Written for the Stargate Alphabet Soup challenge - Kidfic. Many thanks to Annie for the fast beta. 4th story in the Welcome Home, Danny boy series.
Well, today had been the day from hell, Jack O’Neill decided, tossing his keys onto the coffee table and slumping down onto the sofa with a weary groan. He twisted the cap off the beer he held then ran the icy bottle across his sweaty brow. Damn, that felt good and he knew what was going to be even better. Sighing in anticipated appreciation, he took a long swig of beer, leaned back and closed his eyes.
“No! I don’t have to! You’re not my mom!”
Jack scrubbed a hand over his face, whiskers scratching against his skin, reminding him again of how long a day… night it had been. Groaning, he’d pushed himself upright and reluctantly headed up to Daniel’s room. When he’d been called in the morning before on a too rare day off, he’d been stymied for a moment what to do with Daniel and he kicked himself mentally for having put off childcare arrangements for a situation just like this. Often, Janet Fraiser was available, even if she had to set Daniel up in her office with books and computer games but the doc was swamped with two teams returning from offworld missions badly banged up. In desperation Jack had called her anyway and got the welcome news that Cassie was on vacation and would love to hang out with Daniel. Janet promised to call over that evening to cook dinner then ended up spending the night when Jack and the team were delayed on their mission. She’d left Daniel in Cassie’s more than capable hands again that morning.
“Come on, Daniel, you don’t want anything to get lost, do you? Besides, Jack will be home soon and I’ll bet he’ll take us out for pizza if I tell him how good you’ve been.”
“I don’t care!” Daniel shouted. “I don’t want pizza-”
“I do,” Jack announced as he opened the door to Daniel’s room.
Cassie turned to greet him and Jack couldn’t miss the relief on her face. “We are so glad you’re home. aren’t we, Daniel?”
Daniel got up from where he’d been kneeling in front of a suitcase. He planted his hands squarely on his hips. “No!”
“Hey!” Jack unconsciously mirrored Daniel’s stance and glared at the grumpy-faced boy. “You apologize to Cassie, right now, Daniel!”
Instead of the expected retaliation of temper, tears suddenly brimmed in Daniel’s eyes. Furiously he swiped at them with the heel of his hand. “S-Sorry, C-Cassie,” he hiccupped.
“It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it.” Cassie knelt down in front of Daniel and opened her arms to him. “C’mere. I think we both need a hug.”
Daniel went willingly, wrapping his skinny arms around Cassie’s neck and giving into the sobs that he’d so obviously been trying to suppress. “I don’t hate you,” he wailed. “Promise you’ll come back.”
Cassie kissed his tear-stained cheek. “Of course I will,” she soothed. “How about on the weekend, I take you to that new exhibit at the museum?”
Daniel pulled back and stared at her. “For real? Even though I’ve been mean to you all day?”
Jack suppressed a sigh and his admiration for Cassie rose even further than it already was, after what she had endured on her home planet, and how well she had adjusted to living on Earth and becoming just your average American teenager. He knew just what a terror Daniel could if he was in a funk. Granted, most of the time he had good reason for it. It couldn’t be easy being a five year old kid with the memories of the 35 year old man you used to be. It made Jack squirm just thinking about it. It had been damn weird finding out some whackjob Asgard scientist had made a clone of him, but to actually become a kid again and be aware of it… Suffice to say, Jack admitted he let some of Daniel’s less than stellar behavior slide because… Okay, he could admit it. Because he felt guilty. Not because he was to blame for what had happened to Daniel but because he’d been the one to make the decision to allow Daniel to keep his memories of Daniel, the adult.
At the time he’d been so certain he was doing the right thing. As he’d told Janet Frasier after Daniel had recovered from the surgery to remove the amnesia device from his brain, Daniel’s memories, even the bad ones, made Daniel who he was. He was still convinced he’d done the right thing. Overall Daniel had handled it pretty well. They’d never allowed him to become resigned to always being a child, promising to research consistently for a way to return him to his adult self.
A car horn sounded outside, interrupting his thoughts.
“That’s Mom,” Cassie said, giving the top of Daniel’s head a kiss before standing up and grasping his hand. “I’ll see you on the weekend, okay, Daniel?”
Daniel swiped at his nose, earning a grimace from Jack. “Go get a tissue, huh?” Jack suggested. He waited for the expected rebuff but Daniel simply nodded.
“See you Saturday,” he said, all memory of his tantrum seemingly forgotten, and ran from the room.
Jack reached out and drew Cassie to him, giving her a one-armed hug. “Sorry he’s been a pain in the a-. You know.”
“It’s okay,” Cassie replied. “It’s got to be so weird.” She bent down and picked up a photo frame from the floor. “I think I know what’s bothering him.” She handed the photo to Jack.
“That’s Daniel’s folks,” Jack said. He glanced quickly at the doorway to ensure Daniel wasn’t there. “They were archeologists too. They were killed when Daniel was young.”
“In front of him, I know,” Cassie said. “Daniel told me, and today is the anniversary of their deaths.”
“Crap!” Jack cursed. He hadn’t even realized. Daniel had been mopey and sullen for a day or two but Daniel did that sometimes and just as quickly bounced back, much as he had today. “Thanks. I’ll talk to him.” He ushered Cassie to the door. “You sure you want to spend your Saturday with him instead of your friends?”
“Museum… or football game. I may have adapted to pretty much all things Earth, Jack,” Cassie said with a laugh, “but football just doesn’t do it for me.” The car horn sounded again. “I’ll see myself out. Bye, Daniel,” she called as she hurried to the front door. “Bye, Jack!”
Jack left the stuff that was scattered over the floor while he waited for Daniel to compose himself and return. Knowing what had been bothering Daniel all day, he didn’t want to risk further upset by packing away any treasures, no matter how ordinary they looked to him. He sat down on the bed and leaned forward, perusing the items. Rocks… lots of rocks… artifacts, Daniel would insist, though these were actually only rocks that Daniel had collected in the time he’d been downsized. It seemed a way for him to reconcile the child he was now with the memories he still had of his adult self, so Jack let him be. He had no idea how many he’d collected though until now. His real artifacts were still locked up in Daniel’s office and on occasion, Daniel asked to be taken to Cheyenne Mountain for the day where he’d hole himself up in his office with notebooks and pens, textbooks and laptop, milk now replacing his beloved coffee.
There had been a time or two when Daniel’s vast knowledge, thanks to his retained memories, had been invaluable during a mission, and Jack knew Daniel wasn’t the only one who wished they could go back and change things: figure out how to grow him back up or lock that damn planet out of the computer so that it hadn’t happened in the first place.
Jack straightened and smiled at Daniel. What’s done is done. “You feeling better?” At Daniel’s shrug, he patted the bed. “C’mere. Take a load off for a minute.”
Daniel walked over slowly, skirting the items on the floor, as though checking to see if any were missing. Jack waited until he was settled beside him before speaking again.
“Cassie tells me you’ve been pretty upset all day,” Jack said.
Daniel nodded. He pushed his glasses up on his nose and looked at Jack. “Some days it’s like I’m just a normal kid and then sometimes… all of a sudden, I remember stuff from… you know… before.”
Jack nodded. “Must be pretty scary sometimes.”
“Most of the time it’s okay,” Daniel replied. “Just weird. It’s like it makes me feel all off balance. Sometimes it’s really cool because I can remember when I was on the team and all the planets we visited and the artifacts I found and hieroglyphs I translated. I even learned to speak Goa’uld,” he added, his skinny chest puffing out just a little with pride. Then he slumped in on himself. “Today when I remembered, it was just sad stuff.”
“About your parents,” Jack replied.
Daniel nodded then he slid off the bed and kneeled down amongst his treasures. He picked one up and Jack realized it wasn’t a rock but a square, rough-hewn block, etched with heiroglyphs. “It’s not genuine,” Daniel said as though he’d second-guessed Jack’s thoughts. “Just a souvenir from one of the digs Mom and Dad did in Egypt.” He handed it to Jack. “Every time they went away, they always brought me something back.” He held up a small, stoppered test tube. “Sand from the desert. That was the year before they...”
Jack reached out and pulled Daniel into the comfort of his arms, hugging him tightly, feeling the dampness of Daniel’s tears on his neck. “I’m so sorry, Daniel,” he whispered past the lump in his throat. “Maybe I should have let you forget.”
“No!” Daniel pulled back and looked at Jack, tears still streaming from his eyes. He pulled a tissue from his pocket and swiped at them. “No!” he said again. “That would be worse. If I couldn’t remember you, or Sam or Teal’c or even my parents...” He looked down at the block he still clutched, rubbing his thumb over the carving. “That would be worse.”
“I have an idea,” Jack said. “I’ve been working pretty hard the past few months.” He ruffled Daniel’s hair. “We haven’t spent much time together, have we?” Daniel shook his head. “Let me square it with General Hammond and you and I will take a little trip together.”
“Where will we go?”
“To pay our respects to your parents, show them what a great person you turned out to be.”
“I could leave them some of the artifacts I’ve collected,” Daniel suggested.
“Sure!” Jack agreed. “Just nothing that’s classified or housed at Area 51, okay?”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “D’uh!” Then his whole face lit up with a smile. “Can we go to New York? To the Museum of Art?”
“You sure you want to go there, Daniel? That’s where your parents-”
“Were killed. I know but it’s also the last place I saw them alive. Can we ask Cassie to come too? She loves museums!”
“Maybe we could get in some fishing on the way home,” Jack ventured, but without much hope. To his surprise, Daniel nodded enthusiastically.
“Why not,” he said magnanimously. “It’s your vacation too. Cassie and I can look for more artifacts. There might be caves and stuff.”
Jack sat down on the floor and pulled Daniel down beside him. “Sounds like a plan,” he said. “How about you tell me more about these rocks of yours?”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Artifacts, Jack, not rocks.”