Teal'c and the Tot
"You should cut it in half," O'Neill," said Teal'c. "That way you can have one half of this treasure in the wash and the other where Daniel can utilize it to its fullest potential."
Jack pressed his lips tightly together. "Its not that darn dirty," he protested. "Hey! I take it away at night and put it back before the little tyke wakes bellowing in the morning."
The both watched little Daniel put a red car in into a blue Duplo bucket. He wrinkled his brow and peered inside to consider if the move was really all that sound. It appeared not to be as he sighed, and tipped the bucket upside down for the fifth time. Smiling, drool making his lips cherry red, he looked proud of his achievement and clapped his hands in congratulation.
"Well done, Daniel Jackson!" said Teal'c warmly. "You may bring the bucket to me if it pleases you."
Danny looked at the bucket and looked at the little red racing car. Then ignoring both, he grabbed his blanket and headed for Teal'c, the blanket dragging under his knees and hampering the technique of what had become a haphazard crawl. Teal'c beamed, leaned forward to gather both baby and blanket into his arms.
"Clever child." Teal'c's joy shone in his eyes.
"So, T, want one of those weird teas?" Said Jack.
Daniel crowed and was busily wrapping the fringe of the blanket through and around his fingers of his right hand. The he popped in his thumb, together with a tassel of the blanket into his mouth and sucked slowly. With his left hand he gathered the rest of the blanket together, scrunched it tight and rubbed it against his cheek.
"What would you do if it got lost? asked Teal'c. "If you cut it in half, then losing one of the pieces would not cause the child grief."
But Jack had left the room to find the green tea and didn't hear the ominous words.
Teal'c held Danny and the blanket tight, savouring the soft warm baby weight in his arms, inhaling the mixture of stale milk and baby powder that probably came from the blankets material. He closed his eyes trying to imprint this feeling of closeness on his memory. Jaffa warriors were allowed only one loyalty and their families were considered incidental. This time, he intended to savour every moment.
Danny would be running around, going to school, graduating college, and in the beat of a heart he would be gone. He held the dimpled fist, trying unsuccessfully to separate tiny fingers from their determined grip on the blanket. Even now, this version of Daniel Jackson knew what he wanted and intended to keep it. With a smile, Teal'c did as he had done so many times before; he gave up his endeavour and bowed to the more determined man.
The blanket was nothing special, bought on sale by Jack when Danny first came home. White with blue checks and long fringes at each end, it cost a little over twenty bucks, but Teal'c knew its true value. He considered Jack did not. For Danny, this blue checked blanket did more than keep him warm, it was his lifeline. It even had a highly original name. It was called Blue.
Jack returned with the two mugs of tea and a plate of cookies, and Teal'c knew he watched as they played tug-a-war with the blanket. With a quick laugh, Jack cleared his throat, and spoke as he continued to blow on the tea softly.
"Charlie had a blanket, but I don't think he loved it like this kid does." Jack shook his head, "wonder if he remembers having one like it before?" He lowered his voice and asked. "So, figure Ryac may have had anything like this?"
Teal'c shook his head. "It is unlikely, Jaffa children needed only to grow strong." There was a sharp note of bitterness, of blame in his voice, and Danny swivelled his head to look up, eyes watering and lip trembling. He was making more thumb-sucking noises and Jack leaned across and scooped him into his arms. The blanket was attached to him as if it was as much a part of his anatomy as his arms and legs, and Danny fidgeted until he grabbed the beloved corner once more. Eyes blinked drowsily, and the blanket made its way into his mouth to be sucked along with the tiny thumb.
"He's ready for bed," said Jack. "Do you want to take him up, T?"
Teal'c stood, and reaching out, took Danny back into his arms. He tightened his hold on his little team mate and his blanket, jiggling them gently. "Come, Daniel Jackson, it is time for you and the blue-blanket to sleep now."
Danny settled in his cot, thumb in his mouth, eyes closed, and Blue ferociously entwined in his fingers. Teal'c felt a stab of envy, wistfulness even. To be able to sleep so quickly without memories to taunt and dreams to torment must be close to paradise. Since the creation of the Free Jaffa movement a new insecurity had set in. He twisted the blankets tassels between his fingers and thought that objects were often more reliable than people. They never let you down. They were always there when you needed them.With a sigh Teal'c settled in the rocker chair and pushing himself back and forth slowly, looked out of the window and into the night sky.
One day Blue disappeared. Teal'c was unaware when the crisis actually occurred, but arriving for supper at the O'Neill's, saw Danny clutching a new toy. Clapping his hands while Danny determinedly toddled towards him, he looked across at O'Neill and arched an eyebrow.
"Where is Blankie?" He asked, stumbling briefly over pronouncing the childish name. "It is the child's blanket to which I refer, O'Neill," he added with an afterthought.
"Blue? Oh, yeah, hell of a thing. When I picked Danny up from his day care they said it wasn't with his gear. Little peanut was miserable all day apparently."
"Where did you mislay it?"
"If I knew big guy, it wouldn't be lost."
"I see. Is Daniel Jackson managing without his blanket?"
Jack shrugged his expression non committal. Danny wasn't. The moment the tot became over tired he'd cry and reach for the missing Blue. Sitting mournfully, thumb in his mouth, his blue eyes accused Jack of the terrible crime. His fingers stayed unadorned with the familiar blue check blanket, and he'd twitched his hands as though this would magically make Blue reappear. Jack searched everywhere and finally bought a plush, long eared rabbit called Thumper, and hoped for the best.
Danny pushed the rabbit out of the cot at first and then gradually became used to it. He'd suck on the ears and drag it by its back feet, but when his teething made his gums sore and nose run, he'd cry again for Blue, pushing the rabbit away.
"What happened to the blanket," asked Teal'c as he picked up some blocks and handed them to the chattering little child playing at his feet.
Danny picked up yellow Duplo and with his tongue peeking through his lips, he added them one by one to the yellow bucket.
"Look, he matched the colours!" laughed Jack, clapping his hands.
Teal'c hunkered to his knees, rocking to keep balance. Was that chance, he wondered, or was Daniel learning? Who could tell? Did it matter? "O'Neill, Daniel's blanket?" "Lost it. We retraced our steps. Looked everywhere, asked the neighbours, but it's gone," explained Jack wearily. "Danny is still getting used to not having it."
"Indeed." Teal'c's universe shifted and he didn't like the feeling.
Days rolled into weeks, and Danny adjusted. Jack coped. The day care encouraged the love for Thumper. They all coped. Except Teal'c. Teal'c was determined to find his littlest friend the security he knew he needed. The blanket had to be somewhere and even though he saw Thumper accepted by all, deep in his heart, he wanted the safety the blanket had represented back. Taking the same route used by O'Neill and Danny for their walks, Teal'c looked at the duck pond and wondered. Danny adored feeding the ducks stale bread, and there were always moms and grandparents there, chatting and filling in time. What if one of these people found Daniel's Blue? Took it home for safe keeping until O'Neill took Daniel there again. It was a long shot, but he had to try, finding the tatty blanket became so important to him, nothing else seemed to matter. He didn't understand why, he just knew it was important.
Walking over, he inclined his head and smiling gently, asked if anyone had picked up a blue checked blanket with yellow tassels? "Daniel" he added thoughtfully "was most upset." Then he saw it. Half hanging out of a trash can, wet and filthy was Blue. Excusing himself, he retrieved the blanket and felt lightness in his soul he thought he'd lost. The filthy blanket represented hope for the future. Surely everything would somehow work out for Daniel, as long as he had security and the love of his family.
The blue checked blanket was wet, and it was dirty, but it was in once piece, and that was all that mattered.
Taking the sodden blanket home Teal'c had a decision to make.
Blue had been washed, tumbled-dried and was fresh and fluffy as new. Inhaling the scent of the fabric conditioner the store had recommended Teal'c twirled the tassels between his fingers.
What to do.
Danny was managing without it now, and Jack said it was time Danny moved on. He disagreed. Jack was wrong – always wanting Danny to move on. Sitting, crawling, speaking, and sleeping through the night. What was the hurry? Daniel was a babe, and if he wanted to suck his thumb, or drink from a bottle, why not?
Time enough to be a man. Time enough to lose that innocence and sweetness of childhood. He would make O'Neill understand this. If Daniel needed Blue to comfort him, then, Teal'c thought, why shouldn't he have it?
"Want some of that tea you like, T," said Jack the next day as Teal'c settled into a chair near the fireplace. He watched Danny in his high-chair as his clumsy fingers tried to attach blocks of Duplo.
"Daniel Jackson, look what I have located," said Teal'c very softly. He pulled Blue from the shopping bag, gave it a shake, and held it up for Danny to see. "I have located your blanket."
Danny's eyes widened and his mouth opened into a crow of pleasure. Clapping his hands in the air while struggling to stand, Danny's face beamed with pleasure. Scooping him out of the high chair, Jack watched as the tot stuck his butt high in the air, and crawled across the room in his speedy gait, fast as his little knees would take him.
Making it to Teal'c's legs, he grabbed at Blue with both hands. He wrapped the tassels around the fingers of one hand and stuck his thumb in his mouth. His face took on the dreamy look of childish ecstasy. Then he gathered the rest of the blanket together in arm and hugged it close. He held it as tightly as he rolled around the floor kicking his feet with unfathomable joy.
Jack snorted. Teal'c smiled. Danny chortled.
"Who's Daddy's happy boy?" Jack said delightedly to Daniel. Turning to Teal'c he laughed again and clapped him on the shoulder. "Well done, old friend. Where did you find it?"
Before Teal'c could
open his mouth and explain the detective work he had undertaken, Jack said
thoughtfully. "Know something, T? Think I'll buy another one identical to Blue
here, so if it gets lost again, I have a spare. Think he'll know if I swap them
every couple of days? Don't want to go through that crap again."
"Excellent thinking, O'Neill."
That night Teal'c opened his closet and with a soft sigh, took out a sturdy copper box. The site of the battered box brought back a flood of memories. Some made him smile, some made him want to weep. Opening the lid, he scanned the prized possessions. A lock of baby-fine hair, a small beaded wrist band, a gold chain and a piece of a hand woven shawl.
He took the piece of fabric and slipping into his pocket, closed the box and replaced it carefully.
That night, with his own version of Blue safely stashed under his pillow, Teal'c slept more peacefully than he had in years.