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On a Wing & a Prayer by iiiionly

On a Wing & a Prayer

 

“All right, O’Neill, pull yourself together.  You can do this.  We’ll get this fixed.” 

I have to stop, lean against the wall, and close my eyes.  There’s something drastically wrong when your pep talk doesn’t motivate the troops, in this case, myself. 

And yes, dammit, there is something drastically wrong.  I knew I shouldn’t have let him come back down here.  I told Hammond not to show him the invitation.  Does anybody ever listen to me? 

Wave an artifact under Dr. Daniel Jackson’s nose and he forgets everything, including the fact he was kidnapped and tortured, not to mention damn near murdered last time he was down here. 

So, yes, I’m pissed.  I’m pissed nobody listened; I’m pissed Hammond let him come; I’m pissed as hell Daniel still has the self-preservation instincts of a new-born kitten!  For cryin’ out loud, even a kitten knows it has to eat and sleep.  In the eight years I’ve known him, I still haven’t managed to get that concept into his thick head.

“Get yourself together, O’Neill.” 

I take another deep breath, push off the wall and push open the infirmary doors, hoping no one’s paying attention to the crazy Colonel talking to himself.

The place is swarming.  You’d think Earth had just been attacked with all the activity going on in here.

However, since we’re a couple thousand miles from Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain, not to mention the SCG, it’s unlikely the infirmary is swarming because of a Goa’uld attack. 

I stop inside the door, collect my bearings, and head down the center aisle checking beds as I go. 

Last one on the right.   

Now why did I imagine we’d have some privacy for this?

I stop at the foot of the bed. 

He’s curled around a pillow like a little isopod; only a mop of sun-bleached hair and dirty, bare feet are visible.  A too-large dress blue jacket disguises the curve of his back and covers him to his ankles.  He was wearing a suit when he left the SGC less than twenty-four hours ago.

From the time frame we’ve managed to squeeze out of the less-than-official sources who have been willing to speak to us, Daniel hadn’t been here more than a couple of hours when it happened. 

Stop stalling, O’Neill.

Glancing around, I lower the bed railing, noting I outrank everybody here.  I can’t help the sigh that escapes me as I sit gingerly on the side of the bed.

“Hey, Danny?” 

I palm the top of the small head and lightly massage his temple.  Guess I’m hoping the familiar touch might trigger some neuro-chemistry that will spark a memory. 

“Daniel?” 

Looking down I find a sliver of blue eye peeking at me assessingly from just above the pillow.  The sliver disappears and I feel a shudder run through the small body. 

“Hey buddy, I really need to talk to you.  Do you feel well enough to sit up and talk to me for a minute?”

“My daddy told me not to talk to strangers.”

The pitch and register are higher and lighter than adult Daniel’s, but it is unmistakably Daniel, even muffled by the pillow he refuses to part with when I give it a reconnaissance tug.

Hey, he wouldn’t speak to Major Davis, so maybe those neurotransmitters are actually working; maybe there is some left brain function that still recognizes me. 

Better get this right the first time around, O’Neill, who knows if he’ll give you another shot at it

I slide my hand down to the nape of his neck and squeeze lightly. 

For a moment he is utterly still, then the sliver of blue eye appears again, still wary, but now there’s a hint of curiosity too. 

Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

 “Who are you?  Why did you take me away from my mommy and daddy?  Where are they?” 

The corner of the pillow is crumpled in one tiny hand, exposing a whole eye, the smooth curve of a child’s cheek, and the down-turned corner of lips thinned to a mutinous line.  

He doesn’t want to talk, but he can’t help himself. 

Oh yeah, this is our Daniel, no doubt about it.

There was some confusion, apparently, when people started stumbling out of the room where the little cadre of sycophants had been sequestered, all of them gabbling about the Fountain of Youth.  They were all too intent on getting their own asses outta there to think about Daniel.

And this is so not good news about his parents;  doesn’t sound like there’s any memory right now. 

So what do I tell him?  Uh, Daniel, your parents have been dead for thirty years . . .

Okay, maybe not quite that callous right off the bat.  Doc Frasier warned me we may have to ease into this slowly.

Again, better get this right, O’Neill, if you want him to keep talking.  Dr. Jackson can bethe most stubborn sonuvabitch on the face of this planet when he’s pissed about something. 

He’s eyeing me suspiciously now. 

So I hedge.  “You’ve been in an accident, Daniel.  You’re mom and dad aren’t here right now.”

“That’s not true!”  He’s buying none of that.  “My mom and dad don’t ever leave me.  If I’d been in an accident they’d be right here with me!  I want to see them right now!  You better take me to them, ‘cause you’ll be in very big trouble if you’ve stolen me away from them!  They might have already called the police, mister.  You better take me back to them right now!” 

Both eyes are visible now and big as saucers. His chest is heaving as though he’s run a marathon, but he refuses to blink and let the tears pooling in those saucers spill over.  He widens his eyes in a futile attempt to hold them back, then knuckles them fiercely with the corner of the pillowcase. 

“I’m not scared of you!” he hitches out on a hiccupping sob. 

I close my eyes, squeeze the back of his neck again very gently and realize despite all the drama, he’s edging closer toward me. 

Every muscle in the small body clenches as I pick him up and cradle him in my lap. 

“You must be pretty scared though, huh?   Waking up in a strange place like this?  With all these strange people, dressed in strange clothes.  It’s okay, buddy.” 

He’s still trying valiantly to hold back the sobs. 

“It’s okay,” I soothe, running a hand through his hair as I press the small head against my chest.  “You’re safe here until we can find your mom and dad.  How ‘bout if you let me take care of you until we find them?  Would that be okay?” 

I cuddle the stiff body close, rock gently, and keep up a steady stream of patter. 

“I know you don’t remember me, but I’ve knownyou for a long time.  Does that count?  Even though you don’t remember me?  I know about your mom and dad too; Claire and Melbourne Jackson?  They’re archeologists aren’t they?  Do you still live in Egypt, Danny?  I’ve kind of lost track of how old you are.  Let me think a minute . . . what else do I know about you?  I know your birthday is July 8, right?  And that you like . . . uhm . . . “

Oh, shit!  How old is he? 

Camels. 

He has an old picture of himself on a camel, taken sometime after he went back to Egypt, probably in his late teens. 

“Camels.  I bet you like camels.”

“Camels are dirty,” he states emphatically, swiping at tears.  “And they spit.  My mom says they’re only useful for hauling supplies out to the digs.”

“But you like ‘em anyway, don’t you?” 

He’s not quite as stiff, but he’s still not sure he’s willing to let himself get comfortable with this.

“Who are you?  How come I don’t remember you if you know me?” 

He tilts his head up, just briefly, so I get a flash of eyes, then ducks it again, burrowing his cheek against my t-shirt to wipe away more tears.

“Ohhhh . . .”  Thinking like this on my feet, especially keeping one step ahead of Daniel Jackson, has never been my strong suit.  “I used to go to school with your dad.”

“You did?”

The suspicion is back full force. 

“You look a lot older than my dad.” 

He sniffs and wipes his nose with the sleeve of the dress jacket.  Hope it belongs to Major Davis; he, at least, will understand.

“Yeah, well, I’m grey-haired for a reason and destined to be even greyer in the foreseeable future.  Do you know what premature means?”

He narrows his eyes in concentration, relaxes a little more against me, and one finger sneaks into his mouth, strangely enough, the ring finger on his left hand. 

“It means . . .” he chews for a moment, contemplating, then sighs.  “I don’t remember.  What does pre-ma-ture mean?”

Biting back a smile, I kiss his hair.  “It means, Daniel Jackson, I’m not old enough to have grey hair yet.  It means the grey hair makes me look older than your dad, which I probably am, but not nearly as much older as it makes me look.”

“Oh,” he responds, pulling back to look me over again.  “So then you’re not as old as you look.”

“Exactly.”

“How old are you?”

“Didn’t your mother teach you not to ask adults how old they are?”

“Yes,” he admits freely, “but she would say these are unusual cir - cir – cum . . .”

“Circumstances?” I offer.

“Yes, cir-cum-stances,” he repeats, “and I should find out everything I can about you before I trust you.”

“Well, that sounds reasonable to me.  Let’s make a deal, I’ll tell you how old I am if you’ll tell me how old you are.”

“You go first,” he says, still watching me like a hawk.

I sigh loudly, as if very put upon, and shave ten years off my real age.  “I’m thirty-eight.” 

I know his parents were in their early 30's when they were killed in that museum accident. 

I tug at my probably disheveled hair.  “Partly this is in the genes; do you know what genes are?”

“Yes.  Genes are what determines whether I have blue eyes, like my dad’s, or blond hair like my mom’s.”

“Exactly.  You’re pretty smart, huh?  Partly though, this . . .” I ruffle my own hair again, “comes from someone I know who keeps getting into trouble and scaring the pants off me.  Mostly I’ve gone prematurely grey because of him.”

“Who?”

“His name just happens to be Daniel too.  Isn’t that a coincidence?  Do you know any other Daniels?”

“There’s a Daniel who’s Hungarian who’s working on our dig right now.  He’s teaching me the Slavic languages.”

“Really?  How old is he?”

“I don’t know.  I never asked him.”

“Do you trust him?”

He gives me a slit-eyed look and knuckles away the last of the tears.  “I’m six, but I’ll be seven very soon.”

“Wow, six.” 

Okay, I’m sucking air.  If they’d left him in that room any longer . . . not going there.  Six is bad enough.

“So you’ll be seven in - let’s see . . .”  I hold up a hand and count on my fingers.  “May, June, July.  Oh, less than three months.  Not long, huh?”

Daniel nods solemnly.  “We’re going back to America when I’m eight, that’s only a little more than a year away.”

“Oh, yeah?  Why when you’re eight?  Why not now?”

“We’ve found a cover stone,” he imparts, with equal solemnity.  “My dad says it’s just the beginning and we’ll have museums and private investors . . .”  He stops to think for a second, “Uhm . . . clamoring,” he grins fleetingly.  “Yes, clamoring for our exhibit.  We’re going to pick a very ‘portant museum to set up our exhibit in and we’ll be able to go see it any time night or day, ‘cause they’ll probably give us the keys to the city and everything.”

“Oh,” I nod agreement, “absolutely.  The keys to the city and everything.  That makes sense.  It’s gonna take a year, you think, to uncover the rest of the exhibit.  Are you looking forward to going to America?”

“I don’t know.  What’s your name?”

I blink at the abrupt change of subject.  “I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill.”

“That’s a funny name.”

“You think?  What’s so funny about it?”

He shrugs slightly, nibbling his bottom lip.  “O’Neill is Irish,” he states matter-of-factly.  “But where did Colonel Jack come from?”

“Colonel is a military rank, like a title.  Do you know what a title is?”

“Of course, title is like mister, or Doctor, or Professor.”

“Exactly.  So instead of mister, I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill.”

“You’re still older than my Dad.”

“Yep, he was a few grades behind me in school. Daniel, do you know where you are?”

“No.” 

For the first time, secure in my lap, he takes a good look around. 

We have a little pocket of space.  The bed next to us has been left empty, whether on purpose or not, I don’t know, but I suspect Major Davis may have had something to do with it. 

Daniel assesses me again.  “Why?”

“I just wondered if you recognized you’re in a military facility.”

“What’s a ... fa - ci - li - ty?”  He sounds out the word, trying it on for size and apparently decides he likes it.  “Facility.  Is that like a special place?”

“Well, a facility is like a place that houses something.  Say your folks pick the New York Museum of Art as the place they want to have their exhibit.  The museum, itself, the actual building that houses all the works of art, that’s a facility.”

“Oh.  I didn’t know that.  So facility is the same word as museum?”

This is getting far too technical. 

“Not exactly.  This building we’re in right now is just one of several facilities on this base.  So maybe the word facility would exchange better with a word like . . . building.  Is that a little clearer?”

“I like the New York Museum of Art.” 

Wait, did someone change the channel again? 

“I’ll bet you do. Lots of fun things to see in there.  But I thought you’d never been to America?”

“My mom and Dad have lots of museum books.  I like to look at the New York ones the best.  Do you know where they are?  How did I get here if they’re not here?  Has someone told them what happened? Are they on their way?  If Colonel is a title, then that other man’s name must be Paul Davis and his title is Major?”

“Uhm, right.” 

Well, at least he was paying attention, even if he wasn’t communicating himself.

“What’s a rank?” 

This game is okay as long as he doesn’t have to think about where he is or how far away he is from his parents. 

“Does that mean you work here?” 

“A rank is a . . . level of profession.  In the military it means people who are ranked lower than I am have to do what I say.”

“Oh.”  He mulls that over for a few seconds, than asks again, “Do you work here?”

“No, I work at a facility very much like this one, but it’s in the United States.”

“What’s this place?”

“This is a United States military base, in the country of Honduras.  Do you know where that is?”

I can just see him picturing a mental map as he squeezes his eyes shut.  All that’s missing is that raised finger and the ‘give me a minute’

“Oh,” he says in surprise, momentarily forgetting the finger in his mouth.  “It’s at the bottom of Central America.  My grandpa Nick does most of his work in South America.  I’ve never been there.  We’ve worked mostly in Europe and the Middle East since I was born.”

Six?  This kid is six? 

“I didn’t think you’d gone to school yet either.  How do you know all this stuff?”

He shrugs and chews harder on his finger as the tears well up again.  “Where’re my mom and dad?  I’m tired.  I want to go home.”

“I know you do kiddo.”  I snug him back against my chest and rest my chin on top of his head.  “Think you can answer just a couple more questions?”

“Don’t know,” he sniffs.  “What questions?”

“Do you remember anything about what happened to you today, before you woke up here?”

He gives it a shot.  I can see the wheels turning, but eventually he shakes his head slightly.  “No.”

“Okay.  Can you tell me what you were doing yesterday?”  I glance up as something outside the ordinary noise going on around us breaks my concentration. 

Major Davis is standing at the foot of the bed. 

“Daniel?” 

I squeeze him lightly and feel him stiffen as his head comes up and he catches sight of the major.

“Could I speak to you for a moment, sir?  Outside?”

One small arm snakes up and in the next instant there’s a little python twined around my torso, squeezing for all he’s worth.  Short of prying him loose, he’s not going anywhere, and neither am I at the moment.  Definitely not out into the hall without him, so I assume there’s no reason to go out in the hall. 

“Sir,” Davis grimaces, but continues delicately when I motion for him to go on.  “We’ve run into a bit of a snag.  I’ve made some phone calls, but until things can get sorted out, we’re . . . uhm . . . going to have to . . . wait, sir.  For a little bit at least.”

“Because?”  I inquire caustically.  “If there’s no military transport leaving shortly, we’ll catch a commercial flight.”

Davis frowns.  “That would be part of the problem, sir.  His passport,” he nods at Daniel, who’s trying to burrow into my neck like a Goa’uld, “is no longer valid.  We may have trouble getting him out of the country.  Which, at the moment, seems to be imperative . . . if you get my drift, sir.”

I know Daniel is down here at the invitation of the Honduran government for the express purpose of helping them identify additional ancient artifacts uncovered at the dig near the site of Telchek’s underground temple.  A dig he was slavering to run, despite the fact he’d been kidnapped, tortured, shot, and damn near murdered.  Fortunately, their government wanted their own people to run it.  Unfortunately, when their own archeologists couldn’t do the job they asked to borrow ours. 

We’ve been told, within minutes of being met at the airport he was whisked off to some high security government building where he was met by five of the current top Honduran officials. 

I say current because with the constant volatility in this country, we often don’t know from one day to the next who’s actually in power.  

Which would be another reason I strongly urged Daniel to turn down the invitation. 

But I digress.  

Apparently the six of them had been sequestered in a top floor office for a little less than two hours when all hell broke loose.  One witness says the two-story building actually shook on its foundations, as if an earthquake had rumbled through the city.  Another says only the second floor shook; the ground floor never so much as twitched. 

I could care less what part of the building shook or didn’t shake.  What plasters me is when all five officials came running out of the room, it took twenty minutes by one count, an hour by the other, for anybody to remember Daniel.  The guy who pulled him out found him crumpled at the base of the wall on the opposite side of the room from the device.

Naturally the official government is disavowing all knowledge of this oh-so-interesting-artifact.  The Fountain of Youth, if the rumors are true.  And Daniel’s current condition seems to substantiate the rumors if nothing else. 

Davis says short of a covert op it’s unlikely we’ll ever get our hands on it, which means unless Daniel remembers . . . oh you know, the damn schematics for the thing . . . there’s no possible way Carter will be able to reverse engineer this thing and change him back.

Hmm, wonder if it works on grey hair?  Yeah, yeah, totally random.

So now it appears, if I’m reading the major’s warning right, they’ve just rescinded Daniel’s invitation to be in the country. 

Funny how things work out like that.

Well, guess what, we’re getting him out if I have to hijack a plane.  

“What are we waiting for now, Major?”

“It’s my understanding the C.O. here, a General Hastings, sir, is waiting for a phone call from the President.  I believe we’ll be cleared as soon as that confirmation is made.”

“Then why are we still here?  Take us to the plane.”

“Well, sir, that’s the other part of the problem.  All their planes large enough to carry enough fuel to get us home are out on maneuvers at the moment.”

“Shit, shit, shit,” I mumble into Daniel’s jacket. 

His arms tighten around my neck, probably in response to my tone of voice. 

“It’s okay,” I soothe, rubbing his back lightly.  “So what is available?”

“There are a couple of old C-140s prepped and ready to go, sir.  That’s about it.”

“Fine, can one of them get us to the next base, at least?  Preferably in the next country?”

“Uhm, good thought, sir.  I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Major?”

Davis turns back, a ubiquitous eyebrow raised.  Everybody wants to be Teal’c now days.

“Would this be your jacket?”  I pluck at the material draping Daniel.

“Yes, sir.”

“You didn’t happen to collect the rest of his stuff did you?  When you collected him?” 

“His clothes were pretty scorched, sir.  I did find his backpack; it’s in the cabinet by the bed.”

I feel my own eyebrow elevate.  “Uh, has anybody checked him out here?  We know he’s okay?”

“He wouldn’t let the doctor touch him, sir.  Nor let them do any x-rays.”

“And you didn’t think this was important enough to tell me because . . .?”

Davis has the perspicacity to look slightly chagrined.  “Sorry, sir, I suppose I just assumed the doc would fill you in.”

I look around at the beehive of activity going on around us. 

“Yeah.  Go get us a plane, Major.  In the meantime, I want some x-rays before we get him airborne.”

“Yes, sir.” 

The major exits quickly, justifiably afraid of my wrath. 

“I don’t want any tests.  I’m fine,” Daniel tells me as I sit back down on the bed. 

“Yeah, well, I hear that from my other Daniel all the time too and you know what, he doesn’t always tell me the truth.” 

I’m as gentle as I can be while un-wrapping the small, resisting arms from around my neck. 

“Are you telling me the truth?”  I don’t get nearly as much resistance as I un-wrap his legs.  “Daniel?”  I could probably bench press him indefinitely he weighs so little.  “What are you wearing under that jacket?”

He’s eying me suspiciously again.  “Why?”

“Because,” I reply as patiently as possible under the circumstances, “I’m not going to strip you naked in front of God and country if you’re not wearing anything but the jacket.”

His tiny hands fold the extra material over so the coat’s hugged close to his body.  “Was he talking about my clothes?  Is that why I’m wearing this?”

Daniel’s never been much of an exhibitionist, unlike most of the rest of the SGC.  He always wears a robe or towel from the showers back to the locker room.  If Carter’s in the room and he has to unzip to tuck his shirt in, he turns his back. 

Deeply ingrained patterns of behavior usually stem from conditioning begun at a very young age.  I’m guessing at six he’s already developed the Puritan streak that runs through him now. So I’m not going to embarrass him by making him drop the coat.

“You’ve been to the doctor before haven’t you?”

“My mom and dad are both doctors,” he responds, looking up at me with a perfectly straight face.
 
Oh yeah, straight man to my funny guy.

“Yes, but that’s not the kind of doctor I mean.  Haven’t you ever been to the doctor when you were sick?”

“No.  I’ve never been sick.  One of our workers got sick once.  He died.  Am I sick?”

I close my eyes briefly.  “No, I don’t think you’re sick.  But, Daniel, something happened to you, something that caused you to be thrown across a room.  Do you hurt anywhere?  Does your head hurt?  How many fingers am I holding up?  Here.”

He looks at me quizzically when I don’t bother to let him answer, just slide him off my lap onto the bed. 

“Stick your leg out for me.”

He obeys.  

Surprisingly.

“Now the other one.  That’s good.  Let’s push these sleeves up like so . . . Danny?”  I touch the slightly reddened skin of his right arm.  “Does that hurt at all?”

He shakes his head, though I can see the white mark my finger left on his skin.  It looks like no more than mild sunburn, but I’m concerned. 

“How about your shoulder?  Does it look the same?”

“I’m fine,” he states baldly, transparently trying to end this impromptu exam.

“You can let me look at it, or I’ll go get the doc,” I tell him implacably.

He eyes me for a moment, then reluctantly lets go of the bunched material, slowly sliding it off his shoulder. 

His shoulder isn’t exactly red, but it is already turning multiple shades of purple. 

I have to close my eyes briefly; it takes a couple seconds to get myself back in control.  I don’t want my shaking voice to scare him more. 

“Daniel, I want to see your other arm too.” 

I make no move to help, or even touch him, as he swiftly pulls the coat back over his shoulder and just as reluctantly drops his other shoulder. 

It’s lightly sun-kissed, smooth baby skin, drawn taunt over muscles moving fluidly beneath the flawless skin. 

“Does your side hurt like your shoulder does?” 

This time I very gently snug the coat back up over his shoulder, careful not to pull it against the sore shoulder.

He frowns.  “It doesn’t hurt.”

“What doesn’t hurt?  Your shoulder?  Or your side?”

He shakes his head, mouth pursed, tears pooling in those huge blue eyes.  “I just want to go home.”

Without warning he crumples in a heap, curling back into a ball as the tears overflow again.  “I want to go home,” he sobs, breaking what’s left of Jack O’Neill’s battered heart.  “I want to go home.”

Now that I know, I notice he is favoring that shoulder.  And given the amount of bruising already evident, I can just bet his whole right side looks pretty much the same. 

I look around for the doc, who, thankfully, is looking directly at us. 

“Colonel,” he greets as he strides over. 

He’s young, probably his first posting out of med school. 

His name tag reads Captain Jamie Hernandez. 

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you before, sir.”  He waves a hand. “One of our units ran into a little trouble early this morning with a group of guerillas.”

“I noticed.”  I’ve pulled the isopod back onto my lap.  “We need some x-rays, Doctor.”  I very carefully draw the jacket down enough to expose the bruised shoulder.  “I’m sure this isn’t all.”

“Major Davis told you he wouldn’t let any of us touch him, sir?”

“I’ll take him; just tell me where to go.” 

Captain Hernandez glances over his shoulder.  “Corporal, finish up with Airman Kliner, I’ll be back in a few minutes.  Put in a call to the CIC if you need more help down here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“This way.”  Hernandez eyes me momentarily before executing an about face.

Scooping up Daniel, I’m two steps behind the doc, trailing in his wake as he strides quickly down the aisle between the beds and out through the swinging doors. 

“Franks, we need a full skeletal series, pay particular attention to the right side, and I want a full skull series as well.  Colonel O’Neill is going to stay with the patient.  Colonel,” Hernandez hands me a gown.  “You’ll need to get him changed into this.  In the meantime, I’ll see if I can’t find you some scrubs for when we’re done here.  I don’t know that we’ve got anything even close to small enough for him, sir.”

“We’ll make do.  Thanks, Doc.”

Hernandez nods, does another by-the-book about face and disappears, leaving me to get Daniel changed. 

All the fight’s gone out of him.  He’s quiescent as I unbutton the jacket, grinding my teeth as I get a good look at his right side.  For the first time he responds to pain as my fingers graze a wicked bump hidden under that mop of hair, just above his ear. 

He jerks away, clamping his teeth together on a hiss. 

The bruising extends from his neck, clear down the back of his thigh on the right side.  I can only assume he must have hit the wall as an adult.  If he’d hit at this size, with the force this bruising indicates, it probably would have killed him.

Miraculously, x-rays indicate only a couple of cracked ribs.  Nothing’s broken. 

By the time we’re done though, he’s trembling like a leaf in hurricane force winds.  An SF brings scrubs and one of the blankets they keep specially warmed for shock patients. 

I tuck the blanket around him as he curls up, on his left side, on the x-ray table to watch me as I make a couple of alterations to the scrubs. 

My handy dandy Swiss Army knife slices through the thin material easily as I downsize the pants, lengthwise anyway, not much we can do about the waist, though thankfully they all have drawstrings. 

The top is a much better fit, sized for a small woman instead of the typical one-size-fits-all-large the military provides.  Probably from one of the nurses.  It still hangs to his knees, the short sleeves reaching past his elbows. 

I get him dressed, snug him back in the blanket, and pick him up again. 

Hopefully Davis has found us transport by now. 

I need to make another stop in the infirmary for drugs.  I imagine the shock has probably worn off by now and if he isn’t already, shortly, Daniel’s going to be very uncomfortable.

I’m purposefully not holding him tight and he shifts a little in my arms.  Naturally, I react by cinching my grip and he grunts in pain. 

“Sorry, buddy.” 

I stop for a moment, think this through, and rearrange him so he can lay his head on my shoulder, one arm under his miniature blanketed ass, the other hand lightly pressing the blanket to his shoulders. 

“Better?” 

I assume his sigh is agreement of some sort.  Better at least, even if it’s not great.  He’s definitely beginning to feel those aches and pains.

We sally forth into the corridors, coming up with Major Davis who’s standing just inside the infirmary doors, looking for us I presume.

“We ready, Major?”

“Yes, sir.  General Hastings has cleared the transport.  The plane’s sitting on the runway waiting for us.”

“Grab his backpack, would you.  I need to get some pain meds from the doc and we’re on our way.”

“Injuries, sir?”

“Couple of cracked ribs, slight concussion, and some really bad contusions.  Thankfully, nothing serious.”

Doctor Hernandez is already headed our way.  He hands me a plastic bottle of pills.

“I don’t have this in a smaller dose, so give him half-a-one every three or four hours.  It may very well put him to sleep, but it will alleviate the discomfort.  Make sure he sees his own pediatrician when you get home, sir.  And keep a close eye on him for the next few hours.  Contusions like that can easily throw a clot.  I’ve put some baby aspirin in too.  You should give him one of those about every three hours as well.  Frankly I’m not thrilled with the idea of your having him in the air for the next six or seven hours . . .” he trails off, sighs, and wipes a hand over his face. 

I realize suddenly he’s exhausted; I’ve seen that look on Frasier’s face a time or three. 

“I understand there’s some rush to get him out of the country though.  Be sure and watch him closely, sir,” he repeats with emphasis, just in case I’m too dense to get it.

Oh, I get it, all right.  I have the advantage of having known Daniel for going on eight years now. I’ve got first hand experience with his ability to draw trouble to him like a universal magnet. 

The doc waves over an SF. 

“Get Colonel O’Neill one of those shrink wrapped cases of bottled water.  If you can get him to drink, sir, it will really help to keep him hydrated.”

I nod and jerk my head toward Davis as the SF tries to hand me the water.  “Thanks.  I’ll make sure he drinks.”

Davis grabs it.  I see he’s also got Daniel’s backpack and we’re good to go.

“Any other instructions, Doc?”

Hernandez shakes his head.

“Best I can do for you, sir, under the circumstances.”

Daniel will have that word down pat by the time we’re done with this. 

“Yeah.  Give my regards to the General here, and thanks again for your help.”

“Yes, sir.” 

Hernandez snaps a jazzy salute I return with a nod, since both hands are occupied at the moment. 

He must have been some C.O.’s dream come true in basic training.

“Major, I think we’re ready.  Daniel?  You ready to get out of here?”

“I want to go home,” he says plaintively. 

I think on some level he already knows he’s not going home ever again.

“Yeah, I know you do, buddy.  We’re working on it.” 

This time I follow Major Davis down the corridors of this Quonset hut maze, stepping from the dark, cool interior into the bright, hot sunshine that is Honduras in early May. 

Daniel tenses in my arms, turning his face into my neck.  Even a slight concussion leaves you pretty light sensitive, this dazzling glare probably hurts.

I fish for my sunglasses, trying to shift him as painlessly as possible. 

“How far, Major?”

Davis indicates a Jeep idling on the tarmac.  “This gentleman has been assigned to take us to the airfield, sir.”

“All aboard, Colonel?” the airman asks, as Davis climbs into the back seat and I settle Daniel and myself in the front passenger seat. 

“Yes, Sergeant.  Thanks for the ride.”

“No problem, sir; part of the job.” 

He delivers us to the bottom of the metal staircase rolled up to the belly of the C-140.

I haven’t seen the inside one of these babies since . . . oh, let’s see, sometime near the beginning of the Gulf War. 

No, wait, that’s not true.  We flew a C-140 out of Moscow on that mission to shut down the locked Russian Stargate. 

Yep, forgot that.  They’re definitely not equipped for passenger comfort.

I make Daniel a nest of blankets on the floor, coax him to swallow half a pill and enough water that I’m satisfied for the moment, then settle beside him with my back to the wall of jump seats. 

Eyes closed, he pats my knee.  

I take his hand and rub between his thumb and forefinger in hopes of soothing the headache I can see building behind his squinched eyes. 

He sighs once, deeply, and within just a few minutes the miniature fingers wrapped around my hand relax.

I don’t let go; I need the connection as much as he does.

I close my eyes and absorb the teeth rattling vibrations of the hull as we start to taxi down the runway, hear Daniel’s breathing hitch as we nose into the air, and look down into wide, frightened eyes. 

I can see his lips move and can guess he’s asking again if we’re taking him home, but there’s too much noise to hear as this old bucket of bolts roars into the sky on a wing and a prayer.   

Yes, Daniel, we’re going home. 

Just not to the home you remember.

 

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