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A Series of Unfortunate Events by iiiionly

I really hate when a beautiful day gets shot to hell like this.  We’re five minutes from the Gate and safety when they hit us full bore, nothing held back.

“Carter! I thought you said this planet was uninhabited!”

While we may have superior fire power, they outnumber us five to one.  It’s not impossible odds, but it doesn’t looks like we’re going to make it out of here unscathed. 
 
“There were no signs of human habitation, sir!”
 
“They look human to me, Carter!  Ramsey! Can we talk?” 

Cripes! Guess that would be a ‘no’ since he just went down.

Where the hell did they come from?  It’s like they just ringed down, but they’re not Jaffa, and the weaponry I’m hearing is not up to the usual Goa’uld standards.

“Teal’c!” 

Ramsey’s behind me and I’ve got to cover Carter in front of me. 

Damn! The older I get the harder it is to run and yell at the same time, especially running forward while looking backward.  Something whistles over me as I jolt to my knees.  My head’s telling me something’s broken but the adrenalin pouring into my body overrides pain sensory perception.  I’m up and running, changing clips with a hand that’s suddenly bloody and I still don’t feel a thing.

I don’t know what we’ve done to tick off the powers that be, but Lemony Snicket has nothing on us.  This will be the third in our series of unfortunate events, starting with Daniel’s appendicitis.

“Teal’c!” I’m doing a 360, wondering if I need to go back for Ramsey.  I was sure Teal’c was still behind me.  “Where the hell are you?!”

I hear the rapid fire of a staff weapon as Teal’c lurches out of the tree line, still firing backwards into the brushy cover.  I see him do a snatch and grab on Ramsey without slowing down and I turn to cover Carter again.

She’s still hugging the east tree line, hoping, I assume, to get to the DHD unnoticed.

Fat chance, but I lay down cover fire anyway. 

Shit, shit, shit!  This is so turning out to be a bad day.

I’m ejecting another empty clip at a dead run, slapping a new one into the chamber and my P-90 is having a conversation with Carter’s, both of them chattering incessantly.

“Carter!” 

She staggers and I can see blood from here, but she makes it to the DHD, and damned if she doesn’t get the wormhole open as she collapses at the base, her jacket blossoming more gruesome stains.

“Colonel, you’re bleeding,” she croaks as I drag her up, slinging her arm over my shoulder.

“On your feet, Major.  We’re going home!”

“GDO code, sir,” she chokes out, blood foaming on her lips.

I twist us, grab her wrist, point at the blue puddle, punch in what I think is the code and hope to hell its right because we’re going through. 

“Get Daniel out of the Gate room! We’re taking heavy fire!” I’m screaming into my radio as I glance back over my shoulder.  “TEAL’C!” 

We’ll never know what hit us if the iris isn’t open, as opposed to dying in a blaze of glory here on the steps of the Stargate on some totally alien planet. 

“Go, O’Neill!”

“Dammit, Teal’c!”
 
 Teal’c stumbles as he’s hit again and I grab his out flung arm as we fall into the wormhole, praying I have the strength to drag him far enough in for the matter stream to catch all of us.

And then we’re falling out the other side, staggering over each other. Teal’c goes to one knee, Ramsey does a nose dive as Teal’c lists sideways, and Carter slips bonelessly from my loose hold. 

My lips form the words ‘close the iris,’ but I don’t think there’s any sound.  I see Daniel’s horrified face and hear the clatter of his miniature boots as he races up the ramp.  Shit, I told them to get him out of the Gate room! 

I’m conscious just long enough to see the horrified look melt into surprise as an energy bolt zings through the wormhole, slamming him against the railing, before my world goes black.

*     *     *

“Daniel?”  I’m not certain I get the name out, but a face appears instantly in my line of sight.  “Doc?” I blink hard, trying to bring her into focus and repeat Daniel’s name.  Someone’s squeezing my hand . . . must be Frasier.  

Hammond’s standing at the foot of the bed. 

Oh, God, no . . . can’t handle it.

I slide back into oblivion.

*     *     *

I don’t want to surface again. 

Can’t remember why, but for some reason I’m anchored here in the dark just below any kind of sensory perception, awash in grey . . . a persistent swirling mist that refuses to be banished.

And then for a moment it lifts and I feel . . . something.  I can’t identify what, though a measure of relief floods through me, and I sink back into the mist.  This time though, a path appears and I know when I wake again I can follow it home. 

I’m able to drift off almost comfortably despite all the aches and pains making themselves known with a vengeance, because . . . I don’t know . . . somehow, it’s all right.

*     *     *

A heavy warmth on my right side shifts a little as I wind my way up the path. 

I recognize the beacon shining brightly up ahead.  Yep, that would be Frasier’s penlight and her thumb that won’t let me close my eye against the damn thing. 

“Colonel?” 

The warmth along my right side shifts again and I hear a cough. 

“Daniel?”

“Take it easy, Colonel,” Janet’s voice, I can hear the smile.  “He’s still asleep, sir.” 

The penlight makes inroads on my other eye. 

How come rank doesn’t matter in the infirmary?  How come I can’t tell her to get the hell out of my face?  She’s only a major, for cryin’ out loud.

“You know the drill, sir.  How many fingers am I holding up?”

I squint blearily at the hand she’s waving in front of my face - blink again - reach up to steady it and miss completely. 

“Five?”  At least it can’t be more than that.

“Umm,” Frasier acknowledges.  “What’s your name?”

“O’Neill, Jack, Colonel, serial number . . .”

“Thank you, sir,” she interrupts.  “You’re no longer in enemy territory.  How are you feeling?” 

“Daniel’s okay?”  I reach with my free hand . . . except it’s not free, must be tethered to an IV since a new irritant blooms on the back of that hand. 

I just need to touch him.  So I try with the other hand.  I think that’s a small, scrub-clad knee I’m curling my fingers around.

“He’ll be fine, Colonel.  He has an adult-sized headache and he broke an arm when that energy weapon slammed him into the railing, but he wouldn’t rest until we let him lie down with you.  I can probably move him now . . .”

“No!”  I don’t let her finish the sentence.  “Leave him be.”  The weight on my chest must be his arm – in a cast.  “Carter?  Teal’c?” 

I make an effort to raise my head and look around, but Frasier’s cool hand on my forehead easily negates any choice I have in the matter.

“Lie still, Colonel.  Teal’c is just across the aisle.”

I sigh gratefully. 

“Dr. Warner is still working on Sam in the OR.”

A heart monitor speeds up and it takes a moment to realize it’s the one attached to me. 

“She took a couple of nasty hits, but she’s going to be fine, too.  How’s your pain level?”

Pain?  What pain?  Daniel’s here in the bed with me, Teal’c’s across the aisle and Carter’s going to be okay. 

“Ramsey?”

Frasier hesitates and I groan, but the heart monitor remains steady.  I’m not personally invested in Ramsey like I am the rest of my team, though if I lose another civilian I may get busted back to private.
 
On a sigh Frasier says, “He’ll live, but there was extensive spinal cord damage.  It’s going to be a wait and see game whether he walks again.”

Ramsey doesn’t have a single ounce of Daniel’s grit and determination.  If it’s up to him whether he walks again or not, I guarantee it isn’t going to happen. 

Of course, we’ll rally round and do everything we can, but we can’t do it for him.

I shift a little, trying to get a better look at Daniel.

“Sir, I really need you to lie still.  If Daniel’s weight is bothering you, I’ll have to move him.  I don’t want you tearing open stitches.”

Stitches? 

“We had to dig a couple rounds of ammunition out of you too, sir.” 

Did I say that out loud? 

She fiddles with something just out of my range of vision.

“No, don’t . . . dammit, Doc, I don’t need pain . . .”

Meds. 

A prickly warmth is crawling up the inside of my arm like a caterpillar.  A thousand tiny, tickling feet march straight up to my brain, chew through a couple of main circuits, and the lights start going out one by one.

I can’t remember what I wanted to say, though I resist the heavy pull of my eyelids long enough to slide my hand up to the small of Daniel’s back and curve an arm around him to snug that solid, warm weight against me. 

Stitches can be replaced.  The feel of my kid stretched out against my side as I slide back into oblivion . . . can’t . . .

Can’t what? 

Remember. 

Remember what? 

*      *     *

When I wake again, for the . . . third?  No, fourth time I think, the lights are low and that solid, warm weight is missing. 

The infirmary whirls, a kaleidoscope of grey floor and walls and blankets, as I sit up too fast.  I have time to register the lighting is in night mode before the heart monitor kicks into high gear. 

On cue, the nurse appears. 

“Colonel?”  She puts a hand on my shoulder in an effort to make me lie down again. 

Not likely when I’m in panic mode.

“What happened to Daniel?”

“Doctor Frasier moved him over to the next bed.”

She steps aside, but I’m so dizzy now I don’t dare turn my head. 

“He was getting restless and she was afraid he would disturb you, sir.  He’s still sound asleep.”

“Just asleep?”  I slump back against the pillow, dragging in air in an effort to quell the nausea hanging around the back of my throat.

“Yes, sir.  How’s the head, Colonel?”

“Better when I was asleep.”  I raise a hand to my pounding head.  “Aht!”  I grab her hand.  She’s not the CMO, I can get away with it with her.  “Don’t touch that damn thing; I don’t want to be out again.  Just . . . give me a second here . . .”

I close my eyes for a moment, then turn gingerly on my side.  Daniel’s scrunched in a ball, but turned toward me, and I can just make out through the shadowy gloom the barely healed left ring finger in his mouth. 

“How’s Carter?”

“She’s still heavily sedated, Colonel,” the nurse says quietly, motioning to the bed beyond Daniel.  “But resting comfortably.”

In a minute I’ll get up and go see for myself.  Or maybe two - head’s still pounding like the Keebler elves have taken up residence inside there. 

“Teal’c?” 

“He’s sound asleep, too, sir.”

“I am not, O’Neill.  Do you require assistance?”

“You mobile, T?”

“I am not,” he repeats, in typical Jaffa fashion, “however, I could be with little effort.”

“Nah, that’s okay.  Go back to sleep.  What time is it?”  I belatedly whisper to the nurse.

“03:30, sir.  You should go back to sleep as well, Colonel.”

“Yeah, in a few.” 

I debate asking if she’ll unhook me so I can go to the bathroom or waiting until she’s gone back to the desk and unhooking myself.  If I don’t ask, she can’t tell me no, and I can make my rounds on the way back from the john. 

“I’m good,” I lie through my teeth, especially since it takes tremendous effort not to clench my jaw.

No one’s going anywhere.  It probably won’t matter if I lie here for another half hour, but I’m determined to get up before I go back to sleep.  I need to do my own head count.  Touch everybody, just to make sure they’re warm and breathing.

I can do stealth.  Hey, I directed covert ops for years, but this nurse . . . what the hell is her name?  Moreland.  Lieutenant Moreland.  Either Frasier’s warned her or she’s got ears like a bat.  If I so much as rustle the sheets she looks over. 

But I can do patient too . . . for a little longer, anyway . . .

Just not this long.

The Keebler crew has actually vacated the premises and I think I might be able to walk across the infirmary to the bathroom . . . if I’m cautious.  And it’s been forty-five minutes.  Surely she thinks I’ve gone back to sleep by now. 

Ahh!  Diversion!  The muted phone rings and I hear Daniel snuffle. 

Just about the time my feet find the floor, his eyes drift open. 

Janet must have given him something, either for pain or to put him to sleep.  Even in the gloom of the nighttime infirmary I can see his pupils are tiny pinpricks in a sea of blue. 

I immediately put a finger to my lips.  And realize for the first time, my right hand is bandaged.  And ouch!  Something doesn’t want to take my weight.  Oh, yeah, ace-bandage on the knee; at least it’s not a full-fledged brace.  I vaguely remember falling and wrenching it. 

Daniel blinks at me lazily before the synapses connect and he’s rolling to his hands and knees, sitting up to reach for me, though he doesn’t say a word.

“Colonel!” Nurse Moreland-Wilkes hisses, slamming the phone down.  “You’re not supposed to be out of bed!  Dr. Frasier left strict instructions . . .” 

Kathy Bates doesn’t have a thing on this woman and this one’s not acting.
                        
“Colonel?”  Carter mumbles, shoulders moving restlessly under the blankets.

“O’Neill, you appear to be in need of assistance.”

Uh oh, chaos.  I didn’t mean to wake everybody up. 

“Colonel O’Neill, get back in bed this instant!  Teal’c, you’re no better off than he is, you get back in bed, too.  Dr. Jackson!  Lie down!” 

Daniel’s eyes go wide at her tone of voice.  He swivels his head around automatically in response and the arm with the cast starts to sink. 

“Hey, it’s not his fault.  He’s not firing on all cylinders, don’t yell at him.”  I shuffle across the aisle between our beds.  “S’okay, Danny.” 

He leans into the hand I cup around his cheek. 

“I can’t pick you up, Sport, but scooch over and I’ll lie down with you when I come back from the bathroom.” 

I lean over the bed railing to kiss him on the top of the head.  As soon as I straighten he scooches over to the furthest side of the bed, against the far railing, watching me with wide, glistening eyes.  I’m not sure he’s really awake. 

“Lie back down, Sport, I’ll be right back, okay?” 

He doesn’t so much lie down as lean forward until he goes face first into the bed and shoves his feet out from under him.  I give the hems of the miniature scrub pants an experimental tug; it can’t be comfortable lying on all that bunched up fabric.  Daniel levers his ass off the bed just enough for me to get a purchase on the slick material and pull it down so it’s not bunched under him anymore.  

“I’ll be right back,” I repeat, curling my fingers around a slender ankle. 

He blinks at me, but still says nothing, so I give him a wink and shuffle off to Buffalo.

Maybe it only seems as far as Buffalo, but I’m up now, no way she’s going to make me use a urinal after I’ve gotten my feet under me.  And since she’s still busy reattaching the major to an IV line, I make it to the bathroom and lock the door behind me. 

Sanctuary. 

Fortunately for me the toilet in here has a lid.  I close it and sink down, stretching out my leg with a frustrated curse.  I so don’t have time for this.  I have a seven-year-old to manage, missions to accomplish, and every day kind of shit that needs tending. 

It occurs to me, again belatedly, this might not have been such a good idea after all.  Especially if I can’t manage the business I came in here for. 

The doorknob rattles and Nurse Wilkes informs me, in a sepulchral voice, I have exactly five seconds to unlock the door or she’s going to have an SF break it down.

Despite the fact I suspect she means it, I ignore her.  It’s going to take her more than five seconds to get an SF in here, let alone an SF capable of breaking down the door.  And I’ll be damned if I let her win this round. 

Unfortunately, by the time I accomplish my business I’m about used up and I have to make for the nearest bed instead of my own. 

Getting old really sucks. 

And damned if Moreland doesn’t top my coup by refusing to let Daniel get up and come to me.
 
I may have won the battle, but Nurse Wilkes wins the war, especially since Daniel’s huddled in a ball snuffling because she yelled at him again.

Thankfully an unexpected ally comes to our rescue.

“What’s going in here?”  Hammond demands.  “I could hear you clear down the hall, Lieutenant.  Jack, should you be out of bed?  What’s the matter with Dr. Jackson?  How come you’re all awake at this hour of the night?” 

He makes straight for Daniel, plucks him up off the bed, and tucks him up against his shoulder. 

“Did you have a bad dream, son?” 

With his arms full of diminutive archeologist, he turns a full circle in the middle of the aisle. 

“Why are you all awake?” he repeats, rubbing soothing circles on Daniel’s back. 

He’s got this grandpa thing down pat. 

Daniel’s eyes are drooping, so, either that sedative is still going strong or he wasn’t very awake to begin with.

Hammond slides my kid down so Daniel’s cradled against his chest and starts to walk with him up and down the aisle. 

“Shhhh,” he whispers, easily bearing Daniel’s weight in one arm as he strokes the hair back off his forehead with the other hand.  “Go back to sleep, little one, it’s all right.  Everybody’s home and you’re all safe.  Go back to sleep.”

Wish Icould get adult Daniel to follow orders with such alacrity. 

Hammond looks over at me.  “Is there some reason everybody’s awake at 3:30 in the morning, Colonel?” 

He continues to walk and rock and soothe as if it’s second nature to him. 

“I believe Majorcarter has once again succumbed to the effects of the medication, Generalhammond.”

Hammond inclines his head with the barest twitch of his lips.  “My apologies, Teal’c.  Why are the three of you awake at this hour?”

“I have been contemplating arising this past quarter hour for the same purpose as O’Neill.”

“Daniel woke up when I got up to go to the bathroom. Or sort of woke up anyway.
 
“Are you supposed to be out of bed?”

“I’m not dead yet, sir.”

Now his lips do twitch as he tries to hold back an inappropriate smile at my inappropriate sarcasm.  He bends to kiss Daniel on the forehead, an equally inappropriate gesture for a general, but when it comes to Daniel, protocol has been tossed out the window.  And it effectively hides his reluctant grin. 

We’ve known each other a long time.  It’s okay to be inappropriate in the infirmary at 3:30 in the morning. 

Being the observant individual I am, I notice the General’s looking a little worse for wear.

“Sir, why are you up at 3:30 in the morning?”    

He looks over at me with a weary shake of his head.  “SG-2 arrived back an hour ago.  Captain Curtis dropped dead on the Gate ramp as he stepped out of the Stargate.  His team says he was fine when he stepped into it on the other side.  Dr.’s Warner and Frasier are doing an autopsy now.”

“Oh, god.  He’s got a wife and four kids.”

“I’m well aware of that Colonel.”

“Yes, sir.  Sorry, sir.

Hammond’s the best kind of commanding officer; the responsibility of this job weighs heavily on him.  He’s personally invested in every one of his employees, clear down to the night janitors with top secret clearance, who mop the halls of this clandestine facility. Which is one of the many reasons we’re all proud to serve under his command.

No wonder he looks a little frayed.

“Think you can make it back to your own bed now, Colonel?  I have a little sleeping archeologist here who I’m sure would rather wake up beside you then alone in that big bed next door.”

“Yes, sir.”  I’ll make it if I have to crawl.  “Just so you’re aware, I don’t let him do this at home.”

“I know you’re a great dad, Jack, and I’m glad you know when to make exceptions, son.”

Yep, despite the fact I’m his 2IC and there’s less of an age gap between Hammond and I than there is between adult Daniel and I, I’m still occasionally son, too.

“Teal’c?”

“General?”

“Anything I can do for you before I go back downstairs?”  Hammond glances over at the Jaffa as he waits patiently until I’m situated before easing Daniel down beside me.

“There is nothing, Generalhammond, my thanks for your consideration.”

 “All right, then, all of you go back to sleep.”  The General smoothes the blanket over Daniel and pulls up the railing on that side of the bed.  “Just so he doesn’t roll out when you go back to sleep.  I’ll see you in the morning.  I expect you all to be wide awake, too.  Lieutenant, if they give you any more trouble, give me a call.”

“Yes, sir,” Nurse Wilkes responds with exactly the right amount of deference, though I’d bet fifty bucks she’s spitting nails right about now.  She’d like to put us all in restraints and throw away the key.

 “Goodnight, Teal’c, Jack.  Rest well.”

“Night, sir.”

“Goodnight, Generalhammond.”

As the General’s firm footsteps die away, silence reigns, except for the ticking of the large clock and the scritch, scritch of a pen charting the latest round of vitals Nurse Wilkes just recorded off our various machines. 

That should be interesting, especially since all of mine are flat.  She’s making no move to re-hook me so I’m going to take advantage of her Stephen King tendencies and lie here thanking my lucky stars we’re all alive and in one piece. 

This one was too close for comfort.

Maybe I need to rethink a desk job until . . .

I sigh, run a hand over Daniel’s small head as he unconsciously burrows in so he’s tucked up right against me, and wonder what happened to him in that other timeline of his that caused him to so flatly reject most human contact. 

He’s such an unreservedly physical child now, it’s obvious something happened to change him.  This is definitely not the child that grew into our adult Daniel.

Tonight that’s an unsolvable mystery.  I need to bend my efforts toward figuring out how to tell Daniel he can’t wait for us in the Gate room anymore. 

Since I can pretty much guarantee this news isn’t going to be well received, I’d best start figuring out a way to bribe him. 

I drift off again, trying to remember how I used to bribe adult Daniel . . . can’t use coffee, Frasier’s strictly forbidden letting him get started on that habit again, which leaves . . .

Uhm . . . which leaves . . . okay, maybe I should table this line of thought until later . . . when I can . . . actually . . . think . . .

*      *     *

“Where are you going?” 

The second I push my chair back from the desk Daniel’s on his feet, anxiously reaching for my hand. 

“I’m just getting up to get a file.  Want to get it for me?” I ask, instead of getting up.

“Sure.”  He lets go of my wrist, bouncing over to the file cabinet with a happy grin.  He enjoys doing big people stuff like looking for files.

Due to our series of unfortunate events we’ve regressed clear back to Daniel’s initial clingy stage right after the whole Fountain of Youth thingy.  He was just beginning to get past the ‘I need an adult in touching range’ after being sick, when the second in our series of unfortunate events happened.

I knew being off world for the first time since Daniel’s illness was going to be difficult for all of us.  I should have insisted we stick to a standard recon.  Instead, we ended up on a diplomatic mission.  I totally blew the thing when the stupid, fussy little monarch insisted we spend an extra, unscheduled day bowing and scraping, thanking them for allowing us the privilege of mining in their mountain. 

I just wanted to get home.

I might have kept it together long enough to get off the damn planet with the smoking treaty in hand, except Carter nearly had to drop kick the asshole when he laid hands on her.

It really pisses me off when somebody messes with one of my team and where Carter might have finessed us back into his good graces, I just decked him.

I rarely let myself get that out of control.  I’ve had years of field experience dealing with jackasses of every size and shape imaginable.  Lately - every species imaginable. 

I know damn well Carter can take care of herself, but I’d already had an entire day on simmer and it was the match that lit my torch.

I was too goddamn angry to even try to spin it for Hammond, which in hind sight, was another error of judgment on my part.  I should have let Carter handle the debriefing when she asked.  Instead I forged ahead like the proverbial bull in a china shop.   Considering the consequences of my raging bull routine, I got off with a very light slap on the wrist for my stupidity.

Earth’s inhabitants have been barred from P8X-346, a planet rich in trinium deposits and Daniel chewed his right ring finger raw over that episode. 

He sat, or rather cowered, in my lap through the entire debriefing, absorbing all the anger I was literally vibrating with.  Thinking, I found out later, this was all his fault, that he had somehow caused me to turn into this monster he didn’t recognize.

I’d scared him so badly it took two nights of hideous nightmares to pull it out of him. 

“Okay.”  I swivel my chair around in order to instruct. “You need to look in the personnel drawer.” 

I wait as he peruses the block letter labels on the front of the files.  He gets annoyed if I tell him which drawer to look in; he wants to figure it out himself.

“Personnel files,” he squats, ass to ankles, beside the bottom file drawer as he opens it.

“I need the original file for Ramsey.”

“R,” Daniel mutters under his breath as he walks his left-hand fingers through the files. 

Frasier has his right arm cast so he’s not supposed to able to use the fingers on that hand, which he finds extremely annoying.  

“R-a – R-a-m – Ramsey.”  He pulls the file out with a flourish, closes the drawer and hops up to bring it over to me.  “Is Russell going to get better?”

“Thank you,” I ruffle his hair.  “I don’t know, Sport.  That kind of depends on Russell.”

“Why doesn’t he want to do the exercises Janet gave him?” 

Daniel thinks the exercises are cool, especially the weight lifting ones, and has offered several times, since Frasier introduced this routine, to do them with Ramsey. 

I originally thought Daniel’s nagging might be better received than nagging from the rest of us, but I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion there’s some resentment on Ramsey’s part it’s him in that wheelchair and not Daniel. 

Funny thing, everybody wants to be assigned to SG-1.  They seem to think there’s some prestige value in being assigned to the premier SGC team, although I think we lost some of our cachet when Parker got himself killed the second time he was out with us.  People seem to think we have some magical enchantment that keeps us . . . not exactly safe, but at least alive. 

What they never seem to understand is it’s a commitment forged among the four of us; if one’s in trouble, we’re all in trouble.  And while we extend that courtesy to anyone who joins us, there isn’t that same level of commitment back, which is what always lands them in trouble.   

Only Quinn has managed to survive us for more than a month and even he was out of here as soon as we got Daniel back.  The only reason he managed was because he was clueless.  I think the rest of us were bound and determined to keep him in one piece if only to make him feel guilty every time we rescued his sorry ass.

The Gate room drama was the third in our series of unfortunate events.

Carter’s still on crutches.  Teal’c, as usual, is mostly healed; that tretonin stuff works almost as well as Junior.  My knee is giving me fits again, but any new scars from the latest bout with projectile weapons are already merging into the old ones.  Daniel’s headache lasted long enough to worry even Janet, but he’s fine now, physically at least. 

Whatever it was he got hit with, the bolt was only set to stun.  He wasn’t even burned, just tossed awkwardly against the railing.  He must have put his hand out because both bones snapped just above his wrist, which means he’s going to be in that cast for awhile. 

Since all of SG-1 is convalescing, we’re on stand down.  And I’m mulling over an idea I need to run past Carter and Teal’c.

I pull out the paper work I need and hand the file back to Daniel. 

“You can file him under former employees now,” I tell him as I begin signing the triplicate forms that will release Russell Jones Ramsey the III from employment at the top secret government project known to a select few as Stargate Command. 

I always wonder, as I fill out this kind of paperwork, what these poor, deluded folks are going to do with the rest of their lives.
 
Ramsey’s afraid of his own shadow.  Every time he sees something unusual in the night sky he’s going to think we’re being attacked by aliens.

Since he’s civilian, the Air Force is transporting him to a rehab facility nearer to his parent’s home and I can wash my hands of that responsibility.  Thankfully.

Daniel comes back to stand beside me, watching as I sign the final copy of the release forms.

“What’s gonna to happen to him now?”

I should really correct his speech; adult Daniel never used words like gonna. 

What happens if he grows up talking like me?  And since Carter says he already speaks sixteen languages fluently, there’s really no doubt he’s going to be a linguist if he does have to do this growing up thing all over again.

Better yet, O’Neill, maybe you could set an example by speaking proper English. 

Nah, that’s too hard.  I’m just as preprogrammed as Carter; only I’m preprogrammed to speak Upper Midwest English.  Now, see, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

Yeah, Daniel can tell his colleagues-to-be he grew up in a household where we spoke Upper Midwest English. 

“I don’t know, Daniel.  I guess Russell will have to decide what’s important to him now.”

“He told me he was disappointed he never got to play in my sandbox with me and now he never will.”

“You mean to tell me he actually said ‘now I never will’?”

Daniel nods, eyes big with sympathy.  “Does that mean he won’t be able to be an archeologist anymore either?”

I slide back from the desk and pull my Littlest Ancient up on my lap. 

“Russell still has the choice to be whatever he wants to be, Daniel.  Doc said there’s nothing irreparably damaged; that time and hard work will fix anything else that comes up.  But Russell’s hurt here now,” I pat over Daniel’s heart.  “And here,” I tap his temple.  “I don’t know if he’ll be able to work through those hurts in order to overcome the physical hurts.  Does that make any sense to you?”

Daniel mulls it over for a minute.  “I guess he can be well if he wants to, huh?”

“That’s a really good way of putting it.  Russell will have to decide if he wants to be well or not.”

“Why wouldn’t he want to be well?”  Daniel persists.

“Ahh, Sport, not many people are as strong as you.”

“Am I strong?”  He lifts his left arm, makes a fist, and checks out his bulging bicep, drawing a chuckle from me.  He grins and pats my cheek.  “I love you, Jack.”

Whoa! 

What? 

He’s never initiated this game before, though he waits expectantly for it every night.

“I love you, too, Sport.”

“I love you better,” he grins, ducking his head shyly, peeking at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Ahhhh, but I love you best.”

The small, shaggy blond head shakes solemnly from side to side.  “No, I love you bestest of all.” 

The game usually ends on this note, with tickles and giggles, but he slides up to his knees and throws his arms around my neck, squeezing for all he’s worth. 

“I was glad when that energy thing hit me,” he says fiercely, “I didn’t want to live if you and Sam and Teal’c were dead.”

As often happens, he’s left me speechless, and not just because I got clunked in the carotid artery with his cast. 

I squeeze back, but it takes a minute before I can answer. 

“Ahhhh, Sport, I know just how you feel.  When I woke up the first time and you weren’t with me?  I didn’t want to wake up again either.”

In his seven-year-old mind he’s only known us a little over six months.  Do children attach to a new caregiver that quickly?  Surely he’s tapping into adult Daniel’s feelings and memories for it to be this intense.

And why do I feel the need to analyze this? 

He’s made it clear its how he feels, it doesn’t matter whether it’s forty-year-old Daniel, or seven-year-old Daniel.

Flashing neon sign here – DESK JOB, DESK JOB – and after our series of unfortunate events I’m almost ready to ask Hammond to replace me on SG-1.

Almost. 

Not quite there yet.  I need to talk about this with Carter and Teal’c, Daniel, too, for that matter. 

Time to pack up the kids and head for Minnesota.  Daniel will like it there, even if there aren’t any fish in the lake. 

We need to look at our options with Plan B and make some decisions. 

*     *     *

“You’re sure this is safe, Carter?  No complex life signs hanging around?”

Carter gives me the ‘look’.  “No complex life signs,” she responds, adding a muttered, “as you well know . . . sir.”

“O’Neill, SG-7 has scouted the location in its entirety, do you not trust them?”

I shrug as I toss Daniel’s backpack up on the M.A.L.P. 

“I’d rather have done it myself.” 

Even beyond the fact I’m feeling like a puppet dancing at the end of somebody else’s strings, I don’t like it, especially not after our last disastrous mission. 

“I don’t want to go,” Daniel announces. 

He’s standing at the end of the Gate ramp, his left ring finger getting a thorough chew as he stares up at the fluctuating pond.  Frasier’s put his right arm in a sling, one complicated enough he can’t get out of it without help, so he’ll stop using that hand.  She says it’s not healing properly because, despite casting it clear to the first knuckles on his fingers, he’s still using it as if it were a perfectly normal hand.

“What?”

The Gate’s open, Carter already has the M.A.L.P. on its way up the ramp and Daniel suddenly decides he doesn’t want to do this?

I’ve been dragging my feet on this for three weeks, so we’ve been talking about it at least that long.

Yesterday he couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

This morning he was so excited he didn’t want to eat breakfast.  Heck, he was so excited he didn’t want me to eat breakfast. 

“I don’t want to go,” he says, setting his chin.

Oh, I so know this look. 

Now the question becomes how to deal with it. 

“In this you have no choice in the matter, Danieljackson.” 

Seems none of us do.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think Urgo was back.

Two seconds more and Daniel’s wide, frightened eyes are staring at me over Teal’c’s shoulder.  He’s too startled to do more than grab T’s jacket and hang on as Teal’c strides around the M.A.L.P. straight into the event horizon. 

Well, that’s certainly one way to deal with it. 

Probably not the one I would have chosen, but I occasionally get hints Teal’c thinks I’m not strict enough with Daniel.  This time he took the decision right out of my hands. 

Note to self, thank the Jaffa profusely - especially since I don’t want to go either. 

I adjust my cap, tip a salute to Hammond above in the control room, flash a cheesy grin, and precede Carter and her remote control toy into the big blue puddle.

I don’t want to be impressed, but I can’t help mimicking Daniel’s slack-jawed look as I step out of the wormhole on the other side.  I saw the video feed; I heard Carter’s report on the damn planet.  I knew what to expect, but it’s so much . . . more.

Daniel is still ensconced on Teal’c’s arm, though the stubborn tilt of his chin’s come down and the look of dire terror has melted into that look of wonder I also recognize.  He’s doing the bobble head doll thing as he tries to take in everything at once. 

This is a bright kid.  Carter’s explained to him the wormhole folds time and space in order to deposit us on the other side of the galaxy in approximately ten nano seconds, depending of course, on where you’re going.  Sometimes is takes a whole sixty nano seconds.  

He’s been spewing the stuff back at me all week long, so I know darn well he took it in, even if he didn’t quite register what it really meant - until now.

“Nine galaxies, Teal’c, we’re nine galaxies away from our own!” Daniel informs the Jaffa, who’d already been traveling the Gate system for probably seventy-five years before he met and hooked up with us. 

Nine galaxies is nothing to Teal’c, but he always listens attentively whenever Daniel chatters, big and little.

The Stargate here sits on its usual pedestal.  The unusual part of this scenario is the pedestal is sitting in six inches of crystal clear, turquoise-green water.  If you’re lucky, and arrive at low tide, you can walk from the Gate to the island on the sand bar that forms.  In order to get here at low tide we would have had to leave the Mountain at 2:00 in the morning.

I figured we could wade.

Dry land is a rocky outcropping of semi-arid terrain, Carter says probably volcanic in origin, about ten miles long and five miles wide at its widest points.  In aerial shots it looks sort of like a bow tie, with wide ends and a squinch in the middle.

“How are we going to get there?”  Daniel asks, squirming to be put down. 

In answer, Teal’c strips his boots off his feet, then his socks, and puts him down on the dais.  “Roll up your pants,” he says. 

The M.A.L.P. lumbers through, followed by Carter, and the gate blinks out.   From one of the side compartments of the M.A.L.P., Teal’c liberates a small stool. 

“What’s that for?”  Daniel already has his pants rolled up to his knees.

Teal’c motions for him to follow and they both slosh over to the DHD. 

“O’Neill has instructed me to teach you how to dial home.”  He sets the stool in front of the DHD and Daniel, without needing to be told, climbs right up.

In case of an emergency I want to know Daniel can get himself home.   Hey, once a Boy Scout, always a Boy Scout.  I’m always prepared and I expect the same from anybody who goes out with me.

This place has been reconnoitered, explored, investigated and scrutinized as if the President of the United States were making a state visit here.  I didn’t care how compelled I felt, I wasn’t bringing Daniel out here without absolute proof this place is deserted.  And, yeah, it’s just Daniel, but frankly, he’s more important to the next world order than any president could ever hope to be.

I look over as I hear the heavy clunk of the first chevron locking and see Daniel look up at the Stargate as he smacks his left hand down on the next glyph. 

I feel my lips turning up in the first genuine smile I’ve experienced in days.

Something has drawn us to this planet.  All of us, even Daniel has expressed a ‘feeling’ of needing to come here, though I don’t think he’s really aware of the nature of the compulsion we’re under.  

You’d think, after all these years in the military, I’d be used to doing things I don’t want to do. 

Not. 

Nothing happens.

“Press harder,” Teal’c coaches patiently. 

They’re not like computer keys; they don’t go down without some effort.

The second chevron locks and the Gate lumbers back the other way in its spin cycle.

“Carter and I are going on with the stuff, make sure he’s got it memorized, T, before you guys catch up with us.”

“He already knows the address for home, O’Neill.  I had only to point out the first symbol and he showed me the rest.  I wish to be sure he can dial it on his own.”

“Sweet.  Don’t be too long, I’ll worry.” 

I catch up to Carter who’s slowed by the laborious gait of the M.A.L.P. splashing through the shallow water.  Neither of us bothered to take our boots off; we’ve waded through a lot worse.

“Carter, we did check for sea monsters, right?”

She slants a look at me.  “Colonel, SG-7’s been over this place backwards and forwards, inside and out.  If your trouble antenna is zinging, sir, let’s turn around right now and go home.”

“My trouble antenna has been zinging non-stop since we happened on this little paradise, Major.” 

Both of us jerk around at the sound of a loud splash and spluttering behind us; in time to see Teal’c calmly reach down and snag a handful of Daniel’s BDU’s, lift him out of the water, and set him back on his feet.

Streaming and splashing, Daniel heads toward us at a loping gallop, laughing like a hyena. 

For a minute, I just stand watching. 

This must be what pure, unadulterated joy looks like.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so uninhibited, even during this time he’s been small. 

“Daniel seems to think you picked the right place, sir.”

“Ya think?” 

Curiously, and totally uncharacteristically, I feel myself beginning to relax.  Yeah, the antenna’s been wigging out, but I swear the instant my feet touched solid ground on this side of the Gate, it quit.

We watch Daniel stop and bend over until his face is almost in the water, peering at something in the vicinity of his feet.  He swoops his left hand down and comes up with a giant starfish, except its too big and wiggly for his small hand and he drops it. 

Instead of fishing for it again, like I expect, he just laughs and resumes his splashing lope toward us.

“Did you see me fall in?” he wants to know.  “I turned too fast and couldn’t get my balance because of my arm.  Jack, can I have this off now?”

He stops in front of me and twirls around so I’m soaked to the knees. 

“Please?” 

He doesn’t look back, though his left hand comes up to fidget with the ‘got to be irritating’ wet strap across the back of his neck.

“Want me to do it, sir?”

“No, go on.  I’ve got experience at this now.” 

The first time I had to undo this thing it took me twenty minutes to figure out how to get him out of it, even after lessons.

Carter starts up the M.A.L.P. as I start in on the buckles and Velcro on this little torture contraption.

“Hey, you, stay out of the water until we can get Carter’s sleeve over that cast, okay?  Doc Janet would murder me if she knew I let you get it wet.”

“You didn’t let me,” Daniel chortles, twirling in the water again as soon as he’s free.  “I fell in!” 

He thoughtfully turns away from me to kick his feet. 

Sparkling drops of rainbow crystal sprinkle the top of the turquoise water, spreading almost like bubbles, for a suspended moment on top of the water. 

“Did you see that?” he shouts, kicking again so a waterfall of crystal colored drops froth on the surface.  “Can this be another one of our adventures, Jack?”  

“Sure, sounds good to me.  Is there a reason you’re yelling?”

“It feels good,” Daniel returns, still at maximum decibels.

I watch, my curiosity growing, as the water churns and froths around Daniel’s feet, even when he’s not kicking, almost as if it’s inviting him to play some more.  

He laughs again, totally uninhibited, and splashes through the shallow water to catch up with Carter. 

“Sam, can I run the M.A.L.P.?”

“Sure,” she says, handing over the remote to one of the most expensive pieces of equipment Stargate command owns.  “This works a little differently than your remote control toys at home, so let me show you how to do it, okay?” 

In front of us, Teal’c’s already reached the beach. 

I pass Carter, Daniel, and the ungainly M.A.L.P. just in time to get sprayed as it chug-a-lugs back up to speed.

“It appears SG-7 believed us incapable of finding our own way.”  Teal’c nods toward a florescent pink plastic flag tied to an outstretched limb of something that looks sort of like a mangrove tree.

The vegetation is lush and tropical, and it’s at least ten degrees cooler as Teal’c and I enter at the head of the sandy path.  The path is probably fifteen feet wide, the broad-leafed, overarching branches of the trees only a foot or two above T’s head. 

On the left the trees appear to be growing out of the sides, tops, and middles of huge boulders.  Their smoothness speaks of eons of wearing by wind and rain and sand.  On the right the trees are wound together from the roots, sometimes leaning away from each other, sometimes with the trunks literally twined together as though they’re ages-old lovers.

Carter and Daniel have found the path too. 

There’s something particularly engaging about watching Daniel in this mode.  I can’t put my finger on why, but both Teal’c and I turn around. 

He’s given the remote back to Carter and we hear his excited chatter as he darts from tree to tree, examining each burl and knot within his reach, fingers busily investigating the texture and feel, while his brain catalogs everything out loud. 

“Oh, wow, these are so old.  Look at this one!  Doesn’t it look like a funny old man?  And this must be his wife over here in this tree. I wonder what happened to them?  Do you think they were ever alive?” 

Part 2

 

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