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One Day at a Time by iiiionly

 

 

“Hey, sir.”  Carter thumps a bag of groceries down on the counter in the kitchen.  “Where’s Daniel?  I didn’t see him in the sandbox.”

“Thought we agreed to drop the sir around here, Carter.  He’s asleep in the living room.”

She swirls around to look at me, both eyebrows shooting to the hairline.  “Is he okay?”

“I think so.”  I pour a bag of chocolate chips into the batter.  “If he doesn’t get up again pretty soon, I figured I’d wake him up.” 

To tell the truth, I am a little worried.  Frasier keeps telling me it’s perfectly normal, he’s going to sleep a lot for awhile longer.  She says it’s part of the body’s natural healing process, especially in little kids. We are, after all, only three days post hospital stay and only nine days post appendicitis. 

I’m thinking I must have been getting Daniel’s drugs by osmosis or something.  There is no earthly way I could have pulled off this BBQ this afternoon, even with Carter and Teal’c’s help.  It’s a damn good thing Athelia jumped in when I opened my big mouth.

“Hoping the smell of cookies will lure him from sleep?”  Carter asks with a grin.  “You’re going to an awful lot of trouble, don’t you think, just to wake him up?”

“I figured we needed to contribute something for this shindig this afternoon.  Kills two birds with one stone.” I start banging cupboard doors in search of cookie sheets.  “What happened to Teal’c?” 
           
“He’s burying a couple of new things in the sandbox for Daniel, those little pots from P8X-246.”

“He managed to smuggle some out?” 

Nope, not in that cupboard.  Or the next one, or the next one.

Carter, who’s resumed putting groceries in the fridge, looks over her shoulder at me.  “He bartered for them, sir.”

I give her the hairy eyeball; it’s a look I’ve learned from Daniel.  “Drop the sir, Carter and that’s an order.  What are you shoving in my refrigerator?” 

I know the pans aren’t over the sink, maybe above the fridge?

“Orange juice, milk, some of that tahini Daniel likes, and some fruit.  Problem?”

“Just wondering why you’re filling up my fridge?”

“Well, we’ve been eating here quite a bit lately, seems only fair we contribute . . . Colonel.”

Ha!  Found them. 

“Okay, but you know it’s not necessary, right?”

They make a lot of noise as I dump them on the counter. 

“And Carter, can we come up with an acceptable alternative to sir, or Colonel?”
           
“I don’t think so, sir.  O’Neill just doesn’t sound right and I can’t get my tongue around . . . Jack . . . sir.  I think it would be best if we left it at Colonel.  And, yes, we know it’s not necessary.”

I sigh and shrug.  “Fine, I’m not going to argue about it, but Jack’s fine, Major.”

“How often do you call me Sam?”

“More often than you call me Jack,” I smirk at her, pulling out the flatware drawer to find a soup spoon to measure out cookie dough.

“Want me to do that?”

“No, but you can help if you want.  Here,” I shove a cookie sheet across the counter and plunk the bowl of dough down between us.  “Get your own spoon.”

“You think he’s ready for this afternoon?”

“Honestly?  I wish I hadn’t jumped in and offered to do this quite so soon.  I’m thinking if Napoleon II gets wind of this, I’m going to be in deep shit.”

“Who’s going to tell her?”

“Daniel.  When she asks for a report on what he’s been doing.  We see her again on Monday, post check-up kind of thing.”

“Tell him not to tell her.”

“And exactly what do you think I’m teaching him by telling him to lie to her?”

“How bad do you want to stay out of trouble?”

“Considering it’s Mallek . . .” I trail off

I hear stirring in the living room about the time the cookies start to smell.  Daniel wanders up the steps, finger in his mouth, rubbing the side of his head. 

“Hi, Sam.  When did you get here?” he wants to know, around the finger.  He sniffs appreciatively as he wraps an arm around my leg and leans against me.  “How come you didn’t wake me up?” 

We’re back to ‘I need an adult constantly in touching range’.  Frasier says that’s not unusual either. 

“Is Teal’c here too?

“Yep.”  Carter swoops down to kiss him on the nose.  “Hey, you feeling okay?” 
           
“I’m fine.”

I cock an eyebrow at her.  “See what I mean?  I don’t need to be reinforcing that.”

“Still tired?”  Carter asks, handing him a spatula.  “As soon as the cookies cool a little you can take them off the pan, okay?”

He frowns and returns the spatula.  “I don’t want to.”

“Okay,” Carter takes it back and we exchange surprised looks over his head.

“Want some lunch, Sport?”  A little more worried here.  “Janet and Cassie are coming aren’t they?” 

“They’re on their way.”

“How about some macaroni?” 

It’s the current comfort food of choice.  Macaroni and cheese, who’d have thought?

He shakes his head.  “Not hungry.”

We did eat a late breakfast this morning and while he’s eating better than before this whole appendicitis thing, he still hasn’t gotten his appetite back. 

“How about some of that chocolate stuff?” 

Doc’s been pushing Ensure, it’s loaded with calories and fortified with all those vitamins and minerals he’s not getting since he’s not eating.

He shakes his head again.  “Hey, Jack?”  The finger comes out of his mouth and he pulls back to look up at me, then tugs my hand and stretches up on tiptoe.  He cups a hand around the side of his mouth as I bend down so he can whisper in my ear.  “Can we give Sam her flowers now?”

“Sure, if you want.”

Ahhh, now we’ve got some animation.  The eyes are sparkling and a flush of color brightens his cheeks.  He’s been pale and subdued for so long I almost lost track of my hyperactive, always-in-overdrive kid.  We’ve spent a lot of time on the sofa or in the recliner over the past three days, watching movies, or TV, sometimes reading, sometimes just snuggling while we both slept. 

I’m about slept out.  Never imagined that would happen in this job.  We’re always sleep deprived.  Not that there is any day or night down in the bowels of the Mountain, but Gate travel tends to wreak havoc on your internal time clock. 

It suited our adult Daniel to a tee; his circadian rhythms were so out of whack it wasn’t even funny.

“Can I go get them?”

“Need help?”

“Huh uh.”  He shakes his head, lets go of my leg, and trots out of the kitchen, face bright with anticipation.   “Sam, you have to go back outside,” he informs her over his shoulder.  “Go sit on the deck.”

She looks at me and I shrug. 

“I just like to think I’m in charge,” I offer genially, motioning her out the sliding glass doors.  “This won’t take long.”

I see Teal’c join her on the deck, rubbing sand off his hands, and hear the rumble of his voice, but the words are indistinguishable as Carter closes the door.  He sits down on the picnic bench across from the chair she takes.

“Finding everything okay, Sport?”

“Got the first four,” Daniel calls, coming out of my bedroom, fingers poked deep into the soil of four small, potted miniature roses.  “Did Sam go outside?”

“Yep, Teal’c’s out there too.”

Daniel stops in the middle of the hall, frowning.  “I forgot to tell her to close her eyes.  Can I just bring them into the kitchen and then she can come back inside?”

“Good idea.  Sure you don’t want some help?”

“No, I want to do this.”

“Okay.  I’ll go entertain.”  I close the sliding glass door as I step onto the deck.

Carter and Teal’c are discussing our newest civilian team member, Mark Adler.  This is number six in five months.  The first two quit the SGC completely, the next one got himself killed our second mission out and the last two . . . well, Teal’c said the last two were impressionists.

“ . . . he’s lasted longer than Renoir and Monet combined,” Carter is saying.

Teal’c’s also the one who’s supplied the nicknames.  I think he’s been reading up on impressionist painters.  He pronounced both performances ‘inferior impersonations of person’s desiring to be soldiers, not to mention archeologists/linguists’.

Don’t ask me how he connected impressionist with impersonations.  I only know how his mind works some of the time.

“Hardly a record,” I offer dryly, “since neither of them lasted more than a couple of weeks.”

“Did you invite Mark?”  Carter wants to know.

“I casually mentioned a get-together over here this afternoon.  Was I supposed to actually invite him?”

“I suppose we should have, after all he is part of SG-1 now.”

“I believe Captainadler will be moving along soon,” Teal’c imparts, though how he knows I have no idea.  Hammond only told me this morning on the phone.

“Has he requested a transfer?”

“You look surprised, Carter.”  I glance over my shoulder and see Daniel lugging another batch of roses into the kitchen.

“He has?  I thought he was doing pretty well.”

“I think that last run to the Gate did him in.”

“But he wasn’t hurt badly . . .” Carter trails off.

“Perhaps it was difficult to run on a broken ankle,” Teal’c offers, without even a hint of a smirk.
 
“I wrapped it up and put his boot back on.  It should have been fine to get him to the Gate, besides, Teal’c, you were half carrying him.”

“I do not believe he was an experience he enjoyed, Majorcarter.”

“Well, unless one of you invited him, I doubt he’ll show up.  I wasn’t overly enthusiastic when I told him to come over if he wanted.  Plus, I got the impression he’s not real excited about kids, so I made sure to tell him there were going to be at least two dozen here this afternoon.  Daniel?”  I slide open the door and stick my head inside.  “You ready yet?”

“Just about,” he shoots a grin my way and disappears back down the hall. 

“Is that cookies I smell?”

“Oh, shit!  Stay, Carter, he’s not ready for you yet.” 

The cookies are just beginning to brown so they’re salvageable.  They won’t be nice and soft like Daniel likes them, but I’m sure they’ll still get eaten, even if they are a little crispy. 

And I get to watch him at work on his creation.

We were looking at flowers in the grocery store the other day, thinking about those flowers for Carter, when Daniel spotted some miniature rosebushes.  They looked a little worse for wear, but he wanted flowers that would last, not die like the ones we pick when we go over to Charlie’s grave. 

And since we’d talked about a dozen roses Daniel wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a dozen plants.  So we detoured by our local Home Depot on the way home.  Then it was a debate over whether we bought all the same color, just two or three colors, or one or two of every color they had.  It ended up at least two of every color they had and we tried to pick ones currently blooming.

Arranged artistically on the kitchen table are a dozen tiny rose bushes, barely taller than the span of my hand, in a sort of a Christmas tree shape with the red blooms at the top of the tree, shading to an orangeish color, then pink, yellow, a very pale green, and finally white.  He’s now standing on a chair sprinkling confetti he saved from his birthday party over top of the whole creation.  Which, did I mention, is crowned with a bottle of Cristal that cost about as much as it costs to open the Stargate.  All right, maybe not quite that much, but almost.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Daniel announces, dusting off his hands over top of the flowers, then straightening to study the effect. 

“Want me to get Carter?”

He debates for a minute.  “No,” he says, hopping down off the chair and pushing it in.  “I want to get her.” 

It’s zero to sixty in under a nano second as he hits the glass doors with both hands, grabs the handle and heaves it open.  The doors are heavy and he usually has trouble with them.  Just now he’s supercharged, but he wisely leaves the door open and I hear him instruct Carter on appropriate comportment.

“Okay, Sam, this is just for you, but you have to close your eyes and let me lead you.” 

There is a moment of silence and I leave the cookies to watch. 

“Give me your hand,” he directs.  “Now stand up,” he waits a second when she wobbles a little bit from standing up too fast with her eyes closed.  “Okay, it’s just a few steps to the door,” I open it wider so he doesn’t have to fight with it and they can come through together.  “Step up now,” Daniel instructs.  “This way, we’re going into the kitchen.  Are you peeking?”

“Not peeking,” Carter says, raising her eyebrows as she chuckles softly. 

“You can come too, Teal’c,” Daniel yells over his shoulder.

Teal’c unfolds himself from the picnic bench.  “I was uncertain if my presence would conflict with your intentions, Danieljackson.  Thank you for inviting me.”

“No one ever gets left behind here,” Daniel replies seriously, hauling Carter to a stop so he can grab Teal’c’s hand, too.  He pulls them both toward the table before letting go of Teal’c to minutely adjust one of the roses.

He lets go of Carter’s hand, too, in order to scramble back up on the chair.  “Okay . . . NOW!”  he shouts deafeningly.  “Do you like them?” he wants to know immediately.  “Aren’t they pretty?  And we’re going to help you plant them all!  Do you like it, Sam?  Do you?”

For a minute Carter just stands staring at the display, then her hands come up, splayed out in something like wonder. 

“For me?” she says, like she never receives gifts.  “It’s not my birthday.” 

She looks from Daniel, who’s going to fall off the chair any minute because he’s dancing, to me, and grabs Daniel by the arm just as he looses his balance.

“Because you helped us when I was sick,” Daniel explains, grabbing her shoulder reflexively.  He doesn’t stop dancing, just keeps hold of her shoulder.  “Do you like it,” he asks again, grinning from ear to ear.

“They’re beautiful, Daniel.  But . . . I don’t understand . . .” She looks at me again.  “We were all just doing what needed to be done.”

“Carter, I fell apart and you pulled our asses out  of the fire.  What you did for us was special.  We just wanted to say thank you.”

She opens her mouth . . . closes it . . . opens it . . . and then the tears start.  Just a trickle at first.  I suspect she’s remembering how close we came to loosing him . . . again.  The trickle quickly turns into a small flood.

Daniel freaks.  “Don’t cry, Sam.  Don’t cry, please.  If you don’t like it we’ll take them back.  Please don’t cry.”  He swipes his palm at her cheek in an effort to stem the tears.

Carter just swoops him up and buries her face in his neck. 

“Daniel . . . sir . . . I’m sorry . . .” she sniffs back more tears and raises her head to swipe the back of her own hand at the moisture.  “I love them, Daniel.  They’re beautiful, but you have to know, Sport, I don’t need this kind of thanks.  I love you.  I would do anything for you.  All of you . . . you know.  You guys are my family.  Anything,” she repeats, biting her lip.  “And I don’t need thanks for it.  Ever.”

“I love you. too, Sam,” Daniel says fiercely, hugging her hard.  “Come here, Jack,” he commands, “Teal’c.”  He beckons us both imperiously.  “Family moment . . .” he leans back in Carter’s arms, snags me by the shirt, Teal’c by the wrist, and tries to pull us both closer to Carter.  “Come on, everybody has to hug.”  And when Teal’c and I don’t immediately comply, even more commandingly, “All together; all at once.”

For a moment we’re a tangle of limbs and torsos with Daniel squashed in the middle of us. 

He sighs hugely.  “I just remembered my mom and dad used to do that with me sometimes.”

Carter’s still wiping away tears as she shifts Daniel around to a hip and starts picking up the flowers one at a time, looking at the little tag stuck in the soil with the name of the rose. 

“You like the green ones?”  Daniel asks.  He wrinkles his nose.  “We weren’t sure about green roses, but Jack said they were different, so we bought two of them.  I hope you like them.”

“They’re very different and I like them very much.  I like them all.”  Carter puts down the flower in her hand and gives Daniel another squeeze.

“Which one do you like best?” he wants to know next.

“Oh - I don’t know.  It’s hard to pick one I like best from all of these, they’re all so beautiful.  I do know exactly where I’m going to plant them.”

“Don’t forget, we’re going to come and help plant too.”

“It’s a deal.  Maybe we could do it tomorrow?”  She looks to me for confirmation.

“Sure, we don’t have any plans.  I figured we might need a day to recuperate after the hoard this afternoon.”

“Teal’c?”  She looks over her shoulder.  “You want to come help plant, too?  I’ll fix us supper.”

“Have your culinary skills improved since your previous encounter with kitchen appliances, Majorcarter?”

She sticks her tongue out at him.  “I deliberately did not say I’d make us supper.  Wow, Cristal.”  The bottle gets smacked to her chest as it starts to slip through her fingers.  “Whoops, that would have been a wicked waste of champagne.  This costs the Earth, sir.  You two really went all out.”

“Is it a kind you like, Sam?”  Daniel runs his finger over the label.  “We got it off the internet, it came all the way from France.”

Daniel’s got nothing on Carter when it comes to eyes and hers pop now.  Wide open. 

“No way.”

“Does that mean she likes it?” Daniel asks, twisting in her arms to look at me. 

Carter quickly deposits the bottle back on the table in order to adjust her arm load of seven-year-old archeologist. 

“Don’t do that,” she warns, “I might drop you instead of the Cristal.”

Daniel just laughs.    

“That reminds me, I was supposed to ask you something . . .” I trail off, trying to remember what it was.  “Oh. yeah, Carter, is it theoretically possible for two distinctly different time lines to intersect and merge into one?”

She looks up from examining one of the green rose bushes.  “What do you mean?  Are you thinking about Daniel’s time lines?  Because if you are, sir, you need to keep in mind that Daniel’s time line was already screwed up before this happened to him, what with all the times he died, not to mention ascending and descending, and the alternate realities he was in . . . I don’t know, sss . . . Colonel, I’d have to say with Daniel, anything’s possible.”

“So then it is a definite possibility?”

“From what we’ve experienced over the last seven or eight years, I think what we consider reality is a lot more fluid than most of us like to imagine, Colonel.”  She shrugs.  “For myself, I’ve come to the conclusion anything’s possible, sss . . . sir.”  She shrugs again, rolling her eyes this time.  “I’m sorry, that habit’s just too ingrained.”

“What’s - in-grain’d?” Daniel inquires.

“It means I’ve been doing something for so long it’s worn a groove in my brain my tongue won’t skip over.”

“Huh?  How can your tongue skip over a groove in your brain?”

“Yeah, Carter, how can your tongue skip over a groove in your brain?”

“What I was trying to say, Daniel, is I’ve been calling my superior officers, sir, for all of my adult life.  When you’ve established a pattern like that, it’s very hard to change the pattern unless you’re concentrating all the time on making the change.  Plus, at work I still have to refer to Jack as sir when I speak to him.  It’s very difficult trying to remember to call him something else when it’s just us.”

“You know what,” I interrupt, thinking she’s going to wind up to go at this for the next twenty minutes, although Daniel looks like he’s hanging on every word.  “Why don’t we just forget it and I’ll answer to whatever you call me.  Good enough?”

Her mouth snaps shut.  “Good enough, sir.” 

I grin, give her a thumbs up, and a saunter back over to the now thoroughly cooled cookies. 

“What happens if it’s a lady Colonel?”  Daniel asks.

Carter chuckles and I glance back over my shoulder to see her tickle Daniel.  He giggles in response, an infectious sound so unlike anything we ever heard from our adult Daniel that we all smile, even Teal’c.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Jackson, I’ve never had a commanding officer who was a lady.”

“Bet you’ve had a few women though,” I can’t help ribbing.

Carter laughs outright.  “No, Colonel, I’ve never had a woman as a commanding officer.  There are very few women in the field of theoretical astrophysics, sad to say. I’ve worked mostly with men.”

“Did that disadvantage impair you ability to function at your usual high standards, Majorcarter?”

“Naturally, Teal’c,” Carter laughs again.  “They could never keep up with me.”

“As I suspected,” he offers, with that little inclination of the head that can mean anything from I admire you greatly, to I’m laughing up the sleeve of this xxx-large t-shirt I’m wearing.  “I believe we should convey your gift back to its original location, Majorcarter.  It may not be safe on display out here when the entire baseball team, plus their fans, arrive.”

“They came out of the shower in my bathroom.  Do me a favor?  Try not to spread the confetti between here and the bedroom.”

“Put me down, Sam, I want to help.”

“Confetti?”  Carter says, eyeing the roses again.  “Oh, that’s what the sparkly things are.  Daniel, I thought you were saving that for something special.”

“This was the something special I was saving it for.”

I hear his feet hit the floor and wonder randomly when he’s going to hit a growth spurt.  He’s still so small it’s no sweat for any of us to carry him.  The pediatrician says he’s on the low end of the average scale; I shouldn’t worry about his height and weight.  But he’s still wearing the clothes we bought six months ago and while I try not to de-well on it, as Daniel says, I occasionally worry the effects of that damn Fountain of Youth thingy are permanent.

That he’s not going to grow anymore. 

Carter doesn’t think so.  Frasier does a whole battery of test every six or eight weeks and she says the same thing.  I’m coming to terms with the thought that we may not get back our adult Daniel anytime soon, but to have him stuck this way for the rest of his life? 

Cute as he is, that’s just not acceptable.  We damn well better get back an adult Daniel, even if takes another fifteen years. 

I do have to say, this whole thing has given me a new appreciation for why it took us years to get adult Daniel into clothes that fit properly.  He’s between sizes, so nothing fits.  I swear most of the time he looks like a refugee child.  And he flatly refuses to try anything on at the store, so we have to haul everything home, then take it back if it doesn’t fit.  Which is most stuff.  And let me tell you, his penchant for plaid?  It was one of those things he was born with.

“Yoohoo!  Anybody home?  Your front door is unlocked, did you know that?”  Paige, trailing CoriAnne, sails into the kitchen, interrupting my musings.  “Something smells good.  Oooo, who made cookies?  Sam?  I love chocolate chips cookies.”

I wonder if she makes a habit of trying everybody’s front door before she rings the bell or if we’re just special.

“Not me.”  Carter seizes an armload of flowers.  “I don’t do cooking.”

I whip my head around as I hear Teal’c murmur something that sounds suspiciously like ‘thank God’; however, he only raises an eyebrow as he, too, picks up an armload of flowers and proceeds to follow Carter out of the kitchen. 

“Need some help?”  Paige calls after them.

“Where’s Daniel?” CoriAnne asks.

“CoriAnne, grab these last couple of pots, hon, and follow Teal’c.  I’ll clean up this table.  Are you planning to set up food inside or out, Jack?”

Obediently CoriAnne picks up the last two flowers and trots after Teal’c.

“What time is it?”  I glance at the stove clock and see it’s only 1:30. 

“Oh, we’re a little early, I know.  We thought you might need a hand getting things
ready.”  Paige collects a sponge from the sink and starts to wipe up Daniel’s confetti.

“Don’t!  . . . do that . . . Sorry.”  I let go of her arm.  “Daniel wants to keep that stuff.”

“He wants to keep this?”  Paige holds up a sponge full of brightly colored sparkly dots.

“Yes.” I take the sponge from her and carefully brush it off into my hand, pull out a ziplock and empty my palm into the bag.  “He’s something of pack rat.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell, just didn’t want you to throw it away.  I can see him sitting here in the kitchen the rest of the afternoon picking it back out of the trash.”

I brush as much of the rest of it off the table into the bag as possible before using the sponge to get the rest and clean the table at the same time. 

“Single minded, isn’t he?”  Paige trills.  “What else can I do to help?”  She picks up the spatula, finishes the job of removing the cookies from the tray, and starts reloading the cookie sheets with dough.

I suppose it’s nice of her to pitch in and start doing stuff . . . and the monologue continues with barely a pause for breath.  She’s worse than Daniel hyped on his allergy meds. 

“How’s Daniel?  CoriAnne said he seemed a little down both times she’s talked to him.  Are the four of you planning to come to the circus with The Gang?” 

‘The Gang’ is our home school group. 

“Has this hospitalization wreaked havoc on your school schedule?  I’d be happy to help get him back up to speed if you wanted to leave him with us for a couple of days while you’re at work.  CoriAnne’s dying to have Daniel over.  He could spend the night if you wanted to go out or something with Sam.”

“Whoa there, Mrspaige,” I take another leaf out of Teal’c’s book.  “Carter and I work together . . .”

“Oh I know.  And I know the Air Force . . .”

This time when I put up a hand she knows I mean it. 

“Please let me finish.” 

She actually has the grace to blush, so though I’m pissed, I will endeavor to be kind. 

“As I started to say, there’s nothing going on between Carter and me.  We work together; all four of us.” I realize my mistake too late and for a long second, can’t think of any way to cover it.  “There is a fourth team member who may come by for awhile later this afternoon.” 

Maybe I should throw Adler at her. Nah, he is still a member of SG-1, and we do stick together, no matter what. 

“We’ve been working together a long time now, which means we’re pretty comfortable around each other.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re pretty family, so if you’re interpreting comfort level as having a ‘thing’ going on on the side . . . reinterpret.”

“Oh?”  Paige does arch really well.  “So, then, you’re available?”

Oh, crap; out of the frying pan into the fire. 

“Paige, I’m forty-eight, more than twice your age, and to be frank, I’m not attracted to teenagers anymore.”

She flirts a smile at me, accepting the backhanded compliment as her due.  She’s old enough to enjoy being told she still looks like a teenager and far too young to be interested in an old goat like me.  I’m tempted to tell her Teal’c’s real age while I’m at it, but that might be even more difficult to explain than why Carter and I seem to have such rapport. 

And then she lands the sucker punch, which shouldn’t blindside me the way it does.

“So then Sam and Teal’c aren’t a thing either?”

I wince; can’t help it.  Good job, O’Neill, you waltzed her right down the garden path and then opened the damn gate for her.

“No,” I admit reluctantly, “Carter and Teal’c are not an item either.  Carter has a boyfriend in Denver and Teal’c’s seeing someone he met on a trip out of the country.  Have I covered all your areas of interest now?”

“Well, since you brought it up.  Is the thing Teal’c’s got going with this Ishy person what you’d call serious?”

“You’d have to discuss that with Teal’c.  One of the things we’ve learned over the years is we don’t talk about each other’s business with people outside the family.”

“Well, that’s admirable. I had noticed the bunch of you tend to stick together like glue.  Is Janet coming this afternoon?”

I think there’s probably a compliment in there somewhere, I just can’t seem to pull it out right at the moment. 

“She and her daughter are on the way.” 

Where the hell are they?  I could use a distraction about now. 

“Thanks for taking care of the rest of the cookies.  I’m going to go get the grill started.” 

I’m so out of here.  I slide the glass doors closed on her still chattering obliviously away and turn to find Teal’c standing between the deck and the sandbox. 

“Nowhere to run,” the Jaffa intones solemnly, “nowhere to hide.”

“T, you been watching way too much TV Land.”

“Is it not appropriate, O’Neill?”

“Oh, absolutely,  I’m with ya, bud, I’m right there with ya.”

The glass doors behind me open again and CoriAnne comes through, dragging what looks like a reluctant Daniel. 

“. . . what’s the big deal about a sandbox?” she’s asking.  “There’s a sandbox in the park, but only the sissy boys play in it.”

“I don’t have a sandbox,” Daniel says loftily, though this is the first I’ve heard about it not being a sandbox.  “It’s an archeological dig,” he pronounces with satisfaction. 

I have to admit if you look at the sandbox now, it does resemble a dig.  The day after his birthday party Daniel was out before breakfast, having scrounged a bunch of paint sticks out of the garage, and asked to borrow my tape measure, measuring off grids and squares.  When we got home from work he was out there again, with a ball of string he’d conned from Siler, stringing the grids he’d measured off. 

He finished the bottom tier in about a month, though we occasionally try to sneak things in to surprise him.  Especially Teal’c.  He almost always brings something back to put in the sandbox when we go off-world, along with whatever biology or chemistry lesson he brings home.  

Anyway, when Daniel was done with the bottom tier, he re-measured and restrung everything to the shape of the second tier.  No shoddy workmanship acceptable here.

And the hand-holding thing has reversed.  It’s now Daniel dragging CoriAnne over to the sandbox.  Excuse me, archeological dig.

“All those things on my dresser and the things on the shelves next to the quilt on the wall?  They came out of my dig,” Daniel says proudly, handing over a small shovel, a brush, and a scree pan.  “Have you ever worked on a dig before?”

“I don’t dig,” CoriAnne responds, unenthused, “I quit making mud pies when I was three.”

“What are mud pies?”  Daniel takes the shovel back and steps gingerly into the sandbox, working his way around the strings and paint sticks to the grid he’s been working on recently.  “I’ve found some mud bricks in here already.”  He points to a small pile of miniature bricks neatly stacked against the side of the sandbox. 

Daniel never was the neatest guy, not that he was messy precisely, just . . . okay . . . now that I think about it, adult Daniel was messy. 

On a dig, however, he is the epitome of a precision machine.  No tools lying around; no mounds of dirt in odd places; no fossil pieces or scraps of pottery left out in the weather; everything in its place and a place for everything.

CoriAnne climbs in after him.  “Kids in Egypt don’t make mud pies?” 

“Guess not.”  Daniel’s already focused on his latest find.

He’s abandoned the shovel for the brush and is diligently brushing away sand.  Teal’c’s come up on the deck and taken a seat at the furthest end of the picnic table.  I wonder briefly what happened to Carter.  Paige must have cornered her. 

Sorry, I’m not brave enough to go in after her, there are some sacrifices no man should be required to make, and this rates right up there.  Wish there was something I could do to cheer up Teal’c though. 

“Hey, anybody home?  Did you know your front door’s unlocked?”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud.  These people have no concept of what it means to be fashionably late.  It’s barely quarter of two and there’s suddenly a steady stream of folks pouring out onto the deck announcing that my front door’s unlocked.  Do they all try the door before using the doorbell?

“How’s it going, Jack?”  Athelia comes around the corner of the house pulling a little red wagon loaded with food and her toddler.  Behind her, Coach and the cronies are loaded down with dishes and bags, too.

“Good grief, Athelia, expecting to feed the entire crowd are you?”

She grins and starts handing it up over the deck railing.  “Got a second load to get out of the car, too.  I like to cook, honey, my mamma taught me well.  And you’re going to have a lot of hungry people here this afternoon.”

“O-kay, but there’s not going to be enough room on the picnic table for anybody else’s stuff.”

“Then we’ll put it on the benches,” she responds matter-of-factly. 

Obviously I’ve met my match.  I shut up and load dishes on the table.  Hot ones, cold ones, heavenly smelling ones.  Geez!  The woman must have been cooking since we saw her four days ago in the hospital.
 
In very short order, there is chaos in my backyard.  I am instructed, by Paige and Athelia, to set up the video so it’s available for anyone who wants to watch the last two games.  In the meantime, the food overflows the picnic table, the benches, and the kitchen table when it gets moved out. 

I loose track of all my compatriots, including Daniel, as I am embroiled in the mass of seething humanity that takes over my house and yard. 

The video only draws a small crowd.  Coach, Mitchell, turns out he’s Dejon’s brother, Kevin and Jeremy, the other two cronies, and Tyler and Daniel.  Daniel scrambles, though, when he hears someone shouting in the sandbox and has to go make sure his dig site is secure. 

It’s probably a good thing only a small crowd wants to watch, since I don’t think my living room could hold the fifty or so kids and adults who are here, unless we watched in shifts.

We lost the final game, so there was no triumphal march with the trophy, but no one seems too bent out of shape about it.  Before Daniel disappeared to the sandbox again, Coach was ribbing him that we lost because he wasn’t there Thursday night. 

I wander aimlessly back out onto the deck and notice that Daniel’s gotten out the water guns and sports glasses from his birthday party, but I don’t see him.  Cassie’s in the thick of it, so Doc must be around somewhere. 

I make a mental note to be sure she checks Daniel before she leaves.  Maybe if he’s doing really well Mallek won’t feel the need to ask him what he’s been doing.  Or maybe we could be late for the appointment so she’s in a rush and she won’t ask him.  Better yet, maybe I could coax Carter into taking him. 

Paige is stalking Teal’c’s merry band with a posse of her own, water guns blazing every so often to uninhibited shrieks of merriment.  It looks to me like Teal’c doesn’t mind this kind of stalking and Paige is very obviously having a blast, but I don’t see Daniel in any of the battalions either, or Mallory.

Daniel was lugging her around last time I saw them.  I made him put her down, she’s half as big as he is and I don’t want him giving himself a hernia around that newly healing scar.

The sandbox is empty when I check there.  I suspect after the scuffle Daniel declared it off limits this afternoon.  I was kind of hoping he would since I’ve already had to visit various houses around our neighborhood collecting artifacts he gave away to neighborhood kids who dug them up. 

For the first month after his birthday our backyard became the neighborhood playground. There was literally a waiting line to get into the sandbox.  It took me a few days to realize part of the draw was that Daniel was letting them take home anything they dug up. 

That one took some finessing.  He couldn’t understand why I was fuming and I have to admit I was unfairly angry with him.  It really wasn’t his fault; he was just being Daniel.  In the first place, in his seven-year-old mind he has no conception of the worth of some of those artifacts, let alone the Enquirer value should someone discover many of them are of alien origin.  I finally got the bright idea to ask him who the artifacts on his parent’s site belonged to, which gave him a bit of a pause.  But then he insisted on paying anybody who came to dig. 

Fortunately, the neighborhood children will work for cookies and a trip to Costco neatly resolved our differences.  Even more fortunately, Daniel knew exactly who had what, which made the rounding up of his priceless artifacts a little easier.  And while I doubt, if we ever do get back adult Daniel, he’d have a problem with it, I don’t really want to be the one to tell him we let him give away many of his irreplaceable objets d’art.

I still don’t see Daniel, but there’s Mallory trotting determinedly across the lawn calling Teal’c. 

“Teak!  Wait!  Stop, Teak,” she hollers, stumbling over something, possibly her own feet, in her hurry, sprawling face first in the grass.  She’s still yelling as she scrambles back up.  “Teak!  Teak!  I need you.  My Danny needs you!”

Teal’c, with a glance over his shoulder, catches sight of Daniel’s little shadow and hands off his equipment to his 2IC, Tyler, with quick instructions and an affirming pat on the back.  Motioning his crew on, he backtracks, striding toward Mallory who knows she’s been spotted and has poured on speed to meet him halfway. 

The second he lifts her up she’s jabbering at him and I see him nod solemnly.  They’re far enough away I can’t hear her since she’s not yelling anymore, but Teal’c’s deep voice carries to me easily. 

“I will come with you at once, Missmallory.”  Teal’c looks up, catches my eye, and nods toward the house.  “Missmallory believes Danieljackson to be in distress, O’Neill.”

“He’s leaking,” Mallory informs us, from her secure perch on Teal’c’s massive arm.  She has an arm around his neck and the other hand clutched in his t-shirt.

“Leaking what?”  I’m instantly on the alert, looking for Frasier, thinking he must have been hurt.  “Where is he, Mallory?”

“Inside.”

“In his room?”

“Uh huh.  We don’t need you, Kernelyak, Teak can han’le it.”

“I believe Coloneljack would like to come anyway, Missmalloy.  He does not like to think of Danieljackson in pain.”

She eyes me for moment before bestowing her consent, though it comes with a twitching frown.  “You can come.”  She points commandingly towards the sliding glass door.  “That way, Teak.  Hurry.”

Teal’c is allowed to take point as I’m not in command of this operation.  Mallory steers us to Daniel’s bedroom and sure enough, Daniel’s curled up on his bed, facing the wall.

I don’t immediately see blood, so for the moment I’ll leave Frasier out of this.

Mallory demands to be put down and rushes over to climb up on the bed beside Daniel.  She pats his back, crooning softly, “Don’t be sad, my Danny.  I brought Teak to make it all bet’er.”

Part 2

 

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