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Bridge Over Troubled Water by iiiionly

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

 

“Ahhhhh,” I sigh as the brisk cool of the Gate room hits me full in the face on exiting the wormhole.  “General Hammond, sir.”  Flicking sweat from the ends of my fingers I offer a wilted salute.  “SG-1 reporting mission accomplished.” 

“Welcome home, people,” Hammond says from his usual spot at the bottom of the ramp.  “You look a little warm.”  He grabs Carter by the arm as she sinks down on the metal grating.  “Major?  Are you all right?  Do we need a med team?”

“No, sir, I’ll be fine.”  Carter leans an elbow wearily on the railing beside her.

“Warm doesn’t begin to cover it.”  I shove my P-90 over my shoulder, pull out my t-shirt and wring sweat out of the hem.  “Permission to hit the showers, sir, and stay until tomorrow.” 

“We weren’t expecting you for several hours.  SG-11 said you were staying for the feast.  Where’s Teal’c?”

“He should be . . .” I glance over my shoulder as Teal’c’s size 16 boots hit the Gate ramp, “right behind me, sir.” 

The ramp reverberates to our footsteps as we trudge to the bottom where I nudge Carter with my size 12’s and drop down beside her.  “Permission to sit down, sir?”  Good thing Hammond’s a lenient commander. 

The general twitches a smile.  “Permission granted, Colonel.”

The ramp railing wobbles a little as Teal’c, still behind us, leans against the railing too.  Jaffa are usually impervious to extreme weather conditions, but even Teal’c is dripping today. 

“Was it this hot on the planet you guys were stranded on when I was spouting Ancient?”

“You mean P9Q-281?  The planet where you drew the plans for the DHD, sir?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“No, sir.”

“Figured.”

“It was significantly hotter, O’Neill.”

“Damn.  I feel like I’ve been pan-seared as it is.”  The only thing holding the cooked flesh to our bones is our sweat-soaked clothes.  “Lucky you guys weren’t charbroiled.”

“Yes, sir.”  Carter scoots herself and her backpack sideways, banging into my leg.  “Sorry, sir.  The treaty is in the side pocket, can you get it, Teal’c.”

Leaning forward, he removes a piece of folded bark, holding it carefully between thumb and forefinger so he doesn’t smear it with his sweaty hands.

Carter uncurls it from around T’s forearm and hands the piece of bark up to the General.  “You might want this, sir.” 

“Treaty?” Hammond inquires, taking it gingerly and holding it well away from his body, with only the tips of his fingers.  It wafts gently in an unseen breeze.  “Major?” he demands when the sheet climbs over his knuckles and curls around his wrist, inching, with determination, up his forearm.

“Yes, sir, it is the treaty.”

Hammond frowns down at us.  “Is it sentient?”

“Well, now, that’s a good question.” I mop my face again with the hem of my t-shirt.  “We’ve seen them use this for everything from clothing to firewood, sir.”

“It’s also the basis of their economy.  They use it like money, sir; in some instances like a credit card,” Carter adds. 

“Credit card?” Hammond echoes, delicately peeling it off his shoulder.  “I thought Lieutenant Woeste came back to find suitable paper for the treaty.”   

“He did, sir.”  I wonder if the General would have a problem if we start shedding clothes right here in the Gate room.  “What he brought back wasn’t suitable to the Ree-zoo-lins.  Where’s Daniel?”

“Rezulins,” Carter inserts.

“That’s what I said.  Rezulins, from the planet Rezula.  Where it’s hotter than hell.”  Except my comeback is drowned out when the overhead intercom zings and whistles to life - as if a small boy and a large dog were suddenly in charge of it. 

“Welcome back, SG-1!” the voice of the small boy exclaims exuberantly. 

Every head in the Gate room turns expectantly up toward the control room.  Even the SF’s assigned in here crane their necks around, grinning at each other as they do so. 

It’s our kid. 

There’s not a boot jack, jarhead, flyboy, cook, technician or scientist in this Mountain he hasn’t wrapped around his little finger.

There’s a momentary pause and then over wild barking we hear someone prompting faintly in the background. 

This time Daniel’s face is visible above the bottom of the window, obviously standing on a chair in order to get enough height to wave with equal exuberance as he asks, “How did it go?  Were the . . . what?”  He looks over his shoulder, at whoever is holding on to him, I hope, before turning back and leaning into the mic.  “Were the knee-go-she-oceans successful?”

“Beyond our most undomesticated envisioning, GeneralJackson,” Teal’c intones solemnly.”

“Oh, good.  Can we come down now, Jack?”  Daniel wants to know as I catch a glimpse of paws and flopping ears behind the iris control panel.

I slant a glance up at Hammond.  “New Gate tech, sir?”  And to Daniel, “You may greet us in the hallway, beyond the blast doors as is customary, Danieljackson.”  I rise wearily, hand off my P-90 to the nearest weapons tech, and turn to give Carter a hand up. 

“Thanks,” she says, swiping the back of her arm across her forehead, which has the effect of spiking the bangs already plastered there.  She returns my ineffectually hidden grin with a tired smile.  “Yeah, you don’t look much better, sir.”  

She, too, hands off her weapon, as does Teal’c behind us, and we head for the blast doors toward the infirmary and cold showers.

“What concessions did we have to make, Major?”  The General tags along, probably more interested in information than any Goa’uld that might be wrapped around our brain stems, or showers for that matter.

“Only to let them use their paper for the treaty, sir.”  Carter points at the largish piece of bark still attempting to climb the General’s arm.  “Lieutenant Woeste brought back our translation already, didn’t he?”

“SG-11 arrived back only a short time ago.  Their debrief isn’t scheduled for another thirty minutes.”

“Well, he has it, sir.”

“Was there a reason you didn’t stay for the feast as you intended, Colonel?”

“We did, sir, stay for the feast that is. As soon as everybody was good and drunk we skedaddled to the Gate.  It was too damn hot.  Did I mention it was hotter than hell, sir?”

Loud barking, almost but not quite masking the sound of running feet, increases proportionate to the distance we’ve traveled toward the control room.  I turn at the sound, barely in time to catch Daniel as he launches himself off the top step into my arms, followed by the dog, who rebounds off me and jumps up on Teal’c, still barking madly.

“Ooomph!”

“Hi, Jack!  I’ve been waiting and waiting for you to get here!  What took you so long to come home this time?”

“Hey, Sport.”

“Down, Hershey.  Danieljackson, have you accomplished all that I left for you to do?”

“Uh huh.  I did it extra quick, so that Hershey and me – ooops!”  Daniel claps a hand over his mouth.  “That’s a surprise.  I did everything you left me, Teal’c.

“What’s a surprise?” I ask him.

“It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you, now would it?” Daniel giggles, patting my cheek.  “You have to be patient, Jack, until tomorrow.  We’re all done for the day.”

“Hi, Daniel!” Carter leans in for a kiss.  “I missed you!”

“Hi, Sam!”  Daniel obliges by giving her a smacking kiss on the lips.  “Mmmmm, what’s that flavor?  Tastes like chocolate?”

“That’s because it’s Hot Chocolate.”

Well, the hot part matched this mission anyway.

There’s thirty seconds of barely controlled chaos as the hallway reverberates to the enthusiastic greetings and for those few moments with our kid, weariness drops away as though its reservations were cancelled, the tickets never booked.  Daniel’s animation and pleasure in having us home breathes new life into us.

“Down, Hershey,” Teal’c repeats, and obligingly, the dog drops down on his butt and proceeds to grin engagingly up at our resident Jaffa.

I sigh.  “Daniel, how come the dog doesn’t do that when you tell him to get down?”

Daniel just giggles.  “Down, Hershey!” he orders, imitating Teal’c, drawing chuckles from everyone.

Hammond grins at our kid like a proud grandpa.  “Daniel, do you want to wait for SG-1 in my office?”

“May I go with them to the infirmary, sir?  Please?  I promise I’ll stay out of the way.  I won’t bother anybody.”

“You know what Doc Janet said about the dog,” the General warns.

“Yes, sir.  I’ll put him in my office.”

“All right, then you may accompany SG-1, but mind you, no sneaking the dog in there again.”

“Yes, sir,” a chastened Daniel agrees, head bowed with something that looks suspiciously like . . . chagrin? 

Hmmmm, this promises to be an interesting debrief. 

“We missed you, Jack,” Daniel exclaims wrapping both arms around my neck and squeezing for all he’s worth as we resume our stroll toward the infirmary.

“Debrief in ninety minutes, people,” General Hammond calls over his shoulder as he heads back up the stairs into the control room.

“I missed you too.  What’s the dog done this time?  And how come he’s on base again?  I thought we agreed he stays home now.”

“The neighbors said Hershey howled all day long.  He’s just a baby, Jack, he doesn’t like being left alone.  Plus, I miss him.  General Hammond said as long as he’s not more disruptive than me, he can come.  And he just ate some of Janet’s sponges is all.  But he promised he won’t do it again.”  Daniel leans as far back on my arm as he possibly can, reaching for Carter.  “What are neg-go-she - oceans, Sam?” 

“Negotiations.”  She swings him into her arms and snuffles his neck, eliciting peals of laughter and much head rolling from Daniel.  “We were trading Earth things for the Rezulins’ trinium.”

“Like what?” 

The dog moves up in line with Carter who’s in front of me and behind Teal’c. 

“In this case we’re trading our engineering expertise.  They need a viable way of getting water to their crops because there’s very little rain on their planet.  Carrying buckets of water by hand doesn’t always get the job done.”  She grabs the back of his head to hold him still and plants little kisses all over his face.   “Miss me too?”

“Yes,” Daniel can barely get out the answer for giggling.  “I missed you too, Teal’c.”  He cricks his head against his shoulder to stop Carter’s snuffling so she switches to the other side of his neck.  “Sam,” he giggles again, ineffectually scrunching both shoulders up around his ears.

“I missed you,” Carter snuffle snorts into his neck.  “I think we need to clone you now, while you’re little, so when we get big Daniel back we’ll still have you too.”
                                                                                  
“When, Carter?”  I drawl.  “Not if?  You got some inside information you want to share with the rest of the class?”

In the ensuing bedlam, my question gets lost; either that, or it’s intentionally ignored.
 
“Hershey!” Daniel and Carter chide together as the dog, apparently thinking he’s missing the fun, jumps up and manages to land both front feet on Carter’s thigh.  He’s barking loud enough to wake the dead and while he may still be a baby, there’s enough weight behind those paws that he knocks them into the wall. 

“Bad dog, you’ll bring the Mountain down around us,” Daniel scolds. 

He thinks it’s funny now, but the first time he heard an adult say that it took days of reassurance to calm his fears.  Carter came up with the bright idea of pulling up the Mountain schematics on his office computer to show him all the special contrivances built into this place. That finally convinced him. 

“He’s just excited everybody’s home finally,” Daniel informs us, grabbing a handful of Carter’s t-shirt as he turns to look over her shoulder.  "Teal'c, did you bring me a present?"

"Indeed, Danieljackson.  I believe you will find it most intriguing." 

“Hey,” Carter complains when Daniel bounces in her arms, “you’re getting a little big for that kind of stuff.  I might drop you, you know.”

“Am I too heavy to carry anymore, Sam?  You can put me down.”

“Nah, not quite.  We’re going to have to find something to feed you though, to stunt your growth.  I like you this way.”

“Saaammmm!”  Daniel lifts his shoulder again, trying to anticipate where she’s going to attack.  “I love you too.  Is it something we can look at under the microscope, Teal’c?"

"You will not need a microscope to look at this, though you may wish to view it under one."

Since our first trip through the Gate without adult Daniel, Teal’c’s been bringing back something this Daniel can study.  He's made it a priority to find something new, be it flora, fauna, animal, vegetable, or mineral, every time we go off-world.

I found them in Carter's lab one afternoon, studying an oddly-veined leaf under one of her fancy microscopes.  Instead of sap, there were tiny microscopic alien bugs scurrying through the veins of this leaf.  Because Teal'c is so much more widely traveled than the rest of us, he could identify the leaf and knew it was harmless, though I still made them burn the thing when they were done. 

Today he's brought back a rock full of shiny bits of something that looks like gold.  You can flake it off with your fingernail and crush it into powder.

"Oh," Daniel says now, reverently, as he takes the rock Teal'c hands him and turns it over and over, examining it as though it were a rare and precious artifact.  "Do they have lots of this?"

"There is a small vein of this rock running through the trinium deposits.  The natives mine it for medicinal purposes."

"What's med-diss-inal?  Does it have to do with medicine?"  Daniel slides down Carter’s leg as we’re about to push through the infirmary doors.  “I have to take Hershey upstairs.  Janet won’t let him in the infirmary unless we’re . . .” he pauses very briefly, obviously trying to decide what to say, “doing stuff,” he rattles off, adding a quick, “I’ll be right back.”

I push open the door to the infirmary and wave the rest of my team through, staying to watch Daniel grab the dog by the collar – the dog that’s now almost bigger than Daniel – and drag him toward the elevator. 

Hershey plants his paws, but can’t get any purchase on the slick floor, so Daniel has no trouble coercing him until they reach the elevator.  Then the kid just scoots around behind and shoves him in, chattering the whole time. 

“You can only go in the infirmary when we’re working, you know that.  You were bad; you chewed up all Janet’s surgical sponges.  You better be glad she lets you come home with us still when we stay at her house.  Otherwise you’d be locked up at home the whole time SG-1 is gone.  With nobody to play with or anything . . .” his voice fades as the elevator dings and the kid and the dog disappear behind closed doors. 

“So,” Fraiser asks, tapping the three charts on her arm, “who’s first?”

“I’m thinking you might want us all to shower first, Doc,” I offer, pulling my t-shirt away from my chest as the door swings shut behind me.

She steps closer, sniffs, and steps back.  “When you’re done,” she agrees, taking several more steps back.

“Hey, we weren’t at some debutante ball, we’ve been working!”  I notice she’s using one of the charts like a fan as she retreats to her office. 

“Sam, you can use the shower down here,” the doc says, without even glancing over her shoulder.

“Thanks, Janet; I’ll go get my stuff.”

Since we share the locker room, even days the women get to go first, odd days the guys go first.  Carter often showers down here in the infirmary on odd days.  Somehow that doesn’t seem fair. 

“Ya know, Carter, you ought to get stuff to keep here instead of having to traipse back and forth.”

“I usually don’t mind traipsing back and forth,” she smirks when Teal’c lifts an eyebrow at her. 

She slides a hand under T’s elbow, another under mine, and we hit the infirmary doors three abreast, nearly doing the whiplash snake thing as we all slam on the brakes so we don’t run over Daniel.

“Where ya going?” he wants to know, giving us an odd look. 

Daniel’s downsizing has had an interesting effect on Carter.  It’s still rare for her to behave this way with Teal’c and me in the Mountain.  She’s much freer with Daniel - we all are actually - but she normally keeps it serious and professional with the two of us. 

Personally, I think that planet had some weird effect on us, besides the whole heat thing they have going.  We’re all a little giddy this afternoon and it’s not just the giddiness that comes with exhaustion. 

I know I just want this day over and done with so we can go home. 

“To the showers, Danieljackson.  Do you wish to accompany us?”

“Nah, I had a bath last night.”

“Then are you going to wait for us in the infirmary?”  I have one of those uniquely out of time moments as a picture of Pete, Julie, and Linc suddenly overlays itself on top of a picture of the three of us. 

“What’s so funny?” Daniel demands, skipping around to my side where he latches on to my hand.  “Now we’re all joined together,” he sing-songs, “just like we should be.  What’s so funny?” he repeats.

“Nothing, just thinking of an old TV show.  You’re coming after all?”

 “Well,” he says philosophically, “guess I have to if I want to be with you, huh?  What TV show?”

Like a dog with a bone. 

“We won’t be gone long, Sport.”

“I know, but you’ve already been gone five whole days and I missed you a lot.  Besides, I can go get all the stuff you forget when you get in the shower.”  And without missing a beat.  “What TV show?”

“Mod Squad.  Know any more than you did before?”

“What’s a mod squad?”

“An old television show,” I repeat.  “Now give it a rest, would you.  What did you do while we were gone?”

Carter collects her stuff as Teal’c and I strip off our soaked shirts.  We’re starting on our BDUs before she whisks herself out of the locker room, grinning like a Cheshire cat. 

Sheesh, Athelia’s been a bad influence on her. 

“What’s med-diss-inal, Teal’c?”  Daniel repeats as he hands in the bottle of soap he’s retrieved from the bottom of my locker. 

I had nothing more on my mind than getting under the water.  I grabbed whatever came to hand. 

“Hey, I forgot shampoo, too.  See if you can root out that stuff Carter gave us.”  I reek of smoke, rotten vegetables and unwashed humanity.  Bathing is not a favored past time on P8X-227.  I think my pores have absorbed the smells of the planet.

“Jaaaaaack,” Daniel whines, though I can hear the undercurrent of laughter as he pitter patters back out to the locker room.  “What’s med-diss-inal?” he asks for the third time, having made a third trip to Teal’c’s locker for a towel. 

Guess neither of us was particularly worried about anything beyond getting out of our clothes and into the shower. 

“Does it have to do with medicine?” he asks again, straddling the bench in front of the showers, small, booted feet swinging inches off the floor.

"Yes, Danieljackson, it has to do with medicine,” Teal’c informs him, his rich baritone carrying easily over the blissful sound of cold water hitting hot bodies.  “It is used as a type of tincture," he says, forestalling the next question by adding, "a tincture is made by combining one or more substances in a liquid suspension. On this planet they make it into a tea." 

“What’s a suspension?”

“In this case the suspension is the tea.  I believe you and Majorcarter were mixing particles of naquadah into a suspension last week during your chemistry lesson. ”

“Ooohhhhhh,” he says, “I know what it is.  Like the gooey stuff we put the naquadah in to control the temperature.”

“That is correct,” Teal’c agrees.  “In this situation the tea acts as the mixing agent as well.”

As we’re walking back to the infirmary, Teal’c takes the rock back, scratches it with a fingernail and rubs the gold between thumb and forefinger, holding out the rock, and his thumb, for Daniel to examine. 

"This dissolves in the tea and is utilized as a remedy for headaches and joint pain that accompany fever."

Daniel collects his newest artifact as he turns to walk backwards, grabbing hold of Teal’c’s gold-sheened thumb to examine it.  Without warning he sticks his tongue out to taste it.

“Ewwww.”  I make a face at both of them.

“What?”  Daniel makes a face back. 

“You’re licking his finger.”

“I just wanted to see what it tasted like.”

“It is little different from the dog licking my fingers, O’Neill. And Danieljackson is astutely using all his senses to investigate something new.  It will not hurt him to ingest it.”

“O-kay,” is all I have the nerve to say in response. 

“Teal’c, how come you never told us you know about all this stuff?"  Carter overtakes us from the rear.  She must have come around the back hall to put her things away.

Teal'c, it turns out, is quite the naturalist and has an extensive knowledge of herbs and their healing properties. 

"There has never been a need for this knowledge, Majorcarter.  Your Tylenol is as efficacious as this tincture and considerably easier to ingest, as well as obtain.  It requires careful preparation and a lengthy brewing period before it becomes effective.  What did it taste like, Danieljackson?"

“Hmmm” Daniel says, lifting his arms to Carter who swings him up again.  “It’s kind of sweet and sour at the same time.  Does it taste better in the tea?”  He turns the rock over and over until the tips of his fingers are slicked with the powdery stuff, then plants all five fingertips like a paw print on Carter’s forehead, grinning.  "You look like you have a Jaffa tattoo now, Sam.  I like this rock, Teal’c.  Thank you." 

"You are most welcome, Danieljackson."

We shove through the doors into the infirmary again and head for separate beds, though we hang together at the top corner of the ward. 

Wonder if they leave these beds empty for us on purpose?  It always seems to be where we end up, even when we’re not coming in under our own power.

"Much better,” Fraiser affirms, sniffing as she snaps on gloves and approaches the bed Carter's sitting on.

"Hey, Doc, why does Carter always get to go first?"

"Would you like to go first, Colonel?"  She pulls a hypodermic out of her pocket and I lounge back against the head of the bed. 

"No, thanks.  Any possibility you'll run out of those before you get to me if I offer to go last?"

"Not likely, sir," Janet says as she pulls the curtain.   “Nice tattoo, Sam.  Which system lord does it represent?”

Two beds over Teal'c and Daniel are still discussing the properties of the rock.  To the background of their conversation, I close my eyes and drift. 

Spending several days on a planet like P8X-whatever produces something equivalent to our jet lag here on Earth.  Their days are longer than ours, much like Abydos, though they cycle at around thirty hours instead of thirty-six; however, their nights are about the same.  I always come home from these missions feeling like I've been rode hard and put away wet. 

"You look tired," Daniel says, as I open my eyes to find both Carter and Teal'c gone and the Doc looming over me. 

Daniel's sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed, wearing the fatigue jacket I threw over the rolling tray table when we first came in here. I never even felt him climb up.

Ask me why we took fatigue jackets to a planet where we knew the mean temperature was over 100 degrees?  Clueless on that one.  The only time I touched it was to put my present for Daniel in the pocket and it still doesn’t smell like a bed of roses. 

"Something up, Colonel?  You feeling okay?" Fraiser inquires as I creak and groan my way to a sitting position. 

No, but I want to go home. 

"Fine," I straighten, feeling like an un-greased, rusty Tinman as I shove my feet to the floor.  "Just tired."

"Not as young as you used to be?"  Doc starts the usual once over.

I just grunt.  There’s something about having a seven-year-old Daniel that makes me feel - older somehow - like I've swallowed a bunch of nanocytes and aged ten years overnight.  But that’s not it today.

"What did you bring me?" the cause of my grey hair asks.

Teal'c's not the only one who always brings him things.  Teal'c, however, brings back stuff that's educational.  Mine's just for fun.  Daniel now has the beginnings of an impressive collection of alien toys ranging from relatively primitive to quite sophisticated.  He likes to bury them in the sandbox and pretend he's excavated them from various exotic locations. 

"It's a totem." 

He especially likes things with stories attached to them and this is good for at least two or three nights of bedtime story telling.

His eyes light up.  "Where?  Can I see?"

"Right side pocket." 

Janet motions me up and tells me to drop my pants as she prepares the hypodermic. 

Daniel drags the pocket around where he can root in it with both hands and pulls out a small carving.  It’s the work of a master craftsman, and, though it’s carved out of stone, it is an exceptionally detailed piece of art depicting the Rezulins’ deities.

"Ohhhh," he says. 

I'm finally beginning to get a handle on the different ohs in his vocabulary.  This is his ohhhhh of great pleasure.  There's the ooooohhhh of despondency, usually when he's not allowed to do something he wants, the ooohhhhh of surprise that occasionally gets startled out of him, and then there's the oohh of fascination that's repeated over and over as he examines some rare find - which is nearly everything he picks up.

Deprivation is clearly in the eye of the beholder.  It's pretty amazing when you think about it, how deprived we would consider this child's life to have been.  But even our adult Daniel believed he'd had a magical childhood up until a few days before he turned eight. 

This incarnation of Daniel - literally transported in time from an Egyptian campsite where the only source of light, beside the sun, was oil lanterns, where electricity came from a temperamental generator that ran only on Tuesdays and Fridays, where most of their food was cooked by an ancient Egyptian over an open fire, and the only escape from the sweltering heat was to take shelter in the tombs – this incarnation of Daniel is fascinated by everything. 

Yeah, yeah, like the other one wasn’t?

This one, however, is especially fascinated by light switches and running water.

"MRI, Colonel, and then you're done,” Fraiser says as I button up and cinch my belt.

I crook a knee on the bed and sit back down in front of Daniel.  "What does this look like to you?"  I touch the bottom animal. 

"A bear?"  Daniel asks, looking up at me.  He holds the totem out to Janet.  "Look what Jack brought me from P8X-XYZ." 

All his planet designations end in XYZ.  He can remember the first three numbers and letters; for some reason the last three always escape him.  I suppose since he’s not traveling regularly through the Gate he could care less about planet designations. 

Adult Daniel could quote both the numeric and alpha designation for every planet we’ve been to, probably give you the Stargate address, too, if needed.

Janet puts down my chart to take it in both hands and examine it to Daniel's satisfaction.  He doesn't tolerate shoddy show and tell.  If you don't give something the attention it deserves, he makes certain every nook and cranny is pointed out with lengthy erudition on each feature. 

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; it’s been fascinating to see the origins of some of adult Daniel’s more endearing habits. 

This isn’t one of them.

"It does look like a bear sitting on its hindquarters," Janet says, smiling as she hands the totem back to him.  "Bring it with you next time you come to stay with me.  I'd like to hear all about it, but I don't have time now, okay?"

"Okay." Daniel hops down off the bed and tags along as I head for the final stop on this particular welcome-home infirmary tour. 

SG-11 coming in barely ahead of us has thrown our usual routine all out of whack.

"Does the bear have a name?" he inquires.

"That's Watoomah in the Rezulins’ mythology.  Watoomah is the spirit of the land; he has dominion over the things of the Earth.  He’s at the bottom because he was the first one, he gave power to the other two.  Can you tell what this is?"  I reach to touch the elongated middle creature.

Daniel studies the second carving closely, before shaking his head.  "It looks kind of like a cross between and elephant and a giraffe, but with wings."

"This is Carlichich.  I'm probably not saying that right, you should ask Teal'c for the correct pronunciation, the spirit of the air.  She has dominion over the birds and all the other creatures that fly and there are some strange flying creatures on this planet."

"What kinds of creatures?" Daniel immediately wants to know.

"Well, they sort of look like small dragons or very large fireflies, I suppose.  We only saw itty, bitty ones," I spread my thumb and forefinger as far apart as they will go, "but the Rezulins said they can be as big as ten or twelve feet long.”

“How big is that?”

"About as long as the table in the briefing room.  The Rezulins use them for lighting their homes at night.  They have specially built containers they catch and keep the smaller ones in then, then use them like lamps.”

“Ooooo, did you bring me one of those?”

The technician is just finishing with Teal'c and instructs me to assume the position.  Thankfully this isn't the proctologist.  I lie down on the tray that will slide me into the machine.

“No, they require special care and feeding, besides I doubt they’d thrive in our cold, dark – at least to them – environment here.”

"You sound funny when you're inside that machine."

I can just see Daniel's face, peering around the rim of the tube. 

"Does it hurt when you go inside there?"  He's turned away now, so he must have turned back to ask the tech, "How does it take pictures of your insides through your outsides?"

By the time the tech has given him a simple explanation of how the machine works, I'm done, and Daniel's allowed to pull the tray back out.  He thinks it's pretty cool he's strong enough to save me from the man-eating machine.

"Does that make you cooler?"  He checks my body temperature by laying a hand on my forehead like we all do to him when we think he's not feeling well.  "You feel cooler now."

"Standing under the cold shower helped," I respond, extricating myself from under his cool little hand as I slide off the tray. 

I'm pronounced Goa'uld-free and scoop up Daniel in order to make time on the way to the briefing room.   Not that I feel like making time anywhere, but the sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can go home. 

He settles in the crook of my arm, tilts his head as he looks at the totem again from a different angle, and runs a small finger over the artist's depiction of a cross between an elephant and a giraffe; Daniel was dead on in his description.  It hovers vertically above the bear, lacey wings outspread, balancing on its tail between the bear’s ears, while poised on the intricately carved triangular head squats something that looks like an octopus, its tentacles splayed around it. 

The tentacles look incredibly delicate, and I wanted to be sure they wouldn't break easily, so I jiggled one a bit.  The stone, even carved as thin as these tentacles, is unbreakable.  Carter thinks it may have trinium components in it.  It’s also carved from a stone out of that vein of rock Teal’c described.  The deities are speckled with gold, though this carving has been coated in something, because unlike Daniel’s rock, the gold doesn’t come off on your hands.

"That looks like an octopus."

"It is and they call her Orinea."

"Oh, then she must have dominion over the sea and the water."

"You got it. What are you going to do while I'm debriefing?"

"Can't I go with you?"

"Yes, but you have to be quiet."

"Okay, I'd rather go with you.  Did you have a good time while you were gone?  Did you get to do any fishing?"

"I always have a good time, Daniel, I like my job.” 

Well, usually.  This mission isn’t going down in the record books as the best ever and I certainly won’t be recommending it to anyone thinking of retiring off-world.  But it had its moments.  

“No, I didn't get to do any fishing and I missed you lots, Sport."

"I missed you too.  I like it better when we go home every night."

"Me too," I agree. 

We're the last ones into the briefing room and Carter's already started.  I pull out a chair across from her and Teal'c, snag one of the legal pads and search my pockets for a pen or pencil as I sit us down.  Teal'c pushes a lead pencil across the table toward us when I can't find one. 

This debriefing takes some time and eventually Daniel climbs out of my lap and over to a chair of his own, kneeling up on the edge so he can reach the paper better.  I put an arm on the arm rest, just as a precaution. 

SG-11’s anthropologist told us the Rezulin culture is similar to what would have been a hunter-gatherer society.  The village where we were was their summer home.  According to their chief, they migrate in the autumn to an area where there is more game.  Their homes are a bit like wickiups, though instead of thatch or leaves, they use some kind of canvas stretched over lightweight frames. 

Half a day’s walk from the village is a lake that’s got to be at least 300 acres, with nice sandy beaches, shallows teeming with small fish - leading one to believe there are probably much larger fish out deeper - and according to Carter’s tests, potable without having to use filtration tablets on it, though we didn’t bother to test that assumption.

Yet the Rezulins refused to even consider letting us move them closer to the lake.  Weinstein, SG-11’s anthropologist, says it has something to do with the legend of Orinea, their water sprite – spirit - whatever. 

The lake appeared to be spring fed and had many small tributaries, like Orinea’s many wriggling arms, extending into the surrounding lands.  The nearest was still ten miles away and that’s where the Rezulins go for water.  Every day.  With an ox-cart, though their cattle look like something crossbred to be part ox, part ass, and part mastidge.  Ears like a donkey, shaggy coat like a mastidge, but built along the lines of an ox. 

You’d think, with a well-stocked lake within walking distance, fish would be a dietary staple.  Not.  Which is why I didn’t get any fishing in; there was plenty of time.  Apparently the fish are sacred and forbidden to anyone but Watoomah.  Personally, I think the old boy’s just looking out for his own interests. 

 "Colonel?  Anything to add?"

"Only that we need to get those food shipments back to them as quickly as possible, sir.  They're a good three months into this hot, dry cycle and their crops are withering in the fields.  They've been on short rations for a couple of months already.  Edwards seemed to think getting an irrigation system in place, along with a viable source of water directly to the village, was feasible.”

“Colonel Edwards says his team already has an idea of how they’re going to do it.”  The General closes his briefing folder.  “They’ll be returning to Rezula as soon as they’ve had a chance to assess the aerial surveys the UAV sent back and come up with a workable way to implement their plan.”

“They have a time frame?”

“Lieutenant Menard believes the villagers will lend support to the cause.  In which case he believes they can have a system up and running inside of a week.  Was that your assessment as well, Colonel?”

“Yes, sir.  They’re definitely willing to supply able bodies.  In fact, I’d highly recommend we employ the villagers exclusively in any labor intensive jobs.  They’re used to the climate, sir.  It’s going to be wicked wielding a pick and a shovel in those temperatures for any length of time.”

“So noted, Colonel.  Major Carter already made arrangements for supplies to be packed and sent through.  They should be headed to the Gate room," the General glances at his watch, "just about now."

“Oh, good,” Daniel pipes up, flourishing his finished picture in my face.  “Are we done here?  Does that look like Watoomah, Jack?”

While he is occasionally frustrated by his lack of fine motor skills, you would never know this was the drawing of a seven-year-old. 

The totem joins the sketch approximately three inches in front of my face.  I’ve learned to tolerate it.

“Daniel.” 

“Sorry,” he says offhandedly, stretching his arms out so both carving and paper are now at least a foot away from my face. 

“We haven’t been dismissed, we’re not done, and you’re interrupting.” 

We’ve been working on this for a while now - he still doesn’t get it.

“Oh.”  His ass smacks down on his ankles, the picture flutters to the top of the table, and the totem gets pulled into his chest.  “Sorry,” he says again, this time with genuine contrition. 

“You must be anxious to get home, son.”  The General smiles benevolently on our kid as he retrieves the fallen picture.  “Good work, Daniel, you’ve really captured the bear.”

He has.  In just a few pencil strokes he’s captured the essence of the Rezulins’ land spirit, but then, adult Daniel was quite a talented artist.  We went a couple of frustrating rounds, early on, when this incarnation couldn’t make the picture on paper match the picture he kept trying to tell me he was seeing in his mind. 

Turns out it was really a matter of perspective – things look different to him now; bigger, bulkier, more intimidating in many circumstances. 

It was a real lesson for me too. 

Nothing intimidated adult Daniel.  For cryin’ out loud, he made friends with the Unas that kidnapped him, even managed to snag an invite to join his clan. 

“Hey, Sport, we talked about this before we came in here, remember?”

“It’s fine, Colonel,” Hammond interrupts.  “We’re done, no need to drag this out.  Good job, SG-1.”  He nods at each of us as he stands, bringing Carter and me to our feet as well. 

Daniel shoves his chair back from the table with both hands. 

“Are we going now, Jack?  I have to go get Hershey if we are.” 

“Why don’t you go get the dog, I’ll be ready to leave in a couple of minutes, okay?  Meet me in my office.  Don’t forget your picture.”

He grabs both the picture and the totem by the time half the sentence is out of my mouth, scrambles down, and scampers out of the briefing room, hollering something I can’t make out over his shoulder.

“What?”

“He said, ‘Hershey did not intend to do it,’” Teal’c translates.

I look to the General again.  “Surgical sponges, sir?”

Hammond just shakes his head, resuming his seat at the table.  “If you have a moment?” 

We all resume our seats. 

“I thought you’d want to see this one.”  He reaches for the remote on the briefing table, turns his chair around and aims at the star map, converting it to a high resolution video screen.

It’s the security footage of the criminal and the co-conspirator who snuck him into the infirmary.  Apparently Fraiser had Daniel-duty this particular morning. Based on the video feed we’re watching, the twerp is clearly engrossed in his school work and has totally forgotten the dog. 

And a bored Hershey is a bad dream come to life.  It takes the dog two minutes to demolish the doc’s monthly supply of surgical sponges, along with the cardboard box they were delivered in, and another two minutes to spread the pieces up and down the aisle between the beds in the main infirmary.

“So you made Daniel clean it up, sir?”

“Of course, oversaw the whole process myself.”  Hammond deliberately punches the security disc out of the machine. 

Odds are the next bit of footage shows a two-star general helping to clean up dog-slimed sponges.

“Dr.  Fraiser banned them both from the infirmary; however, she had so many complaints from her patients I believe she lifted the ban after only twenty-four hours.”

“Her patients, sir?”  Carter asks.

“Apparently Daniel and Hershey have become a two-man USO show down there.  Were you aware Daniel’s been teaching the dog tricks, Jack?”

Uh oh!  Remind me to act surprised. 

“Sure.  He’s taught him to roll over, play dead, and sit up and beg.  Who got him the hoola hoop by the way?”

“I did,” Carter replies.  “Why?”

“Just so you know, I found him pouring gas over it in the driveway so he could light it on fire for Hershey to jump through.”

Her face pales.  “He wouldn’t.”

I raise an eyebrow.  “The gas can is now locked away, Major.”

“Sir, I’m sorry.  I never thought . . . I can’t believe Daniel would do something like that.”

“They saw it on TV.  He is only seven, Major.”

“I understand they put on quite a show at least once a day down in the infirmary,” Hammond interrupts diplomatically.  “Though I haven’t heard anything about flaming hoola hoops.  Dr. Fraiser has indicated it’s a great morale booster among the patients.”

“Is he charging?”

Hammond laughs.  “Not yet, but I wouldn’t give him any ideas, Colonel.  With the popularity of the show, he may demand the Mess be turned into an auditorium next.  And you know Siler would be on it in a heartbeat.”

A smile flutters around the table, even quirking up Teal’c’s lips.

Hammond pushes back, not bothering to dismiss us this time. 

I notice his gaze lingering curiously on Carter as we all push back from the table and stand again. 

“Just curious, Major . . .”

“Sir?” Carter inquires when he trails off.

I snort as I realize it’s the gold fingerprints in the middle of her forehead that’s caught his attention.

“To which system lord have you offered your allegiance?”

Carter smiles self-consciously and gingerly touches a finger to her tattoo.  “This would be Lord Daniel’s mark, sir.”  The tip of her finger now sports a gold sheen as well.

“Ahhh, I see.”  The General nods. 

I can tell he’s impressed Carter didn’t immediately wipe it off.  Frankly, so am I. 

“I’ll see you all in the morning,” he says, disappearing into his office.

Probably indulging in a good long laugh.

“I’m going to go collect Lord Daniel and his court jester and head home.”  I have to lean on the back of the chair as I push it in; the room is suddenly spinning strangely.  “You guys coming over tonight?”

“Unless you require my presence, O’Neill, I believe I shall retire to my quarters and spend an evening in kel’no’reem.”

“I’ve got a ton of things to do tonight to catch up, sir.” 

Good.  Everybody’s accounted for and we won’t be entertaining tonight.  Not that we have to entertain when Carter and Teal’c are over. 

However, since I feel like shit, this is definitely a good thing.  I should probably stop back by the infirmary and let Fraiser know – but Daniel and Hershey want to go home.  They’ll either be stuck here on base or have to go home with the Doc again if she won’t cut me loose. 

I figure it’s probably a slight case of heat exhaustion – nothing an hour on the couch and a couple of cold brews won’t fix.

Carter’s shower must have really invigorated her; she’s the only one of us with any pep.  Even Teal’c’s usual precise movements are a bit blurry, which makes me feel better.  It’s not just me feeling the effects of five days in unrelenting 110 degree heat.

Hershey and Daniel circle the truck as I unlock the doors and get in. 

This has become a twice daily ritual.  The dog has to sniff the tires morning and evening, make sure his scent is still there – oh, must be wearing off on the left front tire, he lifts his leg to rechristen that one – before he can get in the truck.  We’re required to leave the house ten minutes early in case the previous evening’s anointing hasn’t lasted through the night.

“Come on, guys.” I press the button to roll the window down.  “Hershey, get in the truck.  Daniel, get the dog in the truck,” I snap, anxious to be on our way. 

“What’s the matter?” Daniel asks, shoving the dog into the back seat and climbing up on the front seat to give me the hairy eyeball.  “You okay?”

“Just get in your seatbelt.  Please,” I tack on belatedly, if still impatiently.  “I’m tired, Daniel, I just want to get home.”

Without another word he crawls into the back seat and I hear the snap of the seatbelt. 

When I glance in the rearview mirror the dog has his head in Daniel’s lap and Daniel’s fingers are buried deep in Hershey’s fur.  I swear there’s some kind of symbiotic relationship between those two.  The dog is incredibly sensitive to the kid’s moods. 

“Are we stopping for bread and milk?” a small voice from the back seat intrudes on my musings. 

It’s one of our rituals after a long off-world trip.  We always stop at the small corner market to pick up fresh fruit, bread and milk on our way home. 

However, I don’t usually feel like shit and I’m debating stopping at all, except there’s probably nothing edible in the house. 

We could do pizza tonight, and I suppose we could stop somewhere on the way to work in the morning . . .

I make the turn and pull into the pocket-sized parking area.

It’s much harder to do anything like that now with the dog.  He’s a great guard dog, but Hershey worries worse than I do if Daniel’s out of his sight, so we either have to go places we can take the dog, or leave him home. 

“Hey, Sport.  Why don’t you and Hershey go in and get what you want.”  I scrounge for my wallet in the glove compartment.  

Our cover story here, because this was one of adult Daniel’s haunts, is that this incarnation is adult Daniel’s nephew, named for his uncle, staying with me while his uncle and parents are out of the country. 

It’s the cover story we’ve been using at home with the neighbors too.  Since they all think we’re a weird bunch anyway, they just shake their heads and mutter about that O’Neill household. 

“You’re not coming in?”  Daniel’s already out and takes the wallet, scrunching his nose suspiciously.  “Wait, Hershey,” he yells, as the dog bounds through the wide open doors. 

This is the only grocery store Hershey is allowed to go in.  It’s run by an old Armenian couple who adore both incarnations of Daniel and because they are from the old country and used to dogs everywhere, all the neighborhood dogs are in and out of this place.

Hershey would like it for that fact alone, but the old man feeds Hershey treats while his wife plies Daniel with gata and kataifi - delicacies he remembers from his first childhood. 

The kid and the dog run a great scam every time we stop in here, though I suppose if the marks know they’re being hustled by a pair of shameless con artists, it doesn’t really count as scamming, does it? 

And, yeah, if the Health Department ever gets wind of the way the place is run, they’ll be shut down for sure.  So it’s kind of like a big neighborhood secret. 

I sigh without realizing it, until Daniel gives me the look again.  “Do you need me to?” 

“Are you tired of coming here?”

“No, Daniel, I’m just tired, period.  Do you need me to come in or can you handle this?”

A ghost of emotion flickers briefly across the small face looking up at me, then he shakes his head and smiles brightly.  “It will be just like when I was big, huh?  All by myself?” 

He squares his shoulders as he steps backward down off the running board, and with a little wave and a grin, uses both hands to slam the door shut.  He disappears from view for a second, then reappears in front of the truck, waving again over his shoulder, bright smile firmly fixed in place.

I should have gone with him.  I forget - because there were no strangers in adult Daniel’s realm of existence – this incarnation is a little shy. 

But he’s over the threshold already, tugging at the pile of market baskets stacked haphazardly by the entrance.  He bounces back a couple of steps when the stuck basket he’s chosen finally lets loose, catches his balance, then takes a moment to survey the store. 

With a last look, and another wave for me, he skips to the fruit bins and stands on tiptoe to look over the crate of oranges on display.  He can’t quite reach the one he wants, so he bounces a little on his toes, stretching his fingers, and I hold my breath, hoping the entire display doesn’t come crashing down around him.

The barely tickled orange obligingly rolls towards him, though, and the next one he selects is within reach. 

I close my eyes on another sigh. 

My internal clock is usually very good at keeping time, but I have no idea how long I sit, elbows on the steering wheel, eyes closed, with my head in my hands, before the truck door opens on the passenger side.

“Colonel?”  It’s Mrs. Hagopian. “The little one says you not well?”  She looks me over with a practiced maternal eye. 

“I’m fine, just tired, Mrs. H.  I’ve been out of the country for a few days.”

“Yes, so Dan’i’el tell me.”  She gives his name the same lifted lilt the Abydonians did; however, she distinctly pronounces the ‘i’, very unlike the Abydonians.  

She lets me take the brown paper bags she’s carrying, the ones too heavy for Daniel, then points a gnarled finger at me.  “You wait.” 

Mrs. H disappears, but Daniel and Hershey are coming out of the store now.  Hershey’s wearing a pair of tied-together plastic bags, like saddle bags, padding gingerly so as not to disturb his burden. 

Daniel hefts his three plastic bags onto the front seat and shoves them toward me.  “Mama H has something she wants to give you.  She said to tell you not to leave yet.”  He slides my wallet across the seat as well, before turning to collect Hershey’s bags and swinging them deftly onto the floor on the front passenger side. 

“What ya got there, Sport?” 

“Oh, that’s bones Papa H saved for Hershey.  He made them into little saddle bags so Hershey could carry them himself.  Wasn’t that cool?”  Daniel climbs up into the back seat and snaps his fingers at the dog.  “Come on, get in Hershey.”

Hershey, who has his paws up on the running board and is now sniffing the very interesting packages he was carrying, hops up obediently and settles on the back seat next to Daniel.

“Such a good dog.”  Mrs. H is back and she reaches across the front seat to hand me a large plastic canister of something hot.  “Keep upright,” she says, patting my hand.  “You eat.  Feel better.”

“Chicken soup?”

She smiles - a wide smile showing a couple of gold-capped teeth.  “Chick’n soup, Col’o’nel.  No’ting like American soup-in-a-can.  Pah!”  She smiles graciously, pats my hand again and repeats, “You eat.  Feel better.  Arvohr, you need?”  She peers around the back of the seat at Daniel. “You call.  We deliver.”

Daniel rattles off something that turns her fond look into a smile of delight.  She reaches a gnarled hand to pat Daniel’s knee and he pokes his face out to kiss her on the cheek. 

Bachig,” she says, tapping her kissed cheek as she winks at me. “Bachig.” 

“Kiss,” I repeat dutifully.  “Bachig – kiss.”

“Thank you,” Daniel says in English, patting the hand still on his knee.  “You’re the best, Mama Hagopian.”

“He is good boy.  You be proud uncle.”  She closes the door before I can think of a response, rises up on tiptoe and taps the window, miming eating soup, then shakes that finger at me again.

“Yes, ma’am.”  I smile and pat the soup container nestled between two bags of groceries.  “You in your seatbelt, Sport?”

“Yeah,” Daniel replies, nose pressed to the window as he waves goodbye.  “What’s the matter with her hands, Jack?”

I have an instant mental picture of the gnarled hand nestling the soup between the two bags and tapping on the window. 

“Arthritis probably.”

“What’s arthritis?”

“Arthritis is inflammation of the joints.  Some people, like Mrs. H, get it in the joints in their fingers.  It makes their fingers swell so it becomes difficult to use them individually.”

“Does it hurt?”

Hmmmm, how to answer this without shooting up my Littlest Ancient’s angst level.

“Arthritis is no fun, but the pain can usually be controlled.”

“Does it hurt all the time?” he asks anxiously. 

“Depends on how severe it is.”

He mulls this over for several seconds.  “It looks kind of bad, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know, Daniel, if it’s really bad, it seems to me Mrs. H has learned to compensate for it.”

“What’s compensate?”

“She gets around the handicap somehow.  You’d never know her hands are mostly crippled.”

“Crippled?” 

Oh, bad choice of words, O’Neill.  “Daniel, can we have this discussion some other time.  My head hurts right now and I can hardly think straight.”

“Okay,” he says, still staring out the window.  He’s quiet for a bit, then suddenly, without preamble, announces, “That was fun, I didn’t really want to do it, but I’m glad I did.”

“I’m sorry, Sport.”  I glance back in the rearview mirror.  “I shouldn’t have asked you to.”

Another moment or two of introspection passes and he says reflectively, “I think you can’t always make it safe for me, Jack.”

Oh joy.

I’m having a hard enough time concentrating on driving without having to carry on a theoretical conversation with a seven-year-old.  Beyond that, I don’t want to have this conversation with Daniel.  As long as he’s little, I can and will make things safe for him – except I didn’t just now. 

Which isn’t logical – of course he was safe.  I knew he was safe or I would never have let him go in there alone.  But in Daniel’s mind, he wasn’t. 

And I so can’t deal with this debate right now. 

“Can we maybe talk about this in the morning too?” 

A horn honks behind us.  While I’ve been watching Daniel in the rearview mirror, the light’s turned green.  I slip gears, accidentally grind the clutch, and curse fluently in Swahili, one of the few languages Daniel doesn’t speak and just one of many in which I can swear fluently.   

He’s smiling ruefully when I look back again and gives me that squint-eyed, ‘I know what you’re doing, but I’m not going to call you on it,’ look.  It’s part of our new short-hand language.

“I’ll get the stuff,” he says as we pull into the driveway and I reach for the garage door opener.  “You go lie down.”

“I’m fine, Daniel.  I can help carry the groceries.” 

I stab the button to close the garage door behind us, enclosing us in the semi-gloom of a late April afternoon. 

At least, I think I can help carry groceries.  Just to be on the safe side, I make a production out of gathering things up so Daniel and the dog are already going in through the kitchen door before I get out of the truck. 

I don’t know if it’s the overpowering whiff of diesel fumes in the confined space, or just standing up, but the garage becomes a kaleidoscope of mesmerizing colors; or they would be if I were on an acid trip. 

I grip my fingers tightly in the brown paper bags and lean against the side of the truck. 

I just need . . . a minute . . . or ten. 

Breathing deeply through my mouth, I take a tentative step forward, find solid ground, and step out with more assurance. 

I can do this.  I’m just tired . . . just tired, just tired, just tired rolls around echoingly inside my brain. 

“O’Neill,” I tell myself sharply, “you’ve got a kid, get your act together.”  I kick the door open, since both hands are full, and dump the grocery bags on the counter just inside the door.  “Think I am going go sit down for a few minutes.  Leave out what you can’t put away, I’ll take care of it later.”

Daniel is already busily trotting around the kitchen putting things away, while Hershey munches happily on a bone that looks like it came from one of adult Daniel’s pet Abydonian mastidges. 

“Okay, but I think I can get everything.”

I have every intention of sitting, but my body has a different idea.  Either that or the sofa acquired human magnets while I was gone; it sucks me down the second I’m within range.  Before I realize it, I’m half sprawled on the dang thing, one foot on the floor, the other propped against the coffee table.

I can hear both Daniel and the dog in the kitchen. 

“Daniel?  What are you doing?” I ask as I hear the distinctive hum of the microwave a few minutes later.

“Heating stuff up,” Daniel calls.  “Jack?  Where are the crackers?  Do we have any?”

“Why? What are you doing?” I ask again, making an effort to rise.  Umm, not happening anytime soon.

“Looking for crackers,” he responds and I hear a kitchen chair being dragged across the tile floor.

“Why?”

“Because.” 

The chair creaks, as does a pantry shelf as he leans on it. 

“If you can’t reach them without climbing up the shelves, you damn well better eat bread, my little mountain goat,” I holler, sliding an arm over my eyes. 

Strangely enough, I don’t have a headache, but that’s the only part of me that doesn’t ache.   I’m beginning to think this may be more than a simple case of heat exhaustion.

“I don’t want crackers,” Daniel laughs, and I hear the box hit a couple of shelves, the back of the chair, and then the floor.  If that was the crackers, we likely only have cracker crumbs now. 

A moment later, I hear a pair of small boots clatter to the floor, and the chair scrapes back over the tile.  There’s a satisfied snort, the microwave opens and closes, and a few more seconds of Daniel’s pattering footsteps, then silence for a moment before I identify the sound of boots scuffing over the carpet. 

I move my arm to find Daniel laboriously shuffling toward me with the slightly melted plastic container of soup, a sleeve of saltines, a bottle of domestic brew, an opener, and a soup spoon, all on a tray. 

“Ouch!”  He bites the tip of his protruding tongue as he stumbles a little and puts the tray down in a rush on the coffee table.  “I think I was supposed to pour the soup into something else, huh?”  He touches the tip of his finger to his tongue and wipes it on his jeans.

“Bleeding?”

“Nah.”

“Daniel?”

“Not enough to count.  Besides, can’t put a bandaid on it.”

“Let me see.”

“Jack,” he rolls his eyes.

“Come here.”  I grab his hand and pull him over.  “Let me see,” I repeat, catching his chin. 

He sticks his tongue out at me, making a face. 

“Get some ice, it will keep the swelling down, and be sure to run some water over the ice cube before you stick your tongue on it.”

He comes back looking like a chipmunk and plops his ass down on the coffee table next to the tray he’s just provided.  “A’ren’ you gon’ eat?” he garbles, around the mouthful of ice.

I close my eyes again.  “Thanks, Sport, you went to a lot of trouble and I appreciate it, but I don’t feel much like eating right now.  Maybe later?”

“Okay.  Can I have popcorn?”

“Sure, but wouldn’t you rather have pizza?  Or how about that Mediterranean place that delivers?  If you’ll get me the phone and tell me what you want, I’ll place the order, okay?”  I open my eyes to find him regarding me warily. 

“Are you sick?” he asks worriedly.  “Should I call Sam or Teal’c?  Should I call Janet?”

“Nah,” I parrot him, “Come here.”  I slide an arm around his waist and pull him toward me.  “Lie down here with me for a few minutes.  I need a cuddle.  I really missed you this time.”  I have to let him go to sit up and unlace my hiking boots enough to yank them off before lying back down.  “Come on up,” I scooch over and pat the couch.

“You know you say that every time, don’t you?”  He crawls up beside me and stretches out so he’s pressed against my side.  His head goes down on my shoulder and one small arm stretches across my throat to curve a hand around the back of my neck. 

 

 

Part 2

~*~

 

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