"Are we going home?" Daniel asked quietly as Jack carried him into the elevator then placed him on the floor of the car and pushed the button for the parking garage level.
"Yep," Jack said flatly. He sighed then placed a hand on the boy's head and pressed gently till Daniel was looking up at him. "I want to get you as far away from injured Marines as possible," he added, smiling. "That intuitive Daniel Jackson need to help is still alive and well and living inside this much smaller head of yours."
"And you don't want me to be a kid for too long "
"Well, no longer than necessary," Jack replied as the door opened. He took Daniel's hand and led him across to the checkpoint to sign out.
"Because you don't want to have to look after me for too long."
Jack shook his head and stopped walking. "Listen, if you still know me like I think you do, you know that I'm not good with this sort of stuff. Let's just get you home and maybe when we've both had some rest and something to eat, we can discuss it a little more, okay?"
Daniel nodded agreeably enough and Jack continued over to the check-desk, signed out then led Daniel to his car.
"Um, this could be a problem," he said, unlocking the door and eyeing the passenger seat dubiously. "You really need a child seat or something."
Daniel shook his head. "I'm big enough to sit next to you," he said.
"How about we compromise? You sit in the back seat with a belt on and hopefully I won't get pulled over for not having a booster seat in the car."
Jack lifted him in, snapped on the seatbelt then climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine. "Chez O'Neill, here we come," he murmured, shooting Daniel a reassuring smile through the rearview mirror.
Daniel smiled tremulously back at him, his arms wrapped around his middle in a gesture Jack remembered only too well.
"We'll be fine, buddy," Jack said.
By the time Jack pulled up in the driveway of his house, Daniel was fast asleep; his head canted against the window, his mouth partly open with thin line of drool trickling down his chin. Jack gave momentary thought to the camera he kept in the glove box of the car but then decided against it. This wasn't some cute kid to be photographed every time he did some adorable thing. He was Daniel and he'd been to hell and back and it wasn't something Jack had the stomach to make light of. Instead he switched off the engine then climbed out and quietly opened the rear passenger door, unbuckling the seatbelt deftly and managing to pull Daniel into his arms without waking him.
He got the door open with only a small amount of difficulty and the juggling of sleeping child from arms to hip then carried Daniel through to the guest bedroom and put him under the covers of the bed Daniel had slept in so many nights in the past.
Daniel rolled to his side as Jack laid him down but simply tucked one hand under his cheek, chewed at his lip and slept on.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Jack backed out of the room and closed the door gently behind him. There was an aching hole in his stomach that called for food so he went to the kitchen and made a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, grabbed a bag of chips and a beer then settled down on the sofa in front of the TV, finding a repeat of Star Trek on Sci-Fi to watch. It was mind-numbingly familiar, and within minutes he was asleep, the food and beer forgotten on the table.
Jack jerked awake, the beer bottle tumbling to the floor as his foot hit it. He sat upright then bent forward and retrieved the now half-empty bottle grimacing at the smell now permeating the room as beer soaked into the carpet. He scrubbed a hand over his face, unsure now what had woken him so suddenly.
Jack turned and saw Daniel standing in the doorway, tears trickling down his face. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Daniel walked across and climbed up to sit next to him. "I think I had a bad dream," he said. He wrinkled his nose. "Floor stinks," he said.
"Yeah, sorry." Jack ruffled Daniel's hair. "Wanna talk about the dream?" he asked.
Daniel shrugged. "Can't remember it now. Sorry if I woke you up."
"Nah, I was watching TV. You hungry?"
"What do you want?"
Daniel shrugged again. "What did I eat before?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "What didn't you eat would be a better question." He walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, frowning at how little there actually was inside. "I need to go to the supermarket," he said.
"We could order in," Daniel replied.
"Nah, you should be eating proper food," Jack said, closing the door. "Vegetables, meat, chicken, fruit, all the good stuff." He grabbed his keys then looked askance at Daniel's bare feet. "You need shoes anyway. Let's go."
By the time they stumbled back in the door of the house two hours later, Jack wasn't sure who was more exhausted - he or Daniel. Despite the nap they'd both taken, the shopping trip had been enervating and the crowds overwhelming for the small boy, who'd clung to Jack's hand or pants leg the entire journey around the stores. When Jack had crouched beside him to try the new shoes on for size, he'd seen Daniel's eyes open wide with something akin to panic in their depths. "What's wrong, buddy?" he'd asked. "You used to like going shopping, looking at all the new books and stuff."
"Did I? I guess it's a little scary now. Everyone looks too big."
"Yeah, I guess I can understand that." Jack had patted Daniel on the shoulder then led him to the checkout to pay for the shoes then out to the car, settling him in the back with the groceries piled around him on the seat.
He watched now as Daniel pottered around the kitchen, opening and closing cupboard doors, putting things away on the shelves he could reach. "Do you remember being here before?" he asked as Daniel handed him some items that went on the top shelf of the fridge.
"I think so," Daniel replied. He eyed the apples in the vegetable crisper. "I'm hungry now. Can I have one of those?"
"Sure." Jack handed it to him and grinned as Daniel took a huge bite and smiled up at him.
"'s good," Daniel mumbled. He swallowed then pointed to the photo of him and Jack that stood atop the kitchen dresser. "That's me and you," he said.
"Yep, taken just after we came back from Abydos together," Jack said.
Daniel opened the back door and looked out. "Where's your dog?"
"I don't have a dog."
"You said one time when we were somewhere where we couldn't get home in time, 'I should have put the dog out.'," Daniel said, munching on another bite of apple.
"I did? Oh." Jack wracked his brain for the memory but came up blank. There'd been more than one occasion when SG-1 had been stuck somewhere and it hadn't looked like they'd ever get home. "I was just joking," he added, seeing Daniel still looking puzzled. "I wish I had a dog," he said, turning to get the makings for dinner out. "I like dogs more than a lot of people."
"Me too," Daniel replied. He tossed the apple core in the bin then climbed up to kneel on the chair next to Jack. "Can I have one?"
"A dog? Um, no. I'm never here long enough to look after one."
Daniel's face fell and he reached out and picked up a potato, picking at one of the eyes with a small fingernail. "You gave Cassie a dog," he said softly. "You told her it was an Earth rule."
Jack shook his head in bemusement. Daniel's memories seemed so piecemeal still. "I know. Sorry. Look, maybe once you've been back a while, we can think about it."
"Okay." Daniel sniffled then wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
'Crap!' Jack cursed himself for making the boy cry. "Wanna help me make dinner?" he asked. "Then we can watch National Geographic on TV, okay?"
"Okay," Daniel agreed readily, giving Jack a watery smile.
Obviously, Jack decided, his emotions were as mercurial as his memories. "Good. Here, shell the peas. I could have bought frozen but these taste better." He gave a silent sigh of relief as Daniel happily bent to his appointed task.
"Good, huh?" Jack grinned as Daniel picked up his bowl and licked the ice cream from around the inside edge, a broad white milky mustache adorning his lips when he raised his head.
Daniel nodded enthusiastically.
"Uh uh, I'm stuffed. Thanks for making dinner, Jack. Can we watch TV now?"
"Sure, just for an hour though then bedtime, okay?" Jack put the dishes in the dishwasher then led the way into the living room and turned on the TV.
Daniel clambered up next to him on the sofa and the next hour was spent in intense conversation about the show, which happily enough happened to be about the Pyramids. It was plainly obvious that most of the adult Daniel's knowledge remained implanted as the small boy prattled knowledgably about what he was seeing on the screen. This mini version of his best friend was definitely an enigma, Jack decided, listening with only half an ear to the child's explanations, more interested in simply taking mental notes and learning what made this little Daniel still his Daniel.
Eventually though the program ended and Jack shooed him off to bed, following him up a few minutes later with a glass of water. He tucked him in then, on impulse, bent and kissed the child on the forehead, not too surprised to feel Daniel's arms wind around his neck and hug him as he did so.
"Night, Daniel. Sweet dreams,"
Daniel nodded, rolled onto his side and was asleep in minutes.
Jack went downstairs and locked up. He was tired himself still, he realized. An early night for once definitely wouldn't hurt.
It felt like he'd only just closed his eyes when a crash woke him. Startled, heart in his throat, he rolled from the bed, not even taking time to pull on his jeans or shirt. "Daniel!" he yelled as he ran towards the guest room and shoved open the door, sending it slamming back against the wall. "Daniel, where the hell are you?" he called, seeing the room was empty.
"Down here, Jack. Come quick. She's hurt!"
Tracking Daniel's voice to the back door, Jack took off at a run, almost sliding on the kitchen tiles in his barefoot haste. He opened the back door then stopped, feeling his mouth drop open in surprise as he saw Daniel, still in pajamas, sitting cross-legged on the porch with something that looked brown and dirty and hairy curled up in his lap. "What the hell- Daniel, put that thing down! It's liable to bite you!" Jack reached down, one hand gripping hold of Daniel's shoulder; the other grabbing what he now realized was a mangy-looking cat by the scruff of its neck.
"Don't, Jack, she's hurt," Daniel cried, wriggling free of Jack's restraining hand and wrapping both arms around the animal's scrawny neck. He put his face atop the cat's head. "Don't feel bad," he crooned. "We'll help you feel better."
"Ah, Daniel, don't," Jack warned. He held his breath, waiting for the cat to suddenly jump up rejuvenated but it simply meowed sadly and rubbed the top of its head against Daniel's chin. Jack released his breath, "Guess it doesn't work on animals," he said.
"I can keep her, right, Jack?" Daniel asked, rubbing a hand up and down the cat's bony back. "She's not a dog."
"How do you know it's a she?" Jack asked. The cat turned mournful green eyes on him and he couldn't resist giving the matted head a pat.
"She's got a collar and it says, Lissy, on it," Daniel replied, lifting a small medallion and showing it.
"Um, if she's got a collar, buddy, it means she belongs to someone. We can keep her here till we find her home but you'll have to give her back when we do."
Daniel's lower lip trembled minutely then he set his jaw firmly. "Well, if she belongs to someone, they aren't taking very good care of her," he snapped. Lissy stiffened as if at his tone, small claws digging into Daniel's pajamas, and Daniel whispered, "Sorry, Lissy, I'm not mad at you."
"Well," Jack said fairly, "she might have been lost for a while. Look, we'll bring her into the laundry room and give her milk, and in the morning, we'll see if we can find out where she lives, all right?"
Daniel nodded his agreement and let Jack lift the cat from his lap. Standing up, he brushed the dirty cat hair from his pajamas and smiled ruefully up at Jack. "Sorry she wrecked the pajamas you got me. She didn't mean to."
"No biggie. Clothes wash." 'So do cats', he added mentally, wrinkling his nose at the unadulterated smell of eau de unwashed cat. He shepherded Daniel inside then followed him through to the laundry room and left boy and cat there while he went back to the kitchen for a bowl and milk. When he returned, he found Daniel standing bare-assed naked while Lissy bedded down on his pajamas.
"I figured they were already dirty and they smell like me so I thought they might help her sleep," Daniel said disingenuously.
Jack sighed. "Yeah, I guess." He poured milk into the bowl and then led Daniel out of the room and back to his bed. "Stay in bed this time," he warned as he bestowed another kiss on the blond head. "If you hear something you need to know about, yell out for me, okay?"
Daniel nodded obediently. "Thanks, Jack. I will. You know, maybe Lissy's owner doesn't really want her."
Jack grimaced inwardly at the hopeful tone in the child's voice. "Maybe," he allowed. "We'll see. Now sleep."
"Okay. Night, Jack."
As Jack made his way back to bed, he wondered ruefully just how many more changes finding Daniel again would bring about in his life. From Colonel to surrogate father to cat foster owner in just a day or two. He had an awful feeling this was just the beginning.
To Be Continued in Healing Touch 4