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#3 in the Life's Little Problems Series
Crayons and Coffee Cups
A Little!Danny fic by: Maj. Cliffhanger

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Part 1

Looking down on the inconsequential plebeian mass of humanity drifting about their pathetic little lives from his forty-second story office window, a rather impeccably dressed businessman swirled his single-malt scotch and frowned in pensive thought. Such a strange people these Tauri. It wasn't all that long ago, relatively speaking, that he'd enjoyed their worship and adoration - not that he'd actually been around to see most of it. Unfortunately. He'd been only a minor Goa'uld in the service of Ra when the great rebellion which lost them this world and its Chap'pai occurred, but the religion had continued without him - had actually flourished for quite some time, according to his research.

Given how gullible and easily manipulated these people were, Ba'al wouldn't be surprised if there were still a few here who continued to pray to him. The thought made him smile even as he noted movement in the window's reflection of the room behind him. He'd left strict instructions that he not be disturbed. Apparently, he needed to find a new secre....

A perfectly arched eyebrow rose in mild surprise before he turned. "Charlotte," he greeted his unexpected and beautiful visitor with that same smile.

"My lord." She moved forward with that easy grace of hers he so appreciated.

"A pleasant surprise," he acknowledged with a nod. "I trust there was no trouble with the acquisition?" He'd really hate to have to kill her if she'd failed him in so simple a task as a hostile take-over.

"None," she answered with a self-confident mien that assured him she spoke the truth.

He relaxed as she joined him and leaned in for a kiss, short and passionate. Tempted as he was, he was far from being ruled by his libido – but that didn't keep him from appreciating the charms before him. He allowed his eyes to feast on her feminine form as he questioned her. "Then why are you here?"

She smiled knowingly, clearly enjoying his attention even as she retrieved a manila envelope from a large shoulder bag. "Dr. Jackson has returned to Earth," she answered simply.

Another smile tugged at his lips as he took it from her. "And?"

"And the reports are confirmed."

He took the envelope and moved to his desk where the light was better. Opening the flap, he slid out a single eight by ten photograph. The quality was a bit shoddy - the micro-camera their plant had been forced to use wasn't designed for distance – but Ba'al had no problem identifying the main subject, young as he was.

"Amazing.... Did they bring the Tel'chak device with them as well?" he asked even as he bent to study the photo more closely. The earlier temptation of a little physical pleasure was easily dismissed.

"No," Charlotte answered unhappily. "It's still at the Gamma Site. The Tok'ra and Asgard are both studying it."

Ba'al offered an irritated grunt. "Pity, but no matter. They'll bring it here sooner or later," he decided. "Did our man get the files?"

Charlotte flipped her long blond hair back over her shoulder before producing a small flash drive. "Only the current ones," she answered. "He was unable to access Dr. Jackson's complete medical record."

Ba'al wasn't surprised. Security at the SGC was incredibly tight at the best of times and their man had been specifically told not to risk his cover; not for this. He'd likely toed the line to get even the current files. Bending, Ba'al plugged the drive into a USB port and quickly input the required code to keep it from wiping itself.
* * *

Part 2

Danny held himself carefully still while Dr. Lam supervised the lab tech. drawing a vial of blood and flushing the heparin lock in his arm. It didn't hurt, but it still made him nervous. He was glad to be rid of the IV but the IV catheter remained. He hoped Dr. Lam would decide he didn't need it anymore before it clogged up on him again and needed to be moved.

The lab tech. offered him a smile and pat on the shoulder even as she straightened and moved away. Glancing up, Danny suddenly smiled.

Arching a curious brow, Dr. Lam followed his gaze and glanced over her shoulder. "Ah," she greeted the two wayward co-leaders of SG-1 with a nod as they crossed the ward to their friend's bedside. "I was just wondering where you two had disappeared to."

"Shopping," Sam answered happily, holding up three large bags with a grin. She winked at Danny. "I even got you a bag of walnut chocolate chip cookies - your favorite."

He grinned. The idea that 'walnut chocolate chip cookies' were his favorite was a bit confusing but – hey! - they were cookies; that's all he needed to know.

"One!" Lam insisted firmly as Sam produced the small white bakery bag. "And I expect you to eat all of your lunch," she added, with a slight warning note that promised dire consequences if he failed to obey.

Danny nodded solemnly as he stuck his hand inside to pull out one of the large cookies. They were huge with big heavy chunks of dark chocolate and that just-baked bakery smell that store-bought packaged cookies always lacked.

Why was it he remembered the smell of the cookies but not the cookies themselves?

He dismissed the thought and glanced up at Sam and the others. "Want one?" he offered, belatedly remembering his mother's admonitions to always be polite.

They all declined. Instead, Sam and Cam quickly moved on to show Dr. Lam what each of them had bought. Apparently they'd both had the same idea this morning to go shopping for him but forgot to tell the other what they were going to do.

"I couldn't find the button-up cotton pajamas Dr. Lam was wanting," Sam told Danny as she held up a dark blue pull-over fleece top. "But I picked up some over-sized Tees you can wear with the bottoms instead."

He blinked and offered the cartoon pajamas a decided scowl.

"You don't like Scooby-do?" she asked in surprise, eying the set as she held it up for him to get a better look.

He shrugged, carefully wiping the scowl from his face while keeping his mouth busy with the cookie. He didn't want to hurt her feelings but...

Scooby-do was alright. He'd actually seen a few episodes when his parents were working at an Egyptian University between excavations – and later, of course, when they'd come to the United States. He'd worn pajama's like Sam was holding after his parents were killed and he was placed in foster care. Before, he'd always worn a long white night-shirt to bed, basically a very simple dishdasha – but he didn't figure anyone here would know what that was.

He glanced down at the cookie he was eating. It was soft and chewy but not as sweet as the cookies his mother made – had made, he corrected the thought and suddenly lowered the cookie. Remembering his mother's ghoraibi cookies was painful.

"So?" Col. Mitchell interrupted his thoughts, holding up a set of plain button-up cotton pajamas with various shades of pastel blue stripes. "You like these better?"

"Where did you find those?" Sam exclaimed in surprise. "I looked everywhere and couldn't find any small enough to fit him!"

Danny ignored Sam and answered Mitchell with a nod. They looked a lot more comfortable than the cartoon pajamas.

Cam gave him a wink and tossed the freshly washed shirt on the bed while he pulled out the pants from the single bag he'd brought. "JC Penny's," he answered Sam. "My sister swears by 'em for her own kids."

Sam grimaced and shook her head. "I didn't even think of them," she sighed and then offered Cam an abrupt double-take. "You have a sister?"

"I have three," he answered and glanced at Lam. "Wanna disconnect our little guy here so he can get outta those scrubs? I think these here will fit him a bit better."

"Three?" Sam echoed, then suddenly jumped back to asking about the pajamas. "How did you know what size to get?"

Danny brushed the crumbs from his hands even as Dr. Lam took the cookie away and started disconnecting the heart monitor leads. The pulse-ox meter went last.

"Three sisters and a brother," Mitchell supplied, picking up the shirt to undo the buttons. "I'm kinda the baby of the bunch with lots'a nieces and nephews to spoil. Not that I get to see 'em all that much, but I got a couple of 'em about this guy's age and size."

"'Baby of the bunch?'" Sam echoed and gave him a knowing grin. "That explains a lot."

Cam was concentrating on the buttons and it took a moment for Sam's words to register. "Yeah, I-- What? Explains..."

"Oh, nothing," she quickly amended the thought, suppressing the desire to laugh and deciding a strategic change in subject was in order. "I wonder where Teal'c is?" she offered quickly, her expression becoming completely innocent. "I thought he was supposed to be back this morning, wasn't he?"

Cam offered her a confused frown, a small part of him still trying to decide if he'd just been insulted or not, but then dismissed it in favor of the more interesting question. "He said he'd be back before noon. 'Suppose to be a straight forward vote ratifying something the High Council already agreed to last month."

"Interim Council," Sam corrected him as she absently watched the blue scrubs pulled up over Danny's tousled hair

"Whatever," Mitchell frowned, handing the shirt over to his miniaturized colleague and watching him carefully shrug into it, mindful of the heparin lock dangling from his small arm. "Jaffa politics ain't exactly the easiest thing to make heads or tails of at the moment."

Danny had no idea what they were talking about except that Teal'c was gone and it apparently had something to do with the newly freed Jaffa. He imagined it was pretty important.

The buttons on the pajama top were not cooperating. They were nice and big but the holes for them seemed small. His fingers didn't seem to know how to force them through. Col. Mitchell leaned forward to help him. "Buttons are always a pain when they're new," the older man observed easily.

Older, Danny thought? Something was telling him Mitchell was younger than he was - or than he was supposed to be. It was rather confusing, really. The guy was definitely older at the moment.

Pants were next. Danny abruptly froze with his hands on the waistband of the scrub bottoms and glanced up. He caught Sam's eye and she offered him a confused frown. "Turn around," he said simply.

It took her a long moment to get it and then her mouth dropped open in surprise. A bright pink suddenly tinged her cheeks before she abruptly shut her mouth and spun away.

He hadn't meant to embarrass her. He was just a kid after all and, even if he wasn't, he'd shared a team locker room with her for years. It was all rather jumbled up in his head, but he knew there'd been any number of times when the whole team had needed to change for one reason or another. It was just one of those problems you had to deal with being on a mixed-gender front-line team. There were simply times when privacy wasn't possible.

Dr. Lam smiled and was nice enough to turn away also, drawing the privacy curtain closed as she did so.

Danny glanced from the knot in his drawstring to Mitchell and, with a silent nod, the man quickly tackled it for him. "Safe," the other man called succinctly when the girls could turn around again. Danny felt much better in clothes that actually fit.

"Hey!" Cam suddenly announced and bent to retrieve the bag he'd brought again. "Look what else I got you." Quickly, he lifted the bag and proceeded to dump out an assortment of reading books, magazines, puzzle books and even a thick coloring book with a box of crayons as Lam walked around him, opening the privacy curtain again.

"Wow...." Sam offered the weird assortment of material scattered across Daniel's lap an uncertain look. "'Couldn't decide how old he was?" she guessed.

Cam shrugged. "He's not five; he's not forty – so I decided to get him a bit of everything. At least I stuck with an archeology theme."

A title caught her eye and she quickly picked up the hardback book. "'The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus'?" she asked. That was hardly a book on archeology.

"Oh!" Danny suddenly exclaimed and held out his hand for it. "May I?"

She blinked in surprise and quickly handed it over to the excited boy. "Of course."

"I told him the story of 'Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby' last night," Mitchell explained. "'Figured he might like to read the rest of 'em."

"'Br'er Rabbit?'" Sam echoed in confusion.

"You're kiddin' me?" he exclaimed. "Man! You've both had deprived childhoods."

"This book was once the second most banned book by public libraries and schools in the US," Danny offered offhand. "'Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain still holds the record as the most."

"Really?" Sam asked.

"They were believed to be racist," he explained. "'Huckleberry Finn' because one of the main characters is named 'Nigger Jim' and the Uncle Remus stories because Harris wrote them in the phonetic dialect of those who told him the tales. Many argued, and still do, that both celebrated slavery and were insulting to blacks. Those who argue the works are racist ignore the fact that Mark Twain was a vocal abolitionist, and that the Uncle Remus stories have been recognized by many linguists as a legitimate effort to preserve the language and folktales of southern blacks following the Civil War."

Sam and Cam exchanged surprised glances, then Cam folded his arms and offered the boy a pointed look. "I thought you didn't know the stories?" he said with a confused frown.

Danny blinked and glanced up. He bit his lip for a long moment before shrugging. "I don't," he told them quietly and glanced back down at the book. "But I remember studying this book in college." He ran his hand over the dust cover lovingly.

Dr. Lam nodded pensively. "That's probably because of the restructuring of your brain. There are bound to be some rather odd holes because of it, 'though the more you expose yourself to related memories, the more those disconnect pieces should reemerge. You may find yourself remembering the stories as you read them." She shrugged. "Or not."

"You mean we should be doing everything in our power to jog his memory, rather than just sitting back and waiting to see what comes back on it's own?" Cam asked in surprise.

She nodded. "Pretty much. We know the memories are there; his brain just has to learn how to find them again. However," she placed special emphasis on the word, "memories can't be forced. I don't recommend any intensive memory stimulation exercises, but you shouldn't be afraid to explain things he doesn't remember. It's not like a case of traumatic amnesia where I'd be worried about implanting false memories. The danger is there," she admitted, "but from what I've seen so far, I'd say it's far more likely you'll stimulate real ones."

"So..." Cam nodded, awarding the boy another conspiratorial wink, "how much longer before you let us spring him?"

"His white count only just hit normal levels a few hours ago," she answered. "Give me another twenty-four and – if everything stays the same – I'll okay a transfer to a VIP room here on base."

"Yes!" Danny hissed in carefully controlled joy.

Those around him chuckled. "I think he's looking forward to escaping your dungeon, Doctor," Sam offered with a big grin.

"Eh," she shrugged. "He wasn't a very good victim anyway. 'Didn't scream nearly enough."

Danny took a sudden deep breath and opened his mouth only to have Cam slap his hand over it firmly. "Don't!" the man ordered, suddenly all business. "This is still the infirmary and others are trying to rest."

He nodded, blushing as the colonel removed his hand.

Lam winced. "'Oops!" she offered, chagrined.

"Yeah...." Cam straightened, still eying Danny to make sure he wasn't tempted to prove the doctor's earlier statement wrong. "Gotta be careful what you say around kids. Even I'd have a problem resisting that kinda challenge."

"That's because you're nothing but a big kid at heart," Sam decided, grinning again as the tense moment passed.

"Look who's talking," he rejoined. "I saw you taking that hair-pin turn outside the base at full speed a few weeks back."

She blushed and suddenly ducked her head. "I missed the gear shift!" she claimed quickly.

"Riiiiight," Cam agreed sarcastically. "And you didn't enjoy every minute of it."

A smile tugged at her lips. "I didn't say that."

Just then, an orderly appeared at Sam's side. "Excuse me, Ma'am; Sir," he addressed both lieutenant colonels. "You're wanted in Gen. Landry's office immediately."

The two officers exchanged mildly surprised and puzzled looks, wondering if this had anything to do with why Teal'c was late.

"Sorry, Squirt," Cam offered as they both awarded Danny helpless shrugs. "Looks like duty calls. I'll be back to let you mop the floor with me in a game of chess later, 'kay?"

Sam leaned in for a quick hug. "There are some coffee flavored Jelly-Bellies in the bottom of the bag!" she whispered quickly. "Don't let Lam know!" She straightened and offered him a smile. " 'Later," she said simply, then together she and Cam turned to quickly make their way to level twenty-seven and whatever awaited them in Gen. Landry's office.
* * *

Part 3

There are few things worse than being five years old, alone and stuck in an infirmary bed when you don't feel sick. Sam and Col. Mitchell had only left a few minutes ago and he was already bored.

Danny stared at his feet and wiggled them back and forth under the sheet. He frowned, suddenly wondering if he was supposed to call Col. Mitchell 'Cameron' or something? Kids weren't supposed to address adults by their first name, usually, but it was just weird to even think about calling Sam by her last name - and Jack would have probably been insulted if he'd tried it with him. But what about the new guy? How new was he?

'Cameron' just didn't feel right somehow....

He frowned in thought, wagging his feet back and forth under the sheet again before glancing over at the books Mitchell had bought him. 'The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus' tempted, but he really didn't feel like reading at the moment. His eyes darted to the crayons sitting atop the small stack. Unfortunately, the forty-year-old in his head was embarrassed at the thought of someone catching him coloring despite the fact that he liked doing it.

He sighed, remembering how proud his mother had been of the picture of the Great Sphinx he'd drawn ... a lifetime ago, even if his memory insisted it was only a week.

"Oh, my!"

He glanced up at the soft exclamation and saw an older, balding man with glasses stumble in his steps as he caught sight of Danny. He knew him ... where did he know him from? The man managed not to trip, the near mishap shaking him out of his shock even as he forced himself to continue approaching the bed. By the time he arrived, however, he was back in shock again.

"Dr. Jackson?" he asked tentatively, but didn't wait for Danny to answer. "I mean, obviously. It's not like we have a bunch of five year olds...." He suddenly realized he was staring and shook his head sharply. "Sorry. They told me, of course. It's just ... um...."

Danny gasped as he had a sudden vision of the man; laying on the ground; sweaty, beaten, frightened....

A hand on his shoulder broke the memory's grasp. "Hey, you okay?" the man asked in obvious concern.

Danny nodded and took a shuddering breath, forcing the fear back where it belonged. "Just remembering Honduras," he admitted, hoping it would be enough to keep Bill Lee from calling for the doctor.

"Ouch," Bill winced sympathetically. "Yeah, I really try not to think about that one any more than I have to...." He fell prey to staring again as he wrestled with the idea of this little boy remembering the horrors that those rebels-- He abruptly halted the thought and shook his head. Stop staring, Bill! "Sorry. I mean ... 'wow!' It's really you? That is, you with all of your memories ... you? I mean, I know it's you. I saw the DNA analysis. Not that we needed one you know. Everyone was there at the Omega Site and saw what happened and they'd already confirmed..."

Danny glanced away, a little uncomfortable with the all too honest reaction of his friend.

"...and I'm just babbling now because I'm really freaked out by this and that's just stupid because they already told me what happened so-- I'm just going to shut up now, okay?"

Danny glanced back up at the other man and watched as he silently tried to come to grips with the situation.

Then Bill remembered the folder he was holding and grimaced. "No, I'm not," he corrected himself. "I came here for a reason." He opened the file and handed it over to Daniel. "Can you ... still read this?"

Danny glanced down at the delicate parchment-like sheets of paper carefully tucked into individual acid-free plastic sleeves and was instantly intrigued. It was Ancient! Or, at least some of it was.... "We've never found Ancient on anything but stone before, have we?" he asked, only glancing up momentarily as the thoughts and memories began to race in his head. "It's too old a language. This can't be original. It has to be a copy of something else, and what is this other script? ...Looks like Heiratic, or possibly early Sumarian ... Meroitic maybe...." He glanced back up. "Where did you get this?"

Dr. Lee was looking relieved for some reason and smiled. "SG-13 found it about two weeks ago on P9K-771. It was buried in the ruins of a temple of some sort built on top of the remains of an Ancient foundation. Part of one of the walls had definite Ancient carvings but they'd been filled in with some sort of plaster that has since crumbled, revealing the writing again. This is ... well, Nyan says it's Ancient and something else, but even the Ancient is giving your guys a bit of a headache."

Danny frowned down at it again, concentrating on the Ancient. "It's a very obscure dialect, older even than the tablet on Abydos that described the Lost City of the Ancients."

"Can you read it?" Bill asked again.

He scanned the sheets again and reorganized them into the proper order. He nodded pensively. "I think they're instructions."

Bill was instantly, quietly excited. "For what?"

"I'm not sure," he answered, frowning. "It's pretty fragmented. I think the other language might be a translation or a commentary by someone who discovered the ruins."

"Hello Bill." Two sets of eyes glanced up in surprise to find Dr. Lam regarding them with folded arms and narrowed eyes. "Whachya doin'?"

Bill missed the danger signs. "The Linguistics Department was having difficulty translating something SG-13 found a couple of weeks ago," he explained easily. "I thought I'd bring it by for Dr. Jackson to take a look at."

"Hmmm...." She pursed her lips, obviously less than happy as she glanced between the white coated scientist and the small boy in the bed. "I could have sworn the Infirmary was a clearly designated no-work zone for patients," she observed tellingly. "And, while I'm well aware of your many diverse fields of study, doctor, I wasn't aware that linguistics was one of them."

The sarcasm and obvious reproof in her tone was totally lost on Bill.

"It isn't!" he agreed readily. "But they won't let me test the paper to establish it's age or material properties until after it's been properly translated. The ink itself is quite fascinating." He turned back to Danny as he got caught up in the research questions again. "If you hold it up to the light and tilt it, you'll see it--"

"-Very fascinating, doctor," Carolyn Lam interrupted firmly, and intercepted the plastic encased sheets of paper even as Danny lifted one up as Dr. Lee suggested.

"Careful!" both exclaimed as she snatched it from his little hands.

"However," she continued without pause as she quickly gathered up the remaining pages on Danny's lap. He didn't dare fight her for them, fearful that they'd be damaged in any kind of struggle, "this is neither the time nor place for such discussions. Once I release him from the Infirmary, you can discuss and do whatever you like, but while he is in my care--"

"-I'm bored!" Danny exclaimed plaintively, far more loudly than he should have. Dr. Lam turned surprised eyes on him. She wasn't the only one. He blushed, realizing he'd just disturbed half the ward. "I'm bored," he repeated more quietly. "How is working on a translation any different then reading one of those?" He gestured at the stack of books Mitchell had brought him.

"It's work," Carolyn answered succinctly, refusing to bend.

"But it's work I want to do!" he complained, fighting to keep his voice down. He couldn't win and he knew it but that didn't mean he wasn't going to try. He bounced slightly and slammed both little fists into the mattress to either side of his legs in sheer frustration. He didn't have enough strength to do more then slightly 'puff' the sheets. "It's not like I'm sick or injured or anything, and I don't feel like reading a book just to read it."

Lam's frown was getting more forbidding, not less.

It wasn't fair; it just so wasn't fair! Damn, was he really going to start crying now? How stupid was that? Some great 'Dr. Jackson' he was. Angrily, he lifted a fist to scrub at his eyes.

God, but he missed his mother!

"I hate this makrooh bed," he whined finally. He threw himself back against the pillows, crossed his little arms and glared up at the ceiling, refusing to cry any more even as another tear escaped his control. He brushed it away with an irritated swipe of his hand.

Bill was just staring at him, mouth slightly open in surprise.

Lam however was completely unmoved. She turned to Dr. Lee with a raised eyebrow. "Makrooh?" she echoed.

The other man blinked and shrugged in confusion. He had no idea what language Daniel had used, let alone what he'd said.

"Detested," Daniel groused, translating his own word. "It's Arabic for 'detested', 'reprehensible', 'disliked', etcetera..."

Lam shrugged a shoulder. "I suppose you could have said worse," she allowed pensively.

Danny merely compressed his lips into an angry little pout and chose to forgo demonstrating exactly how much worse he could get.

The doctor sighed dramatically. "Alright," she suddenly relented. "I'm probably going to regret this..."

Surprised, Danny glanced up at her in sudden hope. She shook her head at her own foolishness and turned to Dr. Lee. "You can leave the translations here. But they better be well protected!" she added staunchly. "I won't have you blaming my nurses if they get damaged."

"I'll take good care of them!" Danny promised Dr. Lee even as Carolyn Lam reluctantly handed the prized sheets back into his little hands.

Lee chewed his lip for a second. "I'd have brought photocopies but the ink does strange things when it's put in the machine. Your team is working with photographs but I thought you'd want to see the real thing."

"I do," Danny agreed. "Don't worry. I'll protect them, but I'm going to need some books and something to take notes with."

Lam rolled her eyes and walked away.
* * *

Part 4

Having just endured several long and fruitless hours of debate, recriminations and accusations on Dakara, Teal'c was not in the best of moods when he returned to the SGC. The Interim Council was no closer to deciding what method was to be used for open elections than they had been a month before when the referendum calling for them had been passed. The idea of a limited ballot versus write-in voting had been tabled yet again as debate over true democratic voting versus representative voting once more erupted between Ka'lel and Se'tak. The Hak'tyl, Bra'tak, Teal'c and a few others were pushing for an equal voice for all; but the military powers, such as those who had been lead by Gerak, were afraid of losing power to those they saw as weak and inferior.

The recent turmoil caused by Ba'al's re-emergence and attempted subversion had not helped matters – especially when most all had believed him to be dead.

With little more than a polite nod to the weapon's officer, Teal'c handed over his staff weapon and headed for decontamination. A shower and change of clothes into SGC uniform helped rid his mind of lingering frustrations. He'd done what he could in council; voiced his opinion and supported those he felt worthy. There was nothing more he could do at the moment, though he knew what influence he might yet wield would be needed again shortly. For now, however, he permitted himself to set those responsibilities aside and deal with other matters of concern.

The required medical exam was handled as quickly and efficiently as ever, and then he was free to go check on Daniel Jackson.

He was slightly surprised to find his young friend alone.

"Teal'c!" the boy greeted him enthusiastically, his pleasure at having the Jaffa appear obvious as he fought the urge to bounce in the bed with apparent difficulty. The paradox of the adult and child within one body was at war with itself – or perhaps that was only in Teal'c's mind. Seeing his friend in such a condition was difficult, but he suspected it was more so for him than for the child.

The dark-skinned Jaffa awarded his friend a small smile and solemn nod, pleased that he had been missed but.... "Where are colonels Mitchell and Carter?" He'd expected to find at least one of them at the boy's bedside.

"They got called to the general's office," he answered simply. "Didn't you?"

"I have only just returned from Dakara," he explained solemnly. "I fear the necessary arrangements to allow open elections are not proceeding well."

The young boy before him frowned in mild confusion. "Elections?"

Clearly, he was struggling to recall recent events. Teal'c was momentarily undecided as to whether or not he should explain ... but they were interrupted before he could do so in any case.

"Yo, Danny!"

Both glanced up to see Col. Mitchell hurrying across the ward toward Daniel Jackson's bed.

"Hey, Tee. Welcome back." The man grabbed the privacy curtain beside the bed and quickly swept it closed before Teal'c could do much more than lift an eloquent eyebrow in surprise. Mitchell turned back to the boy on the bed and spoke quickly. "We need to talk."

"What's wrong?" The young boy had immediately picked up on his obvious urgency.

"Oh, just a little bureaucratic SNAFU going on. Do you remember a Mr. Woolsey?" he asked, glancing at the careful stack of plastic encased sheets of alien text and Danny's rather sloppy notes on his bed-table. "Cool!" he observed simply.

The young boy frowned and sought to concentrate, ignoring the colonel's curious glance at his work. After a long moment, he shook his head. "No." He frowned.

Teal'c frowned slightly as well.

"Yeah, well, he's a political big-wig around here," Mitchell explained. "Kinda the eyes and ears of the IOA – they're the international oversight committee who decides what we can and can't do, and how much money we get to do it."

"I thought the President and Joint Chief's did that?" Danny frowned harder.

"That was a few years back," the lieutenant colonel answered. He suddenly spotted the crayons sitting atop the books off to the side on one of the monitors and reached across Teal'c to grab them up. Frowning, he quickly slid the drawer of Danny's bed-table open and plunked them inside, hiding them away as he continued without comment on what he'd just done. "We've gone international now. 'Still pretty much controlled by the US government, but we got a few more people around the world looking over our shoulders. Anyway, this guy Woolsey, he wants to talk to you."

Teal'c ignored Col. Mitchell's over-simplification of the IOA's involvement with the Stargate Program but offered a darker frown at mention of a meeting between Woolsey and their miniaturized friend.

"Why?" Danny asked simply.

"Um ... complicated. Or not. But I don't have time to explain. He'll be here any second. You just need to act smart and old, 'kay?"

The boy's brows knit in confusion.

Mitchell offered an impatient sigh. "He's going to have a fit about you even being on base if you don't!"

Danny's look changed from confused to worried. "He can't make me leave or put me in a foster home, can he?" Jack had promised him that wouldn't happen!

"No," Mitchell insisted firmly. "At least not the foster home stuff." He, O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 would move heaven itself before they'd let anything like that happen! "'Don't know if he can make you leave either, but he can sure raise a stink about it."

Teal'c lifted a fist in sudden warning. Pausing, Mitchell glanced over his shoulder at the curtain. Then he too picked up on what the Jaffa had already heard: a small group of people had entered the main ward. Sam's voice was among them. There was a bit of an indistinct exchange between Landry and Lam, and then the group was approaching again.

With a grimace, Mitchell quickly turned back to Danny and lowered his voice. "Just, you know ... think forty," he whispered and gave Danny a wink just before the privacy curtain was opened once more.

"Danny," Dr. Lam greeted him with an easy smile as she drew the material aside. "You have some more visitors...."
* * *

Part 5

There was only one member of the little group suddenly congregated around his bed whom Danny didn't recognize: a middle-aged man going prematurely bald with a long angular face and glasses. He knew they'd met before when he saw guarded surprise and recognition in the other's regard.

"Hello, Danny," the man echoed the doctor's greeting, forcing a familiarity he clearly didn't feel. He attempted a rather strained smile but his eyes didn't reflect it. "My name's Mr. Woolsey. Do you remember me, by chance?" His voice had assumed that tone typically used by most adults with young children.

Danny offered him a slight frown and tried to ignore the tone of voice. "Sorry," he answered with a small shake of his head. He swung his gaze to his other visitors. "General. Sam," he greeted them simply.

Having his entire team and Gen. Landry with him was not as reassuring as they might have wished. In fact, it was the opposite. Danny knew this guy must be quite dangerous for them to want to close ranks around him like this.

"I was wondering if we could have a little chat," Mr. Woolsey offered kindly. Well, his tone and manner were kindly anyway; his eyes were another matter. There was very little those eyes would miss....

Danny knew that bluffing him like Mitchell wanted wasn't going to be easy.

"You know..." the man continued, offering what he probably thought was a friendly smile even as his eyes noted the work on Danny's bed-table. He offered it a surprised twitch of an eyebrow before Danny quite deliberately closed the file and turned his notes over. The man lifted his gaze to Danny's face again with a more pensive glint in his eye than before. "We have met before, you and I. A few times, actually. Of course, you were older then...."

The man was trying; Danny would give him that much, but he wasn't buying the friendly act. "Why are you here?" he asked bluntly.

"Well...." The older man nodded and folded his arms as his voice took on an even more patronizing tone. "That's actually a very good question. You see, I work for a special group of people called the IOA. They are very smart and powerful people from all over the world who help oversee everything that goes on here at the SGC.... And at the moment, they are very concerned about you."

Danny frowned harder. "Why?" he asked again. Something told him their 'concern' was hardly altruistic.

"Well...." Woolsey repeated himself and paused as he chose his words with care. "You used to know a lot of things; a lot of very important things."

Danny really wasn't liking this guy very much. He hated when adults talked down to him like that; it was something his parents had never done. "I still know a lot of very important things."

"Yes, well," the man sighed unhappily, "that's the problem now, isn't it?"

"Problem?" Mitchell suddenly interrupted in apparent confusion. "Is there a problem here? I don't see a problem. Do you see a problem, Sam?" She shook her head. "Sam doesn't see a problem. Teal'c? Dr. Lam?"

"I do not," Teal'c answered solemnly. Lam merely shook her head and fought to hide a smile.

"What about you, General? Do you see a problem, Sir?"

"Nope," Landry answered with a relaxed shrug.

"No, the General doesn't see a problem either. So I guess then there is no problem." Mitchell shook his head and turned to Woolsey with a feigned look of confusion. "Unless the fact that there is no problem is actually the problem to begin with. Is that a problem, Mr. Woolsey?"

Danny giggled. It was definitely bad timing, but he just couldn't help it!

The man ignored him and offered Mitchell a rather withering look. "The problem is you have a five year old child here with intimate knowledge of the Stargate program."

"We do?" Mitchell offered in mock surprise and Danny had to literally slap his hands over his mouth.

"That's enough, Colonel," Landry ordered dryly.

"Yes, Sir," Mitchell responded promptly. Danny, too, fought to bring himself back under control. Antagonizing the enemy was rarely a good strategy.

"With respect, Sir," Sam decided to jump in and try to get things back on track, "Col. Mitchell isn't entirely incorrect." She turned to award Woolsey a pensive frown. "I don't see the problem."

"The problem is multi-fold, Colonel; and if you can't see that then I have to assume you are all wearing blinders!" he exclaimed dramatically. "I understand your desire to protect and help Dr Jackson. I even applaud it! The IOA would like nothing better than to see him restored to his full and ... natural self. But you can't honestly tell me you intend to keep a five year old locked up down here while you and your team go wandering around the galaxy searching for an answer you may or may not ever find! Tell me--" He suddenly spun to reopen the file Danny had closed and ran a finger down one of the protected pages, "--can you actually read this; or is it perhaps nothing more than a prop Col. Mitchell brought you in an attempt to impress me?"

Danny's earlier amusement vanished. The man wasn't simply attacking him, but his team as well. "Wang ba dan, ni shi bai chi," he offered with an angry glare.

"Hey!" Mitchell exclaimed sharply and lifted a warning finger. "My mother would've washed your mouth out with soap for that!"

Woolsey straightened and blinked in surprise.

"Your mother spoke Chinese, Colonel?" Landry asked lightly. Like Mitchell, he'd understood what young Daniel had said.

"Ah, no, not really," the younger man corrected himself. "Only a little. We had a live-in nurse for a while after my dad lost his legs. He spoke it. I thought it was cool so I got him to teach me." He shrugged and frowned forbiddingly at Daniel.

Woolsey was looking decidedly disconcerted. "What did he say?" he asked, confused.

"He called you an idiot," Landry answered bluntly, in full agreement - but failed to mention what else Danny had said. He continued before the man could pursue it. "I think the point he – and everyone else here - is trying to make is that, five years old or not, Dr. Jackson is not a typical child."

"Yes, but--"

"--But nothing!" Landry insisted firmly. "As far as I'm concerned, he is still 'Dr. Daniel Jackson' of SG-1 and Department Head of Linguists and Archaeological Research and Development at the SGC."

"You've got to be kidding!"

"Not at all!" Landry rejoined, mocking the man by using the same exclamatory tone. "Man or child, Dr. Jackson is still the foremost expert on the Ancients and the Ori in this galaxy. I think that warrants his continued inclusion here at Stargate Command, don't you?"

"According to your own reports, he doesn't even remember who the Ori are!" Woolsey argued doggedly.

"Yes, I do."

They turned as one in answer to the quiet but firm declaration.

"I didn't at first," Danny allowed calmly, "but I do now." He turned to the man who'd started all this. "I won't tell you there isn't a problem, Mr. Woolsey; obviously there is, but the SGC has dealt with stranger things before." He quickly slapped the file he'd been working on shut again and spread his small hands over it to keep it that way. "Yes, I can read it. Maybe not as well as before - I don't honestly remember – but it's not a prop. And I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your hands off as I have no idea what your security clearance is."

The man answered with a surprised lift of one brow, taking in the angry little face and very serious eyes. The rest of the group was fighting to hide proud little smiles but Mr. Woolsey was trying to hide his embarrassment. Clearing his throat, and refusing to be intimidated by a child, he hurried on. "And what do you think about Gen. Landry's insistence that you retain your title and position here at the SGC?" he challenged coolly.

"That may be a bit unreasonable," Danny admitted, with an apologetic glance for the general.

"Why?" Landry asked, prepared to defend his stance. "For all intents and purposes, you've been 'wounded in action'. As such, you are entitled to both medical and convalescent leaves of absence. Someone else in the departments will run things for a bit, just as they do whenever SG-1 is off-world or as they did when you were ascended - but the job will still be there when you're ready to get back to work." He turned back to Mr. Woolsey. "With any luck at all, Col. Carter and her team will have this all figured out by next week and any 'problems' you perceive will be moot!"

"With luck," Woolsey repeated, turning his frown on Landry. "And without 'luck'?"

"We'll deal with that situation when it arises, Mr. Woolsey," the general offered decisively. "As the young man here has already stated, we've dealt with worse before. It wasn't all that long ago the SGC had a 'miniaturized' O'Neill running around the base. Now, was there something more you wanted to see Dr. Jackson about? Because if not, I think Dr. Lam would like to see him rest. Apparently his body is still trying to adjust to all these rather ... drastic changes."

Danny took the hint and folded his arms as he flopped back against his pillows, trying to look tired as well as irritated. It wasn't that hard as he really was a little tired. He just didn't want to admit it.

"Of course," Mr. Woolsey allowed graciously, though in fact he was feeling anything but. He'd lost control of the interview somehow and didn't see an easy way to regain it. Then again, he didn't need to. His basic questions had been answered. The tests and evaluations he'd requested would be done. After he had those results in hand, he'd have a better feel for the true nature of the situation they were all facing. The people here at the SGC were too insular and loyal to one of their own to properly assess the difficulties from a completely objective point of view. That was his job and, at least for the moment, it was done.

"Thank you for seeing me," he offered the small child who was still giving him an irritated glare. Yes, the adult Dr. Jackson was definitely still in there, but the question was – how much? "For what it's worth, I do hope they are able to return you to normal fairly soon. Even if you and I have never exactly seen eye to eye, I've always admired and respected you. I wish you..." he paused to award Landry a significant look, "...luck."

The general's lips twitched in answer.

"And now..." the other man sighed, "if you don't mind General, I do have a few more questions that can be dealt with elsewhere; some of which actually have nothing to do with our young friend here - surprisingly." He offered his own words an ironic smile.

"Of course," Landry agreed. Dr. Jackson's condition might have priority for now, but it was hardly the only thing the IOA was interested in around here. With a nod, he waved Woolsey to proceed him and turned to offer Danny a secretive wink before following.

Dr. Lam also decided she wasn't needed and took her leave with a nod. "Call if you need me," she said simply and hurried to help tend some other patient a nurse was fussing over further down the ward.

Teal'c, Carter and Mitchell all exchanged speaking looks and sighed as they relaxed again. Well, the two humans did. Teal'c merely shifted to clasp his hands behind his back.

"Glad that's over, " Mitchell offered, sharing a weary smile with Danny.

"Not exactly," Sam corrected him, " 'more like a temporary reprieve. He's going to be watching us like a hawk."

"When hasn't he?" Mitchell asked.

"Indeed," Teal'c rumbled softly.

Sam suddenly chose to change the conversation and turned to give Danny a definite 'look.' "What was that you actually said to him?" she surprised him by asking. "I know it was more than just 'idiot' or Cam wouldn't have threatened to wash your mouth out with soap."

Danny felt his face suddenly heat and quickly ducked his head while Mitchell offered a soft chuckle.

"'Yeah.... If you're going to cuss someone out in another language, you might want to make sure they don't speak it first,” he advised the boy with a grin.

"'Cuss him out?'” Sam repeated, intrigued. Teal'c offered a lift of an eyebrow.

"Wang ba dan'," Mitchell repeated with a grin. "Literally, it means 'turtle egg' but, you know ... it's a matter of symbolism. Dan means 'egg', or offspring in this context, and wang ba ... Well, a turtle is a lowly creature and, ah--"

"--It means 'bastard'," Danny translated, cutting Mitchell's etymology lesson short.

"'Turtle egg' means 'bastard' in Chinese?" Sam asked, completely confused.

"Well, 'son of a cuckold' actually, from what I was told," Mitchell corrected Danny with a shrug, "'Supposed to be one of the worst insults you can give a man; but, yeah, 'bastard' about covers it."

Danny shrugged in turn.

"Way too educational," she decided with a grin. A small smile was even pulling at Teal'c's lips.

"So!" Cam suddenly clapped his hands and rubbed them together as he turned back to Danny. It was his turn to change the subject. "You ready to annihilate me at a game of chess there, Dr. Jackson?"

"You're actually looking forward to being beaten?" Sam asked with a shake of her head.

"'We learn from our mistakes'," he quoted his dear old grandma, then shrugged. "Besides, I figure when it finally starts to get hard for him to beat me, I'll be ready to challenge you!"

Sam offered a wry laugh. "You wish!"
* * *

Part 6

The kid was definitely tired. Cam cast a sideways glance to where he sat kneeling in one of the conference room chairs and noted the sudden jerk of his blond head as Danny fought to stay awake. The little guy had managed to trump him soundly at chess earlier and then even managed to beat Sam. She claimed she'd underestimated him; he claimed she'd let him win. It might have gotten ugly if, in an act of perfect timing, Lam hadn't shown up to tell them Gen. Landry was calling a conference - and he wanted Daniel to attend as well.

The boy had been way too excited by the idea of simply escaping the Infirmary for a little while for anyone to even think about denying him. There was no way Lam could refuse. Now, Cam was pretty sure she was wishing she had - or that she'd at least gotten her father to reschedule the meeting. Sandwiched between Cam and the good doctor, with Teal'c and Sam sitting across from them, the boy was definitely wilting and the meeting hadn't even gotten started yet.

Movement in the general's door brought Cam and Sam both to their feet as Landry finally appeared. "Gentlemen. Ladies," he greeted them perfunctorily with a slight smile and nod. "Be seated," he told his officers, releasing them from military protocol as he took his own seat at the head of the table. "Good to see you out of bed, Dr. Jackson. Would you like Walter to get you some books to sit on, perhaps? It might be a little--"

"--No sir," Danny interrupted with a stubborn shake of his head. Cam had already made the same suggestion and received a deadly glare in answer. The general was spared the glare but not the refusal. "I'm fine," the boy insisted. "Thank you, sir."

Landry lifted a surprised brow and glanced at the man beside the boy. Mitchell quickly gave him the slightest shake of his head in warning. Danny was being just a little bit proud at the moment, and that combined with the tiredness was also making him a little cranky. 'Not a word Mitchell would dare use aloud, but it was an accurate description none-the-less.

Landry accepted the warning without comment and didn't push it. "Alright," he decided instead. "Let's get started then. You are all aware of Mr. Woolsey's visit earlier today. 'Wish I could have spared you that little interview, Dr. Jackson, but the man was rather insistent. He was also quite insistent about a few other things I'm afraid."

Mitchell rolled his eyes. "Do we really want to know, sir?"

"Probably not," he allowed, "however, as it pertains directly to Dr. Jackson's continued presence and status on base, I think you might need to." He turned his attention to the boy on his left. "Mr. Woolsey has voiced several legitimate and well-considered concerns. While he and the IOA all agree that they would love to see Col. Carter pull the proverbial rabbit from the hat again, he insists that we take what he called 'precautionary measures' - kinda a 'prepare for the worst and hope for the best' type approach."

"Sounds reasonable," Mitchell agreed, "but coming from the IOA I doubt it is. What kind of hoops are they wanting us to jump through now, sir?"

Landry offered an unhappy grimace in obvious agreement with Mitchell's assessment and indicated the rather thick folder he had in front of him. "To start off, a rather extensive set of psychological and mental tests I'm afraid, designed to determine exactly what Dr. Jackson does and doesn't know - the results of which will directly impact whether he is to be allowed to continue working at the SGC or not."

"Crap," Danny offered irritably and put his head down on the table, folding his arms over it in weary denial.

With a frown, Dr. Lam reached over and pulled the folder with its rather imposing stack of questionnaires towards her as Cam voiced the group's general protest to this news.

"This is bullsh-- hockey, General!" He quickly corrected himself. "No body forced him to undergo a mental evaluation when he came back from being ascended the last time - and he had full blown amnesia!"

"The IOA wasn't around to insist on it either," Landry replied.

"Well, they can insist all they want to this time," Dr. Lam surprised them by interrupting. She closed the folder in front of her with a soft 'thump' and shoved it back at her father. "The answer is still, 'no.'"

"...No?" her father echoed in confusion.

"That's what I said," she agreed. "It would be completely pointless. His memory is still evolving and will continue to do so for months. I might recommend some psychological counseling to help deal with the traumatic nature of his situation and re-emerging memories, but the kind of invasive assessment they're wanting to do is completely ridiculous."

Landry offered her a pensive frown. "I need more than your opinion, Doctor. Can you provide me with a medical reason why such testing should not be done?"

Danny lifted his head. "You mean besides the fact that medical and psychological supervision of all SGC personnel is ultimately her responsibility and none of their business?" he asked with an irritated frown.

Landry offered a surprised wince and glanced at Col. Mitchell for help.

The man merely shrugged his shoulders. "When he's right, he's right, sir," he offered plainly. The boy simply dropped his head back down on the table.

Landry grimaced and shook his head. Right or not, he couldn't just tell the IOA to butt out! He turned to his daughter. "Doctor?" he asked simply.

She nodded and frowned pensively at the recording equipment set up off to one side for a long moment. When she spoke again, it was obvious she was in full medical-ese dictation mode. "Given the neurological changes which have occurred as a result of the physical restructuring of his brain, Dr. Jackson's mind is presently lacking the normal psychological defense mechanisms with which it once protected itself from traumatic memory. Unfortunately, Dr. Jackson's medical record is replete with numerous traumatic events, including near-fatal and fatal instances; therefore, to ask him to undergo any form of extensive psychological and/or mental evaluation in which memory stimulation would play a significant role would likely result in exacerbation of various observed traumatic schemata, likely to include, but not limited to, triggering one or more dissociative flashback episodes and/or recurring night-terrors. It is even possible that intensive and prolonged memory stimulation such as the IOA is proposing could result in serious psychological damage. Therefore, as Dr. Jackson's doctor and Chief Medical Officer of Stargate Command, I cannot permit such testing to take place. Any evaluation and treatment of Dr. Jackson's psychological and mental status will be handled with due care by our own specialists. Pertinent results will be forwarded to the IOA if and when I deem appropriate."

Landry blinked, not sure he'd followed all of that but trusting that his daughter knew what she was talking about. She was after all one of finest medical minds on the planet. He offered her a carefully subdued smile and nod. "Right. So I can tell Woolsey and the IOA where to stick their testing then?"

His daughter shrugged. "Pretty much," she agreed. "I'll write up the medical argument and have it on your desk by end of day."

Landry nodded. Recorded or not, having it properly written up by the base CMO would definitely be wise. "Thank you."

Expecting some comment from Danny, they all glanced to where he still knelt awkwardly with his head on the table under his arms.... Mitchell bent and peeked at his face, then straightened with a grin.

"I think we got ourselves a little power nap going on over here," he informed the others with an amused smile.

"Not surprising," Lam offered with a pensive nod. "I've noted a tendency to crash about two and it's going on four now. It's not unusual for five year olds to still need naps."

"Or, apparently, five year olds going on forty," Landry observed with a tolerant smile of his own.

The entire room spent a long moment just staring at the sleeping child before Landry decided to get things back on track again. "Right, so..." It was clear that normal conversation wasn't going to disturb the boy. "'Couple more things. First: the IOA is going to be conducting a little sight-seeing tour of the Gamma Site tomorrow morning. Originally, the President had requested that SG-1 be their escort - however, due to recent developments, he has agreed to let SG-3 handle the assignment. Col. Carter, you'll go with."

"Sir?" she asked, surprised. She was already heavily involved in the research to help reverse Daniel's condition. The idea of leaving that to escort a bunch of diplomats--

"One day, Colonel," Landry assured her quickly, anticipating her protest. "Your people can handle things for that long. The Marines may be our best tactical unit outside of SG-1, but they aren't exactly known for their diplomatic skills. You'll be along to help smooth any ruffled feathers as well as translate the researchers' techno-babble into everyday lay-speak. I also suspect you'll find plenty of time while you're there to interface with some of the scientists on site concerning Dr. Jackson's condition; they are after all some of the best minds in their respective fields the government could find. We can't afford to open the gate just to let you pick their brains, but if you're going to be there anyway.... You might even want to recruit a few of them to return with you ... just don't strip the Gamma Site bare, okay?"

She had to admit taking the opportunity to discuss the situation with a few of the specialist would be smart. "Yes, Sir," she acknowledged simply.

"Good. Second: Mr. Woolsey also reiterated his concern about Dr. Jackson's continued 'incarceration'. Apparently he doesn't like the idea of a five year old being confined to base indefinitely and, frankly, I have to agree with him. Therefore, we are adopting his 'prepare for the worst and hope for the best' philosophy. I have every confidence that a solution to the present dilemma will soon present itself, but in the meantime SG-1 is on indefinite stand down. Col. Carter, you will continue to supervise things once you return from the Gamma Site. Teal'c ... how did everything go on Dakara? Will you be returning there soon?"

"Very soon, General," Teal'c answered solemnly. "This last meeting was most unproductive."

Landry grimaced and nodded. "I was afraid of that. Hammering out the fundamentals of a completely new form of government is never an easy or simple process." He turned to Mitchell with a nod. "I guess that just leaves you, Colonel."

Cameron blinked in confusion. "Sir?"

"Babysitting duty," Landry told him succinctly. He ignored the look of horror that suddenly dawned on the younger man's face and lowered his voice as he indicated the sleeping child. "'Though I wouldn't use the term 'babysitting' around him if I were you."

"Sir?" the younger officer squeaked in protest.

"You have something better to do, Colonel?" Landry rejoined, enjoying the poor man's discomfiture far more than he probably should - but he so rarely got to indulge in such sport at the SGC. He'd learned a long time ago that finding someone's 'krytonite' and playing with it was a good way to help younger officers discover their true mettle. Mitchell needed to know he could raise to the challenge - whatever it might be.

"Ah, well, I, ah...."

The younger man stuttered uncertainly as he desperately searched for words. Oh, this was too good not to enjoy!

"That is I, ah, I thought I'd help Col. Carter with--"

"--Col. Carter has all the help she needs," Landry interrupted preemptively. "And probably more than she wants. Your presence would be superfluous."

"But sir--"

"--Your team; your responsibility," Landry declared flatly, ending the debate. He gestured at the sleeping child. "He needs you," he added emphatically.

Mitchell winced, recognizing the finality of the general's decision. And, like it or not, he knew the man was right. "Yes, sir," he agreed unhappily.

"What are your living arrangements like, Colonel? Do you have enough room for a five year old to move in with you?"

<i>Move in?!</i> Mitchell frowned at the unexpected question and shook his head. "Not really, sir. I snatched up a one bedroom bachelor pad when I first moved here and haven't seen the need to look for anything else."

"Buying or renting?"


"Furnished or not?"


Landry jotted himself a few quick notes. "Something more appropriate will be found. I'm sure the Housing Management Office can help us out. Oh, and I'll have a look about getting your Basic Housing Allowance adjusted as well. Temporary or not, we need to follow all the forms. Now...." He put the pen down and again folded his hands on the table. "We need a cover story."

It was Sam who spoke up. "Parents died, no next of kin, their Will names Cam as guardian," she supplied - and then shrugged when everyone gave her a surprised look. "It's the same cover story we used when Janet ... Dr. Frasier," she corrected herself for clarity's sake, "originally adopted Cassandra, sir; a twelve year old girl we rescued from another planet several years ago."

Landry sighed pensively. He was familiar with the story. "But that was for a permanent placement. It doesn't work so good if you manage to find a fix for this and the child suddenly disappears," he pointed out.

"Military spouse Missing in Action and Presumed Dead?" Lam suggested perfunctorily.

"So he or she can be 'rescued' when needed?" Landry translated. He nodded. "Better," he agreed and turned again to Mitchell, "but it still needs details - most of which will need to come from you. It's your friends and family who will question this the most. I suggest taking a day or two to think about it. Maybe discuss it with our sleeping beauty here." He offered the boy another amused smile. "I'm sure you'll come up with something by the time Housing is ready for you. I'll make sure to light a fire under them and see if we can't get you moved into someplace new by this weekend. In the meantime, you'll both stay in one of the VIP suites and try to figure out how everything else is going to work here: work schedule, play time, nap time..." He shrugged quite certain there were any number of things that hadn't been considered yet but confident that his people would figure it out. "I believe Dr. Lam was going to release him from the infirmary tomorrow morning?"

Carolyn nodded and frowned down at the tousled blond head resting on the table beside her. She glanced up at Mitchell. "Ten o'clock," she decided. "I'll have his discharge instructions and allergy medications waiting."

"What about clothes and, um..." Mitchell frowned, finding himself a little overwhelmed by the idea of what all he was actually being asked to do. 'Babysitting' didn't begin to cover it!

"Sam bought him a couple of sets this morning," Lam reminded him. "And we have a few pieces in stores I can add; enough to get him through until you can take him shopping for more."

Shopping? What had he gotten himself roped into? "Great," he offered sarcastically. "Good thing I have some money in savings."

"I'll see about getting an emergency clothing stipend for him," Landry decided, jotting another note. "Given his continued active status, Dr. Jackson will of course continue to receive his normal pay - but accessing it may be a problem. We'll have to make arrangements to make sure we don't bankrupt you, Colonel." He glanced up again from his writing. "Anything else?"

The five adults gathered around the table glanced at each other in silent question. There had to be more they hadn't covered... but nothing immediately presented itself.

"Then I think we can leave anything else for our next meeting. We'll say ... Saturday morning at oh-nine-hundred?" Carter should be back by then, and Mitchell and the munchkin should have worked out the details to their cover story. Landry glanced at Teal'c as the most questionable attendee of the group. He merely answered with an acknowledging nod. If he could be here, he would. No one else protested. "Good," Landry nodded and glanced at the sleeping boy as he stood. "Meeting adjourned. Now, let's get this kid back in bed. I don't want to have to explain drool stains on the table at my next mission debriefing."
* * *

Part 7

"Sir?" One of the nurses making rounds paused at Danny's cubical to catch Mitchell's attention. He glanced up from where he sat in the hard plastic chair, chin in hand, elbow planted on his knee regarding the sleeping boy. "Are you okay, sir?" she asked quietly, just above a whisper.

The question was a bit surprising. He would have expected her to ask about Danny rather than him, but then again they were watching the kid pretty close and would already know there was nothing wrong with him. More than one nurse had turned to watch their progress when he'd carried the boy back to his bed from Landry's office. Yeah ... Danny-boy had them all wrapped around his itsy-bitsy little finger and the tiny Prince Charming didn't even know it! Some things never change.

He was pulled back to the present as the nurse shifted her weight uncertainly, waiting for an answer. 'Probably just trying to be nice he realized.

"Fine," he answered in the same quiet tone, resettling his chin in his hand and turning his attention back to the bed.

"There's really no need for you to sit and watch him sleep, you know," she offered tentatively. "He's doing fine. If you want, I can have you paged when he wakes up?"

The words were slow to penetrate Cam's self-occupied thoughts but, after a long moment, he managed to glance back up at her with a slight frown and offered a small shake of his head. "I'm good," he assured her. "Thanks."

His eyes once more returned to the bed, dismissing her. This time she took the hint. With a shrug, she left and returned to her duties.

Babysitting.... Boy, was that a misnomer! What in the world was Landry thinking? Cam was no more cut out for this than ... than writing the world's next great symphony! Might as well hand the kid over to Woolsey to care for!

Okay, no - he abruptly put the breaks on that thought - that was going too far. <i>Anyone</i> would be better than Woolsey.

He grimaced at the thought of someone like Felgar in charge of the boy. Now there was an absolute disaster begging to happen. Cam wouldn't trust that guy to watch Danny for more than five minutes - and depending on the situation, he might not trust him that long! Same for Combs.

Okay, so maybe not anyone.

Siler, maybe? He had a family. Cam didn't know what kind of family but he knew he'd heard the master sergeant and Walter talking about kids sometime last week. Something about braces, maybe?

Or ... maybe they were talking about bracing for some new experiment someone was wanting to run.... Probably Felgar he decided as his mind continued its rather circuitous search for an answer to his present dilemma. He couldn't remember now, but he knew they'd mentioned kids in there somewhere!

He sighed and leaned forward in the chair, planting his other elbow on his other knee and burying his hands in his hair. What the hell did he know about taking care of kids? He was a combat duty officer and bachelor, for heaven's sake! Yeah, sure, he'd done the obligatory good-uncle number a couple of times on the rare occasion he managed to get home, but this.... Well, this was a hell of a lot more than supervising and entertaining a kid for a few hours so mom and dad could have a much needed break.

It wasn't babysitting duty; it was 'daddy duty' and he had absolutely no idea where to even start!

The kid on the bed offered a sudden soft gasp and Cam's head shot up. The small body, so peaceful and relaxed a few minutes ago, was as tense as a bow string now. With a small whimper, the disheveled head began to toss in the midst of an obvious nightmare.

Crap! He shot to his feet. What was he supposed to do? Wake him up? Try to calm him without waking him? What? He didn't know!

"Mama!" he screamed.

Oh man, not that. Cam couldn't have told anyone why he knew what he knew - maybe it was the sheer panic in that cry, maybe something else - somehow he knew Danny was dreaming of his parent's deaths.

And he didn't have to think about what to do.
* * *

He sat frozen on the bench as he watched the cover stone swaying. He knew what was about to happen even before the support chain gave an ominous groan.

Why couldn't he shout a warning? He should shout a warning, but he couldn't move.

Panic and fear were distant pinpricks even as the enormous stone slab fell. His parents' screams were cut short, drowned out by the sound of the massive weight crashing upon them. A cloud of dust rose in the air obscuring his view of the gristly sight. Other people were yelling then, shouting for help even as they desperately dug at the still settling debris.

And still he sat frozen where his mother had told him to wait while they finished setting up the display. It wasn't until after someone picked him up and whisked him outside that he began to understand what had happened. It wasn't until he heard the sirens that he started to feel. And scream.



"No!" he yelled, fighting the hands holding him. "Let me go! Let me go! Mama!"

"Danny, you're dreaming!" someone was insisting. "It's alright, it's just a dream! Wake up!"

The memory of sirens and panicked adults lurched to an incomprehensible stop as he found himself suddenly staring into concerned blue eyes and turned to see the sterile world of the SGC infirmary beyond.

"It's a dream, Danny," Col. Mitchell insisted desperately. "Just a dream. Look at me now, come on. That's it. It's just a dream! You're okay."

Reality and memory crashed in on him with equal inescapable force. A violent shudder passed through his small frame, and then he was burying his head in the lieutenant colonel's shoulder as the tears came. The arms swiftly wrapped around him and lifted him free of the bed. He couldn't remember how he'd gotten there. He thought they'd been in a meeting with the general? But it didn't matter. Mama.... He clung to the man holding him as his dream came back to haunt him. God, he missed his mama and papa!

"Shhhh...." The man holding him offered gently, rocking him back and forth and rubbing his back with one hand. He didn't try to sit down again like he had last night but instead stood beside the bed swaying back and forth and murmuring quiet reassurances as Danny's emotions raged.


He flinched at the anxious note in the nurse's voice and then heard the sound of more rubber-soled shoes running and skidding to a stop with sharp little squeaks as others came to answer the emergency. He must have been screaming, he realized, and hiccuped as he tried to fight back his tears.

"Just a little nightmare," Col. Mitchell was quickly assuring those who'd come running. He finally moved to sit back down in the visitor's chair and settled Danny on his lap. His little knuckles were actually white where they clutched the fabric of the man's fatigue jacket. The hand on his back resumed its slow comforting circles. "Nothing to get all panicked about."

"I'll be the judge of that, Colonel," Dr. Lam's voice intruded harshly.

No, no, no! He didn't want to be sedated again! It was just a stupid dream! He felt the touch of a bunch of Kleenex being offered up and forced himself to let go of the uniform beneath his hands to take them. He was shaking and frowned at himself even as he quickly wiped at his face and nose.

"Danny?" Dr. Lam's voice was soft and coaxing as her hand came to rest on his back and Col. Mitchell stopped his rubbing. "Danny, can you look at me please?"

He knew he'd never avoid the needles if he didn't turn and answer her. He offered his nose a last desperate swipe with the wad of tissues in his hand before forcing himself to face her. "I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I won't scream again. I promise. Please don't sedate me."

Two perfectly arched dark brows rose in surprise even as she offered him a pensive frown. "No one's going to sedate you if you don't need it, Danny," she assured him. "Was Col. Mitchell right? You had a nightmare?"

He nodded, leaning into the warm and comforting embrace of the man who was holding him. He didn't like how carefully and closely the doctor was regarding him.

"Do you remember what it was about?"

Again he nodded, not because he wanted too but because he knew lying would only get him in more trouble.

"Can you tell me about it?" she asked.

He'd known she was going to ask that! Immediately, he shook his head and buried his face back into Col. Mitchell's shoulder. If he didn't say it, he wouldn't have to think about it.

"I think it was probably his parents," Cam answered quietly above him. Danny shut his eyes tight and tried to shut his ears as well. "He was calling for his mother and.... Well, you know about last night. He's just kinda missing them a bit right now, aren't you, Squirt?"

The question was offered too gently for Danny to ignore. He nodded jerkily and wiped at his nose again. It was still running but the wad of tissue he was using only made matters worse.

"Ewww!" Mitchell offered softly, watching him. He quickly snatched the messy mass away and tossed it in the trash, retrieving a fresh batch of tissues in the same move and holding it to Danny's nose. "Blow," he ordered, just as he had the night before.

Danny eyed the colonel and felt himself blush, but he did as ordered. Everyone was going to think he was a baby! He was capable of blowing his own nose - usually.

The offending body part was gently squeezed and the tissue folded before being presented again. Another blow and wipe and his poor nose was released. "Better?" Mitchell asked kindly, tossing the tissues after the others and debating whether to grab some more or not.

Danny just nodded and laid his head back on the other man's chest. It was a little damp from where he'd been crying. And then he glanced beyond the doctor and noted the many anxious nurses and orderlies still gathered at the foot of his bed. With an embarrassed little scowl he turned to bury his face in Mitchell's shoulder again.

Mitchell noted the look and quickly shot their unwanted audience a sharp glare. "Show's over, people," he told them curtly. "Go back to work. Now."

A glance from Lam over her shoulder reinforced this not-so-subtle order. The frozen group suddenly remembered other more important things they needed to be doing.

"Let's get him back in bed," Lam suggested softly.

"No!" Danny protested strongly, feeling a moment of panic and clutching at the heavy material beneath his hands again.

Above him, Mitchell blinked in confusion. "Danny?"

He was being stupid. He knew he was being stupid! That didn't make him feel any better though. "Please, not yet," he whispered pitiably.

"'Kay," Mitchell agreed easily. "Not a problem. You doing okay?"

Danny nodded again and, after getting another reassuring squeeze from the guy, managed to straighten up in his lap. "I missed the meeting with Gen. Landry," he noted with a sudden frown, abruptly changing the subject. "What happened?" He glanced over at Lam. "I don't have to take those stupid tests, do I?"

"No," she agreed readily. "Not the ones the IOA was wanting anyway. You will have to take a few others though, but they won't be bad. We'll talk about it later. Colonel..." She stood and caught the man's eyes. "Find me before you go?"

It really wasn't a request despite her tone. Mitchell nodded. 'Probably something about getting him to see a shrink. They'd talk when the kid wasn't around to get upset.

She turned back to Danny with another lift of her eyebrows. "You almost slept through dinner," she added before she left. "Why don't you go ahead and get back in bed and I'll have Kathy get you your tray, hmm?"

Reluctantly, Danny agreed. She waited until he was climbing into place before she turned and left. Col. Mitchell reached for the bed controls before he could and deftly raised the head of the bed even as Danny kicked the blankets downward to sit cross-legged in the middle of the sheets. He offered a weary sigh as the man grabbed his bed-table and wheeled it into place for his dinner.

"Let's get you set up here then, shall we?"

Danny ignored the question and watched with a growing frown as Mitchell gathered up the folder and notes he'd had been working on earlier and carefully set them aside on one of the carts beside his bed. Scowling, Danny offered the man a definite shake of his head and held out his hands in silent demand.

The lieutenant colonel regarded him in surprise, obviously confused, but handed the stack of papers back over without protest - then watched as Danny opened the bed-table drawer and carefully slid them inside, removing the crayons Mitchell had put there earlier first. The drawer was a much safer place and he'd promised to take care of them.

Nurse 'Kathy' appeared just then with his dinner tray and set it on the table with a bright smile. "I managed to get you an extra brownie," she told him with a wink and glanced at Cam. "Would you like me to get you a tray?" she offered unexpectedly. "We always have a couple extra."

The man glanced down at his watch and shrugged. "Sure, why not?" he decided. "Thanks."

Danny lifted the covers on his tray after she left and frowned. Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy and broccoli was not his favorite. He grabbed the salt packet and attacked the mashed potatoes. There were stewed apples too, to go with the brownies. "You don't have to stay with me you know," he offered, feeling a bit self-conscious with someone watching him eat but he was too hungry to wait for the other tray to arrive. "I'll be fine."

"I know," the guy agreed affably and sat back in the hard plastic visitor's chair, folding his arms again. "We got a few things we need to talk about first though."

Danny shoveled a spoonful of potatoes in his mouth and glanced at Mitchell expectantly.
* * *

"You missed a few more things than just the IOA testing going up in flames," he explained patiently.

Another spoonful of potatoes disappeared. Cam wondered if Danny was really that hungry or if he was just giving himself an excuse not to have to talk. 'Though, if he remembered right, the kid had missed lunch....

Cam decided to approach the problem from an oblique angle. He wasn't really sure how Danny was going to react to the idea of moving in with him. "Lam's letting you out of here tomorrow morning," he explained, emphasizing the positive. "You and I are going to be bunking together in one of the VIP rooms for a couple of days - 'til Landry can manage to find us something better."

Danny paused in his chewing and then quickly swallowed. "...'You and I'?" he echoed a moment later.

Cam shrugged. "Teal'c's going to be busy on Dakara and Sam's in charge of fixing everything, so ... Landry picked me." He smiled, trying to make the best of it. "It'll be fun!" he claimed, spreading his arms enthusiastically. "You can whup me at Chess and I can kick your a-- butt at SOCOM 2."

Danny stared at him for a long moment before turning his attention to the stewed apples. "Don't you have work to do?" he asked, carefully indifferent. Too indifferent.

Cam wasn't buying the act for a second - but he wasn't sure what the kid's reaction to the news really was either....

"Nope!" he claimed, going for relaxed and easygoing on his own part. "Not for a while anyway. We're supposed to figure all that stuff out eventually. Just in case everything takes a little longer than we want it too. Probably won't have to worry about it for too long," he offered reassuringly. "Carter's too good to let everything stay like this forever, but in the meantime I'm sure you'd like to get off base and go running in the park or visit a museum or whatever."

Ouch! He'd said museum. He shouldn't have said that. That's where Danny's parents had been killed. He fought to keep his face impassive, hoping the kid hadn't caught the slip.

Danny only offered a one shoulder shrug and kept eating. "What happens if she can't fix it?" he asked disinterestedly, refusing to look up from the food.

Ah! So that's what was eating at the kid; 'what ifs.' "I thought we all agreed we weren't betting against Carter?" he countered easily.

The kid scowled at his food and put his fork down, suddenly not interested in eating any more.

Great one, Mitchell; 'way to belittle the kid's concerns! Cam sighed gustily and looked up at the ceiling with a quick prayer for guidance. Didn't he just get through telling himself what a terrible father figure he'd make?

"Okay, look," he sighed. "I don't know. We're still kinda playing this all by ear, you know? Worse comes to worst ... I suspect O'Neill will retire again and demand to take you in. You'd like that, wouldn't you? He loves you like a son anyway, so.,.."

The kid still didn't looked up. Cam wasn't saying what he wanted to hear. The man bit his lip and tried to think what that might be. "No matter what happens," he offered emphatically, hoping he was reading things right, "you won't go into foster care. Not going to happen. Got it?"

The kid finally looked up, but instead of looking reassured or relieved, he was frowning. "Isn't that what you are?" he asked quietly. "A foster father?"

Ow! Cam winced visibly. Damn, he hadn't thought about it that way. Not that foster care was a necessarily bad thing, but apparently Daniel hadn't had a good experience with it the first time around. Cam shrugged helplessly and tried to shake his head as he scrambled to come up with the right answer for his worried friend.

Friend. That was it!

"Nope," he declared firmly. "I'm a friend taking care of a friend who's been hurt; just like you'd do for me if our positions were reversed."

"I would?" Danny dared ask in quiet challenge.

"Well, yeah!" Cam insisted emphatically. If there was one thing he'd managed to learn about Dr. Daniel Jackson over the last several months, it was that the guy didn't have a single, selfish bone in his body! "You don't remember back when I got injured down in Antarctica, do you? I got really banged up; broken back, internal injuries, the works. At one point, they didn't think I'd ever walk again. All of you were there for me despite the fact that none of you knew me from Adam! Why? I don't really know. I was no more special than anyone else who fought that day, but you all just kinda adopted me anyway."

He leaned forward and stole a piece of broccoli.

"It was weird," he offered pensively, tossing it in his mouth. Hey, for once it wasn't over-cooked! "It was you who told me everything that had happened: how Jack downloaded the Ancient Repository of Knowledge - again! - and you all went half-way across the galaxy to get a power source for that chair and how Jack used it to defeat Anubis. I remember hearing about that over the radio as I thought I was dying...."

He shrugged and sat back, folding his arms as he continued. "You musta pulled some strings to get permission to tell me all that. I was nothing but a glorified jet jockey and test pilot for alien-hybrid ships at the time. I knew the basics about the Stargate Program and the Prometheus and the Goa'uld, and I knew SG-1 was leading the fight - but that was about it. The details were still pretty much a need to know type basis thing. You broke me through that. I don't know, maybe you were just worried about Jack being frozen and everything and needed to talk. When he came to see me a few months later...." Cam glanced up again at the ceiling and offered it a laugh as memory took him. "That was the day I swore I was going to walk again; I was going to get outta that bed and join SG-1 if it was the <i>last</i> thing I ever did. And, by God, I did."

He glanced back down at the kid on the bed who was now staring at him. "I may be a lot of things, kiddo, but I ain't no impersonal fly-by-night temporary son-of-a-bitch who's out to make a quick and easy buck taking in some unknown kid and feeding him once in a while. I am the commander of SG-1, the best damn first contact, combat ready team at the SGC - and we do not leave our people behind. Ever. But more than that, I am also your friend. And as your friend, I am going to help you - whether you want me to or not." The two of them stared at each other for a long moment - until someone gently cleared their throat.

Two sets of startled blue eyes suddenly turned to see a rather awkward looking nurse standing off to one side with a dinner tray. "Sir?" she asked tentatively.

Mitchell felt his stomach drop. Damn, how long had she been there? Not that he'd said anything wrong or.... It was just a bit intense was all. He had no idea how much she'd heard but, given the light blush on her cheeks, he figured it was too much. He shot to his feet and quickly retrieved the tray.

"Thank you, lieutenant," he told her brusquely, pasting a rather uncomfortable smile in place and hoping to heaven she wasn't going to say anything! He even debated telling her to forget what she'd just heard for a moment, but he didn't want the kid thinking he was embarrassed by what he'd said - because he wasn't. It was the unvarnished truth. And while half an hour ago he'd been sitting here wondering how in the hell he was going to get out of 'babysitting duty', now he'd fight for it tooth and nail.

Weird how things worked out sometimes, wasn't it?

The woman offered a small understanding nod and silent promise to keep quiet before turning to leave without a word. Sighing, Mitchell turned back to the bed and forced himself to lift the lid on his main entrée. "Mac and Cheese," he discovered and glanced up, dismissing everything that had just happened to the back of his mind. "Wanna trade?"
* * *

Part 8

Cam offered his college neighbor a friendly smile and nod as the two of them passed each other in the third floor hallway. The guy was probably on his way out for a night with his buddies. Cam merely hoped he wasn't planing to bring them back here for a night of revelry. Given it was a Thursday, he was probably safe.

He managed to make it to his apartment without running into anyone else in the complex and slipped inside to stand in the small foyer surveying the cramped little space he'd called home for the last eight months.

There wasn't much to it. A bathroom that was only a little bigger than the closet, a kitchenette and small living area combo that could hold two comfortably but three was a definite crowd, and a tiny bedroom with a double bed and dresser drawers. That was it. It was fine for a busy bachelor who did little more than sleep there anyway, but the idea of having a kid here was out of the question.

He sighed, surveying his surroundings with a jaundiced eye. Weird. He'd been here for several months and actually had boxes he'd never unpacked.

Not that he had a lot of stuff or anything. Most of his things were still stuck in storage back home. The top secret nature of his test-flights and training in the X-302 at Area 51 had required he bivouac on base for more than a year. He and his RIO, Jonathan Banks, had been the first, but eventually they'd shared a barracks with fifteen other teams they'd helped train. There hadn't been a lot of room for personal effects.

Then later, what with the rather dicey nature of his prognosis after he crashed in Antarctica, his CO and parents had seen everything transferred back home to await developments. After recovering and getting posted here, he'd just never sent for any of it.

When he'd moved here, this was supposed to nothing but a temporary residence anyway. As an Air Force Officer, he was expected to maintain a certain 'image' and this really wasn't it. It wasn't bad. It had all the amenities he needed, including a public swimming pool for the summer and a private gym for residents-only that was nice - but he wasn't going to be hosting no parties here, that was for sure.

Unlike his college neighbors.

He grimaced, remembering some of the late night weekend partying they could get up to, and wondered why he'd never looked for anything better before now? With a shake of his head, he moved into his bedroom to dig out his duffel bags and two small suitcases stuffed under the bed. He needed to get busy packing what few things he didn't want to entrust to the movers when they pounded on his door come Saturday or Sunday morning. Hell, he could probably move everything he owned in one trip of his own car! Okay, he corrected the thought, maybe two trips - but, knowing Landry, there'd be movers at his door anyway. The general had said he wanted to get him and Danny moved in to a new place by this weekend.

Thinking of Danny reminded him of his conversation with Lam before he'd left. He'd been right about why she wanted to see him. She'd been more than a little insistent that Danny see a child psychologist. As his temporary caregiver (he'd decided the term 'babysitter' didn't suit either of them) it was apparently Cam's job to make him agree.

Not talk to him about it. Not 'try' and get him to see reason. <i>Make.</i>

He hadn't been particularly happy when he'd left the good doctor's presence. No meeting had been scheduled yet as she was still trying to find a doctor she liked, but he'd been told they'd be notified as soon as it was set up.

The SGC actually already had a couple of child psychologists on staff. Their basic function was to help Dr. Mackenzie with the daily housekeeping type of thing and only really jump into the fray whenever the SGC was dealing with traumatized refugees and the like. Both of them were wet-behind-the-ears raw recruits who'd likely shit themselves over the idea of having to treat 'Dr. Jackson.' Mitchell didn't want them anywhere near his charge and Lam agreed.

At least they agreed on something.

The boy had been happily playing Teal'c some old Egyptian game called 'Hounds and Jackals' when Cam left for the night. He still needed to sit down with the kid and talk about a cover story.

He'd do that tomorrow morning when getting them both settled in the VIP suite - after he'd talked to his landlord about breaking his lease. Damn, he frowned at the thought. That was going to cost him an extra month's rent. Add on the first month's rent and security deposit for the new place, buying furniture and food stores, clothes for the kid ... and toys. Can't forget toys, he told himself. Switching utilities and ... what else was he forgetting?

Oh. Jackson's place.

He chewed his lip in thought. They'd probably just leave everything as it was for the moment. Two weeks, three months - didn't much matter. Jackson would want it for when he finally got back to normal. Utilities and rent would all be automatic. If things looked like they were going to stretch out beyond six months or more--

Six months. The terrified little bubble of thought echoed in his head. Nah, no way! He dismissed it. Carter would probably have this fixed before they could even get comfortably settled in!


Damn! he thought. Now who was being plagued with stupid 'what if' questions? He wasn't the type to normally sit and mull over something like this. He was a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type guy. All pilots were. Well ... most. He gave the thought a mental shrug. Unfortunately, the idea of taking on a five year old - genius and good buddy that he was notwithstanding - wasn't something Cam could just wing.

Man, his head was just spinning with it all. Come Monday, his life would have done a complete one-eighty at supersonic speed! With a sigh, he forced himself to stop thinking. One thing at a time Mitchell, he told himself, one thing at a time. Bending, he pulled the first suitcase out from under the bed and flipped it open.
* * *

He stroked his hand over the surface of the small telecommunications ball, activating it. Nice little piece of technology. Too bad it required a liquid naquadah capsule like the staff weapons to work. Earth science had to make too many discoveries and advancements before they could even think about introducing something like this to the market. Ah well, it did provide unquestionably secure communications.

It hummed and his contact's voice answered. "You're late," she greeted him perfunctorily.

He scowled at her superior tone but dismissed it. They were paying him enough to ignore it. "Unavoidable," he answered simply. He was good enough that she knew better than to question that. "Ready?"

"Ready," she answered succinctly.

He depressed a button on his cell phone that activated a hidden transmitter. An indicator flashed to life on the screen for a moment and then the file was gone - in more ways than one. If she hadn't been ready to receive it, he'd have to recreate it from scratch - not the easiest or safest thing in the world.

"Received," she confirmed, doing with it whatever it was she did with it. "Summary?"

"He's going to be staying with Mitchell," he answered concisely. "The Housing Office has been asked to find a suitable place. Landry wants them in it by this weekend. I should have an address by tomorrow afternoon."

"They're letting him off base?"

The woman sounded surprised. He was glad this thing was one of the mini-communication devices so she couldn't see him roll his eyes. He ignored her question. "SG-3, along with Col. Carter, is taking some of the IOA to the Gamma Site. I have nothing specific on the Jaffa but he seems to be pretty tied up with the political infighting on Dakara. No word on the Telchak device or what the Tok'ra and Asgard are up to."

There was a pause as she considered options. "Maintain surveillance on the primary target," she instructed. "Is there anyway you can get cameras in the house before they move in?"

"Doubtful," he answered. "They're moving too fast. Besides, if they're smart they'll sweep it first. Better to wait."

"Your decision," she agreed. "Don't endanger your position within the SGC. I'll expect another report Saturday night unless circumstances dictate otherwise."

They both turned their devices off without further acknowledgment. Locking his away in the special compartment between the seats of his car, he started the engine and drove home where his wife and two kids were waiting to greet him.
* * *

Part 9

Danny frowned down at the second-hand tennis shoes and wriggled his toes. They were a little big but Col. Mitchell seemed to think that was better than too small. He also said not to worry about it as they had to go shopping anyway. "Already stopped by Landry's office and he's okayed a trip into town once we hammer out a few basic questions for our cover story. The details can wait a day or two but he wants at least a name before I take you off base. He doesn't think 'Daniel Jackson' would be very smart."

Danny glanced up, transferring his frown to Mitchell. "Why?"

"Because someone might connect you with ... well, with you!" he shrugged, concentrating on tying the shoes. "I don't think we want Terry over at the Sports Climbing Center to ask if you're your own son and what the heck I'm doing watching you."

Danny couldn't remember who 'Terry' was but for some reason he did remember the Sports Climbing Center. "I don't think they let five year olds use the climbing walls."

"Doesn't mean we won't run into him when we go to Walmart or wherever," Mitchell rejoined, giving Danny's little feet a squeeze and pat as he finished the laces. "Plus, there's my family to think about. They don't live here or anything, but I do talk to them regularly. It would be a little strange if they found out I took in a kid and didn't tell them about it."

"And you've mentioned 'Dr. Jackson' to them before," Danny surmise.

"Oh yeah!" he replied.

Danny blinked in surprise, wondering at his vehemence.

"All good!" he quickly assured him. "Nothing but good! But anyway, um, whoever we have to interact with - family, friends, neighbors, casual acquaintanceships - is going to ask questions, and it would be a little strange if I was taking care of Dr. Jackson's son while he was missing or what have you, and then he comes back and the kid just disappears." He frowned and shook his head. "Carter's idea is much better."

"Sam?" Danny asked. He'd just seen her that morning. She'd stopped by to say 'bye' before her mission to the Gamma Site. When had Mitchell had a chance to talk to her about a cover story?

The lieutenant colonel nodded even as he scooped Danny up off the bed and set him down on the ground. They'd already gotten the all-clear from Lam. Now, he handed Danny down his notes and the folder Dr. Lee had brought him, and then grabbed up the plastic bag Lam had left with Danny's allergy medications and discharge instructions. He quickly tossed in the three books Danny had been using to help him with the translation - the bag was plenty big enough - grabbed up the other bag of books that he'd bought the kid the day before, and then they were headed for the door. He explained the basics of what they'd come up with in the meeting the other day even as he lead Danny from the infirmary.

"Like with Cassandra," Danny realized, nodding up at him.

"Except that our version allows for your mom or dad to re-materialize when Carter finally figures out how to make you big again," Cam explained. "The fact that Dr. Jackson just happens to return from his extended trip at the same time is nothing but sheer coincidence."

Danny wasn't really paying attention though. He'd grabbed hold of the man's hand when he realized they'd left the infirmary and was busy looking around with large blue eyes.

"What?" Mitchell asked in surprise and then glanced around, trying to see what he saw. "You don't remember this?" he asked, confused.

"A little," Danny shrugged, still trying to take it all in. He'd seen the halls before, when Lam and her 'minions' had escorted him here in the wheelchair - and he had a vague recollection of the place from before, when he was older - but it seemed different somehow. Big and ... austere and ... big. Kinda like a giant modern sewer system or something. The halls here were rounded like giant pipes. He wasn't sure what to compare it too. It was like nothing he'd ever seen anywhere in Egypt. "What do the colored lines mean?" he asked, glancing down at the floor.

"Routes to various departments mainly, depends upon what floor you're on. Red is always for fire escapes though, and blue is always medical."

There was a sudden 'thud' and the sound of paper flying behind them. Danny and Col. Mitchell turned to see an airman and someone in a white lab coat lying sprawled on the ground. It was obvious they'd walked into each other and the scientist had spilled his papers. Two sets of embarrassed but extremely curious eyes turned to stare at Danny and he immediately knew why they'd walked into each other.

He quickly stepped behind Col. Mitchell's leg and peered around it, suddenly a little frightened of this place that he only partially remembered. He didn't like being stared at.

Mitchell had already assessed the situation and decided no one was hurt. "Nice one, guys!" he commented in passing, his hand going to Danny's shoulder to turn him away and keep them moving where he wanted. "Might want to work on those papers though," he called back over his shoulder, a little irritated for the kid's sake. Gawking idiots! "They didn't fly nearly high enough!"

Danny glanced back over his own shoulder. The two men had turned to look at each other now and were moving to help each other up. A third soldier stopped to help them gather the scattered papers.

"Col. Mitchell. Dr. Jackson."

Danny's head whipped back around in time to catch a small friendly smile on the face of a balding man with close-cropped gray hair and glasses sweeping by. Danny followed his progress and watched him by-passing the others still on the ground as he hurried about some task or other.

"That was Walter, remember him?"

Danny glanced back up at Mitchell and shook his head, clinging to the man's hand as they rounded a corner. He noted two more people in green BDUs coming toward them.

Mitchell offered his hand a little squeeze and smiled down at him. "Well, don't let him know that!" he told Danny with a wink. "Guy's been here almost as long as you have. You'd hurt his feelings."

The uniformed people glanced up from their talk and fell silent as they noted Danny, then carefully glanced away again - pointedly not staring.

"How did he know who I was?" Danny asked, pointedly ignoring them as well - or trying to. They stepped aside to let him and Col. Mitchell pass and when Danny glanced back he caught one of them hurriedly looking away.

"Well, you know, we don't have a lot of kids on base," Mitchell explained. "Word spreads fast."

Danny glanced back up at him. "So everyone knows what happened?"

Mitchell offered the question a shrug. "I don't know about 'everyone'," he decided. "I'm sure there are a few who've been out of the loop for one reason or another, buried in their work or off-world maybe; but, yeah, most do. We're a pretty close knit group. I wouldn't recommend wandering around without someone, but I doubt you need to worry about an SF bracing you up for being where you're not supposed to be." He grinned. He seemed to remember something like that happening with the 'mini-Jack' back when O'Neill was cloned a couple years ago.

They'd reached the elevators and Mitchell took out his security card to swipe it. Danny watched him closely. "Security card reader," he explained, not sure if he needed to or not but deciding it couldn't hurt. "Keeps unauthorized personnel from going where they're not supposed to go. Least wise it's supposed to." The elevator doors swept open and they stepped in. Danny was glad to see it was empty. "The SFs take care of those who manage to screw up."

Danny suddenly felt himself being lifted and found himself eying the control panel for the lift. "Twenty-five," he was told simply.

Danny found and depressed the appropriate button, then was dropped back down again. It was cool the guy had let him do that, he thought. It wasn't so cool that he couldn't reach the buttons without help.

"So what'aya think?" Mitchell asked, leaning against one of the walls as the room began to move.

Danny swayed uncertainly, blinking in surprise at the sudden sensation. Intellectually, he knew he'd ridden in elevators numerous times in the past, especially this one; but emotionally it felt like a brand new experience. It was a weird feeling! Almost scary.

Mitchell didn't seem to notice. "I'm thinking maybe we should stick with Danny for a first name, you know so we don't have to worry about messing up and calling you by the wrong name in public, but what about a last name? You got any preferences?"

Danny swallowed around his tight throat, still trying to decide if he liked the elevator feeling or not, but the feeling wasn't as bad now as it had been at the very first... "Ballard?" he suggested, forcing himself to consider the question. "That's my grandfather's name."

Mitchell frowned pensively, offering the suggestion a hesitant shake of his head. "I don't know. I was thinking about going with something completely original, so there'd be less chance of anyone connecting you to you."

Danny frowned slightly, thinking that sounded weird even if the guy's meaning was perfectly clear.

"Though I don't suppose there's a lot of people outside the mountain who'd know Nicholas Ballard was your grandfather."

The elevator came to a weird little almost bouncing stop and the doors swept open to reveal another hallway, this one even busier than the last. Danny frowned as they stepped out and grabbed up Mitchell's hand once more. If Mitchell thought it strange, he didn't say anything; just gave his hand a quick squeeze and held on securely as they made their way down these new corridors. The hallways here were different than on the Infirmary level, Danny noted, being more what he thought of a 'normal' - except for the funny colored pipes on the ceiling and stripes on the floor again. He concentrated on the differences and fought to ignore the busy people around him and the looks he was getting again.

Mitchell greeted a few in passing but neither he, nor they, made any attempt to engage Danny in conversation - whether because they were all busy or because Mitchell subtly warned them off, Danny didn't know and didn't care. He was just glad that no one expected him to recognize them. And then they finally reached the VIP room and Mitchell opened the door with his pass card.

He glanced around the room uncertainly. It was painfully practical and impersonal, reminding him a bit of the motel room he remembered staying in with his mama last year when they'd had to travel to France for something or other.

He didn't want to think about either his mama or papa.

Quickly, he glanced up at the man behind him as he closed the door once more. "Boyd?" he suggested uncertainly. "Jack use to call me Danny-boy occasionally but 'boy' isn't a last name."

It was Mitchell's turn to frown. "Might work," he thought aloud, unaware of Danny's sudden need to distract himself. "Or we might want to go with something more common so it's harder to trace if someone tried, like 'Smith' or 'Jones'." He crossed the room to where a round wooden table sat with four dining room chairs around it and deposited the bags he'd carried from the infirmary. Still frowning pensively, he emptied them and glanced around for a waste can.

Danny pointed one out over beside the games armoire. He frowned at the yellow oak piece of furniture which matched all the other pieces of furniture in the room, wondering exactly how he knew it was a games armoire? But he did. He knew there were cards and a chess board in there, along with a TV and DVDs and various video games too.

It was a little weird to know things and not remember how it was he knew them.

He glanced around again and wished there was a window he could look out of. Instead, there was only the ubiquitous oil print above the bed that matched the blue and tan bedding.

His thoughts were interrupted as Mitchell turned back from the waste can. "You don't want to be named after some long dead archaeologist or something?" Mitchell asked curiously. The man pulled out one of the dinning room chairs and plunked himself down with comfortable ease.

Danny suddenly got a big smile on his face as inspiration hit and pulled out one of the other chairs so he could sit beside Mitchell. The man leaned forward to hold it steady while Danny climbed up but didn't try to scoop him up and put him into it. Thankfully. Danny turned around and knelt with his elbows on the table as he grinned. "Young," he decided. "Daniel Thomas Young."

Mitchell frowned in confusion even as he sat back again. "Your middle name's not Thomas," he observed.

"Thomas Young was one of the most famous Egyptologists of all time," Danny quickly informed him. "He could read twelve different languages by the time he was fourteen and is credited by many Egyptologists with having translated key parts of the Demotic script on the Rosetta Stone. Without him, Jean Francois Champollion might never have deciphered the Hieroglyphs, though he certainly claimed otherwise."

Mitchell broke into a grin to match Danny's earlier one. "Definitely sounds like someone we know," he teased.

Danny suddenly blushed and looked down, embarrassed. "Well, he was also a doctor of medicine and physics, so not really. He's much better known in both those fields."

"All the better for our purposes," Mitchell offered and nodded decisively. "Right. 'Daniel Thomas Young' it is." He offered the idea a sudden grin. "You know it's going to read 'Young, Daniel' on the paperwork, right?"

Danny grinned again and rolled his eyes. He hadn't even considered that when he picked the name.

"Too perfect," Mitchell continued with an amused chuckle. "Wait 'til Carter hears. And Young is common enough that inserting it somewhere in my past shouldn't be a problem. We'll make your father a test-pilot I trained with in Nevada. Most of my time there was at Area 51 and is super secret hush-hush so digging very deep will be next to impossible."

It took them all of about another hour to hammer out the rest of the details for Daniel's history, which was more than Landry had required – it just kind of flowed once they got started. Then Mitchell was picking up the phone and calling the general. Less than an hour later, Danny found himself topside, exploring the woods and discovering anew the wonders of snow hidden in the shadows and hallows where the mid-October sun had yet to melt it while Mitchell and 'Murry' looked on.

They'd decided the shopping could wait until later.
* * *

Part 10

Danny's clothing really wasn't appropriate for heavy duty exploring of the rugged terrain around Cheyenne Mountain. Canvas tennis shoes and cold mud didn't go well together. And while the little corduroy jacket Cam had managed to dig out of stores for him was probably warm enough for the mild temperatures, it wasn't water proof and was definitely starting to get a bit damp from the wet of the undergrowth.

Wearing 'civies', neither Cam nor 'Murry' were dressed for the impromptu event either, so after a short hour of exploring a small area off the main parking lot, Cam called a halt. "Looks like we have another storm moving in from the west anyway," he noted, eying the slowly growing cloud cover. "Probably time to head back in."

Daniel stood up from where he'd been poking at some moss and brushed his palms together, trying to dislodge at least most of the rich black soil from his hands. A glance at his clothing confirmed Cam's earlier assessment that they'd need to change clothes before heading out to any stores.

"I remember when we first started going off-world, how Jack would bug Sam by saying things like that, that 'there's a storm coming in from the west'," Danny offered, now brushing his knees off and stomping his little feet to clean his sneakers - not very effectively, "...and she'd argue it wasn't what we thought of as west at all because the magnetic 'north' of the planet could be somewhere at its equator for all we knew."

Mitchell offered a low groan. "Oh god, don't remind me of Dr. Lee's Extra-planetary Orienteering Class," he declared. "I about freaked out the first time I saw the sun setting in the 'east'."

"That is because you did not know to use the orientation of the Stargate itself to make the necessary adjustments for true north," Teal'c supplied.

"A tidy and very handy piece of information Dr. Lee just happened to leave out of his five hour lecture," Mitchell complained good-naturedly.

Danny giggled, skipping between the two and glancing up at Teal'c. "Sam about hurt herself when you pointed out that the Stargates and DHDs are almost always aligned perpendicular to a planet's rotational axis. Remember?" He laughed at the memory.

A small smile tugged at the Jaffa's lips. "Indeed."

"'Probably looked about as funny as I did the first time we stepped through the gate and <i>you</i>..." Cam stabbed an accusing finger at the boy beside him who was busy being very much a little boy at the moment, "... took like two seconds to adjust your watch compass before pointing 'it's that way.' I about wanted to kill Dr. Lee for making me listen to all that techno-babble about multi-polar magnetic interference and wandering declination shifts!"

"Such knowledge is of importance on worlds where the Stargate may have been moved or which are lacking a dipolar magnetic field in which a compass might function," Teal'c replied.

"The first geomagnetic compass is most commonly believed to have been invented in China around 210 BC," Danny announced unexpectedly, "but did you know that an Olmec Hematite artifact discovered in San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico may predate it by more than eight hundred years?" And then he was suddenly off on the importance of the compass throughout Earth history.

Teal'c and Cam exchanged knowing looks even as Cam's cell interrupted their young friend's litany. Danny didn't actually seem to notice and just kept talking as Cam answered. "Mitchell," he stated simply. He let himself fall back slightly as Teal'c and Danny continued across the parking lot. "We're heading back to the shuttle stop now, sir," he answered the general's question.

As Mitchell came to a pensive stop, Teal'c glanced back and called for Daniel to stop as well. The boy turned, falling silent and reading Cam's worried expression.

"Lockdown, sir?" he echoed with a frown. Both Tealc and Danny stiffened and Danny took hold of Teal'c's hand. Cam listened for another long moment. "But Sam's alright?" It was actually more a statement than a question. He nodded quick reassurance to his friends as he listened to Landry's answer. "Right, sir. We'll be there in twenty-minutes."

He slapped the phone closed and moved to rejoin the others. Bending, he picked Danny up, dirt and all, and hurried toward the shuttle stop even as he explained. "There's been a little incident of some kind at the Gamma Site. One of the scientists working there got bitten by a bug they were studying and is sick so the site is under quarantine. Sam's fine. They don't think it's contagious but they aren't taking any chances. Landry's calling a Sit. Rep. and wants both Teal'c and me there as well."

"And me?" Danny asked hopefully. "I'm still officially part of SG-1, aren't I? Sam's my friend and team mate too."

"Yes, she is," Cam replied, glancing uncertainly at Teal'c, "but I don't think Landry wants you there for this one. It's going to be crowded and boring anyway. I already told you everything we know at this point."

"Then why is he calling the meeting?"

"To let everyone else know about it."

Danny offered a very irritated pout. "Then why require you and Teal'c to be there?" he asked pointedly.

Cam rolled his eyes. "SOP, Danny," he told the kid: standard operating procedure. "One of my team is trapped off world. I have to be there."

"And Teal'c?" the boy pressed dogmatically.

"Was requested by name," Cam answered. The fact that Landry <i>hadn't</i> asked for Daniel to be there told Cam he didn't belong. "Think, Danny," he told the kid. "What will happen if you're there? Everyone will be staring at you. Do you want that?"

Teal'c added his voice to that of Mitchell. "Your presence would be a disruptive influence at this time, Daniel Ja--" He suddenly clamped his mouth shut as the shuttle pulled up to the stop.

Danny frowned and looked down. He hated being stared at. "If I'm going to keep working here, I'll have to get used to the stares," he decided quietly.

"With any luck, you won't be like this long enough to have to get used to them!" Mitchell whispered back.

Danny was forced to fall silent as they boarded the shuttle. The driver wasn't cleared for SGC matters and had simply been told he didn't need to know what a five year old was doing at NORAD. He'd probably seen stranger things in his years at the base.

By the time they made it through the various check points and they boarded the elevator on eleven, Danny had decided the argument was lost - but that didn't mean he had to like it. And he was more than capable of letting it be known.

On the receiving end of his silent glare, Mitchell sighed and rolled his eyes. "Come on, give me a break!" he protested. "You're dirty and tired and I ain't got time to get you cleaned up for the meeting."

"I can clean myself up!" Danny groused angrily.

"Not fast enough," Cam rejoined. He knew exactly how long it had taken to get the kid ready to leave the infirmary this morning - and that hadn't included a bath. He winced at the idea of having to bathe the kid and wondered if he could handle a shower by himself? Cam curtailed the thought for the moment as they exited the lift on twenty-five and headed to the VIP quarters. "Just strip outta what you have on now and pile it by the door," he decided with a frown. "It's warm enough. And wash your hands. We'll see about a bath or shower after I get done with the meeting."

"I don't need your help to take a bath," the boy claimed irritably.

Cam offered him a sudden and very serious frown. "Don't you dare touch those bath controls while I'm not here!" he ordered. "I am well aware that you know 'how' to take a bath, Danny, but this place wasn't designed with a five year old in mind. You slip and fall and Gen. O'Neill will skin me alive!"

"With a very dull blade," Teal'c predicted in a quiet rumble.

Cam winced, knowing the Jaffa would help him. "Promise me you won't try it," he demanded of the child in his arms as they came to a stop before the door.

Danny very purposely reached up and wiped his hands on Cam's cheeks. His clothes were already dirty from carrying Danny. "You need a bath and change of clothes too," he pointed out.

Mitchell frowned and quickly put him down. "That is not the way to get me to change my mind," he told him irritably and swiped his pass card through the reader. "Five years old or forty, I am still your team leader, Dr. Jackson. As team leader, I am ordering you to stay here and not touch those bath controls. Failure to comply will have consequences."

A gentle shove between his shoulders had Danny stumbling into the room.

"I am also well aware that you aren't the best at following orders," Cam added, "so consider this incentive: you want to act like a five year old, I'll treat you like a five year old. You've got your books and games and your research to work on while I'm gone. Don't make me take them away."

Cam offered him a last forbidding frown and closed the door, knowing he didn't have time to argue. This could go one of two ways: Danny could sit and pout the whole time he was gone or he could throw a five year old temper-tantrum and destroy the place.

Or he could ignore Cam and get himself killed trying to take a bath by himself!

"Damn it!" he whispered and glanced at Teal'c, hoping for some words of wisdom. The Jaffa merely regarded him with mild worry of his own. Cam hadn't handled that right, but what the hell else was he supposed to do? With a sigh, he flung the door open again - and got a scare when he realized he nearly hit the kid with it!

Danny didn't even realize it and simply turned to frown at him.

Mitchell quickly dismissed it, promising himself to be more careful in the future, and got down to business. "Your word you won't touch those controls," he demanded again, having failed to get the kid's earlier promise. "I'm trusting you on your own here," he pointed out. "Can I do that, or do I need to hunt down an SF to babysit you while I'm gone?"

The boy abruptly sat down in the middle of the floor and folded his arms, his bottom lip jutting out angrily. "I won't touch the controls," he promised curtly, glaring at Mitchell.

Those big blue eyes were a little too shiny. Cam suspected the boy would be crying if he wasn't so mad, but there was nothing he could do about it right then. "Be good and we'll do something fun when I get back," he promised lamely. "I'll be back as quick as I can."

The boy offered an angry sigh and dismissive wave of his hand. Cam offered his own sigh and quickly closed the door again. For a second he debated finding that SF after all but instead decided to trust the boy. He was 'Jackson' after all, even if Cam found it impossible to call him that now. The guy had often invited Cam to call him 'Daniel' in the beginning but old habits die hard. Cam was too use to addressing team mates and co-workers by their last names.

'Seemed the guy had gotten his wish at last.

Together, Cam and Teal'c hurried down the hall to the locker rooms so Cam could change and at least wash his face. Hopefully, Landry wouldn't mind if they were a little late....
* * *

Part 11

The situational report meeting was fairly short and concise. A scientist on the Gamma Site had been bitten by R-75, more commonly known as a 'Prior Bug'. Most of the team leaders present for the briefing knew exactly what Landry meant. They were a new and nasty little bugger that seemed to show up after a Prior visit to decimate off-world crops. According to the latest reports, if they were deprived of vegetation to eat, they turned carnivorous. There'd been a close call in which an experiment of feeding them a small piece of meatloaf had resulted in an exponential and explosive reproductive response that had led to containment breech in one of the labs, which was how one of the scientists got bit.

Sooooo not good.

The specimens had all been destroyed but the scientist was sick. The medical team at the Gamma Site wasn't sure if Dr. Myer's condition was actually related to the bug bite. Their initial assessment had failed to find anything and they didn't have the resources necessary to properly treat him. Arrangements were being made for his safe transfer back to the SGC where he'd be placed in strict quarantine. They were not about to risk another Prior Plague getting loose, so the SGC would be under lockdown during the transfer and remain on High Alert until Dr. Myer's condition was resolved.

The IOA delegates whom SG-3 and Lt. Col. Carter had been escorting were fine but probably not happy. Landry was expecting flack when he called their seconds, and the Russian and Canadian representatives who had chosen not to go.

The meeting ended with the announcement that the transfer would take place within the next couple of hours.

'Looked like he and Danny would be doing their shopping some other day, Mitchell decided. He and Teal'c remained in the conference room while the other team leaders filed out to brief their own people. Landry glanced up from gathering his notes and nodded as both men approached, focusing on Teal'c first. "You need to get to Dakara before the lockdown," he decided.

"That would be wise, General Landry," the larger man allowed. "The situation with the Interim Council is most troubled at present. It would be best if I were not trapped on Earth should they call an emergency session."

"I'll tell Walter. Get changed. You have a go as soon as you're ready."

The Jaffa inclined his head in formal acknowledgment and, with another small nod for Mitchell, turned to stride from the room. Landry's attention shifted to the other man in silent query.

"Anything specific I can do to help, sir?" Mitchell asked, feeling a bit at loose ends with his team on stand down and Carter trapped on the Gamma Site.

"You can take care of Dr. Jackson," Landry ordered succinctly. "Where is he, anyway?"

"I left him in our VIP quarters, sir," Cam answered, suddenly wondering if he'd misinterpreted the general's intentions about that. "I didn't think you wanted him here?" he asked uncertainly.

The general frowned and nodded. "No," he agreed. "The people here are going to have to start getting use to seeing him run around sooner or later, at least until Col. Carter can fix this, but now is probably not the best time. I trust you didn't leave him unattended?"

Cam could see the warning signs a mile away. "Ah, actually, he is still Dr. Jackson and all, so I--"

"--He is five years old, Col. Mitchell!" Landry exclaimed in disbelief and leaned over his desk for emphasis, lowering his voice. "Do you have any idea of what kind of mischief a five year old can get up to; especial a precocious five year old? Obviously not," he answered himself and straightened with a look of disgust, "or you wouldn't have left him on his own. Get back to your quarters and make sure the boy's still in one piece - else there's going to be a lottery to decide who gets to dismember you first."

"Sir!" Mitchell snapped to attention, recognizing an order when he heard one, and quickly spun on his heel to obey. Damn! Assigned to watch the kid for less than twenty-four hours and he'd already managed to goof up. 'Babysitting duty' needed to come with a frickin' manual!
* * *

Part 12

Danny glared at the stupid metal door, ignoring the angry tears that had traced twin paths down his cheeks. It wasn't fair. It so wasn't fair! Landry had only just yesterday argued that he was still a vital and valuable part of the SGC and here he was relegated to twiddling his thumbs while the 'adults' discussed a situation regarding Sam! An alien bug bite was nothing to mess around with. Just because it wasn't her that had been bitten, didn't mean she wasn't at risk from whatever it was that had infected the scientist.

And where there was one bug, there were usually more - a lot more.

He rubbed the back of his hand across his nose, then swiped it on his pants, glaring at his hands even as he did. Great, he thought, his face was probably as dirty as they were now!

How was he supposed to help in the battle against the almighty Ori if he couldn't even attend a stupid briefing? So what if he was a little dirty? It wasn't like he hadn't attended meetings before when he was still dirty from one mission or another.

At least he thought he had.

He had, hadn't he? He scrunched up his face in thought as he tried to remember. He must have, he decided, whether he remembered it or not. Things happened quickly around here sometimes - that much he did remember - there wouldn't always be time for a shower and change.

And he wasn't <i>that</i> dirty.

He frowned at his mud covered feet and black knees and.... Okay. So he <i>was</i> that dirty. It still was no excuse to exclude him!

Jack wouldn't have. Jack would have picked him up and carried him like a football to the locker room and tossed him in the shower, clothes and all! There might have been a bit of a scramble getting them both dressed and ready, and Danny might have arrived a little damp around the edges, but Jack would not have excluded him - not from a meeting where Sam was trapped off-world and facing possible danger.

He wouldn't.

Unfortunately, Jack wasn't here. This Mitchell character was, and he seemed to have a lot to learn about what it meant to be a part of SG-1.

Danny glared at the door again, tempted to just go anyway. If it were Hammond in charge of things, he probably would have - but he didn't remember this Landry guy. He seemed nice enough, but Danny wasn't sure he'd be as tolerant as Hammond. Besides, he wouldn't put it past Mitchell to have locked the door! Talk about adding insult to injury....

Fully expecting to have even more reason to be angry at the man, Daniel climbed to his feet and reached for the door knob. To his surprise, it was unlocked. He wrestled it open and looked out. The corridor was empty too. No guard either.


The guy had said he was trusting him. Danny scowled at the empty corridor and then closed the door again. Damn, why'd he have to go and remember that? With an angry sigh because Mitchell hadn't given him a reason to get more angry, Danny turned to glare at the room again.

Stupid room.

Stupid, boring, plain, ugly room!

His eyes went to the table where they'd put his books and translation work earlier, but a glance at his hands curtailed that thought. He wasn't about to touch his research with these filthy mitts.

Mitchell had told him to strip out of what he was wearing, pile it by the door, and wash his hands. Danny really wasn't sure that would be good enough to allow him to tackle his translation notes again. On top of which, he needed a couple more books from his office. He'd decided that the secondary language wasn't a form of Merotic, but probably closer to a late form of Hieratic with the addition of what looked like diacritic marks. That was common in Aramaic and Proto-Sinaitic scripts, but it was unheard of in the Egyptian family of writing.

He needed more research materials.

He glanced at his hands again: he needed to wash them.

Sighing at the great injustice of it all, Danny plopped down on the ground and began to strip. The only way he was ever going to get any respect around here again was to earn it.


Jacket first. The shirt underneath wasn't too bad but he might as well change it too. Shoes next. His socks were almost as black as his sneakers and striping them off revealed traces of dirt between his toes. He wrinkled his nose. Sand he didn't mind - he was used to sand - but this was dirt and he didn't like dirt.

There were an awful lot of things about being big before that he didn't remember - that still floated out there somewhere just beyond his conscious reach - but one thing he did remember: it wasn't easy being a scientist on a military base. Sam, Jack and Teal'c had all learned to trust him over time, but it had been much more difficult with those who didn't work with him daily.

His hands were now muddy again from the shoes and socks. He wiped them on his T-shirt, given he was going to change it anyway, and struggled to get it off over his head. It was a little smaller than he liked but he finally popped it off inside-out. He used it to scrub at his face and then tossed it in the pile with the jacket and socks and shoes.

The pants were going to be a bit trickier.

It really wasn't anything specific he remembered; more a feeling of frustration and exasperation that had slowly faded the longer he was here. He frowned in thought and dared hope that meant he'd managed to finally fit in and not that he'd just gotten so use to it that it didn't hurt anymore.

The stupid button was too big for the stupid hole! He glared at it, knowing that wasn't right. If the hole was too little, the button wouldn't have gone through the first time. Mitchell was right; new buttons were a pain.

He really didn't want to agree with Mitchell about anything right now.

He grunted in growing frustration as the stupid button continued to thwart his efforts to undo it. Didn't little-kid pants usually come with snaps? Who was the genius who decided to use a real button instead?

He could remember fighting running gun battles with an automatic weapon in his hands; remember the sound and smell and fear of fighting an overwhelming foe, remember knowing there were more than just Sam and Jack and Teal'c's lives at stake and that there were others risking their lives for him as well. Those memories were ... disjointed. They were hard to fit in with the other memories of sitting in his office late at night, or trying to convince some alien representative that SG-1 were peaceful explorers and that they meant no harm.

He frowned at his waist again and this time noticed the waistband was kinda loose. He'd always been a little skinny. Could he maybe slip out of them without undoing the button? Laying down, he started to wriggle and squirm and pull at his pant legs. Man, if anyone saw him now they'd be having a laughing fit, but he ignored the thought and kept at it. It was working. The heavy fabric was kind of stiff, which had probably helped to keep them up to begin with.... A few more tugs and he was free!

Uh oh!

He quickly snatched them up again and retrieved his underwear. He didn't want anyone walking in and finding him buck-naked in the middle of the room! Bad enough he had to strip down to his underwear. At least the simple white briefs were clean. He was careful about putting them on again so his hands only touched the elastic waistband and his dirty feet didn't soil them. That was tricky but he managed to do it. Then he bent and picked up all the dirty clothes and put them in a pile next to the door like Mitchell had said.

He probably shouldn't have picked up the clothes like that, he thought, frowning down at himself. The mud from the shoes and socks and knees of his jeans had transferred to his chest and stomach. Yuck!

He so wanted a bath, it wasn't funny!

He was suddenly struck with the memory of a bunch of older women in dessert robes and head scarves surrounding him. They were giggling and yammering away at him in some unknown tongue as they used various cloths, brushes and combs to wash his feet and hands and-- The memory ended as abruptly as it began.

Gosh, that was weird. Had that really happened to him?

He blinked his eyes and shook his head, dismissing the strange thought; and turned his attention to the problem of getting himself cleaned up without breaking his promise to Col. Mitchell. With a pensive frown, he quickly padded across to the bathroom and shoved the door open. He sort of remembered it so there was no surprise - except that the angle he was seeing everything from was wrong.

That was one of the weird things about his memories; nothing quite matched.

Mitchell had made him promise not to touch the bath controls, but he'd said nothing about the sink. In fact, he'd told Danny to wash his hands which would mean he'd given him tacit permission to use the sink.

A sponge bath wasn't as good as a real bath, but he'd had to make-do with worse before. A single big bucket of water was sometimes all his parents could get on a dig site. And he seemed to remember making do with even less occasionally when he was older.

He was going to need a step stool to reach the faucet....
* * *

Cam was feeling like three kinds of an idiot by the time he made it back to the VIP suite. What had he been thinking? Yeah, the kid was 'Dr. Daniel Jackson' and had three Ph.D.s under his belt, but Landry was right - he was also five years old at the moment! Cam's sisters and brother would have never left any of their kids alone when they were five.

Still ... it had only been a little under an hour. How much trouble could the boy get into in an hour, right?

Remembering some of the high-jinks he and his brother could get up to when they were younger didn't help.

Swiping his card, he quickly shoved the door open, knowing he'd never forgive himself if anything had happened to the kid while he was gone. "Daniel!" he called out the second he stepped through the doorway.

A sudden movement to Mitchell's left caught his eye as a tousled blond head jerked up from the table. "Huh, what?"

And then the lieutenant colonel was moving faster than he'd ever moved before in his life. The chair Danny had been kneeling on was going over and the kid was going with it!

Somehow, and Cam didn't quite know how, he actually reached the kid in time, plucked him out of the air and performed a rather awkward diving twist while he was at it. He landed hard.

Very hard.

When everything finally came to a dizzying, spinning, crashing stop, Cam found himself blinking dazedly up at the ceiling and Danny was blinking down at him. "Don't move," the kid commanded gently. "I've already called the medics. They're on their way."

Medics? Cam blinked stupidly. What the hell did he mean the medics were on their way? Had the kid hurt himself? Cam blinked again and tried to force himself upward, his eyes scanning for blood or bruises. Landry was going to have his ass if--

"Don't move!" Danny told him more strongly, a little hand coming to rest on Cam's shoulder to reinforce his words.

Movement awoke pain but Cam ignored it and lifted his hips so he could pull his left arm out from behind him. He'd apparently landed at an odd angle, trapping it beneath him. Wood skittered and scattered around him.

No blood but, damn, his wrist was screaming at him! He hoped he hadn't broken it.

"You landed on top of the chair and knocked yourself out," Danny was telling him calmly. "You probably have a concussion."

Well, that explained the kindling pile he was apparently laying on. He blinked again and forced his mind to more important matters. "'You okay?" he demanded painfully. The kid came first; his own bumps and bruises could wait.

"I'm fine," he answered. "You didn't need to do that, you know."

Mitchell offered a uneasy chuckle, thinking of the long line of people who'd be out for his blood if he hadn't. "Wanna bet?" he groaned.

"Kids bounce," Danny told him in a matter-of-fact tone. "I would have been fine - especially if you hadn't scared me by barging in here like that!"

The room was starting to spin just a bit. He must have hit his head harder than he thought. "Now you tell me," he sighed and then heard the door swing open as the medics arrived.

"Colonel?" Lam had apparently come with them and was suddenly kneeling at his side. "What happened? Can you hear me?"

Cam nodded and offered the irony of the situation a painful chuckle. The kid was in one piece but he wasn't. He had to wonder what Landry would say to that?

"Apparently I need to take bouncing lessons," he answered and closed his eyes.
* * *

Part 13

Their positions had been reversed. Whereas not so long ago it had been Danny in the hospital bed and Cam sitting in the hard visitor's chair, today it was the opposite. Of course, the chair was too big, so Danny's feet dangled well above the floor. For that matter, so did Cam's where he sat on the edge of the bed waiting for the x-ray, MRI and CT scan results.

He offered the boy a sudden surprised frown. "Your hair's wet!" he noted.

Danny frowned and reached up to pat his head. "A little damp." He shrugged. "'Must have got it wetter than I thought."

"Uh-huh," Cam nodded, still frowning. "And exactly how did you do that without taking a bath like you promised me!"

"I promised not to touch the bath controls," Danny corrected him. "I didn't!"

Mitchell rolled his eyes. "You knew what I meant!" he rejoined irritably. Man! Did the boy think he was an idiot or something? He really didn't want to have to be mad at him but... "Using a washcloth between your hand and the fixture does not constitute 'not touching'!"

"I used the sink!" Danny answered, scowling at his feet as he was unjustly accused and swinging them a little harder in anger.

"The sink?" Cam echoed in surprise.

"You told me to wash my hands."

"Yeah..." he agreed in exasperation. He kicked out one of his own feet and managed to tap a little foot on its upswing, catching Danny a bit by surprise. "But I didn't tell you to climb up into the damn thing! What' you do? Stick your head under the faucet and shake it?" He was trying to imagine how the kid could have even gotten up to the counter top.

"I used a washcloth," Danny answered irritably, swinging one of his own feet to imitate Mitchell and catching the bottom of the man's boot on its own upswing.

"You mean like a sponge bath?" He again swung his foot to the side toward the little feet but Danny avoided him.

"Yeah." The little feet circled away and came up under Cam's to tap him instead.

He and Danny exchanged challenging grins and the battle was suddenly on.

Cam had to be careful as the kid was barefoot but they were both soon grinning and fighting not to laugh as they went at each other with only their feet. Danny might be barefoot, but he had the better angle and those little legs were quite limber. They suddenly clamped around one of Cam's ankles and held it fast.

"Hey!" he protested softly. Danny just giggled and held tight as Cam gave his foot a strong jiggle, shaking the kid's whole body. He just grinned wider, holding onto the chair and refusing to let go.

...Until Dr. Lam came back in. She offered the strange tableau a lifted brow even as Danny swiftly released his prey and scooted back in the chair to sit upright once again. "Everything okay in here?" she asked, smothering a smile as she concentrated on the file she was holding.

"Hunky-dory, Doc," Cam answered and shrugged. "Boring as all hell, but that's just one of the joys of hospitals, ain't it?"

She offered him a speaking glance."Believe me, Colonel, boring is preferable to the alternative."

Yeah ... he kinda had to grant her that one. "So!" He blew out his cheeks and lifted his wrist with its cold gel pack on it. "Good news, Doc; tell me it's not broke."

She stepped forward to slide an x-ray into the light panel and switch it on. It was obvious she's already viewed it as she turned back to him with a nod. "It's not broke," she confirmed, echoing his own nomenclature.

He tilted his head back to grin at the ceiling thankfully. "Yes!" he exclaimed quietly.


He winced. Why'd she have to go and add that?

"...It is badly sprained, which in its own way can be just as bad," she warned him. "The wrist is a complicated joint. The bones are fine but you did a lot of soft-tissue damage, which is why I ordered the MRI. You were very lucky, Colonel. If you'd actually managed to snap any of the ligaments, we'd be prepping you for surgery now."

He frowned down at the abused appendage. "But I didn't do that, right? So it's not that bad?"

"Bad enough," she replied. "You're pretty well grounded for the next month, maybe longer."

"What!" he asked in surprise.

She offered him a sympathetic but serious nod. "Sprains are nothing to play around with, Colonel. If that wrist isn't allowed to heal properly, you could do permanent damage. On a brighter note, I can confirm you have a very hard head." She awarded him a sassy smile.

"Ha ha," he answered deadpan. "Very funny."

"Seriously," she continued, resuming a more professional manner, "you seem to have rattled your brain a bit but avoided any serious injury. The CT scan was clear. However, I'm going to want you back in here again if you start exhibiting signs of concussion: increasing headache, vomiting, confusion, blurred vision - you know the routine."

Cam was already nodding and waved the list away. He, like every other person who ever even thought about going off-world, had been through the SGC's own version of a basic medical first responder course. Carter was the certified medic on their team but they all had to be able to handle at least the basics. In any case, he knew what the symptoms of concussion were.

"No NSAIDs because of the possible concussion so I'm going to prescribe something else for pain to be taken every four hours. Don't go being all macho and 'forget' to take it; it'll only slow your healing." She was busy scribbling in his chart even as she spoke. Finishing, she looked up again. "Pop quiz, Colonel: what's the basic treatment for a sprain when off-world?"

He rolled his eyes and sighed, reciting the mnemonic, "RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation."

She nodded. "It applies here too - and I don't want to hear any argument about it. I'll print up your discharge instructions while Lisa wraps it for you. You <i>will</i> use a brace and sling until Monday morning when I want you back in here for a follow up. Got it?"

Mitchell had to fight to keep from sighing again. "Yes, ma'am," he answered her forbidding look. He'd better say, 'Yes, ma'am,' if he ever wanted to get out of here.

She turned to Danny. "You did a very good job of not panicking and calling for the medics the way you did," she told him. "I'm told you were very clear and precise as to what had happened. Do you think you can help me make sure that Col. Mitchell here follows all my orders and doesn't do anything stupid to imped his own recovery?"

The boy frowned. "How?"

"By calling me when he does," she answered and glanced at Mitchell. "And I better not get any calls." She glanced back at Danny. "Can you do that?"

He nodded readily, much to Cam's chagrin.

"Any questions?"

Mitchell frowned as he suddenly remembered, "We're supposed to be moving into a new place this weekend--"

"--My father told me." She nodded. "I'll make sure he assigns some Marines to help. And no driving!" she added firmly. "Not until after your follow up. Requisition a driver."

And with that she was gone.

Mitchell reached out a boot and gently tapped one of Danny's feet again, just for good measure. The boy quickly pulled them both back under his chair, grinning.

But then the nurse came in and their fun was curtailed yet again.
* * *

Part 14

It was a good thing he was right-handed, Mitchell thought as he frowned down at his injured arm. It looked like it belonged to a mummy or something, what little could be seen of it. The nurse had wound the thing up from his upper forearm all the way past his knuckles. Only his fingers and thumb showed and he could barely wiggle those. He certainly couldn't use it to hold anything - but then that was kind of the point; he wasn't supposed to be holding anything with it! He really didn't think he needed a wrist brace on top of everything, but Lam had ordered one anyway. Then came the sling. My god, why not tape the stupid thing to his chest while they were at it! He kept the thought to himself, not wanting to give them any ideas.

Because the sling was for his wrist and not his arm or shoulder, it was set to a rather sharp angle. He had to keep his hand above his heart. It felt weird and not particularly comfortable, although they'd added some of those little spongy cushion thingies to the strap to keep it from digging into his neck. If he leaned his head forward slightly, he could actually scratch his chin.

"Don't," Danny said simply when he glanced up and caught Cam doing exactly that while they were waiting for the elevator.

"What?" he challenged, assuming his most ultra-innocent look. "I wasn't moving my wrist."

"The tendons that control your fingers run through the wrist."

"Yeah, and if Doc didn't want me to use them at all, she would have wrapped them up like a mummy too!" he protested.

"Did it hurt?"

Mitchell grit his teeth and forced a smile because the little twerp was right. "Pul-leeze, don't tell me you're gonna mother-hen me to death?"

The elevator finally arrived and slid open, revealing Gen. Landry. "Uh, sir," Mitchell nodded and stepped aside to let the man exit, silently hoping even as he did that Landry was on his way to some meeting or other that didn't concern--

"Mitchell," Landry nodded and stuck out his hand to block the elevator doors open, "just the man I was looking for."

Well, there went his hoped for escape. "Sir?" he asked, forcing an interested mien and fighting to hide his discomfiture.

Landry eyed his arm in the dark blue sling even as he stepped aside to allow Danny and the younger officer to enter the lift. "Returning to quarters?" he guessed.

Cam nodded, tacking on the requisite, "Sir."

Landry blinked even as he hit the appropriate button without need of prompting and glanced down at Danny, a comedic straight-face firmly in place. "That's the third 'sir' I've heard in the last fifteen seconds. Is there an echo in here?"

Danny offered him a shy grin. Mitchell just tried not to fidget as the doors slid shut and the general eyed his sling once more.

"Broken?" he asked by way of verbal short-hand.

"Sprained, sir," Cam answered as succinctly.

Landry nodded and offered a pensive frown. "You can tell me exactly how it happened later," he decided. "Right now, I have something else I need to discuss with you."

"Sir?" he asked automatically - and mentally cringed as a forth (or was it fifth?) 'echo' was heard.

Landry ignored it and glanced down at Danny again in mild concern. "Has the colonel here informed you of what's going on at the Gamma Site?"

Danny frowned, picking up on the general's serious demeanor and moving closer to Mitchell in an unconscious need for support. "Only that a Prior Bug got loose and bit one of the scientists, and they're under lockdown because of it."

Landry nodded, obviously debating what he should or shouldn't say. Fortunately, the elevator arrived at their destination, preventing him from having to explain immediately.

"It's okay, sir," Danny assured him gravely, holding Mitchell's hand as they walked and reading Landry's hesitation too easily. "I can take it. Is Sam in danger?"

Landry didn't look too happy about it, but he decided to take the kid at his word and nodded. "I'm afraid so," he answered and glanced back up at Mitchell. "Something went wrong with the transfer. We're not sure what. All power is down over there and we can't raise anyone on the radios, but according to motion sensors their gate room is swarming with the damn things. I have no choice but to effect protocol CR-91. Dr. Lee is preparing the toxin now. The Odyssey will deliver it from orbit."

"CR-91, sir?" Mitchell echoed in surprise. "Is that ... is that really necessary?"

"According to their last report, the bugs have become carnivorous, Colonel," Landry reminded him emphatically. "Voraciously so, if I remember correctly. They aren't simple little plant eaters anymore."

"But they were all destroyed, sir. How--"

"--Those motion sensor readings I mentioned earlier confirmed it was R-75," Landry answered curtly. "We don't know how, but current thinking is that the bug which bit Myers did more than just bite him."

Danny was faster on the uptake than Cam. "It laid its eggs in him," he surmised, holding Cam's hand a little tighter.

Cam's mind took in the information, combined it with the fact that they were carnivorous and.... "Ewwww!" he exclaimed in disgust.

"Eloquently stated, Colonel," Landry responded sarcastically. "I don't think there's any question left about whether or not these bugs are the Priors' answer to our defeating their little plague. Unfortunately, they've become more than a simple nuisance pest; they've become a very real and viable threat to Earth and the rest of the galaxy as well. We cannot let them get off that planet."

"Yes, sir," Cam found himself forced to agree. "And our people, sir?"

"The Odyssey will scan for any possible survivors and beam them to safety before releasing their payload," Landry assured them - although it wasn't much of an assurance. If Mitchell remembered correctly, the Gamma Site had been chosen specifically because of its unique radioactive ionosphere. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pick up the SGC tracking implants Sam and SG-3 all had. The normal base personnel, and most especially the IOA delegates, wouldn't even have that to help them. The Odyssey would have to rely on life sign sweeps and those weren't that accurate.

"Permission to join the crew of the Odyssey, sir?" he requested smartly. He knew the answer before he voiced the question, but he still had to ask.

"Permission denied," Landry answered immediately and glanced down at Danny. "Even if you weren't injured, Colonel, you're hands are a little full. I suggest you concentrate your efforts where they're needed the most." He glanced back up as they came to a halt before the door to a VIP suite. "I'll keep you posted, but I'm afraid there's nothing either you or Dr. Jackson here can do at the moment, except pray."

"Prayer is a powerful thing, sir," Mitchell declared simply, echoing his grandmother's teachings. He'd seen too many strange and unexplainable things in his life not to believe in the power of prayer.

Landry nodded in clear agreement and turned his attention back to Danny. "Make sure he stays out of trouble and doesn't injure his other wrist, hmmm?" He ruffled the boy's hair in an attempt at normalcy - but it felt hallow. He forced a small reassuring smile. "I'll let you both know as soon as I have anything else."

"Yes, sir," Mitchell answered, giving Danny's hand his own reassuring squeeze. There was nothing else he could give him. "Thank you, sir."

The two men exchanged nods and then the general turned on his heel to hurry on about the many other things he had to see to before the Odyssey left.

Mitchell glanced down to meet too-wide, slightly worried blue eyes. "Sam's the best there is, kid. She'll be fine," he stated with more confidence then he really felt even as he quickly swiped his pass card and pushed the door open. "It'll take more than a damn bug to bring her down."

He followed Danny in and kind of stood staring at the room. It was a major mess, what with the dirty clothes by the door and the over-turned table and the smashed chair in the middle of the room. When did the table get knocked over? He couldn't remember.... Lam would have his butt in a sling if he tried to clean this up and Danny certainly couldn't do it.

"Looks like we need to call Housekeeping," he decided.

Danny merely nodded. "Wait 'til you see the bathroom."
* * *

Part 15

After calling Housekeeping, and warning them a little about what they'd find, Mitchell had decided it was probably best if they made themselves scarce. What he'd said was that he thought they should 'get out of the way' so Housekeeping could do their job, but what he probably meant was he didn't want to put up with the censorious looks and oblique comments they were going to get for trashing the room!

In any case, they were headed to the commissary now. Danny twisted his head to the side as they were walking to try and read Mitchell's watch. He normally wore it on his left wrist with the Velcro cover in place but the nurse had put it on upside down when she transferred it to his right for him and secured the cover open.

Danny came to a sudden halt, frowning.

"What?" Mitchell asked in confused surprise, but Danny merely shook his head and started walking again. "What?" he repeated more insistently.

"Memory," Danny answered simply, and shrugged. It was weird how he'd remembered that the guy liked to wear his watch on his left wrist but he couldn't seem to remember much else about him.

"Yeah?" Mitchell prodded, offering him a mildly concerned look.

Danny ignored it. He had a hard enough time understanding how his head worked himself without trying to explain it to someone else. "What time is it?" he asked instead, abruptly changing the subject. He again cocked his head to the side to try and read the watch.

The man turned his wrist to help. "Eighteen oh five," he volunteered in military parlance.

It took Danny a long moment to remember he had to subtract twelve to get normal time, so ... translate that to five after six in the evening.

"Heads up!" Mitchell warned suddenly as the swinging doors in front of them burst open. A group of some six or seven soldiers in the midst of an animated discussion appeared in the doorway, heading out. "Look out!"

Danny found himself safely tucked behind the lieutenant colonel even as the man braced himself. Fortunately, the soldier who'd been heading straight for them walking backwards spun around to face right just in time to awkwardly avoid a collision. A couple of his comrades bumped into him instead and the whole group staggered to a halt.

"Hey, Mitchell," the one who'd nearly run into them offered and then did a sharp double-take as he continued in the same breath, "what the hell happened to you!"

"Looks like someone zigged when they should'a zagged," another quipped as he stepped forward to join the first.

There was movement behind the group and as one they moved to the side to clear the doorway. A few of them decided to continue on, apparently agreeing to meet up with the others in the gym later on.

"Bring your game face, girls!" one of them called.

"And a med-kit for your ego, Ferrell! You'll need it after we wipe the floor with you!" someone called back.

Mitchell lifted a brow and glanced at the remaining men.

"Basketball challenge," the one who'd nearly run into them explained and eyed Mitchell's sling. "Something tells me we won't be including SG-1 in the fun."

The man beside him happened to glance down and spot Danny. "Well, hello there!" he offered in surprise and glanced back up to tease Mitchell. "I know some of our recruits are a little young, especially the geeks, but don't you think this is a bit extre-- Oof!"

He blinked in surprise as the man beside him elbowed him in the ribs.

"Dr. Jackson, I presume?" the first greeted him properly. "You'll have to ignore Miller here. He and his men were trapped off-world for the last two weeks when a Prior decided to pay the planet they were checking out a little visit. Apparently the local magistrate decided to lock 'em up for their own protection."

"Some protection," Miller groused. "They were getting ready to lynch us by the time we managed to break out of there. Uh...." He frowned sharply and glanced back down at Danny. "Dr. ... Jackson?" he echoed uncertainly.

"One and the same, Miller," Mitchell confirmed, drawing the man's attention away from the boy. "I take it 137's gone Ori then."

The man nodded unhappily. "Didn't even have to threaten them," he said disgustedly. "They were already facing famine due to drought. The Prior tapped their dry well with his staff and suddenly they had plenty of water. He tapped it again and it went away. They were more than happy to bow down after that."

"Probably tapping an underground aquifer." Mitchell shook his head in disgust.

Danny frowned too. Bugs and plagues and now controlling a well? It was hardly surprising the locals of most planets were willing to worship them. But he knew it was all a trick. He still didn't remember everything about the Ori, but he did remember that. They weren't gods, no matter how much the Priors proclaimed otherwise.

"So...." Miller offered both of them a confused look and waved a hand between them. "What, um...?"

"Kelly can explain," Mitchell interrupted with a nod for the other officer. He glanced down at his charge with a wink and started forward again even as he spoke. "We're heading to dinner. Watch out for Ferrell; the guy's got a mean jump shot."

Kelly called his thanks while Miller groaned at having his team's ace up the sleeve revealed.

Danny looked up as they finally made it past the doors and into the mess hall. The large open area was relatively deserted. Least wise, Danny could remember it being a lot busier on occasion. Despite his memories of the place, it was still quite disconcerting. Once again, the angle he was seeing everything from was wrong. And despite the fact that it was relatively deserted, there were still more people here than he'd seen since the gate room and his return to Earth.

There was a slight hiccup in the various conversations around them as they moved toward the service line. Danny purposely ignored the double-takes and out-an-out stares, the whispered explanations and uncomfortable looks as Mitchell directed him forward and helped him with his tray.

There was some quick shuffling of people behind the counter and when Danny looked up again it was to find the woman he'd seen a moment before replaced by a man in crisp starched whites. "Colonel. Doctor," he greeted them easily and nodded at Mitchell's sling encased arm. "That doesn't look good," he commented, then turned his head to call for someone to help with their trays.

The man offered no stares and no questions and carried himself with a sense of authority that told Danny he was far more than a mere cook here. Noting that Danny was too short to see what was on offer, the man quickly and patiently reviewed the options and offered to make something special for him if he didn't want the roast beef or baked fish. What was surprising was that he did it without sounding patronizing or condescending, as if having a five year old in his Mess was a daily occurrence.

Danny flashed him a shy, grateful smile and asked for the fish. A few minutes later he found himself being lifted into a booster seat by the man as a couple of others in starched whites set their trays on the table and fetched their drinks.

"When did the mess hall get booster seats, Morris?" Mitchell asked as his scooted his own chair into place. He paused to offer a quiet 'thank you' to the others who'd helped them.

"Before your time, Mitchell," the man answered. "'Back during the System Lords' Conference here. Some smart-nosed pencil-pusher apparently thought Thor might need it."

Danny paused in the midst of reaching for his milk to slap his hands over his mouth as he practically doubled-over in a giggling fit! Morris had been expecting it and managed to catch him before he banged his head on the tray to send everything flying. Mitchell was not so fortunate and nearly choked as he found himself suddenly snorting coke through his nose!

Morris merely ignored the other man as he righted the boy and offered him a wink. "I about died laughing at the thought myself," he admitted.

Mitchell coughed and sputtered as he grabbed for his napkin, fighting to regain his composure. Damn but it burned to get coke up your nose!

Danny's hands remained plastered across his mouth as he fought to contain his laughter, his eyes sparkling with mirth. The idea of Thor using a booster seat was too funny for words! And Mitchell wasn't exactly un-amusing at the moment either.

Mitchell held the napkin in front of his face as he gave Morris the evil eye. "You did that on purpose!"

Morris just shrugged. "Bad timing," he offered with a grin.

There was nothing wrong with his timing and they both knew it.

The chef eyed Daniel speculatively, making sure he wasn't about to fall out of his chair, and then turned back to Mitchell who was slowly recovering from his attempt to breath soda. "You two need anything else, just flag a server down. I gotta go ride herd on the back." He smiled down at Danny's merry eyes and gave him a friendly pat on the back before turning to return to his duties.

Danny glanced down at his tray and picked up his fork before suddenly glancing back up again. "I need my journals," he announced unexpectedly.

Mitchell blinked in confusion. "Your journals?" he echoed, lost.

Danny nodded as he gently kicked his feet and struggled to make his peas stay on his fork. "I remember I use to keep journals," he explained. "I made an entry for every mission and some stuff that wasn't about missions. They can help me remember about the Ori, and maybe I can figure out something to help Sam too."

"Okay..." Mitchell shrugged pensively, understanding too well the kid's desire to do anything that might help. "I assume they're in your office?" he guessed. Danny frowned as the peas rolled off his fork for the third time. Mitchell suddenly reached forward and exchanged it for a spoon. "Try that."

Danny offered him a slightly miffed look for the arbitrary action but then dismissed it in favor of actually being able to eat. "I don't know," he admitted. "Some of them are, but I think the ones I want are somewhere else."

"Where?" Mitchell asked, frowning.

Danny shrugged. "I just remember somewhere else," he admitted. "Like an apartment?"

"Your house?" Mitchell asked incredulously. "You keep notes about missions at your house?!"

"Not notes." He shook his head. "Thoughts. Both Generals Hammond and O'Neill approved it."

"They <i>approved</i> it?" Mitchell echoed in shocked disbelief.

"Anyone who read them would think it was science fiction," Danny explained with a shrug. He remembered having this very discussion with Jack years ago. Other memories were quickly fitting themselves into place as he spoke. "Besides, do you have any idea of what kind of security my place has? Jack used to complain that I practically lived at the base - until they agreed that I could take some of the less sensitive work home. Then when Osiris--"

He was abruptly hit with an avalanche of memories: Sarah and Dr. Jordan and Lord Yu... The room started to spin.

"Daniel?!" Mitchell was suddenly at his side, catching him before he could slip out of the chair and booster seat entirely.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," the boy insisted even as he swayed dangerously despite Mitchell's grip. He knew it wasn't real. He knew what was happening this time. It was a flashback. He could handle it.

"Like hell you are," the man claimed. "Medic!" Danny's eyes suddenly rolled back in his head and he slumped like a rag doll across Mitchell's one good arm. "Medic!" he cried again.
* * *

Part 16

You know ... he was definitely getting tired of seeing this place. Cam shook his head and sighed, fighting to get comfortable in the hard plastic chair. Beside him, in the all too familiar hospital bed, Danny lay curled up on his side completely zonked to the world. He'd woken up from his faint before they got him to the infirmary and did his best to dismiss the incident as just another 'stupid flashback' but, unfortunately for him, the medics were having none of it. Neither was Cam. Five year olds were not supposed to have flashbacks!

Okay, so Danny wasn't your typical five year old and Cam knew perfectly well where the flashbacks were coming from, but that still didn't make it right. Having the docs check him out wasn't going to hurt anyone.

Except maybe Cam. These damn visitor chairs were torture!

With another sigh, he gave up and stood again, moving to frown down at the boy beside him. The poor kid had had one hell of a day. 'Course, his hadn't been much better he thought, wriggling the fingers of his left hand to ease the stiffness of enforced immobility.


Cam turned in answer to the softly spoken greeting and held up a warning hand as Dr. Warner re-entered the examination bay. Glancing back again at the boy behind them, Cam was glad to note he hadn't even twitched. "He finally fell asleep," he whispered.

The doctor nodded and together they stepped away from the bed, just outside the curtained area. "Looks like you could use some shut eye yourself, Colonel," Dr. Warner offered softly with a critical eye for the other man's slightly haggard appearance.

Cam just shrugged. "Been a long day," he admitted. "What ya got?" he asked, glancing significantly at the medical chart the man was carrying.

The doctor frowned down at it for a moment before answering. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "Generally speaking, he seems to be fine. Given everything that has happened to him, flashbacks are almost to be expected. And given his history, I'm afraid some of them may be violent. In this instance, I think it was more a case of simply being overwhelmed. He seems to have tapped into one memory which then in turn unlocked a series of related memories that all demanded attention at the same time. I believe he described it as an 'avalanche.' 'Mental Overload' might be better way to put it. It's hardly surprising he fainted. He seems to be handling it surprisingly well - far better than I would have expected, probably because he's already dealt with the emotional fall out of those memories before. We did find a few anomalies in his tests, but nothing to be overly concerned about - at least not yet."

Cam was frowning sharply. "What kind of anomalies?"

"Some elevated stress indicators in his blood work," the man answered. "They're up a bit from this morning. Nothing dangerous, it's just something we're monitoring at this point."

Cam nodded. Given everything the kid had been through - well, of course his body was responding to all the stress he'd been under! "Anything else?" he asked, sensing there was more the doctor wasn't saying.

Warner offered him an uncertain grimace. "Again it may be nothing," he allowed, glancing at the sleeping boy with a frown. He shrugged. "His PET scans were a bit more active than I'd like."

"Pet scans?" Cam echoed. He had no idea what the doctor was talking about.

"Positron Emission Tomography," the doctor clarified. "It's a bit complicated to explain but in this case we're using it to help monitor brain activity. Again, there's been an increase since the last time we tested him - a significant increase actually - but it could simply be his brain rebuilding and redirecting various neural pathways as it struggles to adapt to his reemerging memories. His particular condition is completely unlike anything we've ever seen before so ... we're not really sure how to interpret the test results."

Cam frowned as he regarded the pensive doctor. It wasn't hard to tell the guy was hedging his bets here.

Dr. Warner frowned again and sighed. "I think we might want to hook him up to the brain scanning equipment we got from Anubis' laboratory a few months ago."

"You mean the Khalek stuff?" Cam surmised.

The other man nodded. "It's completely safe," he assured the lieutenant colonel. "Safer than even an MRI or PET, and far more accurate for what we need."

"You think he's going to try and ascend or something?!" Cam whispered in sharp disbelief.

"Oh, no. No," the doctor assured him. "Nothing like that! I just think, in conjunction with some of our other tests, it might help us identify a bit more clearly exactly what's going on - that's all."

Cam continued to frown, only slightly reassured by the doctor's words. "But there's nothing to worry about at the moment, right?" he questioned. "There's no reason you gotta wake him up and do it right now, is there?"

"No," Warner agreed readily. "It's just something I'm going to suggest to Dr. Lam. It'll be up to her to decide if and when he needs it."

"That's good," Cam sighed, raking a hand back through his own tousled hair. He needed another haircut, he realized. "He needs his sleep. And he missed his dinner so he's gonna need to eat when he wakes up too."

"Something tells me you missed dinner as well," Warner noted, closing the chart and holding it to his chest.

Mitchell tried to shrug it away.

Dr. Warner wouldn't let him. "You were injured this morning, Colonel," he pointed out resolutely. "You need rest and proper nutrition yourself if you're going to heal and be able to take care of a child. I don't suppose you'd happily comply if I ordered you to go pick up something from the mess? They should be serving mid-night meal about now."

"I'm good, Doc," Mitchell shook his head. "Eating this late always gives me indigestion."

"Then I suggest staying away from spicy food and complex proteins late at night," the man answered knowingly, "but you still need to eat. I suppose you'd also give me an argument if I told you to go home and get some sleep?"

"The kid has a bit of a habit of waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares sometimes," Cam answered with a worried shake of his head, "and given the flashback he just had, I'm kinda expecting him to do it again tonight."

"Good excuse," Warner nodded pensively. He couldn't afford to assign a nurse to sit with the boy all night. "Okay, you can stay, but I want you in the bed beside him. Things are quiet enough it shouldn't be a problem. And I want you to eat. I'll see what we can rustle up, including something for Dr. Jackson that will keep for a while in case he wakes in the middle of the night. Agreed, Colonel?"

Mitchell suddenly found himself fighting a losing battle with a massive yawn. He had little choice but to give in gracefully.
* * *

Landry frowned sharply and glanced at the bedside table even as the phone rang a second time, demanding his attention. He normally rose at five-thirty and the bedside clock read five-fifteen but he really would have preferred to have those fifteen minutes to sleep. He awkwardly reached for the phone and brought it to his ear. "This had better be important or I'm going to have your head stuffed and mounted for display in my office," he told his caller without preamble, completely ignoring the fact that he had no idea who it was. Well, they couldn't know that, so....

"Sorry to disturb you, sir," CMSgt Harriman's voice greeted him crisply - didn't the little man ever go to sleep? "You asked to be informed of any changes regarding the Gamma Site, sir."

Landry frowned and blinked again as he forced himself to sit up. "What time is it there, Sergeant?" he asked irrelevantly. He still wasn't awake. He knew he shouldn't have had coffee before going to bed.

"Local time is zero five-sixteen, sir," the man answered. "Gamma site time is approximately zero nine-thirty. Tuesday. Given their location and the fact that their day is somewhat shorter than Earth's and calibrating for the difference--"

Landry was waving the information away with a scowl the other man couldn't see. "--When's the last time you went home, Sergeant?" he demanded with a sigh as he swung his legs from the bed and began searching for his slippers with his feet.

"Nineteen hundred yesterday, sir," the man replied without hesitation. "I was called in about an hour ago when we failed to achieve a lock with the Gamma Site. Sir; the Stargate will not engage. All diagnostics are good on our end."

Landry frowned sharply and rubbed a hand over his face. As if they needed any further problems. "An active wormhole?" he asked obliquely.

"No, sir, I don't believe so," the other man answered stoically. "Under normal circumstances, active wormholes can only be maintained for thirty-eight minutes at a time. We have been attempting to reconnect for almost an hour now, sir."

Which left either a malfunction on the Gamma Site's end or.... "Self-destruct, Sergeant?" he asked, forcing himself to voice the worst case scenario.

"Unknown, sir," Harriman responded simply.

"Thank you, Sergeant," Landry answered. "I'll be there in forty minutes. Contact the Odyssey and let them know what's happened."

"Yes, sir."
* * *

Part 17

When had he transitioned from dreaming to thinking? He wasn't quite sure. The one just seemed to blend into the other. One moment he was confronting Sarah/Osiris, a dream about a dream; and the next he was laying here, blinking at the cold gray cement wall of the infirmary as he remembered Maj. Davis telling him that Sarah had died in a car accident two days after being released from the Academy Hospital.

It was all so senseless.

He could remember the pain and frustration the news had brought, but his emotions from that time didn't touch him now. Thankfully. She'd been his girl friend, he thought. Maybe? He wasn't sure. He seemed to remember ... well, stuff. Kissing and ... other things. Things a five year old wasn't supposed to know about.

And he knew they'd fought.

It all felt ... weird. Like video clips from a movie. Some were long and some were short, some were clear and some were fuzzy, and he knew there was still a lot missing. Those memories he did have were all jumbled up together and he wasn't always sure what order they were supposed to go in. He knew what had happened, at least the gist of it, and that it was real but ... it just didn't feel real.

In a way, he guessed that was good. Most of what he remembered wasn't very nice.

The memory of his parents and growing up in Egypt was still far more real. More happy. ...More painful. God, he missed them! It was easier to dwell on those from his 'future', even if it felt like they belonged to someone else sometimes.

He frowned and brushed a tear away, deciding it was for Sarah and not himself.

The infirmary was pretty quiet. The lighting was still turned down, so he knew it was night. Or ... really early? He could hear the nurses talking softly further down the ward, which meant it was probably close to a shift change. He sighed and rolled over, remembering all the times he'd woken in the infirmary in the past to find Jack toying with an IV bag or playing with his yo-yo at his bedside. Well, maybe not 'all' the times, he allowed. He still had too many holes in his memory to be able to say he remembered all of them, but it had happened a lot. Jack was one of the few good things he recalled from his adult-life.

He blinked and frowned in surprise as he spotted Mitchell lying on the next bed over. Had he been injured? Or, Danny corrected the thought as he saw the dark blue sling and remembered the previous day, had he been injured again?

A nurse appeared from around the half-drawn privacy curtain on the other side of Mitchell's bed and smiled when she saw Danny awake. She also glanced at the sleeping Air Force lieutenant colonel and shook her head in fond amusement. "Looks like your guardian angel finally crashed."

The man jerked awake at the sound of her voice, despite the fact that she'd spoken just above a whisper. "What?" he asked loudly.

"W'up! He pulls out of the dive at the last moment," the nurse corrected her analogy and offered him a smile of his own even as she stepped to Danny's bedside. "Good morning, Colonel. Your charge is awake."

Danny watched as Mitchell blinked stupidly for a long moment, fighting off the tenacious tendrils of sleep. Two sets of blue eyes met and awareness instantly returned to Mitchell's gaze as he quickly moved to get up.

Too quickly.

Movement awoke pain, contorting his face in unpleasant surprise as he froze for a long moment. "Ouch!" he muttered quietly even as he forced himself to finish sitting up. His good hand came up to cradle his bound left wrist protectively as he bowed his head and fought the discomfort away.

The nurse, who'd been scanning one of the monitors beside Danny, turned to offer the man on the other bed a worried frown - but there was no serious concern in her eyes.

"Sounds like you forgot to take your pain medication," she offered, eying him knowingly.

"Ye-aah," Mitchell answered, the pain and his soft southern drawl combining to break the word into two syllables as he smiled through gritted teeth. "I kinda forgot about 'em last night."

The nurse nodded and patted Danny's shoulder before she moved over to Mitchell's side. "'You have them with you?" she asked as she deftly poured him a glass of water from Danny's water pitcher.

"Yeah," he answered again, grimacing as he leaned over to dig into his hip pocket. A moment later he pulled out the small bottle and began fumbling with it one-handed.

The nurse shook her head and took it from him. A quick glance at the label, then a twist and it was open. "When's the last time you took these?"

Mitchell offered her and the thought an embarrassed wince. "Noon yesterday...."

She lifted a reproachful brow but silently shook a pill into his hand, then handed him the water after he tossed it in his mouth. The bottle was again capped and handed back. "They can't work if you don't take 'em," she commented lightly and then turned back to Danny. He noted the lights in the ward behind her coming up. It must be about six-thirty. "And how are you doing this morning? Feeling better?"

He nodded. "I just want to get out of here."

She smiled and glanced at his bedside table where the juice and cookies Dr. Warner had ordered for him if he woke in the middle of the night still waited. "How about some breakfast first?" she asked and handed him the plastic wrapped food. "I understand you missed dinner last night."

He took the cookies eagerly and quickly opened them, the mention of food reminding him of just how hungry he was.

"That's breakfast?!" Mitchell exclaimed in disbelief.

She smiled in amusement and went back to noting Daniel's readings even as she answered. "Just something to tide him over until food services gets here. You're going to have to go to the mess hall for yours, sir."

"Biscuits and gravy, and scrambled eggs!" he announced enthusiastically. "Breakfast is one of the things the Air Force does right. 'Don't suppose there's any chance I can spring the kid before the mess hall closes at nine and take him with me?"

She smiled tolerantly and shook her head.

Cam sighed heavily. He hadn't expected anything else and turned his attention to Danny as the nurse finished noting his vitals and headed off to her next patient. "I need to find Landry or someone and see what's happening with Sam. Will you be okay here for an hour or so? We can use those puppy-dog eyes of yours on Warner and Lam to get you out of here when I get back. Okay?"

Danny nodded and found himself smiling back at the man despite himself. He still missed Jack but Mitchell wasn't a bad sort - just different. And he'd been here when Danny woke up. "Thanks," he whispered, embarrassed to realize how much that had meant to him.

"We ain't done it yet," Mitchell protested, misunderstanding. He paused to grab up a handful of tissues and caught his breath as he moved too quickly again. "Whoa, Nelly! I can see I gotta slow down a bit. I'll be back as soon as I can." He shoved the tissues at Danny and turned to hurry away, calling back, "Don't get crumbs everywhere!"
* * *

Part 18

Freshly shaved and showered - although that latter hadn't been so easy with one hand sticking out of the shower curtain the whole time - Cam went on the hunt for information. Primary target: the control room and techs manning it. If there was anything new to know, the techs would have it. He took the stairs up the half-level to the main control room two at a time and barely even paused in his stride when he discovered Gen. Landry there before him. With a team in trouble, Cam wouldn't be surprised if he'd stayed here all night.

"Colonel," the man greeted him with a no-nonsense nod. "Where's your charge?"

After having made the mistake of abandoning Danny the day before in the VIP room, Cam knew it would be a while before he wasn't questioned every time he showed up without him. "Infirmary, sir," he answered. "Bit of an episode at dinner last night. Not exactly a flashback, but close. Doc Warner says he's fine. We're just waiting on Dr. Lam to give him the all clear."

Landry nodded pensively, showing no evidence of surprise with the information. Cam suspected he'd already known most of it.

"Any word from the Gamma Site yet, sir?" he asked, coming directly to the point of his visit.

"Nothing good I'm afraid," Landry sighed. With a frown, the man filled him in on what had happened in the last couple of hours.

Behind them, Cam could hear the Stargate dialing up and failing to get a connection even as Landry spoke. He knew what it likely meant as well as the other man. If the Gamma Site had been forced to use the self-destruct - or the bugs had gotten into the system and set it off somehow - then Sam was likely dead, as well as SG-3, the IOA representatives and many, many others. The general was apparently hoping the bugs had messed up the gate itself somehow, preventing them from establishing a connection without it having to be buried in a ton of rubble, but Cam knew the chances of that being the case were more than slim.

"The Odyssey left a few minutes ago," Landry added, dashing any hopes that Cam might have to wheedle his way on board at the last minute. "It's going to be several hours before we have any confirmation as to what has or hasn't happened at the Gamma Site. As soon as my daughter releases him, I suggest you take our young Dr. Jackson and go check out your new place. I'm told Housing scored you a prime piece of real estate."

Cam winced at the suggestion. "Actually, if you don't mind, sir, I think we'd rather--"

"--But I do mind, Colonel," Landry interrupted the other man firmly. "Sitting around here waiting for word one way or the other, isn't going to change things. The best thing you can do, for yourself as well as the kid, is get out of here." He lifted a unequivocal finger as Cam started to open his mouth. "And you know it."


Cam's mouth snapped shut and he glanced away. Yeah, he knew. He'd been down this road before. That didn't mean he had to like it.

"You need to distract yourself," Landry continued. "You and your charge. The new place is ready made for it. Security should be done with their installs before you get there and the moving company will be at your old place bright and early tomorrow morning. I believe you said your old place came furnished, correct?"

Mitchell winced again at the thought. "Yeah, I'm going to need to do some shopping before we move in."

"No, you don't," Landry corrected him. "Well, not furniture anyway. Gen. O'Neill is apparently taking care of it. Don't ask me what or how, all I know is he requisitioned Siler yesterday morning and I haven't seen the man since. Jack says you get to worry about the clothing and toys. He says lots of toys. Lots and lots of toys."

"But ... it's only temporary, sir," Mitchell frowned in confusion. A few toys he could see - heck, he'd probably have as much fun helping the tyke pick 'em out as Danny did - but lots?

"We're hoping it's temporary, Colonel." Landry stated the one fact that they'd all been avoiding. "But if the situation at the Gamma Site is as bad as we fear ... well, that 'temporary state' may be a bit longer than any of us would like."

Yeah, as in thirteen years 'temporary' while the kid grew up! Cam really didn't want to think about that. 'Course, it wouldn't be his problem. O'Neill had already stated he'd adopt the kid himself if it came down to that - somehow the thought didn't make Cam feel any better.

"Lots of toys," Landry reiterated. "Gen. O'Neill may be paying you a visit one of these days before long and I don't suggest disappointing him. Besides, it'll all get donated to the Air Force Aid Society when everything is said and done. Consider it an investment in a worthy cause, Colonel - and now get the hell out of here before I have to make it an order. I'll call you myself as soon as we know anything new."

"Yes, sir," Cam answered, his mind still back on the idea of what would happen if this wasn't as temporary as they all hoped. God, he really hoped Sam was alright - not just because she was probably one of the only people in the entire galaxy who might be able to figure out how to correct this situation but because she was also a very dear friend. He didn't even want to think about having to tell Daniel she was dead.

No. No, he was definitely not going there!

Landry was right. He needed a distraction. Turning, he headed back to the infirmary.
* * *

Part 19

Danny sighed and chewed the inside of his bottom lip as he regarded the passing trees outside the government vehicle. The child safety seat he'd been strapped into didn't lift him high enough to allow a clear view out the rear windows. He tried again to shift in the contraption and frowned. It wasn't very comfortable either. Most of his foster parents from 'before' hadn't used them. Apparently there was a law requiring it now. According to Mitchell, he'd have to gain a couple more pounds before graduating to a 'booster' seat.

Maybe he should start asking for bigger desserts?

He kicked his feet in boredom. It felt kinda weird to be in the back of the sleek sedan. A part of him insisted it was nothing new, but the larger part said he'd never done it before. It was a little like the feelings he got in the gate room, infirmary and the VIP room, where he recognized things but everything was at the wrong angle, only not as strong. He figured he must have done it before, but it probably wasn't very often 'cause he didn't really recognize anything at all.

Except the driver, but that was only vague - a déjà vu type thing. He didn't know if he actually knew the guy or not.

And he couldn't ask.

The moment they'd stepped off the elevator on sub-level 11, he'd become 'Danny Young'. They'd had to stop by Personnel on sub-level 3 for Mitchell to get all the carefully doctored paperwork the NID and Pentagon had put together for him; but after that, well, it was 'official' - for whatever that was worth.

It didn't much matter if he did know their assigned driver. Mitchell had used the cover story when introducing him. The guy probably did have the necessary security clearance - or he wouldn't have been chosen to drive them about - but he didn't have the need-to-know.

"Uncle Cam?" he suddenly called from the backseat, trying not to grimace at the unfamiliar address. Mitchell wasn't supposed to be his 'real' uncle, but they'd decided simply addressing him as 'Mitchell' like Danny had been doing would probably sound a little strange to most people outside the mountain, and 'Col. Mitchell' sounded too stuffy coming from a five year old.

'Dad' was unacceptable to both of them.

Having chosen to sit up front because Danny's car seat was installed in the middle and safest position in back, Mitchell had to twist around in his seat to glance back at him. "Yeah?"

"Can we stop by my ... Dr. Jackson's place first?" he asked, only just catching himself. Remembering the part he was to play was going to be a little harder than he'd thought - and a whole lot less fun, he realized.

Mitchell frowned pensively. "I don't know if that's such a good idea," he allowed, relaxing a bit back in his seat and answering over his shoulder without actually trying to turn to see Daniel. "There's probably all kinds of memory triggers there. I think it'd be kinda nice to go through a twenty-four hour period without you winding up in a hospital bed, don't you?"

"But I might be able to remember something to help Sam," he argued back.

Mitchell visibly winced and glanced at their driver. "Maybe," he allowed carefully, "but we really can't discuss that right now. Some friends of ours have already gone to help her, so I'm sure she'll be fine."

Danny frowned harder, choosing his words with care. "Did she call Hank?"

It took Mitchell a long moment to realize Danny meant Gen. Landry. "Uh, no," he admitted with an unhappy frown. He'd carefully side-stepped Danny's earlier questions when he returned to the infirmary but a glance over his shoulder was enough to tell him he wouldn't get away with it a second time. "But he was the one who told me someone had gone to pick her and the rest of our friends up. He also promised to call me as soon as he knew anything else."

"And CR-91?" Danny asked cryptically.

Mitchell had to twist a bit harder to toss the boy a warning glare but Danny ignored it. The protocol might be classified but the acronym wasn't.

"Our friends will do everything they can to help Sam," the older man said firmly. "And you know it."

Danny scowled down at his feet again and kicked the edge of the seat unhappily. What he knew was that his friend was in danger and that they were sending a ship full of toxin off to go poison the planet she was on! "What if they can't find her?" he pouted.

"They'll find her," Mitchell insisted.

"What if they can't?" he insisted right back.

"They will."

"What if they can't!" he repeated.

"Danny!" Mitchell snapped sharply, winning a surprised glance upward. The man put aside his irritation with apparent effort and reminded him quietly, "She's my friend too."

Danny ducked his head and fought a sudden onslaught of embarrassed and anxious tears. Of course she was Mitchell's friend too! Of course he was worried about her as well! And all Danny had done was make him worry more. There was nothing he could do about the situation; nothing either of them could do.

"Stop the car," Mitchell ordered suddenly.

"Sir?" The driver hesitated. "Our destination--"

"--I said, 'Stop the car,'" Mitchell repeated. It was not a tone of voice one could argue with. "Now!"

Danny tried to fight back his tears but it was impossible as the car quickly pulled to the side. He heard Mitchell get out and then suddenly his own door was being swung open. Mitchell was there in the next moment, wrestling one handed with the seatbelt latches and lifting Danny from the car. Danny wrapped his arms around the other man's neck and buried his face in his shoulder, letting the tears come.

"I'm sorry!" he whispered brokenly. "I'm sorry!"

"Shhhhh!" Mitchell whispered back, holding him close as he rocked side to side beside the vehicle. He'd slipped his sling aside and was using his bound and braced bad arm to keep the kid pressed up against him. "It's okay. You're worried. I'm worried. It's okay to be worried."

"I don't want to lose Sam too!" he explained around a hiccuping voice. "I can't! I just can't!"

"It's okay," Mitchell repeated soothingly. "You're not going to lose Sam. It'll be okay. She'll be fine--"

Mitchell might mean well with his empty promises and positive outlook, but Danny couldn't see it right now. He suddenly lifted his head and his little fist and hit Mitchell on the shoulder as hard as he could. "You don't know that!" he yelled. "You can't know that! You can't! Don't lie to me!"

Mitchell winced in surprise more than pain under the sharp little blow and immediately shifted his hold so he could block the boy's hand before it could strike again. He offered the little butt and legs he was supporting with his other arm a strong squeeze and gave the boy a sharp frown. "No hitting!" he ordered firmly. He would have pointed a finger in his face if he were capable of it.

Danny returned his angry gaze for a short moment before crumbling once again, burying his face in Mitchell's shoulder as sobs wracked him once more. Mitchell's anger evaporated with the kid's. "Ah man..." He sighed painfully. Damn, but he was not handling this right. It felt like everything he did with this kid was wrong. "You're right;" he admitted quietly. "It's not okay. I don't know if Sam will be fine or not, but I have to hope she is; and until Land-- 'Hank' calls me to tell me otherwise, I'm going to keep on hoping and believing that she is because if I let myself believe anything else I'd be a blubbering mess right along with you! And believe me, kid, you do not want to see me blubber."

"I know I certainly don't!" their driver volunteered from where he'd exited the vehicle to join them.

Mitchell gave him a startled look, but the captain merely shrugged. He'd just been trying to lighten the mood. Cam couldn't fault him for that. He glanced around, noting the nearly deserted park to their right. "How much further to the house?" he asked quietly as he continued to rock Danny side to side.

"Actually, sir, it's just around the next corner." Their driver pointed up the street. "About half way up the block."

"Good. Then this is what we're going to do," Mitchell decided. Danny listened with half an ear as Mitchell asked for whatever Kleenex might be in the car and then told the driver to go on up to the house without them. "Danny and I are going to just sit in this nice sunny park here for a few minutes and catch our breaths, then we'll walk on up the street and meet you there. Got it?"

"Uh, sir--"

"--That's an order, Captain," Mitchell told him bluntly, turning and walking away. Danny opened his eyes and lifted his head enough to watch their driver hesitate uncertainly before shrugging and returning to the car. Apparently he hadn't been ordered to guard them. Or if he had, Mitchell out-ranked whomever had given the order.

The driver paused to flip open a cell phone before slipping back into the driver's seat.

That couldn't be good, Danny thought. Mitchell was probably going to get an ear full later for dumping their escort. Sighing shakily, Danny finally lifted his head all the way and glanced around. They were in a small neighborhood park with trees and picnic tables and a play area a couple hundred yards away. He could see and hear four or five kids jumping around over there and generally having fun.

"Feel like joining 'em?" Mitchell asked, following his gaze.

Danny frowned sharply and offered a small but definitive shake of his head.

Mitchell nodded, heading for a picnic table. "'Didn't think so," he allowed.

Sniffling, Danny wiped at his eyes with a small fist and then spotted the box of Kleenex Mitchell had tucked under his other arm. Even as the man set his feet down atop one of the plastic-coated steel-mesh tables, Danny managed to snag the slipping box before Mitchell dropped it.

Mitchell offered a weary sigh and let his head fall backwards as he finally released Danny, only keeping a hand on his hip to make sure he didn't fall. "Thanks."

Danny bit his lip, suddenly realizing Mitchell was in pain. "You shouldn't have been carrying me," he stated guiltily. He'd been so upset about Sam, he hadn't even thought about Mitchell's wrist.

"I shouldn't order my BLTs with double-bacon double-mayo either, but I do," he rejoined even as he grimaced and tried to slip his arm back into the sling. Danny just kept his mouth shut and moved to help as best he could. It took them a long minute, but Mitchell finally managed to maneuver his arm back where it belonged.

"That's better," he sighed in exaggerated relief, and then saw Danny's worried eyes. "Hey Squirt, relax! I'm fine. If you remembered all that stuff I told you 'bout down in Antarctica, you'd know this is nothing. Don't look so worried."

Danny ducked his head and Mitchell wanted to bite his tongue.

"Okay, bad choice of words," he decided. Turning, he plunked himself down on one of the attached benches and leaned back against the table, still keeping a hand on Danny's hip. Danny squatted down and sat on the table top next to Mitchell, who finally let his hand drop away as the danger of falling decreased. Danny dug into the Kleenex box and wiped his eyes and then his nose. Mitchell intercepted his moves in the middle of everything and helped. Pinching his nose dry a final time, the lieutenant colonel pitched the tissue toward a caged and chained trashcan and scored. "Now why can't I do that at basketball?" he grumbled quietly.

Danny just sighed and glanced down, watching in silent misery as a group of tiny ants struggled to drag a small piece of French fry away - until Mitchell placed a finger under his chin and forced his head up.

"Still worried?" Mitchell asked knowingly.

Danny just nodded.

"Me too," he sighed. "But Sam wouldn't want it."

Danny shook his head, wiping a couple of new tears away but he was pretty much cried out. "It's hard not to."

Mitchell nodded. "The day it gets easy, is the day I quit," he declared quietly. Frowning pensively, he noted the blue sedan that had parked at the curb not too far away, but no one had gotten out of it.

Apparently Landry thought they needed watching.

He dismissed the thought and turned his attention back to the kid at his side. "Gen. Landry said we needed a distraction, and he was right. There ain't nothing we can do for Sam and she'd be pissed as hell if she saw us sitting here mopin'. So...." He sighed gustily and pushed himself upward again. "You ready to go check out this 'prime piece of real estate' Housing supposedly got us? I for one am not looking forward to the obvious yard work it's going to require."

Danny stood on the bench and then jumped down to the ground with a frog-like hop before glancing back up at Mitchell. "You can always hire a neighborhood kid to cut the grass," he told him with a shrug. "That's what I did."

Hearing that come from a five year old just did not sound right. Mitchell fought to keep a straight face. "Good idea," he offered simply. "We'd better go before our driver decides to call out a rescue party."

He watched as Danny tucked the Kleenex box under his arm and offered him his hand. Together, they set out down the street.
* * *

Part 20

Their shadow might not be exactly invisible, Cam thought, but at least the guy knew something about being subtle. No one hopped out of the blue sedan to offer them a lift, nor did it start up its engine as he and Danny headed up the street. The windows of the car had been tinted, and when Cam turned to glance in the windshield all he saw was a newspaper. He grinned and turned around to keep walking. Not exactly original stuff there, but it got the job done.

The boy at his side was way too quiet....

"Hey, Squirt!" He grinned down on the tousled blond head. "What kinda toys do you like?"

Big blue eyes glanced up at him in confusion. Oh yeah, Landry was right; this kid needed some major distracting!

"Toys," Cam repeated. "You know, dump trucks and Legos and footballs.... General O'Neill ordered me to load you up, so I need you to start thinking about what you want. What sorta stuff do you like?"

Danny shrugged and glanced back down with a pensive frown for the big Kleenex box he was carrying. "I don't know."

Cam offered that a disbelieving grunt. "Oh, come on," he whined. "Ya gotta give me something here! Don't tell me ya didn't have any toys the first time around?"

Danny shrugged again, and shifted the Kleenex box he was carrying to under his arm. The thing was half his torso width and made his little arm stick way out. "Some," he answered. "I prefer books."

Cam rolled his eyes, taking in the changing colors of the leaves and upscale houses they passed as he and the boy headed for the corner. "Of course you do," he sighed.

This was way too nice a neighborhood. None of the places were mansions by any stretch of the imagination, but they weren't no cookie-cutter tract houses neither. He figured most of them started around two hundred grand, at least. Buying such a place was maybe something he could finagle, barely, but the idea of paying rent on one of them just boggled his mind!

All he could think was, that housing allowance increase had better be damn good....

"Unfortunately, the good general was apparently quite specific when he said 'toys,'" he told the kid at his side. "Lots and lots of toys," he echoed Landry's words. "I think he thinks you had a bit of a deprived childhood the first time around and he wants to spoil you rotten this time. What do you think?"

Danny frowned irritably. "I think he knows I prefer books."

"Which is probably why he specified toys." It was Cam's turn to shrug. "Listen, I ain't got nothing against buying you some books, but please remember what happened the last time I ignored a Jack O'Neill order? Having to write 'I will not offend the Asgard' ten thousand times was no fun."

"I thought it was only five?" The box had started to slip and had to be readjusted.

Cam grimaced. He'd gotten the assignment reduced by half for getting the kid to laugh. "Five ... ten ... like there's a difference?" he quipped. There was, but he wasn't going to admit it! "I have absolutely no desire to cross the general again. You gotta help me out here and tell me what kinda stuff you like. My nephew Ryan is all into model train building, but you're probably a little young for that...."

"Models are cool," Danny allowed, surprising him - and adjusting the box yet again. Cam was tempted to take it from him but it was kinda cute watching him wrestle with it. "I used to help my mom sort and prepare pottery shards."

"Like a puzzle you mean?"

Danny shook his head. "More like a model. The puzzle was 3-D and the pieces had to be cleaned and prepared before being assembled back together again."

"Okay...." He nodded and glanced back as they turned the corner. The blue sedan was still sitting there. He wondered if they would be seeing it around their new place in a few days time. Did Landry really think that was warranted?

He was never going to get out of the dog-house for leaving the kid alone in the VIP room the other day.

Danny gave up on carrying the box under his arm and finally figured out he could carry it and have one hand free if he stuck his fingers in the slot and gripped it there. Problem solved. He glanced back up at Mitchell and took his hand again.

"I'll have to think about the model thing," Cam decided, smiling slightly as the box bounced against the kid's leg with each step. "Something tells me super glue and five year old fingers don't mix real well." He winced at the thought even as he glanced up, looking for the government vehicle that had brought them here.

There were two of them on the street, at two different houses.

"Uh, okay. Different kinda puzzle," he offered aloud.

"The driver said it was half-way up the street," Danny reminded him.

That would mean the second car across the street. The other one was only three houses from the corner on their right. As they came up to it, the front door of the house opened and Mitchell recognized the man in Air Force sweats being guided forward in a wheelchair by a young airman.

"...Dixon?" he offered in surprise.

The man glanced up at the sound of his name even as two moderately sized blurs squeezed past him and darted toward the back yard. "Give it back!" the trailing blur yelled.

"Stop running in the house!" echoed from behind the man - a bit belatedly perhaps.

The young airman seemed a bit disconcerted by it all but the other simply ignored it. "Mitchell?" he called, recognizing the man at the end of his drive.

"Hey," Cam returned by way of greeting. Col. David Dixon was commander of SG-13. "What the hell happened to you?"

The airman was quickly rolling him forward now, closing the distance so the colonel didn't have to shout his answer. "Electrical burn," he answered carefully. "The Jaffa system overloaded."

In other words, a staff weapon blast.

"What happened to you?"

"Oh, just taking klutz lessons and tripped over my own feet," Cam answered easily.

Dixon lifted a surprised brow but dismissed the injury as his attention was caught by the boy half-hiding behind Cam's leg. "Hello there."

"Daaaaaaaaaddyyyyyyyyyy!!!" One of those blurs from earlier reappeared in the front yard, running towards his father.

The man rolled his eyes and glanced over his shoulder to identify the approaching projectile. "I've gotta go," he warned plaintively.

The blur had come to an abrupt stop beside his wheelchair and offered a pout. "Michael stole my Walkman!" he claimed indignantly. Cam figured he was about six or seven, just a little bigger than Danny.

"Tell Mom," his father answered simply and repeated, "I gotta go!"

The kid immediately turned back to the house. "Mooooooommmmm!"

Dixon shook his head as the sound retreated. "Kids," he sighed and glanced again at Daniel. "Speaking of which..?" He lifted an eyebrow at Cam in silent query.

"I, uh, take it you haven't been on base in the last week or so."

"Nope," the other man agreed. "Been stuck at the Academy hospital 'til yesterday. 'Be another few weeks before I'm back to normal. I'm on my way to the physical therapist now. 'Something happen I should know about?"

"Um, kinda," Mitchell shrugged, ever mindful of the listening airman. "Nothing serious but you might want to check in with Landry - and mention your new neighbors."

Dixon frowned in confusion. "You guys?" he asked and again glanced at Danny, awarding him a friendly smile. If he thought the Kleenex box was odd, he didn't mention it. "Hey there. I got a son about your age. His name's Jason. What's yours?"

Danny clung tighter to Mitchell's pant leg even as he answered uncertainly. "Danny," he offered quietly.

"Danny? That's a good name. I know another Danny and he has eyes just like yours." His voice suddenly turned overly-serious and solemn. "You grow up to look like him and I'm going to have to put a guard on my daughter," he declared and glanced back up as Cameron was hit with a sudden coughing fit. "You okay?"

Cam fought to get his breathing under control again as he bit back the laugh which had threatened to escape. "Fine. Fine!" he gasped.

Dixon leaned forward toward Danny. "Your dad's weird," he confided conspiratorially, "and I can get away with saying that 'cause I out-rank him."

Cam didn't bother to try to swallow his snort of laughter this time.

"He's not my dad." Danny's sudden announcement brought the light-hearted byplay to an abrupt halt.

"Honorary uncle," Cam supplied, answering the other man's curious glance. Knowing he had to explain somehow, he trotted out their cover story for the sake of the colonel's driver. "Danny's parents were good friends of mine. Unfortunately, his mother was killed in a car accident a couple of weeks ago and his father is MIA in Iraq. They listed me as next of kin."

"Ah...." Dixon nodded in immediate understanding and sympathy. He frowned back down at Danny. "That's a tough one, kid. I shouldn't have called your uncle weird. He's a good sort, really. We work together. Sorta." He shrugged. The two of them had interacted at more than one meeting and kibitzed a bit when they ran into each other occasionally in the gym, but they hadn't worked any joint missions as yet. "I'm sure he's going to do everything he can to take good care of you until our people can find your dad and bring him home again."

Several sudden squeals from inside the house interrupted the too somber conversation. Dixon craned his neck to look over his shoulder and offered a much put upon groan as a large black and white blur suddenly streaked out the open front door and started tearing around the front yard. It was dragging a leash and trailing two more kid size blurs as it came to an abrupt halt next to the wheelchair. Awarding its master a baleful look, the black Labrador abruptly gave itself a violent shake, sending suds and water everywhere! Danny ducked further behind Cam and held up the Kleenex box as a shield for his head.

"Rufus!" the man in the wheelchair cried in dismay.

A little girl of about four frowned at the display and waved a chastising finger at the dog. "Bad Ruffie! Bad!" she told him seriously.

Then the two kids from earlier appeared at the door and the dog was off again, heading for the back yard - just barely escaping the clutches of a gangling twelve year old who tried to tackle him. "Shut the gate!" Dixon called after his kids as the last one disappeared behind the animal.

Danny dared drop the box a little and peek out from behind Cam.

A young woman with short red hair whom Cam assumed was Dixon's wife appeared at the door and, with a shake of her head, closed it. With doleful eyes and an overly-dramatic tone, Dixon glanced up at his driver and begged, "Get me outta here before the cat joins in the fray!"

Cam paused in the act of flicking bubbles off his sweater and glanced down at Danny in surprise. Somehow, the visual of adding a cat to the mix was just too much for both of them and they couldn't help but laugh.

"Laugh it up, Mitchell," Dixon told him even as his driver went to open the door of the car and he carefully maneuvered himself beside it. "You're a newbie to all this family stuff. In another month or so, you won't find it so funny."

The younger man only grinned, remembering too well some of the other 'tales of woe' he'd heard the colonel recount. "You'll be laughing your ass off about it by nightfall."

"Probably," Dixon agreed easily. "But then I admitted to going insane a long time ago." He winked at Danny who was still busy hiding behind Cam's leg, but at least he'd dropped the box back to his side. "They're good kids, just a little rambunctious sometimes. They won't hurt you."

Cam gazed down on the smiling but slightly confused little face and ruffled Danny's hair. At the moment, he was every inch the shy and uncertain five year old. "Let's go check out the new house, huh?" he asked.

Winning a nod and giving Dixon a parting smile, Cam turned the boy at his side back toward their destination. "Be sure to call Landry," he called over his shoulder. "He's got a bit of a story to tell. I think you're going to want to hear it."

He grinned broadly at the thought of Dixon's face when he learned just exactly who Danny really was.
* * *

Part 21

Mitchell paused at the curb to take a firmer grasp of Danny's hand before crossing. "I don't have to warn you about running out between parked cars or chasing balls into the street and the like, do I?" he asked as they stepped out.

Danny rolled his eyes, running a little to keep up with the man's longer stride, the Kleenex box he was holding in his other hand cartwheeling at his side as he concentrated on not tripping. "I only look five," he reminded Mitchell.

"I know, I know," the man assured him, "but you're a lot shorter now than you were. You can't see over the hoods of parked cars and stuff, and drivers can't see you as well either. Hell, I'd probably get bawled out by Landry for even suggesting you could go anywhere near the street by yourself! Forget I said anything!"

Mitchell glanced back up and Danny followed his gaze as they finished crossing and approached the bumper of the sleek government car parked in their new driveway. There were a couple other cars parked at the curb and Danny figured one of them must belong to whoever it was that was waiting with their driver. Danny didn't recognize him. Their assigned driver straightened from where he was leaning against the driver's side door but remained where he was as the other man hurried forward.

"Lt. Col. Mitchell?" the man greeted them succinctly, including Danny with a quick glance. "I'm Maj. Folsey, the Housing Liaison Officer with the SGC. I've been asked by my superiors to go through the necessary paperwork with you and make sure you understand the various security systems that have been installed for your protection and the protection of any classified documents you might wish to secure here."

Mitchell cast Danny a mildly surprised look and wagged his brows. "They aren't taking any chances with us, are they?"

Danny shrugged, doubting it would prove to be any different than the set up he had at his house. As Mitchell and Folsey turned to the house, Danny suddenly pulled out of Mitchell's hold and sprinted back toward their driver.

"Danny?" Mitchell called out, but it was more in question than concern.

Holding out the Kleenex box, Danny offered it back to the captain. "Thank you," he said quietly.

The man smiled and took it back. "You're welcome," he answered simply and moved to return it to the car. Daniel spun around again and hurried back to Mitchell.

The major had continued his little spiel pretty much without batting an eye. Daniel took Mitchell's hand self-consciously, only half-listening as the guy started in about the importance of night-time exterior lighting to dissuade burglars and the motion sensors which would automatically trigger the porch light if anything bigger than a cat was detected.

Petty burglars were a danger but weren't very high on the list of things they were generally worried about.

Danny frowned as he craned his neck to look around. The place was quite a bit bigger than he remembered his own house as being, and he didn't think it was just the angle of everything either. It was fairly new with clean modern lines, blending both a traditional and contemporary look in its white and sand-colored facade. The house already came with a state of the art security system - which had been upgraded and modified for their use, tying all alarms into the security center at the SGC as well as local emergency dispatch for fire and police. The phone lines had also been secured. Danny turned as they entered the terracotta tiled foyer and noted the security code the major dictated for the pad by the door.

He tugged on Mitchell's hand to get his attention. "I can't reach it," he stated with a frown.

The major awarded him a tolerant smile. "Most parents don't want their kids to reach it," he offered in that overly-sweet voice adults sometimes used with young children. "It's not a toy to play with."

Danny said nothing. He just turned his gaze to Mitchell who knew exactly what he was thinking - just not in Chinese this time.

Swallowing a grin, the lieutenant colonel cleared his throat and turned back to the major. "The kid is what you're trying to protect," he stated clearly. "It needs to be moved."

"Sir?" the major questioned, clearly surprised. Obviously, he wasn't in the need-to-know loop.

"Just see that it's done, Major," Mitchell ordered succinctly. "He has to be able to reach it."

A bit flustered by the unexpected request, the major quickly juggled some owner's manuals and a clip board loaded with papers so he could make the appropriate note. "I really don't advise this, Colonel," he tried to deter Mitchell even as he wrote the memo. "This system has a high alert priority. You'll have MPs and local police responding in a matter of--"

"--And put a rush on it," Mitchell added, completely ignoring him. "We move in tomorrow."

"...Yes sir," the major agreed with a sigh and told them it would be ready later that evening.

"Excuse me," Danny suddenly interrupted, tugging on Mitchell's hand again and looking a little embarrassed. "Where's the bathroom?"

The major blinked as the lieutenant colonel glanced at him for the answer. "I ... I don't ..."

Yeah. Probably not a whole lot of security measures in there, Danny thought. Mitchell awarded his charge a wink and pat on the shoulder. "Go find it, Squirt," he instructed. "And then explore. 'No reason you gotta be bored with all the paperwork too."

Danny gave the clipboard and papers there a knowing glance before giving Mitchell an unrepentant grin for the escape. The guy was probably going to be tied up for the better part of an hour signing things and Danny had absolutely no desire to sit quietly off to the side while the two men dealt with it. Giving the foyer and surrounding area a quick glance, he headed for the hall and most likely location of the bathroom.

Mitchell watched him go with an envious sigh before turning back to the drone of his escort.
* * *

The door to the bathroom was open so it was easy to spot, positioned between two other doors Danny assumed were bedrooms. He made quick work of the necessities, noting and using the footstool that someone had already thought to provide for the double sink. There was even soap. Yup, someone was minding the details.

He left the rock tiled room for the soft sage green carpet of the hall and decided to do just as Mitchell had said: explore. The door to his right opened onto a linen closet - already stocked. He then tried the door across the hall. Bingo: bedroom.

It was a decent sized guest room, or maybe his room if he chose it - full-size bed, dresser and matching end tables in some kind of light wood. Simple white and green bedding and drapery to go with the walls and carpet. There was nothing childish about it at least. Boring was a better description, but that could be changed. He closed the door and moved to the door on the other side of the bathroom to discover another bedroom.

"Wow!" Danny breathed, trying to ignore the smell of fresh paint as he moved forward and stared in amazement.

Whereas the first bedroom had been rather nondescript and impersonal, this one had obviously been personalized with him in mind. On the wall to his left was a giant mural of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. A fake palm tree in the corner looked like it was meant to double as a coat hanger and beside it sat a giant stuffed camel that was bigger than he was! A student desk with a computer flanked by a book case on one side and a five drawer dresser on the other sat against the far wall beneath the window - which was opened to let the room air. A captain's bed with a light tan comforter and bright Egyptian throw rug took up the third wall. There was a large wooden trunk at the end of it which Daniel surmised was supposed to be a toy box. The mirrored sliding-door closet gave the room an even bigger feel than it already had. It opened to reveal a customized space that would allow him to hang up and reach his clothes easily, and a small floor safe.

"Wow," he said again softly, turning to survey the room once more. Even his forty-year-old half was impressed.

But the smell of the paint was starting to give him a headache. Regretfully, he left the room and continued his explorations. The master bedroom turned out to be right next door and, unlike his room, really hadn't been customized. Queen-size bed; matching dresser, night stands and desk. No computer. It was waiting for Mitchell to put his own touch on it. There were three doors, two of which proved to be his and her walk-in closets and the third led to the master bath with a sunken tub.

Danny grinned when he saw it. It would be like having a mini-swimming pool. Of course the forty-year-old in his head was anything but interested in 'splashing around and making a mess.' He sighed at the thought. There were times when even he recognized that the adult part of his mind was just a bit too stodgy. He could play in it without making a mess!

'Course he had to convince Mitchell to let him use it first. He didn't think that would be too hard.

He left the master bedroom and headed back down the hall. The foyer at the end opened into a large open living room on the left and a more secluded den straight ahead. He could hear Mitchell and the Housing Liaison talking at the kitchen table, just visible beyond the curve of a breakfast bar that defined one side of the living room. He could also see a door off the den and trotted forward to check it out.

It turned out to be a home office. Danny froze as he realized there was a man lying on the floor beneath the desk, apparently working at setting up a computer. The dark haired man glanced up and paused to give him a smile. "Hi!" he said brightly.

Danny had not been expecting to find anyone else in the house and made a hasty retreat. He didn't recognize the guy, yet ... for some reason he'd gotten the image of a really big wrench when he saw him.

He frowned at the closed door and debated what to do. The man obviously wasn't an intruder, just someone who was helping to get their new place ready for them. There was no sound of him moving to follow Danny. He had to wonder if he'd find any others lurking about? The idea didn't bother him exactly - he knew everything was being put together rather quickly - but the guy's presence had surprised him.

He decided to go see how Mitchell and the major were doing and maybe mention him in passing.

He hurried into the living room and around the corner of the breakfast bar. Mitchell and the major were bent over a number of scattered pages, the major pointing out something and Mitchell frowning as he apparently disagreed.

Uh ... probably not a good time to interrupt.

Danny glanced beyond them, taking in the large modern kitchen and two doors off it. He suspected one lead to the garage and the other to either a pantry or a laundry room. There was no great need or point to exploring either. The sound of trickling water drew his attention back to the living room behind him. The room itself was - like the guest bedroom and master bedroom - rather nondescript and dull, waiting for those personal touches that would tell you someone actually lived here. The living room suite - made up of dark woods and dusty sage materials with tan and wine red accents - was functional and stylish while still being kid-friendly. Probably something out of a Roomstore-type place where you could buy an entire preplanned room rather than mix and match.

However beyond that, residing against the far wall, was a beautiful fifty-gallon fish tank that immediately caught Daniel's attention. There was a TV and stereo and whatnot too, but it was the gentle gurgling that drew him forward

He clearly remembered owning fish.

He made his way quickly across the room and pressed his hands up against the cool glass. The aquarium was already fully stocked with several kinds of freshwater fish. He grinned watching their relaxed and lazy movements as he tried to remember if he knew the various species.

It was the bubbles of the aerator that triggered the flashback.
* * *


"Danny?" Cam's head shot up and around, and then he was out of his chair and moving even as the kid fell back from the aquarium across the way, holding his head. He knew immediately what was happening even as he crossed the short distance and Danny stumbled against one of the large, over-stuffed chairs. Having read all of SG-1's mission reports from the very beginning of the program, Cam even knew what memory Danny was trapped in. Omaroca had been the name of Nem's mate, an amphibious creature who'd taken Daniel prisoner and then implanted the false memory of his death in the rest of SG-1's minds so they wouldn't come looking for him while he was probing Daniel's memories concerning ancient Babylon and his lost mate.

"Do I need to call the paramedics?" the major asked, uncertain of what was happening as he watched the drama unfold.

"No!" Cam snapped, falling to his knees beside the boy and quickly gathering him close. They couldn't keep throwing the poor kid in a hospital bed every time he had one of these things. Dr. Warner had warned him that they expected further such episodes and he'd given Cam a list of things to do and things to watch out for.

"It's okay, kid; it's okay!" he assured the boy in his arms - or 'arm' actually. His injured appendage was still stuck in the sling which was now trapped between the boy and his chest as Danny turned to lock his small arms around his neck. "It's not real. It's just a flashback. I'm here. Concentrate on breathing now. Slow deep breaths...."

A rather short, round-faced man with dark hair appeared in the foyer, responding to Danny's cry. Another couple came running from the backyard, including Sgt. Siler.

Cam noted each and then ignored them.

"Easy there, Danny," he offered soothingly, rocking back and forth as he fought to comfort and ground the kid at the same time. "Easy. Remember, it's not real. Listen to my voice and concentrate on breathing. I wasn't there when Nem took you but I am now. Listen to my voice. That's it...."

Danny was still trembling slightly but responded by taking a deep shuddering breath and burying his face in Cam's shoulder. "I'm okay," Cam heard him mutter softly. "I'm okay."

Well, he wasn't okay but Cam supposed he was trying to convince himself he was - and, if nothing else, it let Cam know he was coming out of it and aware of his real surroundings once more.

"I'm okay," he whispered again.

"Deep breath, Danny," Cam told him, rubbing a gentle circle on the small back with his good hand and ignoring the pain of his other wrist where Danny crushed it against his chest in the sling. "Deep, slow breaths."

Cam glanced up and caught Siler's eye. "How about a wet washcloth or some Kleenex?" he asked. The sergeant immediately nodded and disappeared.

"Sir?" the major asked in obvious concern.

"Flashback, Major," Cam answered succinctly. It was a bit hard not to recognized what had just happened - though he guessed it was possible the major had never seen one before. "That's all you need to know," he added firmly with a forbidding frown.

The man nodded and stepped back, clearly understanding that this was something beyond his purview. "Does he need a doctor?"

Cam shook his head. Danny hadn't passed out this time; that at least was a good sign. "Not yet," he answered obliquely, knowing there were a couple of things he had to check first.

Danny's breathing hitched a little but Cam let him push himself away to stand at arm's length. "I'm okay," he repeated, quietly but firmly.

"Who am I and where are we?" Cam asked, following Dr. Warner's orders.

Danny blinked and glanced momentarily at their unwanted audience as Siler returned with another box of Kleenex and a glass of water. "Uncle Cam," he answered carefully, "and we're at our new house. Thank you, Sergeant."

His answer effectively removed all doubts from Cam's mind. Not only had the kid remembered the cover story, but he'd obviously recognized Siler despite the fact he wasn't in uniform.

"Thanks," he added his own sentiment for the sergeant as he took the box Danny had already taken tissue from and nodded for the man to put the glass of water on the coffee table.

Siler nodded and withdrew without a word, gesturing the other men with him back to work. "Shows over," he announced simply. "Let's get finished here."

He glanced back at Mitchell who'd taken over the job of mopping Danny's tears and helping him blow his nose. "Lt. Wood is installing your computer system in the study, Sir," he informed him. "Sgt. Russell and I are working on a swing set in back. If you need anything...?"

Cam nodded. "I'll holler, Sergeant," he agreed and concentrated on the task at hand. He didn't see the look that passed between the sergeant and major but the officer withdrew back into the dining area, allowing Cam and Daniel a few moments of privacy.

"You doing okay there, Squirt?"

Danny nodded his head. "Sorry," he murmured softly.

"For what?" Cam asked dismissively. "We know these things are going to happen. At least you didn't pass out this time."

Danny glanced up miserably. "Do I have to go back to the infirmary?"

"Nah," Cam answered with a shake of his head. "I need to call it in and the doc might want to see you for a minute when we head back later, but I can't see them sticking you in a bed if they don't need too. How's your head feel?"

"Fine," Danny answered quickly.

Cam lifted a brow in obvious censor.

Danny sighed. "It hurt when I remembered the device Nem used to bring up the memory of what happened to his mate, but it wasn't real. It doesn't hurt now."

Cam frowned slightly. "Did it hurt before, when you remembered before?"

"Only when I remembered the replicator putting her hand in my head - but that wasn't real either. I'm fine," he insisted. "It wasn't nearly as bad as all the other times. Really!"

"Okay," Cam agreed reassuringly, realizing the kid was more upset at the idea of returning to the infirmary than he was of the memories he'd just resurrected. "I believe you. Do you want to talk about it?"

Danny frowned a bit and shook his head. "You said you hadn't been there when Nem took me, so I guess you already know about it."

"I read the mission files," Cam shrugged dismissively.

Danny glanced back at the fish behind him. "The bubbles in the aquarium triggered it." He glanced at Cam in concern. "We don't have to get rid of it, do we? I really like it."

Cam smiled and glanced with the kid back over to the large aquatic display. "No bad feelings or memories when you look at it now?"

Danny shook his head. "Not like before," he said. "I mean ... I still remember Nem and everything, but ... the aquarium really isn't part of that. It was just a trigger, and now it's just an aquarium again."

Nodding, Cam reached up to ruffle Danny's hair. "Then I don't see any reason to get rid of it. How did you like the rest of the house?" he asked, changing the subject. "Find anything interesting?"

Danny's eyes suddenly lit up. "You gotta see what they did to my room," he grinned and reached out to tug on Cam's hand, trying to help him up. "It's perrrrr-fect!"

"Perfect, huh?" Cam echoed with a grin of his own and then levered himself back to his feet. The kid was already tugging his hand to lead the way but Cam paused a second to glance toward the dinning room table where the major was concentrating on organizing the scattered papers and picking up what he'd already signed. He was far enough away, Cam doubted he'd heard anything. "Give us five?" he called over to him.

The major glanced up and nodded, awarding the now happy Daniel a sympathetic glance. Smiling, Cam turned and let Daniel drag him off to see his 'perfect' discovery.
* * *

Part 22

Cam had just finished signing the last of the paperwork for the new place when his cell phone rang. Pushing the last page toward Maj. Folsey, he deftly flipped his phone open. "Mitchell," he answered simply and glanced out the sliding glass door of the kitchen into the backyard where Danny was sitting quietly on the covered porch.

"This is a bit of a social call, so let's just go with Cam and Jack, shall we?" Gen. O'Neill's voice replied, forcing Cam to sit up straighter in surprise.

"Sir?" he answered automatically.

"Now see?" O'Neill complained. "That's just exactly the kind of reaction I don't want from you at the moment. ...Unless of course you're busy rushing Daniel to the hospital or infirmary. Please tell me he's currently in one piece and not in the midst of an intimate discussion with an ascended being?"

"He's ... sitting on the porch watching Sgt. Siler and someone else put a swing set together, sir," Cam assured him readily.

"Ah, good!" The general sounded quite pleased. "Did Siler get him a nice big one like I asked? With the little slide at one end and fort on the other like a built-in little tree house?"

Cam felt a smile tugging at his lips as he gazed beyond Danny to where the two mechanical/electrical engineers were wrestling to put the final touches on one of the biggest swing sets he'd ever seen. "I think it fits that description, sir," he answered easily.

"Good, good...."

Cam could practically hear him nodding as he leaned back in his chair - but Cam wasn't fooled. He knew perfectly well the relaxed and friendly tone was a façade, which would disappear in an instant if Cam wasn't able to tell him exactly he wanted to hear.

"Drop the 'sir'," he ordered simply before continuing in the same easy tone. "And young Daniel? Any more of those flashbacks since last night? I already checked in with Landry so I know about that one."

"Um...." Cam winced as he admitted, "ah, a small one. The aquarium here triggered a flashback to Nem's planet but it only lasted about a minute. He's fine now."

"Damn," the other man sighed. "I should have expected that. His tank did the same thing to Carter."

Cam frowned. Carter? Somehow he didn't think the general was referring to anything recent....

"But he's okay now?" the general continued quickly, seeking reassurance. "You didn't feel it necessary to take him back to the mountain and have him checked out immediately?"

"Uh, he's fine. Really," Cam repeated. "I think the idea of running him back to the mountain would have upset him more than the flashback did. Would you like to talk to him? He's just outside."

"In a minute, in a minute," Jack allowed. "I wanted to check and make sure everything was going well for your move first. I gave Siler carte blanch on setting stuff up. I'd like to know I entrusted it to the right man."

"Siler did an incredible job, sir-- "

"--Jack," Jack insisted. "You'll know if and when I want you to start calling me 'sir' again."

"Yes, s-- I mean, Jack," he corrected himself with another wince. He hated being ordered to address a superior officer by their first name! "Siler did a great job. They even did up Danny's bedroom in an Egyptian motif complete with a mural and giant camel. He loves it."

"Ex-cellent!" Jack sighed happily. "I can't wait to see it. Plan on having company in a week or so. I'd be up there now, except for the IOA being in this major tizzy at the moment. Can't imagine why," he added dryly. "Landry said to tell you the Odyssey is due to arrive..." He paused and Cam could imagine him glancing at his watch or a clock. "...in about four hours now. It'll probably take them a while to sweep the planet and figure out what happened so don't panic if you don't hear from him right away."

"Yes, sir," he agreed - and winced yet again when he heard himself.

The general just chuckled. "You aren't real good at dropping the 'sir' bit, are you?"

"Um, no, sir. Sorry ... Jack." It took more than a little conscious effort to get the man's name out.

"Work on it," he ordered succinctly. "I don't want you all stiff and formal around me when I'm visiting with you and Daniel. 'Might rub off on him, and that would piss me off. Now, get a pen."

Cam offered the last a momentary blink before turning back around in his chair and asking Maj. Folsey for the pen he'd been using to sign the paperwork with.

"...And paper," Jack told him.

A moment later, Cam had a folded sheet of paper and pen in hand. "Ready, sir," he announced.

"Ready ... what?" the other man asked slowly.

Cam rolled his eyes. He was never going to manage this! "Jack," he corrected himself. "Ready, Jack."

"You'll get it," he decided and then dictated a series of numbers. "That's my cell phone," he explained. "If this business with the Odyssey goes south...." He paused. It obviously wasn't something he liked thinking about any more than Cam. "If it goes south, I expect a phone call. Actually, I expect a phone call from Hank anyway, but if the news is bad, it'll be your job to break it to Danny. He and Carter are close. He may or may not fall apart on you. Outwardly. Inwardly, he'll be a basket case. You break the news, you comfort him as best you can and then you have him call me; got it? Day, night, I don't care. I want a call."

"Sam's a fighter, sir," Cam answered positively. "She'll make it through."

He was answered with silence on the other end as Gen. O'Neill wrestled his own hopes and desires against the painful realities of war and too many friends lost in battle. "...Day or night, Mitchell," he responded, falling back on Cam's last name to reinforce his words. "Any time Danny needs me. That's an order."

"Yes, sir," Cam answered smartly. The general was right; Cam knew exactly when the 'sir' was required.

"'Kay, then...." The man on the other end sighed lightly and Cam could imagine him leaning back in his chair as he tried to relax again. "Fetch the kid. I have a meeting here in about half an hour and I want a chance to talk to him before I have to tell yet another IOA representative that we still don't know what happened. A memo just doesn't seem to cut it with them."
* * *

"Jack!" he exclaimed in happy surprise even as he took the pro-offered cell phone and brought it to his ear.

The man on the other end chuckled. "Hey kiddo, how 'you doing? Mitchell treating you alright?"

Danny glanced up at the man in question. "He's okay," he answered simply. "Hang on." He lowered the phone and addressed Mitchell. "Can I take this in my room? I'd like to talk to Jack in private."

Mitchell shrugged. He hoped that 'he's okay' was a good thing. "Go ahead," he agreed, "just let me talk to him again before you hang up." If there was some sort of problem in Danny's mind about Cam taking care of him, he was certain the general would let him know about it.

Danny nodded and spun around to scamper off toward the hall. When he was safe and had closed the door behind him, sliding to sit down on the floor in front of it, he lifted the phone to his ear again. "Sorry 'bout that," he apologized. "There's a major here I'm not so sure about. Is this line secure?"

Jack offered another chuckled. "You think too much," he decided. "Yup, it's secure. What's up?"

"I'm worried about, Sam," he admitted bluntly.

"Yeah...." Danny heard Jack's worried sigh and could easily imagine him reaching up to run a hand through his hair, as frustrated about not being able to do anything as Danny was. "You do know we're doing everything we can to get her back, right?"

It was Danny's turn to sigh. "Yeah...."

"She'll be fine," Jack insisted. "'Probably already figured out a way to wipe the little mutant cockroaches out and is sitting pretty with everyone else waiting for the Odyssey to come pick 'em up."

"They lied to me when my parents were killed."

"...What?" Jack asked, obviously taken aback by this apparent non-sequitur and completely lost as to what Daniel was talking about.

"When my parents were killed," he repeated calmly. "The police and social workers lied to me. I guess they were trying to protect me or something. They told me my parents were fine and the doctors were taking care of them. I don't know why I believed them."

"You believed them?" Jack echoed in surprise. He knew Daniel had been witness to his parents' deaths.

"I don't know why," he repeated. "I saw it happen. I guess ... I just wanted to believe I hadn't."

"...What happened when you found out they were dead?"

Danny frowned, remembering things all too clearly that he didn't really want to remember. "I had to deal with the shock of it all over again," he admitted quietly. Several tears spilled over at the memory. He just ignored them. "But there was no one I could trust anymore. Not even myself."

Jack seemed to suddenly understand what Danny was getting at. "I wouldn't lie to you, Daniel," he promised solemnly. "If Sam were dead, I'd tell you."

Danny sniffed lightly and wiped his nose on the back of his hand.

"By the same token, however," Jack continued firmly, "I am not going to declare her dead until I am damn good and sure of it. Do you have any idea of how many times we were sure you were dead over the years only to have you show up again in one form or another? Let me tell you: a lot! I learned my lesson. The Odyssey either brings back her DNA positively identified dead body or I won't believe it. 'Course I'm rather hoping they bring her back alive and well, but you get the point. I won't lie to you, kiddo; but I'm not going to write her off without proof either."

Danny sniffed again, lifting his head and deciding Jack was right. Being worried was fine, but he wouldn't give up hope until they were sure. "Thanks, Jack," he whispered quietly.

"Hey, you suckered me into one too many memorial services for you," Jack replied. "I'm not going to let Carter get away with it too. So!" He abruptly changed the subject. "Tell me about the new place. Cam said they did something special with your room?"

Danny glanced up and around and actually managed a little smile.
* * *

Part 23

Captain Osprey had glanced up the moment he heard the front door. Cam watched as the man quickly shut down his laptop, stowing it away in the trunk before he and Danny even reached the car. Embarrassingly, Cam had forgotten all about the poor man while he'd been dealing with the paperwork for the house and Maj. Folsey. He should have at least invited the guy in!

The captain quickly assured them it was no problem as he'd used the time to catch up on some paperwork of his own. Cam managed to get the guy's full story as they made their way into town and the nearest Burger King.

Capt. Osprey was a fairly new recruit direct from the academy. He'd graduated with a Ph.D. in Computer Science and gotten the SGCs attention when he published a paper on 'The Theoretical Applications of Data Storage in a Bi-stable Crystalline Lattice Structure Utilizing Photo-optic Sequencing and Switching Modalities.' Apparently a good deal of his 'theoretical' work could be applied to Goa'uld data crystals.

Someone had been impressed.

His physical and combat training scores also meant he'd been marked as a potential candidate for an SG team slot. He'd been through all the security checks and basic introduction and orientation classes, but had then suffered a serious ear infection just prior to the off-world training program. He was presently waiting to be cycled through with the next new batch of recruits in about three weeks time - and pretty much twiddling his thumbs. The driving assignment at least kept him busy.

It also explained why a captain had been assigned such duty.

Normally, Cam would have invited the younger officer to join them at their table - especially given the faux-pas of leaving him outside earlier! - but Danny wasn't looking too happy as they made their way into the rather crowded restaurant. Instead, Cam explained that he and his 'young ward' were still trying to get to know each other and asked the other man to meet them back at the car in about an hour.

Capt. Osprey was quite understanding and happy to give them their privacy. He simply hung back, studying the menu, while Cam directed Danny forward.

"Okay, Squirt!" he declared easily. "What'll it be?"

A few minutes later, they were seated at a corner booth and Danny was frowning at his Jr. Whopper as he picked sesame seeds off the bun.

Cam frowned as well, observing him. "Careful there," he commented quietly. "I think I see a few wisps of smoke coming out of those ears."

Danny glanced up in confusion.

"You're thinking too hard again," Cam translated. "What's got your brain a burnin' up this time?"

The boy offered a grimace and over-large shrug as he frowned at his burger again. "Nothing," he answered.

"Nothing," Cam repeated pensively. "'Nothing' usually means a whole bunch of little somethings for me."

The kid merely shrugged again without looking up.

Cam frowned and picked a sesame seed off his own bun, adding it to the pile Danny was creating on the tray. "Sam?" he asked obliquely.

A one shoulder shrug this time and a deeper frown for the bun as the boy worked at removing every last seed.

Of course Sam; Cam already knew that was part of the equation - but it wasn't all of it. "Jack?" he guessed.

Same shoulder but combined with a shake of the head this time; not Jack, or at least only a very little bit.

"Me?" he asked carefully.

Danny offered him a confused glance.

"Something I should or shouldn't have done...?"

Those guarded blue eyes went back to scowling at his hamburger bun. "No." Another seed joined the growing pile.

Cam nodded and after a long moment pushed his own Whopper aside. Folding his good arm on the table, he rested his chin on it and whispered. "Mom and Dad?" he guessed.

A definite wince followed by a deeper scowl as the kid tried to distract himself by concentrating on the sesame seeds. Yeah, Cam had hit that one pretty square on the head. Again no surprise. "This last week or so hasn't exactly been a whole load of fun for you, has it?"

That one shoulder shrug made a reappearance as Danny broke open his apple turnover-pie-thingy and dipped it in the seeds before taking a bite.

Cam sat back up and reached for his burger again, resuming removing the sesame seeds and putting 'em in Danny's pile. He'd have to buy a pie himself next time and give that dip thing a try. "Why don't you hurry up and eat and then you can go play." He gestured off to their right and the large windows that revealed a giant enclosed climbing gym of tubes and slides and whatnot with about a half-dozen or so kids already clambering throughout it.

Danny offered it only a glance and then went back to scowling at his food. He just shook his head as he took another bite of apple pie with sesame seeds.

"Why not?" Cam asked, knowing he had to distract the kid somehow. Dwelling on all the negatives wasn't good for anyone and unfortunately, Danny had a lot to dwell on. "Looks like fun to me - or is that forty-year-old in your head being a party-pooper again?"

Danny shot him a warning glance. "Uncle Cam..." he hissed, placing careful emphasis on the name to drive home his point.

Cam just grinned and sat back. "What?" he asked, presenting the picture of innocence. "My mom use to tell her friends my brother was ten going on thirty! You're a heck of a lot smarter than he was so I figure you're five going on forty." He gave Danny a wink, telling him to relax.

Danny just sighed and rolled his eyes.

Cam turned his attention back to his Whopper and decided he'd pushed enough. For now. The conversation had distracted the kid enough that Cam actually caught him glancing at the play area again. He waited a couple of minutes and then glanced at the area again himself. "Man, I wish they'd had that sort of set up when I was a kid," he commented longingly.

"Subtle," Danny offered in mild sarcasm, finally attacking his own burger. "Why don't you go play on it?"

"'Don't think I'd meet the height requirement." He gestured at a sign that clearly read you had to be shorter than 'this mark'. 'Course he was pretty sure one of the older kids he saw climbing around - looked like he was about thirteen or fourteen - was a bit too tall, but he was a long way from being anywhere near six foot.

"Cam?" a woman's voice surprised them. "Cam Mitchell?"

He glanced up and around to find a young woman paused in the midst of taking the seat behind them. Cam blinked in recognition. "Martha?"

"Marsha," she corrected him. He winced sharply but she just laughed. "That party was kinda loud," she offered and eyed the back of Danny's head. "Who's, umm...?"

"Danny," he supplied quickly. A glance and gesture was enough to get him to turn around and at least say 'hi.'

Cam wondered if he remembered meeting her a few weeks ago? Teal'c had overheard a conversation in the Mess Hall about 'clubbing' and had asked Cam about it as it seemed obvious those he'd heard had not been discussing a sporting event. A verbal explanation had only whetted the big guy's appetite to 'observe this social custom', and Cam had dragged Daniel along to help explain things. He'd tried to get the newly returned Sam to go as well; but, after hearing the purpose of the outing, she'd laughingly refused, saying 'Murry' would learn more if she wasn't around to cramp Cam's style.

Actually, it had been Daniel's style that needed cramping!

The poor guy hadn't been very comfortable with some of the more blatant suggestions he'd been forced to deflect. Cam had laughed and wished he were so lucky - not that he didn't have his fair share of admirers too! They just weren't as candid about their interest. A little laughter, a little fun, and a few too many drinks later ('Murry' was the designated driver as he didn't drink) and they ran into Marsha and her friends who weren't looking for any strings either. The two groups had melded and they'd partied together until the early hours.

Now Marsha gave Cam's left hand a decided glance, what little of it she could see in the brace and sling he wore, and lifted a curious eyebrow. "I was under the definite impression the other night you weren't married," she commented lightly.

"What?" he blinked in momentary confusion. The woman's rather tight shorts and clinging T-shirt were.... "Oh!" his brain finally caught up with his tongue and he jerked his eyes back to her face. "Um, no," he confirmed quickly. "Not married. Danny is, uh, he's the son of a friend." He laughed lightly, quickly reviewing what little he remembered of that night. Nothing had happened physically; he was sure of that at least.

The woman grinned and rolled her eyes. "Babysitting, huh?" she mistakenly surmised. "Bummer. I always get stuck sitting for my sister's brats too. I don't suppose you'd like to hook up after you ditch him later and maybe get a coffee or something?" The question was definitely left open-ended. She leaned forward and stole one of his fries with a teasing grin, awarding him a rather scenic view of her cleavage in the process.

Unfortunately, Cam had been immediately turned off when she referred to her sister's kids as 'brats' - whether they were or not, didn't matter. "I, uh ... I don't think so," he offered with a somewhat forced grimace of regret.

He had to admit to being tempted. How the heck could anyone go about in short shorts and a T-shirt in mid-October? It was a nice day, but both he and Danny were still wearing sweaters.

Danny suddenly grabbed his attention by starting to scoot out of the booth. "I'll go play," he announced quietly but Cam's hand shot out to stop him.

"No!" he said quickly and then had to clear his throat. That had come out a bit more desperate than he'd wanted. He knew perfectly well what Danny was doing and why, and he most definitely didn't want it! "Uh, not until you're done eating," he amended for 'Marsha's' sake. He might not be interested in coffee but he didn't want to appear rude either.

A glance showed that the kid was done eating.

"Here!" Cam quickly shoved his French fries at him. "You can have some now your burger's done."

Two sets of bright blue eyes met and clashed; silent messages were sent and received. Danny sat back and picked up a French fry. Mitchell owed him one.

However, neither Cam's sling encased arm nor the awkward moment did anything to scare Marsha off. Either she was dense or way more interested than Cam wanted her to be. She gestured at her table. "Join me?" she asked. "I'm sure Danny here can eat his fries all by himself, can't you Sweetie?" She reached out and ruffled his hair.

Danny hunched his shoulders and sank lower on the hard plastic bench, glaring at Cam.

"No," Cam answered with a shake of his head and glanced back up at Marsha. "Not that I'm not - uh...." He winced as he heard himself. Come off it Mitchell, he told himself, you sound worse than a horny teenager! "I'm not babysitting," he explained bluntly.

"You're not?" she asked in confusion.

Once again Cam trotted out their cover story, a bit surprised to realize just how many times he'd been forced to do so over the last few hours. Landry had been right to insist they have it firmly in place before leaving base. Even this didn't cool Marsha's ardor completely.

"You know, I could always ask my sister to babysit for us," she offered with a suggestive grin. "It isn't like she doesn't owe me the return favor. One of hers is probably about his age. They'd have a blast - and so would we."

Damn! What was that he'd been thinking about wishing he was as lucky as Jackson with the ladies? This woman could not take a hint. "Sorry." He shook his head. 'Like he was really going to leave Danny with someone he didn't personally know? "We already have plans."

She shrugged, wagging her hips slightly. "Your loss," she decided and turned away. She paused and glanced back over her shoulder before reaching into the back pocket of those tight shorts. Cam cursed silently and glanced anywhere except at that far too shapely butt.

His eyes snagged with Daniel's only to see the kid fighting not to grin. That forty-year-old in his head was enjoying Cam's discomfort far too much.

"Here," Marsha interrupted his thoughts again, handing over her business card with an impish smile. 'Probably the only card she had. He doubted more than that would fit in her pocket! A glance upward assured him she knew all too well what she was doing to him. "For when you get out of the sling. I can think of several ways to help with your physical therapy," she whispered.

Cam pasted a smile in place and took the card, knowing he'd never call her and wondering if there was anyway he could manage a nice cold shower in the foreseeable future....

She finally turned away and picked up her tray, choosing a table over by the front window instead.

Thank God!

She glanced back and noted he had watched her walk away.

Damn! Cam felt his face heat and jerked his attention back to his meal, stealing back his fries.

"Sure you don't want me to go play?" the pint-sized squirt sitting across from him asked mischievously.

"No!" Cam hissed. With a frown, he glanced down at the card so he didn't have to see the kid's silly grin: 'Marsha A. Peabody, Massage Therapist.' Something told him a session with her would cost more than he wanted, and leave him anything but relaxed. He bowed his head and laughed softly. Kill me now, he thought!

"Our driver just headed out the door," Danny commented. It hadn't been an hour so he figured the captain was going to work on his laptop some more. "Do you want to go?"

"No!" Cam hissed again. Standing up at the moment probably wouldn't be a good idea.

Danny grinned. "Been shopping at Omar's?" he guessed.

Cam offered his own warning glare. Five year olds weren't supposed to know about 'tent makers.' He leaned forward to whisper. "Keep it up and I'll tell Sylvia you like her the next time we go to O'Malley's!" he threatened.

The kid frowned in innocent confusion.

"The female bouncer?" Cam offered helpfully.

The kid still didn't get a clue.

"Forget it," Cam quickly told him, straightening again. He didn't even want to imagine how Landry would react if he were to overhear this discussion! "Just ... drink your juice and think about what kind of toys you want to buy." He sighed in exasperation.

Danny quickly reached for his juice and stuck the straw in his mouth - but Cam didn't miss the almost grin that was threatening....

He suddenly narrowed his eyes in suspicion and Danny giggled. "You twerp!" he hissed, knowing he'd been had. The kid was about as confused and innocent as a goo'ld! 'Course ... Cam quickly corrected the thought, maybe not - just because he 'knew' things he shouldn't, didn't mean he understood them. This mix of adult and kid was a real mess to have to deal with!

Danny just smiled around the straw and shrugged.
* * *

Part 24

"No," he said simply and firmly.

Mitchell glanced down at him in mild surprise and mock innocence. Danny wasn't buying the look for an instant.

"No costume," he specified.

Following lunch and a narrow escape from one 'Marsha', Mitchell had decided it was time to go shopping. To Daniel's younger mind this meant a day at a souq. He could all too easily remember following closely along at his mother's side as they made their way through the chaos and confusion of one of the large open-air markets of the Middle East where haggling was an art form. If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the strident and urgent cries of the vendors or the jingling of jests belonging to hooded hawks riding high on a saddle horn or a man's forearm. It took no imagination to see once again the overwhelmingly colorful displays, hear the complaints of chickens and goats and camels, or smell the exotic spices, coffee, shisha and dung that overlaid it all.

But this was America and they didn't have souqs. They had shopping malls and strip malls - and 'Toys R Us.'

"Ah, come on!" Mitchell grinned, eying the mass of Halloween costumes and decorations which had greeted them immediately upon entry to the large store. "It'll be fun!"

Daniel lifted serious eyes to the man at his side and watched as the surprised grin quickly faded.

"Okay...." Mitchell backed-off and threw up his good hand in surrender. "No Halloween costume."

Having gone to retrieve a shopping cart, Capt. Osprey appeared once again at their side and blinked in surprise as he heard Mitchell's announcement. "No costume?" he echoed with an amused grin as he too glanced down at Danny. Without asking, he bent and abruptly lifted the boy into the cart. "Crowded today," he said simply when Danny glared at him. "It'll be safer." Dismissing him, he glanced back at Col. Mitchell. "Why no costume?"

Mitchell just shrugged. "Don't know," he answered, ignoring the silent glare that was ordering him to get Danny out of the cart. Now. "Kid doesn't want one."

"Really?" The captain again glanced at the boy, and then his expression suddenly softened with something far too akin to pity for Danny's peace of mind. "Bet you and your mom used to always do something special for Halloween, huh?" he asked gently.

The verbal reminder of his mother, combined with his memories of walking the souqs of Egypt and Jordan, was enough to make Danny wince and glance away. "No," he answered flatly. "I grew up in the Middle East. They don't observe Halloween."

Capt. Osprey blinked and glanced at Mitchell. "Oh," he said simply.

Mitchell just shrugged again and hoped the guy didn't ask any questions. Cam seriously doubted the Pentagon had added any Middle East information in Danny's background as that would mean forging passports and the like. His father was supposed to be a test pilot two years ago out of Area 51 - Nellis AFB according to the official records - who was now Missing in Action in Iraq, and his mother had been killed in a car accident in New York last month. 'Growing up in the Middle East' didn't exactly fit. They'd have to sit down and review the kid's fake history in greater detail tonight. Slip ups like this could be dangerous.

Danny, however, had turned away from both men, his scowling countenance discouraging any further discussion.

Unfortunately Capt. Osprey didn't see it. "So you've never been Trick-or-Treating?"

Danny glanced back at him with a frown. Yes, he'd been Trick-or-Treating but it wasn't something he'd enjoyed. It also wasn't something he could admit to. "I don't want a costume," he repeated simply.

"How about a video game?" Mitchell suggested, quickly changing the subject. "I think they're just around the corner. Ever try one called SOCOM II?"

Danny turned his frown on Mitchell even as he started to lead the way deeper into the warehouse-like maze of the store. The man had mentioned the game before but Danny didn't remember ever playing it with him. He didn't remember playing video games at all - though the idea did sort of intrigue him. There hadn't really been any video games around when he was growing up - the first time. A few games at the arcade and ... he seemed to remember something called PacMan? The PC revolution had just started to gain momentum about the time he entered graduate school. Of course, the lieutenant colonel was just using the question as an excuse to distract Osprey in any case. Danny hoped he didn't expect him to actually buy a video game.

About two hours later, Danny was walking beside an overloaded shopping cart and trying not to yawn as they wound up back in the video games section. Mitchell was dead set on buying something - he just couldn't decide what and Danny wasn't helping him. Between the two adults he was loaded down with more games and toys than he wanted to even think about. He hadn't agreed to any of it. Well ... he'd agreed to a few of the games; a chess set, Scrabble, Go and Mancala. Cam had tossed in some cards, Monopoly and an electronic Battleship game.

"I want something I might actually have a chance to beat you at!" he complained when Danny lifted a questioning eyebrow.

Next had been 'toys' - as in 'not games' - and the real struggle had begun.

Back and forth they went, Cam trying to get Danny to say what he liked and making suggestions, while Danny shrugged indifferently or vetoed the suggestions outright. No, he didn't want a basketball. No he didn't want a plastic dump truck. He certainly didn't need a children's play camping set with plastic canteen, working compass and cheap binoculars.

Legos and the like reminded him of Replicators and got a definite shudder of disgust.

Whether he wanted them or not however, he now had a Nerf basketball and hoop for his bedroom, a large metal jeep he'd dared stare at too long because it reminded him of the one his father had always driven, a set of child-sized gardening tools - good for either planting something or excavating artifacts according to Mitchell (like he knew anything?) - a camo backpack, which was at least better than the cartoon backpacks which were the only other style available, and a stuffed Donkey.

Okay, so he'd agreed to the donkey. It reminded him of the little work animals that were constantly under foot at the last dig site he remembered ... like yesterday.

He reached out and pulled a long floppy brown ear, feeling the burn of tears behind his eyes and wondering how long it would be before those memories started to fade? There was a part of him that longed to be free of them, longed to be free of the pain of knowing they were lost somewhere far back in time; and another part that longed to hold onto them as the dear treasures his heart knew them to be, despite the pain they brought.

He scowled and scrubbed fiercely at his eyes. He was just tired he decided - and scowled even harder at the thought.

He glanced over at Mitchell and Osprey. They were apparently discussing a video game called 'Destroy All Humans'. 'Sounded like something the goa'uld would love - well, all 'Tauri' anyway. Danny cocked his head and looked at the cover art on the box behind the locked glass display. It featured a cartoon Martian that looked suspiciously like a cross between Thor and a piranha. He rolled his eyes and yawned.

Then Mitchell's cell phone rang.

Danny glanced up again, a small surge of adrenaline chasing his weariness away. He prayed it was a report from the Odyssey and that the news was good.

"Mitchell," the man answered simply. A slight frown and flick of the eyes was enough to get Capt. Osprey to direct Danny's attention elsewhere - or try to. Danny saw the look and wasn't having any of it. Protect the kid, it said. Distract him. He glared at Mitchell's back even as the man turned away. Unfortunately, Capt. Osprey was bigger than Danny. He snagged one of Danny's shoulders and gently but firmly spun him around.

"You're uncle has to take an important call right now, Danny," the captain told him with a shake of his head. "Let's leave him talk for a bit, hmm?"

Danny glared. He fumed. He stomped his foot. But he didn't say a word. Tempted as he was, Danny still knew he couldn't tell the captain that his security clearance was a hell of a lot higher than his! "It concerns me too!" he hissed furiously instead.

The smallest of smiles tugged at the captain's lips and Danny silently swore that if the guy actually had the temerity to say he was cute when he was mad, he would pop him in the nose! "If it does, then I'm sure your uncle will tell you all about it when he's done," he answered instead.

Danny snapped when the man ruffled his hair.

"Bennae bu'wah!" he hissed in Abydonian and swung a fist at the offending hand. He connected. The captain jerked back in surprise, tripping on his own feet and ending up on his ass.



He glanced over his shoulder as Mitchell quickly ended his call and marched over, grabbing him by the shoulder and awarding him a warning glare before turning to Capt. Osprey. "You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," the captain answered sheepishly as he climbed back to his feet. He frowned at his hand and shook it. They all noted the young couple with a toddler in tow at the end of the aisle who performed a quick about-face and went back the way they'd come.

Mitchell ignored them and immediately bent down, turning his attention back to Danny. "What the hell was that all about?" he demanded just above a whisper.

Danny ignored the question. "Is Sam safe?" he asked instead.

"We don't know yet," Mitchell answered curtly and gave the boy's shoulder a little shake for ignoring the question. "Why'd you throw a punch at the captain?"

"I hit his hand," Danny rejoined dismissively. "Was that the SGC?"

"You hit him," Cam reiterated, ignoring the question and the fact that it was just the guy's hand. "With your fist."

"He'll live," Danny dared respond.

Mitchell narrowed his eyes and answered with a chuckle that was anything but amused. "You're asking for it, kiddo," he warned Danny quietly.

Danny rolled his eyes, then tossed a glare at the captain who was keeping his distance. "He was treating me like a kid!" he hissed angrily.

"News flash, Danny!" Cam exclaimed quietly. "You are a kid. Now apologize, or you and I are going to have some serious problems."

Danny folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip, answering Mitchell's demand with a glare. Capt. Osprey was a condescending idiot and Danny wasn't going to apologize for defending his personal space - or because the guy had two left feet!

"Fine!" Mitchell snapped quietly. "We'll do it the hard way." Standing, he turned to Capt. Osprey while keeping his hand firmly on Danny's shoulder. "That was the SGC," he told the other man. "We need to pay for this stuff and get back as soon as possible."

The captain nodded, following Mitchell's lead and ignoring the question of Danny for the moment. Turning, he lead the way to the nearest cashier. Danny kept his arms folded and his mouth shut as they stood in line. Mitchell's hand still refused to leave his shoulder. An attempt to shrug it off had merely made the grip tighten until he stopped. He gave a little irritated huff but refused to acknowledge the restraint otherwise. Glaring straight ahead, he resisted the urge to cry. It was stupid. He had no reason to cry! So what if he didn't know what 'the hard way' was: he still wasn't apologizing!

At least with Mitchell clamped to his side like this, he didn't have to worry about the captain ruffling his hair again!

They made it through the line and back to the car before anyone spoke again.

"I'm not apologizing," Danny repeated firmly, even as he scrambled upward and settled himself in the stupid safety seat. The captain was unloading the shopping bags into the trunk while Cam silently dealt with Danny.

The lieutenant colonel offered him a less-than-happy look. "Wanna bet?" he asked quietly.

Danny again folded his arms and clamped his mouth shut as Mitchell wrestled with the seatbelt one-handed. It wasn't hard. A moment later, he was taking his place in the front and Capt. Osprey was sliding into the driver's seat.

"Uh, sir?" the captain asked as he quickly did up his own seatbelt and slipped the key into the ignition. "What about...." He glanced in the rear view mirror uncertainly. "Is there someone at the base to watch Danny or do you want me to drop him off somewhere else first?"

"No. He's coming with," Mitchell answered, folding his own arms as he resisted the urge to sigh. "Believe it or not, the little squirt has a higher security clearance than you do right now."

In the backseat, Danny blinked in surprise. So much for biting his tongue earlier!

The captain blinked as well and frowned as he started the car. "Sir? I have a TS/SCI clearance, sir," he specified.

Mitchell offered that a small grin and nodded. He remembered how nervous he'd been when waiting for his own Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance to pass. Anyone who was granted access to the Stargate program had to have that. "I know," he said simply and lounged back in his seat to stare out the side window.

The captain glanced in the rear view mirror again at Danny but wisely refrained from asking questions to which he obviously wasn't going to get any answers. Instead, he concentrated on driving.
* * *

Part 25

The guard at the second checkpoint waved Capt. Osprey to a stop, handing him a special placard for the rear view mirror before directing him to take his passengers directly to the shuttle drop-off point. The guard's eyes caught Mitchell's. "General Landry is waiting for you in his office, sir."

"Thank you, Sergeant," Cam acknowledged, and then they were turning right instead of left and entering the shadowed interior of Cheyenne Mountain Complex itself.

"Should I wait for you, sir?" the captain asked as they made their way down the long tunnel.

Cam shook his head, knowing it would likely be several hours before they got the final word on the Gamma Site from the Odyssey. Regardless if the word was good or bad, he and Danny would be spending the night here in any case. "You've been assigned to us for the whole weekend," he specified with a sudden frown, "right?"

"Five days, sir," the man replied. Apparently Lam was erring on the side of caution. "What about the toys, sir?" he added.

The toys? Damn. This was a motor pool car; someone else might need to use it between now and tomorrow morning. "What's your color code, Captain?"

The color code was a special color bar at the bottom of certain ID badges which designated where a person within the SGC was and wasn't allowed to go. "Yellow, sir," the captain answered.

Cam winced but wasn't surprised. Capt. Osprey was cleared down to seventeen where most of the training rooms were, plus twenty-one for the infirmary and twenty-two for the Mess Hall. New recruits rarely gained full access until the day they went through the Stargate for their first off-world training mission. His and Danny's VIP room was on twenty-five. He could always call down and tap an SGC SF to play baggage handler, but they deserved more respect than that.

"We definitely need to see about upping your clearance," he decided and undid his seatbelt as they rolled to a stop in front of the shuttle drop-off. A bored but vigilant security guard eyed the placard dangling from the rear view mirror and stepped forward to get Mitchell's door. Digging into his pocket, Cam retrieved his keys and tossed them to Capt. Osprey. "Black 1965 high performance 'fastback' Mustang," he told the man. "Make sure you lock it up after you transfer everything and then drop off the keys with the check point guards on eleven. Otherwise ... I guess we'll see you tomorrow at zero eight hundred. You're CO will let you know if we need you before then, but I seriously doubt it. Thanks."

He quickly swung his legs out and stood waiting as Danny scooted out of the backseat on his own to the somewhat bemused looks of the guards. He'd gotten the same looks when they left this morning. Without a word, Cam bent and deftly affixed the required security badge in place. Even those guards who were cleared only for NORAD and not the SGC had seen enough strange things around here to know better than to challenge it.

Danny just folded his arms and continued his angry pouting, which in Cam's book wasn't a bad thing at the moment. Pouting about Capt. Osprey meant he was too busy to really worry about Sam.

Unfortunately, Cam knew it wouldn't last.

They turned from the drop-off point and made their way to the base entry point. Cam flashed the guards a quick-silver smile and placed his hand on the scanner. Despite the fact that this particular security feature had been circumvented more than once and that the guards all knew him, it was still standard procedure. Danny's print had been scanned in the first time he left the base. Cam watched as he stretched up on tip toe, refusing to ask for help. It wasn't easy but the little squirt managed to press his hand flat against the glass plate in the right place. The entry point flashed green and, together, he and Mitchell headed for the first set of elevators.

Danny waited until after Cam had pushed the call button before asking about Sam again. "Are you going to tell me what the first report said or not?" he asked irritably.

The elevator doors parted and a couple of white-coated scientists Cam didn't recognize nodded pleasantly as the two groups passed each other. He'd really been hoping the kid would at least wait until they got past the guard on eleven. Cam wasn't a particularly good liar - never had been - and Dr. Daniel Jackson seemed to have an uncanny knack for being able to read him. Frowning, he waited until the doors closed again before glancing down at Danny.

"They don't know anything for sure yet," he hedged firmly. "They're still scanning the planet. Nothing's been confirmed."

Those blue eyes darkened and the lips pinched more firmly together as the kid read the worry Cam couldn't keep entirely out of his own eyes. "The Gamma Site?" he questioned simply.

Cam winced and glanced away for a second. Why did he have to be the one to tell him? Why couldn't he just put him off and tell him to wait to see what more they'd learned? What was wrong with telling the kid not to worry about it just yet and that they needed to keep hoping for the best? It wasn't a lie ... exactly.

...Except the eyes which were staring back up at him were those of Dr. Daniel Jackson, not little Danny, and they were demanding the truth. Cam remembered all too clearly how the boy had reacted the first time Cam had offered him empty promises about Sam's safety.

He knew better than to do that again.

"Gone," he answered simply, fighting back a slight tightening of his own throat. "Odyssey wasn't sure but thought it was probably the self-destruct. Given the circumstances, Landry suspects Col. Pearson would have ordered a complete evacuation first. They're scanning the surface for survivors now."

Danny nodded and glanced away, trying so hard to be brave that it almost hurt to see it.

"Sam, along with SG-2, was responsible for escorting and protecting the IOA dignitaries," he added, knowing too well what the kid was thinking because he'd thought the same thing when Landry first told him. They both knew Sam had no problem with the idea of sacrificing her own life if it would save someone else. "Their first duty would have been to get them to safety. Sam wouldn't have stayed behind. Reynold's wouldn't let her."

That wasn't a hundred percent certain, Cam knew. If the circumstances had warranted it, Reynolds would have let her stay. It was also possible that the self-destruct had gone off on its own if the bugs got in it and there hadn't been time for an evacuation. There were any number of things that might have happened.

Yet Danny looked back up at him with a faint trace of hope still in his eyes. Cam couldn't help but hug him to his side. "We don't know what happened yet, kiddo," he offered with quiet intensity. "Keep that thought foremost in mind, okay? The fat lady hasn't sung yet."

Danny nodded and swallowed hard; and, if his eyes were a little misty when the elevator doors opened again on eleven, he just kept his head down and no one saw the single tear that fell.
* * *

"...having a hard time. The whole area around the base within about a hundred klick radius is swarming with the damn things. If Pearson hoped to contain them by blowing the self-destruct, it didn't work."

Cam's good hand slipped around Danny's shoulder as they stood silent and frozen in the back of the control room. The image of Col. Emerson on board the Odyssey flickered in and out, fighting against a wash of static and testifying to the fact that the Gamma Site was at the very edge of Earth's sub-space communications capability.

Landry frowned as he processed this information. "A hundred kilometers?" he repeated. The damn things were spreading fast! "I take it then you don't think anyone could have got out on foot, and that anyone who tried would have been overrun by now."

Landry's words hadn't really been a question, but Col. Emerson answered anyway. "Yes, sir," he answered grimly. "It's not looking good."

Landry nodded with grim understanding of his own. "According to my information, the base was equipped with four F-302s," he noted. "It's possible they might have used them to ferry at least a few survivors to a safer location before blowing the self-destruct. Concentrate your sweeps on the two southern continents. Unless they carried the damn bugs with them, you shouldn't have as much trouble sorting out the various life-sign readings down there."

"We could also launch a couple of 302s ourselves, sir," Emerson suggested. "They would allow us to penetrate the radiation layer of the ionosphere and pick up any radio chatter if it exists, or maybe even the tracking devices that SG-3 and Col. Carter were all carrying."

"Excellent idea, Colonel," Landry approved. "At least with the gate buried under who-knows-how-many tons of rock and concrete, we don't have to worry about the damn things getting off planet." He pursed his lips for a long moment and then lifted a pensive eyebrow. "I believe you mentioned something about Dr. Lee having a bit of a problem with his manufacturing of the required toxin, didn't you Colonel?" Emerson frowned in apparent confusion but Landry went on before he could object. "Something that might take - oh, I don't know - twenty-four hours or so to get sorted out? Allowing sufficient time for a complete and thorough sweep of the surface I expect...."

Emerson nodded, understanding Landry's not-so-subtle message. "I believe it's the dispersal of the toxin that's causing the headache, sir," he allowed with a slight smile. "Some kind of equipment failure."

Landry nodded sagaciously. "These things happen, but you need to get it sorted out within a day, Colonel," he added unhappily. "CR-91 is an extreme measures directive. I don't think the Pentagon or IOA will be very understanding of a much longer delay than that."

"Understood, sir." Emerson nodded solemnly. "If there's anyone alive down there, we'll find them."

"I'm counting on it, Colonel," Landry replied. "Good luck. Stargate Command, out."

"Odyssey, out." With a final nod for someone off screen, Emerson cut the transmission and the monitors in the SGC went dark.

It was only then, as Landry turned toward the stairs up to his office, that he saw Col. Mitchell and Daniel standing not far away. Obviously they'd heard most, if not all, of the Odyssey's report. It wasn't perhaps the best way for them to learn about the current situation, but.... Landry had to remind himself that Daniel Jackson wasn't actually the five year old child he appeared to be - or at least, not quite. He winced, still wrestling with some of the more complex explanations his daughter had tried to give him. "Upstairs," he directed them simply, heading for the stairs himself as he called back over his shoulder. "Let me know when SG-12 gets in. They're due back within a couple of hours."

"Yes, sir," CMSgt. Harriman called back in return.
* * *

Part 26

The meeting with Gen. Landry had been decidedly short. Given that Danny and Cam had arrived just in time to hear most of the Odyssey's latest report, there really wasn't much to brief them on. After answering a few basic questions, Landry had deftly changed the subject and asked Cam about their day so far. He seemed quite interested in what games and toys Danny had gotten. Mitchell had already decided the little 'incident' between Danny and Capt. Osprey could be handled internally to SG-1 - Danny was still technically a part of the team after all - so he didn't report it. Instead, Cam presented the possible need to grant Capt. Osprey a Special Access clearance concerning Danny's downsizing.

"He's pretty much around us constantly due to my injury, sir," he explained. "Meaning we both have to censor everything all the time. It's a bit stressful. And it would have been helpful if he could have carried some of our packages down to the VIP room as well."

Danny however could care less. He'd dropped out of the conversation when they started talking about toys. His thoughts were still firmly centered on Sam and telling himself that he had no reason to feel like crying when he didn't know whether she was dead yet or not. The silent pep-talk didn't much help as he fought back a series of tired yawns and reached up to scrub at his eyes.

Cam watched out of the corner of his eye as the little head nodded downward, only to be jerked sharply up again when the kid's forehead touched the table.

Landry noted it as well but wisely said nothing. Calling attention to it would only make the boy fight it more. Instead, he agreed to review Capt. Osprey's personnel file and either grant the man an SAP clearance or have another driver assigned who already had one. He and Mitchell then went on to discuss Col. Dixon's need-to-know as well. It would be good to have someone else in the neighborhood who knew exactly what was going on and who could take responsibility for Danny in an emergency, even if the man was on medical leave for at least another month. He'd also be someone Cam could go to for advice when things got difficult. Landry wasn't stupid. Cam had no experience as a father-figure, nor did they have any idea how long the present situation with Daniel was going to go on. There were bound to be problems. Landry knew he'd need help sooner or later, whether he wanted to admit it or not!

Cam winced but agreed the general was probably right.

It was about then that Cam glanced down to see that Danny had finally crashed, plain and simple. He hadn't wanted to, he'd fought it with all his little might, but that miniaturized body of his just couldn't take anymore.

The lieutenant colonel and the general exchanged looks.

"'Think it's safe to move him yet?" Landry asked in a carefully normal tone of voice, knowing it would be less likely to disturb the boy than a sudden change of volume would.

Cam could only shrug. "We were up kinda early this morning and he spent most of the night being poked and prodded again in the infirmary," he offered. "'Should stay zonked for a couple of hours at least."

"If we can get him safely ensconced back in your quarters where he'll be comfortable, you might be able to get more than that out of him," Landry decided knowingly. "Unless Emerson finds something, we probably won't have the final word on the Gamma Site before tomorrow afternoon. I somehow doubt he'll sleep well tonight...."

Neither of them would, Cam thought, but he didn't say it aloud.
* * *

It was the phone that woke him.

"Damn it!" Mitchell cursed softly even as Danny blinked his eyes open and glanced around in momentary confusion. They were in their VIP quarters with only one small desk lamp lit and a laptop open on the table. Cam scowled at him unhappily. "Go back to sleep, kid. It hasn't even been an hour since you conked out."

Danny glanced at the digital clock beside the bed. It changed from 15:59 to 16:00 as he watched. It took his sleep muddled thoughts a long moment to realize it was displaying military time. Sixteen hundred was four in the afternoon.

Mitchell had moved to the phone and answered in less-than-polite tones. "This had better be damn important!" he growled at whoever might be on the other end of the line.

Danny sat up as the last vestiges of weary sleep gave way before the memory of recent events. The Gamma Site had been destroyed and Sam was missing ... along with several others. He felt a momentary stab of guilt for letting his own selfish needs and desires make him forget about all the other men and women who were at risk too.

But he couldn't help it.

Cam turned back to him with a clearly hopeful look on his face. "Sam?" he asked simply.

Danny's little heart missed a beat. Had Odyssey reported in again? He didn't think it had been all that long since he and Mitchell had over heard their last report. He frowned at the clock, knowing it couldn't have been.

"Yes, sir," Mitchell was saying. "He's already awake, sir. I'll let him know." There was another pause as - Danny assumed it was Landry because of the 'sirs' - said something more. "Thank you, sir. We'll be waiting." And then he hung up.

Danny scooted off the side of the bed and stood with his back against it. Mitchell's face was pensive. If the news were good, if the Odyssey had found Sam, he'd be smiling. That meant... Danny wasn't sure what it meant. Mitchell's face wasn't sad either. "Well?" he asked uncertainly.

"The Odyssey contacted us again a few minutes ago," Mitchell explained. "Unfortunately solar activity appears to be interfering with communications and Landry couldn't get a full report. All we know is that Emerson beamed someone aboard. We don't know who or how many."

If it was even one person, then that meant there might be more. Danny bit his lip and sniffed as he suddenly found himself crying.

Cam was immediately there, kneeling in front of him. "Hey, didn't you hear me? They found someone. It could be Sam. We don't know yet."

Danny just nodded and threw his arms around the lieutenant colonel's neck as the tears kept coming. His whole body was shaking with sobs and he didn't even know why?

"Easy there, kid," Mitchell offered gently, his good arm coming up to wrap the boy close to him. "What's going on here? You having another flashback or something?"

Danny just shook his head and cried even harder.

"Ah, man," Mitchell sighed, dropping to his butt and dragging the kid into his lap. "It's all the stress of everything, isn't it? You trying so hard to be brave and strong...." He gave the boy a gentle squeeze. "You don't have to be, you know?" He pulled back slightly and cupped a small, wet cheek. "I remember back when I was about five, my grandma got pneumonia and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 'Scared the hell out of me. Everyone kept telling me she'd be fine and not to worry. I tried so hard to be big and brave; keep it all in and not let anyone know how upset I really was. But one day, I just lost it. Don't know why. I think my dad asked me to turn off the TV and set the table for dinner or something; and suddenly here I am, bawling like a two-day-old calf."

His thumb caressed the wet cheek even as more tears continued to fall. "I know there's a part of you that's all adult-like in there, and the last thing he wants to do right now is break down and let the world know he's hurting. Too damn proud if you ask me." He tweaked Danny's nose and actually elicited a watery smile, short-lived though it was. "But you know what? Despite the fact that you have all those confused and broken up memories running around inside your head - your heart is not forty. Your heart is five, and it's hurting like it's five. You don't need to be afraid to admit it."

Danny was staring at the floor. "I'm sorry," he offered miserably.

"For what?" Cam asked.

Danny just shook his head and shrugged. He didn't know what he was apologizing for, just that he felt like he should.

"Come here," Mitchell ordered and enfolded Danny in his good arm again. He then scooted around rather awkwardly until his back was against the bed and he could lean back. "Too bad we don't have a rocking chair in here," he decided. "There is nothing better for a hurting heart than sitting in a rocking chair with a friend and rocking back and forth. 'Just something about the slow swaying motion that unties all those nasty knots you get in your gut and makes the whole world slow down so you can just breathe...."

He offered the ceiling a secret grin as the boy in his arms took a deep breath and let out a giant sigh. The uncontrollable sobbing had stopped and now Danny simply nestled deeper in his arms, laying his head on Cam's shoulder and closing his eyes.

"Yep," Cam decided softly. "I can see we need to buy us a rocking chair...." And saying that, he just sat and held to boy close.
* * *

Part 27

Cam gave a startled jerk as someone knocked at their door, pulling him from sleep. The jerk woke Danny, who had fallen asleep in his arms and the two of them nearly hit their heads together in surprise. "Come!" Cam shouted even as Danny moved to stand again. Unfortunately, standing wasn't something Cam was capable of at the moment. Falling asleep on the floor, leaning back against the bed, had definitely not been a good idea - not that Cam had planned it, but....

"Are you okay?" Danny asked, frowning in concern as he watched the man topple over on his side in slow motion with a soft moan.

The door of their quarters opened and Danny was suddenly grinning. "Teal'c!" he exclaimed and ran to the other man.

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c greeted him with a gentle smile, reaching down with one hand to press the small body to his side. And then his attention moved to the man on the floor who was grimacing. "Do you require medical assistance, Col. Mitchell?"

"No..." the man in question groaned and forced himself to roll to his knees and one good hand. "No, my butt just fell asleep from sittin' like that too long," he hissed. Sitting back on his heels, he slowly forced himself upward, groaning again as the pins and needles of returning circulation informed him quite strongly that his backside did not enjoy being abused so.

Danny got a mock glare for the giggle he failed to suppress. Even Teal'c was looking a bit amused by his predicament. "Yeah, yeah, ha ha," he told them, reaching back to carefully massage his lower back as he straightened. "'Feels like I just got every post-mission shot I'll ever need at one get go. What time is it?"

"It is a little after nineteen hundred hours, Col. Mitchell," Teal'c replied, glancing at the clock. "I returned from Dakara approximately half an hour ago and, upon completing the required medical checks, decided to stop and see how Daniel Jackson was faring." He cocked his head to the side and offered Mitchell's sling encased arm a lifted eyebrow. "Perhaps it is you with whom I should have been more concerned."

"What, this?" Cam waved his friend's worry away. "Just a sprain. I'll be fine."

Danny tugged on Teal'c's pant and looked up at him unhappily. "Did you hear about Sam?" he asked quietly.

Teal'c glanced down. "Indeed," he answered solemnly. "But Lt. Col. Carter has been in far worse situations. I am yet hopeful of a positive resolution."

Jaffa and child exchanged mutually encouraging nods.

Mitchell allowed them their moment before interrupting and changing the subject. "Welcome back, by the way," he declared belatedly. He offered a slight wince as he carefully flexed and massaged certain muscles, but the worst of the pain was starting to pass. "How'd all your meetings on Dakara go? Y'all manage to get that voting situation sorted out yet?"

It was Teal'c's turn to grimace unhappily. "Sa'tak is being most intransigent."

"Stubborn, huh?" Cam translated. "Can't y'all just out vote him? Majority rule and all that?"

Teal'c shook his head. "The by-laws of the Interim Council require that all major decisions and changes to existing law be agreed upon by unanimous vote."

Cam offered a disbelieving grunt. "You're never going to get anything done that way!"

"Eventually," Teal'c disagreed. "Bra'tak and others have taken up the argument for now. When I learned of Lt. Col. Carter's situation, I knew my place was here." He glanced down at the boy standing beside him.

Danny reached out and took his hand. "I'm glad you're here, Teal'c," he said quietly.

The Jaffa merely squeezed his hand and inclined his head in silent agreement.
* * *

Cam was debating what he could say to get Danny to eat when Teal'c beat him to it.

"Is there something wrong with your meal, Daniel Jackson?" the Jaffa asked quite bluntly. Cam bit back a smile, knowing if he'd said that the little munchkin would have probably given him a dirty look and a shrug. Not so with Teal'c.

"No," the boy answered simply, but he continued to push his mashed potatoes around his plate without looking up. "It's fine."

"How can you know this when I have yet to see you partake of a single bite?" Teal'c asked with a lifted brow.

Frowning at his plate, Danny stabbed a small piece of pot roast and dutifully took a bite. Cam kept his mouth shut and concentrated on his own meal as Danny went back to rearranging his food and trying to make it look like he'd eaten something when he actually hadn't.

That sort of thing never worked, Cam knew, unless you had a dog sitting under the table.

"Perhaps the thought of dessert would entice you to eat your meal," Teal'c suggested a few moments later. "I believe I saw a mocha-chocolate cheese cake amongst the dessert selections earlier."

Danny glanced up at Teal'c but simply offered him a sad little shake of his head. "I'm just not hungry," he said and pushed the plate away.

Teal'c again cocked a brow, but this time he turned his gaze on Cam. Clearly, he expected the lieutenant colonel to say something.

Only problem was, Cam wasn't very hungry either.

"He managed to eat a good breakfast and a pretty good lunch," he explained with a shrug. He glanced at Danny's plate. "You haven't had any vegetables though. Eat half the green beans and I'll get us some fruit to snack on later. And drink your milk."

Danny grimaced and rolled his eyes, but picked up his fork and pulled the plate back toward him.

Teal'c was again giving Cam 'the look.'

"What?" he asked in innocent confusion, glancing at his own plate in distaste. "It's not going to kill either one of us to miss a meal once in a while. I'll make sure he eats some fruit before going to bed."

"Eating immediately before retiring could well result in restless slumber," the Jaffa argued wisely. "I would instead suggest you insist upon a snack before his bath and bedtime rituals. I would also suggest refraining from cheese as it is difficult to digest, or sweetened items as these will only cause an energy boost when it is least desired."

Cam rolled his eyes. "Give me a little credit here, Teal'c," he sighed, mentally telling himself to cut out the cheese and crackers he sometimes liked to munch right before bed.

The PA system chose that moment to interrupt whatever more Teal'c might have said. "Attention, all members of SG-1 report to Gen. Landry's office. Repeat: SG-1 report to Gen. Landry's office."

It had to be about Sam.

The two men quickly pushed away from the table and Cam helped Danny climb down from the booster seat.

"Would you permit me to carry you, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c paused to ask solemnly. "It would be faster."

By way of answer, Danny just lifted his arms. The Jaffa warrior easily lifted him to his hip and, together, the three friends hurried to learn what the general wanted.
* * *

Landry glanced up at the knock on his door. "Come," he called, expecting he knew who it was. He was not surprised to see Mitchell, Teal'c and young Daniel Jackson enter his office. He offered their tense expressions a weary smile, happy to be able to deliver at least some good news today. "Sam's fine," he told them immediately.

"Yes!" Mitchell instantly pumped a fist in the air and spun in place - then had the grace to look somewhat chagrined. "Sorry, sir," he apologized quickly.

Landry just smiled tolerantly and shook his head. "I felt a bit like celebrating myself when I got the news," he admitted and sighed as he sat back in his chair. "I wish all the news was so good."

Mitchell immediately became serious and frowned. "The IOA delegates, sir?" he asked, knowing the ramifications of anything happening to them would not be good.

"Safe as well," Landry reported. "Pearson ordered a couple of SFs to escort them, SG-3 and Lt. Col. Carter to an unmanned research station about ten kilometers from the base. They lost an SF and one of Reynold's men en route; but, once there, Col. Carter was able to boost the station's communications array to penetrate the radiation barrier of the ionosphere. The Odyssey immediately locked on and beamed them aboard - from the sound of things, just in time."

"I thought Emerson said the bugs had overrun the area for a radius greater than a hundred klicks?" Mitchell frowned in confusion.

"He did," Landry answered. "According to Carter, they got lucky. Somehow I doubt it was that simple. I'm looking forward to reading her full report when they get back ... which won't be for a couple of days. The Odyssey is still sweeping the surface for possible survivors; although from what Carter said, it sounds more-than-unlikely we're going to find any."

"But if SG-3 and the delegates made it out...."

Landry was shaking his head. "I don't have the detail's yet, Colonel," he allowed with a grim frown, "but Col. Carter was extremely doubtful. The Odyssey will of course complete their sweeps before releasing the CR-91 toxin. They then have to stick around and make sure it works before heading home with the IOA delegates. Estimated time of arrival is sometime around noon Monday."

Mitchell nodded silent acknowledgment but it was clear his mind was still wrestling with the fact that they'd probably just lost more than two hundred soldiers, scientists and support personnel assigned to the Gamma Site, including Col. Pearson and a few others he called friends.

"You'll have plenty of time to pick Sam out a nice welcome home gift," Landry continued, focusing on the present and the living. He didn't want to even think about all the letters he would soon be forced to write. That was by far the worst part of the job. No, there would be time enough to think about that when the death toll was finalized and confirmed. For now, life went on. "It's not everyday someone survives their own little B-rated horror movie. I'm sure she's looking forward to a little downtime when she gets back and would probably enjoy checking out your new place as well."

Mitchell blinked and forced himself to pay attention to what the general was saying. "I, ah...." Gosh, that sounded almost sentient!

"Concentrate on the positives, Mitchell," Landry told him with forced cheerfulness. "Sam's alive. There's nothing we can do for those we've lost, but we can certainly be there for those who are still with us."

Cam noted the affectionate smile Landry awarded Daniel where the boy stood silently beside Teal'c, and knew the general was right. War was hell, no doubt about it; people died, but they died so the living could keep on living. Sam might need reminding of that. He nodded. "Yes, sir."
* * *

Part 28

Danny sat in the tub and frowned up at the shower head. He liked showers. Well ... he 'remembered' liking showers. He glanced down at his waterlogged toes and wiggled his feet back and forth, setting up standing waves in the water that sloshed it dangerously high on the tub wall. He grinned. He was careful not to splash it over. The adult in him still didn't like it.

He sighed. There were a lot of things the adult part of him didn't like.

Like baths.

When Mitchell had asked if he wanted a bath or a shower tonight, there had been a definite part of him that had wanted the shower. It wasn't like he had a split personality or anything. There wasn't an adult voice in his head arguing with the child voice. It was nothing that black and white and easy to define; but there was a schism.

Schism. That was a fun word. A division. A conflict. A disagreement.

He felt different. More, he was different. He knew what he'd been like 'before' - both befores: before when he was really five and before when he was forty-two. He was neither now. When he was really five, he'd been happy and didn't have a care in the world. Well, not like he did now. He'd worried about stupid things like why Hamid was so mean to his older sister, or if he should wear his green sneakers or white ones, and why his mom insisted he eat his peas when she knew he hated them.

What he wouldn't give to be able to hear his mother scold him again for not eating his peas.

He brushed an errant tear away. He should be happy, not sad. They'd finally found out that Sam was safe, and here he was sitting in his bath crying. How stupid was that?

It was the child in him who'd decided to have a bath. The child liked baths. He didn't get them that often when he was really five, not like this anyway unless they were staying as a guest in someone else's home or a motel room. His parents had tended to move around a lot with their jobs and, unlike many in their profession at the time, enjoyed being close to the native peoples. His first home had been a tent. He did remember a small villa at one point not long ago - well, not long ago to his mind anyway. He was pretty sure it was a rental. They'd stayed there for a few months, driving back and forth between the outskirts of the small town and wherever the dig site they were working on was. He'd hated the long bumpy ride and was glad when they moved back into a tent. The villa hadn't had a tub in any case, just a large metal wash basin and the water had needed to be heated on the stove first. It was big enough that he could actually lie down in it so that was quite a luxury. They weren't poor, but the part of the world where they lived and worked was. Big white porcelain tubs simply weren't an everyday taken-for-granted bathroom fixture.

After his parents had been killed, there'd been a lot of big white tubs, but he didn't like to remember those.

What he would really like was a bath and shower both, sitting in the tub in a few inches of water while the shower rained down on him.... That sounded like heaven. He'd never done that before. Anyway, he didn't think he had. The adult in him just dismissed the idea. It was childish and wasteful. He sighed and carefully sloshed the water again.

The adult in him liked showers. They were fast and efficient, and he remembered liking them really hot. Standing under the hot running water was more relaxing than laying in a tub - at least when he was forty-two. It didn't make a lot of sense to the five year old, but he knew it was true.

Because his body was five and he couldn't take the water that hot anymore, the child had won the bath vs. shower debate.

A knock sounded at the bathroom door. "Hey, kid," Mitchell's voice drifted through the partition. "You still okay in there or do I need to throw you a life preserver?"

"I'm fine!" he called back, frowning as he realized the water was starting to get cold. He should have asked Mitchell for some bath toys at 'Toys R Us,' if he'd thought of it. The adult in him would have been embarrassed, but the adult in him could just suffer!

"You probably look like a prune by now," Mitchell answered. " 'Finish on up. We still got some unfinished business to attend to."

'Unfinished business?' He frowned in confusion. Probably more paperwork for his false background, he realized. The adult in him understood the necessity of such things and worried about making sure it was correct. The kid could care less. However, he wasn't the kid and he wasn't the adult either - so he'd do it with an irritated roll of his eyes. With a sigh, he rinsed off one final time and then climbed out.
* * *

"Danny?" Mitchell called him again with an exasperated sigh. What the hell was the kid doing in there? Practicing to swim the English Channel?

"Coming!" the youthful voice called back even as the bathroom door swung open and the freshly scrubbed and definitely prunish Dr. Jackson stepped out.

"I was beginning to think you were growing gills in there," Mitchell quipped as the boy padded forward. He was dressed in his blue striped pajamas and bare feet, his longish blond hair sticking every which way from being towel dried.

In his arms, he carried his dirty clothes. "Where do you want these?" he asked.

Mitchell just took and set them aside for the moment. One of the perks of the VIP quarters was free laundry service. Base Housekeeping would pick them up and take care of them tomorrow morning but he didn't have a hamper. He'd deal with them in a moment. Instead, he patted the edge of the bed and told his room mate to hop up beside him. "We need to talk."

Danny frowned a bit even as he complied. "Paperwork?" he asked, but didn't see any out.

"Osprey," Mitchell answered with a frown of his own.

Danny rolled his eyes as he realized this must be about his little temper tantrum at the toy store. "I'm not apologizing," he declared firmly and folded his arms.

"Why not?" Mitchell asked calmly.

"He treated me like an idiot!" Danny declared. "And he touched me. He doesn't have the right to touch me."

"He treated you like a child, Daniel," Mitchell corrected him, "because, like it or not, you are a child. His touch wasn't inappropriate. He didn't try to molest you or hurt you. He ruffled your hair!"

"I didn't like it!"

"Obviously," Mitchell sighed. "But adults do that sort of thing to kids all the time. You have the right to tell him not to do it again, but you don't have the right to take a swing at the guy."

"Like I could really hurt him," the kid scoffed. "I didn't push him!" he quickly defended himself as he remembered the guy falling. It wasn't his fault the guy was a klutz.

"You startled him. He fell," Mitchell offered, but then dismissed that line of argument. "That's not the point. You don't get to hit someone just because they ruffled your hair, I don't care how old you are."

"Right. Kids can't hit adults, and adults can't hit adults; but adults can hit kids whenever they want," Danny answered in clear disdain. "Are you going to spank me now?"

Mitchell gritted his teeth and silently counted to three as he resisted the urge to do just that. "If this were my parent's house, you'd be ordered to go out back and pick out your own switch," he answered. "And that mouth of yours would be tasting soap for a week."

Danny wasn't impressed. "Try it and we'll both be in the infirmary again," he promised.

"Nope," Mitchell told him. "Not what I had in mind."

Danny narrowed his eyes and quickly glanced at the table. His books and research papers were still there.

"I thought about writing out a full report for Landry," Mitchell told him with a pensive frown. "Maybe get Osprey to file a formal complaint. The least you'd get is a letter of reprimand in your file, probably a suspension of duties."

The adult in Danny reacted sharply to this idea. His little mouth fell open in surprise.

" 'Don't think your friend Jack would appreciate it much either," he continued and held his hand up to his ear as if talking on the phone. "'Sorry, sir; the kid acted like a kid and took a swing at our driver. Provoked, sir? Oh yes, sir. Captain Osprey ruffled his hair, sir.'"

He glanced down at the kid at his side who was blushing slightly and just starting to get the idea that maybe he'd done something wrong.

"If you were an adult, Osprey could bring criminal charges," Mitchell continued. "As a kid, you'd probably just be banned from base for a week or two, and then be allowed back on a probationary basis - unless Woolsey got wind of it." He sighed and shook his head. "He's a bit distracted right now what with having survived that bug attack and all, but I suspect he'd find out about it sooner or later and - woooo boy! - watch out when he does! The IOA would probably toss you out of here so fast the swing of the door behind you would cause a sonic boom."

Danny's face went pale.

"Or," Mitchell added after a significant pause, "we can handle this informally; just you, me and Osprey. No report but you will apologize to the guy and you will accept whatever other discipline I deem appropriate."

Danny winced. "Such as?"

"Something appropriate," Mitchell decided. "Your actions showed a complete lack of respect, for either myself or Osprey, so I'm thinking ... spit polishing my dress shoes for me. I'd have you do Osprey's too but I doubt he'd trust a kid to do it. I, on the other hand, am quite certain Gen. O'Neill taught you how to do it properly."

The boy grimaced further and dropped his head. "What if I just apologize?"

"This is not a negotiation, Danny," Cam answered. "What you did was wrong. When you do something wrong, there are consequences. I gave you the option to apologize when it happened. You refused. Now you have to take the consequences for that as well."

Danny glanced up with a petulant frown, but there wasn't any heat in it and most of his anger was self-directed. "You wouldn't actually write out a formal report, would you?"

"I certainly don't want to," Mitchell admitted. "We need you here too bad, whether you're being a super geeky Ancient and Ori know-it-all, or a sulky and stubborn little brat. But I would - and will - file a verbal 'unofficial' report with both generals Landry and O'Neill if you make me. You can try to weasel your way out of it with them if you want, but I doubt they'll listen."

Mitchell really didn't want to do that either, as he suspected O'Neill at least would have more than a little to say about his obvious lack of parenting skills if he couldn't handle a simple temper tantrum - O'Neill and Landry might even question their decision to place the kid with him - but Cam wasn't going to let the kid get away with acting like that either. Danny might look like a simple five year old, but Cam knew better.

Danny knew better too. "Okay," he sighed wearily.

"Okay what?" Cam asked, hoping the kid meant what he thought. He reached out and turned the little chin to face him.

Danny's eyes were definitely misty and more than a little sad. "Okay I'll apologize in the morning and spit-polish your shoes. You don't have to report it," he said. "I'm sorry."

"Come 'ere," Cam told him, holding open his one good arm. The kid immediately climbed into his lap and settled his head on Mitchell's chest. Cam lifted a hand to smooth the wild riot of blond strands and dropped a kiss on top of his head without thinking.

He blinked as he realized what he'd done, then shrugged it off. Danny needed a little gentle affection at the moment. And if he didn't, Cam sure did. Damn but that had been hard! He was sure there must have been some other way he could have - and should have - handled the situation, but he just couldn't think of it. He was really wishing for that 'Guide to Daddy 101 for Dummies' book again. He just wasn't cut out for this.

"Don't make me do that again, Squirt," he whispered, holding him close and rocking him gently. "I hate having to be the big bad meanie."
* * *

Part 29

Pain lanced throughout her body, wrapping around her mind and stealing her thoughts. Her neck arched backward as her face contorted into a grim mask - teeth clinched tight. She would not give them the satisfaction of hearing her scream.

He felt his heart breaking - a heart he apparently wasn't supposed to have anymore. "Sam..." he whispered, helpless to do anything but watch as beads of sweat broke out on her brow.

"You cannot help her," the woman at his side reminded him. As if he needed reminding! "You torture yourself by staying here."

"She's my friend," he answered quietly.

"She was your friend," the other corrected. "That life is over. You must let her go."


"You think she would want you here? To witness this?"

No. He didn't say it aloud because it didn't matter. Sam would beg him to leave if she knew he was here.

Or beg him to help.

He could do neither.

A soft groan was wrenched from his friend. The machine she was in was literally tearing her apart. He knew exactly what it was doing to her, far more so than the Goa'uld who controlled it.

"Please...." He wasn't above begging. "You have to stop this!"

The woman beside him shook her head. "I can't."

"You won't," he corrected her.

"I won't," she agreed.

"Why?" he demanded.

"You know why," she answered.

"This is my punishment for helping Jack, isn't it."

It wasn't a question but she answered it as such anyway. "You crossed the line," she said implacably.

"You crossed it for me," he argued.

"No, Daniel," she corrected him. "You crossed it yourself, at Kheb. I merely showed you the path you'd already chosen. Now come away. Your friend must find her own path."

"No!" he shouted even as he felt himself suddenly being pulled away. "Sam!"


"Sam!" His mind was filled with white hot pain as he fought, but it was useless, the battle was over before it began. He blinked his eyes open to find himself somewhere else.

"Danny!" someone repeated, shaking his shoulder. "Wake up, kid."


"Danny, it's a dream!" the man beside him insisted. "Come on, look at me. It's a dream. Wake up!"

He blinked in confusion.

"Danny?" the man asked again.

The hand on his shoulder was warm and solid, the blankets tangled at his feet were real. The hand on his shoulder moved to his chin and forced him to meet worried blue eyes.

"Danny? You with me, or do I need to call the medics?"

He knew the man.... "Mitchell," he identified him. He frowned. Something was wrong with his voice.

The man's eyes narrowed pensively. "Yeah..." he said slowly. "And you are...?"

He glanced down, discovering a child's hand ... attached to a child's body. The sight triggered his memories and awareness returned in a thunderous crash. He closed both his eyes and his fist. "A dream..." he whispered.

"No, you're definitely flesh and blood," Mitchell teased lightly and brushed several long blond strands out of Danny's eyes. He needed a hair cut. They both did. "Nightmare?" he asked obliquely as he dropped his hand again.

Danny shook his head and reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. His head hurt.

"You were yelling for Sam," Cam noted. "She's fine, remember? All safe and sound aboard the Odyssey now, right?"

Danny glanced up and blinked at him for a long moment before what he was saying made sense. The memory of Sam being trapped on a planet of carnivorous bugs was slow to surface. He shook his head and closed his eyes again. "That wasn't it," he refuted.

"What wasn't what?" Mitchell asked, sounding confused and maybe a little worried.

"What the dream was about," he explained, bowing his head. "It was a memory. I'm fine. Will you stop looking at me like that?" He could feel Mitchell's eyes on him and could all too easily picture the man rolling his eyes now.

"When you stop giving me reason to!" he rejoined readily.

Danny offered a weary sigh, just grateful Mitchell had woken him. He shoved the lingering memories aside and looked up at him again. "I'm fine," he insisted.

The man grimaced and shook his head. "You know, I really hate it when you say that," he complained.

Danny offered him a tiny smile and lay back down on his side of the bed. "Sorry I woke you," he said and rolled onto his side.

"Just let me get this straight, okay?" Mitchell poked his shoulder, getting him to flop back onto his back. There was still worry in that older regard. "You had a nightmare about Sam; but it wasn't about the bugs, it was a memory?"

Danny yawned and nodded, wishing he would just drop it.

"The replicator again?" Cam guessed.

He grimaced impatiently and shook his head. "Can we go back to sleep now?"

"After you tell me what it was about," Cam insisted.

He frowned irritably and shifted around again, turning back on his side. Mitchell wouldn't drop it until he answered. "Sam was being tortured and I couldn't help," he admitted reluctantly, resolutely closing his eyes. "It happens. Good night."

"Hey, it wasn't my idea to get up at two in the morning," Mitchell commented, a little disconcerted for some reason. "It happens?" he repeated in disbelief.

"Far too often." A giant yawn stretched his small face.

If Mitchell said anything more, Danny didn't hear it as he allowed himself to drop back to sleep.
* * *

Sunday dawned way too early for both Cam and Daniel. While the adult Daniel Jackson had been known to stay up round the clock working on some project or other that just couldn't wait, such was not the case with little Danny. Apparently his mother had always enforced a rather strict bedtime. While Mitchell wasn't really a clock watcher, Danny was pretty much ready to crash long before Mitchell so their respective rituals for bed didn't clash at all. Mornings, however, were turning into another story. Mitchell probably shouldn't have been surprised by the near wrestling match he had to engage in to get the kid dressed, fed and ready to go.

It wouldn't have been so bad if he'd allowed time for all of it.

It was little wonder he was looking a bit frazzled by the time they finally met up with Capt. Osprey in the officer's parking lot fifteen minutes late. "Sorry!" Cam gasped out, feeling exhausted already as he jogged forward with Daniel in one arm. "The kid is not a morning person."

Capt. Osprey tried to suppress a bemused grin but failed utterly as he held the back door for Col. Mitchell. Cam ignored the look, wondering just how bad his hair actually was, as he set Daniel down on the ground. "Come on sleepy-head," he cajoled him. "I need a little help here. 'Only have the one arm to work with at present, remember?"

Two rather sleepy blue eyes forced themselves open even as the kid managed to stand on his own. Blinking a couple of times, he turned and found their driver waiting patiently to one side. "Good morning, Capt. Osprey," he offered in a half-dead-to-the-world monotone. "I'm sorry I got mad and took a swing at you yesterday. That was wrong and won't happen again. Please don't ruffle my hair." He then turned, still half-asleep, and climbed up into the back seat while the two men fought not to laugh.

Well, at least he'd apologized. Cam shook his head as he leaned in to secure the kid's seat belt. His head was lolled to the side and his eyes were closed. Cam had to wonder at least fleetingly if this were normal for a kid his age or not? They'd gone to bed about nine and gotten up at six - oh, and there'd been that nightmare in the middle of the night and the fact that he'd been worried about Sam for the last few days.... He shrugged, deciding it wasn't completely unreasonable for the kid to be zonked. Cam would start to worry again if he didn't snap out of it before noon.

He stood back up and closed the back door before swinging himself into the passenger front seat. Osprey was already buckling up in the driver's seat. "I take it the SAP clearance came through," he commented, reaching for his own belt.

Osprey paused for a second and awarded him a rather disconcerted look. "Yeah," he agreed. "That was more than fast. What did you do?"

Mitchell just sat back with a grin. "'Need to know' works wonders - especially here."

"Maj. Linden said you'd brief me," he offered and turned over the ignition.

"Ah!" Mitchell cringed slightly as he realized the guy hadn't been filled in yet. "Turn off the engine."

The captain blinked in surprise. "Sir?"

"I don't want you trying to drive while I tell you this," Cam explained.

The ignition was switched off and Osprey glanced back at Danny for a minute. "I take it, he's not from Earth," he offered with a mildly pensive frown. He seemed sympathetic more than worried.

"Oh, yes," Mitchell corrected him. "Yes, he's definitely from Earth alright. I assume you've heard of Dr. Daniel Jackson, right?"

"Member of SG-1, and Head of the Archaeological and Linguistics Research Departments." Osprey nodded. "He's the one who figured out how to open the gate ten years ago. I met him about three weeks ago when he taught one of my orientation classes."

"That's where I know you from!" the kid suddenly spoke up from in back. Both men glanced back in surprise. "Griggs called in sick so I took over. I've been trying to place where I'd seen you before."

Cam rolled his eyes. "Will you pipe down?" he complained. "I haven't told him who you are yet!"

Danny rolled his eyes. "You wanna hurry it up? I'm not getting any younger here."

"Ha ha, very funny," Cam offered deadpan and glanced back at Osprey. Not surprisingly, the younger officer was looking a bit shaken. It would have been comical if Cam wasn't in a bit of a hurry. The movers were supposed to be at his place at nine. He glanced at his watch. "'You been briefed about the Ori?" he asked.

Osprey blinked and then frowned as he forced his mind back into gear again, confused by this apparent non-sequitur. He had to clear his throat before answering, "Yes, sir."

Cam again indicated the kid in back. "They zapped him. 'Walked into a trap and 'poof', he's a kid." He grimaced as he heard his own words. "Okay, so it wasn't exactly 'poof' but that's the gist of what happened. We think they were trying to kill him 'cause he knows too much - don't ask me how or why; we're still working on that. As well as how to turn him back. 'You feel like driving yet?"

Danny offered a disbelieving grunt from in back. "Nice one, Mitchell," he sang out sarcastically. "Drop a bombshell and expect the guy to drive. Smooth."

"Hey, I wasn't the one who dragged my ass all morning!" Cam shot right back. "The movers are supposed to be at my place in less than half an hour. SG team members don't have time to sit around and analyze stuff when they're in the field. I need him to shake it off, buck it up and get back with the program here! You can go back to sleep."

"Actually, sir," Osprey offered, still obviously a little befuddled by everything, "Maj. Linden said that Sgt. Siler was going to meet the movers. He has your keys and is driving your car there and then to the new place for you, sir."

"Siler?" Mitchell exclaimed unhappily. "And no one asked me? Jeesh! I swear I won't be responsible for my actions if he puts so much as a scratch on my classic baby!"

"What are you worried about?" Danny asked from in back. "It's Siler."

"Exactly!" Cam twisted around so he could see Danny. "Half the time I see the guy, he's in the infirmary!"

"He owns a 1962 Corvette," Osprey quickly interjected.

Cam blinked and looked back at the captain. "He does?"

"Candy apple red and all tricked out," he claimed.

"Sweet." Mitchell frowned pensively. The guy just might know how to treat his baby after all. "Okay, I can live with that. You ready to drive yet?"

In back, Danny offered an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes.

"Yes, sir," Osprey answered with a slight grin and turned the ignition over again. "Driving, sir."
* * *

Part 30

Mitchell eyed his sleek black car as they pulled up next to it. No obvious damage....

The movers were already busy moving - as in moving out. The way too large truck was pulling away even as Osprey turned the motor pool car off. Mitchell frowned sharply.

His stuff was ready and there was little enough of it, but still ... wasn't he supposed to be here to oversee things or something? They weren't that late. Maybe someone else in the complex was moving out (or in) and that was their mover - which would be weird because these were small apartments and most everyone just rented a U-Haul truck or something. Nor did Cam see any other moving vans around which might be his....

Then he spotted Siler hurrying back down the sidewalk toward them.

He frowned down at the door console and stabbed the button labeled 'down'. The window hummed as it sank into the door frame. "Siler!" he called, greeting the guy with a wave and then waiting the few seconds it took for him to finish his approach. Cam craned his neck slightly and squinted his eyes against the early morning sun silhouetting the master sergeant. "What's going on?"

"We're all done and headed over to the new place, sir," the man answered readily and handed him a large manila envelope. "I got here early to make sure everything was ready and clean. 'Manager's already signed off on the inspection and will mail the security deposit to the new address." With a nod he turned to round Mitchell's car, calling over his shoulder as he went, "See you at the new place, sir."

Mitchell blinked in momentary confusion. Talk about efficiency! "Ah, Sergeant!" he called out, stopping the man before he could get more than a couple of paces; but ... he really didn't know what to say about the moving and everything. It just felt wrong that he hadn't been there for any of it. Instead, he was surprised to hear himself ask, "How's the car drive?"

"She's a beaut, sir," the sergeant answered with the closest thing Mitchell had ever seen to a smile on his face. At least Cam thought it might be a hint of one. The guy was always so serious! "Almost as good as mine; You ought to look at crossover manifolds with quad weber side drafts -- notch things up a bit."

"She's a muscle car, sergeant; not a fire breathing dragon complete with fangs!" Mitchell shuddered at the idea of putting such a device on his baby. He wished to heaven he was the one getting behind the wheel rather than the accident prone engineer.

"Call them fangs if you want, sir," Siler offered as he turned again to finish rounding the car, "but you could really pull some teeth with that set up."

"Yeah, my own," Mitchell muttered quietly. He sat back and rolled up the window on the chill October morning even as Osprey started their own car again. "Wait for him and follow at a discreet distance," Cam told him. "Nothing overt, just ... you know. We're going to the same place after all."

"Yes, sir."

In back Danny let out another exasperated sigh. "It's a car," he commented. "I'm sure Siler knows how to drive."

"--A car?" Cam asked in clear disbelief. He craned his neck to see the kid in the back seat. "That little beauty is a 1965 high performance 'fastback' Mustang. They don't make 'em like that anymore. 'Classic pony car: 271 horse power, 289 cubic inch solid lifter V8, four barrel carb, 4 speed manual tranny with a top speed of 141 mph. 'Course it doesn't have the GT-350 upgrades - or that monstrous crossover manifold he wants to put in - but I'm proud of my sweet little baby."

Danny only blinked in obvious confusion.

"It's a classic!" Cam reiterated. "I'd figure you for a vintage car enthusiast, what with your love of all things old and ancient."

Danny rolled his eyes and folded his little arms in a move far too reminiscent of his adult self - save it kinda lost something with him being belted into the safety seat. "No," he replied patiently. "A quadriga might pique my interest but cars don't even come close. Unless it's mine and it's not working."

"Quadriga?" Cam couldn't help but ask.

"An ancient Greek and Roman four horse racing chariot."

"...Of course." Cam awarded Daniel a lost and disinterested look of his own. He frowned and turned back around in his seat, watching as Siler pulled out. "Okay, but not too close," he told the captain, dismissing Danny's lack of enthusiasm in classic automobiles as just another strange quirk of his strange personality. What guy in his right mind didn't like classic cars? Weird. "I don't want him to think we're tailing him on purpose."

In back, Danny sighed again and shook his head sadly.
* * *

The morning had whizzed by as far as Danny was concerned, despite being trapped as he was in the stupid car safety seat. Getting to the house, he winced at the over-sized moving van blocking most of the street. Fortunately, it wasn't there long. Apparently, Mitchell didn't have a lot of personal items, or he'd chosen to put most of them into storage.

Most of Danny's stuff was in the back of Cam's mustang and he helped Siler carry in what he could. Then Siler and everyone else was gone and Cam was telling him it was time to go to lunch. They didn't have anything in the house to eat yet so, together with Osprey, they stopped at Subway before heading over to Wal-mart.

Somehow Danny suspected they'd be avoiding Burger King for some time to come.

And then it was time to hit Wal-mart. The giant 'superstore' was overwhelming and familiar at the same time. Unlike 'Toys R Us,' he had the definite feeling that he'd been here before but - once again - the angles were all wrong and everything was so much bigger and confusing than his fractured memories tried to tell him.

Shopping had always been an adventure when he was in Egypt. Here, it was just big, noisy and a little scary. There was an awful lot to see but most of it was pretty boring. There was no bartering and bickering, just aisles and aisles of goods to buy. He remembered his wish for bath toys the night before and told his adult-self to shut up even as he tugged on 'Uncle Cam's' pant leg and asked if they could get some.

Osprey gave him a bit of an odd look - apparently still wrestling with the paradox of his identity - but Mitchell didn't bat an eye. Danny had been thinking of just a toy boat or something, but Mitchell loaded him up with three of them - plus a bag of plastic army figures (frog men, Mitchell insisted), a small pail, some colored bath paints (to be used on his body and not the bath walls) and the 'mandatory' rubber duck. Why it was mandatory, Mitchell didn't know, but he insisted all kids had to have one.

Danny was reminded of Jack's insistence with Cassie several years ago that all kids had to have a dog - but wisely kept his mouth shut. A rubber duck was a lot easier to take care of.

Insisting that, no, he really didn't need any other toys, he ignored the meandering path Mitchell took through the toy department before heading back over to the food section. They passed by the women's clothes first and Danny suddenly spotted the perfect 'welcome home' gift for Sam. Mitchell grinned broadly and tossed it in the cart. After that, they started in paper goods, and up and down the aisles they went. Danny's neck soon got tired of trying to look upward all the time. Apparently Mitchell thought they needed to buy a lot because they did an awful lot of walking and his legs were getting tired too but the basket still wasn't full enough.

Did they really have to get everything today?

At least Osprey was treating him more normally now. No more hair ruffling or picking him up and arbitrarily putting him in the cart. Danny glanced up at the child's seat of the basket and kinda wished the captain had put him in it, but now it was full of eggs and bread and a gallon of milk. With a sigh he just laced his little fingers through the plastic grid work at the side of the cart and hung on like a leach as they continued their foray throughout the giant and confusing store...

...Until he felt someone lifting his head by the chin and he blinked his eyes open to see Mitchell squatting down in front of him. "You awake there, Squirt?" he asked with a grin.

Danny nodded and offered a huge yawn he didn't even try to suppress. Well, almost awake anyway, he thought and glanced around. They were in the frozen food section.

"I was asking you what kind of ice cream you'd like," Mitchell told him, "but I somehow don't think you heard me, did you?"

Ice Cream? He glanced at the case they were beside, but he was too tired to try and decide and offered another big yawn instead.

Mitchell chuckled. "Watch out. I think a bird could nest in that gapping maw you got there. You feel like riding, Squirt? We're almost done."

He glanced at the cart next to them and was a little surprised to see it was mounded high with groceries. How could they not be done? There wasn't room for anything else, including him. "No room," he mumbled, stepping forward and leaning his head against Mitchell's shoulder. He just wanted to rest it for a few moments....

The man chuckled again, and then his arm snaked around Danny's legs and he was being lifted. Danny's arms automatically wrapped around his neck and held on tight. "We'll make room," Mitchell told him.

Together, the lieutenant colonel and captain managed to get a very sleepy little boy into the child's seat. Danny had no real memory of it, though he tried to help as best he could. Some very many minutes later, he woke up as someone was wrestling him out of the safety seat of the car - and it wasn't Mitchell.

Danny immediately stiffened and nearly panicked - until he realized it was just Capt. Osprey. The Captain turned to frown at him uncertainly. "Sorry I woke you, Dr. Jackson," he offered quietly. "Would you like me to carry you into bed, sir?"

Danny blinked at the man in confusion, not sure if he'd heard that last correctly or not. It sounded weird, even to him! Glancing around, he realized they were back at the new place again. He frowned and shook his head as the last of the dazed and sleepy cobwebs left along with the massive surge of adrenaline he'd gotten when he first woke. "I'm awake," he answered and set action to words as he proceeded to scramble out of the back seat on his own.

"Hey, Sleepyhead." He found Col. Mitchell standing just behind the captain. "That wasn't much of a nap. What say we head on in and you can try to catch a few more Zs while Osprey and I put away the groceries. I'll wake you in an hour or so when it's time to figure out something for dinner."

Danny scowled. He wasn't a baby and he didn't need to be treated like one! Yes, he sometimes took naps - young, growing bodies simply required more rest than adult bodies - but he'd done his little 'crashing' number for the day and was ready to do his share of the work in putting away the groceries and unpacking. He still had all the games and toys from the back of Mitchell's mustang to put away too.

Not deigning to answer verbally, he reached into the rear passenger foot-well and grabbed up one of the plastic bags that had been stowed there when the trunk got too full.

Cam simply stood and shrugged. Arguing with a cranky five year old just wasn't on his agenda today. He'd probably crash after dinner and sleep soundly all night. "Leave the heavier stuff for me and Osprey, okay? And I'll get the eggs right now...."

Danny was surprised not to have a fight on his hands. His mother or father would have just given him a look and pointed to the tent. Arguing with 'the look' always got a short swift swat. But then, he wasn't really five any more and Mitchell was most definitely not his father. Still frowning, Danny turned to trudge toward the house.
* * *

"I think I can handle it from here, Captain," Cam decided, turning from the freezer where he'd managed to stuff the last of the frozen food and eyed the mountain of groceries the Captain had finished piling on and around the kitchen table. "You can head on out. We won't be needing you again today."

The captain nodded, tempted to offer to help again but the lieutenant colonel had already refused earlier, stating that if he didn't do it himself he wouldn't know where anything was. So, instead he asked what time they wanted to be picked up tomorrow.

"Make it nine," Cam answered. "We've both got appointments in the Infirmary. With any luck, Lam will clear me to drive again and your chauffeur stint will be cut short."

"Not a problem if it isn't, sir," Osprey assured him. "I was more than a little awed when I first met Dr. Jackson. Now...." He quickly glanced back over his shoulder, making sure the miniaturized scientist wasn't about to sneak up on them.

Cam just grinned. "He is kinda adorable, isn't he?" he chuckled and added in a conspiratorial whisper, "Just don't let him hear you say that!"

Osprey offered a mildly confused frown. "How much is...?" He gestured at his head, not sure how to word his question.

"...Still there?" Cam supplied. "All of it," he answered. "Just all jumbled up and confused and fragmented. He's five and he's forty, er ... forty-two. Both."

"Sounds confusing," Osprey noted.

Cam paused to consider it for a second. Hearing his own words he guessed that, yes, it did sound confusing; but, then he just shrugged. Confusing to understand maybe but, somehow, whenever he was dealing with Danny, it wasn't. It just worked. "You just gotta go with the flow. Thanks for the help," he added, changing the subject - then jumping back to it. "I don't have to tell you not to talk about any of this, do I? Not to your girl, not to your mom, not to Jesus Christ in prayer at night, right?"

"No, sir," The man nodded his understanding and agreement. "He's just the son of a pilot who's Missing in Action in Iraq. I know and understand the cover story, sir."

"Good." Cam nodded and stepped forward to begin sorting through the rest of the grocery bags. "See ya tomorrow then. Have a good night."

"Good night, sir," the captain answered and left to return the car to the SGC motor pool.

Cam sighed as he stopped what he was doing to follow after the captain and set the security alarm on the door. Done, he made his way back to the kitchen and forced himself to finish dealing with the mess there, letting his mind wander as he worked.

He and Danny were alone in their new home for the first time, he realized - although it was a long way from feeling like home yet. In point of fact, it was a very weird feeling, kinda like house-sitting someone else's place. It was going to take him a few days to get used to the idea that he actually lived here now. Being responsible for a five year old who wasn't really five years old didn't help matters either. There were no SFs or medics just around the corner if they needed them.

Which reminded him, he needed to find out if Dixon had gotten briefed or if he was expected to do that too like he'd had to with Osprey.

Frowning, he stared at the frig unhappily. The stupid door had swung shut on him before he could get the milk in. Having only one hand really sucked. Grunting, he put the milk on the floor and used it to prop the door open while he finished transferring all the other perishables. It wasn't exactly energy-wise, but - hey! - it got the job done.

He lifted the milk into place and let the door swing shut as he wondered about who their neighbors were? Someone somewhere had almost certainly checked them out quite thoroughly. General O'Neill wasn't taking any chances with Jackson. 'Probably military, Cam thought, given the neighborhood and proximity not only to Cheyenne Mountain but Peterson, the Academy and Fort Carson as well.

After finishing with the groceries and unpacking a few 'essential' items, Cam discovered one of those things they'd forgotten to pick up when he went to make dinner. He always forgot something at the grocery store! This time it was a can opener. His electric one had bit the dust last month. No biggie at the time - he'd been happily using a simple hand cranked one since - but having only one hand to use at present meant that wasn't possible now. And apparently it wasn't one of the myriad things Siler had thought to get them. He could ask Danny to give it a try but didn't want to risk getting spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen, so ... TV dinners it was.

He frowned and glanced around as he realized he hadn't seen or heard from Danny in too long and the house was way too quiet.

"Danny?" he called even as he made his way back to the boy's room. If the kid had left the house without telling him.... No. A quick glance at the front door revealed the alarm still armed. He quickly stepped into the hall to discover Danny's bedroom door open and Cam froze mid-step. The squirt was sprawled out in a boneless heap in the middle of the floor, surrounded by various bits of packaging from the toys and games he'd apparently been putting away, a single arm draped possessively over the floppy-eared donkey he'd gotten at 'Toys R Us.'

Cam felt a smile tugging at his lips - the kind of insipid silly smile that he knew damn well not to let the kid ever see. Daniel Jackson was not the type of guy who liked to be called 'cute and adorable', even if he was. Fortunately, the kid was totally zonked at the moment, so Cam felt safe just standing and staring for a few self-indulgent heartbeats as he debated whether to wake him or not. It was no surprise he'd finally crashed, especially with all the running around they'd done earlier.

Suddenly turning on his heel, Cam's grin turned wicked. Where'd he put that camera? Carter would melt when she saw it - and Jackson would want to kill him, but Cam figured he'd be safe until they got around to turning him back into an adult. And by then - who knew? - maybe Dr. Daniel Jackson would like a few mementos of his rather unusual adventure into 'second childhood.' The phrase definitely didn't have the same meaning for him as it did most people!

'Sides, Cam could always argue it was for his mom and dad. He still had to call them and give them the cover story for everything. The last thing he wanted to happen was for them to find out about it second hand. He frowned at the thought, promising himself to call them right after dinner.

It took him a long moment to find the little digital number he'd gotten himself a few months back. A quick check of the batteries and he was set. Wicked grin firmly in place, he made his way back to Danny's room and snapped several quick shots.

Carter and Teal'c were both going to want copies. They wouldn't be the only ones, but Cam wouldn't embarrass Daniel by giving them out to just anyone: O'Neill, Landry, Lam... maybe Dr. Lee and a couple of the gate techs. Siler deserved a little something for all the work he'd done after all. Oh, and he'd have to send one off to Gen. Hammond too. Landry would probably know how to get a hold of him....

Unfortunately, the flash was enough to disturb the kid and Cam had to quickly jam the little camera into his hip pocket as Danny stirred and sat up to rub at his eyes. "Hey there, Squirt!" Cam greeted him happily. "I was just thinking about getting you up. What do you want for dinner? 'Fraid it's TV dinners tonight. 'Didn't think to pick up a can opener while we were at Wal-mart."

Danny grimaced. "We got plenty of things that don't need a can opener," he grumbled, completely unaware of Cam's little foray with the camera. "How about the teriyaki chicken and a salad?"

"I ain't exactly equipped to cut no tomatoes at the moment, and you're not even going to think about it!" Cam pointed out as the kid climbed to his feet and frowned at the mess that was his room. "How about baked potatoes?"

Danny shrugged, still only half awake. Cam frowned, remembering how logy he'd been this morning. "You okay?" he asked suddenly and placed his hand on the kid's forehead, 'though if he had a fever Cam wasn't sure what he'd do. Did he even have a thermometer? He frowned harder as Danny pulled away with a scowl. "You're warm."

"I'm fine," Danny rejoined, brushing by him. "Your hands are just cold."

Cam felt his own forehead in answer and decided the kid was right. It he was running a fever it was slight. "No more nightmares or weird memory flashback stuff I need to know about?" he asked, still frowning as he followed the kid into the hall.

Danny paused beside the aquarium with a deep sigh and reached up to rub his forehead. "Just dreams," he muttered. "No fainting or screaming this time."

"You mean dream dreams, or dreams like that nightmare you had the other night? A memory?" Cam frowned, beginning to get concerned. Seemed to him Danny was having a lot of little headaches lately. He'd had one after his nightmare last night too. Question was, was it related to the memories or was the kid trying to come down with something? "I've been going over all the missions in my head but I can't remember one where Sam was being tortured and you couldn't help her. It's usually the other way around."

Danny resumed leading the way to the kitchen where he chose to hop up on a dinning room chair. "You remember that DNA machine Anubis used to create Khalek?"

Mitchell nodded as he headed to the frig. "Yeah."

"Nirti had one," Danny told him. "She used it on Sam."

Cam winced, remembering the file. "That was a nasty one. I remember...." He froze and turned to frown in sharp confusion. "You said it was a memory?"

Danny nodded and frowned at his hands, steepling his fingers as he answered. "I couldn't help her. Sorry I woke you," he apologized.

"No, I meant--" Cam shook his head. "You did say Nirti, right? The same Nirti who killed all of Cassandra Frasier's people and liked to play around with people's DNA Nirti?"

Danny glanced back over at him. "Yeah. She was trying to create a hoc'tar as the perfect host. The people she was experimenting on when we found her again wound up killing her."

Mitchell was still regarding him in obvious bewilderment. "We?" he echoed.

Danny's brows knit, bemused by the question.

"You weren't there," Mitchell insisted calmly. "Jonas Quinn went on that mission. It was during the time when you were ascended."

Danny frowned and closed his eyes, suddenly trying to recall the dream he'd been trying to forget since he woke up earlier this morning. "I was there...."

"Danny?" Mitchell was suddenly beside him, his hand was on his shoulder.

Danny looked up, his face mirroring mild surprise. "I was in trouble for helping Jack, when he was captured by Ba'al. I interfered and the Others were angry. When I tried to help Sam...."

"...What? When you tried to help Sam - what?" Mitchell asked.

"Oma pulled me away and I fought her. The Others intervened and sent me to the Void." Mitchell had thankfully woken him up before that point.

"The Void?"

Danny reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose again. "It's a place that doesn't exist - not as we know it anyway. 'Kind of like a timeout corner," he explained.

"Ascended beings have timeout corners?"

Danny dropped his hand and shrugged. "I don't know how else to explain it," he said. "It's not a place you want to go. Even the Ascended can't survive there long." He frowned in momentary confusion. "'Course, time doesn't exist there either so the concept of 'long' is a relative term."

"And ... you remember all this now?" Mitchell stated uncertainly. "I thought the memories of when you were ascended were all supposed to be wiped out?"

"Most of them," Danny corrected him. "I remember there being something with Rya'c once...."

"Teal'c's son," Mitchell remembered, nodding. "You remembered that he and Bra'tak were being held on a Goa'uld prison planet. But you didn't remember details, not like this."

"It must be the restructuring of my brain," Danny decided with a shrug and rubbed his forehead again. "I think the memories have always been there, just blocked or buried somehow and now those blocks are gone."

"The human mind can't handle that kind of information...." Mitchell noted, becoming seriously concerned.

Danny scowled and rolled his eyes. "I don't have all those memories," he argued. "I'd have been dead a long time ago if I did. Oma must have taken most of it and suppressed whatever remained."

Cam pulled out a chair and frowned pensively as he sat down. "Maybe," he allowed. "But I'm beginning to think maybe she left more than she should have. Didn't you say RepliCarter found the location of Dakara in your mind?"

"RepliCarter?" he echoed in disbelief.

Cam just shrugged. "Dakara?" he prompted.

Danny merely nodded.

"And you were the one who stopped all the replicator bugs attacking, not just Dakara but here too?"

"Only for a few seconds," he answered dismissively.

"Doesn't matter," Cam argued right back. "She hadn't killed you yet. You shouldn't have been able to do it at all - not before you were ascended."

"No. It wasn't like that," he rejoined. Danny frowned as he fought to make sense of his fractured memories. "I just ... I was in her mind the same way she was in mine. While she was busy trying to find the information she wanted in mine, I was busy trying to find the 'off switch' in hers. I didn't, but I did figure out how to make them all stop what they were doing. I don't think I could have done it if I were ascended. Even they can't be in two places at one time."

Cam sat back in the chair and crossed his arms. "I'm guessing there was a lot more than just Dakara she accessed, wasn't there?"

Danny shrugged. "Some," he admitted. "I get the feeling there was a lot at the time, but I'm not remembering it now. The Others may have striped out whatever Oma left when they sent me back the second time."

"Then you wouldn't be remembering about Sam and Nirti now, would you?" Cam pointed out and frowned yet again as Danny reached up to rub is forehead once more. "You've got another headache, don't you."

He didn't make it a question and Danny just grimaced unhappily. "So? I already told you; if I had all the knowledge of the Ancients suddenly unspooling in my head, I'd be dead by now. I'm fine."

"Dr. Warner said you dog-scan was too active the other day."

Danny blinked in utter confusion for a long second. "'You mean 'Cat-scan?'"

Cam scowled. "No," he refuted. "God knows I've had enough of those things to know what they are. It wasn't a CT and it wasn't an MRI. The other one they did."

It took the kid a long moment to figure it out. "PET scan?"

"Yeah, that one," Cam agreed.

Danny could only shrug. "I'm fine!" he insisted.

"Except you keep getting headaches."

"Not always," Danny argued. "And if you had weird bits and pieces of memories suddenly popping back into your head at all hours of the day and night, you'd probably get headaches too." He crossed his arms to mirror Cam's posture, frowning fiercely.

"Maybe," the other man admitted. "I'm still going to call Lam about it."

Danny offered the suggestion a long-suffering groan, reverting to typical five year old dramatics in the blink of an eye. "I don't want to go back to the Infirmary!" he whined.

"Who said anything about taking you back to the Infirmary?" Cam asked and scooted his chair away from the table. It was time to get that dinner started. "I figure if the memories ain't killed you yet, you'll be fine 'til tomorrow, but I do want to touch base with her about it." He paused to frown over his shoulder. "The headaches aren't getting any worse, are they?"

"No," Danny assured him with another deep sigh. "I'm fine!"

Cam wasn't so sure about that but the kid was acting normal - well, normal for him - and he didn't think getting him upset was the smartest way to deal with everything. Lam could always order different when he called her and then she'd be the bad guy. If not, then, well he'd be right in not pushing, wouldn't he? "We're both scheduled to see her tomorrow anyway," Cam noted and popped the freezer open to pull out the frozen chicken teriyaki bag. "Oooo! I forgot we had pirogies. Sound good?"

"With teriyaki chicken?" Danny asked and then shrugged. "Why not."
* * *

Part 31

Cam rolled his eyes at the fact that the first thing his mother wanted to know about was his love life! "The Snow Bunnies tend to congregate in Aspen, Ma." The door bell interrupted them. "Hang on. Someone's at the door."

"'Kay, hon," his mother assured him even as he rose and headed for the door. "We'll wait."

"'Don't need to wait," he corrected her. "It's a cordless phone. Uh...." He quickly checked the peep hole and then frowned at the security system. "Hang on, 'gotta put you down a sec." He put the phone on the side table, then quickly punched in the disarm code and unlocked the door.

"Hi Doc, come on in. Danny's in his room; second door on the right." He indicated the hall with his head even as he swung the door shut behind his visitor and reached for the phone again. 'Looked like it was a cold one out there tonight. "Be there in a few. Got my parents on the line.

"I'm back. Sorry 'bout that. Only have one hand at present," he explained, "and before you panic Ma, it's nothing. Just sprained my wrist, that's all."

"How'd you sprain your wrist?" his father asked even as his mother asked. "Did you say 'Hi Doc?' Are you in the hospital again?"

"No, Ma," he assured her, returning Lam's amused glance with a patented roll of his eyes as she shrugged out of her coat and then turned away to seek out his charge. "I tripped over my own clumsy feet a few days ago 's'all. I'm sittin' at home. In fact, I've got a new place, at least for a little while, and need to give y'all a new number for me." He had to wonder what the rent would sky-rocket to after Daniel was returned to his adult-self. He was quite certain the SGC had pulled some strings to get it in a price range he could actually afford. 'Course, he didn't need anything nearly this big if it was just him anyway. "The old number didn't transfer. Got a pen and paper?"

He watched as Lam gently knocked on Danny's door and received a soft 'come!' Suspecting the kid would be less than pleasantly surprised at his visitor, Cam quickly turned away to the living room to finish briefing his parents about everything that was happening in his life - or at least the version of everything he felt safe in telling them.
* * *

Danny looked up from the book he was reading and froze as he saw Dr. Lam enter his room. "What are you doing here?" shot out of his mouth before he could even think about phrasing the question more diplomatically.

A perfectly arched eyebrow winged upward even as an amused twinkle danced in her dark eyes. "I'm glad to see you too, Daniel," she offered, carefully correct. "I'm doing fine, and you?"

Danny knew a gentle rebuke when he heard one and winced. "Sorry," he told her as he sat up on the bed and put the book aside.

Lam stepped forward and glanced around. "Wow!" she offered quietly, surprised by the desert mural taking up one full wall. "This is nice."

Danny glanced at the mural and then back at her. He simply nodded as he bit his lip and silently cursed Mitchell. He'd said he was fine! The stupid headache was even gone.

"So..." Lam sighed and turned back to him. "I take it you didn't know Col. Mitchell called me?"

Danny had to fight the urge to roll his eyes. "He said he was going to call, not ask you to stop over," he explained. "I'm fine. Really!"

"For the record," Lam corrected him, "he didn't ask me to stop over. I offered. You happen to be on my way home. I only live about three blocks from here."

Danny wasn't sure he liked the idea of living that close to her. She'd be checking up on him every time he turned around! "Well, you didn't have to. I'm fine," he repeated. "Even the headache's gone."

She nodded pensively and moved to snag his desk chair. "'Mind if I sit down?" she asked. "It's been a long day. SG-6 came back with some kind of alien contact dermatitis that had us implementing full isolation procedures. 'Doesn't appear serious, but I'm not one to take chances." Danny had simply nodded in answer to her question and she sank down with a grateful sigh. "My feet thank you. So," she continued, easily switching gears, "Tell me about this headache you said is gone now. Mitchell claims you've been getting a lot of them lately. 'That true?"

Danny sighed and felt his shoulders slump in dejection. He just knew he was going to end up back at the mountain tonight!
* * *

"'You ever remember me talking about a Robert Young maybe? Probably not." Cam answered himself, knowing of course that he hadn't. He hated having to lie to his parents, but there were times - like this - when there just wasn't any other choice. "He and I were best buds when I was with Test Flight out at Nellis."

"Doing all the super-secret hush-hush still-can't-tell-us-about-it stuff," his father supplied. His father was a retired test pilot himself, so he knew the score and didn't push, but that didn't mean he couldn't tease his son.

"You got it," Cam agreed. "Anyway, him and me, we were close, you know? I mean really, really close and, ah.... We were ... like brothers," he specified. "Like me and Benny, you know?"

"You and your brother used to fight like cats and dogs," his mother reminded him. "When's the last time you called him?"

"His birthday!" Cam quickly defended himself. That had only been a couple of months ago. "We're different, Ma. He's all into his art stuff and finances, and I'm ... well..." He grimaced, deciding he really didn't need to point out how different he and Benjamin were to his parents. "I'm not. Anyway, my friend Robert, um ... I guess you'd say we were closer than me and Benny."

"Cam?" his father interrupted with a suddenly tense and very serious note in his voice. "Are you trying to tell us you're gay?"

"What!?" he exclaimed in utter shock and disbelief. "No! No, Dad. No. God, No. Definitely, irrevocably and absolutely ... just no!"

"Really?" his mother came on the line, a very amused note in her voice for his rather more than adamant response. "You're friend Kenny Folks is going to be disappointed. He came out of the closet about a year ago."

"No!" Cam repeated staunchly, upset at the idea that his parents could possibly.... Not that being gay was a bad thing. You know, he was all for 'don't ask, don't tell' and letting everyone live their own lives, blah blah blah.... 'Just, the idea of-- "No!" he repeated yet again. Guys were definitely not his thing.

His mother actually offered a soft chuckle, apparently far less freaked out by the thought than he was. "We heard you the first time, Cam."

"Yeah, well, you know...." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he reigned his reaction in. He didn't know why he'd reacted that strongly. "Kenny's cool and can do whatever he wants, but if he makes a pass at me at our class reunion next year, I'll deck him," he offered, trying to make light of the situation.

His father decided to change the subject. "You were talking about your other friend, Robert-- What did you say his name was?"

"Young," Cam answered, only to happy to return to his previous line of thought. "Lt. Col. Robert Young. So anyway, um, he has this five year old son, named Danny and, uh, there was this accident a few weeks ago...." Damn, why was he stammering over this so much? It wasn't like he hadn't had to repeat the thing more than once over the last few days. "And, um ... well, his mother was killed."

"Oh, no!" his mother exclaimed softly, her maternal instinct automatically responding to the tragic tale. "The poor thing!"

"Yeah." Cam sighed, really hating the fact that he was upsetting his mother with a lie. He decided he needed to get through the telling of this quickly. Fast and painless, right? "There's more. Unfortunately, Robert is MIA over in Iraq, and.... Well, they both asked me if I'd take care of Danny should anything happen to them, so ... I'm his temporary guardian until our people can find and extract his dad."

"Temporary guardian?" his father echoed in surprise. Any thought of further teasing was instantly banished. "Cam, that's.... Do you know what your getting into? I mean--"

"--It's a lot to take on; yeah, I know; but, like I said, Robert and I were close and Danny's a great kid, Dad. We never expected anything like this to happen. You know how Test Pilots are - we're immortal! But ... it did, and the kid needs me."

"He has no other family?"

"Um, not really," Cam hedged. "An uncle in DC. I actually know the guy. He's a big-wig Air Force general in charge of some pentagon level super-secret hush-hush organization over there. You know the type, Dad. The guy's always busy fightin' fires and traveling all over the world. That's no life for a five year old."

"And crashing with a bachelor who's an experimental UAV test pilot and could be reassigned anywhere in the world at a moment's notice is better?" his father asked pointedly.

"It's not like there aren't any single parent families in the Air Force, Dad," Cam deftly pointed out. "This posting is a Special Duty Assignment. The military might not know what a permanent duty station really is, but they do know Special Experience Identifiers and Security Clearance requirements. I'm not in any danger of being reassigned anytime soon. So, yeah, it is better."

"And what happens to the boy while you're at work, let alone TDY?"

"It's all taken care of, Dad," he replied patiently. "The Air Force requires single parent members to file a dependent care plan or separate from service. I may not be his parent, but I am taking legal responsibility for him. And I'm not separating. At the moment, I'm on medical leave because of the wrist. When I go back, the base has a special day care program with extended hours. And I have more than one person lined up as a secondary care giver if needed, including the CMO and general in charge of the base! You don't have to worry that I'm not taking this serious. I am - but with any luck his father will be home before we know it and we can chalk this all up to a learning experience."

"'Sounds like his father must be someone special," his dad noted.

"Yeah," Cam answered, thinking of the adult Dr. Jackson and not the fictitious Lt. Col. Young. 'Special' was definitely a good description for the guy.... "Yeah, he is."

"And if he's dead?" his father continued bluntly.

"Danny's uncle has stated he'd retire if that's the case," Cam answered. Somehow the 'near truth' sounded damn cold to him. "It's not like the guy doesn't want him, but that's a bridge we'll cross when we get to it. Look, I've only had him with me a few days now. We're still getting everything figured out, but it'll be okay. Trust me. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could handle it."

He cringed, glad they couldn't see him. That had to be the biggest whopper of his entire life!

"I'm sure you can, hon," his mother assured him. "You're so good with your sisters' kids."

"Babysittin' and taking care of a kid full time are two very different things," his father pointed out.

"I'm quite sure he knows that, dear," his mother quickly defended him. "You don't get to be a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force without knowing what the word 'responsibility' means. He'll be fine!" she insisted. "And we'll be here to help if he needs it," she added. "Five year old Danny Young just got himself a pair of very experienced grandparents as well as a temporary father. We'll be expecting you to bring him with you the next time you come visit - in fact, given you're on medical leave at the moment, why don't you come and visit us again now? We haven't seen you since Christmas. The farm would be the perfect place for a child who's hurting."

"The medical leave ain't going to last that long, Ma," Cam quickly replied, wincing at the idea of Danny having to constantly act the part of a normal five year old for his parent's sakes. "I have an appointment with the doc tomorrow and with any luck she'll clear me for light duty starting Tuesday or Wednesday."
* * *

What had looked like an ordinary leather laptop case had turned out to be Lam's portable med-kit - complete with laptop. Danny struggled to sit still as she insisted on taking his vitals.

"You're just going to do this all again tomorrow, aren't you?" he asked when she removed the thermometer from his mouth.

"Probably!" she agreed with an amused smirk. Then proceeded to check his ears, nose, throat and eyes. "Do you have any idea how much I normally charge for a house call like this?" she teased him. He just sighed, repeating yet again that he was fine. She ignored him, listening to his chest and even his stomach; then checked his reflexes. When she was finally done, she sat back and folded her arms, regarding him with a pensive frown.

He folded his arms as well, copying her body position to a tee. "Find anything?" he asked, hoping like crazy she'd say no and that he didn't have to bother stopping by the infirmary tomorrow either.

No such luck.

"Maybe," she answered. "You are running a slight fever...."

He let out a sigh that was more than half whimper as he threw himself back against his pillows. "I don't want to go back to the infirmary!" he whined.

"Not tonight," Lam decided, much to his surprise. "It's too cold to bundle you up and haul you back to the mountain for nothing more than a possible head cold. I'll want to run a full battery of blood tests tomorrow and probably hook you up to that Khalek device we got stored somewhere. 'Hope they haven't shipped it off to area 51 yet. I don't like giving repeated PET scans and I suspect Khalek's device would tell us more anyway."

Danny rolled his eyes, dreading the day ahead she was painting. "But Sam's coming back tomorrow!" he whined again, and it was most definitely a full-out whine this time. He didn't care what he sounded like; he absolutely did not want to miss Sam getting back!

"And you'll be right there to greet her," Lam promised. "I'll be slapping her, as well as the rest of the survivors, into Isolation. Asgard technology and Odyssey's scans not-withstanding, I won't be clearing any of them until I'm more than certain they aren't bringing anything back with them."

"The Odyssey would be overrun by now if any of the bugs got on board," he pointed out.

"Did I say anything about bugs?" Lam asked. "Standard procedure, Daniel. They've been off-world and exposed to an alien environment for an extended time. They were beamed right into isolation on the Odyssey so I know they don't have any bugs, but the Odyssey's sickbay isn't quite as good as the Infirmary. Twenty-four hours in observation isn't going to hurt any of them - or keep you from welcoming Sam back home."

"Through an observation window," he groused unhappily.

Lam lifted a censorious eyebrow as he continued to whine. "Did you take a nap this afternoon?"

"Yes," he sighed. Well, it wasn't a planned nap per-se, but she didn't need to know that.


"Yes," he sighed again, exasperated.

"Something other than pizza?"

He quickly rattled off their dinner menu. It had been a little eclectic but she couldn't fault them on nutrition. "No coffee, tea, coke or chocolate," he added, just for good measure.

"Ah!" she observed with mock-wisdom. "So that's why you're cranky."
* * *

Cam watched as the paper caught and the flames quickly spread to the bed of kindling he'd laid beneath a couple of small cedar logs. It would only last a couple of hours, but the fireplace was more for show than actual heat anyway. He deftly closed the fire screen and stepped back to enjoy the soft glow and gentle crackling along with Dr. Lam and Danny as they all sipped hot chocolate.

"The one thing that's got me worried about all of this, Doc," Cam frowned down at his drink as he continued their discussion, "is the fact that he's remembering things he shouldn't remember."

"Danny pretty much explained that, Colonel," Lam answered, hiding her careful study of the boy behind a relaxed and casual demeanor. "His theory that the memories have always been there but the blocks are now gone fits quite well with what I've already told you about the restructuring of his brain."

Cam nodded and moved to resume his seat at the other end of the sofa beside Danny, who was sitting next to the fish tank. "That's not what I meant," he corrected her. "It's not so much what he's remembering - though you know, yeah, that is a bit freaky. No, my big concern is about who might find out about 'em. 'You have any idea what Woolsey and his gang might do if they thought the kid here had the location to another weapon like Dakara buried in his head?"

"The kid is right here, Mitchell," Danny commented without turning from his contemplation of the fish.

Mitchell offered the back of his head a grimace before continuing. "I'm just saying, I don't think we need to be letting anyone know who doesn't need to know. You know?"

His overuse of the word 'know' won him a reflexive frown.

"He's probably right," Lam decided, addressing and including Daniel in the discussion. "Someone may have already been thinking along those lines when they suggested all those memory tests. I might not be able to shut them down a second time if there were any proof you still retain more than the vaguest memories of your time with the Ascended."

"So we're agreed then?" Cam asked pointedly. "The exact nature of Danny's memories and dreams stays off the record. And I think we need to rethink the idea of having him talk to a shrink too for the same reason."

"We can't rethink that one." Lam shook her head. "The IOA would never buy it. I have to have someway of generating the occasional report to keep them happy. They have legitimate concerns and questions."

"The only thing they're worried about is how I can help Earth in the fight against the Ori," Danny declared dispassionately. Frowning, he scooted over toward Cam and, to Cam's surprise, climbed into his lap. He was looking a little tense and frightened.

Damn, Cam thought. He hadn't even considered how the discussion must sound from the kid's point of view. Danny had very little control over anything that happened to him at present. The idea of being handed over to the NID or whatever had to be more than a little scary.

Cam shifted his sling and wrapped his good arm around the boy, settling him against his chest as he quickly moved to reassure him. "Don't worry, Danny," Cam told him firmly. "No one's getting their filthy mitts on you while I'm around. I'd call Thor and have him take you to Orilla before I'd let anything like that happen to you, and don't you think for a minute one Gen. Jack O'Neill and everyone else at the SGC wouldn't be right there beside me." He glanced up at Lam. "He's still got that tracking device we all got last month, right?"

Lam nodded.

"See?" he told the kid. "I couldn't misplace you even if I wanted too."

Danny simply nodded his head and settled it against Cam's chest. Cam wasn't at all sure he'd managed to reassure the kid - he could be painfully hard to read sometimes - but he didn't know what else to say.

"I think it's about time I headed home and someone else got ready for bed," Lam suddenly decided, finishing off her cacao and unabashedly licking her lips. "Thanks for the chocolate," she grinned. "It was the perfect aperitif for the day."

Cam returned her grin and, with only a slight nudge, got Danny to sit up and scoot off his lap so he could stand. "Eh, so-so," he corrected her. "A shot of peppermint schnapps would have made it perfect."

She chuckled as she headed for the kitchen to drop off her mug. "Evil, Colonel," she told him. "Now I'm tempted to pick some up on the way home, but I'll have to resist. I have a staff meeting at six tomorrow morning."

"Ouch!" Cam winced in sympathy, "Why so early?"

"It's usually nice and quiet early in the mornings and we can actually get things done," she answered. "Unless a team comes in hot of course; but with SG-1 on stand down, we should be safe."

Cam shot her a look for the backhanded insult as he handed over her coat. "You'd best watch what you say Doc, if you ever want to have hot chocolate with us again!" he claimed in mock-affront.

She grinned unrepentantly, then glanced down at Danny who was standing beside the Colonel and offered him a wink. "Threatening to withhold chocolate from the woman who's due to give you a physical in the morning is not exactly smart, Colonel," she warned teasingly.

Cam offered the thought a mock gasp and slapped his forehead. "Now I've gone and done it," he decided. "I'll be howling for mercy before noon!"

"Noon?" she echoed malevolently as she slipped on the coat. "'You think you can last that long?"

"Probably not," he admitted, "but if I'm still there for lunch, I'll definitely be a goner."

That won him another chuckle as he escorted her to the door.

"You do know it's the exact same food they serve in the Mess Hall, don't you?" she commented, pulling on her gloves and digging a stocking cap out of her pocket.

"Yeah, someone tried to tell me that once before," he claimed, disarming the alarm and waiting for her to get buttoned up before even thinking about opening the door. The censor above the alarm panel said it was all of twenty-eight degrees out there. "Something must happen to it before it reaches the Infirmary though. I'm thinking there's some sort of alien technology in the dinner trays that actually sucks all the flavor out of the food before the patients get it."

Lam snorted. "I'll have to remember that one for the next time someone complains," she decided. "Thanks again, Colonel." Her eyes dropped to his miniature shadow. "You get away from the door before he opens it." She lifted her gaze to Mitchell's again as Danny rolled his eyes and, with a wave, headed for the bathroom. "Keep an eye on that fever and make sure you bundle him up well before heading out in the morning, but I think he'll be fine. You know how to reach me if you need anything."

"Thanks, Doc," he told her, grateful that she hadn't seen the need to cart Danny off to the mountain again and that she was trusting him to keep an eye on the kid until morning. He glanced over her shoulder to make sure Danny was safely out of earshot. He hadn't felt really safe talking freely with him constantly underfoot this evening. "So, the memories don't worry you?" he asked, wanting to be sure she hadn't held anything back.

"A little," she admitted, "but there's not much I can do about them. Khalek's device will tell us more."

"Ascend-o-meter," Cam corrected her and ignored her lifted brow. "Hey! Even Carter liked it!"

Lam fought to suppress a smirk, remembering how his teammate had actually been a little jealous of the name. "It'll tell us more," she repeated. "Call me if you notice any neurological changes, otherwise I'll see you both tomorrow. Good night, Colonel."

He swung the door open and ignored the cold breeze which immediately invaded the foyer. "'Night, Doc," he answered. "Drive safe." And then he was closing the door and she was gone. Offering the lingering breath of cold air a mild shiver, Cam reactivated the alarm and turned from the door. The sound of water running had him scowling as he hurried to the bathroom to remind his pint-sized ward that he wasn't big enough to draw his own bath, no matter how many Ph.D.s he had!
* * *

Part 32

Danny fidgeted and squirmed and generally felt as if he was trapped while the technician finished getting him hooked up to the device. The chair had quite definitely not been designed with a child in mind. He was sitting on a couple of infirmary pillows to boost him up a bit and a heavy Velcro strap was being used to secure his torso, instead of the padded metal brackets which had been designed to hold Khalek's arms and legs.

He remembered Khalek and he remembered killing him. He didn't much like it.

Lam insisted that the strap was just to hold him secure in case he had another violent flashback while they were using the device, but Danny knew it was actually because they weren't a hundred percent sure how it worked. Ostensibly, it was designed to scan a test subject's brain and feed that information back to the DNA manipulation device they'd originally found it attached to - and that's how they'd used it with Khalek, to scan his evolving brain and convert the information to their own computer systems - but the device was still of alien construction. It could be doing more than they realized. Unlikely, he knew, or they wouldn't be risking him in it - but that was the real reason for the security strap, even if Lam didn't want to admit it.

The technician frowned as he continued to try and position the scanner above Daniel's head. "I think I've got it," he finally decided, stepping back and turning it on.

In the chair, Danny stiffened. "Whoa," he offered quietly.

"Daniel?" Lam offered in immediate alarm as she turned from her read outs to regard her patient.

"Uh, feels weird," he told her calmly. "Like a ... buzzing almost."

"It doesn't hurt?" she asked specifically.

"No." He shook his head. The feeling didn't change. "Just weird. I'm fine."

Mitchell frowned sharply in concern. "Khalek never said anything about a 'buzzing?'"

"Khalek was probably used to it." Lam turned back to her instruments as Mitchell stepped forward to squeeze Danny's hand.

"You're doing great, kiddo," he whispered reassuringly.

"Just relax, Daniel," Lam told him. "We'll be done in just a second...."

They'd promised him the test itself wouldn't take more than a couple of minutes. He frowned and tried to see past the technician's broad shoulders where he was blocking the main monitor. Mitchell had a better angle than he did and cocked his head to the side as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

"That don't look anything like Khalek's reading," he noted with a frown.

"Khalek is exactly what we don't want to see, Colonel," Lam assured him and pressed a couple of buttons

"What's all this red up in here mean?" He pointed at something Danny couldn't see. "I thought Carter said the red parts were only supposed to be like five or ten percent?"

"Those are memory centers," Lam explained. "It quite possible we're simply detecting increased neural activity due to his brain's attempts to access the information."

"And over here?"




Mitchell rolled his eyes. "'Ain't got a clue what either of those mean, Doc."

"They're both involved with memory storage."

The technician finally shifted a little and Danny got a glimpse at the monitor. He frowned again. That was definitely more than ten percent....

"This is the area I'm concerned about." She pointed to a dark red region deep in the middle of his brain. "This is the thalamus and hypothalamus. Among the many things the hypothalamus does is regulate body temperature."

"Is that why he's running a fever?"

"Possibly..." she allowed pensively. "The blood tests I ran earlier indicated slightly elevated leukocytes which would indicate a mild infection, though I haven't found anything specific. It's possible we may simply be seeing his brain's normal response to a head cold...."

"And the other part?"

"The thalamus," she repeated. "It's basically the sensory switchboard for the brain. All sensory input, except olfactory, goes through it. I can't imagine why either of them are apparently so active - ' though it's not as much as the Hippocampus and Amygdala. ...And bearing in mind, of course, that much of our understanding of the human brain is still fairly basic."

"So they might have something to do with memory we just don't know about?" Cam suggested.

Lam could only shrug as she took a few more 'pictures'. "Any thing's possible, Colonel," she said. "Basically, all I can tell at this point is that something strange is going on and I don't find any physiological reasons for it."

"Meaning no brain tumors or anything super-scary like that, right?"

"Right," she agreed with a nod and turned to frown at the boy trapped in the chair. "Your brain is being somewhat more active than I'd like," she told him simply. "Nothing drastic like we saw with Khalek. You're not evolving into an Ancient on us and are a long way from being anywhere near ascending again so you don't need to worry about that - but you are showing about ten percent more neural activity than normal. Given what's happened to you, I am not overly alarmed - yet - but I do want to monitor you more closely."

Danny let out a groan and closed his eyes, throwing his head back against the padding of the chair.

"Danny!" Cam was instantly alarmed, misinterpreting his reaction as physical pain.

He opened sad and frustrated eyes. "I don't want to go back to the Infirmary!" he repeated his sad lament of the last two days.

"You keep saying that," Lam told him patiently, "and I keep telling you I didn't say anything about the Infirmary, did I?"

He dared cast her a hopeful look.

"Frankly, even if I knew exactly what was going on, there isn't a lot we could do for you," she explained with an unhappy frown. "There are a number of psychotropic drugs we can try if your condition worsens - but which are not yet warranted in my book. They can have some rather nasty side effects. For now, all you need is some acetaminophen for the headaches and fever - 'though I'm not sure how effective it's going to be. Col. Mitchell can do that much for you at home. As long as neither gets any worse - or you begin to experience other neurological deficits such as dizziness, blurred vision or hallucinations - I see no reason to confine you to the Infirmary. However, I do want daily blood labs and checks with the 'ascend-o-meter', as the colonel so colorfully named it. I seem to recall reading that Cassandra Fraiser suffered from unexplainable fever too as part of the genetic manipulation Nirti did to her people in her quest to create a hoc'tar. You don't have any psychic abilities about to manifest on me, do you?"

Danny frowned in confusion.

"If I remember that file right, wasn't Cassandra Fraiser's fever dangerously high, Doc?" Cam asked, frowning as well. "You said Danny's barely even qualified as a fever!"

"True," she agreed readily. "That doesn't mean whatever was happening to her wasn't affecting the same part of the brain as is being affected in Daniel. They didn't have your handy-dandy ascend-o-meter back then to monitor her."

Danny remembered Cassie. He remembered Jack giving her a dog, and he remembered her being sick. "There was a bomb in her chest," he corrected them in confusion. "Not her head."

"Wrong file, Squirt," Cam answered. "'Few years later. Nirti programed some kind of retrovirus that had her evolving - kinda - and she started acting all weird and moving stuff around with her mind. Y'all went back to her planet and Nirti followed you back with one of her invisibility cloaks. Janet Fraiser wound up pulling a gun on her and threatening to blow her away if she didn't help Cassie." He cocked his head to the side. "Ringing any bells?"

Danny was frowning as he automatically tried to find the memory Mitchell was referring to. "...A glowing green hand print on a tree..."

"Yup!" Mitchell nodded happily. "Triggered a fire and then rings came up and swept whoever was there off to Nirti's lab."

Danny nodded and winced, reaching up to rub at his forehead even as the memory quickly unfolded for him.

Lam frowned and glanced at the monitors, as Cam frowned and reached out to rest his hand on Danny's shoulder. "Headache?" he asked curtly.

Danny nodded and shrugged at the same time, then glanced at Lam. "She used telekinesis to control her fever," he noted - then glanced around the room and concentrated on a pen he saw lying by his chart.

The adults glanced from his obviously furrowed brow back to the monitors, but there wasn't so much as a blip.

The pen didn't budge either.

"Nope!" he told them happily. He had enough problems without having to worry about psychic abilities.

Lam nodded. "Let's hope it stays that way," she decided and glanced at his monitors again pensively. "You ... just now remembered that didn't you? The memory of Cassie being sick and all...."

Danny nodded. "But it wasn't a flashback like Janet or Replicator Carter," he told her.

Lam nodded. "I think your mind is starting to learn how to deal with the memories better now." She frowned harder. "But we saw a definite increase in neural activity there for a few seconds and your fever spiked as well. Not much," she amended as both Danny and Cam frowned in sudden concern, "but the returning memories definitely seem to be tied into the fever."

Cam and Danny both glanced at the monitors, Cam finding the temperature readout faster than Danny. "Looks like it's coming back down, Doc," Cam noted as it dropped from 100.4 to 100.2 as they watched.

She nodded. "The hippocampus may be stimulating the hypothalamus somehow which would account for the fever...." The readout dropped back to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, where it had been before. "It would be nice if I could simply tell you not to remember anything for a while --" She chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully. "--but something tells me you wouldn't listen."

"I can't control it," he protested.

She smiled wanly and gently brushed a few strands of long hair from his eyes. "I know, honey," she sighed. "I know."

"Knocking him out wouldn't do any good either," Cam noted. "He just remembers stuff in his dreams."

"Well, if we had too, I could put him in a chemically induced coma," Lam replied. "No dreams - but I'm a long way from being ready to go there just yet. As I said earlier, all this might just be a natural result of the rather drastic changes his body has undergone. We really don't know how it's going to impact him." She turned her eyes to Danny. "But we do know your body - and brain - are still adapting. Fighting it could actually do more harm than good at this point."

Mitchell glanced up. "But you're still going to monitor it just to be safe, right?"


The door of the isolation room where the 'ascend-o-meter' had been set up suddenly opened to admit Teal'c. He offered the group a calm nod before announcing, "The Odyssey has arrived."
* * *

Part 33

Danny knelt on the chair and sighed impatiently. He wasn't good at waiting. He didn't think he'd ever been good at waiting. He wasn't sure about that but he was pretty sure he'd always had a problem with it. Or maybe it was Jack he was remembering?

No, maybe not. He remembered Jack telling him not to be impatient before. Of course, he remembered Jack being impatient plenty of times too, but usually there was a reason for it. No, he was pretty sure it was boredom Jack had trouble with, not patience.

He glanced over his shoulder and up at Col. Mitchell, remembering him say that patience wasn't his 'strong suit' either.

Catching Danny's look, the man glanced at Teal'c and then gazed at his watch again. "Five minutes on the dot," he announced.

Danny frowned in confusion.

"Well ... not on the dot," Mitchell amended, frowning at his watch and tapping it. "You know, give or take a few seconds. I didn't note the start time that closely."

"Start time?" Danny asked.

It was Teal'c who answered. "Since last you asked what was taking them so long," he explained sagaciously. Cam just grinned, shrugged and folded his arms.

Danny rolled his eyes. "I didn't ask," he specified. He'd been thinking about it, but he hadn't voiced it!

"Your eyes did," Mitchell answered, undeterred. "They were quite clear. They said, 'Mitchell' - just like that, like you do - 'Mitchell,' they said. 'What's taking Sam so long?' Yep," he nodded, glancing at Teal'c for confirmation. "Clear as a bell."


Danny sighed. Teal'c, of course, had no idea what the word impatience even meant.

"They'll be here when they're here," Mitchell continued smoothly, ignoring whatever Danny's eyes might be telling him now. "Lam warned us it would be a little while. 'Gotta do the MRI and whatnot first, 'though you know, I'm with you there: seems more than a little redundant. Hey!" His eyes shot up as movement in the isolation room beyond caught his attention. Danny quickly turned around in time to see the door open. "See?" he claimed easily. " 'Told you they wouldn't get lost."

Sam followed the nurse in and immediately glanced up at the observation room window, grinning and lifting a hand to wave as she spotted them.

"Sam!" Danny greeted her enthusiastically - before remembering he had to depress the switch on the microphone. "Sam!" he repeated, pulling the flexible unit down to his mouth. "I missed you. Are you okay? You had us scared!"

The three women in the other room jumped and winced as the boy's over-modulated voice screeched at them. Cam quickly bent forward to readjust the volume control. Danny must have been playing with it while they were waiting and he hadn't noticed. He grabbed the mic from the kid and pressed the talk button. "Sorry, 'bout that," he apologized. Releasing the talk button, he quickly told Danny not to touch the controls and reminded him that he didn't need to try to eat the microphone in order to speak into it. Four or five inches would work a lot better.

"Hey, Danny," Sam called back even as she climbed into the hospital bed and handed the various leads and wires she was trailing to one of the two nurses who'd accompanied her. "I'm fine. Good to be home. Cam, what happened to you?"

Danny glanced over to Mitchell where he was still sporting his sling, 'though he'd been allowed to get rid of the brace. "This?" the man asked rhetorically, lifting it in question. "Just a sprain. Had a little altercation with a chair in the VIP room. Don't worry; I definitely look better than it does."

Sam grinned. "Won the battle, did ya?"

"I'd say I definitely came out on top." He glanced down and offered Danny a wry wink as the boy found himself inexplicably grinning over the memory of the lieutenant colonel laying atop a pile of newly formed kindling. It hadn't been funny at the time.

"Something tells me, I don't want to know," Sam declared, foregoing any further questions about it.

"We got you a welcome back gift," Danny offered, changing the subject and taking the microphone back, "but Dr. Lam says we have to wait to give it to you."

"Hopefully, that won't be very long," Sam replied.

"So...." Cam wagged his eyebrows and offered a dramatic shudder. "Bugs, huh?"

She winced and glanced away, pretending to watch the nurses as they hooked her up to the various monitors located around the bed. "I'd rather not talk about it," she admitted. "I've already finished my report and will make sure you get a copy."

Cam frowned, foregoing any thought of further teasing. "That bad, huh?" he asked quietly.

She glanced back up and Danny noted how her eyes darted to him before returning to Mitchell and Teal'c. "Not really," she lied. "It wasn't any fun but we've been in worse situations."

In other words, it wasn't something a five year old needed to hear - even if he wasn't really five years old. Danny wasn't sure whether to be angry about that, or grateful....

"Uh huh," was all Cam said before abruptly changing the subject. "Well, you're just going to have to come over to the snazzy new place Gen. Landry finagled for me and Danny here, after Lam releases you, and let us pamper you properly. The master bath has this huge sunken jacuzzi tub that is just the perfect thing for making you forget about the last few days."

"OOo, really...?" Sam was immediately intrigued and grinned. "Sounds like you'll need a crowbar to get me out of it!"
* * *

Mr. Lord leaned forward in his high backed office chair and folded his hands in practiced precision on his desk. Anyone who knew him would recognize it as a definite danger signal - along with the irritated smile that was at odds with the hard glint of his eyes. He was careful not to let them flash.

"You killed him," he repeated calmly. "Why?"

"He refused to deal," the minion across from him explained. "You said to do whatever was necessary."

"To get the land," Mr. Lord specified. "Which now we can't because you hid the body and the man has been declared missing."

The other shrugged. " 'Just a matter of time," he nodded. "The son will be much more reasonable than the father."

"Seven years from now," Mr. Lord stated coolly. "State law requires a seven year waiting period before a missing person can be officially declared dead. I'm an impatient man. I do not wish to wait seven years."

"He was threatening to go to the cops as it was!" the other protested. "He didn't give me a lot of choice."

"Oh, there were choices," Mr. Lord rejoined sedately, steepling his fingers and shaking his head sadly. "You were just too incompetent to see them."

A glance and a nod was all that was needed. The polarized glass of his forty-second story office window hid the brief flash of a zat being fired.

Ba'al allowed his eyes to flash in anger as he turned to a guard. "Find out where he dumped the body and then kill him. Make sure he's found not too far away, with evidence to link him to it. A cut and dried robbery that went bad." A murder would only cost them a few months, rather than years. He turned to his secretary. "Reassign the Stewart file to Mason."

She simply nodded and wrote herself the appropriate memo. A wave of his wrist dismissed her.

He turned from the sight of his guards wrestling his already forgotten employee out and offered his other visitor a somewhat more pleasant smile. "It's so hard to find good help now a days," he lamented. "Please tell me you come bearing some fashion of good news. I fear I have used up what little patience I had today."

The beautiful long-haired blond knew better than to beat around the bush. "Our people are in place to move on Jackson whenever you give the word," she answered. She offered up a USB memory stick for his perusal: the latest report from their mole in the SGC.

He took it without comment and plugged it into his computer. A few deft keystrokes allowed him to skim quickly through its contents. "Still no word from the Tok'ra or the Asgard," he noted with a smile. "As I expected, the answer eludes them. So simple.... Not that they could make it work even if they did understand it."

He transferred the data to a specially encrypted file and wiped the flash drive.

"Still, I suppose I really should test my theory before promising help I can't deliver...." He turned from his computer to depress the intercom switch beside his phone. "Sylvia?"

"Yes, m'Lord," she answered smoothly. She only used m'Lord if it were completely safe to talk.

"Book me and Mar'tak on the next available flight to Colorado Springs. I have an old friend I need to pay a visit."
* * *

Part 34

Danny frowned and tugged at the tie again. He hated clip ons. The metal clip felt weird and they never laid right. The kid ones were too short.

"Stop fidgeting," Cam told him. "You look fine."

Danny cast a glance over his friend's uniform; class A blues with full 'fruit salad' as Jack liked to call it. He didn't remember what any of the ribbons stood for but knew Mitchell must have done something important to earn each one. He did recognize the Command Pilot and Parachutist Badges above the ribbons.

"It's not there," Mitchell told him simply.

Danny blinked and frowned in confusion.

"The Congressional Medal of Honor Ribbon," Cam answered the look. "You asked me about that when you were older, remember?"

He didn't.

"The award isn't official," he explained. "I've only been nominated for it, just like Sam and Jack and at least a dozen others here have. The SGC is too secret for the actual story to be put before Congress for approval. Until the Stargate program is made public, the nominations have to remain sealed."

Danny nodded

"You're the only one who's ever won an award for all this stuff," Cam added.

"Me?" he asked in surprise.

"Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction," Cam nodded and explained. "It's the highest civilian award there is and doesn't have to go before Congress for approval. 'Don't suppose you know where it is, do you?"

Danny had a brief sharp flash of a red, white and blue enameled star surrounded with gold eagles on a blue ribbon with white edging in a display case.... "I think it's at my apartment."

Mitchell nodded as if that's what he'd expected. "Too bad," he decided. There wasn't time to get it before the memorial started. "This sort of thing would have been a good time to wear it."

"It would have looked a little strange on a five year old kid," Danny grimaced.

"Everyone at the service will know exactly who you are Dr. Daniel Jackson," Cam corrected him even as he offered the boy's suit jacket a little tug to set it on the shoulders better. It wasn't a tailored fit, just something off the rack at Dillard's, but it was a good fit none-the-less. He'd outgrow it in a few months, but hopefully he wouldn't need it again before then - not for something like this anyway. "No one would think it strange at all."

In addition to the black suit, he'd gotten a much needed haircut too - which he hated. It was definitely a little boy cut; short at the back and sides and long on the top. He had short straight bangs now that just touched his eyebrows and apparently they felt weird because he was always trying to brush them to the side only to have them fall back into place the next instant.

"Stop that," Cam reprimanded him again and stood back to give the kid a critical once over: no dirt or lint, the creases were straight and his black patent leather shoes were gleaming - though Cam had to wonder how long that would last. He gave a final nod of approval and offered the kid his hand. "Sam and Teal'c will be waiting for us. 'You sure you want to do this?" he asked one final time. Dr. Lam would be remaining in the Infirmary so that Dr. Carmichael and Warner, who'd been here longer then she had, could attend the service. She'd offered to watch Danny while the rest of them were 'occupied.'

"I'm sure," Danny nodded solemnly. He wasn't sure how many of those from the Gamma Site he'd known personally, but he suspected there were a few. Irregardless, the men and woman who had died had done so in defense of this as well as other countless worlds. They were heroes each and everyone one of them; from the colonel in charge of the base to the janitors who kept the place clean, they'd each fought the battle in their own way.

They each deserved his respect.

If he were really the five year old he looked like, he wouldn't care - but he wasn't and he did. He took Cam's hand and together they left to find Sam and Teal'c.
* * *

The gate room was crowded as there were a number of dignitaries in attendance. Danny didn't recognize most of them, which was hardly surprising. He did recognize Mr. Woolsey and did his best to ignore him. Fortunately the man was too busy talking to some other VIP to notice Danny. Cam had told him most of the IOA representatives and the Secretary of Defense would be there. The President would attend a private ceremony at Arlington next week.

Today's ceremony wasn't a funeral. Each member of the Gamma Site who had died would be rendered full and individual Military Funeral Honors at the place and time of their families' choosing. Even the civilian scientists would be granted a special ceremony in light of their service to their nation. Today's ceremony was to acknowledge and honor the truth of what had happened, a truth that none of the families would be allowed to know. Danny wasn't sure what the cover story was for all their deaths, but it wouldn't be the truth.

Danny was only slightly surprised to see Jack and General Hammond. It was odd seeing the older man in civilian attire. Together, he and his team watched as the two made their excuses to the man they were talking with and quickly turned to make their way through the crowd.

Carter and Mitchell both came to attention as they approached.

"At ease," Jack ordered easily. Then suddenly, he hitched up his pants and crouched down in front of Danny. He didn't say anything, just regarded the boy with a penetrating gaze that saw far more than Danny would have liked. After a long moment, he lifted a silver eyebrow and extended his hand. "Dr. Jackson," he said simply.

Danny smiled slightly, knowing there were too many people watching for the hug they would have normally shared. Instead he shook Jack's hand solemnly. "Your knee is going to regret that maneuver, Jack," he offered quietly.

The brow lifted again. "You remember that, huh?"

"Bits and pieces," he repeated what he'd told him ... was it really just over a week ago? He turned his eyes up to Hammond.

Like Jack, he was older than Danny remembered, but the change didn't seem so drastic. He'd obviously been briefed and wasn't surprised - just a little sad even as he offered a small smile. "Daniel," he said simply. "I was hoping to see you, but not here. How' you holding up?"

"Col. Mitchell and everyone else is taking good care of me, sir," he answered as he shook his hand.

Someone else joined them, winning twin snaps to attention again from Carter and Mitchell - which meant he outranked Jack. Danny didn't recognize him but Jack apparently did. He hurried to straighten again and fought not to grimace as his knee gave an audible protest. "Jack, George," the man greeted them casually after giving Sam and Cam 'at ease'. Teal'c won a speculative look but the man's real attention was for Danny. "And this must be Dr. Daniel Jackson." He didn't make it a question but clearly he wished to be introduced.

"General Maynard," Jack nodded and glanced back down at Danny. "Dr. Jackson; Dr. Jackson, Gen. Francis Maynard, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Danny blinked and shook the man's hand. He couldn't decide if the man was higher up than the Secretary of Defense or not, but he knew he was very important. "An honor, sir," he allowed simply.

"I have to admit this feels more than a little awkward," Gen. Meynard noted as he finished shaking Danny's hand and glanced between him and Jack.

"Oh, I wish it did to me," Hammond allowed with a sigh.

The rest of them grinned, and then Jack turned to introduce them. With a slight frown, Danny realized they were attracting a bit of a crowd.

Mitchell had once told him to 'act forty' when he was introduced to Woolsey - or reintroduced. The forty year old in him was squirming worse than his five year old self now, even as he ordered himself to stand straight and not retreat behind Mitchell like he so desperately wanted. Today was supposed to be about remembering those who'd fallen - not him!

"Ah, General Maynard!" Woolsey had no reticence about approaching a four star general. He smiled broadly down at Danny and gestured toward him. "I see you've met our resident wunderkind."

Five sets of eyes turned to the man with the same thought in mind, but Jack was the only one to voice it. "Our?" he said simply.

Woolsey ignored the obvious rebuke. "I just hope he's as smart as everyone insists he is - still is, I mean." He frowned as he stumbled over his own words but quickly dismissed it, deciding he was clear enough. "I and the other IOA representatives have been talking and we all agree: we need to rethink last week's budget proposal and talk about increasing the SGC's manpower. The Ori are obviously a much greater threat than we gave them credit for."

"What? Being able to start an all new deadly plague two months ago that could have wiped out everyone on the planet wasn't enough of a threat for you?" Jack corrected him.

"The plague's presence on Earth was the result of a failure by SGC medical personnel," Woolsey countered with a scathing glance, "and we were fighting it. There was time to study and analyze it. If those bugs had gotten loose here...." He shuddered at the mere idea.

Hammond offered a bit of a self-satisfied smile that was devoid of any humor. "Things seem a little different when you're the one being chased by man-eating bugs, doesn't it?"

"Sir," Mitchell interjected before Woolsey could respond. "With all due respect, I think we're forgetting what we're here for, don't you?"

"I'm forgetting nothing, Col. Mitchell," Woolsey insisted. "It is precisely why we are gathered here today that I bring this up. We lost a lot of good men and women at the Gamma Site, and I am very much afraid they won't be the last."

"We're at war, Woolsey," Jack answered bluntly. "I've been telling you that for months! You're only just getting it?"

"Let's say the point has been driven home, shall we?" he replied coolly.

"Gentlemen!" Gen. Maynard interrupted firmly. "Col. Mitchell is right. This isn't the time or place." A glance toward the podium told him they were ready to begin. "I suggest we take our places."

Though Mr. Woolsey looked like he wanted to say something more, he apparently thought better of it. "I'll arrange a meeting for later today."

"Call for an appointment, Woolsey," Jack called after him and then glanced down at Danny. He reached out and ruffled his hair - to hell with worrying about what anyone else thought. "I'm tied up for the rest of the day."
* * *

The ceremony in the gate room had been short but solemn, reminding Danny far too much of Janet's memorial service. Taps had been sounded and the colors posted. General Landry had given a short speech and then the names of the dead were read off. It was a long list. Among those who had died were forty-five Ph.D.s, experts at the top of their respective fields, and their civilian assistants. Woolsey was right - it was a major blow. More than a hundred and fifty military personnel had died as well, assembled from various branches and countries from around the world. This was followed by listing off the various accomplishments and discoveries that those at the Gamma Site had made - discoveries that made a difference not only in the fight against the Ori, but in medicine and agriculture and mechanics as well.

The gate had been dialed and activated. General Maynard and the Secretary of Defense had jointly carried a wreath to the event horizon and saluted as they released it into the wormhole's gentle pull. Danny didn't know what site had been dialed but knew it wasn't the Gamma Site. The self-destruct would have buried it in millions of tons of rubble, assuming it failed to destroy it outright. No, they'd probably dialed the Alpha Site. The SGC Chaplin had then lead them in a short prayer and the gate had shut down. The ceremony was over.

SG-1 made a quick escape, pausing only long enough to tell Walter to have Hammond and Jack meet them at Mitchell and Danny's new place. Jack met them at the elevator.

"Hammond's covering our six and will join us later," he answered their unasked questions. "Let's get out of here while we still can." Bending, he opened his arms in silent invitation. Danny quickly stepped into them and was lifted even as they moved to enter the elevator.

Jack hitched Danny a little higher on his hip as the doors hissed shut behind them. Frowning knowingly, he used his free hand to remove the hated clip-on tie. "I think we can get rid of this now," he decided, stuffing it in his own uniform pocket as Danny fought to undo the top button of his shirt himself. Sam hit the button for eleven as Jack brushed the little hands aside and tackled the stubborn button himself. With another sharp frown, he suddenly laid his palm against Daniel's forehead. "He's running a fever," he announced in sudden concern.

"We know, sir," Mitchell quickly assured him and stepped forward to lay a hand on Danny's forehead as well, making sure his temperature hadn't gone up. "Lam is monitoring it. 'Seems to be a side-effect of the downsizing, or maybe his brain's attempts to reorganize itself. He's had it on and off for the last few days, no sign of infection though."

Jack was not pleased. "And she's not worried about it?"

"I wouldn't say that, sir," Cam answered, knowing the general was less than half a step from hitting the button for twenty-two and demanding a medical explanation for why Danny wasn't in a hospital bed. "Danny doesn't want to go back to the infirmary, sir," he added quickly, "and she agreed. There's not much she can do for him. Children's Advil's about it, and I can do that myself. The fever is intermittent and mild. Something to do with his hippo-camulus or something."

"Hypothalamus," Sam corrected.

"Right! That thing," Cam agreed with a sharp nod. "Anyway, as long as his fever or headaches don't get any worse, she's agreed he's better off at home than in the infirmary."

Jack blinked, frowning harder as he failed to follow the other man's reasoning - let alone agree with it. He turned to Sam and tried again, more emphatically. "And she's not worried about it?"

"Sir," Sam answered calmly, "Danny's fine. Or as fine as he can be. His body is still adjusting, that's all. We're watching him. Closely. Lam is checking him daily."

Jack's brain did a slow click on something Cam had said a few moments before. He swung his gaze back to the other man. "Headaches?"

"When I remember stuff. Sometimes," Danny explained. His small hand on Jack's jaw forced the older man to regard him. "I'm fine, Jack," he insisted calmly.

Jack rolled his eyes. "How many times have I heard that before!"

"There's nothing Lam can do, sir," Sam reiterated more firmly. "At least, nothing she's willing to do yet. Sir?" She frowned and placed a hand on her hip. "This has been going on for three days now. Don't you think that if he needed to be in the infirmary, he'd be there? Do you really think any of us would do anything to put Danny at unnecessary risk here?"

Jack frowned in unhappy confusion and turned his gaze back to Danny. Every fatherly instinct he had was telling him to punch twenty-two on the elevator console and make Lam take another look at him - but it was obvious those around him had already done that. The elevator numbers had moved past twenty-two in any case.

He turned his gaze to Mitchell whom he'd dared entrust with his miniaturized best-friend. "You're sure?" he demanded quietly.

"We're doing everything we can, sir," Mitchell answered staunchly.

Jack still wasn't happy. "It anything happens to him--"

"--Teal'c will disembowel me with a wooden spoon," Mitchell finished for him. "Yes, sir. I know, sir."

"Only after I've taught you things about electric train transformers you really don't want know, Colonel," Jack assured him.

"Jaa-ack!" Danny sighed, using his small hand to force the general to face him again.


"Don't!" he ordered firmly.

Jack lifted a surprised brow. "Don't?" he repeated.

"Don't," he repeated. "Don't make me go back to the infirmary. Don't harangue Lam. Don't brow-beat Sam. Don't threaten Mitchell. Don't."

"Not even Mitchell?"

"Especially not Mitchell." His small bottom lip stuck out as he glared at Jack.

The two of them stared at each other for several long moments until the elevator came to a stop and the door slid open. They'd reached the eleventh floor and needed to change lifts. Jack hitched Danny upward again even as he led the way from the elevator toward the check point.

"Not even Mitchell?" he whined in mock-disappointment.

"Jack!" Danny offered curtly.

Jack gave the man beside him an assessing glance. "I think he likes you," he decided as he let the boy slide to the ground so he could sign his name.

"Yes, sir," Mitchell agreed, absurdly pleased when Danny wrapped his arms around his legs and gave him a squeeze. "I rather like him too, sir."
* * *

Part 35

Cam might have been freed of the brace on his wrist but he was not cleared to drive yet. Someone - likely Walter - had known that and made sure Capt. Osprey was waiting for them at the Shuttle Bus drop-off point.

"Captain." Jack offered a light frown even as he returned the other man's salute with a nod: his hands were full with Danny. "At ease." His eyes swung back to Mitchell. "I thought only generals rated captains?"

Mitchell grinned. "He's on stand-down awaiting the next batch of recruits to cycle through, sir. Ear infection kept him grounded from off-world training."

Jack nodded, throwing the captain an assessing glance. "Clearance?" he asked curtly.

"Basic plus Danny," Cam answered for him.

Jack grunted. "Are you armed, Captain?"

"Yes, sir."

"Any good?"

"Expert, sir."

The questions and answers came as only a small surprise to the others. Jack merely nodded again and turned to wave off his own driver who stood patiently beside a dark staff car sporting general flags about thirty feet away. "I won't need you!" he shouted. "Return to the motor pool!"

The dismissal wasn't exactly standard or polite, but then Jack O'Neill wasn't the type to stand on protocol if he could get away with less. He turned back to Osprey and the others.

It only took the captain a short moment to realize his intention. Blinking, he quickly moved to open the back door of the car and hold it.

"We'll need to move the booster seat, sir," Mitchell quickly piped up, knowing the general would be more than cramped with it in the middle position if they didn't.

"No, we don't," Jack answered even as he lowered Danny to the ground and urged him into the seat. He leaned in to make sure he was properly buckled before straightening and turning to Mitchell again. "You're riding with Carter and Teal'c," he explained succinctly.

It was Mitchell's turn to blink in surprise. "Sir?"

"You heard me," he answered steadily. "And what did I tell you about that 'sir'? Skedaddle, all of you! Danny and I need some alone time. We'll meet you at the new place. You can stop and pick up pizza on the way."

Mitchell was clearly a bit confused but Sam just grinned. "Team night, sir?" she asked simply.

He gave a nod even as he slipped into the front passenger seat. "We'll get the ice cream. Don't panic if you beat us home."

Mitchell was feeling like the proverbial fish out of water as he opened and closed his mouth repeatedly. "I, uh ... uh...." All his instincts were protesting this move - but he really didn't know why? Sam laid her hand on his shoulder, awarding the general a smile even as he closed his door and buckled up. Cam watched helplessly as Osprey rounded the car. "But...!"

"--He'll be fine, Cam," Sam assured him gently, trying not to laugh at his disconcerted look. "Jack won't let anything happen to him."

Cam blinked at her for a long moment, before sharply jerking his emotions back into line. Of course, Danny would be fine. General O'Neill had been his best friend for years! He couldn't be in better hands - and that included Cam's.

Why did that hurt?

Bending, Cam quickly laid his hand on the back passenger side window and wasn't surprised to see the clash of anxiety and excitement in Danny's eyes. He was perfectly happy to go with the general, but he was worried how Mitchell would react. "We'll meet you at home," Cam called through the glass. "Have fun, 'right?"

Just that little bit of reassurance was all the boy needed to relax. He grinned broadly. "I want pepperoni and pineapple!" he hollered from inside the vehicle as Osprey started the engine.

Cam gave him the 'thumbs up' even as he heard the general's teasing protest about desecrating a perfectly good pizza. And then they were pulling away and Cam found he was feeling strangely bereft....

Sam's hand came down on his shoulder again as together the three of them watched the car head for the main gate. "He'll be fine," she repeated.

Cam immediately brushed off her concern - after all his own was completely unfounded. "It's not Danny I'm worried about," he claimed with a half-grin and shake of his head. Turning, he waved her to lead the way to her car.
* * *

"So..." Jack offered a bit uncertainly, tapping his palm against his thigh in a nervous tattoo for a second before offering the driver a momentary glance. Basic plus Danny - it was better than his assigned driver, but not as good as Jack would have liked.

What Jack would have liked was to tell the guy to get lost and drive himself, but ... Jack wasn't armed.

Frowning as he realized he probably should've let Mitchell move the safety seat, he grabbed the passenger front visor and pulled it down. Bingo! Vanity mirror. He tugged it free of it's second anchor point and quickly adjusted it so he could see Danny in the back seat. It wasn't the best solution in the world, but at least he wasn't going to break his neck trying to talk to him.

"...Mitchell, huh?" he asked lamely.

Danny rolled his eyes. "It's not a competition, Jack."

"Did I say it was?"

"Leave him alone, okay?"

Jack studied the kid in the mirror - arms folded and lips compressed in a defiant little frown - and nodded. "As long as you're happy," he agreed.

Danny grunted and rolled his eyes again. "That's stupid."

Jack's eyebrows winged upward. It had been a long time since anyone called him stupid. Something about becoming general had apparently imparted him with 'anti-stupid' powers - no matter how stupid he acted sometimes. He twisted in his seat and glanced over his shoulder. "I'm sorry?" he asked in mild surprise.

"'As long as I'm happy?'" the boy echoed him. "I had a couple of foster parents who tried that number the first time around. I rode rough-shod all over them until they couldn't take it anymore."

A single brow rose in disbelief. "You were a brat?"

"I was a kid, Jack!" Danny exclaimed, tossing his hands in the air. "I am a kid. And I'm not exactly an angel. Ask Osprey!"

Jack glanced at their driver in surprise. The captain was working hard at concentrating on his driving while looking a little embarrassed at the same time - whether over something Daniel had done recently or because of the nature of their discussion, Jack didn't know.

"I hit him!" Danny declared, continuing when it became obvious the captain wasn't going to volunteer anything. "Had a full melt-down temper tantrum in the middle of the toy store and I hit him!" His tone suddenly dripped sarcasm. "'You think Mitchell should'a bought me a toy and some candy to make me 'happy' again?"

Jack frowned, turning back around in his seat and studying the irritated munchkin in the vanity mirror. Where was this coming from? "You hit Mitchell?" he asked calmly.

Danny sighed gustily and shook his head. "Osprey," he answered. "And yes I apologized, the next day - after Mitchell threatened to write up a formal report."

Jack's brow winged upward yet again. ...Wednesday, Oct. 24th, at or around 2pm, while Dr. Jackson, myself and Capt. Osprey were attempting to purchase required entertainment paraphernalia... He shook his head sharply, forcing the idea from his mind. "A report?!" What the hell had Mitchell had been thinking!

"It worked, Jack," Danny told him crossly and then waved a dismissive hand. "That's all beside the point. The point is that I'm not always happy. You don't know - you can't know! - what it's like to remember that your mom and dad died over thirty-five years ago but to know that you were with them only last week! 'What it's like to have these mixed-up, jumbled memories of mine suddenly spring to life when I least expect it; or to know that you know someone, like Mitchell, but not be able to remember anything about them - except that they like to wear their watch on their left wrist?! I don't remember you getting old! There's so much I don't remember - and when I do remember, I usually wish I didn't. I'm not happy most of the time, but that's not Mitchell's fault. He's doing the best he can, and that's good enough. Just leave him alone. I mean it!"

Jack regarded the reflection of his miniaturized friend with a mixture of surprise and sadness. His argument was a bit disjointed and punctuated with more pain and emotion than 'Big Daniel' would have allowed to show - but it was still Daniel. "Carter will fix this," he reiterated what they had all agreed upon before he left last week - god, that had about torn his heart out; seeing those angry and hurting eyes in the mirror wasn't too good at the moment either.

"She's trying," Danny agreed with a stubborn little nod, "and that's good enough, too."

In other words, whether she succeeded or not wasn't ultimately important to Danny. What was important was that she cared, and the same went for Mitchell.

Jack sighed and closed his eyes. How the hell had the guy learned to be so selfless so young? Okay, so he wasn't really the five-year-old he looked. Jack knew perfectly well they probably couldn't put a real 'age' on Danny, not intellectually anyway. It was confusing as hell to Jack, but he could only imagine it had to be worse for his friend.

Far worse.

Jack also knew that sometimes trying wasn't good enough. Sometimes you needed help. Mitchell had that by the barrel-load, but Jack didn't know how much of it he was actually using. And then there were times ... sometimes you simply needed to admit you were in over your head and let someone else take over. Mitchell might mean well; but if he couldn't do the job, it wasn't good enough - no matter what Daniel said.

Jack didn't know which it was yet. Was Mitchell doing a good job? Did he need more help than he was asking for? Or did he need to be replaced.... Jack would know before he left again next Monday.

For now, it was time to change the subject.

"So ... 'Rocky Road' or 'Pralines and Cream'?" he asked, glancing back into the mirror again. He lifted a quick admonishing finger before Daniel could reply. "Do not say 'Cappuccino Mocha double Chocolate chip with Fudge Swirl!' I'll never get to sleep with you bouncing off the walls all night."
* * *

Part 36

Danny made a beeline for the house as soon as he was out of the car - or he would have, if Jack hadn't snagged the back of his jacket.

"Hey, hey, hey!"

His surprised little captive was jerked to a halt and frowned back at him.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Danny scowled in confusion and rolled his eyes. "I don't need you to hold my hand to walk across the lawn, Jack," he claimed irritably.

"Fine," Jack agreed and turned to hand him one of the lighter grocery bags, "but you do need someone to remind you of your manners. Go put that in the kitchen and come back for more."

Danny again rolled his eyes and let out a much-put-upon sigh even as he turned for the house again.

"And send the others out to help too!" Jack called after him.

Obediently, Danny trudged to the house and, opening the door, called out that they were home. "Jack says everyone has to go help unload," he added as he passed through the living room where Teal'c and Sam were busy with a game of Scrabble. Mitchell had changed out of his dress blues and was in the kitchen emptying out the dishwasher. They'd let the dishes - and pretty much everything else for that matter - go for the last couple of days. Nothing major. Danny wouldn't classify the place as a mess, just ... 'well lived in.' Cam and the others had apparently gone into immediate cleaning mode as soon as they got in. Both Sam's dress jacket and Teal'c's suit coat were each draped on the back of a dinning room chair.

He needed to remember to get his from the car before Osprey left.

Danny glanced at the table surface. The papers he'd been working on last night were missing. "Where's my translation notes?" he asked immediately. With all the concerns and questions about Sam and the Gamma Site, he'd forgotten about the translation Bill Lee had asked him for last week. The man had finally called him about it last night and Danny had promised to get back on it immediately.

"Safe!" Cam quickly assured him and bent to sweep the dishwasher closed. A final swish of a washcloth made sure the counter top was clean as well. "They're on your desk in your room. 'Hope you don't mind; I did a quick little pick-up in there."

Danny only shrugged. It hadn't been that bad: a few books, his pajamas and the unmade bed from this morning. He hefted the plastic bag he was toting to the counter top beside the fridge and pushed it back from the edge. "I don't think Jack's going to have a fit if I don't make my bed once in a while."

"It's not you I'm concerned about!" Cam answered with a wink, and then suddenly stiffened as Jack rounded the corner with a couple larger grocery bags in hand. Quickly, the younger man sprang forward to take the items. "Here. Let me take--"

Jack frowned sharply and offered an unintelligible but clearly understood warning to back off. Cam threw his hands up and moved back. Still frowning, Jack set his bags on the counter beside Danny's and began unpacking them. "Go help the others while I put this stuff up and learn where everything is. Danny can tell me where it all goes."

He stripped a plastic bag from a big box of 'Froot Loops', then glanced up as Mitchell hesitated. "Go!"

Mitchell still hesitated. "I thought you were just getting ice cream, sir?"

"Did I say I was just getting ice cream?"

Mitchell was left at a bit of a loss as the general again turned back to his bags. "And what did I tell you about that 'sir'?" Jack complained again, rummaging for whatever else was in the other bags. "Loosen up, Colonel; that's an order."

"Yes, sir," Mitchell automatically responded - and instantly cringed. "I mean...." Apologizing would only make it worse. Instead, he pasted a smile in place and jerked a thumb toward the front door. "I'll just...." The general was giving him a less-than-impressed look. With a sigh, he gave up. "...Yeah," he finished lamely and quickly hurried to help the others.

Jack watched him go, then suddenly turned back to Danny. "'Changed my mind," he declared easily. "What say we let Mitchell put this stuff away and you can show me that cool room of yours, huh?"

Danny was eying him like a puzzling artifact he didn't quite trust. In answer, Jack quickly dug out his most innocent, confused look. "What?" he demanded.

Danny wasn't sure exactly what game Jack was playing with Mitchell but he didn't like it. "I said leave him alone," he reiterated his earlier statement in the car.

"I haven't done anything!" Jack protested in exaggerated confusion. "What have I done?"

Danny continued to frown. There was nothing specific he could point to. The two men hadn't been in the same room more than a minute - and yet.... His eyes narrowed knowingly. "You're judging him."

"Of course I'm judging him!" Jack shrugged at the obvious. "'You think I'm going to hand you over to just anyone?" Taking Daniel by the shoulders, the older man spun him around to face the hallway. A light nudge got him going in the desired direction - for a moment, then Danny dug in his heels and turned back around.

"He doesn't need you second guessing him."

"And he doesn't need you to protect him either," Jack rejoined firmly. If he did, he definitely wasn't the man for the job.

The two stared defiantly at each other - until Teal'c and Sam suddenly appeared. They rounded the breakfast bar and put their bags beside the sink.

If Teal'c noted the tension in the air, he made no comment. The larger man merely offered a wry lift of one eyebrow. "It would appear you have purchased more than ice cream, O'Neill," he noted simply.

Jack shrugged innocently. "I'm going to be here almost a week. 'Figured I should help out a bit."

"'A bit?'" Sam repeated.

Jack shrugged more expansively. "So I got a little carried away!" He'd arbitrarily decided that he and Mitchell probably didn't share the same tastes and had decided to stock his own items for his stay - 'Froot Loops' being the number one priority; but there was also those pastry strudel things he knew Daniel liked, and chips and salsa and dip, and pop corn to go with any movies, and some specialty teas he knew Teal'c would appreciate, and some diet Pepsi for Carter, and....

He didn't miss the look his two old friends shared or the amusement dancing in both their eyes. Rolling his own eyes, he turned to Danny again and urged him toward the hall. "Come on, show me that room of yours before these two do something to make me decide they can't have any of the gourmet hot chocolate I bought for tonight." He paused to toss a mock-glare over his shoulder even as he continued to follow Danny from the room. "The marsh mellows are for making S'mores later," he warned them firmly. "Touching them will be considered a court-martiable offense!"
* * *

"Sam!" Danny yelled, a tissue-stuffed gift bag bouncing against his legs as he ran back into the living room only moments after heading back to his room with Jack.

Unfortunately, Cam was entering the living room from the foyer at the same time.

"Whoa!" he shouted, spinning sharply away as the small missile darted out of the hallway. Cam's injured arm hit the wall with a resounding (whack!) even as he lifted his other arm to try and swing the last bag of groceries out of Danny's trajectory. Pain shot up his arm and in the next instant Danny collided with the back of his legs. He fought to keep from falling, but it was impossible.

"Danny!" Jack yelled in alarm as the two of them went down in a spectacular tangle of arms and legs.

The bag of groceries went flying. Up... up! And then down, crashing against the entry tiles. Glass and grape juice went everywhere!

"Freeze!" Jack's fist shot into the air, halting Sam and Teal'c in their precipitous rush to help. His command voice won instant, unthinking obedience from the two on the ground. Yeah, he noted distantly, he still had the touch.

Mitchell was frozen in an awkward position, his face twisted into a painful grimace; bad arm held high in the air, right elbow planted beside Danny and hips raised in an effort to remove his weight from the kid. "Hurry!" he gasped, knowing he couldn't hold it for long.

"Danny, don't move!" Jack snapped as the kid made to wriggle free.

Freezing again, Danny looked up to watch as Jack and Teal'c stepped forward. Ignoring the crunch of glass under his feet, Teal'c grabbed Mitchell's bad arm, high toward the shoulder; then, with his other hand, he grabbed the man's belt and pulled. Cam came smoothly to his feet and offered a sigh of relief.

"Don't move!" Jack ordered yet again. His words were for Danny, not Cam or Teal'c. It came an instant too late as the boy rolled to his side and winced before freezing again.

Only Teal'c's hand on Mitchell's arm, kept Cam from going to him.

"You are covered in glass, Col. Mitchell," the Jaffa bluntly informed him.

Cam blinked and glanced down, noting a couple of bright, glittery shards amidst the rather large purple stain now decorating the front of his favorite sweater and khaki pants; but he ignored it, as well as his screaming arm, as he turned his attention back to Danny. He'd fallen backward, unable to keep from crushing the kid beneath him - and was terrified at the thought of serious injury.

Jack carefully stepped forward to squat beside the boy and reached forward to rest a hand on his shoulder. "Don't move," Jack repeated in a calm but authoritative voice. Wide blue eyes met brown and waited, filled with trust. Experienced eyes quickly swept his form, checking for injury and assessing the situation. Danny lifted his left hand, revealing the cause of his earlier wince: A large shard of glass protruded from his palm.

Jack's eyes met Danny's with a nod as he acknowledged and cataloged the injury. "'You hurt anywhere else?" he asked simply, reaching forward to pick a piece of glass from the boy's dripping hair. Grape juice splashed onto the sage green carpet where the spill was slowly being absorbed. Dots of juice beaded on Jack's glossy dress shoes and spotted the bottom of his dark blue uniform pants. Grape juice and glass were splattered half-way up the nearest wall and the back of the sofa behind Jack as well.

Danny swallowed around a dry throat and performed his own injury assessment; wiggling his toes in his not-so-shiny-anymore shoes and testing muscles without moving more than an inch in any direction. He'd had the wind knocked out of him but he didn't think anything was broken. He shook his head, then licked his lips as grape juice continued to run down his face. His dress shirt was probably ruined. 'Good thing he'd left his coat in the car.

Jack nodded again and carefully plucked a couple more pieces of glass off Danny before grabbing him beneath the arm pits and lifting him straight up. Setting him on his feet again, Jack finally dared to glance at Mitchell. He was a definite mess, but Jack saw no blood. "You okay?" he asked perfunctorily.

The younger officer winced and cradled his bad arm, but offered a nod. "I think so," he answered.

Jack accepted the words at face value and turned his attention back to the boy in front of him. Teal'c and Sam would take care of Mitchell. "You?" he asked simply.

The boy nodded and offered Cam an embarrassed glance. "'Sorry I ran in the house," he offered contritely.

Cam sighed. "This is why I told you to keep it sub-sonic, kid." He shook his head and frowned in concern. "'You sure you're okay? I landed on ya kinda hard...."

Danny nodded again and lowered his head, but Jack noticed he was starting to shake. Reaction was setting in. The boy lifted his arm to wipe at his face but Jack quickly grabbed his wrist. Watery eyes glanced up in surprise - then noted the splinters of glass littering his dress shirt sleeve. Jack shook his head and glanced at his other hand with the glass still in it. It was starting to drip blood.

"We better get you to the bathroom and cleaned up," Jack decided evenly.

Danny swallowed and forced another tight nod.

With glass all over him, Jack didn't dare pick him up. Instead, still holding the one arm captive, the older man stood and calmly directed Danny back to the hall. "Sam take care of Mitchell," he called over his shoulder, taking command and giving them something to do. "Teal'c go rent a Rug Doctor; we need to get that juice out before it stains."
* * *

Danny was really starting to shake by the time they made it to the bathroom. He sniffed, trying to hold back the tears. It was stupid, he told himself! The emergency was over. He didn't know why he was shaking now - but his body wasn't listening to his head. It was only Jack's calm and casual attitude that was keeping him from falling apart completely.

And then Jack grabbed him beneath his arms again and was lifting him to the counter top between the two sinks. "Don't move," he ordered again. Frowning, he lifted Danny's injured hand and took a good look at it. "Not bad," he declared calmly and in the next instant the glass was out. Jack turned on the water and carefully had Danny lean over so it could run over the still bleeding wound. Once rinsed, Jack took another look to make sure all the glass was out and then nodded, satisfied.

"You'll live," he decided. He then ordered Danny to remain still while he unbuttoned his shirt and stripped it carefully off without turning it inside out. Danny's shoes and socks were next, and then his pants. Sitting on the counter top in only his underwear, Jack had him get up on his hands and knees next to the sink and used a comb to carefully rake through his hair. The grape juice by that point was just starting to dry and was definitely sticky - but Danny offered no complaints.

"You know, Charlie did something like this once," Jack told him, breaking the silence that hung like a blanket over the small room. "I was off on some mission or other and wasn't there but Sara told me about it. She and my mom were visiting when he decided to climb up on top of this coffee table with glass insets we had. I think he was about three. You'd think those things would be strong, wouldn't you - but no, Sara said he fell right through it. 'Scared the hell out of her!"

Danny bit his lip as he watched three or four tiny slivers of glass fall into the sink amidst several drops of deep purple liquid. In his mind's eye, they were red and flowing.... He quickly forced the image away.

"So there he is, suddenly sitting in the middle of all this glass, staring up at her in surprise - and Sarah was sure if he moved he'd be cut to ribbons. Mom took one look, clucked her tongue and plucked him straight up out of the mess. Sarah was more upset than he was."

Jack finally set the comb aside and carefully ran his hands over Danny's head in a final check for any glass he'd missed.

"As it happened, the insets were made of safety glass - not this damn regular stuff that splinters. You'd think bottlers would know to use safety glass; I mean, who drinks juice more than kids, right?" He shook his head in disgust. "You can sit down again," he decided, "but don't move or hop down yet. Let me clean up the floor first."

Danny watched as Jack took down a bath towel and used it to carefully sweep the entire floor, bundling his shoes, socks and everything else up in the corner. He even checked his own shoes and pants before turning back to Danny.

"You doing okay?" he paused to ask with a slight frown.

Something about the simple question seriously threatened Danny's tentative composure. He scrunched his eyes shut but it didn't stop the tears from leaking out. And then Jack was there, holding him close, and gently rocking back and forth. "Ah, Danny...." he sighed softly.
* * *

Ba'al lowered the ultra-high tech binoculars and smiled. As far as most Tauri knew, such see-through-wall technology was only a pipe dream - or, for those who were better informed, still in development. Only those in the highest levels of military intelligence knew exactly how far the science had actually advanced - and only a handful of those knew why.

Reverse engineering and intense study of the transphase eradication rods the Tok'ra had given Earth several years ago had definitely helped.

It had been simple enough for the Trust to acquire a prototype, which Ba'al himself had taken the time to improve. The images were still black and white, but were far more detailed than the x-ray like scans used at airports. They would have been video quality if he merely lowered his invisibility cloak - the energy field interfered with the resolution. 'Something to be worked on further. It should also be possible to tweak the system to allow actual auditory return as well, but he didn't have the time to worry about that.

That's what underlings were for.

"Dr. Carter is easily pleased, young Daniel," he noted quietly as he stood leaning against the side of a neighbor's house. There was no one but the rose bushes to hear him. He's been standing there for more than an hour watching the silent by-play in the house opposite. That nasty little accident with the broken juice bottle had revealed far more than all the stolen medical files and glossy eight-by-tens their mole could ever provide. Ba'al's curiosity about young Daniel's gift had kept him lingering despite the increasing cold. He somehow doubted Dr. Carter would have been so quick to go to the bathroom and change into the t-shirt had she known she was being watched. "'Quantum Mechanics: The dreams stuff is made of!'" He offered the quote a slight snort.

Childish. Perhaps one day he would teach the boy how to properly impress a woman - and make her bow before his every desire.... He allowed himself to toy with the idea of a nude Samantha Carter, kneeling before him. Her intelligence was nothing compared to his own of course; but, for a woman, she was quite remarkable. He could easily see making her a queen. He frowned slightly and dismissed the thought.

He had other plans to worry about at the moment.

It would be a simple matter to beam a team in there to snatch up both the boy and the general before anyone else even knew what was happening - he could take them all if he wanted without much of a fight - but he resisted the thought. Satisfying though it might be to see Jack O'Neill's shocked countenance again, such a move would ultimately prove to be counter-productive. No, he had to be patient and use more subtle means to get what he wanted.

Then he could play.

Turning, he returned the way he'd come, covering the three short blocks to where he'd left his driver and car with a grin that would have chilled the general's heart had he seen it.
* * *

Part 37

Danny frowned down at the bandage around his small hand. It wasn't much of a cut, but a regular Band-aid wouldn't stay on his palm for long so Jack had wrapped it in a long white gauze strip. Something about it was bothering him. 'Not the bandage itself; something about it. When he looked at it....

He shuddered and forced his attention elsewhere.

Jack was watching a hockey game. Mitchell and Teal'c were half-watching and half-playing Scrabble. Jack refused to play, claiming he'd spent yesterday polishing his stars and didn't feel like getting them tromped on by a five-year-old. Sam sat on the floor beside the coffee table with Danny and had her back to the TV - much to Jack's chagrin.

"I thought you liked hockey?" Jack complained before taking a swallow of his beer.

She offered the question a short snort of laughter. "About as much as I like fishing, sir."

He had given up correcting her about the 'sir' - years ago; however, that didn't keep him from elbowing Mitchell every time the younger man messed up. Jack offered his one-time second-in-command an accusing frown. "You said you had fun the last time we all got together at my cabin!"

"After we found the ZPM and video tape." She nodded. Danny frowned in mild confusion but dismissed it. Just another hole in his memories apparently. "I had fun relaxing by the water catching some rays, sir. I never said I enjoyed the fishing."

"Right...." Jack rolled his eyes and caught Danny's gaze. "That's why she got all excited when she felt her first nibble and then pouted for an hour when the fish got away."

She offered an exasperated sigh. "They kept stealing my bait without taking the hook!" she complained and frowned at the board, muttering, "Conniving little thieves...."

"Shoot!" Cam suddenly shouted, half-rising from his place on the couch. Danny glanced at the screen long enough to see the shot bounce off the goaltender's shin guards and be chased around behind the net. Cam sighed and shook his head as the Red Wing's got control and the puck sailed toward the other end of the ice. Jack grinned.

Sam ignored them and leaned forward to quickly place six tiles off the 'e' in Teal'c's last play of 'bunnie' - not 'bunny' as in a baby rabbit, but 'bunnie' as in Abydonian for sweet. Yeah, it wasn't English, but the rest of them were permitted to play Arabic and Spanish words. Apparently it was how they always played. Sam's word was 'nuclear' and worth forty-five points. She did the math and offered a quiet crow of triumph as she took the lead.

Danny frowned at the board. A frisson of fear traced up his spine and he didn't know why.

"Oh, no you don't...." Mitchell was talking to the TV again. "Roloson will stop you dead!"

"You mean Zetterberg will drop Roloson dead," Jack rejoined with a smirk as he maligned the Oiler's goaltender.

"Right," Mitchell replied sarcastically. "That's why the Oiler's were 2-1-1 against the the Red Wings last year. Hasek's past his prime."

"Hasek will take the Wing's to the Cup this year," Jack predicted.

Mitchell awarded him an 'are-you-crazy?' look but managed to keep from voicing it.

"Danny?" Sam asked, nudging his shoulder with her own. "Your turn."

He glanced back down at the board and the word 'nuclear' seemed to jump out at him. He suddenly reached out and changed it to 'unclear' instead.

It didn't help.

Sam sat back in surprise, but any protest she might offer froze in her throat as she looked at Danny's suddenly pale face. "Danny?" she asked.

He jerked his eyes away from the board but that didn't help either. It felt like someone was holding a zat to his head! Standing, he practically lunged at Mitchell.

"Whoa!" Mitchell caught him easily, even if he was surprised by the move. Danny ignored his surprise and hurried to climb into his lap. The hockey game was instantly forgotten as the lieutenant colonel suddenly found himself holding a trembling little boy. "You okay?" he asked in sudden concern. "What's wrong?"

Jack's hand went to his forehead. "Fever's up," he noted with a frown.

Danny shook his head in silent denial. The fever had nothing to do with anything! All he wanted to do was bury himself in Mitchell's arms like he had that first night back from the Omega Site. He didn't know why he was feeling this way. It didn't make sense!

Mitchell's hand replaced Jack's. "It's not very high. He's shaking like a leaf!"

"Danny?" Jack's voice was gentle but insistent. Danny blinked up at him but kept his check pressed against Mitchell's chest. He was clutching at him like a life line. "What's going on? Talk to me."

Mitchell's arms held him tight even as he shuddered uncontrollably. It wasn't helping. "I'm scared," he whispered.

The four adults shared confused glances.

"I don't know why!" he added before any of them could ask.

Jack reached out and rested his hand on Danny's pale cheek. "A flashback?" he asked calmly.

Danny felt tears sting his eyes as he met his friend's steady and steadfast gaze. He swallowed convulsively and shrugged a shoulder while drawing himself up into an even tighter ball in Cam's lap.

"Do you remember something new, Danny?" Mitchell asked softly.

He glanced at his injured hand and then shoved it down and behind his back so he wouldn't have to see it. "Can we take the bandage off?" he asked plaintively. "Please?"

Jack frowned in confusion but reached for the simple white wrapping. "Something about it's bothering you?" he asked. He knew it wasn't too tight.

"Off!" Danny asked more desperately. "Please take it off!"

"Okay!" Mitchell assured him soothingly even as Jack released the tape and quickly began to unwrap it. The boy was trembling again, badly. "Take it easy. It's just a little cut, right? No big deal."

Jack hurried to strip the gauze away and then paused to inspect the wound again - but it was just a cut. No sign of infection or miraculous healing. He probed it gently, but Danny just bit his lip and tried not to cry. "Does it hurt?" he asked. All his eight-plus years of dealing with off-world dangers had a cacophony of alarms going off in his head here.

Danny just shook his head; but when Jack turned to put the bandages on the coffee table, he cringed.

Jack froze, gauze still in hand. "Something about the bandages?" he asked, confused.

"Oh, god..." Sam whispered harshly. Jack glanced up to see her staring at the Scrabble board. She suddenly turned back to him, looking as if she'd seen a ghost. "Nuclear," she told him. "He was fine until I played the word 'nuclear'."

"Then he changed it to 'unclear'," Cam added, frowning over Danny's shoulder at the board in turn.

Jack glanced between the two lieutenant colonels in utter confusion. Mitchell obviously had no clue what it all meant. It was Teal'c who made the same logic jump Carter had and supplied the missing piece. "Radiation," he surmised simply.

Danny cringed again as he heard glass breaking - but it wasn't the juice bottle. "No. No!" he whimpered, trying to close his ears to a sound he knew was only in his head. "It's not real! It's not real!"

"Oh, crap!" Jack exclaimed, putting two and two together and coming up with nineteen. "Call Lam!" he ordered sharply and then grabbed Danny by the chin. "Look at me, Danny. Come on, open your eyes. Look at me!"

"What's going on?" Cam asked, still completely lost as he fought to calm and comfort the more-than-frightened kid in his hold.

"Flashback. Delayed trigger," Sam explained curtly even as she dug out her cell and hit the speed dial. "He's remembering his first ascension."

His first.... "When he died of radiation poisoning?" Cam asked, suddenly beginning to understand why everyone was in a near panic.

He'd crashed through the window after weakening it first. Thank god these people were less advanced than Earth. They hadn't invented bullet proof glass yet. Heck, they thought glass could stop serious radiation! They had no idea what they were dealing with. The whine of the impending explosion prompted him to scramble to his feet.

What was it the scientist had said before collapsing? They had to remove the core?


Jack! But when he glanced up all he saw was Jonas, frozen in fear and indecision. There wasn't time to ask for his help. The whine of building energies was approaching hypersonic. He could feel every hair on his body standing on end with it as he frowned at the bomb. They'd been using the top part to raise and lower a rod of some sort. Was that the core? He grabbed at it.

Hot! Yeah, that must be it. Damn, that hurt! And now his hand was numb. Shit. That couldn't be good.

Now was not the time to remember either the Daghlian or Slotin radiation accidents in early nuclear research history. He certainly hadn't meant to get caught in a re-enactment of either of them!

Don't think about what you're doing, just do it!

He pulled the cuff of his jacket up to try and protect his other hand and then used the wrist on his bad one, not trusting his fingers to close tight enough. Grabbing the experiment's top assembly, he pulled and prayed. It was heavy, but it came apart without problem. He tossed it onto the work bench and stood breathing hard as he glanced between it and the other half of the device. The whine had stopped, even if the klaxon hadn't.

Was that it?



He was in a medical prison cell but other than getting the burn on his hand treated, he had yet to really see a doctor. After more than a day, it was still numb, though his arm certainly wasn't. At least he'd stopped puking.

"We're getting out of here. Now. Keep your mouth shut until we get home."

They were letting him go?

"Don't touch him!" Sam was looking none-too-happy as the cell door was opened and Daniel stepped out. "God, they didn't even give him a change of clothes. He could still be radioactive."

Grim faced, Jack nodded. Danny glanced beyond him at the contingent of Kelownan security guards and knew things weren't good. He knew the government was trying to pin the accident on him - only they weren't calling it an accident. They were calling it sabotage and charging him with murder.

And now they were letting him go.

Either someone had told the truth, or.... He glanced at Sam. He read his answer in her eyes.

Damn it.

"Move out!" Jack ordered, waving Sam to take point. Jack, himself, fell into step behind Daniel and Teal'c took their six. The Kelownan guards surrounded them in a box formation, escorting them with military precision to a transport which would take them directly to the Stargate.
* * *

It took Lam a little over three minutes to get from her place to Mitchell's. She was carrying her ever-present medical kit as she swept through the front door and hurried around the end of the couch. Teal'c stood to the side, giving her room. Sam, however, required a definite nudge to move back. Carolyn took the other woman's place, kneeling beside a distraught Cam. Her eyes quickly assessed the patient in his arms. Danny was whimpering as he sat curled up in a fetal position. "How long?" she asked curtly.

"Too long!" Gen. O'Neill snapped quietly from where he sat beside Mitchell. They'd both obviously been trying to comfort and bring Danny out of it without much success. "Do something!" he demanded.

She shot him a frown to tell him just exactly how much his bluster scared her. Her own father was a general after all!

It was Teal'c who provided the answer she needed. "Five minutes," he announced calmly.

"He's burning up!" Cam quickly added, obviously shaken. "He had a little fever when this started, like always, but now...."

Lam frowned and leaned forward to quickly place her hand on the boy's forehead. "Okay, this is serious." She turned sharply to where Sam stood watching helplessly. "Call an ambulance."
* * *

Part 38

Daniel was fully aware of, and trained, in radiation scrub-down procedures - in theory anyway. Jack and Sam had drilled both him and Teal'c on it after their little visit to the Land of the Light. Admittedly, their focus had been more on biological contaminants and use of MOPP gear than the dangers of radiation, but that had been covered as well. They hadn't covered hospital procedures, but the basics were the same.

Daniel never thought he'd be doing it for real.

A Geiger counter confirmed his clothing had become irradiated. So not good.

He was given what amounted to a large plastic poncho and told to strip under it - not for the sake of modesty, but to minimize any dust from his clothing becoming airborne. Because of his right hand, he had to be helped. Personal items were placed in a red bag and his uniform in a specially lined bag which would be destroyed. The plastic poncho was taken away and carefully rolled up even as he was lead to a special shower.

Once again because of his right hand, he had to be helped. The nurses concentrated on their tasks and didn't talk to him - which was fine. He didn't much feel like talking. His stomach was complaining again but there was nothing left to come up. Even so, he fell to dry heaving in the middle of everything. The nurses supported him as best they could through the event. He was about as weak as a kitten afterwards but he refused to show it.

Janet wanted to know when the vomiting started.

"About an hour after everything happened," he admitted. "I can't eat. The nausea is pretty constant." Even the thought of food made him nauseous.

She nodded grimly as though he'd just confirmed something for her. "We can give you something for that," she assured him gently, then quickly issued orders for an anti-emetic.

A body survey with the radiation detection device still showed higher readings than Janet wanted so the scrub down process was resumed. It was thorough but more gentle than he'd expected it to be. The cuts on his face and hands received extra attention while the burn on his hand was only rinsed repeatedly - despite the fact that he assured them it was still numb. His ears and nose were gently but thoroughly irrigated, and he was given a special solution to gargle. It took four showers to get the radiation readings down to twice background levels. Only then did Janet call a halt and let him get dressed.

His blood was drawn, and the cuts on his face and hands dabbed with antibiotic ointment before the nurses were ordered aside and Janet stepped forward to take over. Daniel sat silent and passive on the exam table as she carefully inspected the burn on his right hand.

If he'd had any doubt about whether he was dying or not, the grim determination in her eyes as she fought to maintain her composure would have ended it. "How long?" he asked quietly.

She shook her head and frowned in apparent confusion. "I don't...." She was playing dumb, hoping he was asking after something other than what she knew he was.

"I already know I'm dying, Janet," he told her gently. "The Kelownans would have never let me go otherwise."

She winced and glanced away. "We don't know anything for sure yet, Daniel," she told him firmly. "Their readings may have been off. I need to do my own assessment here."

She refused to meet his eyes. That alone told him she was lying. She'd already gathered enough information to reach a prognosis; she just didn't want to accept it herself yet.

He lifted his good hand to cover her double-gloved ones where they were holding his other, stopping her. "Janet." He spoke her name softly but insistently. She finally glanced up. Her eyes meeting his spoke of a hope she refused to surrender just yet. They also told him just how desperate that hope was.

He didn't need false promises. He needed the truth. "Tell me."

Friendship and empathy warred with her professional detachment, but he held her gaze steady and willed her the strength to tell him what he needed to know.
* * *

The ambulance attendants had been more than surprised to be told to drive to Cheyenne Mountain - especially with a kid. Lam had flashed her credentials, verifying she was a doctor; and Jack flashed his, verifying he was a two star general.

They didn't argue.

Lam rode with them; the other's followed in Teal'c's suburban. Jack insisted on driving. He had Mitchell call ahead even though he suspected Lam was doing so as well. The guard at the gate waved them through, then Danny was quickly caught up by a full medical emergency response team. Jack and the others had to follow more slowly and were forced to go through normal sign-in procedures. Even Jack's two stars didn't sway the SFs from their duty.

Clenching his teeth in impatience, Jack slapped his hand on the palm scanner and reminded himself they were just doing their jobs.

Walter met them at the elevator change. "Begging the general's pardon, but Gen. Landry would like to know what's going on, sir?" he asked succinctly.

Jack knew Landry's language had probably been closer to 'what the hell was going on' but Walter would never admit it. "Flashback to his first ascension accompanied by high fever. He wants more, he'll have to wait in line behind me to grill his daughter." A simple hand gesture kept the Chief Master Sergeant from joining them in the lift. Jack wasn't in the mood to talk.

As the doors slid shut and they started to descend, Cam broke the silence. "I'm sure he'll be fine, sir," he offered reassuringly. "Lam's the best there is."

Jack had to bite his tongue to keep from taking the younger man's head off. Lam was an unknown quantity. Oh, he knew her resume - he'd approved her appointment - but he didn't know her; not really.

He'd known Hank for years but had somehow managed to have very little exposure to the man's family. He'd enjoyed meeting his daughter and watching her reaction as he told her about the Stargate Program and the job they wanted her to do. She'd thought it one of her father's bad jokes at first, until Jack handed her a couple of prepared files of some sort with a bunch of medical gobbledygook. Then she'd paled slightly and sat down.

She'd shaken the shock off faster than most and asked several very pertinent and technical questions - which of course he couldn't answer. He had no idea what size the medical staff was or what kind of virology department they had. He knew the staff was good; the very best that the SGC could put together - and that's why they wanted her to join the team. Other than that, and the one brief meeting last week at the Omega Site, he'd never really interacted with her.

He could only wish it were Janet taking care of Danny and pray that Lam was even half the doctor she'd been.

Of course, not even Janet had been able to save Daniel from radiation poisoning. If there was one memory Jack could have kept the kid from recalling, it would have been that one.

That and maybe the loss of his wife.

Damn, if the kid went all glowy on them just because he suddenly remembered how-- 'Course he hadn't gone glowy when he remembered replicator Carter killing him, so....

Jack glared at the digital floor display, willing the numbers to go faster.
* * *

Daniel was tired. More than tired, but he couldn't sleep. He rested at the edge of oblivion, floating in the somewhat fractured but pain-free haze of morphine. He hated the feeling but was thankful for it at the same time. Half the time, he wasn't sure if he was awake or dreaming. His body was slowly disintegrating around him and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Sam's attempt with the goa'uld hand device had failed, though his lungs did feel better - which probably meant he'd bleed to death rather than drown in his own juices.

He supposed that was good. The idea of having to struggle to breathe wasn't very appealing.

He heard someone moving around beside his bed and dared crack his eyes open. Please, no more bandages he prayed; he was already practically a mummy!

The thought brought a morbid smile to his lips. He imagined himself correcting the nurses on their wrapping technique as Janet stood in the background, struggling to read his handwriting and say the proper spells for the dead. He needed some amulets to be included with the bandages....

Sick, Jackson. Blame it on the drugs.

Green, not white. Good, not a nurse. He didn't have his glasses, so it took him another long moment to recognize his visitor. "Hey, Jack," he offered quietly.

Jack, who'd apparently thought he was asleep and was debating the merits of sitting with him, jerked his gaze back to Daniel. "Hey," he returned gently. Decision made, he reluctantly took the tall stool at the bedside. It was obvious he was more than uncomfortable with the situation. He was looking everywhere but at Daniel. "I, uh... I just wanted to...."

To say good-bye? He couldn't bring himself to say it.

Then he seemed to realize what he was doing and purposely brought his gaze back to Daniel's bandage swathed face, offering a self-deprecating smile. "I'm really bad at this," he admitted.

"Yes, you are," Daniel agreed in mild amusement. He wouldn't have been any better if their situations were reversed. This could get maudlin way too fast. For both their sakes, he quickly changed the subject. "I hear that Sam thinks the Naquadria might be an important discovery."

"Yeah. Apparently. If we can get some." He could obviously care less. He brought his attention back to Daniel again. "For what it's worth, I tried to get your point across to Jonas."

Ah, so that's where he'd disappeared to. Daniel suspected Jack had chewed him a new one for refusing to tell the truth about what had happened, but.... "He's in a tough position."

The drugs were starting to rise up again to muddy his thoughts.

"You're not gonna take the fall for this," Jack insisted quietly. "I don't care what's at stake."

Pointless. He was dying. No one would care, least of all him. It seemed almost funny that it mattered to Jack.

Jack who never listened to him.

Jack who thought he was a worthless dweeb most of the time.

"Why do you care?" he wondered aloud.

Jack looked away again, obviously uncomfortable with the question; but, to Daniel's surprise, he actually answered.

"Because despite the fact that you've been a terrific pain the the ass for the last five years," he joked quietly - well, half-joked anyway, Daniel thought, "I may have, um - might have - grown ... to admire you. A little." He was obviously struggling with the touchy-feely talk. No, Jack O'Neill was not the type of man to normally come out and say something like that.

"I think."

Daniel smiled at the addendum even as the haze of morphine continued to rise and he began to drift. He appreciated how hard that had probably been for his friend to say. "That's touching," he admitted softly. It was nice to know.

Jack said something else, but Daniel didn't hear it. He felt himself flying away again, slipping into that ethereal somewhere that was neither conscious nor unconscious, but somewhere else altogether.

"Kasuf..." he murmured softly.

"What?" Cam asked, sitting at Danny's bedside. He looked so small, dwarfed by the infirmary bed once again.

Jack on the opposite side frowned pensively. At least it wasn't Oma, he thought; but had to wonder what Daniel was remembering now that would have him calling his father-in-law's name.
* * *

Part 39

"I know you," Danny nodded. "You're Kasuf...."

He found himself sitting on floor-pillows in the midst of a large room constructed of ancient adobe, surrounded by textiles and house goods he knew he should recognize but couldn't place. He was dressed in course woven robes he knew well, though they were sized to fit his smaller body now. The under robe was called a del'a he knew. It reminded him of the djellabah or hooded thobe sometimes worn by the nomadic Bedouin of the Arabian Peninsula. The over robe however was actually closer to a Greek toga than a bisht and was tied at the shoulders. His kuf, or headscarf, was draped loosely around his neck and shoulders and bore little resemblance to the Arabic gutra and igal his father had been known to occasional wear on a dig site. It was only donned here when the sands flew....

Here was Abydos, he realized.

He glanced up at the man beside him again. "You were the tribal leader and chief priest of the people of Abydos. I called you 'Good-Father' once but ... you're not my father."

Kasuf nodded. "True, I am not the father of your body; yet did I have the honor to become the father of your heart the day you married my daughter, Sha'ré."

Danny frowned and closed his eyes. The image of a beautiful young woman came to mind and he gasped as a million new memories suddenly unfolded before his mind's eye. He felt a light touch on his shoulder. Instantly, the weight of confusion and pain was gone. The memories remained, but they were old friends and no longer overwhelmed him as they played out slowly in the span of a single heartbeat.

"The time for mourning my daughter's loss is long past, Good-Son." Kasuf remarked calmly. He gestured at the pillows beside him. "May I sit?"

Danny blinked and realized he'd forgotten his manners. "Yes of course. Please." He gestured at the pillows, half-rising in belated courtesy as the older man slowly settled himself and arranged his robes about him.

"Ahh..." he sighed in weary relief. "I may no longer have bones to creak and groan with the passing of years, but my mind still remembers and appreciates the touch of a good pillow."

"You're ascended," Danny suddenly realized. Why his mind hadn't clicked on that earlier, he didn't know.

"Yes," Kasuf nodded. "Along with everyone else on Abydos when Anubis sought to destroy our world."

Danny bowed his head as he suddenly remembered his failure to protect them.

"You did not fail us, Good-Son," Kasuf answered his unspoken pain. "Your heart has always been true to what you believe in most. You set into motion that which was always meant to be, but the greater task was never yours to undertake."

"The Others wouldn't let me," he remembered bitterly.

"The circle had to be completed."

"You mean Oma's circle," he surmised. "She was the one who created Anubis; she had to be the one to take him out - is that what you mean?"

"A circle when begun has a beginning and an ending, but when completed has neither. Oma's path was not yours to follow."

Danny frowned and bowed his head. This wasn't why he was here. He looked up again. "I was remembering my first ascension," he stated, changing the subject.

Kasuf offered an unintelligible grunt of affirmation and nodded. "You were remembering more than that. Too much. And yet, not enough."

"I don't understand."

"Yes." Again the older man nodded sagaciously. "That is why I am here."
* * *

Cam hated the hurry up and wait routine: always had, always would. It was easier when you were on the other side of things. Being hurt was no fun, but at least the doctors talked to you and kept telling you what was going on. Cam didn't have the patience to sit still and wait like this.

Not that he had a choice, of course.

"Will you stop pacing already!" Gen. O'Neill snapped irritably. "You're going to wear a hole in the floor - and if you do, I'll make sure the repair bill comes out of your pocket."

Sam, doing her best impression of holding up the wall, offered the floor a wry frown. "Unfair, sir," she claimed. "He's just finishing what you started years ago."

Jack grunted. "Been here way too many times."

Cam forced himself to plop down on a chair on the opposite side of the small room. "It's the nature of the job we do," he sighed and glanced at his watch. It had been over an hour and still no word. "You know, I keep telling myself he's not really a kid - and then I remember trying to comfort him when he was missing his parents or finding him zonked in the middle of his room with one arm wrapped around that stuffed donkey of his."

Jack frowned pensively. "From what Lam told me, he's more the kid than the adult." Which didn't exactly track with what he'd observed so far himself.

"Sometimes," Cam nodded, replaying the last week or so over again in his mind. "He's got all those other memories though, you know? Not just the adult ones, but the ones of him growing up and those are the stronger. I get the feeling he didn't get to be much of a kid the first time around."

"Which is why I had you buy all those toys for him," Jack countered. "I guess it was wishful thinking on my part."

"Oh, he plays with them, sir," Cam corrected him. "Not a lot. And he'll stop if he catches me watching him, but he does play. Just not like any five year old I've ever seen before."

"Like what then?" Sam asked, pushing away from the wall as the discussion caught her interest.

"Like ... the other night, he was taking a bath and being slow about it. I always check on him every so often by listening at the door. So I stop outside and listen, and I'm hearing Odysseus railing against the god Poseidon for destroying his raft and preventing him from returning to Ithaca." He offered the memory a soft chuckle.

Jack frowned, trying to remember where he should know the name 'Odysseus' from.

"'The Odyssey', sir," Sam supplied. "By Homer. It's an ancient Greek poem about--"

"--I know what 'The Odyssey' is Carter!" he quickly informed her. He knew it was big, old and famous - and that he'd probably read the Cliff Notes for it at some point. They also had a ship named after it. He didn't need to know more than that.

"I too have read this poem," Teal'c informed them, speaking for the first time in more than an hour. "Daniel Jackson loaned it and its companion piece, the 'Iliad', to me some years ago. Odysseus and his son would have made fine Jaffa."

The rest of the team blinked at him in mild surprise. Given how 'The Odyssey' ended, Cam decided he could see Teal'c's point.

Sam had to ask. "And Odysseus' wife, Penolope?"

Teal'c offered the question a solemn nod. "Indeed," he agreed. "She reminded me strongly of Ishta - though I suspect Ishta would have killed the Suitors herself long before her husband returned home."

Jack frowned, knowing he was going to have to hunt the thing down now and read it again whether he wanted to or not. The idea of Jaffa staring in the story was too good to resist. He wondered if he could imagine Apophis in place of Poseidon? Then a noise beyond the door caught his attention and he suddenly stood up. Lam didn't wear the oh-so-impractical heels that had always announced Janet's approach but Jack still made it to his feet before she entered. The rest of his team followed suit, anxious for her report.

She didn't mince her words. "We've managed to stabilize him for the moment, but his condition isn't good. While his fever isn't classified as dangerous yet, it's still far too high. We're trying various medications to lower it now, but so far no response."

"Is he awake?" Jack immediately asked.

"No," Lam answered and pursed her lips. "That's the other thing that has me worried. All his other vitals and blood work came back normal, but he's unconscious and we can't wake him."

"A coma?" Sam asked in alarm.

"No," Lam corrected her. "He still responds to pain and other stimuli. If we try hard enough, we can rouse him for a few seconds at a time, but he slips right back under again. It's too light to be called a coma - yet."

"Can we see him?" This from Cam.

"In a few more minutes. We're running another scan with Khalek's device at the moment. Only two at a time," she added firmly. "Talk to him if you want but if he gets restless you'll have to leave. And I don't want you to try to wake him."

Sam frowned. "But I thought--"

"--His fever spiked when we did it," Lam explained. "Until we get it under control and have a better idea of what's going on here, I don't want him stressed. Just hold his hand and let him know your there."

She received four worried nods of understanding.

"I'll let you know when he's settled," she allowed and turned to hurry back to her patient.
* * *

Part 40

His hab'l was missing.

Glancing to the side, Danny saw it laying beside an ornate carved chest. Not surprising. He wasn't sure why he'd even noticed it missing? The thick heavy rope of Mastidge hair was the symbol of a teacher or a leader - but he was neither now. He might have some of the memories of his adult-self, but even here - in the depths of his own mind - he envisioned himself as a little boy.

Silently, he watched as Kasuf bent forward, his large gnarled hand carefully cupped around a small flame. The match stick of twisted hemp was gently touched to three candle wicks and soon the room was filled with a soft, flickering glow. It must be approaching sunset, he realized; and yet none of this was real - so why was he imagining sunset?

"A blind man cannot see the color red, but if you tell him something is hot, he understands. His reality is not the same as yours, but is it any less real for being different?" Kasuf asked, blowing out his match stick and sitting back down again.

"You're reading my mind now?" Danny asked.

"How can I not? We are in your mind, Good-Son." Kasuf frowned and reached up to rub his forehead as if suffering a mild headache. "Your thoughts are practically shouting to be heard."

"I'm sorry."

Kasuf dropped his hand and shook his head. "No. It is the Ori who have done this, not you. It pains me to see you this way. Long have I considered you the son of my heart, but never have I thought of you as a child. Even now, I still see the man within."

"He's still here, Good-Father," Danny insisted. "I cannot always find or see him myself, but ... he's here." He rested his hand on his head.

Kasuf reached out and moved Danny's small hand from his head to his heart. "And here." The old man nodded. "In this much, have the Ori failed utterly."

"Why did they do this, Good-Father?" He frowned, wanting more than guesses for answers. "Was I really that much of a threat to them?"

"So they believe." Kasuf nodded. "Whether it is true or not, is yet to be seen."

Danny continued to frown pensively. "If they and the Ancients are enemies, then why don't the Ancients fight them?" he asked. "If they really have been protecting us, why would they abandon us now?"

Kasuf frowned as well and shook his head. "I do not believe they have, Good-Son. There is much about the Others I do not know or understand. I and the people of Abydos do not exist on their plane, for there are many planes of existence between this and theirs. Yet had the Others truly abandoned you, they could have stopped me from coming here; no?"

"They're going to let you help me?" Danny asked. Was it possible for Kasuf to change him back to an adult and give him his old life back?

"I cannot change what the Prior has done." Kasuf shook his head. "He has taken powers that he asked the Ori to give him and acted of his own free will. The Ori may have 'cheated' as you say, but they have not broken the Laws of the Ancients; unless they do, the Others will not interfere."

"Then why are you here?"

"You are my Good-Son," he answered as though stating the obvious.

Danny smiled. "You're walking the line," he realized.

"A most precarious thing to do," he observed with an discontented grunt and then folded his arms. "I cannot change what has been done, but I can show you what has been undone." Leaning forward, he offered solemnly, "If one immediately knows the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago."

Danny grimaced and looked away. Why couldn't any of this be easy? "Yeah ... that phrase seems to be a particular favorite among the ascended," he sighed, forcing himself to turn back to Sha'ré's father. "Did I ever understand it?"

A small smile touched the older man's lips as he sat back on his pillows again. "Time is a circle, but life is not. All paths must have a beginning and an ending, but that does not mean they are straight. There are many choices and turns to be made along the way - sometimes they are made for us. The path you now walk has doubled-back upon itself."

Danny frowned again as he tried to follow the older man's teaching. "...Creating a circle." A circle when begun has a beginning and an ending, but when completed has neither.

Kasuf nodded as if hearing his own words in Danny's mind. "If one strikes a match to light the candle, and then looks back along such a path, what does one see?"

Danny blinked as the oft-repeated zen koan suddenly made sense. "The ending before the beginning."

Kasuf nodded and took it one step further. "And if the circle is completed?"

"A trap," he realized. No beginning, no ending. No escape.

"The circle must be broken before it is complete."

"How?" he asked simply.

"Lift the pen."
* * *

Doctor Lam was immediately waved forward as she returned to Danny's bedside. "Doctor?" The technician who was operating Khalek's device turned the monitor so she could see it more clearly.

"Damn it!" she whispered, seeing Danny's brain lit up like a Christmas tree - and his fever was climbing again. She'd been afraid of something like this. How the hell was she supposed to treat it? "Okay, I know this didn't work with Cassandra Frasier, but we're going to try it anyway: push 150 mg of Dantrolene for the fever, and let's see if we can't see some neural activity reduction with 25 mg of Bromocriptine. Watch his blood pressure with it."

She frowned at the brain monitor fiercely and watched as it rose from 48 to 51%.

"And get Gen. O'Neill and Col. Mitchell in here, stat," she added. She didn't know how, or even 'if', they could help - maybe they could talk the kid down or something! - but at the moment she didn't know what else to do.
* * *

Danny bowed his head, finding this all far too complicated and confusing. On the one hand, he felt as if he should understand it; as if ... if he only tried just a little bit harder, it would all make perfect sense! On the other hand, he didn't want to understand it. Something about it terrified him.

Kasuf nodded as he regarded the boy in the deepening night. Dark shadows crowded the corners of the room now, fighting against the touch of the candlelight. "One cannot stand still upon the path of life," he noted calmly. "The end of the circle is in sight. You must escape it while you still can."

He looked up at the man opposite him again. "How?" he asked. "How do I lift the pen?"

"It is your hand that holds it, and your will that guides it," Kasuf told him patiently. "Only you can find that answer."

Danny frowned and bowed his head again. They were talking in circles. He needed to get outside the metaphor.

Or at least try to understand it.

"Why am I here, Kasuf?" he asked in confusion. "Am I dying? Are you trying to offer me ascension again?"

"The Prior's attack has opened that which should have remained closed. You do not need my help to ascend." The older man shook his head. "Look behind you. It has already happened."

Daniel looked up in surprise. "That's the circle!" he suddenly realized. "This all started when I remembered dying-- ascending." He suddenly paled. "The attack has taken me back before I ascended. The knowledge of the Ancients was never erased from my mind, but...." He frowned in confusion. "If it was only blocked, it should have killed me long ago. The human mind is incapable of holding that much information. How can I be accessing it now?"

"The same way you accessed it when you were ascended."

He frowned harder. "But ... I was ascended," he argued in confusion. There had been no physical limitations.

"You have accessed it before when you were not ascended; when the thinking machine that looked like your friend searched your mind for the weapon at Dakara," Kasuf reminded him.

The memory of that battle was suddenly crystal clear in his mind. The replicator had forced the blocks that had been placed in his mind aside and the sheer volume of what she'd dared touch had overwhelmed her. It should have overwhelmed him as well ... except that his mind was so completely focused on trying to stop her that his brain failed to accept or acknowledge anything it didn't need. The knowledge had merely flowed through him.

He glanced up as understanding dawned. "I have to stop the flow," he said. "Let the knowledge go and then you can put the blocks back in place."

But Kasuf was shaking his head. "I cannot," he answered gravely and climbed again to his feet.

"You're leaving?" Danny realized, suddenly frightened.

"I cannot walk your path, Good-Son, only illuminate the way," he answered. "Any blocks I or the Others might seek to place would be as impermanent as those Oma originally gave you. Less so - for your mind now knows how to overcome them. Instead of blocks, you must now build a door - and close it."

"How?" he asked desperately.

"Lift the pen," Kasuf repeated, and then he was gone.

Daniel stared at the space where he'd been, feeling incredibly alone and confused. "For once I wish the damn thing would just run out of ink," he muttered.
* * *

Part 41

"Ah, crap," Jack muttered as he and Mitchell got a good look at the monitor showing Danny's brain activity. A nurse was busy futzing with something or other on Danny's right so he hurried to his left.

Cam turned on the doctor. "I thought you assured us he wasn't in any danger of ascending again!"

"He's not," Lam answered. "The increased neural activity is causing a malignant hyper-pyrexia. I'm already seeing depression of vital functions and the early signs of neuro-toxicity."

Neither man had a clue what she'd just said.

She sighed and reworded it, pointing at the brain monitor. "What you're seeing there has nothing to do with any kind of evolutionary process. His brain isn't changing, it's being over-taxed. I imagine it's similar to what happened to you, general, when you had the Repository of the Ancients downloaded into your mind - only you didn't run a fever. That's more in keeping with what happened to Cassandra Frasier when Nirti played around with her DNA. How the two are related, I don't know; but I do know that this fever of his is going to kill him long before he reaches the 90% brain function required for conscious ascension if I can't find a way to stop it."

Jack glanced up from the pale face of his friend with a frown. "And you called us in here because...?" The urgency of the situation should have dictated exactly the opposite.

"Because I can't stop it," she answered bluntly. "Whatever is happening here, it's happening fast and he's not responding to any of our treatments so far."

Cam paled. "He's dying."

"I'm not giving up yet," Lam answered, "but I am running out of options. We're about to hook him up to an intra-vascular cooling system that is normally used to induce hypothermia in cardiac and brain trauma victims, but I don't know how effective it's going to be and it does nothing to treat the underlying cause. He needs to fight this himself somehow, and he needs a reason to fight." She turned her gaze back to where Jack stood beside the bed, listening anxiously. "I want you to talk to him. Give him something to focus on other than whatever the hell he's focusing on now. I don't know if it'll help or not, but at this point it certainly can't hurt."

Cam frowned in confusion, remembering her earlier injunctions. "So you do want us to wake him up?"

She shook her head. "I don't think you have to," she answered and frowned at the brain monitor again. "I'm betting with that level of brain activity going on, he's fully aware of everything going on around him - whether he can respond to it or not."
* * *

Danny sat in the middle of the room, frowning in indecision. Kasuf had helped him understand what the problem was but that didn't help him solve it. Not really. And now he was alone.

Well, that wasn't exactly true.

If he closed his eyes and listened, he could sense that other 'where' where his body really was. They were fighting to save him, but he knew it wouldn't work. What was happening had nothing to do with anything physical - or at least nothing physical that Dr. Lam could do anything about.

A hot desert breeze suddenly danced through the room causing the candles Kasuf had lit to flare and gutter, but this room had no windows. Danny frowned as he scrambled to his feet. Moving to the doorway, he lifted the heavy clothe curtain aside and suddenly found himself standing in the gate room.

The iris was open and the Stargate was active. That's where the little breeze was coming from. He turned and glanced back, but his home on Abydos was gone. Only the closed blast shield for the control room stood behind him.

The breeze whipped around him once more, now lifting the edges of his robe and playing with his hair. He turned to face the gate again, watching as the event horizon suddenly flickered and the chevrons flared in protest. A bright white light filled the area and he had to lift his hand to shield his eyes. An Ascended being was coming through, but he knew it wasn't Kasuf. And it couldn't be Oma, could it?

He watched in mounting trepidation as the amorphous energy form glided down the ramp and stopped halfway. Settling downward, it quickly coalesced into human form and Danny found himself looking up into confused blue eyes. The breeze from the gate whipped around the other as well, lifting identical robes to those Danny wore but on an adult body.

The man frowned as he recognized the boy before him. "Oh, this can't be good," he decided.

And then the gate behind him flared again and two sets of eyes turned to watch as the cool puddle of water which had always filled the gate suddenly changed to become a wall of living fire, like the one Danny had seen in the City of Celestis in the Ori home galaxy.

"No," Danny agreed, wondering whether confronting his adult-self meant the circle was now complete or not? "Definitely not good."
* * *

Part 42

Daniel cocked his head to the side and closed his eyes, stretching forth his senses in a way that the non-ascended couldn't possibly understand - and then he and his younger self were standing in an isolation room back at the SGC. A doctor he didn't recognize was issuing orders to nurses while Jack stood at the bedside and another man Daniel didn't know stood at the foot of the bed.

He frowned in confusion and glanced up, catching sight of Teal'c and Sam in the observation room window.

"This is painfully familiar," he decided.

He glanced at the bed again. Bright red flags of fever graced the cheeks of the pale and still features which matched those of the boy at his side. At least he wasn't wrapped head to toe in gauze. They had him bundled up in a thick blue plastic sheet that Daniel recognized as a cooling blanket. He glanced at the various monitors around the bed, having been in the infirmary too many times not to be able to read most of them. There were a few pieces of equipment he didn't recognize ... however, the use of an Ancient neural scanner definitely caught his attention. A glance at the monitor connected to it told it's own story - and confused him even more.

"Okay, you're definitely in trouble here ... or should I say 'we'?"
* * *

"Sir?" Mitchell frowned in concern as he watched the general sigh and bow his head next to Danny's. It almost looked like the man was on the verge of giving up!

Jack glanced back up but there was no pain or despondency in his gaze, just a hard and grim determination. "Keep talking to him and ignore me. I'm going to try something different."

Something different? Mitchell regarded the general in confusion as the other man again leaned close to Danny, whispering something in his ear. He glanced at Dr. Lam but she was busy regarding the various monitors around Danny in obvious mounting concern. The intra-vascular cooling thingamajig she'd inserted into one of the kid's arteries was working - just. His temperature was still too high, but it wasn't climbing; which didn't actually mean much except that they might have bought a little time. His blood pressure was starting to raise again. It had originally dropped a bit when he and Gen. O'Neill first arrived, but now their presence didn't seem to be making a difference.

With a mental shrug and a glance up at the observation room window where Sam and Teal'c stood watching, he turned his attention back to the problem at hand and fought to think of something that could draw Danny away from whatever nightmare flashback was holding him captive.

"You know, sooner or later they're going to try that Supergate thing of theirs again," he offered from the foot of the bed. "You yourself said they'd never stop, remember? We lucked out when we found them before, but chances are they won't announce themselves like that again. They'll find some way to generate the power they need for their stupid shield themselves and we won't know about it until it's too late."

O'Neill glanced up in obvious irritation.

"The Supergate?" he echoed in a loud whisper. "You couldn't think of anything better than that?!"

"It's going to happen sooner or later, sir," Cam pointed out, "and we're going to need his help when it does. He's the only one who really knows anything about 'em."

A fact Jack was certain Danny was all too aware of.

"Well, try something else!" he ordered, still whispering though he wasn't sure why. "Like maybe ... uh ... why Poseidon shoulda killed that Odyssey guy instead of just destroying his ship or whatever."

Cam's brows rose in utter confusion. "Sir?"

"Danny never could resist a good argument about myth type stuff," Jack answered. "Just-- It doesn't matter. Just talk. And ignore me."

Now Mitchell was really confused. "But--"

"--Just do it! That's an order!" Jack rolled his eyes in exasperation. He did not have time to try and explain - even if he had the faintest idea how! Turning back to Danny, he closed his eyes again and bowed his head. "Come on, Daniel," he whispered softly. "I know you can hear me. Let me in!"
* * *

Daniel turned his attention back to the boy who'd apparently summoned him. Time did not normally twist and fold in on itself the way it seemed to have done here. "How did this happen? Are you a clone or something?"

"No," the boy answered shaking his head. "I'm from your future. You're part of my subconscious..."

Daniel blinked is surprise. There wasn't a whole lot that could surprise him anymore but that certainly did.

"...I think," the boy added uncertainly.

"Danny!" Jack's voice interrupted, whispering and echoing from the shadows of the room. "Let me in. We need to talk!"

Daniel glanced again at his younger self and saw him nod with an understanding he should not have possessed. "I'll get Mitchell," he said.

'Mitchell?' Daniel glanced at the man at the foot of the bed. His mouth moved but neither of them were listening to his words. Focusing on him, Daniel realized he was rambling on about ... 'Jason and the Argonauts'? His younger self moved to stand unseen beside him. With a shrug, Daniel walked around the end of the bed and stood beside Jack.

"Come on, Danny..." Jack's soft whisper implored them from the shadows.

And then Daniel laid his hand upon his shoulder.
* * *

There was a moment of vertigo, lasting no more than an instant - not unlike stepping through the Stargate, but with a twist. It was an odd displacement of self that Jack had felt once before and always hoped never to feel again.

He blinked his eyes open and wasn't surprised to find himself in the Gate room. It wasn't quite as surreal as the last time he'd been here - no odd white glow to everything or empty black shadows that seemed to stretch to eternity.

And no Oma - thankfully.

...The wall of red and gold flames filling the Stargate and radiating heat outward was a new twist. Danny's fever, maybe? He was a little surprised to see an adult Daniel standing beside him. Why that should surprise him, he didn't know, but it did. Seeing the Abydonian robes he was wearing was even more disconcerting.

"Daniel..." He nodded hesitantly. Was he getting ready to leave them and ascend again?

"Jack." He nodded back.

"Watchya doin'?"

He watched as Daniel considered that for a long moment before offering a small shrug. "I don't really know," he answered honestly.

Jack felt another 'shift', but it wasn't--

"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!"

Jack quickly spun to see Mitchell and little Danny standing behind them; Danny wearing the same robes as big Daniel, and Mitchell looking more than a little confused.

He couldn't resist needling the new guy.

"Hey there!" he offered with a big smile and sweeping wave of one hand. "Welcome to Danny's world. 'Glad you could join us."
* * *

Part 43

Cam glanced from the adult Daniel Jackson standing beside the general to the little Danny still holding his hand and momentarily wondered if maybe he hadn't been in an accident, making all this a drug induced hallucination of some kind? He'd had a few of those in the past. The question was, when did the hallucination begin? He knew this wasn't real; for one thing, he had two perfectly good wrists and no sling at the moment - which was of course assuming the last week was real! His hallucinations didn't usually manage to maintain such continuity for any length of time though; so, he was sure - uh, pretty sure - or, well, maybe....

Damned if he could tell!

He glanced over at Jack O'Neill. He'd said he'd wanted to try something... "...Different, sir?"

Jack shrugged expressively. "Daniel and I have done this before." He then gestured at the flame-filled gate. "And I'd definitely call that different, wouldn't you?" he asked flippantly.

Cam frowned at the strange blaze, trying to tell himself he wasn't really hearing the dull roar of hungry flames or feeling a hot little breeze dancing through the imaginary and otherwise empty Gate room.

The general continued, turning from the colonel back to Jackson at his side. "I'm not helping you ascend this time," he stated emphatically. "Once was way more than enough. You can just fight to stick around this time because we are not losing you like that again. I'd think twice would be enough to turn you off the idea anyway?"

Jackson frowned and lifted a surprised brow. "'Twice?'"

It was Danny's turn to speak up. "He's from before that, Jack," he explained wearily. "He doesn't know about the second time."

"Do I want to?" the other Daniel asked.

Danny shook his head. "Probably not." He tugged on Cam's hand and indicated he wanted to be picked up.

This was new. Danny never asked to be picked up - he tolerated it, yes, but this was the first time he'd asked. Frowning, Cam bent and easily lifted him to one hip. The course-woven robes hitched upward to reveal simple leather sandals and scrawny bare legs. He laid his head on Cam's shoulder - and Cam realized he was still burning up.

Knowing there was nothing he could do about it, Cam turned his attention to the more immediate question. He glanced at Jackson in utter confusion. Was Danny saying this was another Jackson? Not a part of his memories being projected in this ... wherever the hell this surreal place was - Danny's head, maybe?

God, he hoped he and the general hadn't both gone and collapsed or anything. Lam would have a heart attack!

"Wait a minute," Jack interjected. "You mean you're not--" He glanced between them in confusion. "You're him, right? I mean, if you're him, then shouldn't you--"

Jackson was shaking his head. "--I don't know," he answered. Cam knew he was talking about more than just not knowing about the second ascension.

"You don't know?" Jack echoed in surprise.

"No," Jackson confirmed and turned to Danny. "Do you remember any of this happening before?"

The boy shook his head without lifting it. "But the Ori messed with my brain when they shrunk me," he explained wearily. "I don't remember everything."

Jackson reacted as if he'd been slapped. "You know about the Ori?" He turned his surprised and demanding gaze back to Jack.

Cam was more concerned with Danny. "Hey, you okay?" he whispered.

"Oh, yeah," Jack ignored them and answered Jackson sarcastically. "You and your friend, Vala Mel ... Mal ... whatever, found an ancient communications device and just had to play with it. They've been sending their Priors through the gate for months now, killing anyone who doesn't bow down to them: droughts, plagues, swarms of meat-eating bugs, destroying whole planets and civilizations ... you know, the usual!"

Danny's head lulled forward and reality seemed to 'flicker'. "Whoa, there! Danny?" Cam called, giving him a little jog to wake him up. "You brought us here to help you, remember? You need to stay with us now."

The small tousled head came up again, but he wasn't looking good. "I'm tired," he complained. "And my head hurts."

Jackson was immediately at Cam's side, his hand on Danny's forehead. Cam and Jack shared a glance and held their breath, afraid to ask how it was possible for him to help himself if he was ... Okay, the question was too convoluted to even think about very hard!

The boy sighed in apparent relief and then lifted his head again. "Thanks," he offered quietly.

"It won't last," Jackson warned him, dropping his hand. "You can't take much more of this."

"We don't even know what 'this' is!" Cam protested as he cupped the boy's head where it rested on his shoulder again, offering him the only comfort he could. Danny's hair was sticking to his forehead in wet sweat-stained strands. And Cam realized he was starting to sweat too. The heat from the gate was getting worse.

That couldn't be good.

Danny looked up again and met his older self's gaze. "The first time I ascended and descended again, Oma placed blocks in my mind--"

"--Resulting in amnesia," Mitchell added, remembering the file all too well but Danny was shaking his head.

"It was more than that," he insisted.

The playful desert breeze suddenly gusted about them, tearing at clothes and nearly staggering Cam back a step - and then it died down again, leaving bright gold and red embers to drift lazily downward. They were running out of time.

"The blocks Oma placed in my mind were designed to keep me from accessing the knowledge of the Ancients."

"You mean the fragments of knowledge she didn't erase," Jack interjected.

It was Danny's turn to shake his head. "She didn't erase anything, Jack. It's all still there. It always has been."

"That's not possible."

"Not physically, no," he agreed, "but I wasn't physical when I gained it. My brain can't handle it, but my mind can still access it."

"Okay...." Jack shared a baffled look with Mitchell, and then turned back to Danny. "I have no idea what you just said."

"I do," the adult Daniel beside them declared. He offered the active gate a pensive frown. Then, with a wave of his hand, it suddenly vanished.

And so did Danny.
* * *

Part 44

"Danny!" the man who'd been holding his younger-future-self exclaimed as he suddenly found his arms empty.

"He's alright," Daniel hurried to assure him, noting he seemed to be genuinely concerned for the boy. "I've severed the connection between him and the Ancient knowledge. He'll be fine now."

Jack and the other man exchanged baffled looks. "That's it?" Jack asked. "Just...?" He waved his hand the same way Daniel had.

It seemed too easy - to them. It wasn't, but he wasn't sure how to explain. Danny had been accessing his memories. The boy was flesh and blood - he couldn't break the connection; but Daniel wasn't - and could. In answer to Jack, he just shrugged.

"And you couldn't have done this to yourself sooner!" Jack exclaimed in exasperation.

"I didn't know what the problem was," he answered simply. Meeting twin baffled looks, he held up a hand to forestall the questions he could see forming. "I - don't - know," he repeated emphatically. Was he nothing more than a fragmentary mental projection; or, was he what his own mind insisted, an ascended being who'd been drawn to his younger self through time?

Or was he both?

"Reality is an odd thing, Jack," he told his old friend, "like the wind. You know it's there, you can feel it on your face, but if you try to hold it in your hands it becomes nothing more than air."

"Oy!" Jack suddenly groaned and grabbed his head. "You've been hanging out with Oma too much!"

Daniel just grinned and turned his attention to Mitchell.

"What?" the other man asked, as if half expecting Daniel to tell him he had something stuck in his teeth. Then he felt something brush his mind and reeled back in surprise. "Whoa!" he exclaimed sharply. "Stop that! I thought we were in Danny's brain, not mine!"

"We're in mine at the moment," Daniel answered. "Whether that's the same as his or not, I'm not sure - but I doubt it, or I probably couldn't maintain this reality. I just wanted to know what your connection to all this was."

"I'm a friend!" the man answered, his irritation making him a little curt, but Daniel sensed no real animosity behind his words. "I could'a told you that if you just asked!"

"He's okay," Jack leaned forward to supply. "A little cocky and headstrong sometimes, but he saved our bacon when we needed it a couple of years ago. Nearly got killed doing it too. Just too stubborn to die - which of course made him the natural choice to lead SG-1."

Mitchell fought not to roll his eyes at this 'ringing' endorsement. "Thank you, sir," he offered, and managed to do so with only a hint of sarcasm.

His reaction confirmed he was new, or he'd have known Jack's words actually were a ringing endorsement. Jack O'Neill would never hand SG-1 over to just anyone - let alone entrust Daniel's younger self to a stranger. He continued to study the other man for a long moment until he started to fidget.

"And?" Mitchell asked, sensing there was more he had to say.

"And..." Daniel offered him a sudden relaxed smile. "I think I'm going to like meeting you," he decided. Turning back to Jack, he wiped the expression from his face, folded his arms and cocked his head to the side. "Why aren't you taking care of ... mini-me?" he asked abruptly.

"'Can't," Jack answered with a shrug. "President's got me stuck in Washington now." He grimaced, eloquently expressing how much he enjoyed riding a desk - not! It wasn't a future Daniel could easily envision for him. "You - in whatever form you decide to take from time to time - belong at the SGC. Besides," Jack sighed, "he'd be bored silly inside five minutes in D.C."

Daniel offered that a concessionary wince. He couldn't imagine being stuck in D.C. for any length of time. "I always expected you to take over command of the SGC after Hammond retired," he noted.

"I did," Jack explained. "Only Hammond didn't retire. He got yanked to Washington to head Home World Security - we've gone multi-national now, and let me tell you it's been nothing but a massive headache since day one! I'd really like to know how a bunch of bratty spoiled diplomats think they can--"

"--Sir!" Mitchell interjected forcefully.

"What?!" Jack snapped. He never did like to be interrupted when he was on a good roll.

"Are you sure we should be telling him any of this, sir?" the younger man asked, glancing at Daniel apologetically.

Jack blinked.

"You know, the whole ... 'if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather' paradox stuff Carter is always yammering on about?"

"He came forward in time!" Jack exclaimed.

"Still, sir--

"--He's right, Jack," Daniel interrupted. "The same principal still applies. I could alter your history when I return to my own time."

"Oh, could you?" Jack offered hopefully. "Not any of the stuff with Anubis and the replicators, but if you could just keep yourself from playing around with that--"

"--Jack!" Daniel caught his gaze and shook his head firmly.

Jack sighed. "Interfering, huh?"

"I already know too much."

Jack sighed again. "And I don't suppose you can tell us anything about how to fight the Ori either, right? Like maybe how to defeat them!"

Daniel looked to the side. There was a whole host of Others watching him now. He couldn't see them, but he could feel them and their over-riding disapproval like an oppressive weight. He'd be yanked away in an instant if he even thought about answering that. He didn't understand how they could just sit idly by and--

He felt a warning caress.

It was Oma. She'd allowed him to interfere as it was. She wouldn't - couldn't - let him do more. Her voice sang across his thoughts. A man cannot walk two paths at the same time. Say your good-byes. It is time we returned to our own journeys, and left them to theirs.

The Other's must have summoned her through time when he showed up. Or she had followed him, which seemed more likely.

Daniel offered a mental sigh and glanced between the two men pensively. He didn't know who this 'Mitchell' was - but his younger self seemed to trust him. 'Danny' had surprised him by apparently preferring Mitchell over Jack, but he understood now it wasn't a matter of preference at all. It was a combination of things - and not necessarily bad. From what he'd sensed, the boy simply had too many memories of his adult friendship with Jack for him to see the older man in any other way. Now that he was a child, he probably didn't know how to make it 'fit'. Daniel suspected they would have both adapted if circumstances turned out such that Jack had taken him in - but it hadn't. So 'Mitchell' had become his younger self's father figure instead.

And that might not be as terrifying a thought as he'd first supposed.

"Crayons and coffee cups," he thought aloud.

Jack frowned. "What?"

"Danny," he answered. It felt strange to say that. He'd insisted upon 'Daniel' for so long. "Crayons and coffee cups; a child with the memories of a man. He's going to need you both," he decided with a nod, glancing between the two. "The father figure who can let him be the boy he is, and the solid and caring friend of the man he once was."

"And who we hope he will be again," Jack added firmly. "Soon! We're still trying to fix this you know."

The young commander of SG-1 got the look of a man with a sudden idea. "I don't suppose you could--"

"--No," Daniel answered firmly before the other man could finish. He was ascended, not omnipotent, and didn't know how he'd go about fixing it even if he were permitted.

Mitchell sighed wearily. "'Didn't think so," he allowed, then frowned pensively. "How do we know this kinda thing won't happen again?"

"It won't," Daniel answered simply.

Jack, ever the cynic, pounced on that. "You're sure?"

"I made sure he has the ability to shut the door himself if it does."

"Isn't that ... interfering?" Jack asked pointedly.

"Well, I'm him, so technically.... Call it a loop hole in the rules." Daniel shrugged and put a finger to his lips. "Don't tell the Others."

Jack offered the idea a little snort. Apparently he wasn't too impressed with the Others. Daniel couldn't blame him.

"So..." Mitchell asked hesitantly. "What happens now?"

"Now," Daniel sighed, "we resume our individual journeys." He offered Jack a somewhat wistful smile. "I've missed you, Jack," he stated simply and started to transform back into pure energy again. He glanced at Mitchell. "Don't make Danny polish too many shoes."

Michell chuckled and then did a double-take as Daniel finished transforming; but, before the lieutenant colonel could ask how he knew about that, he blinked and found himself back in the Isolation room, the very word he'd been speaking when Danny took his hand tumbling off his tongue in nothing more than gibberish as his mind reconnected with itself.

The unknown doctor cast Mitchell a questioning glance. And then she was suddenly calling a series of urgent orders as Danny's reading abruptly began to improve.

Unseen, Daniel moved around the exam table and laid his hand on Danny's forehead. He really hoped this second time around - no matter how long it lasted - was better than the first. "Have fun," he whispered. It seemed he was going to have a very interesting future!

Then he was gone.
* * *

Part 45

"You don't have to stay, you know," Jack sighed without taking his eyes from the quiet face of his miniaturized friend. Danny had woken briefly after his ordeal and fallen right back to sleep again, physically exhausted by what the fever had done to his young body. Lam was still a little worried but Jack was trusting in what that other Daniel had told them: that his younger self would be fine now. "I'm used to sitting with him. Why don't you go get something to eat?"

"And let you get the extra brownie the nurses always bring him when I'm around? No way," Cam commented lightly. "But I'll split it with you."

Jack offered him a small smile, then dragged his gaze back to the kid in the bed. "I'll stick with the jello, thanks."

Cam shuddered. "You can have it. I got way too much of that stuff after my accident in Antarctica."

"Danny doesn't much care for it either," Jack noted. "He's more an ice cream kinda guy."

"And chocolate," Cam added, knowingly. "Anything and everything with chocolate."

"Candy bars." Jack nodded in agreement. "He was forever sneaking those things into his backpack or uniform pockets before we went off-world."

"Concentrated energy source," Cam shrugged. "Not as good as a power bar, but he's pretty addicted to those things too."

"He used a Fifth Avenue bar to break the ice with Kasuf the first time we went to Abydos." Jack had explained who Kasuf was before they'd taken their little existential journey.

"The old guy might have misunderstood flowers," Cam joked lightly.

The two men fell silent again in their shared vigil as they waited for their friend to wake up.
* * *

Both Sam and Teal'c turned as the door of the observation room opened, revealing Gen. Landry. He quickly waved Sam back down in her seat before she could fully straighten to attention. "'Thought I'd come and check on everything myself," he explained quietly. "Carolyn tells me our young Dr. Jackson appears to be out of the woods?"

Sam nodded and turned back to the observation window. "Something happened about and hour ago. His fever suddenly abated and his brain scans returned to ... well, almost normal. Better than they have been for the last week anyway. He woke for a few minutes and then fell back into a normal sleep. Cam and Gen. O'Neill both seem to think he's going to be fine now, 'though neither of them will explain why."

It wasn't the only thing they wouldn't explain. Both Sam and Teal'c had noted a definite lack of tension between the two men since Danny's turn around - whether it was permanent or not, they couldn't tell.

Gen. Landry frowned through the glass into the room beyond. "Then why are they both still in there?"

An amused smile graced her lips. "It's a Daniel thing, sir," she answered. "I'm not sure I could explain it better than that."

The base commander offered a small understanding grunt. "He does have that kind of effect on people, doesn't he?" He offered the view beyond the glass a small smile of his own. "Big or small."

"Indeed," Teal'c intoned softly in agreement.
* * *

Danny giggled.

He hadn't meant to. He was only just on the cusp of being awake really. Jack and Mitchell's voices floating over and around him had penetrated his sleep-fogged mind with comforting familiarity. And then Sam and Teal'c's quiet voices had joined in. They'd been debating something or other, but he didn't know (or care) what. There was a friendly banter about it that told Daniel it was far from being an argument. Jack's 'For cryin' out loud!' is what had finally caught Danny's attention and won a reaction, pulling him further from the indistinct tangle of pleasant dreams he'd been enjoying.


Mitchell's voice; mild surprise, no urgency. Danny's eyelids were just too heavy to open in answer.

"You can stop playing possum, kid," Jack's voice this time; just a touch of teasing irritation. "You already blew your cover."

Danny was feeling far too tired and comfortable to even really frown at that. He was waking up, he knew, and he didn't want to. "S'eepy," he murmured, turning his head to the side and hoping to find that 'just right' spot again. The soft crackle of vinyl under a cotton pillow case and the distinctive smell of disinfectant won the frown Jack's words had only tempted. He definitely preferred his dreams if he was only going to wake to find himself in the infirmary again.

"Hey, sleepyhead." Sam this time; her voice soft and coaxing. He felt her fingers gently brush the bangs across his forehead. "Don't you want to wake up enough just to say 'hi'? We've been a little worried about you."

Worried? Okay, that pretty much ended any hope of drifting back to sleep. Reluctantly, he forced his eyes open and turned his head back around. His eyes closed again almost immediately even as he stretched restlessly. The pull of an IV in his arm and the feel of wires snaking up under his pajamas confirmed where he was. He smacked his lips irritably, finding his mouth dry and yucky, and then slitted his eyes open again to take in everyone gathered around his hospital bed. "Wha' ha'pen?" he muttered, wondering why he was stuck back in the infirmary again.

"You don't remember?" Sam. Mild concern.

Danny groaned. He was just too tired to want to remember - but he should have known better. Everyone always wanted to know what the last thing was he remembered whenever he woke up in the infirmary. Irritably, he forced his mind to work and brushed the last of his sleepy cobwebs away even as Mitchell asked if they should call Lam. He definitely didn't want that, knowing she'd probably flash her stupid penlight in his eyes. Why did doctors always do that?

"Scrabble," he answered succinctly and smacked his lips again. His mouth really tasted bad and he made a face.

'Movement to his right, then Mitchell was holding a straw to his lips. "Here you go, Squirt," he offered.

Water, he guessed. He took the straw and sucked the liquid into his parched mouth. Room temperature. It'd been setting a while. He took a couple of swallows and let the straw go. It did help. "Thanks."

Someone found the bed controls and the head of his bed slowly lifted him to a more upright position. He sighed and blinked his eyes a little harder. He was definitely more awake now, whether he wanted to be or not. Frowning in thought, he cast his mind back and tried to remember what had happened before any of his friends could ask again and feel the need to call Dr. Lam. They'd been playing Scrabble - well, he, Sam and Teal'c - and....

He glanced up again as it all quickly clicked back into place. "I had a flashback."

"Oh, yeah!" Mitchell verified readily. "And it was a doozie."

Danny scowled slightly; Mitchell's description was simplistic but accurate. "My mind was accessing the knowledge of the Ancients, but my brain couldn't handle it."

Jack winced and shook his head. "You must have been dreaming," he decided rather curtly. "Lam says your mind was going nuts, suddenly reconnecting a bunch of memories all at the same time. That's what your brain almost couldn't handle."

Danny frowned. "I--"

"--'Course you know, if you could access that kind of knowledge," Mitchell quickly interjected, giving his hand a sudden warning squeeze, "there'd be a lot of people interested in asking you about it, wouldn't they?"

"Oh, yeah," Jack agreed, casting Danny a warning look as well. "A whole lot of people."

Uh oh. The vultures would swoop down and pick his brain apart at the first hint he might have retained more than the tiny scraps of his time ascended that they already knew about.

And he did. Now.

"But that's not possible. Oma and the other Ancients erased all that stuff when you descended," Jack added. "You'd have been dead a long time ago if they didn't, right?

"Right," he agreed quickly, noting Teal'c and Sam exchange a quick understanding glance. "I just meant as part of the flashback," he added, hoping to cover himself. There were probably security cameras recording everything, though with luck they wouldn't have very good sound. "I don't remember anything that happened after I actually ascended."

"Except for a few bits and pieces Oma left behind," Jack noted. "We've been through those. Do you remember them now?" He offered Danny the smallest shake of his head. There was no way a camera would have picked it up.

Danny offered a larger shake of his head. "She left stuff behind?" he asked, reinforcing the message Jack seemed to want to convey: Nope! There was nothing here to question the kid about!

"Not much," Jack grimaced. "Rya'c and Bratak on a prison world and the ability to read Ancient better than before, but that was about it."

He nodded and then shook his head, playing dumb. "Prison world?" He swallowed nervously and glanced at Mitchell.

"Don't worry, Squirt." The younger man offered a smile that was only a little forced. "It was dealt with a long time ago. How's that head of yours feeling?" Changing the subject and moving on! "Any lingering headache or whatnot?"

He shook his head again.

And, of course, that's when Dr. Lam showed up. The attending nurse had informed her the moment he started to wake up - even before SG-1 had questioned the need to summon her.


Danny scowled unhappily as his friends stepped back and the omnipresent penlight came out.
* * *


This is what happened when he sought to be patient; something went wrong and more than one carefully laid plan was threatened.

Sidestepping his would-be-attacker's charge, he easily grabbed his wrist and twisted. The man howled as the knife dropped from his hand and the bones in his forearm splintered. A precisely dealt chop to the throat crushed his windpipe, ending the noise even as Ba'al kicked backward, catching the man's compatriot squarely in the stomach.

Hardly a challenge, either one of them, but the violence did help to clear his mind as he waited for the report which would tell him if young Daniel Jackson lived or died - and with him, Ba'al's best chance of getting his hands on the Ancient healing device Telchak had discovered and hidden from Anubis all those centuries ago.

He didn't have the specifics of what had happened, but he did know the boy had been rushed to the SGC in an ambulance. Their mole had only been able to confirm he was fighting for his life.

Of course he was, curse human fragility. To think all his hard work could be undone by a serious case of the sniffles! If they'd simply taken him to a normal hospital rather than the SGC, Ba'al might have been able to snatch him away and heal him - and wouldn't that have put everyone into his debt quite nicely? - but no. They had to steal him away to the one place on this overcrowded planet Ba'al couldn't go.

His first attacker dropped to the debris strewn earth with an agonized gurgle. The Tauri really should thank him for ridding their world of such scurrilous vermin. Their pathetic laws were painfully inadequate, as was obvious by the nightly reports of crime their news channels thrived on. The man on the ground writhed about helplessly, clutching at his ruined throat. He didn't know it of course, but he was the lucky one. His death would be relatively quick.

Ba'al turned to his friend and grinned.

At the head of the dark alley, an un-tattooed Jaffa stood in the shadows and scanned the area for potential witnesses - not that any such would be a problem in this part of the city. Regardless, his zat rested easily in hand as he calmly awaited the order to destroy the bodies, merely thankful that the righteous wrath of his god was not directed his way.

The second idiot feinted to the left but charged right, his knife sweeping upward. Ba'al caught his arm and twisted it behind him, taking the knife and turning him so his back was against Ba'al's chest and his own knife at his throat. "You've got to do much better than that if you don't want me to kill you from simple boredom here," he hissed in the man's ear.

The vibration of the cell phone in his pocket interrupted his play.

Stepping forward, Ba'al pinned the man face first against a filthy brick facade behind an overflowing dumpster and easily held him there as he set the knife aside. "Excuse me for a moment," he offered politely as he dug the phone from his pocket, "I really must take this." He flipped it open and held it to his ear, ignoring the man's feeble struggles and vulgarities. "Yes?" he said simply. A few moments later, he flipped it closed and re-pocketed it. Light flashed in his eyes as he offered the hapless human he held a malicious grin. "Tonight's your lucky night," he hissed. A quick wrench and the man dropped to the ground with a broken neck.

Still grinning, Ba'al made his way from the alleyway without a word and strode back to his car as Mar'tak cleaned up the mess.
* * *

To be Continued in
LLP#4: 'Color Outside the Lines'