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Operation Sandbox by iiiionly

                                                      

“Daniel?”  I close the newspaper, splash the water to get his attention and straighten up from my seat on the closed toilet.  “Earth to Daniel?”  I splash again, a little more forcefully.

The blue eyes pop open and he sits up abruptly, splashing bubbles and water over the side of the tub like a small tsunami, sputtering as he tries to rub stinging bubble bath from his eyes.

“Sorry, bud.”  I grab a washcloth, wet it in the sink, and hand it to him.

It’s bath time in the O’Neill/Jackson household.  The nightly routine involves five minutes of my prompting as he bathes - the usual parental stuff -  wash behind your ears; yes, you have to use soap on your face; yes, you have to wash your private parts every day; don’t eat the soap, Daniel, it’s supposed to smell good . . . I told you not to eat it, it’s not supposed to taste good. 

And then twenty minutes of play time.  That can involve anything from building bubble replicas of the Giza plateau - which is really difficult if you don’t buy expensive bubble bath since the bubbles tend to burst before the Great Pyramid is totally completed - to mock battles that tend to leave the bathroom floor, fixtures, and rug sopping wet.

Tonight he was doing his floating thing.  He tells me he learned it from watching the crocodiles in the Nile, the way they lay on the water like floating logs.  His adaptation involves lying submerged on his back with just his nose out of the water so all the hurly burly sounds he’s had to get used to here disappear and he can call back the sights and sounds of Egypt and the Nile, at least in memory. 

Daniel is homesick. 

He misses the hot, dry climate, the bazaars, the wide open spaces of the desert, the bright canopy of stars he’s used to seeing on the digs.  He feels hemmed in here, claustrophobic in this densely forested part of the world where mountains form the horizon every way you look and our slice of sky is dimmed by the artificial lights of Colorado Springs.  He’s not even impressed with the view from the top of Cheyenne Mountain at night, it can’t begin to compare with his desert canvas.

I’ll have to give him that.  There’s nothing like the panoramic canvas of a desert sky, especially during a meteor shower.

I think, though, next to missing his parents, he misses digging the most.  I can’t do anything about missing his parents, but I can do something about the digging.  And that’s where Operation Sandbox comes in.

“Ready to get out?”

“Okay.” 

He stands up streaming water likes it’s his natural element.  You’d think this kid was a merman the way he’s taken to water.  Running water and tub baths are a luxury he never had the opportunity to get used to.  Oh, he bathed in a tub all right, a tin tub, next to a fire if he was lucky, with heated water if he was extra lucky.  And washed dishes in the same tub two or three times a day, so the dishwasher is like a magic box as far as he’s concerned.

I hand him a towel.

He scrubs his face, swipes at his hair, then wraps the towel around his shoulders, holding it with one hand as he gingerly steps over the tub surround onto the rug.  He stands, towel now gripped in both hands, huddled on the rug, looking at me and shivering.   

“You gonna dry off tonight?  Or are you planning to get into your pajamas all wet like that?”

“Jack?”

Uh oh.  That tone of voice always prefaces something uncomfortable for one of us; usually me. 

“What?” I ask briskly, taking the hint and snagging two fingers in the edge of the towel, pulling him between my knees.

“Do I have to have a birthday tomorrow?”  His voice is muffled as I currently have the towel over his head, drying his hair.

Of their own volition, my hands still. 

“Uhm – it’s kind of hard not to have a birthday, Daniel.  They come whether we want them to or not.  I suppose we don’t have to celebrate it.”  I lower the towel, turn him around so we’re face to face again, and wrap the towel back around his waist.  “Why do you ask?”

He shrugs, sliding his fingers down inside the towel, leaving his thumbs cocked over the edges.  “I don’t think I want to have a birthday this year.”

“No birthday at all?  You got a plan?”

“Plan?” he parrots, snaking an arm around my neck as I scoop him up and deposit him in front of the kid-sized dresser.  Sara’s lent it to us . . . out of Charlie’s room. 

“You know, a plan.  Like are you planning to keep telling people you’re six for another year and then next year you’ll be eight?  Skip seven all together?  Or are you going to stay six and turn seven next year?”

“Oh.”  

He rummages through the drawer, pulls out underwear and socks, drops his towel and his ass to the floor and pulls on these items of clothing before going to drag his pajamas out from under his pillow.  He sits down on the side of the bed to pull on the bottoms, baby teeth nibbling at his lip. 

“Well, they’re really the same thing aren’t they?”

“I guess the more important question would be why don’t you want to have a birthday, Daniel?” 

I sit down on the foot of the bed, plant my feet and lean forward, elbows on my knees.

“Just don’t,” he says, voice muffled again as he slides the pajama top over his head.

Daniel is very articulate, especially for a six-year-old.  When he isn’t being articulate, there’s always a reason.

We’ve talked about this birthday thing on and off for the last three weeks.  While I’m not especially known for my smarts like Carter and Daniel, I do occasionally manage to rub two thoughts together, or whatever the hell that cliché is. 

Anyway, I think especially for this birthday, Daniel needs to be in charge. 

In the normal course of events he would be turning forty this year, and maybe next year he’ll be turning forty-one, if Carter or any of our so-called allies can figure out a way to reverse this.  Then again, maybe he may be turning eight.

Tomorrow he’s turning seven - for the second time around.  So, it occurred to me despite the fact Daniel’s doing seven again on his Karmic wheel-of-fortune, this birthday still involves a significant number of firsts: its the first birthday without his parents, this time around; his first birthday since he was downsized by the magic box everybody’s referring to as the Fountain of Youth – there will be no fountains at this birthday party tomorrow, nor any magic boxes, though I hope there will be plenty of magic; the first birthday in the land of his heritage, if not the land of his birth, this time around; the first birthday of this new life he’s just beginning to learn to negotiate as an adolescent - for the second time around.

That’s a lot of firsts for a little guy, is it really any wonder he’s thinking maybe he should just skip this one? 

“Think we should cancel the party?”

He’s on his knees in front of the bookshelf.  He turns his head, studies me over his shoulder for a second, then returns to the task at hand - choosing a book. 

“I think if we cancel the party, people will be disappointed.”  His finger hovers over the spine of a Golden Book, touches it briefly, then moves on. 

How many times have I watched Daniel do this in his office?  Admittedly, he’s usually hurriedly trying to figure out what books he might need on our next trip through the Gate, but this is so familiar it’s painful.

“Would you be disappointed?” 

He stills for a moment, hands on his knees, chin dropped to his chest.  “I don’t know,” he says very softly.

“If you don’t want to do this, it’s okay.  How ‘bout this for an option?  Let’s have a party on Saturday instead of tomorrow.  We’ll call it an un-birthday party.  Would you rather do that?”

He hasn’t moved a muscle, which tells me he’s probably fighting tears for all he’s worth.  I know eventually he’ll let me in, but this is private now, too intense to share. 

This too is so reminiscent of adult Daniel, it hurts. 

I wait.  It’s the only thing I can do.

Instead of pulling out a book he eventually pushes up off the floor, plods back over to the bed and climbs into my lap. 

“I miss them so much,” he says, knuckling at tears he doesn’t want to shed.  “I don’t want to have a birthday without my mom and dad.”

I’ve held a grieving thirty-something Daniel - when he lost Sha’re – both times.  I’ve held a terrified, lost Daniel - when he mislaid his sanity in the sarcophagus on Shyla’s planet.  The only difference now is he’s at least hundred pounds lighter and about three feet shorter. 

He’s still our Daniel.

So I hold . . . and rock . . . and rock . . . and hold . . . and soothe as best I can without empty words or promises, until he’s calm again and that ring-finger, comfort-chewing thing is happening.  He’s usually ready to talk by the time the finger goes in the mouth.

“So, do you think having a party on Saturday would be better?  I have to tell you, I know a lot of people have put a lot of effort into choosing presents for you, so ya know, it really wouldn’t be fair not to let them bring presents.”

“Presents?” he repeats, in a rather desultory voice.

“Though I suppose we could tell them to save them for Christmas, or maybe next year.”

“It’s only five months ‘til Christmas,” he offers, as if in agreement.

“You want to wait that long to open presents?”

I can’t see, but I can imagine the little grimace he gets when he’s thinking something over.  And he is giving this serious thought, which just reiterates how deeply the loss of his parents has affected him.

“I don’t think so.”  He sits up and leans back to look up at me.  “Stop that, your eyes will stick that way,” he laughs, smacking a tiny hand at my chest when I cross my eyes and look down my nose at him.

I’ve accomplished what I intended, so I blink, and lean back against the headboard. 

“So then?  Are we having this party tomorrow, or Saturday?”

“Tomorrow’s good,” he says, and the smile only droops a little.  “It would be inconvenient to try and change everything around at the last minute.”

“You’re sure?  ‘Cause inconvenient or not, we all want this to be a good day for you.”

Where the hell did a six-year-old learn a word like inconvenient?  Want to bet he can use it correctly in several languages?

“Is it okay to be sad, maybe just a little bit, even on a good day?”

“You betcha.” I give him a squeeze.  Can’t help it, ya gotta love this kid.  “It’s perfectly acceptable to be a little bit sad, even on a good day.” 

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“What have you been doing in the garage?”

“If I tell you,” I tickle him lightly, “I’ll have to shoot you.”

Daniel giggles.  “It’s a secret?”

“Well, it won’t be if I tell you.”  I increase the pressure just enough to make him writhe a little.

He wriggles off my lap, arms clamped to his sides, giggling madly now, and curls into a ball.  So I latch onto a squirming foot and tickle the bottom of it. 

He’s huffing and panting and pulling on his foot, but not hard enough to want to get away; however, when he howls, “Stop, Jack!” I stop immediately. 

It’s one of the rules.  If someone says stop, it stops immediately whether they mean it or not. 

I pull him, by a foot, back across the bed, scoop him up again and this time deposit him under the covers. 

“If we’re going to read, I get to pick the book now.”

“Okay,” he agrees, happily snuggling down into the pillow.  “Jack, that’s a baby book,” he huffs, when I pull a Golden Book off the shelf.

“So?  I still like them.  And so do you.”

He rolls his eyes at me, but doesn’t argue further.  The finger sneaks back into his mouth as he scoots around so he can read along. 

“Donald Duck’s Best Birthday Ever.”  He looks up at me with that heart-stopping smile he occasionally lets sneak out.  “Is the secret in the garage for me?”

“That would be telling.” 

And those tactics are so not fair, young man. 

We laugh our way through the story:  commiserate with Daisy when she can’t keep nosy Donald out of the way long enough to complete the surprise party arrangements; cheer loudly when Goofy finally hits the bull’s eye and dunks Mickey; and roll on the bed when Pluto wants to eat Miss Minnie’s flowered hat instead of birthday cake.

I slide the book back into the bookcase, turn the lamp on top of the dresser to low, and sit back down on the edge of the bed.  We haven’t even bothered to try sleeping with the lights out yet.

“Thank you, Jack.”

“For what?  Reading the story?”

“I know you’re trying to make this a good birthday for me.” 

There are times when I could swear he’s channeling adult Daniel.  I mean really, what six-year-old is going to come out with a statement like that?  What six-year-old, for that matter, has the reasoning skills to figure that out?  And how the hell am I supposed to respond?

“Hey . . . I love you.”

The eyes pop wide. “You do?”  He claps a hand over his mouth in surprise.

 I have to smile.  “Of course I do.”

I bend an elbow, lean down to kiss him goodnight, and a small arm wraps around my neck, pulling me further down.  He hugs tight for a second, cheek to cheek, then lets go and pats my cheek lightly, again with the heart stopping smile.

And now he’s channeling Charlie for God’s sake!

“Sweet dreams, Sport.  Think about all those presents you’re gonna get tomorrow.”

“Okay,” he lets me snug the covers up around his neck.  “Night, Jack.”

“Goodnight, Daniel.” 

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

He shrugs, “Just – thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  Goodnight again.” 

“Nite, Jack.”
  
*          *          *

 

Daniel’s running on fumes, but happy as a lark. 

He’s had his introspective moments.  He climbed into Carter’s lap once and let her hold him for quite awhile while he just watched.  But he’s been running around like a wild thing since he got down.

Teal’c, Siler, Davis, (our Gate tech Davis, not Major Davis) Cassie, Daniel, Tessa, Kayla and George are all involved in a hybrid hide and seek/water gun battle game.  Which means there’s lots of sneaking around corners and shrieking when someone gets caught and blasted.  Daniel’s soaked, as is Cassie, but so is Teal’c.  Siler, Davis, and Cassie are holed up together behind a barricade, while Teal’c and Hammond are leading the rest of the forces in a sneak attack from behind the fence. 

Carter and the doc have taken a breather; they’re watching the action from the Adirondack chairs on the deck, chatting lazily and variously booing, cat calling, or yelling encouragement depending on which side Daniel is on at the moment.

Half a dozen other SGC personnel are lounged around the yard as well and there’s a large card game going on in the family room.

“Hey, you guys!” I holler from my spot at the grill.  “You need to wind it down.  If we don’t do presents soon, it’s going be too dark!”

Carter sits up immediately, grinning.  “Oh goody!”  She’s practically rubbing her hands together. 

Although I’ve been nominally in charge of this covert op, partly because it was originally my idea and partly because it’s going in my back yard, Carter’s really been the brainchild behind it.

Daniel’s big present, from the rest of SG-1, is a sandbox. 

But this isn’t just any sandbox.  It’s a budding archeologist’s dream sandbox.  My original idea was to build a portable sandbox that could be moved between the garage and the backyard so he could use it all year round.  However, the minute Carter heard the word sandbox, it turned into an HGTV Monster House project.

She can’t wait to open presents.  I think she’s more excited about this than Daniel.

There is a last flurry of activity, followed by shouts of triumph, maniacal laughter, and shrieks of threatened revenge next time around, before the gang troops up on the deck, shedding bazookas and protective eye gear.  All courtesy of General Hammond and his granddaughters.  Their birthday present to Daniel was to outfit the entire crowd with water guns and sports glasses. 

It’s been the hit of the party so far.

Carter’s sure her sandbox is going to top it.  I’m pretty sure she’s right.  At least once Daniel figures out what’s in there.

I stick my head back inside to announce presents to the inside contingent who all come streaming out. 

“Food’s ready too, grab a plate and eat while Daniel opens.”

The pile of presents is almost a tall as Daniel.  He stands looking at them for several long seconds, before looking over at me in wonder.

Carter swoops down to drop a kiss on top of his head. 

“Yes, Daniel, they are all for you.”  She drops down on the deck and pulls him back into her lap.  “Come on, you aren’t going to get to the good stuff before dark if you take too long to open these.”  She hands him the closest present, then leans around to watch him open it.

“Who taught this kid how to open presents?” Ferretti hollers, hauling out a knife that looks like it belonged to Crocodile Dundee.  “Here Major, give him this.”

“Not while he’s in my lap, Major.”  But Carter does take pity on the crowd and tears a little bit of the paper to give him a head start.  “You don’t have to save the wrapping, Daniel, okay?”

Among the loot he gets, which is enough to fill at least two closets, are a couple of gifts I know Daniel will cherish for the rest of his life.  One is an exquisite child-sized set of archeological tools, handmade by a master craftsman and wood burned with Daniel’s initials.  Sergeant Siler, our jack-of-all-trades at Stargate Command, can turn his hand to just about anything.  The fact these were made in the SGC woodshop will one day make them that much more valuable to Daniel. 

The other is Janet’s gift.  I can’t begin to imagine when she ever found the time, although since Daniel’s no longer gating with us regularly we spend a lot less time in the infirmary.  She made him a quilt.  In the middle of it is a large, hand-embroidered pyramid.  On either side of the pyramid is a matched pair of embroidered golden sphinxes.  And proportionately in the background are the two lesser pyramids in the shadow of the great pyramid. 

Its museum quality art; stunningly beautiful, and it breathes Egypt.  This will have to go on the wall in his room. 

Daniel just stares at it, stroking it over and over, until Carter turns his attention to the last present. 

The honkin’ big one in the yard. 

He wandered around it, touched it in a few places, but never made a move to try and peek when we first came out this afternoon. 

We went out to breakfast this morning so Carter, Teal’c, Siler and their crew could move it out of the garage into the back yard.  It’s currently covered in wrapping paper sporting little green aliens in space ships, with large blue bows tossed into the middle of each of the boxes.  They literally wrapped each box as they set the thing up. 

Moving this thing is going take a U-Haul every winter and spring; just from the back yard to the garage and vice versa! 

This sandbox is built in four tiers, with a series of steps built into the three lower tiers.  Carter designed the tiers to flow into each other, with the 4th tier being the lowest and wrapping from the left front corner of the 1st tier, to the middle of the front of the 3rd tier.  The 1st tier is about three feet high, just a little shorter than Daniel is tall.  The 2nd is two feet deep, the 3rd, a foot and a half, and the 4th is twelve inches deep. 

As if the sandbox itself weren’t a work of art, Teal’c decided he needed to get in on the act too and did a whole bunch of research on the Jackson display at the New York Museum of Art. 

So, buried at the bottom of these tiers of sandbox are variously: an entire scale model of the burial chamber, yes, the one that crushed his parents. I’m hoping since he didn’t see it this time around, by the time he digs it up, the trauma of knowing will have faded.  A miniature sarcophagus, minus the Goa’uld, funerary statues of every shape and size imaginable, platters, goblets, urns, shields, there’s even a miniature chariot, authentic down to the spoke-wheels, Teal’c built.  There are tiny strings of beads, pots for unguents and cosmetics, an itty bitty antiqued mirror, and at least two feather fans.  Everything an ancient Egyptian would need to descend into the underworld with the proper accouterments.

And that’s just the top tier.  The 3rd tier has an entire village buried under its sand, complete with the village well. Teal’c wanted to build an aqueduct and a communal bath, but we convinced him that was the Romans.  In the 2nd tier, they built a scale model of a pyramid in progress, along with all the machinery and tools that would have been used to build the pyramid, as well as the construction materials to build it.  He’ll be digging up tiny, mortar bricks until he’s ninety.  The lowest tier has a bunch of authentic artifacts buried in it.  Things we took out of Daniel’s office, after I cleared it with his esteemed colleagues.  I didn’t want anything buried in there that could be further harmed by exposure to the elements.

Not that Carter would let this sandbox be exposed to the elements.  She designed covers for each the tiers that can be easily attached or detached.  Not necessarily by a seven-year-old, but heck, after the hours and hours and hours she and Teal’c put in on this project, I can uncover and cover the thing for awhile. 

Oh, you’re wondering what I did for this project, besides foot the majority of the bill?  All the miniature pottery type things buried in there came off the wheel that took up residence at the SGC during a certain still unmentionable time loop.  Since taking up pottery I’ve learned a few things about modeling clay as well.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to work with something the size of the tip of your little finger?

Daniel’s walking around it again, trying to figure out where to start. Teal’c scoops him up and puts him down, feet first, through the paper in the top tier.  For a moment, Daniel just looks chagrined, then with encouragement from the crowd, bends over to peer under the paper. 

I never thought of it, but I sure hope somebody’s videoing this.  When he looks up again - still bent double – those saucers he turned on me down in the infirmary in the Honduras’s?  Not even close.  There’s no face left when Daniel looks up now.   He’s all eyes. 

Don’t ask me how and I’ll probably forget to ask how by the time this is over, but they managed to get Siler’s set of tools under the wrapping paper.

Oh, yeah, got my very own MasterCard moment here.

The look on his face is priceless.

He rips off the paper on the top tier, surveys the crowd, spots Tessa, Kayla and Cassie hanging together and waves them down. 

“Come help!” he hollers, gingerly poking his tennis-shoed foot through the next layer of paper. 

The girls tumble off the deck and into the sandbox as well, ripping and tearing with glee.  Daniel hops down to the first tier and passes out shovels, taking up the small scree pan, and a shovel and pail.  Tessa kneels primly beside him to watch what he’s doing and he soon has her carrying buckets of sand to and fro to the dump site, now located in the third tier.  It’s not long before a squeal of pure delight rends the air.

Carter, sitting on the edge of the sandbox, hands Daniel a brush.  She knows the routine; she’s watched him do this several hundred times at least, on some Goa’uld forsaken planet out in space. 

Daniel looks up, sees it’s Sam who’s thoughtfully provided just the tool he needs and his face splits with a wide grin.  Without warning he launches himself at her as only a six-year-old – apologies – seven-year-old can do.

She catches him with an ooomph and a matching grin of her own.

He hugs her hard, pulls back and says, “This is what you and Jack and Teal’c have been working on in the garage, isn’t it?”

“Yes, this is what we’ve been working on.  We made it so it can be moved back into the garage in the fall when it gets cold again, so you’ll be able to play in it all year round.  So, you like it?”

“I love it,” he shouts ecstatically. “You made it so I can practice being an archeologist?”

“Actually we made it just so you could have fun; you don’t have to practice anything.  You’re already an archeologist, Daniel.”  She gives him a smacking kiss on the cheek, which he enthusiastically returns.  “And just so you know, although this sandbox is a present from the Colonel, Teal’c, and me, lots of other people were involved in putting it together for you.”  She looks up, sweeping the crowd visually.  “In fact, I think everybody here had a hand either in creating this, or making something that went into it.”

For a moment he looks up at the crowded deck, then ducks his head shyly and buries his face in Carter’s neck.  She jostles him lightly and he pulls back enough to whisper something in her ear, before hiding his face again.

Grinning, Carter looks over at us.  “Daniel says to tell you all thank you.”  Her grin turns slightly puzzled, then panicked as she looks to me.

Must be tears.  I’m not interfering.  They won’t last long, and hey, it’s her turn to be baptized for a change.

The girls all gather round to pet and comfort.  Cassie is eighteen and at the Academy.  She and Daniel will probably work together someday in the Stargate program, if he decides to stick with the SGC this time around.  Who knows, he may be sick of the Gate by the time he’s grown again and go back to archeology.  Though I suspect if he goes back to archeology, it will be off-world some where.  Tessa is fourteen going on thirty-three and Kayla is twelve. 

It’s not long before they coax him back into the sandbox and he’s happily using the brush Carter handed him, carefully whisking sand away from around the small vase he uncovered.

Teal’c takes the cake to him in the sandbox, where he pauses briefly to blow out the candles, then gets right back down to the serious business of unearthing that vase.  Its half way out already and he’s determined to have it out before he’s done for the night.  We’ll put it in a place of honor on top of the dresser.  Probably have to add another set of shelves in there shortly to display all his finds.

By the time the party debris is cleared away, the back yard returned to some semblance of order and the sandbox covered, it’s nearly ten o’clock. 

Long past bedtime for my kiddo. 

Got to have a bath.  He’s coated in sand from head to toe, not to mention cake and any other detritus that happened to stick to him.  He’s also asleep on Teal’c’s shoulder. 

I wasn’t going to pick him up.

So Teal’c gets assigned to bath duties while Carter and I tackle the kitchen and I’m wondering if Daniel will let Teal’c perform those ablutions.

When half an hour later I still haven’t heard any raised voices and the kitchen and the rest of the house have been returned to their usual pristine condition - sue me, I like a clean house - I go in search of the oldest and youngest members of SG-1.

Carter trails along, so we both get the benefit of another MasterCard moment.

Teal’c is half sprawled on Daniel’s bed, back against the headboard, one foot propped against the footboard, the other braced on the floor.  A freshly bathed, newly-minted, seven-year-old Daniel is sprawled across Teal’c’s chest, ring finger in his mouth, occasionally busily chewing, but for the most part snuffling away - this incarnation of Daniel doesn’t snore so much as snuffle. 

Priceless. 

I snap a mental photo, store it on my very own brand of indelible Kodak paper and download it to the place where I’m archiving little Daniel pictures. 

Carter bends over to kiss Daniel and her hair tickles Teal’c awake. 

Although he is awake instantly, he doesn’t move a muscle, not even a flinch of the arm anchoring the Littlest Ancient against him.  Carter smiles and plants a kiss on Teal’c’s too and is rewarded with a slight smile from the Jaffa.

“Night Teal’c, I’m gonna go home.  Thanks for all your help on the sandbox,” she whispers, caressing the smooth, childish cheek with just a finger.  Daniel stirs a little at her touch, but doesn’t wake.

“Goodnight, Majorcarter.  It was my honor to participate in Operation Sandbox.  I believe Danieljackson will gain many hours of pleasure from pursing his passion in the beautiful arena you have provided for him.”

“I think so, too, but I couldn’t have done it without your help, Teal’c, and you too, sir.  It was a ball.  I really enjoyed getting to build something purely for the fun of it.  And seeing Daniel’s excitement made every second worthwhile.”

“You did good, Major.  Real good.”

“Thank you, sir.  I think we all did good.  We’re going to have a hard time not spoiling him.”

“Ya think?”  I chuckle.  “He’s had a really solid start in life, Carter.  I doubt it will be any hardship raising Daniel Jackson, look how he turned out despite all those years of foster homes the last time around.  Surely we can’t do any worse by him?”

“I’m not giving up on finding a way to reverse this, sir.”

I can do Teal’c too.  “Indeed?”

Teal’c lifts a mobile eyebrow and rumbles softly, with his usual keen insight, “No one is implying you should Majorcarter, merely that if we cannot return Danieljackson to his former state, he will not suffer from lack of love, is that not so, O’Neill?”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Thank you, Teal’c.  You sleeping here with Daniel tonight or you want to put him to bed?”

“I believe if my speaking did not wake him up, then moving will not either.” 

So saying, Teal’c sits up slowly, turns with his small burden, and in one smooth, economic motion transfers the small, pliant body from his chest to under the covers.  Daniel doesn’t miss a snuffle. 

None of us have ever been the kind of sappy adults that coo over babies, but I have to tell you, there’s a collective sigh as our trio turns to leave the room and I catch both Carter and Teal’c looking over their shoulders too. 

We exchange semi-guilty glances, grin sheepishly and part company with the assurance just down the hall our Littlest Ancient is sleeping soundly, probably dreaming of the all artifacts he’s going to discover in the course of his lifetime. 

I did a little groundwork before the party this afternoon.  I didn’t want anybody prompting Daniel to make birthday wishes.  There was no need to remind him today wishes don’t always come true. 

So tonight, as I stand in my door watching Teal’c and Carter pull out of the driveway, listening as the sound of Carter’s little foreign job dies away, I look up, pick the first star I see and make a wish for Daniel . . . for a long and prosperous life, filled with the happiness he missed the first time around.

I’m fully aware wishes don’t always come true, but it never hurts to keep trying.

Does it?

~*~

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