X is for Xipe Totec
“Are we still going to the museum tomorrow?” Daniel Jackson asked around a yawn.
“If you go to bed on time and don’t ask for a million things before going to sleep,” Jack O’Neill replied as he focused on stacking the dishwasher. He grinned to himself at that. Daniel could come up with more excuses for not going to sleep than any kid Jack had ever known, including Jack himself. Daniel was like the Energizer Bunny, an everlasting fount of energy, much like he’d been before he’d been downsized on the alien planet of Genesis. When they’d left the SGC that day a year or so ago, Daniel had been a 6 feet tall archeologist, working for Stargate Command. Two days later, he’d returned to Earth cradled in Jack’s arms all 3 feet 8 inches of him, aged chronologically and apparently mentally approximately 5 years old. He’d gone from being Jack’s best friend to being for all intents and purposes Jack’s son, a role Jack had come to love even while he missed the man Daniel had once been. Dr. Janet Fraiser and various specialists had worked feverishly to try to reverse the de-aging process, all to no avail, and with the Genesis natives’ adamant refusal to explain what they’d done to cause it beyond saying they’d wanted to gift Daniel with a longer life as thanks for what he’d done for them, they’d eventually decided to let Jack take him home and raise him as his own. Daniel appeared to have no memories of his former life. It was as if his life had always been the one he lived now. There were certain things though that he said or did that made Jack think the “other” Daniel was still there waiting, just below the surface of this small Daniel’s consciousness. The museum was a case in point.
The week before Daniel had stumbled across a documentary on a kid’s tv channel about the ancient Aztec civilisation. He’d been engrossed by it, sitting completely still and enthralled for the entire 40 minutes or so the show was on. When it finished he’d said to Jack, “Can we go see those things that they talked about on the show? The artey things?”
“Artey things?” Jack looked up from the sports pages he was reading and scrunched his brow in concentration. “Oh, artefacts you mean? Well, not those exact ones, no. Didn’t they say they were in a museum in Peru or Portugal or somewhere like that?” At Daniel’s nod he went on, “So no, not those ones but there’s a museum in town we can go to. I seem to remember they have Aztec stuff as well as lots of other old stuff.”
“So we can go there?”
“Sure,” Jack replied, with a grin and an oomph as Daniel launched himself into his lap with an enthusiastic whoop of glee. It suddenly occurred to Jack there was gold to be found here and he sat Daniel up straight on his lap and said firmly, “But only if you stay with Janet while I’m away for the next two days and behave nicely for her. And,” he put a finger to Daniel’s lips as the boy started to speak, “when I come home you do all your jobs without complaining and you go to bed on time without asking for another drink, another, cookie, another bathroom break, another story.”
“I promise! I promise!” Daniel yelled happily. As if to prove he meant to go on as he started he leapt off Jack’s lap and started putting his toys and books away.
“Way to go, O’Neill,” Jack said, congratulating himself. This parenting deal wasn’t nearly as hard as he’d thought it was going to be. You just had to know when to apply the right bribes.
It had gone to plan pretty darn well, Jack thought four nights later as he closed the Daniel’s bedroom door and headed for a rare early night himself. Janet had told him that Daniel had been a perfect guest while Jack was off world with SG1. In fact, she’d had to stop him from doing all Cassie’s usual chores himself. Cassie had been understandably miffed at having her new servant taken away so unfairly. “What’s the point in having a dwarf in your house if you can’t make them work for you?” Janet told Jack she’d complained.
When Jack had brought Daniel home the good behaviour continued with a couple of minor transgressions but Jack had only had to murmur the word museum to orchestrate an immediate change in Daniel’s behaviour. In fact, it was kinda scary. Sort of like suddenly wondering if your kid had suddenly been replaced by a Stepford kid when you weren’t looking. Still, Jack was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and he figured that walking around a boring museum for a couple of hours every now and then would be worth it if the upside was having a compliant Daniel Jackson. If only he’d thought of this for those times when adult Daniel had refused Jack’s orders, Jack thought as he settled in for an unprecedented long night’s sleep, he could have avoided all the worry Daniel had been prone to put him through almost from the day they met.
There was a whiny buzzy mosquito assaulting Jack’s ear and he sleepily batted at it with his hand.
The “ouch” he got in response woke him up in record time and he sat up to see Daniel standing next to the bed, rubbing at his arm. “You hit me,” he said accusingly.
“Sorry,” Jack replied contritely. He looked at the clock. 5 AM. “What’s the matter?”
“You have to get up. We’re going to the museum today,” Daniel said, his eyes aglow with excitement.
“Not this early we’re not.” Jack pulled Daniel onto his lap then scooped up the blankets and scooted Daniel under them. He lay back down and closed his eyes. “The museum people are still in bed for at least another… oh, 5 hours.”
“Oh,” Daniel said disappointedly.
Jack was just drifting off when Daniel said, “Do you want to hear my Aztec alphabet? I learned it on that show the other day. Of course, I don’t know all of it yet because I only heard it once but I know most of it. A is for Aztec—”
Jack sighed, sat up and climbed out of bed. “Let’s go make breakfast,” he said. “I think I’m going to need at least 3 cups of coffee today.”
“Wow!!” Daniel whispered in an awe-filled voice as he turned in a slow circle in the middle of the museum floor. “This is so cool!”
Jack grinned down at him then grabbed his hand and let Daniel tow him over to the first exhibit. This had been a great idea. Daniel was in his element here. They stopped in front of a glass case that had some masks and weapons in it.
“These are for Xipe Totec,” Daniel said, reading off the information card stuck to the glass, the name tripping unfalteringly off his 5 year old tongue. “They talked about him on that show. He was the god of Spring. He used to wear people skins sometimes.”
“Ewwww!” Jack said, wrinkling his nose. “I hope this visit isn’t going to give you nightmares.”
“Course not,” Daniel replied stoutly. “It’s just a myth.”
Back in the pre-de-aged Daniel days Jack would have been the one standing up on the side of mythology but Jack was too happy to know this trip wouldn’t be causing any major sleepless nights in the future. He looked around and spotted a concession kiosk in a corner of the room. “Hey, kiddo, you want some juice?”
“Sure,” Daniel said, already wandering off to the next exhibit. “Can I have chips too? Tortilla chips. With cheese.”
“Okay,” Jack replied, taking out his wallet. He caught up with Daniel then kneeled down in front of him and made sure Daniel was paying attention to him. “Don’t wander off. Stay right here next to ole…” he glanced at the name of the statue in the exhibit area they were in front of, “Tealips—”
“Tealoc,” Daniel corrected him with a giggle. “I remember about him. He was the god of rain.”
“Tealoc then. Stand right here by him and wait for me,” Jack ordered. He waited till Daniel nodded then walked across and grabbed two bottles of orange juice and two packs of chips and paid for them. He was just stuffing his change back in his wallet when there was an almighty crash that made the floor shake and then, above the surprised gasps from the people around him, the high pitched scream of a child. He dropped the items back on the counter and ran back across to where he’d left Daniel, horrified to see no sign of him. “My kid, he was right here,” Jack said urgently to the man standing where Daniel had been moments earlier. “Did you see where he went?”
The man nodded and pointed toward the exit. “He took off when that big plinth thing got dropped. Screamed and ran off. Looked like he was terrified. Sorry, buddy, I tried to grab him but he was too quick for me.”
“Thanks,” Jack tossed over his shoulder as he took off running.
He bolted through the exit doors then paused, looking both ways up and down the street, praying Daniel hadn’t decided to cross the road in his panic-fulled dash. He caught a glimpse of a blond head and a blue tshirt about twenty feet away, heading for the cross street and Jack took off as if the devil himself was at his heels. “Daniel,” he yelled as he got within arm’s reach of the boy. “Wait! Stop!” He reached out a hand and just managed to snag the back of Daniel’s shirt and as he did Daniel tripped and fell, landing on his hands and knees. Jack scooped him up into his arms, wincing as he saw that Daniel’s left arm was bent in the shape of a typical greenstick fracture. Daniel’s face was white, his eyes huge, the pupils dilated and he squirmed to break free despite the pain it must have been causing him.
“Let me go!” he screamed. “I want my mommy. I want my daddy. Let me go, let me go!”
A woman passing by gave Jack a suspicious look but hurried on her way and Jack hoped she wasn’t going to find the nearest cop and report him as a child abductor. He managed to get Daniel settled more firmly in his arms then headed for his car parked at the kerb a few feet away. It wasn’t easy getting the door unlocked and open with a squirming, bawling Daniel in his arms, especially as Jack was trying hard not to hurt him anymore than he already was, but he finally accomplished it and climbed into the front passenger seat and placed Daniel on his lap. He rocked him, shushing him, telling him he was okay, that Jack was right there with him, a soothing litany of words that eventually seemed to sink into Daniel’s frightened mind. After five minutes that felt like an hour to Jack, he gave a final hiccupping sob then looked up at Jack, tears still streaming down his cheeks and said, “My mommy’s dead in there.”
Jack shook his head and said, “No, she’s not, Daniel. That happened a long time ago. You’re safe with me now. Remember?”
“The stone fell on them both,” Daniel insisted. “I saw it.” He scrubbed at his eyes with his good hand and said, “My arm really hurts now. Did the stone fall on me too?”
“No,” Jack said, “you fell on the sidewalk when you were running, that’s all.” He looked at Daniel’s arm and grimaced at the purple bruise already forming. “I’m gonna take you to see Doc Janet. She’ll fix you right up, okay?”
He got Daniel settled into his car seat after putting his arm in a soft sling from out of the car’s first aid kit then he climbed behind the wheel and took off for the SGC and fast as he could safely make it.