Daniel winced and tightened his arms around Caiden as a needle was slipped into the baby's tiny vein and he began to scream.
"Oh, I know, I know," Janet crooned. "It's okay, Caiden. It's tough being a baby, huh? Nothing to do but lie around and eat and sleep all day-"
"And get stuck with needles," Daniel said more sharply than he'd intended.
Janet pulled the needle out and labeled the vial, handing it off to the nurse. "I know how hard it is to watch your child go through this, Daniel," she said softly. "I'm sorry." She patted a small bandaid over the puncture mark in Caiden's arm.
Daniel lifted Caiden so he was resting against his chest and patted his back rhythmically. "It's not your fault, Janet. And I know you know. All that stuff with Cassie, when she first came to Earth and then just recently, with the virus from Nirrti." He nuzzled the top of Caiden's head. "Sssh," he whispered in the baby's ear, smiling up at Janet as Caiden stopped crying. "Did you know that babies don't cry if they can't hear themselves doing it?" he asked. "I read it on the net the first night we had him with us, and it works-" Caiden began wailing again. "Most of the time," he added.
The nurse came back and handed Daniel a warmed bottle of formula and Caiden calmed down and sucked hungrily as Daniel fed him.
"Daniel, do you remember when Cassie was so sick and you told me I didn't have to do it alone, that you were there for me?" Janet asked. "Well, you and Jack don't have to do this alone either. We're all here for you, for all of you."
"You didn't seem surprised to hear about me and Jack," Daniel observed, watching Caiden drink.
"I wasn't," Janet replied. "I think I knew you two loved each other almost before you realized it yourselves. I was just hoping you'd get a clue before I had to play matchmaker." She grinned as Caiden burped around the nipple. "Look, Daniel, I can get a pediatrician here to oversee Caiden's care-"
"No!" Daniel shook his head firmly. "There's no doctor better than you to look after our son."
"Thanks. I want to do a CAT scan but I'm going to give him a mild sedative for that. Is that okay with you?"
Daniel nodded. "Do you want to put it in his bottle?"
Janet shook her head. "Nope. It's too difficult to quantify exactly how much sedative he gets that way, and if he spits up at all-"
"Oh, he does that, all right," Daniel said with a smile. "So, how do we get him to take it?" His eyes widened. "Not another needle?"
"No, no more needles. We'll swaddle him and you can hold him while I tip it into his mouth. It's not bad-tasting. Let him finish his feed and then we'll do it. Hopefully by the time we're ready to start, the Colonel will be back with some news from Thor."
Jack palmed the small device Thor had given them to use to contact him several months before. He pressed the required crystals then glanced over at Teal'c who looked as concerned as the stoic Jaffa had ever looked.
"So, T," Jack said, wanting to fill the silence with something besides the pounding of his own nervous heart, "you really weren't surprised to find out about Daniel and me?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I was not," he said imperturbably. "I have observed your growing closeness for some time now."
"It doesn't bother you. I mean, the fact we're both guys and I'm supposed to be the big macho Air Force colonel "
"I do not believe one's sexuality defines one's masculinity," Teal'c replied gravely. "On Chulak it is not unknown for warriors to take a compatriot as a lover in times of battle."
"Daniel says the Romans did that too," Jack mused. "Mind you, most of them probably went back to sleeping with their wives once they got back home."
"If they had wives," Teal'c said. "Which neither you nor DanielJackson have. Do you believe this relationship you have is for life, O'Neill?"
"What? Of course. I wouldn't have even started it if I hadn't believed that. Daniel's lost too many people in his life already-"
"As have you." Teal'c reached out and patted Jack's shoulder. "You have a new family and we must do all we can to ensure that your son lives to be a strong, healthy warrior like both his fathers."
"Thanks, buddy." Jack looked down at the device and punched harder at the crystals. "Come on, Thor. This is kinda urgent."
He was about to put the communication module back on the shelf when a sudden narrow beam of light illuminated the room and Thor's small, grey figure appeared.
"It's about time," Jack muttered. "Hey, Thor, ol' pal, we've got a problem with the kid."
"I apologize for my tardiness, O'Neill. I was in a galaxy-"
"Far, far away," Jack dead-panned. He waved away Thor's look of confusion, if that was what that look on the Asgard's face meant, that is. "Never mind, old Earth reference. Listen, there's something wrong with Caiden." At Thor's tilted head, which he took to be interrogatory, he added, "the kid, the baby, Daniel's clone."
"The clone was certified as healthy by our top scientists." Thor paused and Jack swore he could see the hamsters getting a workout as wheels turned in the little alien's brain. "As I told you, O'Neill, if you and Daniel do not wish to keep the child, I can take him back and find some other use for him."
"Easy, big guy," Jack murmured as he literally felt Teal'c bristle with aggression next to him. "The Asgard don't have the same appreciation for kids as we do. They clone themselves, remember?"
Teal'c subsided but it was with an effort, Jack thought. He turned his attention back to Thor. "We want him," he said earnestly. "He grows on you. In fact, that's the problem. The growing part, not the growing *on* you part," he clarified. "Long story short, when you gave him to us, he was a newborn, now he's already the size of a six month old. What gives?"
"Ah." Thor nodded gravely. "I was remiss in not explaining that to you. Having done some research on the care needed for an infant, we realized that such care would necessitate you spending a great amount of time with the child, nurturing him until he became relatively independent."
"What did you do? Google caring for kids on the Internet?" Jack asked. "Never mind," he said as Thor simply gazed patiently back at him.
"As I was saying," Thor went on, "we decided to accelerate the boy's growth so that he would reach a reasonably independent age within a matter of days and then, having done so, would continue to mature at a normal rate."
"What do you call a reasonably independent age?" Jack asked.
"Two of your years," Thor replied.
"Oh great," Jack muttered, shooting Teal'c a dark look over his shoulder. "The terrible twos."
Teal'c's big hand patted his shoulder. "You have my sympathy, O'Neill," the Jaffa said.
Jack narrowed his eyes. Was that a smile he saw twitching at Teal'c's lips? "So," he looked back at Thor, "Caiden's healthy, right?"
"Caiden is indeed healthy, O'Neill." Thor nodded and gave what seemed to be an Asgard version of a broad grin. "Interesting name. I believe it is Celtic in origin. I must leave now. Be well, O'Neill."
With that, the Asgard shimmered and then disappeared.
"Yeah, yeah, live well and prosper and all that," Jack said, turning in time to see Teal'c giving a perfect Vulcan salute. "Ya know, T," he said as they headed back to the infirmary, "we have got to get you a real life."
Caiden was sleepily resting on Daniel's lap when they got there, a somewhat goofy grin on his face as Daniel played peekaboo with him. Jack stopped just inside the door, watching silently. He remembered seeing Charlie smile like that when he was a baby - milk-drunk, Sara had called it. He shook his head, wondering what Sara would think of all this if she knew.
He hadn't been around much when Charlie was a baby, snatching a week here, a couple of days there on R&R and leave while his son grew. Until one day Jack came home for good to find a three year old in place of the infant he'd held in his arms what seemed like only weeks before. He shoved those memories back. Those years were ones he didn't like to think about, preferring to pretend that his life had only really begun once he'd come home from Iraq and he, Sara and Charlie had become a family again. Of course, that hadn't lasted nearly long enough. In a few too-short years, Charlie and Sara were both gone, and Jack had given up any hope of ever having a family or someone to really love in that special way again.
Then Daniel had come into his life and Jack had fought his growing attraction and deep feeling for the man who'd become his best friend for as long as he could, while Daniel insistently burrowed beneath his skin, inside his defences and finally into his heart.
He watched as Daniel looked over and saw him standing there and that familiar loved smile tilted his lips, the dimple Jack loved to kiss denting his stubbled cheek.
"Thor came?" Daniel asked.
"Yep," Jack said, crossing the room. He bent and kissed Caiden's warm head, and then, just because he could, kissed that dimple in Daniel's cheek too.
"And?" Daniel was looking at him, worry evident in the blue eyes.
"They manipulated his growth so he'd reach a more independent age faster," Jack replied.
Janet had joined them now and she shook her head as if in disbelief. "Don't they realize you can't just mess around with human DNA like that?" she asked sharply.
"We can't," Jack replied, "but they seem to think they can. Thor reckons Caiden will continue to grow at this rate till he's a two year old then grow at a normal rate after that. He swears the kid's healthy though. Your tests show up anything we should worry about?"
Janet shook her head. "Not so far. I'm just waiting on the CAT scan and MRI results now. Ah," she turned toward the nurse who'd entered the room, a file folder in her hand. "Here we go. Let's see what we have here."
She took a while perusing the sheaf of papers while Jack fidgeted impatiently and Daniel sat as if frozen, a now-sleeping Caiden still on his lap.
"Well?" Jack asked finally, his patience exhausted.
"It looks fine," she replied. She looked into his eyes, and then gave Daniel's shoulder a small squeeze. "Caiden seems to be one hundred per cent healthy and as normal as a clone with manipulated DNA and accelerated growth can be."
Jack felt as if his legs had turned to rubber. As sure as he'd been that Thor wouldn't have lied to him, he'd been unable to ignore the small tickling of doubt in the back of his mind.
Daniel heaved a sigh of relief. "So we can take him home?" he asked.
Janet nodded. "Sure, but you call me the minute there's the slightest problem, all right? Take his temperature before you put him to bed tonight and again in the morning. If he's feverish or seems unwell at all, let me know. I'll call and check on him after my hospital rounds tomorrow around lunchtime."
"Okay." Jack took the baby from Daniel's arms and waited while Janet wrapped a soft blanket around the small body. "Tell the General and Carter I'll call them once we've got Caiden settled for the night," he said, leading the way out of the infirmary.
"Thank you, Janet," Daniel said, giving her a quick hug and following Jack out.
"Yeah, thanks, Doc," Jack called as he disappeared from view.
Jack rolled over in bed as dawn sent the first chilly fingers of light into the room. He stretched luxuriously, then turned and pulled Daniel's unresisting, sleep-warmed body into his arms, burying his face in his neck, waking his lover with gentle nips and licks along his shoulder.
"Mmm," Daniel murmured as he woke. He looked blearily around the room. "Morning already?"
"Yep," Jack said softly, his hand sneaking down to find and encircle Daniel's morning erection. "Caiden slept all night. I checked on him a couple of times but he was out like a top so I didn't disturb him. Figured we should get all the sleep we could while we had the chance."
Daniel bucked his hips, rocking into Jack's hand and closed his eyes in pleasure.
Jack loved these early morning interludes, those quiet times before the rush of the world and the need to go fight evil was upon them, these times when there was just him and Daniel, no one else.
Daniel's hand was holding Jack's penis now and Jack groaned with the pleasure of it, letting the sensation grow slowly.
They rocked together, a little faster now, the urgency to finish almost overtaking them.
"Hi," said a small voice from the doorway.
Jack's head snapped around and he pulled his hand away from Daniel's cock as if he'd been burnt.
A small boy stood in the doorway, his blond, wavy hair tousled. His face was tearstained and his pajamas rode halfway up his arms and legs, the top showing his rounded belly.
Daniel's head popped up alongside Jack's, the hand that had been giving Jack so much pleasure moments before now fumbling for his glasses on the bedside table.
"Congratulations," Jack murmured, "it's a toddler."