, though." He took Daniel by the arm and pulled him to the right. Daniel stumbled behind, nearly falling against the officer when he stopped. "I want you to walk this line, just like in the movies. Toe to toe, like this." The officer began walking along the white line in the middle of the road, putting one foot close in front of the other.
"Now, your turn."
Daniel looked at the policeman, not sure why he wanted him to walk when there was a perfectly good police cruiser parked right behind him. "I need my dad."
"Oh, don't you worry. Your dad's going to hear all about this." He gave Daniel a nod. "Now, start walking."
Daniel took one step, then another, and found himself sitting on the asphalt once again. This time the cop was kneeling next to him while the other one was talking into a radio.
"Why the hell didn't you tell us you were hurt?" The cop, who was now a fuzzy blur, ran his hands across Daniel's body, causing him to wince and pull back when he pressed against a sore spot.
"Ow." He pushed the hands away, holding his own hands protectively across his stomach.
"Easy." The cop pulled his hands away and then froze.
"What the hell?" The cop fumbled at his hoody, and then the next thing Daniel knew, he was flat on the ground on his stomach and his arms pulled cruelly behind his back. "You're under arrest for driving under the influence, concealing a weapon, and attempting to pull a weapon on a police officer."
Jack sat, head bowed, elbows balanced on the table, trying to massage the kinks out of his neck, put there by the stress and strain of the past thirty-six hours. He shifted restlessly, feeling aches and pains in his hips and back that hadn't been there several years back. Carter was tapping incessantly on a laptop while sipping coffee, while Teal'c sat there unmoving, making both him and Carter look impatient and antsy. The other members of the offworld team were all trying to hold back their impatience while Hammond finished something in his office.
Well, maybe he felt antsy because he was. He hadn't slept except for quick catnaps, never knowing what the enemy was up to. The two times they'd tried to circle around to take the Stargate had ended up with SG-1 and SG-5 having to fall back and play the waiting game again.
Finally Hammond came out of his office and Jack straightened to a more presentable position. He went to stand, as did Carter, but Hammond waved them down.
"I know you're tired. Let's make this short, if possible."
"Thank you, sir." He held back a sigh of relief. "There's really not much more to tell from the intel we gave you through the radio, sir. There were ten of them, all with superior strategic positions, and they wouldn't let us get near the Stargate for nearly a day and a half. Then all of a sudden, not long after the last time you contacted us, the enemy fell back and went through the 'gate, abandoning it."
"Did you get a look at the 'gate address?"
"We did not. The DHD was not apparent from our position." Teal'c turned to look at Carter. "However, Major Carter did detect something odd."
"Odd?" Hammond's attention was now focused on Carter, and Jack hoped she was going to give him the concise version.
"While making a routine scan, I accidentally discovered a second transmission piggybacked on the radio waves from the SGC. I managed to record two of these, but they're encrypted. It may take me a while to crack the code."
"What about the power source the UAV detected?"
"It was gone by the time we got there, sir," Colonel Pierce said, anger tingeing his voice. "Sort of sounds like it was a trap to me."
"Yes, it does. But to what purpose?"
"Hopefully the encrypted message will shed some light, sir."
"Then make that your priority, Major. I think you've all earned some time off. Go home, and enjoy—"
"General Hammond, sir?" Walter, who'd been standing on the sidelines while Hammond dismissed them, approached quickly. He glanced at Jack and motioned for him to wait. "The main switchboard just received a call from the local police department." Walter turned to Jack. "It's Daniel, sir, they've arrested him."
"I could have driven," Jack grumbled as Teal'c slowed the Avalanche as they approached a yellow light. His foot itched to ram it down on top of Teal'c's and force the vehicle through the traffic light. He ignored Carter's looks in his direction and tried to rein in his anxiety.
"Ordinarily, yes." Teal'c turned to give Jack an assessing look, then pointedly stared at Jack's foot, which he was tapping impatiently on the floorboards. "But you are exhausted, worried and impatient, a combination which would more than likely endanger all our lives were you to have driven us to Memorial Hospital."
"I can't believe Daniel stole a car and was caught DUI. I thought we'd settled this matter and he wasn't having flashbacks anymore. Plus, he gave his word about not taking drugs." Jack took his cell phone again and tried calling his mother, only to get her voice mail. Where the hell was she, and why hadn't she called yet? She had to be at the hospital with Daniel.
Which reminded him; rushing hell bent out of the mountain, he hadn't had a chance to check his own messages.
"And there's the matter of pulling a gun on a police officer."
Jack ground his teeth together, telling himself it wasn't his gun that Daniel had stolen. These actions weren't those of his son. Even after their argument over Daniel learning to drive, he still trusted Daniel to not go behind his back and do what he'd forbidden him to do. Yes, Daniel had had problems earlier this year but there had been good reasons for them. But this whole situation reeked of those damned flashbacks again.
He saw he had a message from Daniel, and he went stiff with shock as he listened to his son's panicked voice. "Dad! Someone's in the house. I got away but I don't know if they came after me. I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I'm alone. Grandma's stuck in Mesa Verde. Dad! I don't know what to do!"
"Jesus Christ." He quickly dialed the SGC and demanded a security team to report to his house.
"Colonel, what's going on?" Carter demanded.
"Daniel left me a message, less than two hours ago. He said there was someone in the house. He was supposed to stay with my mother but he said she's stuck in Mesa Verde. He spent the damn night alone in the house!"
"That would explain the gun, sir. Maybe he took it off the robber and—"
"And pulled it on a cop? Something's not right, Carter. Lam and Fraiser were positive Daniel's memories were no longer a problem. Is there any chance they were wrong and that he's having flashbacks again?"
Carter hesitated. "It is possible. But I'm sure Carolyn or Janet would have seen signs. Didn't he just have a physical?"
"Yeah. Which he came through with flying colors but..." Jack wanted to smack himself upside the head. "He's been having headaches. Mood swings. Fatigue. I thought it was just stress from studying for his finals but... Damn it."
It wasn't lost on him that the Avalanche had sped up, and that this time, Teal'c ran the yellow light. They were almost at the hospital now. Jack spent the last minutes calling the SGC again and asking Walter to try and track down his mother in Mesa Verde to see if she had any information regarding Daniel.
The moment Teal'c screeched to a halt, Jack was out the truck and running through the Emergency doors. He held himself in check, trying not to yell at the harried clerk who eventually told him that Daniel was in cubicle four. He half ran, half walked through Emergency, until he saw his son, lying on his side on a gurney.
"Dad?" Daniel's head popped up.
In a split second, Jack saw confusion in Daniel's dirty and tear-stained face. Blood had dripped and dried down the side of his neck and stained his hoody, which was opened, half on and half off his shoulders. His sweatpants were torn, and his feet were bare. Excited, his son attempted to throw himself off the gurney, only to come to a sudden halt as the handcuffs kept him anchored.
"Get these off," Daniel croaked as he tugged at the metal.
"What the hell?" Jack was brought up short when a uniformed officer stepped between him and Daniel.
"May we see some ID, sir?"
Jack pointed over the person blocking him from getting to Daniel. "I'm his father."
"I'm Officer DeLuca. We were under the impression that you were out of town."
"I was, but..." The officer refused to move. "Damn it." Jack dug into his pocket and pulled out his military ID, flashing it in the officer's face. "Look, whatever the problem is, it was a misunderstanding. Daniel's a good kid..."
The constant rattling of the handcuffs was tearing at Jack's soul. "You can do whatever you want with my ID. Run it through Motor Vehicles or whatever you need to do, just get the handcuffs off my son."
DeLuca flipped the ID closed and passed it back to Jack. "Mr. O'Neill..."
"Colonel. Colonel O'Neill."
"I'm sorry. Colonel O'Neill. Injured or not, your son is under arrest and—"
"Dad, please." Daniel stood there, one hand tethered to the gurney, the other one reaching out for Jack. His eyes were red and glassy from crying, but even as Jack looked at his son, he could see no sign of inebriation. Only pure and total terror. A sight he had prayed never to see again.
"Then let me go to him. Please."
The officer stepped back and Jack hurriedly took Daniel in his arms. The control Daniel had obviously been trying to hold onto disintegrated as he began sobbing uncontrollably the moment Jack touched him.
Except... He felt it immediately the moment Daniel plastered his face against his neck. It took him only a second to confirm the fever by slipping his hand under the damp hoody, touching the small of Daniel's back.
"Has a doctor seen him?" Jack barked at DeLuca.
"Yeah, earlier. Said he had some bruises and a cut behind his ear that needed a stitch or two."
"He's got a fever."
"The doctor said your son was fine—"
"Hey!" Jack bellowed. "Can I have some help in here?" He tried to get Daniel to sit back on the gurney, but Daniel was having none of it. His free hand was wrapped around Jack's neck while the other one was still fighting the handcuffs and he had one leg wrapped behind Jack's, trying to stay as much in physical contact as possible with him.
"Colonel O'Neill, I can assure you, your son had a minor mishap with a motorcycle but he wasn't hurt other than some scrapes and bruises and that cut—"
"He's fuckin' burning up," he snapped at the cop as Daniel fought for breath as his sobs continued unabated. "I need a doctor here, now!
"Icky, I need you to calm down." Jack shifted his weight, forcing Daniel to step backwards so there was less pressure on his cuffed hand. "I need you to tell me what happened. Can you do that?" he said as he lowered his mouth close to Daniel's ear. He cupped his fingers around Daniel's head. "Come on, it's okay. You're safe now. You have to tell me what happened so I can get to the bottom of this."
Jack pulled away and glared at the nurse who stopped in the cubicle's entrance and looked at him with an exasperated expression.
"My son has a temperature of at least 103," Jack said, forcing himself to speak slowly and calmly. "He needs a doctor and he needs one right now."
The look of exasperation disappeared, replaced by one of concern. Even as she stepped into the cubicle, Daniel's breathing suddenly changed.
"Da– Da– Da– Da–" The stuttering was accompanied by short, jerky breaths. His hold on Jack loosened suddenly as he went limp. He fell into Jack's arms and Jack struggled to get him back onto the gurney, not quite managing it until the nurse helped him.
"I'll get a doctor—" She was one step away from the gurney when Daniel stiffened and began seizing. "I need help in here," she cried as she tried to turn Daniel onto his side. Jack helped her, holding Daniel in position as he bucked and jerked. Suddenly the cubicle was crowded. Two more people in scrubs rushed into the room, as well as another police officer.
One of the newcomers pulled a drawer open and removed a syringe, only to stop and swear as she looked Daniel over. "Damnit, there's no IV started."
"He didn't need one when he was admitted," the nurse said as she continued to hold onto Daniel.
Then the jerks began to lessen, turning into twitches, and with a sigh, Daniel went still.
"Get that IV in, STAT," the doctor barked as she pushed Jack aside, helping to ease Daniel onto his back. "Damn, he's burning up. Get me some vitals here, people." The crotch area of Daniel's sweats was noticeably darker in color.
Jack stepped back, then jerked in surprise as someone put a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head to see Carter and Teal'c standing right behind him.
"I called the SGC. Carolyn's on her way."
Jack nodded dumbly, watching as a doctor and two nurses checked Daniel out.
"BP is 180 over 114. Temperature is 104.2. Febrile seizure?" the nurse asked while the other nurse plunged a needle into the back of Daniel's wrist and set up an IV.
"It's possible but not likely." The doctor turned to Jack. "Your son was involved in a motorcycle accident, right?"
"Motorcycle?" Carter squeaked.
DeLuca spoke up. "Yes, that's right."
"Was there head trauma?" The doctor flashed her penlight into Daniel's eyes as she peeled his eyelids back, one after the other.
"Only a small cut to the back of his head," the nurse supplied.
"Pupils are normal and reactive." The doctor turned Daniel's head to the side and slowly palpated the area around it. "I don't feel anything, not even a bump. But I want an X-ray, just in case."
"Another doctor already checked the kid out," the other officer supplied. "He said he was fine, and he only needed the stitches. We were waiting for someone to sew the kid up before taking him back to the precinct."
"Was he complaining of any pain?" The doctor glanced first towards Jack, then the officers.
"No. But he was uncooperative when we arrested him, and we suspected he was DUI."
"Have tox screens been ordered?"
"Then there's nothing to do, but wait. I can give him some anti-seizure medication to make sure this doesn't happen again, but until we know what caused the seizure, my hands are tied." She nodded at the cops. "He's not going anywhere tonight so..." She made a small waving motion with her hand. "May as well pull up a seat," she said to Jack as she walked out of the cubicle.
Jack did exactly that – grabbed a chair and pulled it next to Daniel's bed. He took Daniel's hand, the one hanging loosely from the handcuff, and gently rubbed the abused skin around the metal.
"I'm sure he knows you're here." The nurse's voice was sympathetic.
Jack nodded absently as he turned to DeLuca. "You got registration on the bike Daniel stole?"
The other cop nodded and pulled out a small pad of paper from a pocket. "A Samantha Carter."
"Shit, that's me." Carter's expletive was softly uttered. She turned to Jack. "Daniel stole my bike?"
"Can you uncuff him now?"
DeLuca hesitated, but after a moment he came forward and undid the manacle.
"Thanks. Can you tell me where you found him?"
"Sure. On Norad Road, just a few feet away from the bike he lost control of. He was walking away from the scene. We stopped to see if he was okay, and he wouldn't cooperate when we tried to get him to pass a sobriety test. That's when he pulled a gun on us."
"And let me guess. The gun's registered in my name."
The two cops shared a surprised look. Obviously they hadn't gotten that information yet. Still Jack had no doubt the gun was his.
"Look, officers. As you know, I was out of town, and due to some unforeseen circumstances, I believe my son ended up spending the night alone. I got a voicemail from him stating someone broke into my house—" He held up a hand when he saw alarm on the officers' faces. "Military security is on the case now."
"Would you mind if we heard this message, Colonel?"
Jack pondered Daniel's words. There was nothing in his message that would breach security so he fished his cell out of his jacket pocket, pulled up the message and handed the phone to DeLuca. He watched as the man listened, then handed the phone back.
"We can remand your son into your custody, sir, but you'll have to remain in town."
"Not going anywhere."
"I'll have someone bring you the paperwork..."
Jack nodded, turning his attention back to Daniel. He waited till the cops left before speaking again. "Carter, I want you and Teal'c to find out who or what Daniel was running from."
"You can't do anything for him here. But you can get to the bottom of this. Something made Daniel desperate enough to steal my gun and your bike, and head to the SGC. Maybe it's all in his head, but maybe it's the real deal. Find out what happened to my son."
It wasn't more than ten minutes after Daniel had been transferred to a private room, soundly sleeping, that he sat up, screaming for Jack. Before Jack could reach for him, Daniel scurried off the bed and promptly slid to the floor in a crumpled heap. He took the IV down with him, the pole nearly smacking him in the face as it bounced against the bed.
He reached down to help Daniel up and got an elbow in the ribs for his efforts.
"Daniel! Will you stop that?"
"Daddy?" Daniel squinted at him and frowned as Jack leaned over him. Then his eyes sparkled as recognition hit him. "Dad!" He shuddered as he threw himself at Jack.
"Where the heck were you going, taking off like that?"
Jack held him a moment before righting the metal pole and untangling the IV tubing. He placed his hands under Daniel's armpits and hauled him up onto his feet. Daniel's knees didn't seem quite able to lock and he just about collapsed back onto the bed.
"I'm c-cold." His teeth started chattering as Jack rearranged the blankets over him.
"Yeah, I'm not surprised. You've got a pretty high fever."
Daniel grabbed the edge of the blankets and pulled them up to his chin. He shifted uncomfortably, shoving one hospital issue sock-clad foot under his calf. "You came back?"
"Of course I did." The heat of Daniel's forehead was uncomfortably warm against Jack's lips. "I'm sorry I was gone for so long." He straightened and pushed a lock of hair from Daniel's face. "So, mind telling me what's been going on?"
"Oh, you got that right."
"Hot." Daniel impatiently tried to push away the blankets he'd been huddling under.
Jack yanked the blankets aside as Daniel rolled onto his back, face red and sweaty. "So mind telling me how long you've been feeling sick?"
Daniel shrugged and looked around the room. "Is Grandma home?"
"Not yet. Wanna tell me who stayed with you last night?"
Daniel turned onto his side, his arm flopping heavily as he reached for Jack's hand. "Is Sam home?" The scrapes and bruises on his arm from the accident were clearly evident, as were the bruises from the handcuff.
"Yeah. Well, sorta. She's working tonight. About Carter. Can you tell me why you took her bike?"
"Yeah, she's looking into something for me. How long were you feeling sick? Did you wake up with a fever?"
"Yeah." Daniel began coughing and turned onto his side, one hand reaching for the blankets. He shivered as he cleared his throat and Jack pulled the blankets up again. He closed his eyes, and Jack allowed him to rest, deciding to question him once Carter got back to him.
"Well, Colonel, Daniel's preliminary blood work came out clean of drugs but—"
Daniel jerked and sat up as Lam entered the room. "Oh, hey there." She smiled at Daniel. "Good to see you're awake."
"Stay away from me." Daniel began to slowly move towards the opposite side of the bed.
"It's okay, it's just Doctor Lam." Jack grabbed Daniel's leg, trying to keep him anchored.
"No. Tell her to stay away. Make her go away." Daniel tried to kick free of Jack's hold and pull away, but between the blankets and Jack's grip, he wasn't going anywhere.
"I've got some Motrin for your fever, Daniel," Lam said, speaking calmly and softly. "He may be a little confused from the fever, sir," she said even more softly as she slowly approached the bed.
"No! Get away from me. Dad, please. Dad, don't let her hurt me." Daniel abandoned his attempts to escape, latching onto Jack instead, crying into Jack's tee shirt.
"Doc..." This was so déjà vu. There was no way he was letting go of Daniel and he wrapped his arms around his son's trembling body. "Daniel, it's okay, nobody's going to hurt you."
"I'll go, sir. Give him the Motrin. Hopefully the combination of Advil and Motrin will finally break his fever." She leaned closer to Daniel as she placed the small paper cup containing the medication near the bed. "It's all for the best, Daniel. Don't worry, I'll take care of everything."
She gave Jack a tight, apologetic smile and motioned towards the hallway with her head before leaving the room. He stood there a moment, thinking Daniel would settle back down but when Daniel didn't show any signs of letting go, Jack sat on the edge of the bed, slowly rocking him back and forth until he showed signs of relaxing.
"Wanna lie down now?"
Daniel nodded and curled up on the bed, one hand still holding on to Jack's thigh. Remembering the pills, he made sure Daniel took them, then slowly stroked Daniel's forehead, watching as his eyes closed and he fell into a restless sleep.
Jack stepped into the hallway and looked around for Lam. He spotted her standing at the nurses' station.
"He's sleeping," he said as he joined her. "Sorry about earlier. I think he may be experiencing flashbacks."
Lam blinked at him and shook her head thoughtfully. "I don't think that's it at all, Colonel. I was coming to tell you that Daniel's blood tests show some sort of anomaly. We think it's a virus. Actually," she said, lowering her voice and walking away from two nurses going through charts, said, "I know it's a virus. I need to have a sample sent back to the SGC and have it tested. I'm pretty sure I've seen it before. I've asked that Janet be called back, seeing she's our resident expert on rare and exotic diseases."
The subtext was clear; whatever Daniel had, it wasn't Earth-related. He was about to question her further when his cell phone rang. He checked the number before turning it off, then motioned towards the exit, excusing himself. He hurried outside, and dialed the SGC.
"Yes, sir. How's Daniel?"
"Feverish. Not really with it. I can't get any answers out of him. Lam said she thought it was some sort of virus."
"Really? Maybe someone should call Janet—"
"Lam's already got that covered."
"Oh. Good. Teal'c and I didn't find much of anything at the crash site, sir. Daniel's cell was on the shoulder, and the flares the police put up. But," she said, her voice rising slightly, "the security footage of that area of the road is very interesting."
"Daniel was not only forced off the road, but he was zatted."
"The video feed is very grainy, but the electrical discharge of the zat is unmistakeable. Two men and a woman got out of the SUV, the woman did something to Daniel, and they left, leaving him there."
"What the fuck did she do to him?" Jack's hands tightened on the phone and he began to pace angrily, looking for something to kick.
"I can't tell, but I think that injury he has behind his ear isn't from the accident, sir. You should get Carolyn to check it out. And there's more. Daniel appeared disoriented. He got up and tried to walk away from the accident, presumably to get help, and that's when he met up with the cops."
"Can you see who these people were?"
"No, the images are too grainy. I'm going to try and enhance the video, but it may take a few hours."
"Fine. Let me know the moment you find out who did this." Because Jack was planning on personally taking these people out.
"Of course, sir. And I got the report from the SFs who went to your house. There's no sign of breaking and entering. The deadlock was engaged from the inside, and the alarm wasn't tripped but the power had apparently been off for about thirty minutes."
"Are you thinking the same thing I'm thinking?"
"If you're thinking someone beamed into your house, yeah, I am."
"From where? A ship?"
"We've got Norad checking but if it's cloaked..."
"Yeah, aren't they always?" Jack slowed his pacing, running a hand through his hair. "Is there anything else?"
"No, sir. I'll get started on the video enhancement immediately."
"Give Daniel a hug for me."
Jack pocketed his phone and looked up at the night sky, breathing deeply as he tried to find a reason why someone would go after Daniel. The only explanation he could come up with was that they wanted to study Daniel – maybe they expected coercing a thirteen year old would be easy. But if they caught up to Daniel just one and a half miles from Cheyenne Mountain, it sure looked like Daniel had pretty much outwitted them. He couldn't help but smile with pride at his son as he bounded back up the stairs, into the hospital.
He strode into Daniel's room, expecting to see him sleeping. What he didn't expect was Daniel dressed, leaning against the far wall, holding his bunched up hoody against his wrist, staunching the flow of blood from the disconnected IV.
"Where're you going?"
"Home." He straightened, moving with what seemed to be discomfort.
"Did you forget a small detail? Two, actually, if you want to be technical about it?"
Daniel frowned at him before peeking at his arm. "I can sleep just as well at home." He pressed the material against his arm again when a few drops of blood seeped out of the pinprick, the motion causing him to sway slightly.
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong. Technically, you're under arrest. If you leave here, you're going straight to jail."
"But the cops..." Daniel looked around the room as if expecting to see the two policemen jump out at him.
"The police agreed to leave you here overnight because, if it hasn't quite sunk in yet, you're sick."
"I've had fevers before."
"Yup. Which is why I want you to get back into bed, please."
"But I have to go."
"You don't have to go anywhere, Daniel, but back to bed."
"Dad, you don't understand." The hoody dropped out of Daniel's hands, as if forgotten. He stepped on the abandoned sweatshirt as he approached Jack. "I have a physics exam today and I have to finish my essay for Spanish class and—"
"Daniel, it's okay. I'll talk to your teachers and tell them you're sick." Jack took Daniel's arm and tried to steer him back to the bed, worried about his disorientation. "They'll give you a delay, so don't worry about school."
"But I have to study. I didn't get a chance to stu—"
Jack saw it coming. Saw Daniel's face go even paler and grabbed for him as his eyes rolled back. He eased Daniel onto the floor, the heat of fever registering through his clothes, then hurriedly stuck his head out the door. "Can I have some help in here?" he yelled. He waited a few seconds until he saw a nurse hurrying towards him before running back to Daniel. Between the two of them, they got Daniel back on the bed.
"What happened here?" The nurse gave the discarded hospital gown and disconnected IV a suspicious look.
"He was disoriented. I left the room for about ten minutes and he tried to leave." At her direction, Jack began pulling Daniel's sweatpants off while she took his pressure and temperature. "Is he okay?"
"His fever's still raging so it's no surprise he was disoriented." Together they got Daniel's top off and his gown back on. By the time the nurse had replaced his IV, Daniel was beginning to stir. Jack pulled the covers back up and he forced a smile when Daniel opened his eyes and looked at him. There was obviously no more obsession with studying; Daniel mumbled something, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.
Jack hated sitting around, not doing anything. He wanted to be out there, going after whoever had done this to Daniel. He wanted to have a hand in the research, or at least be sitting at the SGC in the midst of the activities. He hated sitting miles away, getting everything second or third hand.
"O'Neill. How is DanielJackson?"
"He's not doing so great, T. His fever's not going down even with all the stuff they've been plying him with. At least he's been sleeping on and off for the past couple of hours." He waited until Teal'c circled the bed and sat down on the other side. "Is there any news?"
"DoctorFraiser has arrived and is currently overseeing the testing of the blood sample DoctorLam sent. MajorCarter is experiencing difficulties in sharpening and magnifying the video images; she hopes to have some success by morning."
"So there's no lead in who's behind this."
"There are several possibilities—"
"Yeah, but we've made sure from the start that the NID got their forty-eight hours with him not long after he got shrunk. And they got all the info about Daniel's memories and they didn't even ask to question him. So, we can rule them out."
"The Tollan and the Tok'ra constantly inquire about DanielJackson."
"Yeah, well, let them do their tests on one of their own shrunken." Jack rearranged the blankets when Daniel shifted restlessly.
"You should know GeneralHammond is attempting to acquire authority over DanielJackson's incarceration and remove him to the SGC. Until we discover who was behind this attack, he believes DanielJackson would be safer amongst our own. He is currently awaiting confirmation from the President's office. I believe a military ambulance will be here shortly."
"Did Lam say he was up to traveling?"
"She did confirm to GeneralHammond that the transportation would not harm him."
"Well, Danny, looks like you'll be moving beds pretty soon."
"You can ride in the ambulance if you'd like, Colonel." Lam visually checked everything, then gave a nod of approval that Daniel was good to go.
"T, you brought the Avalanche?"
"I shall follow the ambulance to Cheyenne Mountain."
"Jonathan, there you are. How's Daniel—"
"Mom. You're back."
Rose stopped in the doorway of the hospital room, staring at the gurney next to the bed. "I came straight here." She pushed past the nurse and went to Daniel, raising a shaking hand to his face. "Oh." She looked at Jack in surprise. "He's so hot."
"We're taking him back to Cheyenne Mountain, Ma."
"Why? What's wrong with him that you can't treat him here?"
"Nothing that dire-sounding, Mrs. O'Neill." Lam moved next to Jack's mom and put a hand on her arm. "We just feel it's safer to move him. He's suffering from a rare virus so we're better off handling a quarantine situation—"
"Oh, please. Don't give me that bullshit." Rose turned on Lam, glaring at her. "I'm not stupid. If Daniel were contagious, you wouldn't have all these people in the room without taking some sort of precaution." She waved at the nurse, the two Air Force medics, Jack, Teal'c and Lam before turning her glare on Jack. "This is one of those things I can't ask about, isn't it?"
"It is a virus, mom. And while he's not contagious, Doctor Lam feels it's easier to treat him at our medical facility."
"Why didn't he tell me he was sick?" Her hands gripped the metal bars, her knuckles showing white.
"Mom, you couldn't have known."
"He told me he was staying with Steve and Gina."
"Weren't they going out of town?"
"Was that this weekend? Damn it, Jonathan—"
"Gramma?" Daniel turned his head and squinted at her through bloodshot eyes. "Are you angry at me?"
"Mhuirnin." His mom's hand didn't shake this time as she cupped Daniel's cheek. "Why didn't you tell me you were alone? I'd have rented a car and come home."
"It would have cost you money, Gramma. I did call Steve and Gina." Daniel turned his head weakly towards Jack. "They'd left already. And Janet. I called and they were on their way and I didn't want them to have to turn back because of me. I wanted to take a cab to the SGC but I didn't have enough money to pay for it. I tried, Dad." A lone tear escaped and slid down his cheek. "I really did try."
Jack let his mom do the comforting until Daniel fell asleep again. Rose sighed heavily before she bent over and kissed Daniel's cheek. "Take care of him," she said to Lam.
"We will." Lam nodded to the medics and they wheeled Daniel out. Jack took a moment to take his mom in his arms and hug her tightly. "I'll call you if there's any change."
"You do that." She pulled a tissue from a pocket and blew her nose. "Go on, I'm sure you're going to want to ride with him."
Jack obeyed, walking to the door then pausing and looking back. His mom had her back to him, dabbing at her eyes. "Mom..."
"I love you, too, Jack."
Fraiser and Carter were both waiting for them outside the Isolation Room. Fraiser gave Jack a quick smile as she joined the bevy of medical personnel congregating around Daniel while Carter and Jack went up the stairs to the Observation Chamber.
"How is he?" Carter's gaze was fixed on Daniel as he was transferred to the bed that took center stage in the room. She pulled a chair out and sat, leaning her elbows on the counter before her.
"Feverish. Disoriented. Restless." Jack stood, he, himself, too restless to sit.
There was an awkward silence until Carter spoke again. "We may have a handle on the virus. Janet found similarities between it and the ones produced by the armbands the Tok'ra found and convinced us to try a few years ago."
"Oy, please." Jack forced the joviality. "That was definitely not one of our finest hours." It worked, because Carter smiled.
"I still can't believe McKay got beat up at O'Malley's even with the advantage the armbands gave him."
Jack couldn't help but smirk. "Like I said, not one of our finest hours." He pushed those memories aside. "So the virus is similar?"
"Preliminary tests are encouraging. And if they are similar, Janet may be able to use the antibodies produced by that virus and create a cure for Daniel."
"So there's a cure?"
"There's a cure?"
Jack spun around in surprise at his mother's voice. "Mom!" Rose stood there, looking nervous, her handbag clutched in her hands like a lifeline. Teal'c and General Hammond entered the room behind her and Carter leaped to her feet.
"Rose, what are you doing here?"
"I took upon myself to ensure RoseO'Neill's safety. GeneralHammond agreed perhaps it would be best she remain at the SGC for the time being."
"My mother's in danger?" Jack shifted his attention to Hammond.
"Jonathan, stop fussing." Rose took a wary step further into the room, trying to get a look at the activity below, past the glass.
"We don't know that for sure, Colonel. But Teal'c had some pretty convincing arguments and I agreed that it was best to err on the side of caution."
"Arguments? You keeping something from me, T?"
"I am not. The thought only occurred to me once you had left the hospital."
"And?" Jack made a rolling motion, encouraging Teal'c to say more.
"That it may not have been a coincidence that SG-1 was kept from returning home at the exact time RoseO'Neill's car broke down and she was also unable to return home, leaving DanielJackson at the mercy of his attackers."
"You mean that someone deliberately made sure that Daniel was alone this weekend?" Rose turned to Teal'c, and her face was pale in the room's strong lights. "Someone planned to hurt him?"
"We did think the circumstances of our delay in returning home to be a little suspicious." Carter put a hand on Rose's shoulder and urged her to sit. "Are you hungry? Would you like something to eat or drink?" She turned to Hammond. "I'm assuming Rose has clearance to the commissary?"
"I'm fine, Sam," Rose said quickly.
"Of course," Hammond replied. "There will be a security guard with you at all times, Mrs. O'Neill. Just a precaution."
"Call me Rose."
Jack hid a grin at the old, comfortable, inside joke between Hammond and his mom.
"Only when you call me George." He waved at the guard standing by the door. "The guard will accompany you to the commissary if you wish to eat, a VIP room should you want to get some rest, or the infirmary. You understand that the rest of the base is out of bounds?"
"Of course, General Hammond. I very much appreciate you allowing me stay here to be with my grandson. I'll stay out of your hair." She glanced at the top of his head and grinned.
Hammond's eyes twinkled a moment before he lowered his head to look at his watch. "If you'll excuse me, I'm expecting a call in a few minutes."
"You're sure you don't want anything? I've got to go check on something but it won't take more than ten or fifteen minutes." Carter gave Jack a knowing look. "I can bring you back a cup of tea. Sir, would you like some coffee?"
"Yeah, coffee'd be great. Mom?"
"Okay, tea would be nice, Sam. Thank you."
Jack took his mom's arm once Sam left and pointed to the chair Carter had just vacated. He sat next to her and stared at Daniel. Fraiser and Lam had him connected to a bunch of machines, one of which was a monitor of sorts which was showing some squiggles moving around in some sort of liquid. Virus, he figured, then mentally congratulated himself when a second monitor popped on and showed a similar video.
"What are they doing?"
"They think Daniel's been infected by a very rare virus. They're trying to see if it comes up with a match."
"Oh." His mom clutched her purse, which was resting on her knees. Her knuckles were white. "Do you really think someone tried to hurt Daniel on purpose? That this was all planned?"
"Mom..." He wanted to lie, to tell her that no, nobody wanted to hurt his little boy, but he couldn't. "It's a possibility," he finally admitted. "But he's safe here. And we'll find whoever did this. Carter's working on something that may give us a lead."
"So... this is where you work." His mom waved at the cement wall around them. "Somehow it's not quite how I pictured it."
"What'd you expect?
"I don't know." She turned back to look through the glass. "Something not quite as depressing."
Jack looked at the bare cement walls, floor and ceiling. He was so used the utilitarian look of the place that he never really thought about it anymore. "It's not that bad."
"And you used to bring Daniel here. It just doesn't seem right."
"He loved coming here. Loves... coming here," he corrected quickly. "He and Cassie, they don't care if the walls are made of cement or gold. They think it's neat and—" He broke off when Fraiser looked up towards them and waved them down.
He escorted his mom into the room and they stood halfway inside while Fraiser updated them.
"He's still running a high fever, and he's pretty weak and disoriented. The joint and muscle pain's pretty bad; the Tylenol and Motrin mix aren't doing much for the fever and headache but at least his fever hasn't spiked in the past few hours."
"Carter said you found a virus..."
"Yes. And while it's similar to the Tok—other virus we came across, it's not similar enough to create a cure. Either it's the same virus but it mutated too many times, or it's simply similar in makeup."
"So, no cure?"
"I'm sorry, Colonel. Carolyn's growing some cultures but I'm asking you not to get your hopes up. Concentrate instead on the fact that Daniel's strong and one hell of a fighter."
They pulled up chairs next to the bed, watching Daniel toss and turn while Teal'c took a stand at the foot of Daniel's bed.
"Teal'c told me you got pulled out of a mother/daughter weekend with Cassie. I'm so sorry about that, Janet."
"Don't worry about it, Rose." She patted his mom's shoulder. "To be honest, I was just about pampered out. One can only get wrapped and soaked and massaged for so long before the body begins to shrivel."
"What about Cassie?" His mom paused as Daniel coughed and whimpered, then shifted restlessly, pushing at the blankets before lying still. "Is she still at the spa?" Rose leaned closer and stroked stringy hair back from his temple.
"Yes. She'll be coming home with Dria and her mom."
Daniel opened his eyes a moment to look at Rose, mumbled something that sounded like "Gramma," and thrust his hand towards her. She took his hand in her free one and began humming softly, like she did when Daniel had been younger and hadn't wanted to go to sleep. She'd always managed to make him fall asleep without a fuss, whereas with Jack, he remembered years of putting Daniel to bed, only to have him get up and go find him minutes later, wanting to cuddle with him on the couch or in his bed. How many times had he carried a slumbering, drooling kid back to his bed? His throat clenched as Daniel seemed to fall into an easier sleep.
"Colonel." Carter rushed into the room, her face red and slightly breathless. "I need you and Teal'c to come with me." She flashed Rose a quick, apologetic smile. "Sorry, Rose." She gave Lam and Fraiser an odd look before turning back to Jack.
"We shouldn't be long, Mom." Jack got up and gave his mom a quick peck on the cheek.
Carter waited till they were out of earshot and began speaking, her words almost tumbling out of her mouth while she explained what she'd done with the security footage. Jack let her ramble on, she was obviously running on adrenaline and listening to her talk was oddly soothing. Like something normal in his life at the moment.
"So while the images still aren't that clear," she concluded as they entered her lab, "I thought you should have a look at them and tell me what you think." She immediately went to her laptop and after hitting a few keys, the security footage showed up on the screen.
A motorcycle was weaving all over the road, its headlights the only thing illuminating the picture. Then an SUV came up behind it, approaching so fast that for a moment Jack thought it was going to run Daniel down.
Daniel tried to get out of its way but a hand popped out of the passenger side window and an electrical pulse jumped from the weapon the hand was holding, to Daniel. The motorcycle went down, as well as Daniel, who rolled several times before coming to a stop, totally limp.
The SUV stopped and three persons stepped out. One of them, a slim woman the stature of Lam hurried to Daniel, and with her back to the camera, seemed to be doing something to Daniel's head or face. A few seconds later, she stood, and turned. Carter took that moment to freeze the frame and a few more keystrokes zoomed the photo, exposing a very familiar face. One that currently held Daniel's life in her hands. Literally.
Jack ran for the phone and barked an order. "Get me Security."
Furious, Jack pounded up the steps to Hammond's office, Carter and Teal'c trailing behind. Hammond's aide motioned them to go on in; obviously security had done his bidding and had called the General and given him a head's up.
"Sir, we know who did this to Daniel. Carter's got the proof from the enhancement of the security footage." Jack stood inside the doorway, half-waiting for Hammond to get up and come to the briefing room, where Carter was setting up the audio visuals for him.
"Jack, we have to talk—"
"Yes, sir. I've already arrested Doctor Lam. I want to question her and get the names of the two goons who were with her."
"Allow me the privilege of obtaining this information from her, GeneralHammond."
"Fine. We can both question her. And once we beat the truth out of her as to why she did this to Daniel, we can go after the others—"
"There's no need to beat the truth out of me, Colonel."
Jack spun around, flabbergasted to see Lam standing in the doorway. With no restraints, and no sign of the SFs who'd been sent to arrest her.
"General?" Jack demanded even as Teal'c took a menacing step towards her.
A quickly raised hand from Hammond stopped Teal'c in his tracks and Jack could see the tension evident in the Jaffa's body from holding back. "I'm sorry, Jack. I've rescinded your order for Doctor Lam's arrest."
"You did what? Why? She did this to Daniel. Carter's got it on tape."
"Yes, sir, I did. And I'm very sorry it all had to go this far, but I had no choice," Lam said.
"You had no choice in making my son sick? What the hell did you even do to him?"
He didn't miss the look exchanged between herself and Hammond. Hers was wary, Hammond's was resigned.
"I only just found out about this less than an hour ago, Jack." Hammond sighed. He stood and motioned to the briefing room, where Carter was standing motionless, listening to their interchange.
It wasn't lost on Jack that all of SG-1 sat side by side, while Lam sat opposite them, as if facing an execution squad. And that was how Jack felt at the moment. Judge, jury and executioner. His years of experience and service told him he should wait and listen, while his heart and instincts wanted to reach out and strangle the woman. He found himself shaking, unable to even look at her. Instead he watched Carter's hands, which were resting on the table before her, her fingers squeezing one another so hard that her knuckles were white.
Hammond had been talking with his aide, who along with a technician's help, was setting up some sort of conference call through the internet. Jack glanced up at the screen and was surprised to see the Presidential logo pop up.
"You'll have all your answers in a minute, Jack. First, though, I want you to watch this. It's feeding live to the White House and seeing how it involved Daniel, the President has kindly allowed us to view it also."
The logo disappeared and Jack saw a video feed, which were obviously security cameras from an exterior parking lot. A sedan pulled up in front of some cement stairs, and a man left the building and walked towards the car. Suddenly the man was swarmed by several others who had been innocuously on the outskirts. The man turned around, and his face was visible to the camera as his hands were pulled behind him and his wrists handcuffed.
Senator Robert Kinsey. Major pain in the mikta, asshole and all around not so nice guy. And just one small step away from the Vice-Presidency.
And he was being arrested? If somehow Daniel's wellbeing hadn't been involved in any of this, Jack would now be on the table and dancing a jig.
They all watched the video until Kinsey was dragged into a car and forced into the back seat. Then the link disconnected, and the screen went dark.
"We've always known that Major Kinsey was opposed to the Stargate program. We suspect he not only supported the NID's offshoot branch which excelled at stealing alien technology until we finally shut them down two years ago, but actually backed them. There have recently been rumors about rogue teams starting up again, so the President sent some operatives to infiltrate the teams. Only one made it in." He turned to look at Lam.
Jack stared at Lam, who turned to face him and met his glare head on.
"Kinsey wanted to know about the device that turned Daniel into a boy," Lam said as she continued holding Jack's gaze. "At first we thought he wanted to see how it works. We thought he was interested in seeing if it could make him younger, not as young as Daniel, but maybe give him back fifteen or twenty years."
"Is that possible?" Carter leaned forward, her hands flat on the table.
"In theory, I guess it is. Some of his people have been studying the data Janet and I gleaned from Daniel over the years. The supposition is, would anyone exposed to it be turned into a young child, or would they be regressed only a certain number of years? Would someone who was older than Daniel be turned into a teen, and would the hormones coursing through their young bodies be enough to leave them their memories?
"But other than stealing a ship and flying to that planet and trying it on a bunch of test subjects, Kinsey decided they'd study the one part of Daniel that nobody had tried before. His brain."
The anger within Jack hadn't faded; it was just slowly being deflected away from Lam and towards Kinsey.
"Senator Kinsey somehow got hold of an alien device which recorded not only brainwaves, but every chemical and electrical process for a set amount of time. He'd taken recordings from several test subjects, planning on using them as a control when he got Daniel's readings. I had no choice, Colonel. I had to do it or blow my cover."
"You stuck some alien device into Daniel?"
"The cut behind his ear," Carter gasped.
"Yes. The device infects the subject with the virus, which is what keeps the device in constant record mode. The virus dies off after twenty days, and the device stops recording."
"But you removed the device from DanielJackson. Was that not the reason for deliberately keeping SG-1 from returning to Earth? In order to gain access to DanielJackson in the privacy of his home?"
"In a small percentage of the test subjects—"
"How many did Kinsey test?" Jack snapped.
"Three hundred and fifty-four."
"Shit." Jack finally looked away from Lam, his fury towards Kinsey stealing his breath away. He forced himself to relax and when he looked back, Lam was still watching him. He nodded at her to continue.
"A small percentage of the test subjects fell sick from the virus. In those cases, if the device wasn't removed before a set number of days, the subjects died."
"And as Daniel's been complaining of headaches and tiredness..."
"He would have died if we hadn't acted when we did."
"By zatting him while he was on a moving motorcycle!" The rage was back, and this time Lam flinched as Jack pounded the table with his fist.
"Believe me, sir. At the time, I was positive they were going to allow Daniel to get to the mountain and let me take it out the same way I put it in."
"And that would be..."
"During the MRI. I sedated him just long enough to insert the device. I would have taken it out and nobody would have been the wiser. But one of the hotshots I was with decided he didn't like how Daniel got the upper hand over him at your house, and ordered him to be taken down then and there."
"Was that not an incriminating move?"
"No, Teal'c. Because I was supposed to give Daniel something that would have canceled out the virus."
"You mean Daniel's sick because you didn't stop the virus?"
"Yes, sir. But once the device is removed, the virus will die off. This way, you had proof as to what had been done to him, and I have the proof of who did it."
Twenty-four hours later and contrary to Lam's words of wisdom, this virus showed no sign of abating; then again, neither did Jack's anger towards Lam and the President. Hell, there was even a little spill-over of pissiness for Hammond.
At the moment, Jack trusted no one except his team, his mother and Fraiser, who looked like she'd been pole-axed.
Daniel murmured and stretched and Jack waited, poised at the edge of his chair, but Daniel coughed, turned his head away from his father and continued sleeping, the multitude of monitors never even missing a beep.
Jack slid back into the chair with a huff of impatience and a side order of worry. His ass was tired. His eyes were gritty. He probably needed a shower and he wanted, very badly, to take his frustration out on someone or something.
Thankfully, his mother had listened to him without too much protest and had gone with Carter to collect some clothes and toiletries back at her house. Jack had pulled Carter aside, and asked her to take her time returning with his mom, even if it meant dragging the poor woman to a diner and feeding her something besides commissary fare. Teal'c had been here less than twenty minutes ago and had stood over Daniel's bedside, an expression on his face Jack had not seen since the early days of SG-1. And now? Jack was pretty damn positive the Jaffa was pounding the shit outta some punching bag down in the gym. Lucky. The only way Jack had been able to redirect his frustration was to bark at the personnel attending to Daniel.
Jack glared at the white coat blocking his view of Daniel and was just about to make sure said person was well aware of his annoyance.
"Before you say anything, sir, I'd think twice about the words coming out of your mouth."
Fraiser mirrored his weary smile.
"Sorry," he said, with a wave of his hand towards the monitors. "It's just that—"
"I know, but please tread a little more carefully with the medical personnel. At the moment, Nurse Harper is cowering in the med room."
Jack cringed. "Oops?"
"Yeah, oops." Fraiser shook her head, and a precarious strand of hair tucked behind her ear broke free. With a distracted brush of her hand, she stuck it back where it came from.
"Daniel's not getting better."
Quickly, Fraiser glanced over her shoulder then back at Jack. "His white cell count has stopped climbing."
"Oh, wow," Jack said with a sarcastic twang.
"Look, it's something. And right now..."
"I know. Something is better than nothing. I just wish it were a little more something and a lot less nothing."
"I don't understand why you're being so stubborn."
"Me? I practically had to have Carter drag you out of here just so you'd get something to eat."
"And I'm just returning the favor." She grinned wickedly and motioned for someone to enter the room.
Jack stood then threw up his hands. "Teal'c? Awww, jeez, Mom, that's playing dirty."
Quickly, his mother jumped into his chair. "Honey, you learned it from the best. Now, go. Enjoy your personal escort."
Jack snarled at his mother.
"You don't scare me, Jonathan."
"Nor I." Teal'c stepped into Jack's personal space.
"Great. Thanks." Jack leaned over and kissed his mom's cheek. "Now don't you and Daniel talk about me while I'm gone."
"Promise. I won't tell him about the time you got caught playing doctor with—"
"Please do not tell DanielJackson this story—"
"Thanks, T. You're a good buddy."
"I have not finished my sentence, O'Neill. I did not want the story conveyed until I had returned to hear RoseO'Neill weave this tale. I did not know you were a doctor."
Jack hated to admit it, but he felt almost human after a shower and something to eat.
"Where do you think you're going, Teal'c?" Jack stopped short as his friend attempted to corral him away from the elevator.
"I do believe you would benefit from sleeping in a horizontal position as opposed to sitting in the chair by DanielJackson's bedside."
"Ummm... Not going to happen."
"I have promised RoseO'Neill that I would put you to bed."
"How about a compromise? Let me check on Daniel one more time and then—"
"You will rest. I will not break a promise to—"
"Yeah. Yeah. I know."
His mother sat, her chair pushed up to Daniel's bedside and she was reading in a hushed voice from an opened book nestled in her lap. Daniel's face was turned towards her, but other than that, there wasn't any indication that her words were penetrating his fevered state.
Jack waited until she turned the page before interrupting. "Any change?"
She closed the book, marking the place with her finger. "None."
"He appears to be listening." Jack glanced over his shoulder. "Do you think you can call off the babysitter now?"
"Did you eat?"
"I can smell that you showered."
"Thanks." Jack tried to ignore the un-Jaffa-like snort from Teal'c.
"Did you sleep?"
"He did not," Teal'c answered before Jack could lie.
"Nope, sorry, babysitter is still on duty." She opened the book then grabbed Jack's hand. "Look, I have it covered here. Janet's on duty. She's already been in here twice. You look like crap, and right now, I need you. There's not enough of me to worry about the two of you. Please, for me?"
Jack deflated. Only his mother could make him feel guilty because he didn't take a nap.
He managed a two-hour nap, refusing to admit, even to himself, how much better he actually felt. He stopped by the commissary and picked up a cup of coffee for himself and a tea for his mom.
"His fever's down," his mom crowed, even before Jack got close to the bed.
"Really?" His face broke into a huge grin. "Damn. See? I go to sleep and miss all the action."
"It's only by a half a degree, but Janet thinks that's a great sign."
Jack schooled his features, trying to rein in his disappointment. "That's great." He handed the tea to his mom, placed his coffee on the bedside table, then leaned over the side rails. "Good work, Icky."
Daniel shifted, then slowly opened his eyes. His tongue darted out, licking his lips and it took two tries for him to work up enough saliva to speak. "Dad." The word was more of a sigh of sound than an actually formed word.
Jack did a quick assessment. No water pitcher. He slid his hand up the mattress and rang the call bell. Repeatedly. "Gonna just check what's the daily special on Fraiser's menu."
Daniel nodded then his eyes slid shut.
He touched his son's face, trying not to cringe at the heat still pouring off him and rang the call bell again. "Hey, don't go to sleep on me and your grandma, we're going to get a complex."
"Gramma's here?" Slowly, Daniel opened his eyes.
"I know." She glared at Jack.
He held the call bell up in response and rang it one more time for good measure. "I don't think this is working." Jack thrust the call bell at the nurse who'd entered and who ignored him and focused her attention on Daniel.
"I'm sorry, there was an emergency..." She stopped herself and smiled sweetly at Rose. "It's under control now. Doctor Fraiser will be here in a moment."
"Sorry," Jack muttered, embarrassed. For right now, here was his whole existence. Isolation Room B. He'd forgotten that anything existed outside of these four walls, the monitors' readings, his child in this bed, and his smouldering anger. "Daniel's thirsty."
"Well, hello, Daniel." The nurse quickly scanned the monitors. "Good to see you awake. How about some ice chips?"
Daniel managed a spoonful of ice chips before falling asleep. Jack left his mother with him and went in search of Fraiser. He found her in her office, immersed in a stack of files. He felt guilty that he didn't at least have a cup of coffee as a peace offering. "I'm sorry," he said, sitting in the chair opposite her desk without waiting for an invitation.
She looked up, her face a mask of confusion. "Why are you sorry?"
"Well, I sorta got carried away with the call bell—" He cleared his throat. "You had an emergency. I forgot that—"
"Life goes on? You're a parent and your child is very sick."
The knot in Jack's stomach tightened. "That's still no excuse, I'm—"
"Right now, you're a parent. It's okay, sir. You're where you need to be. Where Daniel needs you to be."
"But I should be able to focus on—which SG team came back and needed your attention?"
"SG-9. They'd been caught in a landslide. Bumps, bruises, a concussion and a broken bone or two... But they'll be fine."
Jack exhaled loudly.
"I heard Daniel was awake."
"Yeah, for all of five minutes," Jack replied petulantly.
"Which is five minutes more than yesterday."
"I'm impatient on a good day, Doc, you know that."
She closed the chart she'd been reading. "I know that, sir. I know this is hard for you. For your mother and everyone involved, myself included."
"Lam." Fraiser's boss. Her friend. Daniel's betrayer, no matter what anyone said.
"A discussion for another time," she replied harshly.
"Over a bottle of wine?"
She snorted and was able to give Jack a slight smile. "I was thinking a bottle of whiskey."
"It's a date."
Fraiser was right. As the days passed, Daniel was able to stay awake for longer periods of time. Twenty minutes here. Fifteen there. Between himself, Teal'c, Carter, and his mom, the chair by his bedside was never empty.
Daniel's fever lowered but seemed to be stuck at the 102 degree mark. Low enough that he was now able to stay awake through meals for which he had no appetite, but high enough to make him downright miserable while awake.
"I don't want any applesauce." Angrily, he shoved the cup to the farthest reaches of the tray. "I don't want Jell-O or toast with jelly."
"What do you want then?"
"Pizza. A burger. Chinese. Anything but this."
"If you eat this, Fraiser will remove the IV from your arm and you'll be able to—"
"When are you going to tell me why I'm here and not recovering at home?"
"When you eat something."
Jack pushed the applesauce towards him. "Whatever works."
Daniel picked up the spoon and stirred the applesauce. "I want to go home."
Jack kissed the top of his head, silently cursing the fever still holding Daniel in its grip. "I want you home, believe me. But eating is one of the first steps."
"I'm sorry, Daniel." Jack moved the full emesis basin to the side.
As much as his IV would allow, Daniel turned on his side, away from Jack, his free arm hugging his middle. "Told you I didn't want to eat that," he groaned.
"I'm sorry," Jack apologized again, his inadequacy tempered with guilt, thankful that it was only him and Daniel in the room. Jack rubbed Daniel's back with one hand, his other one sneaking up to find the call bell when he realized Daniel felt warmer than before.
Jack knew Daniel was crying and Jack wished he could cry right along with him.
"Sweetheart." Fraiser lowered the bed rails and sat next to him, "It's just a little setback. Honest."
Daniel flopped onto his back, eyes and nose red. "I want a burger."
"You do, do you?"
"Yes. If I have to throw something up, can it at least be something I want?"
Janet laughed. "Can't argue with that logic."
Daniel used his bare arm to swipe under his nose. "Yes? That means yes?"
"Go for it. I'll have the kitchen make you a burger."
"Oh... I was hoping for McDonalds."
"Don't press your luck, Daniel," Fraiser said.
Jack stopped Fraiser in the hall. "A burger? He just got done puking up applesauce and to—"
"With all due respect, sir. Daniel's right. If he wants a burger to puke up, give the poor kid a burger. It's not going to do anything to him, except make him feel like he has some control over his recovery."
"How is this recovery if his fever's up again?"
"Yes, his fever has risen, but it's still lower than two days ago."
Daniel gazed at the burger on his plate and picked at the bun.
Jack bit down the urge to say 'I told you so'.
"I ate the applesauce and the toast."
"You threw it up."
Daniel tore off a piece of meat sticking out the side of the bun. "You told me if I ate it you'd tell me what happened. You didn't say it had to stay down."
They were still alone. His mom had gone back to her VIP room so it was just him and Daniel. "Tell me what you remember first."
"We've already gone through this."
"Humor me, I'm old and don't always remember things."
"I came home from school..." Daniel's shoulders slumped. "I don't want to know how much school I've missed, do I?"
"Not a worry at the moment. We'll get that straightened out, I promise."
Daniel glanced at him as if he'd grown two heads. "If you say so."
"So you came home from school..."
"I didn't feel well. Pretty much all of it was a blur except no one was home. No matter how much I tried... I really did try, Dad, honest."
"I know you did."
"See, I told you this already," he answered smugly.
Jack couldn't help but smile at the first sign of Daniel's teenage stubbornness he'd seen since this whole fiasco had begun. "Tell me again."
"Took notes," he growled with a whisper of a smile and began to tell the story in a bland monotone as if he were reciting from a book. "I felt really bad on Saturday." He squinted as if trying to remember. "Rain. It was raining. I took my own temperature. It was over 102 and I wanted to take some Tylenol for the headache, but there was no more Tylenol so I went into your room to look for more. There was thunder. Lightning. Then the power went out." He drew a breath and his voice soared upward an octave or two. "The lights went out," he repeated, lost in the memories. "I heard voices." He grabbed Jack's hand. "I know I locked the door. I made a list of all the things I'd done so you could see how responsible I was. Setting the alarm was on the list. How did the men get into the house if I set the alarm? How?"
"Daniel." Jack placed his hand atop Daniel's.
"Even with the alarm set, I wasn't safe, was I?" Daniel began to shake, his grip on Jack's fingers tightened. "You're not going to tell me how they got in, are you? It's a secret? And if Grandma had been with me, they would've hurt her? That's why she's here?"
One by one, the monitors began to change their rhythmic patterns.
"Hey, Icky, you're safe now. And your grandmother is taking a nap in one of the VIP rooms, honest."
His eyes were full of pain. "Here. I'm safe here?" He tugged his hand from Jack's and weakly pounded the mattress. "I. Don't. Live. Here. We don't live here." Tremors racked his body, and he curled into himself.
Immediately, Jack climbed into bed and gathered him in his arms, shooing away a concerned Fraiser with a wave of his hand. 'Later', he mouthed to her over Daniel's bent head. She backed away with a nod.
"Oh god, Daddy, I'm afraid to go home." He latched onto Jack's shirt with a two fisted death grip. "I changed my mind. I don't want to—"
"Not without me," Jack crooned.
"I don't want the hamburger," he sobbed.
Subject change was a wonderful avoidance technique of Daniel's, no matter how old he was. "No one's forcing you to eat the burger."
"You made me eat the—"
"I know. I'm a bad dad."
Daniel nodded against his chest. "Bad dad," he whispered.
"I'm glad we're all in agreement—"
"I took your gun." Daniel began to pick at the material on Jack's BDU shirt. "I remembered everything you taught me except—" Daniel hiccupped.
Jack held him tighter, positive his imagination couldn't do justice to the nightmare scenario Daniel experienced. "How did you get away?"
"I remembered. Like I remembered how to drive. How to take down Tony." Daniel averted his face from Jack. "I hurt him," he whispered.
At this point, Jack couldn't care if Daniel had killed the man. "Good. You did what you needed to do."
"But I took your gun," Daniel insisted. It was if he couldn't comprehend Jack's lack of anger.
Jack gripped Daniel's chin and made him look at him. "Listen to me." He was becoming frustrated, the more Daniel tried to pull away, the more Jack forced eye contact. "Oh, God." Jack dropped his hand and once again enveloped Daniel in his arms as he tried to erase the terror in those eyes. "I'm so proud of you."
Daniel snorted, the sound muffled against Jack's chest. "I took your gun. Stole Sam's bike and got arrested." He pulled away from Jack and looked into his eyes. "My picture's probably going to be in the Post Office and you're proud of me?"
"You got away. You survived."
Daniel touched the wound on his head. "I remember taking the motorcycle and driving towards the mountain. To safety. Then nothing. Only images. Feelings. Pain. It's your turn now. Tell me what happened on the road. Tell me why I didn't make it to the mountain."
Unsure if he was detached enough to talk to Daniel, Jack hesitated. He could've kicked himself for even opening this can of worms.
"Why did you ask me what happened if you aren't going to share?"
Out of the mouth of babes. "They shot at you with a zat."
"What's a zat..." Daniel's eyes widened. "Oh. I remember what that is."
"Yeah, thought you would."
Daniel shuddered. "So they left me for dead? They wanted to kill me?"
Jack pointed to Daniel's temple. "They wanted you for what's in here."
Daniel started to laugh, then stopped. "You're not kidding, are you?"
He shook his head. "Wish I were."
"I'm thirteen. What the hell does anyone want with—"
"Your memories? Your genius? Does any of this ring a bell?"
"I'm never going to be safe again."
"Someone was making sure you were safe."
"You could've fooled me. Shooting me... I mean zatting me while I was driving a motorcycle—" Daniel stopped and looked at his father. "You knew about this?"
"Then who? Who was—"
Jack swallowed back his anger. "Doctor Lam..."
"Carolyn knew about this? She's a doctor. She let them. How could she... I thought she..."
"Protected you. Made sure you were—"
Daniel pressed both palms against his temples. "She left me—"
"I trusted her."
"I know you did."
"I thought she was my friend." A single tear slid down Daniel's face.
"She saved you." Jack fought not to choke on those words.
Daniel pushed the bed tray aside and slid down under the covers. "I don't want any more hamburger."
Jack noticed that Daniel's hand really hadn't strayed from his temple. "Your head hurt?"
He covered him.
Daniel pushed down the blanket. "Can you bring my quilt from home? I hate this blanket."
"I'll get it tomorrow."
Daniel nodded again, and again Jack covered him up, stopping Daniel's hand as he pushed down the blanket. "I'm going to call Fraiser now and let her give you something for your headache."
Daniel turned on his back and stared at Jack and he knew the question before it was even asked of him. "Don't worry about Fraiser—"
"If you say so," Daniel said without conviction.
There was nothing Jack could say in Fraiser's defense; the damage was already done.
Jack ignored the strange looks. He kept his eyes focused straight ahead and only adjusted the package under his arm once, and that was in the elevator, far from the curious stares of the SG personnel. Daniel's quilt and pillow were awkward enough to carry, but add to the mix one filled-to-the-brim Tupperware container of still warm Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and a second container of cut up franks. He would have grabbed Lumpy, if he could have figured out how the hell to hold the stuffed animal.
Daniel was sitting up, staring into space, an opened book on his lap. His mother was sitting on the chair knitting what appeared to be the longest scarf in creation.
His mom looked up and smiled.
Daniel only smiled when he saw what Jack had dragged in. "My quilt."
"Hello to you, too." He put the containers on the nightstand and had all intentions of placing the quilt over Daniel, but his son pulled the pillow and quilt out from under his arm, unceremoniously tugging them over his body.
"Don't go to sleep!" Jack shouted, loud enough that his mother raised her eyebrows and Daniel stopped mid-slink under the covers.
"Because..." Jack raised the head of Daniel's bed even more. "I got a surprise." Jack grabbed an empty cup by the water pitcher, turned his back on Daniel and his mom, pulled a plastic spoon from his pocket and made a mixture of cheesy macaroni and frankfurter for Daniel. "Taadaa," he said as he presented the cup with the finesse of a game show host.
"Ummm, thanks." Daniel glanced at the mixture and swallowed.
"Janet said I feel nauseated 'cause I'm not eating."
"Makes sense to me."
"Makes sense to me also," his mom added.
"Okay..." Daniel reached for the cup. "I'll try a little."
Jack peered into the empty cup before tossing it into the trash. Daniel was fast asleep, buried under the quilt that hung over the bed, inches short of hitting the floor. Even without touching him, he could see the flush on his cheeks. "He still has a fever. And he sleeps so—"
"He ate today. If it stays down, that's a big leap towards recovery, then maybe Janet can take out some of these tubes..." She stopped herself. "Let's just take one day at a time."
"Don't push it, Daniel." Jack put a warning hand on Daniel's shoulder, feeling the heat of his evening fever through the thin scrub top.
"I've eaten. Three meals for the past three days. You've taken out every tube. Why can't I go someplace that's not here?" Daniel pulled his legs up to his chest when Fraiser went to reach out.
"That's my offer, Daniel. Take it or leave it."
"I want to leave here."
Fraiser sat on the bed. "I know you do, sweetie." She captured his foot before he had a chance to move it out of her reach. "Three days in a VIP suite..."
"We'll be dorm mates," his mother announced.
Daniel glared at her. "Don't say, oh goodie, please, Grandma."
"I wouldn't think of it," she huffed, sounding upset.
"I want my laptop. My iPod. A book. I'm tired—"
"Of course you're tired, the fever—"
"I meant I'm tired of staring at the ceiling."
"Daniel," Jack interjected, his tone dousing his son's flame of anger. "As of a few days ago, you were sleeping twenty-two out of the twenty-four hours in a day."
"You know, you're telling me about the three days in the VIP suite as if I have a choice." He glanced around the room. "Tell me, do I have a choice?"
Jack looked at Fraiser, silencing her with a finger. "Of course you have a choice, Danny. Everyone has a choice. You can choose a VIP suite or the isolation room."
"VIP," Daniel mumbled.
"Good choice," Jack said.
Daniel may have complained about moving into the VIP room, but he settled in like a trooper, enjoying the freedom of walking around. He sat in the chair by the table, played a game of gin with Jack and gave up after owing him a year's worth of allowances.
"I'm just going to watch some TV." He got into the bed and crawled under the quilt, settling on an ESPN sports channel.
"I think I'm going to get some reports. I can come back here—"
"No. You don't have to. I'll be okay."
"Nap in private?"
Daniel shrugged. "Something like that." He eyed his cell phone on the table. "How's the service down here?"
Jack chuckled and tossed the phone to Daniel. "Dria?"
Daniel blushed, opened the phone then shut it as the door swung open.
"Daniel. Colonel O'Neill."
Instinctually, Jack stepped up next to the bed and placed a protective hand on Daniel's shoulder. "Doctor Lam, to what do we owe this pleasure?"
"I'd like to speak to Daniel."
"Anything you have to say to him, you can say with me in the room."
"I'm sorry, Daniel."
Daniel looked at him. Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels in response. "Why are you sorry if you helped me out?" Daniel asked suspiciously. "Shouldn't I be thanking you?"
Lam glanced at Jack who just shrugged.
"Shouldn't I be thanking Carolyn, Dad?"
"I don't know, Daniel, let's ask the good doctor." Jack cleared his throat. "Should Daniel be thanking you?"
She had the good grace to look embarrassed.
"I would've cooperated if you'd asked. You didn't have to hurt me. Make me sick." Daniel shook his head. "My dad said you watched over me. I guess you deserve a thank you for that."
"I don't deserve a thank you, Daniel."
"I'd like to think you tried to keep me safe because you were my friend."
"I still am your friend."
The smile on Daniel's face was too old for him and it reminded Jack of a Daniel stored in his memory. "No, you kept me safe because you were afraid of the repercussions. You're not my friend. Not anymore."
Lam left. Without another word, she walked out of the room.
"Are you okay?"
"No." Daniel hunkered down under the covers. Tucking the blanket up around his chin, he stared at the TV. "But I will be."
Jack caught up with Lam in the elevator and he glared at the airman sharing their space, who dashed back into the corridor without a backward glance. Jack was positioned between Lam and the elevator doors. The doors slid closed and the elevator ascended two floors before Jack hit the stop button.
"Say your piece, Colonel, I have a meeting with the General in fifteen minutes and I would prefer not to be late."
Jack stepped into her personal space. "This won't even take ten minutes. I promise you'll be sitting in the General's office with time to spare."
"I was just following orders."
"The next time your orders involve my son, remember this - if you come within five feet of him, I will hunt you down and kill you. I do not care if you're a woman, Doctor, or if your orders came down from the President himself. Do I make myself clear?"
She glanced over his shoulder.
Jack didn't turn around, he was well aware what had captured her attention. "There's no sound on the elevator cameras." Jack smiled wickedly "Your word against mine." He winked at her. "Oh, and if something should happen to me, I'm pretty damn positive that there's a Major and a Jaffa who would carry through with my desires. Daniel's got a very large, extended family."
Lam gave him a slight nod. "For what it's worth, sir, I truly am sorry, but in the long run—"
"Blah, blah, blah. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Yeah, I saw that Star Trek movie, too. It was bullshit when Spock said it, and it's bullshit now." Jack pushed the button to restart the elevator and the doors slid open at the next floor. Jack stepped into the corridor, then stuck his hand against the doors, holding them open. "Give the General my regards, will you?"
"So," Daniel said as soon as Jack stepped into the VIP room. "Did you threaten Doctor Lam?"
Lam had already become an unfamiliar entity in Daniel's mind. Carolyn was gone, replaced by a stranger. "Did you want me to?"
"I don't know," Daniel admitted softly.
Jack sat on the bed. Even without touching Daniel, the blushing cheeks were a dead giveaway to the rising fever, definitely not the right time for this conversation.
"I know," Jack said. Two words, a gentle squeeze to his shoulder because there really wasn't more he could say or do. He felt as betrayed as Daniel. Maybe it wasn't Daniel he should be speaking to.
There was a knock on the door and his mother entered carrying a brown bag. She smiled at Jack, but her smile faded when she looked at Daniel huddled under the quilt.
Jack shook his head, then pointed to the bag. "Goodies?" he said with false enthusiasm.
"Bagels. French toast bagels. Cinnamon raisin bagels. Interested?"
"Smells good," Daniel admitted from his cocoon, slowly sitting up, focusing on the brown bag his grandmother was still holding.
"I'm going to leave Daniel in your capable hands, Mom. I'll be back in a few minutes. You..." He pointed to Daniel. "Make sure you leave me something to eat, okay?"
"You just missed Doctor Lam."
"I'm sorry, Jack." Hammond leaned forward. "She's sorry that Daniel got caught in the—"
"With all due respect, General, I don't give a shit. What's done is unable to be undone. Ask Daniel."
"Her orders came directly from—"
"Once again, General, I don't give a shit. She was like—" The word family just couldn't make it out of Jack's mouth.
"I'm glad. Then you'll understand why I'm retiring."
"Yes, I do."
"I'll have the paperwork on your desk by the morning."
Hammond's chuckle was mirthless. "I said I understood why you'd want to retire. I don't remember telling you that I'd accept your resignation."
"It's really not up for discussion, General."
"Doctor Lam has been reassigned to Atlantis."
Jack snorted. "The military has a strange idea of punishment."
"She was following orders. And if the situation were—"
"No. Do not tell me I'd do the same thing if—" Vehemently, Jack shook his head, all he could think of was Cassie. "No. I couldn't. I wouldn't."
The general remained silent.
Jack knew that look. And hated it. The one that said the general would remain silent, even though he disagreed with Jack's pronouncements. Jack slapped his thighs and stood. "Well, that's settled."
Hammond pointed to the chair. "Sit down, Jack."
"Why do I need to sit? There's nothing you can say that will—"
"Jack, sit," the general said in a voice that was probably reserved for his grandchildren. "Please."
Jack hesitated before he sat on the edge of the chair. "I can't do this to Daniel. Staying here would be—"
"What? Followed orders? And please tell me, sir, exactly who gave the order to zat a thirteen year old sick child driving a motorcycle on a wet, slick road. Was that Kinsey's? The President's? Lam's? Yours?"
Jack knew him long enough to know that he'd crossed the line and delivered a barb that had hurt and he quickly apologized. "I'm sorry, General, I was out of line."
"Yes, you were."
He ducked his head, embarrassed and ashamed.
"Look, I know you believe otherwise, but part of Daniel understands what happened because he can remember who he was and the workings of the SGC." Hammond tented his fingers and rested his elbows on his desk. "Just as you understand. It doesn't make you less of a father, or a bad man."
"General, if you were going for the ra-ra speech, it's really not working. You haven't changed my mind. My resignation will be on your desk—"
"Take our boy away," Hammond interrupted.
"Resigning and leaving, that's what I was planning on doing."
Hammond shook his head, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I don't remember the word resignation ever being mentioned."
"I mentioned it, General. When I first began this conversation—"
"I'm sorry, Colonel, I'm old. Forgetful. Remember nothing about resignation."
"I'm not going to fall for the old ploy."
"Sorry." Hammond shrugged. "It was worth a try."
"I am going to resign."
"Before you resign, I'm giving you one last order."
"I refuse to kiss and make up with Lam."
Hammond rolled his eyes. "Take Daniel away. Close down your house. Go to your cabin. Hell, my cabin. Hawaii... anywhere. Stop being Colonel O'Neill and just be a dad."
"It's an order, Jack. As soon as Doctor Fraiser says that Daniel is able to travel, I want to see the two of you riding off into the sunset."
"The heroes don't usually return."
"I have faith that the ending to this story might be a bit different."
It was too early to get into this. Jack was too tired and too pissed at himself for even saying anything.
Daniel sat in the middle of the bed, glaring at Jack. "I don't want to go anywhere." For a kid who'd spent a horrible night tossing and turning with a fever, he was wide awake. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cutting Jack down to size with a thunderous expression.
"It's not going to be today... especially after last night."
"No one told you to stay."
Jack gave Daniel the age-old signal for time out. "Enough." He sat at the edge of the bed. "Come on, what's wrong with a little vacation?"
"Summer school." Angrily, he tapped the books strewn around the bed. "I can't afford... I don't want to be kept back. Not now."
"How about if I can get this worked out with your school—" Jack pointed his finger at Daniel before he could even open his mouth. "Don't interrupt."
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.
"If I can get this worked out with the school, would you be interested?" Daniel really didn't have a choice in the matter, but it would be easier dragging a cooperative teen rather than one who was digging in his heels.
Slowly, Daniel's smile drifted. "This isn't going to work," he said petulantly. "My school. Your job. Something's going to happen."
"Don't make any promises you can't keep, okay? That way, neither of us will be disappointed."
His grandmother's voice pulled him out of his light doze.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Rose sat on the edge of the bed.
"Yes, Grandma." Daniel forced himself not to pull back as she reached out to feel his forehead.
"Your dad said you had a bad night."
Exasperated, Daniel gently removed her hand from his forehead. He had as much privacy in the VIP room as he did in the isolation room. "I have a lot of work to do." He flipped onto his stomach and went back to reading the opened book on his pillow.
She ignored his pissiness and placed a hand on his upper back. "I'll call you tonight."
Daniel nodded. Part of him was relieved that his grandma was headed home and the other part wanted to ask her to stay, if for no other reason than to keep him company when no one seemed to have the time for him.
"If you get lonely, call me."
He hated that she was so intuitive. Stupid as it sounded, it felt, at times that she could read his mind.
"I can stay if you want."
Daniel flipped back over. He knew his grandmother was as antsy as he was. She lived for her garden and the outside. Fresh air and windows, not cinderblock walls and recycled air. "Go home," he said softly. "I'm glad one of us can escape." Daniel gripped her hand before she stood. "Dad said it was okay for you to leave, right? Bad guys all captured?"
"You know your dad. The only thing out of the whole conversation that made any sense was 'you can go home'."
They exchanged knowing smiles.
"Maybe we need some of our own secrets, Grandma," Daniel chortled, "because it would drive Dad nuts."
Daniel's eyes popped open. Slowly, he peeled his face off the opened Global Studies textbook then sat up, wiping the string of drool from the corner of his mouth. He blinked and adjusted his glasses. "Hi, Teal'c."
Teal'c offered him up a little bow as he set the tray of food on the table. "I did not mean to wake you."
The worst part of being in the mountain... Well, he'd been here long enough to have a list of things, but for now, at the top of the list was his skewed sense of time. Without windows, he had not a clue what meal Teal'c was serving. Considering he was still dressed, Daniel took a wild guess. "Lunch?"
"I had come to ask you if you would wish to accompany me to the commissary, but you were asleep so I took it upon myself to bring the food to you."
At the mention of food, his stomach growled loudly. Embarrassed, he wrapped his arms around his midsection to stifle the sound.
Teal'c canted his head. "It would appear that I have made the correction decision."
Daniel never knew a turkey sandwich could taste so good and he forced himself not to scarf up both halves and the chips in record time.
"I was unsure if you would have preferred the tuna or the turkey."
"Thurkey ith thine," Daniel said around a mouthful of sandwich. He swallowed. "Better than fine. It's delicious."
"I am pleased my choice was to your satisfaction." Teal'c was eating his large bowl of fruit with slow precision. "DoctorLam is leaving Stargate Command."
"Good." Daniel put down the sandwich and picked up a chip, concentrating on his food rather than Teal'c, hating the way his friend had made it sound as if they should be missing Lam when she left.
"DoctorLam saved your life."
"Yeah, that's why I've been here, missing school, being sick, because she saved my life." Daniel crushed two of the chips between his fingers and let the crumbs rain down on the uneaten half of his sandwich. "Good riddance."
Teal'c's silence was deafening.
Daniel picked up his sandwich and tore off a bite, glaring at Teal'c as he chewed. "You don't think I should be angry at her?" The words were out of his mouth the second he swallowed.
"I am grateful for her intervention—"
"I could've died because of her intervention," Daniel spat at Teal'c.
"But you did not."
"Not for lack of trying."
Teal'c sighed deeply. "Please do not believe I condone the actions of those who chose to do you harm. I do not. But, I am grateful that DoctorLam was there to protect you to the best of her ability."
Daniel began to pick at the turkey hanging from his sandwich. "So, what you're saying is what happened to me was inevitable and that it could have been worse?"
"And that I should be thanking Doctor Lam?"
"It is not for me to tell you what you should or should not do. I believe that DoctorLam should not be the sole bearer of the brunt of your anger. She did not work alone, there were influential others who did not have your best interests at heart."
Daniel walked the corridors of the SGC with authority. It was all about walking the corridors as if he had purpose. And timing helped. In and out of elevators on the heels of an airman or a technician was second nature to him.
His dad had warned him more times than he cared to remember about his ability to travel within the SGC with such abandon. Oh well, if either his dad or Janet caught him wandering the halls, Daniel was pretty damn sure there'd be no warning and he'd be locked in the VIP suite until he was twenty one or until he was fever free, whichever came first.
Teal'c had left and his father had shown up about ten minutes later. Checking for fever then embarrassingly making sure Daniel had eaten, peed, and had a nap planned before informing Daniel that he had a meeting. Blessed solitude lasted a good ten minutes; however, in the quiet of the room, he replayed Teal'c's words. Words which motivated Daniel to take a little journey through the SGC hallways in search of Doctor Lam.
Even though the door was propped open with a carton of books, Daniel tentatively knocked on the doorframe.
"Daniel!" She dropped the books she was holding into the opened box by her feet. "Come on in." She wiped her hands on her pants and moved to greet him, stopping suddenly when Daniel backed up.
He pointed to the cartons strewn around the office, stepping forward only when she backed away. "Going somewhere?"
"Yes, I'm going to Atl—"
Daniel didn't miss the slight blush.
"I'm being transferred. My request."
"That's nice," Daniel answered blandly, stepping into the room.
"Do you want to sit?"
Daniel looked around the room. Every flat surface was covered with papers or books. "No, it's okay."
"I would have done what you needed... If you'd asked. Why didn't you ask?"
"This wasn't a case of cops and robbers with toy weapons."
"I know that."
"No. You don't." She crossed her arms and leaned against her workstation. "These people were playing for keeps." Lam drew a deep breath and fiddled with her ponytail, twirling the end, then tucking the loose strands behind her ears.
Good. Daniel had her nervous and he couldn't have been happier.
"I couldn't tell you, Daniel. If you'd known what was going to go down, the bad guys would've known what was being planned to take them down through the device in your head."
"Device in my head?" Unconsciously, Daniel touched the area of his head sporting a fresh handful of stitches. "This device," Daniel stuttered, his stomach churning at the mere thought. "What is it doing?"
There was a hint of resignation in her voice. "Was. The device is gone."
"So this device that was in my head, what was its purpose?"
"It was recording your memories and thoughts. Which," she confessed, "was the reason I couldn't tell you. Like I said, the bad guys would've been aware, through the device in your head, what we were planning."
"So I was the proverbial bait? The cheese to catch the rats?"
"No. Never. Daniel, you have to believe me when I say that you weren't expendable, but I couldn't give you the cure."
"There was a cure?"
"Yes. I could've given you an injection and the fever and illness that you experienced—"
"... And am still experiencing."
She grimaced. "Yes," Lam acknowledged, "unfortunately I can't do anything to help you now since the cure has to be administered within a short timeframe, otherwise it won't work. But if I'd given you the cure then, it would have been as if nothing untoward had happened and everything you'd gone through would've been for nothing. This way, I raised a red flag, tipping the SGC off that something wasn't right."
"When did you put the device in my head?"
"I don't understand why you need to—"
"When," he demanded.
"During your physical."
"At the SGC?"
"Yes," she said slowly.
"So you put an alien device in my head while at the SGC but you couldn't give me a..." Daniel made air quotes with his fingers, "... cure while at the SGC because that would raise suspicion?"
"From where I stand and based on how I feel, that's a load of bullshit," he yelled at her. "You didn't care."
"You'd be dead if I didn't care."
He jabbed a finger in her direction. "I. Will. Never. Forgive. You."
"Why is that fine?"
"Because you're alive. And from the beginning, that's all I cared about."
"Well, you could've fooled me." Daniel stomped out, wishing he could slam the door in his wake.
Daniel ate because he knew if he didn't, his father would be all over him.
"I brought a movie I thought we could watch tonight."
He shrugged. "That's nice."
"It's not nothing, Daniel."
Daniel felt the all too familiar chill of the approaching fever and shivered.
"How about I go get some—"
"I did something I think might be really bad."
"Okay." His dad elongated the word into two long syllables. "When did you do this really bad thing?"
"Daniel, you're at the SGC, with guards, the military and security cameras. Whatever you did, could not have been that bad."
He used his fork and moved his corn into the space with the string beans. "I went to speak to Doctor Lam... She says that..." Daniel refused to cry. "I told her I would..."
"It's okay, Icky."
"It's not okay, Dad."
"Yeah, it is. I don't have too many fuzzy feelings when I think of Lam."
"She took down a lot of powerful people, didn't she?"
"By offering you up as the sacrificial lamb, she took down powerful people." His dad reached over, grabbed his hand and sighed deeply. "You have a fever."
"The people Caro—Doctor Lam got rid of... They were bad people?"
"The baddest, but that still doesn't make what she did right."
They could go round and round like this forever, but his head hurt too much and his stomach contracted at the sight of his dinner. "I'm not hungry," Daniel said suddenly, pushing the dish to the middle of the table.
"Let me take your temperature—"
"No!" Daniel shouted. "No temperature. Nothing. I just want to leave here."
"You don't know. I want to leave here, but go where?" He shut his eyes against the power of memories. "I'm afraid to go home."
Daniel was changed, under the covers and sleeping within minutes. His fever was no higher than the night before, nor lower. And Jack just sat there, shuffling and reshuffling a deck of cards, playing Daniel's words over in his mind, until he fanned the cards out on the table and went to call Fraiser.
Fraiser refused to speak to him until she assessed Daniel, who was in such a deep sleep that he barely stirred as she took his vitals.
"I didn't ask you to come here for this," Jack said impatiently, pacing around the room.
"Okay," she said, stepping away from the bed. "Why did you ask me here?"
Jack looked over his shoulder at the bed then motioned for Fraiser to follow him out into the hallway.
Fraiser followed him, confused. "What's going on?"
"I want you to back me up when I approach Hammond about allowing Daniel and Cassie to be fitted for GPS devices."
She laughed, her humor diminishing slowly when she realized he wasn't kidding. "You aren't—"
Jack shook his head. "No, I'm not."
"Think about it."
"I just did think about it. And the answer is no."
"Why? Want me to give you the same speech I received before the device was implanted in me." Jack cleared his throat. "It's minimally invasive and the benefits far outweigh the—"
Fraiser adamantly shook her head.
"I don't know," she whispered. "Maybe because it just feels wrong."
"Not good enough."
"So, Colonel, unless I agree with you, I'm wrong?"
"Stop thinking in the military mindset and start thinking as a parent."
"I am thinking as a parent," she bristled. "Invasion of privacy—"
"Ohfercryingoutloud." Exasperated, Jack ran his fingers through his hair. "We're not reading their diaries. We're protecting them. In case you haven't noticed, we're parents to two very unique individuals."
"You're not telling me anything I don't know."
"Yes, I am, because you'd like to believe Cassie is just like every other teenager."
Fraiser had the good grace to look away, embarrassed.
"Until this happened to Daniel, I thought I had the ability to protect him. I was wrong. My arrogance nearly cost my son his life. I don't want to make the same mistake again."
Daniel was sitting at the table, nose inches from the monitor, ear buds in place, books strewn around the keyboard, totally ignoring Jack.
He looked better than last night. A good night's rest had worked wonders, and for the first time in a long time, there was only a hint of shadows under his eyes.
Jack placed his hand on top of the book Daniel was reaching for, smiling when he looked up in surprise. Jack touched his ears and Daniel nodded then removed the ear buds. "Hey, Dad."
"Trying to play catch up, I checked out the teachers' website, got the work I've been missing and—" Daniel shook his head. "It's not easy," he said softly. "I feel like I spent this whole year struggling to keep up."
There was nothing Jack could say, because Daniel was one hundred percent correct. This year had pretty much sucked. "The year hasn't been that bad. There's Dria..."
Daniel rolled his eyes and ducked his head, but not before Jack caught his smile. He had his son's attention, which was what he wanted. Strangely enough, though, as convincing as he'd been with Fraiser, right now he was at a loss at how to approach the tracking device with Daniel.
Jack took off his fatigue jacket and rolled up his sleeve. He presented his bicep to Daniel. "What do you see?"
Daniel looked at his father as if he'd lost his mind.
"Look," he said, shoving his arm under Daniel's nose. "What do you see?"
"Umm... nothing? Is that the right answer?"
"Yes and no. On the outside, you'll see nothing, but on the inside..." Jack searched and finally found what he was looking for. He prodded an area on his bicep. "X marks the spot."
"The SGC's ability to find me." Jack grabbed Daniel's hand and ran it along his bicep.
"It's a tracking device?" Daniel pulled his hand away and tucked it under his armpit.
"Yup. Carter has one. Teal'c. Fraiser, Hammond..."
"Nope. Not yet."
"Not yet?" Daniel asked hesitantly. "Cassie doesn't have a tracking device... yet?"
"It's referred to as a GPS."
"Fraiser is discussing it with—"
"Discussing? As in there's a choice?"
"I don't have a choice in this matter, do I?"
"I'm hoping you'd—"
"It can't hear me, can it? I mean it's not a microphone, is it?"
"Or some type of camera?" Daniel peered at his arm.
"I promise, there's no infringement on your privacy."
"I'm a teenager, Dad, I'm so not believing this."
"It'll help keep you safe. Safer," Jack corrected.
"And that's important to you?"
"This will help protect you... on the faint chance this should happen again. Wouldn't you like to know that if something happened to me, you could track me in a heartbeat?"
"Well, that's how I feel also. I'll do anything within my power to keep you safe."
Daniel hesitated before drawing a deep breath. "Does it hurt?"
"Not even a little."
"Did it hurt when you had it put in?"
"Nope." Jack rolled down his sleeve.
"And Cassie's going to go along with this?"
He shrugged. "Probably with bribery."
"Can I have the new Halo game in exchange for the internal GPS?"
Fraiser smiled at Jack. Jack smiled at Daniel and Daniel smiled at no one. He looked terrified and stared at the ceiling.
He nodded, but said nothing.
"You need to breathe," Fraiser instructed.
Daniel took a short breath and exhaled quickly.
"That's not exactly what I had in mind, sweetie."
"It's okay, don't worry, the anticipation is worse than the implantation. Honest." Fraiser pulled the instrument tray over by her side and gave a slight nod to the nurse assisting her before waving Jack into a corner of the room.
"I'm right here, Daniel."
"You're not going anywhere... Right?"
Daniel screwed his eyes shut and even from where Jack was standing, he could see his son's body stiffen in fear.
"You're going to feel two tiny pinpricks, which will numb the area..." Fraiser gave the needles in quick succession. "Then I'm going to..."
"No..." Daniel began to squirm, his legs moving across the gurney. "Please don't."
Jack inched forward, stealthily.
"Daniel, I need you to lie still."
"Cold?" Fraiser paused, the scalpel inches from the soon to be incision site. "It's not cold in here."
"Stop," he begged.
Fraiser gave a short laugh as she made the incision. "I swear, you and Cassie are vying for the Academy Awards. She reminded me of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space - 'The pain... The pain'." She paused, chortling at her own joke. "Oh, that's before your time, though, I'm sure your father must remember—"
Jack was focused on Daniel's body language. "Doc—" was the only word he managed before Daniel began to buck. "Get away from me," Daniel sobbed, kicking out with his feet.
Jack shouldered Fraiser out of the way, ignoring her protests. "Look at me," he ordered gruffly, holding Daniel's face between his hands.
With his free hand, Daniel attempted to push Jack away. "You're hurting me."
"Sir, feeding into his—"
"Damn it, don't you see? Daniel's not here. He's on Norad Road and Lam's—"
"Shit." Realization struck and Fraiser dropped the scalpel on the tray. "Get me 2cc's of Valium, stat," she barked at the nurse.
Fraiser covered Daniel with a warming blanket and Jack stepped to the side while she tucked it around him.
Daniel smiled lazily at Fraiser then turned his head, searching out Jack. "I'm done?"
Jack squeezed his blanket-covered foot. "Yup, buddy, all done."
"That wasn't bad." Daniel's yawn swallowed up most of his sentence.
He and Fraiser exchanged a glance.
"Cassie," Daniel mumbled. "She do okay?"
"She did fine."
Daniel's smile was lopsided. "Nap?"
"Sure, Icky." Jack placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Close your eyes, I'll be right here when you wake up."
Daniel closed his eyes with a sigh.
Jack stood, his hands gripping the railings of the bed, staring down at Daniel.
Fraiser took her place by his side, her right hand covering his left.
"If Lam were here in this room, I'd kill her. No guilt. No looking back. No remorse."
Her fingers worked their way under Jack's death grip. "He'll be okay."
"Until next time."
"The GPS... It was the right thing to do, Colonel."
"I know it was... But seeing Daniel like this... It doesn't feel right." He pulled his hand away from Fraiser's and rattled the bed railing. "It's the Valium. Two shots. Not one. Two shots to get him calmed down enough to do a fifteen minute procedure. That sucks. This sucks. And you know what?"
Jack exhaled and he could feel his whole body slump in defeat. "I think Hammond's right. Daniel and I need to walk away from all of this for a while."
It was stupid. Daniel knew he was being ridiculous but he couldn't bring himself to cross over the threshold into the house.
His dad stood in the foyer, patiently waiting for Daniel. "It's daylight."
Daniel nodded, but didn't move.
"It's not raining. The sun is shining."
"I know," Daniel said softly, his arms wrapping around his middle as he shivered under the warmth of the midday sun.
"You have the GPS. The house has a new alarm system. And I'm right here."
His heart was pounding so badly, his stomach churned, and Daniel swallowed, forcing down his breakfast of pancakes and bacon. This was his house. He'd grown up here and he took a few steps forward, counting to three before he entered the house.
Daniel walked from room to room, relaxing incrementally as he checked out each room, hesitating only in front of his father's room. He leaned on the doorjamb and closed his eyes as memories slowly began to overtake reality.
"Open your eyes," his father whispered in his ear.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. "Oh."
The room was changed. Same furniture, but rearranged differently. New curtains. Bedding. Paint. There were no memories in this room.
"Thought it was time for a change. What'cha think?"
"Alexandria?" He dropped the shirt he was folding into the opened suitcase and turned.
She was standing in the open doorway of his room, a huge smile pasted on her face. "I missed you," she whispered, never moving.
"I missed you, too," Daniel said, suddenly incredibly shy in her presence.
"Your dad said that you're—"
"Going away for a while."
She rolled her eyes. "Still not feeling well."
She stepped into the room, into his personal space, and appraised him. "You don't look better."
"Have you been taking lessons from my dad?"
Alexandria kissed him, then moved backwards, an evil smile on her face. "You're not contagious, are you?"
Daniel sucked in his lips, tasting her fruit flavoured lip gloss, and shook his head.
With her pointer finger, Alexandria touched her lips. "Strawberry mango."
"I thought of you when I—"
"I see you found Daniel."
"Hi, Colonel Jack."
Daniel tried to bury his disappointment over his father's inopportune timing.
A honking horn cut through the house, and Alexandria had no problem vocalizing her own disappointment. "My mom. I gotta go." She glanced at Daniel. "I cannot wait to drive, mini van or not. I hate having my mom be the chauffeur—" Another honk cut through her voice.
"Bye," Daniel said quietly, the joy of going away for a while suddenly losing its appeal.
They ended up leaving later than Jack had planned and he was annoyed at himself because he was better organized than that, but for some reason one thing had led to another. And now he was driving in the dark, trying to maneuver the Avalanche through unfamiliar territory in the rain.
Daniel was in the front seat, sleeping. Curled up, trying to conserve the body heat the fever was leeching from his body. To compensate, the heat was on high with all the blowers turned towards Daniel. Jack was beyond sweaty and the front window was foggy from the temperature flux between outside and inside this traveling steam bath.
What would've been the big deal if he had waited until tomorrow morning to leave? Nothing. Except for the fact that Daniel would be sleeping in his own bed tonight with two Tylenol right by his side. Instead, the poor kid was scrunched in a seat that was too small for him and the medication to lower his fever was tucked into one of the bags in the back of the truck.
Jack sighed, frustrated, and Daniel echoed his sigh with one of his own, trying to find a comfortable spot.
"I know," Jack said, leaning over and patting his shoulder. "I feel exactly the same way."
Even in the rain, in the dark, the place Jack had rented was impressive. He pulled into the circular driveway and unlocked the front door, grateful for the motion-activated lights that sprung on, illuminating the outside.
Daniel hadn't moved and Jack left him sleeping, struggling with the suitcases himself, transported back in time to when he'd first brought a much younger Daniel home from Fraiser's and his inability to make the decision of whether to unpack the truck or put Daniel to sleep. So inexperienced he'd been, stressing over things that weren't important. Time had taught him otherwise.
Daniel was standing in the middle of the living room, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
"I'm just going to lock the truck, I'll be right—"
"Where's my room?"
Daniel was totally oblivious to the vaulted ceiling, huge fireplace and even bigger flat screen TV mounted over the mantle that Jack had agonized over when making his choice.
"Down the hall..."
"Never mind," Daniel said and dropped onto the leather couch facing the fireplace. He stretched out with a grunt of satisfaction. Eyes closed, his hand stroked the material. "Nice, think I'm going to like it here."
Daniel stumbled into the sunlit kitchen.
"Morning, sleepyhead." His father was sitting on a stool, nursing a cup of coffee.
He felt like crap. Sluggish, tired and draggy, he tried to acclimate his slower than normal mind to these new surroundings.
"I was waiting for you before having breakfast. Figured we'd go to the local store..."
"Food shopping?" On a good day, Daniel hated food shopping. "I'll stay here," Daniel said with a groan. Slowly, he lowered his body onto the stool across from his dad.
Concern. Worry. Daniel hated how his father's gazed raked over his body, silently assessing. "This was a bad idea."
"No. No." Daniel quickly attempted to quell his dad's fears. "I think I just need to sleep in a regular bed.
His dad grabbed his hand before Daniel had a chance to pull away. "You don't have a fever."
"No fever. Just tired."
"We can eat at the main lodge today, and tomorrow, when you're rested, we'll go into town."
"Main lodge?" Daniel rubbed his forehead.
"Never listen to me when I talk, do ya?" He stood, pulled a folded, colored brochure from his back pocket and tossed it over to Daniel.
He really wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, but he humored his dad and opened the brochure, smoothing out the wrinkles against the countertop. Slumber-needy or not, this place was damned impressive. The grounds. The lakes. The boats. Shocked, Daniel pushed up his glasses, finally opened his eyes and drank in his surroundings. "Oh," he said, dumbfounded.
"Oh? That's all you can manage?"
They did the main lodge. They did food shopping. And they settled in, slowly. Today his father had made plans to spend the day fishing on the dock behind their rental, and they managed to get two hours in before the sky darkened and the heavens opened up.
They ran to the cabin but were soaked by the time they stepped into kitchen. Daniel stood there shivering and his dad tossed him the roll of paper towels. "Stay there," he ordered, "I'll be right back."
Daniel used half the roll of paper towels to dry his face and soak up the moisture in his hair by the time his father returned with an armload of towels and sweats.
"You look like a drowned rat."
Daniel accepted the towel with a snort, followed by a toe-curling sneeze.
"Hot shower. Now." Before he could protest, he was dragged through the house, thrown into the oversized bathroom attached to his bedroom and made to stand there while his father adjusted the shower spray. "I think that should be—"
Daniel snatched back his arm. "I can do this."
"Hey. Watch the attitude."
"Well, come on, you haven't run a shower for me since I was five.... Eight years ago."
His dad threw his hands up in surrender and backed out of the bathroom, the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I'm leaving now."
Daniel slammed the door and hurriedly stripped out of his wet clothes, leaving them in a sodden pile on the floor. He slipped under the water with a grateful sigh, the warmth chasing away the chill of the rain and he stayed until the water began to cool.
Mid-afternoon or not, Daniel grabbed his laptop and crawled under the covers. He stuck his ear buds in and opened up his laptop. The new state of the art Sony was up and ready to go even before he found the song he was looking for.
He skimmed then skipped emails from his teachers regarding his homework and schoolwork and zeroed in on friends' emails. Cassie's was couched in their own code and he laughed out loud at her play on words. Nate and Li sent news about the who, what, when, where and why of school. Cory's was one long paragraph and Daniel shook his head. Grammar and punctuation had never been his friend's strong points. Daniel made a few adjustments to the screen and enjoyed Cory's email so much more with some well placed paragraphs and some hits of the space bar.
Alexandria's was long, chatty, and somewhere during the middle of it, Daniel's mood darkened. Instead of inclusion, Daniel felt alone and left out. Frustrated and hurt, Daniel highlighted his recent emails, starting with Alexandria's, then stopped, and powered down instead, without answering any of them.
He leaned over, put the laptop on the floor, punched the pillows a few times, then fell asleep, stroking the area of his arm where he knew the GPS was embedded.
Light meal or a trip to the main lodge? Jack looked out the window and made the decision. The sky was leaden and the rainy day had transformed into a rainy, damp, cool evening. Perfect for soup and sandwiches.
Two cans of Campbell Chicken Noodle soup were simmering on the stove and Jack was ready to make the sandwiches, then changed his mind, lowered the flame under the soup, and went to ask Daniel's opinion regarding sandwich fillings.
"Ahh, damn." He knew this was the best thing for Daniel. Rest, Fraiser had stressed, was his body's way to heal, but Jack hadn't expected Daniel to follow orders.
Daniel was just a lump under the blankets, only the top part of his head visible. Jack adjusted the blanket and tugged it down slightly. "In case you need me, Icky, I'll be in the kitchen."
Jack had eaten dinner, cleaned up, read a good portion of the best seller he'd brought with him and checked on Daniel countless times. This house was big and its size was distorted by the quiet that surrounded him. Hurriedly, he found the remote, flicked on the TV and settled on the first thing that appeared sports-orientated.
It was amazing the impact cathedral ceilings had on sound and the nightmare-induced screams appeared to hover overhead before dropping down around Jack, waking him from a sound sleep.
"Shit." He took off at a dead run towards Daniel's room, narrowly missing furniture in the unfamiliar layout.
Daniel was sitting up in bed, pawing at his left arm, exactly where the GPS was inserted. "It's not working," Daniel screamed, ripping off his sweatshirt, the damage he'd inflicted visible by the light of the bedside lamp. Red marks raked across the newly stitched skin.
Jack threw himself at Daniel. "I'm here," he said, wrapping his body around Daniel's, using himself to separate Daniel's right arm from his left. He was hot. Really hot, and Jack's heart sank as Daniel sobbed against his neck.
"You promised it would work."
Jack cradled him against his body, as if Daniel were five and not thirteen. "It's working," he whispered. "See I found you. Nothing is going to—" He couldn't bring himself to lie, not even to Daniel in this fevered, nightmarish state. "I found you," Jack repeated, rocking from side to side.
Daniel was sitting on the couch, staring into space, gazing everywhere but at Jack. Under protest, the blanket was tucked around his lower body. His left bicep sported a brand spankin' new bandage protecting the raw skin Daniel had exposed, the edge of which he was worrying.
Jack was tempted to tell him to leave it be. "Let me go get you—"
Daniel head popped up, his eyes huge. "No. I'm fine." He pulled the blanket up around his neck. "I don't need anything."
Jack could see the movement of Daniel's hands under the blanket. The right hand snaking across his chest, searching out the bandage. This time he couldn't hold himself back. "Don't touch it, Daniel."
"Sorry." He dropped his gaze, then pulled his hands out from under the blanket and raised them for Jack to see before dropping them into his lap.
"Ready for some Tylenol?"
"I want to go to bed."
Jack sat on the coffee table facing Daniel. "Yeah, sleeping would be a great idea..."
Daniel yawned. "Yeah. Good idea." Daniel stood, the blanket fell to the floor and he made a few awkward attempts to pick it up.
"Stop." Jack grabbed his hand, hating the feel of the dry, hot skin he held. "I'll take care of this, you just take care of taking yourself back to bed."
Daniel was under the blanket, wearing the sweatshirt he'd doffed during his nightmare. Jack sat at the edge of the bed and exchanged the cell phone Daniel was fiddling with for the water and Tylenol he was holding.
Jack held the credit card-thin phone while Daniel took the Tylenol, flipping it through his fingers like a magician. "So, did you hear from anyone?"
Daniel hesitated. "They're busy. Finals. End of the year... stuff."
"Yeah." Jack put the phone on the night table.
Daniel put the bottle of water right next to the phone and slid under the covers.
Jack leaned over and kissed Daniel's forehead. "I'm sure the phone will be ringing like crazy once they're done..."
"I'm sure." Daniel agreed, turning to his side, severing Jack's concern.
He was pathetic. He knew he was, but he couldn't help making sure the battery charger for his cell phone was plugged into the wall. Opening it up again, Daniel checked how many bars. Fully charged with excellent reception. He slammed the phone shut and then angrily tossed it down the length of the bed.
"Damn." Daniel got up to make sure he hadn't unplugged the battery pack from the wall.
"Pathetic," he groaned as he crawled back into bed, not willing to risk his father's wrath today. Also, not willing to admit that he really felt like crap.
Daniel looked up from staring at the cell phone. "Hey," he echoed, giving his father a slight smile.
"It's beautiful outside." Uninvited, his dad walked into the room and pulled back the curtains, flooding the room in blinding sunlight.
"Ow." Daniel closed his eyes against the onslaught and attempted to burrow under the blankets.
"Nope." His father whipped the blanket back before Daniel could burrow underneath. "Fresh air will do you good."
"I'm sick." He tugged on the blanket.
The warmth of the afternoon sun didn't do much to counteract the headache and tremors of the fever, but it felt great against his face and he turned towards it.
Daniel turned towards his dad's voice and nodded, but didn't make a move to reach for the bottle of Snapple his father had placed within arm's reach. He was just too damn lazy, comfortable, and sick. "Is this strange?"
"What? That you have a fever of 101.8 and lying outside on a deck chair, under the quilt from your bed, enjoying the fresh air, the Colorado sun... what's so strange about that?"
"Just checking," Daniel said with a sigh. "Just checking."
"And remember, I once told you that you were a strange child."
Jack drank his beer, staring at Daniel, who was fast asleep. He was bathed in a sheen of sweat, the sign of a broken fever, but Jack didn't have the heart to wake him because of the depth of his sleep. Jack tried not to focus on how Daniel held onto his bandaged arm, right by the GPS. "Not going anywhere, Icky. Me. You. Or that tracking device." Gently, Jack moved Daniel's hand away from the bandage then tucked the blanket around the sweaty body. He was pretty damn sure the color highlighting his son's cheeks was the result of the midday sun and no longer the fever. He decided to give himself and Daniel a few minutes more of peace.
Daniel mumbled, drawing Jack's attention before he settled back down. Poor kid. He'd seen it in Daniel's face how disappointed he'd been when Jack had questioned him. Thought he'd been forgotten. Left behind. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but, Jack hoped, Daniel would learn that in time.
Daniel tied his wet hair into a ponytail and slid onto the kitchen stool. "Smells good."
Jack winked at him and placed a bowl of macaroni and cheese with a fork stuck into the noodles in front of Daniel. "Appetizer."
"Hmmm." Daniel nodded in appreciation, tucking into the bowl, giving Jack a thumbs up without raising his head.
Jack smiled and went back to the salad preparation. Tomatoes. Croutons. Almonds. Cheese. Rolls on the side. And a hike for dessert.
Daniel collapsed on a tree stump, breathing heavily and frustrated.
This had been a bad idea. "Let's go back to the cabin..."
"No," Daniel gasped before reaching for his water bottle. He downed half of it before coming up for air. "I should be able to do this."
"You've been sick." Nice revelation to smack him in the ass now. Maybe as his father, Jack should've realized this about twenty minutes ago when they started out on the trail. "Sorry."
For a genius, Jack would be the first to admit that sometimes Daniel lacked insight into reading social cues. "Huh? Why are you sorry?"
"Hiking. This was my idea."
"I don't remember you having to twist my arm." Daniel sighed then angrily shoved his water bottle into the backpack. "I'm sorry... For not being able to..." Daniel waved his hand along the trail. "Finish."
Daniel's maturity smacked Jack in the face and he was eternally grateful that Daniel knew his limitations and that he wasn't forced to throw his normally stubborn son over his shoulder and carry him back down to the cabin. "How about a game of chess?"
"Sure," Daniel replied, slinging his backpack over his shoulder before standing. "The mind is still able though the body isn't."
Okay, the chess game was just as stupid an idea as the hike. He couldn't lose on purpose, Daniel would've been all over him in a minute, but Daniel's game was off. Way off. And if he thought an unfinished hike was frustrating to Daniel, in hindsight it was nothing compared to the self-directed frustration and anger Daniel was experiencing playing a simple game of chess.
"Do you really want to make that move?" he blurted out, trying to save Daniel from self- destruction.
Daniel dropped the knight like a hot potato and it took out his bishop when it hit the board. "No. I guess I don't."
The voice was old, tired, resigned and Jack busied himself righting the pieces rather than look into his son's face. This was the voice of the friend he'd lost so many years ago, and right now, he couldn't bear to see the pain.
"I'm going to bed." Daniel stood up, his sudden movement catching the end of the board and it flipped over, scattering all the pieces across the floor.
It was an accident. Jack knew it. And Daniel knew it, but he saw Daniel was afraid that his father would think it was an act of anger.
"I... didn't mean it," he stuttered, bending down to pick up the pieces.
"It was an accident, I know." Jack gently touched his arm as he bent down next to Daniel. "Let me help."
What the hell was wrong with him? Daniel flopped down on the bed. Blindly, he reached out to the bedside table, patted around and found his cell phone. No new messages. That hurt. A lot. He pulled his laptop from the floor onto the bed and powered it up, staring at the monitor as it went through the motions.
There were a handful of emails. Nate. Corey. Li. Cassie. Alexandria. Chatty emails, that spoke of school and soccer and nothing else. Daniel felt like an overseas pen pal that the class was writing to as an extra credit project. He had become an obligation.
He picked up the cell phone again. There wasn't anything stopping him from calling his friends, but he couldn't, not after the first time he'd left messages and never heard back. There was a matter of pride.
Slowly, he removed the bandage from his arm, the angry red marks he'd made in the throes of his nightmare still puffy and sore. He prodded the area. Big deal, who the fuck cared if he couldn't be found?
He hated his father for taking him away. Dragging him here to isolation hell. Away from his friends. Alexandria. Buried and forgotten in his own anger, was Daniel's own desire to escape. Screw the GPS and his father. Daniel slipped from the bed, opened the window and snuck out into the night.
He sat on the dock, legs tucked tight against his chest, his chin resting on his knees. The lights from the houses across the lake were tiny pinpricks in the distance no bigger than the stars in the sky.
The night sky was alight with dozens of stars and from a memory that wasn't really Daniel's, he began to mentally recite the constellations.
Something rustled in the underbrush behind him, and a few lines of song, slightly off key, floated across the lake. There were giggles, the sound of a closing door, then quiet. He was restless, stiff and sore from their aborted hike earlier this afternoon, and maybe some of that stiffness might be attributable to the low-grade fever he knew he still had. He stifled a shiver in the damp air, knowing he'd have to go back inside soon. He'd thought leaving the confines of the cabin would help him come to grips with whatever was wrong with him, but he'd been mistaken. He still felt out of sorts and totally isolated.
He stood, and the dock dipped with his weight. He walked back slowly, unsure of his footing in the dark, until he was back on the path, heading towards his cabin. He could see his dad in the window, watching him, and he ducked his head, embarrassed at being caught. By the time he reached the door, his dad had it open and was waiting for him.
"You could have just walked out the front door," his dad said, "instead of climbing out the window."
Daniel shrugged. "What's the difference? If you want to find me, you can track me down with the GPS." Daniel tapped his arm in emphasis.
"Okay, I thought you were okay with that. Because if it's bothering you this much, I can have Fraiser take it out when we get back. I just thought knowing that we can find you within minutes if we ever need to would put your mind at ease."
"You'd do that?" Daniel peered at his dad, trying to see if he was serious.
"I'd rather you didn't, because I feel a helluva lot better knowing it's there, same as knowing everyone at the SGC. Besides, Carter and Teal'c have one."
Daniel leaned back against the kitchen counter and stifled a yawn.
"Ours isn't exactly what you'd call a normal situation, is it?"
Daniel snorted. "No, not exactly." He smiled reluctantly. "And I know what you mean about feeling better knowing it's there. And knowing that you've got one, too."
"So it's staying?"
Daniel nodded. "It's staying." He yawned again and he clasped both hands in front of his mouth as his jaw stretched past comfort. "Dad? Can we go home?" he asked tentatively.
"Well, not now, but tomorrow." He instantly regretted his question when his father's face seemed to harden. "Never mind."
"No, no," his dad said quickly. "It's just that they charge by the week and if we go home tomorrow, we'll be losing out. How about we give it until the weekend and if you still feel like leaving, we'll go."
"Just a few more days."
"Sure." Daniel buried his disappointment and gave his dad a forced smile. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
"Are you going to stay in bed this time?" The sting of the words were eased by a smile.
"Yes, and if I feel like taking a walk, I'll use the front door." He held still as his dad pulled him close in a hug, feeling his lips on his temple.
"Did you take—"
"Tylenol? Not yet. I will."
"You, too." Daniel headed for the bathroom then stopped to watch as his dad continued cleaning the kitchen. "Um, don't we have maid service for that?" Daniel laughed. His dad was notorious about not picking up after himself and it was his grandma's nagging that helped keep the house clean. "You look like you're getting ready for guests."
"Oh." His dad dropped the dishcloth with a shudder. "Just nervous energy. I should have stepped outside with you instead." Daniel waved goodnight as his dad sat at the kitchen table with the crossword puzzle.
"Hey, sleepyhead. You gonna stay in bed all day?"
Daniel opened his gummy eyes and squinted at his dad. Sunlight was streaming into the bedroom, backlighting his father, turning him into a shadow. A grinning shadow, Daniel saw as he sat up, moving out of the sunlight as he knuckled his eyes with one hand while groping for his glasses with the other. "What time is it?"
"Past ten. You were starting to worry me." Daniel sat still as his dad touched his forehead. "Hmm, no fever. How're you feeling?"
"Like someone woke me up out of a deep sleep." He yawned and stretched. "Are those pancakes I smell?"
"Yeah. Figured you might want to eat them before they turn into leather."
His stomach grumbled, and for the first time in a long time, he actually felt hungry. "I think I could eat leather right about now." He shoved the blankets back and stood. "You didn't use up all the syrup, did you?" he asked, heading for the bathroom.
"No, but if you don't hurry, I can't promise you there'll be any left by the time you get to the table."
Daniel laughed as he hurriedly peed and washed his hands. Yawning, he dried his hands in his hair, trying to puff out the bed head. His legs were stiff and sore, and it hit him how much of himself he'd lost; physically, he'd lost strength, and emotionally, well, he had no idea how long it would take him to get back into the swing of things with his friends. At this point, he wasn't sure if he could ever ingratiate himself back into his old life.
He tucked into his breakfast, enjoying the meal. "So, when are we leaving? First thing Saturday?" He licked his fingers before picking up his glass of juice, peering at his father over the rim of the glass.
His father seemed concentrated on his breakfast. He cut a large chunk of pancake, dredged it through the syrup, and chewed a long time before swallowing. "So you still want to go home?" For a moment his dad didn't meet his eyes, his gaze stuck on his coffee cup. But as he sipped the coffee, he caught Daniel's gaze and held it.
Daniel shrugged. "Sure. I mean, it's not like I'm doing anything here, right?"
"You've been recuperating."
"Yeah. But I can do that at home, too."
"Well, I'd hoped we could have gotten some fishing in, done a bit of hiking, star gazing... you know, once you'd gotten over the virus—"
"Yeah, well, we've been here how long already and I'm not really up to doing much, am I?" Daniel dropped his fork, his appetite suddenly gone. "It can't be that much fun for you here, babysitting me all the time. You haven't even gone fishing since that time it rained."
"We could do that today."
Daniel swallowed the lump of emotion at the sight of his dad's hopeful expression. He was torn – wanting to go home and see if his friends had truly forgotten about him, and at the same time, wanting to hide here and never find out. Because if he was truly alone... "I guess we could."
"Look, I don't want to force you to do anything."
"No, no, it's fine. Maybe sitting on a boat for a few hours might be relaxing."
"Oh God." Daniel stumbled out of the motorboat and nearly fell to his knees, fighting the nausea and dizziness. The pier shifted sickeningly and he hurried towards solid ground.
"Hey, you okay?"
He caught himself on a tree and swallowed back the burning bile. "Yeah, m'fine." He panted through his mouth as he listened to the sounds of his dad fastening the boat to the pier, then his footsteps came up behind him, crunching on the gravel path. His hand was warm against the dampness of his skin and tee shirt.
"Never thought you'd get seasick."
"Maybe next time we'll skip the pancakes and syrup first."
Daniel dry heaved at the thought of food.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Daniel pushed away from the tree. "No, I'm sorry. I ruined this for you—"
"No, of course you haven't. We should have waited a while before going out. I should have realized, sun, heat, a bit of choppy water... C'mon, let's get you some Gravol to settle your stomach."
His dad's arm around his waist was welcome. His legs felt a little unsteady and the well-manicured path seemed to writhe between the bushes. The wind that had whipped the water didn't quite make it between the trees, and it was stifling hot along the trail. Their cabin had never seemed so far away. When they climbed the slight incline, Daniel stopped in surprise. Janet's silver Suburu Outback was parked next to their Avalanche.
"We've got company."
"So I see."
There, sitting on their deck chairs on their deck, were Janet, Sam, Teal'c, Cassie and— "Alexandria!"
"Daniel!" Alexandria jumped out of the chair and ran down the few feet separating them, and then he had his arms full of his giggling girlfriend. He felt his dad's hands steadying him as he stumbled. "I thought we'd never get here. I'm so glad to see you." She hugged him hard, then pulled back. "Hi, Colonel Jack."
Alexandria was grinning widely, as were Cassie, Janet, and Sam. Daniel looked at them in confusion then at his dad when he said, "You're early."
"We didn't stop to eat, sir." Sam came down the steps towards them. "We picked up some KFC on our way here, thinking you guys might be hungry." She stopped just as she was about to hug him. "Daniel, are you all right?"
"He's suffering from a bout of seasickness. The water was a little choppy."
"You poor thing." Sam's smile was sympathetic as she took Alexandria's place and took him into her arms.
"Not that I'm not glad to see you guys," Daniel said as Sam pulled away and Janet took her place, "but what are you doing here?"
"Taking a vacation, silly," Cassie said from behind her mom. "We've been planning this for ages."
Janet nodded, her grin almost silly as Daniel looked to his dad.
"Well, they were supposed to come down next week but we decided to up the timetable since you were starting to feel a little antsy."
"And we got here first. The rest of the gang probably decided to stop to eat something."
Anger replaced the shock of seeing his friends. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"You are not pleased that we have come to visit?" Suddenly Teal'c was there, blocking out the sunlight. Daniel shook his head and gave Teal'c a hug.
"No, of course I'm happy you're here. I just wish I'd known. We're going home in a couple of days... and..." He turned to his dad. "We're not going home?"
"How about we wait until Saturday and play it by ear."
"How about I get Daniel inside so I can give him a quick examination?"
"I'm fine, Janet."
"Let me be the judge," she replied gently as his dad unlocked the door.
Daniel sipped his soft drink, watching everyone tucking into the fried chicken. At least now his stomach had settled and the dizziness had eased. Cassie and Alexandria flanked him, with Sam, Janet, and his dad sitting across from them. Teal'c sat at one end of the enormous picnic table, his plate piled higher than Sam's, Alexandria's, and Janet's put together.
"How long have you been planning this?"
His dad waved a finger, indicating he was going to answer as soon as he swallowed. "Since we decided to come here."
Daniel decided not to correct his dad on the we part of coming here. "And the reason you didn't tell me..."
"We wanted to surprise you," Alexandria said. "I told you that already." Her grin slowly faded. "I'm sorry. I thought you'd be happy to see us."
"I am." Daniel felt the slow blush of heat rise from the back of his neck. "It's not that, I'm really glad you're here." He'd much rather she'd have been here from the first, although he had to admit he might not have been the best company, as sick as he'd been. "All of you," he said, encompassing the others with a forced smile. "Will you be staying here?"
"Oh, no." Sam pointed towards the east side of the lake. "We've got a cabin somewhere down there. It wasn't ready when we got here. And the Middletons will be sharing one with the boys."
"The Middletons are coming?"
"Daniel, were you even listening to me?" Alexandria sighed theatrically, while Cassie giggled.
"No, he was probably too busy thinking of something else when you hugged him."
This time it was Alexandria's turn to blush and she pulled away slightly from Daniel, glancing at his dad quickly before sticking a French fry in her mouth.
"Who's coming? Corey?" Daniel asked quickly.
"Nate," Alexandria replied. "Matthew. Li. Lena and Sandy couldn't come. Corey's dad got a cabin here, too, so they'll be staying with them."
"And you planned all of this?" Daniel couldn't believe his dad had done this for him, even after his dad nodded.
"They're here!" Alexandria stood suddenly, rocking the picnic table as she waved wildly towards the lake. Daniel turned and saw his friends running up the path from the lake, with Corey's parents following more slowly behind. He swung off the bench and was soon engaged in back-slapping as his friends surrounded them.
"Wow, this place rocks," Li exclaimed, looking around. "We're staying just two cabins over. I think our place is bigger than yours. "We've got three bedrooms!"
"Did you see the lake? They've got boats and everything." Nate sat down on one of the steps going up to the back deck. "Do you think we could take a boat out?"
"I want to go swimming," Matthew declared.
"There are hiking trails here, right?" Corey asked, sitting next to Nate. "Does anyone wanna go hiking?"
"How about you boys wait until Daniel and the others finish eating first?" Steve Middleton gave Daniel a gentle slap on the back as he climbed the steps. Nate and Corey shifted just enough so he and Gina had enough room to pass. Gina ruffled Daniel's hair as she went by. "Hey, Jack." Steve nodded to the others while Daniel's dad made the introductions.
"So, wanna go out on the lake?" Nate asked Daniel.
"The water's kinda rough out there. How about tomorrow?" Daniel rubbed his stomach and tamped down any thoughts of nausea it might want to send his way.
"Can we go swimming? Is the water warm?" Li sat on the bottom step, while Corey raised his legs and used Li's shoulder as a footrest. "Hey, quit it." Li stood quickly, and Corey's feet fell onto the wooden step with a loud thud. "Can we? Huh? Go swimming?"
"Give it an hour or two," Gina ordered. "You just ate—"
"Oh, mom, those are just old wives' tales. We can go swimming after eating—"
"Just humor your mother, Corey, okay? Let your lunch digest first."
"Daniel, why don't you take the kids out and show them around? Show them the lodge, the trails, so by the time you come back, you'll be able to go swimming."
"Good idea, Dad." Daniel glanced over at Cassie and Alexandria, who were just finishing their meal. "Wanna go now?"
"Just give us a second. Colonel Jack, could we use your bathroom to freshen up?"
"Sure. Go right in."
Alexandria glanced at Cassie, who nodded, and both grabbed their purses and entered the cabin. Daniel sighed and leaned against the deck. Experience had already taught him that no man could rush a woman once they entered a bathroom.
With arms trembling from both fatigue and cold, Daniel heaved himself out of the water and onto the dock, and tried to get to his feet without showing any signs of it being a struggle. The sun felt wonderful, but not enough to quell his shivering. He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his shoulders, sat down on the sun-warmed deck and huddled in a small, compact ball, knees to chest.
Thirty minutes of frolicking with his friends and he was exhausted. They, on the other hand, were still going strong, throwing a beach ball around or just plain roughhousing. Li kicked hard, diving underwater, and water splashed onto the deck, dampening his left arm.
He squinted and saw Janet had left the comfort of her blow up mattress and had swum to the dock. Still in the water, she levered her forearms on the wood just a few inches from him. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just a little tired." He quelled the chattering of his teeth by clenching his jaw. "I still get tired easily..."
"Yeah, I know. Just respect your limits, okay? Don't overdo things at first."
"I know. That's why I'm over here and they're still in the water." He held her gaze, unapologetic for the snarky comment. His dad had already warned him about overdoing it. And there was no way he was about to also mention the budding headache which he was sure was due more to fever than the glare of the sun on the water. He'd become too familiar with the signs of impending fever over the past weeks not to recognize it. He figured part of the shivering was attributable to that, too.
She simply gave him the look that said she heard and acknowledged the tone, but wouldn't reprimand him for it, this time, before swimming back to her floating mattress. He let go the moment her back was turned, shivering uncontrollably, his breaths coming in short gasps as he huddled tighter, trying to conserve heat.
He wished his friends would hurry up and tire of the water. He wanted to go inside and take a hot shower, get dressed, lay down, anything but be here next to the water, and the wind, and the sun's glare. But he wouldn't leave. It wasn't their fault that he was still recovering; otherwise he'd still be right in there, with them.
It felt like an eternity later, but suddenly they were all on the deck, showering him with water as they grabbed towels and plunked down around him.
"This is so great!" As Li rubbed the towel over his legs, Daniel saw the redness already spreading over Li's chest and back. "I could have stayed in the water forever."
"Yeah. Except Mr. Know-it-all there forgot his sunscreen." Matthew scowled at Li. "Doctor Fraiser ordered us out of the water."
"Hey, I put some on." Li glared at Matthew.
"Yeah, dummy." Corey punched Li on the arm. "Next time make sure it's waterproof, okay?" He grinned at Daniel. "Too bad you got a cramp. Is it gone?"
"Yeah." Daniel made a show of rubbing his leg, then quickly pulled it back under the towel at the sight of goose bumps.
"Wanna go to our cabin and play video games? We can play Halo. Or we can go to the Lodge and play their arcade games."
The consensus was for going back to the cabin, so they hurriedly stood. Most of his friends were already running up the path before Daniel got to his feet.
"Mom, we're going to Corey's cabin," Cassie yelled to Sam and Janet, who were still sunning themselves on the water.
"Have fun." Janet waved to them, and Daniel waved back before following Cassie and Alexandria. "I'm just going to tell my dad." He waved them on and hurried into the house. "Going to Corey's," he said quickly as he walked to his room. No time for a shower but he couldn't wait to get some clothes on. He dressed quickly, then went to the bathroom, snuck two Tylenol out of the bottle, swallowed them with two full glasses of water, then hurried after his friends.
At first the game looked interesting, but after watching Corey and Nate playing, and it was obvious they'd had the game for a while and were too busy playing rather than explaining the rules, Daniel lost interest. That, plus the fact that his headache was making it hard for him to concentrate on the moving figures.
He tried to join in their conversation but half of it was centered on the game, and the other half was about things they'd done during the days Daniel had been sick. As much as he'd felt ignored because his friends hadn't phoned him, this was much, much worse. How much lonelier could one get surrounded by people? He left the group huddled on the beds around Corey's and Nate's laptops and headed for the kitchen.
"Daniel? Is something wrong?"
"Just want some water." He waved Cassie back as he stepped through the bedroom door. He stood by the French doors and stared at the lake. He could see Janet and Sam still on the water, and his father and Steve sitting on the deck, drinking what he presumed to be beer. He wanted to be there with them. Or better yet, alone in his room, with the blankets pulled over him, so he could sleep and forget about everyone and everything.
"Hey, Daniel." Gina added a hair ruffle to her greeting. Her fingers swept through his hair, then paused. "Are you feeling all right? You feel a little warm."
He could have lied, blamed it on the sun, but knew he'd eventually be caught out. "I still get a fever once in a while." He turned to face her, hating the look of concern that was on her face. He'd seen it too often mirrored on his dad's lately.
"Do you want me to get your dad?"
"No, it's fine. I took some Tylenol. It's okay." He gave her a smile.
"How about lying down for a while?"
He hesitated. He really did want to lie down but with his friends in the other room... maybe he should just go home. "I think maybe—"
"Good. I'll tell the kids you're not feeling well and to let you rest for a while." She took his arm, urging him into the living room.
"You don't have to, Gina. I can—"
"You can lie down here, and close your eyes. Even if you don't sleep, you can rest." She pushed him onto the couch and with a quick, practiced move, swept his legs up onto the couch. Before he knew it, there were two cushions beneath his head and a blanket covering him. She leaned over and pressed the back of her fingers to his forehead. "You sure you took something for the fever?"
"Yeah. Tylenol, just before I came over."
"Okay. I'll check on you in a half hour. If your fever hasn't gone down by then, I'll go get your father." She drew the curtains in the living room and immediately his headache went down half a notch.
He nodded reluctantly and closed his eyes. He could still hear his friends in the bedroom, so he wasn't quite isolated. And Gina was right; lying down was already helping. But he couldn't help but feel stupid when he heard her tell his friends that he wasn't feeling well and was lying down.
"Is he all right?" That was Li.
"Yes. He's just a little tired."
"He's been really sick, hasn't he?" That was Nathan. "I thought he was better."
"He is. It's just taking him some time to get his strength back."
"Do we need to get Colonel Jack?" Alexandria really sounded worried.
"Not yet. Daniel's still prone to low grade fevers; and I guess the excitement of seeing you guys today hasn't helped. If he gets worse, I'll go get the Colonel."
"He's got a fever?"
"He'll be fine, Dria. He just needs to close his eyes for a little while."
The sound of his friends' voices immediately lowered as they went back to play. For a few minutes, all he heard were whispered comments, but slowly they rose in volume as they eventually forgot about him and got carried away. He listened to them with half an ear, wondering if he could sneak out and go back to his cabin, when he heard footsteps.
Figuring it was one of his friends checking up on him, he kept his eyes partly closed, trying to see who it was. It was only when he recognized Alexandria that he opened them.
"Hi," she said as she sat down on the floor next to the couch.
"You're not feeling good?"
She stared at him for a long time, then slowly put a cool hand to his forehead. "You're hot."
"Fever." She stroked the hair on his forehead and somehow it didn't quite feel the same as when his father did it, or his grandmother. Or Sam.
"Sun, and fever," he squeaked.
"It's nothing. It comes and goes. I took some Tylenol—"
"See, I knew it. Fever."
"It's better than it was."
"Shhh. You're supposed to be resting."
"Okay. Me. Resting." He closed his eyes. "See?"
"Good." She removed her hand from his forehead and instead, circled her fingers around his forearm. "Rest." She lowered her head and rested it on his chest.
"Alexandria? What are you doing?" He raised his head in surprise, looking down at her.
She squeezed his arm. "Shhhh. Keeping you company while you rest."
"Oh." He couldn't help smiling as he laid his head back against the pillow. "Okay. Resting now." He put a hand around her shoulder, easing her damp hair aside.
"Good." She sighed and stroked his arm with her thumb. "You know, I wanted to phone you every day. We all did, but we all agreed we were so excited about coming here, we were afraid to let the cat out of the bag."
"You... You did?" Suddenly the memory of those lonely days didn't seem quite as lonely anymore.
She nodded, the motion rubbing his tee shirt against his chest. "I can't tell you how many times I picked up my cell to call you and put it down. We were so excited. I still can't believe I'm here." She sighed. "I missed you, Daniel." He was staring right into her eyes, and somehow he couldn't pull his gaze away.
"I missed you, too." He was filled with elation; he hadn't been forgotten. She'd been thinking of him all this time.
She moved forward, her lips touched his; cool and damp, and he felt a flicker of tongue against his before she settled back against his chest. "Close your eyes. You're supposed to be resting."
He laughed as he obeyed her. "How do you expect me to rest when you..."
"Shhhh." She smiled mischievously. "That was just a taste of what you can expect when you're better."
"Mmmm," she replied sleepily.
He hadn't expected to, but he drifted into a twilight sleep; half aware of his friends close by and half aware of Alexandria's body against his. It was when he felt a hand on his face that he startled awake.
"Sorry," Gina whispered, leaning over him. "I didn't mean to wake you. Looks like your fever's broken." She smiled benevolently at Alexandria, who stirred sleepily as she pulled away from Daniel. "Sleep well?"
"Mmm, yeah," she yawned. Then her eyes widened. "Daniel?"
"I'm better." He sat up, ruing the loss of her body heat and feeling strangely bereft. He could hear his friends still playing in the bedroom. "How long?"
"A half hour. We're all going up to the Lodge for supper in an hour. You might want to head on back and get ready."
Alexandria ran a hand through her hair and grimaced. "Oh, I so need a shower." She stood as Daniel pushed the blanket aside. "Cassie? I'm going back to the cabin. You coming?"
"Coming," Cassie yelled back.
"Feeling better?" Gina took the blanket and began folding it.
"Yeah. Thanks for letting me..." He waved to the couch.
"You know it's not a problem."
"I'll see you at the Lodge, then," Daniel added as he headed towards the bedroom.
"In an hour."
"Hey, guys. I'm gonna go shower. Wanna try the video arcade after supper?"
There was a chorus of agreements, and Daniel left the cabin with a heart that hadn't felt this light in a long time.
"Night!" Daniel waved to his friends as they all stood outside the Lodge's main doors. Alexandria was holding his hand and he smiled goofily at her as she wished him a good night.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said, reluctant to let her go.
"First thing in the morning. If we're going hiking before it gets too hot."
"Yep." He made a mental note to make sure to ask his dad to wake him so he didn't sleep in. "Night."
He watched her walk away with Janet and Cassie, and sighed heavily as he turned to Sam, Teal'c, and his dad.
"Daniel? Before you go, Teal'c and I have something for you."
"Really?" Curiosity nibbled at him and he smiled at Sam in what he hoped was a charming way. "What did you get me?"
"It's at your cabin."
He spent the walk back to the cabin trying to get a hint of what they'd gotten him. He watched curiously as his dad opened the back of the Avalanche and pulled a tarp off the gift itself.
"Wow!" Open-mouthed, he stepped up to the truck and peered at the dirt bike. It gleamed invitingly even under the dim illumination of the overhead light. "You... I..."
"You like it?"
"Do I like it?" He hugged Sam. "Do I ever. I can't believe... I never expected..."
He let her go and embraced Teal'c. "Thank you."
When he let go of Teal'c, Sam and his dad were both grinning at him. "How about you and me try out the trails tomorrow afternoon?"
"You and me? Dad, you mean...?"
"I asked Carter to find me a bike, too. Haven't ridden a dirt bike in years; figured she'd know where to get the best..."
"But where is it?"
"Still in Fraiser's truck. We'll get it tomorrow."
"But..." He looked at his dad, still unable to believe what he was seeing.
"Yes, there's a catch. You're not to ride it by yourself; you're not to ride it in the city; and you're not going to take unnecessary chances with it."
"I won't." He grinned and threw himself into his father's arms. "Thank you."
"Just remember one thing. You break your neck on that thing, and your grandmother will kill you." His dad tightened his hold, crushing Daniel against him for a moment.
Daniel laughed. "I know. The same goes for you, Dad."
"Yeah, I know." His dad loosened his grip, letting go of Daniel. "Not to mention Fraiser'll make your life a living hell if you take unnecessary chances with that thing."
"And me," Sam piped in.
"Hey, I promise." He laughed out loud as he touched the bike longingly. "This is so cool."
"How was the hike?"
Jack watched as Daniel, obviously exhausted, dragged himself up the stairs and dropped into an empty chair. His face was red with sun and exertion; his hair was windswept and stringy with sweat, and he needed a shower.
"It was great. The trails here are amazing."
"Where're your friends?" Sam poured a glass of iced tea from the pitcher on the picnic table and shoved it towards Daniel.
"Gone to shower. I think I may need a nap before we try out the bikes." He raised the glass and emptied it in several gulps.
Jack smiled. Daniel admitting fatigue with a smile was a huge improvement over the sullen teen that had lived with him these past days. "I think you need a shower before that nap."
"Oh, that's a definite yes."
"Daniel..." Fraiser put a hand out tentatively as Daniel went to stand. "I have something for you."
There was something in Fraiser's voice that caught not only Jack's attention, but Daniel's also, as he stared at her warily.
"It's from Carolyn."
"I'm not interested." Daniel stood abruptly but before he could walk away, Jack put out a hand.
"Let's see what it is first."
When Daniel didn't move, Fraiser pulled out a small device from her purse. She pushed it across the picnic table. "It's a scanner."
Daniel's eyes glanced to the scanner, then shifted away.
"It's programmed to the codes of SG-1's subcutaneous transmitters."
"The GPS?" Daniel asked, his fingers slowly reaching for the scanner, but not quite touching.
"Yes. This way, you can keep track of SG-1 when they go offworld, and be able to see when they return."
"My dad, too?"
Fraiser nodded. "Yes, not that he goes all that often, but if you're watching the scanner, you'll know the instant he comes back."
"I hope you're not planning to use this to organize wild parties," Jack said with a teasing grin. He was rewarded by a quick smile from Daniel.
"Darn, my plan's blown. Figured I could shoo everyone out of the house just as you turn the corner—" His smile faded. "This was Carolyn's idea?"
"Yes." Fraiser looked uncomfortable. "While I don't condone what she did to you, because I have to admit that I also feel my trust was broken, I do understand that she was under orders and in our line of work, sometimes..."
"We have to do things that aren't that pleasant." Jack tamped down the memories of unsavory things he'd been forced to do in the name of duty and country.
"Okay. Tell her thank you, next time you talk to her." Daniel picked up the scanner and entered the cabin.
"He's still mad," Fraiser noted.
"As am I." Teal'c settled slightly in his chair. "While I understand the situation, I, too, feel betrayed."
"What she did will take time for all of us to get over," Carter sighed.
His friends' laughter echoed over the lake as they cavorted in the water. Happy and comfortable on a deck chair, Daniel glanced lazily towards his dad, who was sitting next to him. "You know, I feel bad for the other Daniel."
"You know, the other me? The adult me?"
"Because he doesn't have this." He waved a hand across the expanse of water, where Sam, Teal'c, Janet, Cassie, Alexandria, and the boys were playing water volleyball.
"He's got his own family. His own team."
Daniel tapped his temple, indicating the memories stored within.
"Yeah, I know. I remember." He smiled at his dad. "But mine are better. Much better. And I've got you."
Authors' Comments: A huge thanks to our trio of betas, Lyn, Annie and Lynne for being another pair of eyes for us and or lending us their time and their talents in this universe. Also to babs for allowing herself to be our guinea pig and have the first look see. And for waving the pom poms even though we did nothing but tease her about it.
To the people who read and enjoyed Wayward Son, we can hope that this sequel measures up to your expectations.
It's very hard to thank jo, who is so much more than a co-author and my beta. She is my teacher. My guide. My friend. The fandom and my life would be a much lonelier place without you. I raise my glass in a toast to you, jo... We done it! And here's to knowing there will be more where this came from. *devra*
And likewise, it's difficult to say thank you to devra, who transcends being a co-author and alpha. She's my friend, my virtual sister and muse-kicker. The fandom is so much richer for you being here. I raise my glass in a toast to you, dev... We done good! And yes, there is much more where this came from. *JoaG*
to contact devra
to contact JoaG
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.