Daniel slumped down in a chair at the dining table, watching as Jack crossed the room to pick up the phone. "You can't call the cops, Jack," he said warningly. "How do we explain why we're reporting the kidnapping of a child we don't have a birth certificate for? Crap, we can't even prove Caiden's our son. We should have thought of this stuff, got the SGC to dummy up some paperwork like they did with Cassie."
Jack picked up the phone. "I’ll get Hammond to get it started now," he said. "I'm calling him first. We'll get some SFs out here to canvas the area, see if anyone saw her leave. We can get a BOLO put out on her car for something else. We just won't mention Caiden right now…"
Daniel shook his head. "And if the cops find the car and she has Caiden with her, are we just going to walk into the police station and claim him?"
"Hammond will have all our ducks in a row by then, so yes, Daniel, that's what we're going to do." Jack dialed the phone, waited for a few moments till it was answered then started talking in a hurried tone. He hung up then turned to Daniel. “Hammond’s on the phone with the President and can’t be disturbed. We’ll head on down to the hospital first and call him from there once we know what’s going on. I’ve asked for a second team of SFs to meet us there.”
Ali glanced around the crowded waiting room and pulled Caiden closer to her side. The toddler was wide-eyed and silent, thumb stuck firmly in his mouth. "Not long now, honey, and I'll take you home to your daddy," she reassured him.
"Toys in there," Caiden said around his thumb, pointing at a playroom across the hall. "I go?"
"Um, maybe later." Ali looked up as her name was called and smiled as she saw a face she recognized. "Jen! I'm so glad you're on tonight. How's the lady I brought in?"
Dr Jennifer Cross smiled as she joined them, looking down at the child at her friend's side. "Wow," she said, "that was a quick pregnancy. When we met for coffee last week, you weren't even showing."
"Ha ha," Ali replied. "Jen, this is Caiden. I was babysitting him tonight when I saw Mrs. Richardson take her tumble. Oh god, I really need to call his parents and let them know where we are. Can I use your phone?"
"Sure, would you mind just popping your head in to see Mrs. Richardson first? We need to Xray her leg but she's insistent she won’t let us, unless you say we need to."
"Um, okay, I guess. Hey Caiden, you wanna go play with those toys for a minute while Ali calls your daddy? I'll be right back."
Caiden nodded vigorously and ran across the hallway into the playroom.
"He's adorable," Jen said, ushering Ali ahead of her towards the ER cubicles. "I'll make sure one of the nurses checks on him every few minutes till you come back."
"I guess…" Ali pushed through the curtains of the cubicle. "Hey, Mrs. R, you really need to get some pictures taken of that leg."
Jack leapt to his feet as the phone rang for at least the twentieth time since they'd discovered Caiden was missing. Daniel crossed the room in a rush, their hands meeting on the receiver. Jack lifted his and let Daniel pick it up.
"Daniel Jackson speaking," Daniel replied. He listened for a second then flicked on the speakerphone. "Ali? Where are you? Where's Caiden?"
"Oh, Dr. Jackson, I'm so sorry. One minute he was here, playing with the toys, and the next he was gone."
"What?" Jack leaned over the speakerphone, his tone steely. "Where the hell is my son?"
"I… I'm at Colorado Springs General Hospital. There was an accident-"
"Is Caiden okay?" Daniel asked urgently, heart pounding in his chest.
"He was fine. An elderly lady had a fall outside your house and she had no one to go in the ambulance with her so I went, and I took Caiden with me. And when we got here, he wanted to go in the playroom and I was just across the hall, I swear. And now… now he's gone. I can't find him. I'm so sorry."
Ali burst into tears but Daniel was past caring, his mind focused instead on a small two year old wandering the huge hospital alone. "Did you call security?" he snapped out.
"Of course," Ali said, sniffling.
"We'll be there in ten," Jack said, flicking off the speaker. He caught the car keys Daniel tossed to him and they took off out the door at a run.
Jack stormed through the ER doors, Daniel and four SFs at his heels. "Sweep this place floor by floor," he ordered the SFs as Daniel pushed past him and went across to where Ali was sitting, tears pouring down her pale face.
"Dr. Jackson, I'm so sorry," Ali began, jumping to her feet as Daniel reached her. "I swear I just took my eyes off him for a couple of minutes-"
"You had no right to take him from the house," he said, knowing he sounded cold but unable to care.
"It was a snap decision," she said. "The old lady-"
"Would have been taken care of by the paramedics," Daniel interrupted. "You didn't leave a note, didn't call us. Do you understand how worried we were when we came home?"
"I know. There was no time." Ali slumped back down into the chair. "I can't do anything but tell you how sorry I am," she whispered brokenly.
"Sorry's not gonna help find our son," Jack snapped, joining them. He looked around as someone grabbed his arm.
"My name is Dr. Jonas. I'm the Chief of Staff here. While I appreciate your concern for your son, I can't have armed men walking around disturbing my patients, some of whom are very ill."
"What?" Jack stepped into the doctor's space. "What would you do if this was your son?"
The doctor sighed. "I have a son myself and I do empathize but please remember this is a hospital… Just ask your men to be as quiet and discreet as possible. We've called the police-"
"What? We don't need the police," Jack said.
"It's procedure in the case of a missing child," Jonas said. "They'll put out an Amber Alert and I'm sure it won't be too long before the child is found. He's probably just playing somewhere…"
"You'd better hope so," Jack replied, his angry gaze including both the doctor and Ali.
"Hi there, little man."
Caiden looked up into a wizened face. "Hi," he said shyly.
"Are you lost?" the old woman asked, bending over the side of her bed.
Caiden shook his head firmly. "Papa and Daddy is," he said. "Taiden not lost. Taiden right here."
"Taiden? That's a funny name. Ah well, young parents these days. Where's your mommy?"
"What dat mommy mean?"
"Your mother, where is she?"
Caiden shrugged then took the gnarled hand gripping the bed rail and gave it a tug. "Come play?" he asked winningly. "There's toys."
"I can't do that, dear. I'm sick and can't get up by myself."
Caiden tugged on the hand again, frowning as his new friend moved back away from the side of the bed. Turning away, he wandered out into the hallway, popping his head back through the doorway to wave a goodbye.
"You should stay here," the woman called after him. Shaking her head, she reached for the call bell and pressed the button.
There were doors ahead of Caiden that opened and closed as if by some whim of their own. Enchanted, he ran up to them, almost getting bowled over by a group of people disembarking just as he reached them. He waited till the car was empty then ran inside and waited for the doors to close. They did and he smiled broadly, waiting for them to open again. Instead they stayed closed and the elevator jerked then began trundling down. Caiden touched the doors but they stayed firmly shut. Frightened now, he sat down on the floor and howled his distress.
Daniel rounded the end of yet another hallway and pounded his fist against his leg in frustration. They'd searched pretty much the entire hospital and there was still no sign of Caiden. He made his way along the corridor, knocking on doors and poking his head in, asking each occupant if they'd seen the child. Each negative response made his heart sink further. Caiden could have made his way out into the street by now or the parking garage, both images filling his heart with panic. Reaching the end of the hallway he turned into the next, stopping as a voice came over the tannoy. "Dr. Jackson, please come to the Administrator's office."
Heart in his throat, hope warring against fear, Daniel eschewed waiting for the elevator and ran to the stairwell, taking the steps down two at a time till he reached Level 4. He shoved open the heavy exit door and sprinted for the office, which was helpfully signposted. He almost careened into Jack who arrived at the same time and they entered the Administrator's office together, neither bothering to knock.
“Where’s Caiden?” Daniel asked, beating Jack to the desk by a microsecond.
“He’s been taken into the care of our social worker,” the man behind the desk said, rising to his feet and ushering them to chairs.
They both ignored the invitation, Jack leaning across the desk to snarl, “Social worker? What the hell for?”
“It’s just routine,” the Administrator - his name badge labeled him as Dr. Watson, Daniel noticed belatedly. “Any time a child is found unaccompanied in the hospital precincts, it’s procedure to call in the social worker. She then decides if it’s necessary to call in Child Protection Services.”
“I’m sorry. Child Protection?” Daniel couldn’t keep the shock from his voice. “My son was brought here by the person who was supposed to be caring for him and he wandered off. No different to any kid who’s wandered off and gotten lost in the mall.”
“Perhaps,” Watson said, obviously giving up on getting them to sit and remaining standing himself, “but we’ve had a total of twenty two children abandoned at this hospital in the past three years. Not that I’m saying you did that,” he added quickly, “but I’m sure you understand, Colonel, being a military man, that protocol needs to be observed-“
“Not on my kid it doesn’t!” Jack replied angrily. “Where’s Caiden right now? We want to see him.”
“If you wait just a few minutes, I’ll have Miss Graham bring him here.” Watson picked up his phone and Jack turned to Daniel while the Administrator was distracted. “Get Hammond on your cell and tell him we need that paperwork yesterday.”
Daniel headed out into the hallway to make the call. He got through to the General almost immediately and conveyed the news about Caiden’s whereabouts and the request for the paperwork to be brought to the hospital immediately.
“That’s just not possible, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond replied. “I’m sorry but it will take at least forty eight hours to get the paperwork in order and signed by a judge.”
“What? But it’s not like it’s a real birth certificate,” Daniel lowered his voice, “just a dummied up one like was done for Cassie.”
“Cassie spent a week or two in foster care before we were able to get the paperwork legitimized in order for Dr. Fraiser to adopt her. Son, you need to understand, the paperwork has to at least be seen to be legitimate.”
Hammond sounded regretful and Daniel knew there wasn’t any more the man could do. “Thank you, sir,” he said, “as soon as possible though, okay?”
“You have my word, son.”
Daniel broke the connection then opened the door and beckoned Jack out to join him.
“What?” Jack’s face paled as the ramifications of what Daniel was telling him sunk in. “They’ll send him to foster care! What if he says something, does something? What if he hasn’t actually finished growing like Thor said he was?”
Daniel grasped Jack’s hand in his and gave it a gentle shake. “Thor wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. And Caiden’s too young to say anything untoward. The people he’s with will think he’s just a normal two year old.”
“I’ll miss him,” Jack said and Daniel blinked back the burning in his own eyes.
“Me too,” he replied.
A tapping of heels made them turn toward the end of the hallway and they saw a woman walking quickly towards them, Caiden held securely in her arms. As she got a few feet away, the woman put the boy on the floor and pointed to them. “Who’s that, Caiden?”
“Papa, Daddy!” Caiden crowed, toddling towards them as fast his two year old legs would carry him.
Jack crouched down and scooped his son into his arms. “Hey, buddy, where’ve you been? We’ve been worried about you.”
Daniel wrapped his arms around them both and kissed Caiden’s head, forcing back the emotion that threatened to spill over into relieved tears.
“A nurse found him in an elevator, crying,” the woman said as she reached them. She smiled sympathetically at them. “I lost my daughter at the mall once. I know what it’s like.”
“So we can take him home then?” Jack asked.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said and she really looked it too, Daniel thought. “It’s protocol. Do you have Caiden’s birth certificate or his adoption records? I’m assuming that he’s a child either of adoption or surrogacy.”
“Yes,” Daniel replied quickly, feeling Jack’s anger start to surge anew and wanting to prevent him saying anything untoward. “We’re waiting on his paperwork to come through but it was an interstate surrogacy arrangement so it might take a few days.”
“Then, I’m sorry but Caiden will have to go to a foster family just until that’s sorted out,” the social worker said. She held out her arms to Caiden who shook his head frantically and tightened his hold around Jack’s neck. “Come along, sweetie,” she crooned.
Caiden shook his head again and began to wail.
With a lump in his throat that felt like it was choking him, Daniel peeled Caiden’s hands from around Jack’s neck and between the two of them, they managed to manhandle him over to the social worker, who grasped his kicking, howling body firmly in her arms and hurried into the Administrator’s office.
“God!” Daniel whispered harshly over the sound of Caiden’s screams. “Now what?”
“Now we work on getting our son back,” Jack said, his voice firm with steely resolve.